Aleeza Howitt

Aleeza is an independent researcher working in the area of alternative currencies and government-independent universal basic income (UBI). She is also publisher of UBI Research (ubiresearch.org).

Aleeza is particularly interested in alternative currencies which structurally integrate UBI; we may call these “UBI currencies”. UBI is traditionally characterized as a form of welfare, but her research frames it as something more: a monetary policy tool. This distinction is important to make, as the question of how to define and create money is critical to the success of an economy.

The dawn of digital money and blockchain technology has resulted in an explosion of experimental currencies. Unlike the US Dollar, which is under government purview and resistant to reform, government-independent currencies offer an unprecedented opportunity for innovation. But in contrast to the many new currencies that enrich creators and speculators (e.g. Bitcoin), Aleeza’s interest is in engineering a currency to benefit the mass of humanity — by ensuring some sustainable level of UBI will be paid out to its members, in perpetuity.

The concept of creating a UBI currency is multidisciplinary and encompasses economics, governance, law, and technology. Certain projects also presume innovations in digital identity; to that end, her secondary interest is in using graph analysis of social networks as the basis for a decentralized identity system.

Some of the questions this field examines are: Should a currency authority be managed dynamically, relying on human judgment; or should it be autonomous in some way? And what are the legal or logistical challenges to creating a new currency based on either of these philosophies? Aleeza’s paper “Bottom-Up Money” outlines a hypothetical system inspired by tentative answers to these questions.

As of 2019, there are at least forty-three new currency initiatives aiming to implement some version of a UBI; most arose over the past two years. But despite the rapid spread of the idea, there is a dearth of serious scholarly attention devoted to these projects.

As a researcher, Aleeza has met with and written about several UBI projects. She is an active member of the “Open UBI” community, an informal network of scholars and activists pursuing alternative UBI initiatives; she is also on the board of directors for the US Basic Income Guarantee Network (usbig.net). Additionally, she has been developing UBI Research as a collaborative space to publish research and syndicate content related to alternative basic income projects, as well as the related fields of identity and governance. In January 2019, she helped organize an Open UBI event in Berlin where several UBI initiatives were able to present their work (she presented on Project Greshm). In May 2019, she organized the first panel discussion comparing crypto and non-crypto approaches to UBI during NYC Blockchain Week.

Aleeza is also cofounder of astroledger.org, an Ethereum-based crypto-collectible platform that raises money for space grants by letting you name stars.

Contact Aleeza at aleeza@UBIresearch.org