Dr. Guy Standing is a distinguished political philosopher and one of the world’s foremost experts on basic income, which he has researched and promoted since the 1980s—long before it began trending in the media.

We invited him to Singularity University this summer to deepen our thinking about governance, political systems, and structural inequality. Dr. Standing offers a new vocabulary for describing socio-economic classes in the 21st century, grounded in a critique of how “work” is currently understood.

We’ll start with two brief excerpts where Dr. Standing contrasts categories of work that currently go unrecognized with the extraordinary rise in profits derived from intellectual property.


While Dr. Standing describes several different socio-economic classes, the one that is the focus of his concern and his advocacy is the “precariat”—a new class of people that are, according to Dr. Standing, growing in numbers much faster than other segments of the global population. The following excerpt provides some context on how to use the term “precariat.”

While it could be easy to become alarmed at the disempowerment of labor and the erosion of human rights that Dr. Standing describes, he sees many reasons for hope. The following brief clip outlines some of the living history that he expects to be precedent-setting.

Notably, many of the parties that Dr. Standing mentions are exceptionally good at leveraging new and emerging technologies. Parties inspired by the problems facing the precariat are leading the way in the development of tools to support digital democracy and consensus-building—such as democracyos or adhocracy. (For more information about this trend, stay tuned for an interview with Alanna Krause of New Zealand’s tech collective Enspiral.)

Leaderless groups and disenfranchised peoples are conducting parallel experiments in networked technologies that have disruptive potential. If these community-developed tools for technology-assisted governance manage to bring trust and enthusiasm back to the political process, they are likely to be phenomenal game changers.

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Nathaniel Calhoun helps guide Singularity University’s approach to changemaking and impact as a founding member of its Global Grand Challenge Faculty. He moderates Executive Programs for SU and is the Director of Global Grand Challenges for SU’s 10-week Global Solutions Program. Nathaniel closely tracks innovations in governance technologies, emerging decentralized and cooperative busines...

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