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Japanese billionaire to donate $9m to random Twitter followers to see if money makes them happier

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A Japanese billionaire has announced plans to donate a billion yen (about $9 million) to 1,000 of his Twitter followers in an intriguing social experiment designed to show how money affects people’s lives.

On January 1st, Yusaku Maezawa, founder of Japan’s largest fashion retail website, tweeted that he would be giving away 1 billion Japanese yen ($9.1 million) to 1,000 random people, as part of an effort to find out if money really can buy happiness. All people had to do for the chance to win $9,118 was follow and ‘retweet’ him before January 7. At the time of this writing, Maezawa’s Twitter post announcing the giveaway had been retweeted over 4.5 million times.

In a YouTube video, the 44-year-old businessman described the stunt as a “serious social trial”, inspired by the concept of universal basic income. Maezawa said that because he “has the money and free time” to conduct the experiment, he felt the need to somehow spark a larger debate about the theory of periodic no-strings-attached payment to all Japanese citizens.

Interestingly, this isn’t the first time Yusaku Maezawa has given away money to people via Twitter. Around this time last year he shared 100 million yen among 100 of his Twitter followers, who each ended up with about $9,000. This time around, he decided to increase the number of recipients 10 times, for more accurate results. Last year’s tweet broke the record for the most retweeted message of all time, and this year’s announcement may just to the same.

Maezawa, who is worth an estimated $2.2 billion, encouraged the recipients of his cash prizes to spend the money as they like, and asked them to help track the impact on their lives by answering regular surveys. The entrepreneur also appealed to academics and economists, asking them to help analyze the results.

The 1,000 winners will be selected at random through a lottery, and will be contacted by Maezawa himself via direct message later this month. He also cautioned participants against “fraudulent” messages, adding that the official direct messages sent to the winners would also be tweeted out in advance.

Yusaku Maezawa appeared in the public eye in 2018, when Elon Musk announced that he would be the first private customer on SpaceX’s first commercial rocket to the moon.

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