Swarm Intelligence ponders Minimum Wage

“Economically, minimum wage laws may not make sense,” said Governor Jerry Brown of California, after he signed a new law guaranteeing a $15/hr minimum wage by 2022 across the state. But, he continued, “morally and socially and politically, they make every sense because [they] bind the community together and make sure that parents can take care of their kids in a much more satisfactory way.”

Minimum wage laws are trumpeted as huge victories for politicians like Bernie Sanders, who has been pushing for them for years. But, Governor Brown’s show that the issue is more complicated than it might seem.

But how do regular people feel about minimum wage? To find out,  researchers at Unanimous A.I. used a method called Swarm Intelligence to reveal the collective sentiment of the general public. Unlike polls, where everyone responds in isolation, swarms are real-time systems where the participants “think together” to converge upon a unified response that best reflect reflects the collective perspective.

The first question they asked was a very simple one. What should minimum wage be in 2017?


As you can see, the group quickly reached consensus around a $14.25 minimum wage. While that might seem low to anyone living in a city like New York or San Francisco, $14.25 is almost double the federal minimum wage of $7.25, and that number hasn’t changed since 2009. Of course, higher cost of living in San Francisco has compelled the city to raise its own minimum wage above the federal standard, but at $12.25, San Francisco is still short of the newly passed California laws.

In the replay below, the Swarm agreed that different minimum wages make sense for different places.


So, if the federal minimum wage laws represent a floor that can be raised as necessary, what would the people have to say about California’s new laws? After all, $15 represents a massive jump over the federal standard, but 2022 is a long way away, especially for someone living paycheck to paycheck. After all, as Governor Brown says, “no one who works full time should live in poverty.”

People were pulling in almost every direction this time, with some magnets showing support for the abolition of minimum wage, and others feeling like the new law was “just right.” But, in the end, the group was only able to find consensus around on one conclusion: raising minimum wage to $15 by 2022 is “too little, too late.” 

In this way, UNU reveals not just the most popular answer like a poll, but also how strongly each person holds their convictions. As a result, we can see not just what answer the group selects, but how they got to that answer. So, every time we ask a swarm a question in UNU, we are learning more and more about how groups think.

Want to be part of a swarm?  Great. Swarms are forming to explore topics of all kinds from politics and sports, to movies and music. If you’d to be a BETA TESTER for the UNU swarming platform, just fill out the form below.