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Star Trek Economics 888

Posted by Soulskill
from the once-you-have-their-money,-you-never-give-it-back dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Rick Webb has an article suggesting we're in the nascent stages of transforming to a post-scarcity economy — one in which we are 'no longer constrained by scarcity of materials—food, energy, shelter, etc.' While we aren't there yet, job automation continues to rise and the problem of distributing necessities gets closer to being solved every day. Webb wondered how to describe a society's progress as it made the transition from scarcity to post-scarcity — and it brought him to Star Trek. Quoting: 'I believe the Federation is a proto-post scarcity society evolved from democratic capitalism. It is, essentially, European socialist capitalism vastly expanded to the point where no one has to work unless they want to. It is massively productive and efficient, allowing for the effective decoupling of labor and salary for the vast majority (but not all) of economic activity. The amount of welfare benefits available to all citizens is in excess of the needs of the citizens. Therefore, money is irrelevant to the lives of the citizenry, whether it exists or not. Resources are still accounted for and allocated in some manner, presumably by the amount of energy required to produce them (say Joules). And they are indeed credited to and debited from each citizen's "account." However, the average citizen doesn't even notice it, though the government does, and again, it is not measured in currency units—definitely not Federation Credits.'"
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Star Trek Economics

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  • by genner (694963) on Friday February 14, 2014 @11:15AM (#46245773)
    A Ferengi without profit is no Ferengi at all.
  • Wow (Score:3, Insightful)

    by koan (80826) on Friday February 14, 2014 @11:16AM (#46245791)

    He couldn't be more wrong, the more likely scenario is collapse due to over population and limited resources.

  • Based on what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Friday February 14, 2014 @11:19AM (#46245829)

    >> we're in the nascent stages of...a post-scarcity economy...'no longer constrained by scarcity of materials—food, energy, shelter, etc.

    Tell that to:
    - The homeless in our streets
    - People blowing their savings on heating costs this winter
    - Middle-eastern residents getting blown up because there's oil under nearby ground
    - African children still dying of starvation

    >> European socialist capitalism vastly expanded to the point where no one has to work unless they want to

    Yeah...ask the Soviets or Cuba how that worked. (Or Venezuela if you need a more recent example.) Hell,. just ask Europe how that's going. (Looking at you, France.)

  • Basic Economics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ShooterNeo (555040) on Friday February 14, 2014 @11:21AM (#46245865)

    The problem is simple, right out of the first chapter of a high school economics class. "wants" are infinite. Consider our daily lives in today's world. The "working poor" among us live lives right around the "poverty line". Yet they can generally afford motor vehicle transportation (even if it's the bus), to spend most of their time in air conditioned environments (even if it's the workplace at McDonalds), can call anyone on the planet in theory (even if it's from VoIP at a library), and so on. Even the shittiest life is the life of a king a thousand years ago.

    Please note that I am not trying to justify social darwinism : I do think something is rotten in our society that causes all income gains to be accrued by the rich and NONE of them go to the middle/lower class.

    If we have star trek grade technology, it merely means that the pie is a lot bigger. With Star Trek grade tech, presumably we can tap into the resources of entire stars and planets and manufacture almost anything with minimal effort. But people's desires for a slice of the pie have grown proportionally. Perhaps an impoverished person in Star Trek can get limitless food, basic medical care, and virtual reality porn. But he can't afford his own starship or planet or any of the other toys of the mega-rich. And can you imagine how expensive having a kid would be in such a world?

  • Re:Based on what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SJHillman (1966756) on Friday February 14, 2014 @11:26AM (#46245923)

    Nascent: (esp. of a process or organization) just coming into existence and beginning to display signs of future potential.

    It doesn't mean we're there yet, it means we're approaching the tipping point. Compare it to a century or two ago and you'll see that many homeless now have a higher quality of life than a good portion of the middle class did back then. Obviously not everything is going to be solved overnight - it's a slow march forward and due to the nature of countries, cultures and other variables, it won't happen everywhere at once - even within a single nation.

  • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wiggles (30088) on Friday February 14, 2014 @11:27AM (#46245933)

    Overpopulation is only a problem in India and China. The rest of the civilized world, especially Japan, is having severe problems due to negative population growth. Population is predicted to plateau and start shrinking after around 2060. [spiegel.de] I am not worried about overpopulation.

    As far as limited resources, we are only limited by the amount of energy it takes to extract those resources, and those sources of energy can and will transition to renewable sources as consumables become expensive. Indeed, we are already seeing that transition come into play with wind and solar electricity, electric cars, and efficiency drives. At the same time, we're seeing new sources of consumables come online as prices increase - see shale oil - and as technology advances to the point that we are able to extract more cheaply, effectively, and efficiently - see natural gas.

    Overpopulation and resource limitations will work themselves out naturally.

  • by Chrisq (894406) on Friday February 14, 2014 @11:33AM (#46246005)
    I believe that this is best described by Ian M Banks in his culture series
  • by sjbe (173966) on Friday February 14, 2014 @11:33AM (#46246017)

    Compare it to a century or two ago and you'll see that many homeless now have a higher quality of life than a good portion of the middle class did back then.

    Bullshit. You CLEARLY have no idea what being homeless is actually like, nor do you have any realistic idea what being "middle class" was like 100 years ago. Let me give you a hint. My grandmother is close to a century old so she was around back then and her family could accurately be described as lower middle class. It wasn't all that different than it is now aside from some of the technology advances. Her father was a barber, her mom worked for a state agency, they had a house not so different from the one you probably live in. You seem to have some bizarre notion that people lived in caves and squalor a hundred years ago. It wasn't like that at all nor was it like that 200 years ago.

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Friday February 14, 2014 @11:38AM (#46246069)

    >> and technology hasn't changed at all since, has it.

    That's my point: France and Venezuela and other countries have money and access to the latest technology, but have still been unable to summon their slacker's utopia.

    If you want a counter example, look how much the lives of Chinese citizens have improved since they began to emphasize reward-for-effort models (capitalism) over exist-get-paid models (socialism).

  • Re:Based on what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by idontgno (624372) on Friday February 14, 2014 @11:39AM (#46246099) Journal

    You could suggest that it's still scarcity, but defining scarcity on an individual or even local level is a bit strange given the fairly globally connected world we live in.

    You mean... a scarcity which is not natural? Artificial scarcity? [wikipedia.org]

    People are poor because other people can be, and want to be, rich, at the expense of other people if necessary.

    There will never be any such thing as a "post scarcity" economy until humans stop being humans.

  • Pipe-dream Utopia (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheGoodNamesWereGone (1844118) on Friday February 14, 2014 @11:41AM (#46246133)
    ST's vision of the future economy (at least from TNG on; TOS wisely avoided touching on it but implied it was a form of Capitalism) is a pipe-dream Utopia. If food, shelter, and energy were in virtually unlimited supply no one would need to work, yes, but more importantly, no one would *want* to. Where would the goodies come from then? Automation? Okay then, the Machines rule the Federation. And no one would ever emerge out of their self-created kingdoms inside holodecks. The future would be more like Wall-E. There'd be no more invention, no more innovation, no more anything..... Just everyone plugged into their fantasies in their holo-simulators, a civilization of lotus-eaters. This is the sort of shit that would cause Captain Kirk to charge phasers. Rewatch "The Apple".
  • by minstrelmike (1602771) on Friday February 14, 2014 @11:43AM (#46246171)
    I believe Sowell's definition of economics is correct--it is the study of how we allocate SCARCE resources.
    Given the laws of physics and mandatory recycling of biology, there will always be a scarcity some place.
    You might have an endless pile of food but that means you have an endless stream of shit to deal with also.
    We have just realized that we cannot burn all the oil in the planet without also burning us out of house and home.

    In economics, the term to grok is 'externality." They have odd definitions but essentially it is something you think is not scarce and then eventually it becomes scarce like clean air or water after industrialization. I know people who say they can always live off hunting if the economy collapses. Ask someone who knows about population biology. If enough people start hunting deer, there won't be more than one or two year's worth of meat in most US States, maybe 4 years in Maine and Minnesota. As long as only 5% of the population hunts, the biology can maintain itself. If 40% hunted for food, we'd quickly run out of large animals.

    The natural processes of biology can handle things up to certain limits. The fish in the oceans can feed a billion of us sustainably, but not 5 billion hence the collapse of almost all the world's fisheries formerly thought to be unlimited. (I know there are 7 billion folks in the world but a third of them are starving).
  • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PuckSR (1073464) on Friday February 14, 2014 @11:45AM (#46246197)

    I think you are misunderstanding or misconstruing the argument. Post-scarcity doesn't mean that "limited resources" cease to exist. The primary driver of our modern economy(and any new economy) is energy. Energy is becoming rapidly less expensive because of modern technologies. He is arguing that at a certain point we will have to acknowledge that we have enough energy to meet everyone's basic needs. At that point, excess energy can be used to meet everyone's luxury desires. We tend to think of everyone's luxury desires as limitless, but that isn't exactly true. Our appetite for luxury goods is highly pliable. A great example of this would be video games. In the late 80s, you probably would have wanted a lot of Nintendo games. Those were a desirable luxury good. Now, you can acquire all of those games(through illegal and quasi-legal channels) and play them on a machine that costs as much as 2 beers. Yet, you don't play all of those old games. Why not? Your appetite has changed and now you are more than happy to play one new game rather than dozens of old ones. Consider it the "Brewster's Millions" problem.
    As far as "limited resources", they will continue to exist. However, we might find that their value and how we assess that value has changed dramatically. Gold will probably be the clearest example. Gold has very little intrinsic value. It is a rare metal, but materials of similar rarity do not approach anywhere near the value of gold in the current market. Tellurium, an element found with gold which is actually rarer, has similarly valuable commercial applications. However, tellurium does not trade for 1/100th the price of gold. In a world where you can have all of your needs met, what use will we have for gold? We only wear it now as a symbol of wealth. If everyone has quasi-limitless wealth, then what point is signaling your wealth? Yes, in the Star Trek economy, gold is still rare. However, since there are few commercial applications for gold, you would see the price drop precipitously.

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Friday February 14, 2014 @11:58AM (#46246401)

    >> The difference with capitalism is that there is no big investor owning the company, doing what he wants and (the most important part) living from your work.

    And in the Soviet Union...the party bosses did what? :) Time to re-read "Animal Farm," I think.

    >> A cooperative is the best example of people working in those conditions.

    As are churches, many charities and other groups where the membership is small and motivated to achieve a common purpose (as typically demonstrated by a large body of volunteers). The model falls apart once applied to government of any size, however...

  • Re:Based on what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DeBaas (470886) on Friday February 14, 2014 @11:59AM (#46246411) Homepage

    >> European socialist capitalism vastly expanded to the point where no one has to work unless they want to

    Yeah...ask the Soviets or Cuba how that worked. (Or Venezuela if you need a more recent example.) Hell,. just ask Europe how that's going. (Looking at you, France.)

    And why would you ask Soviets and Cuba or Venezuela how European socialist capitalism is going? They don't/didn't have that.

    Better ask the Swedes or the Norwegians. Those are much better examples.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 14, 2014 @12:01PM (#46246443)

    I think the whole notion that creatives work for material reward is hogwash. Creative people create because it is extremely fulfilling. A post-scarcity world would see so many more creatives freed from meaningless labour so they can develope their ideas and contribute them to the world.

  • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Valdrax (32670) on Friday February 14, 2014 @12:01PM (#46246465)

    Overpopulation is only a problem in India and China. The rest of the civilized world, especially Japan, is having severe problems due to negative population growth. Population is predicted to plateau and start shrinking after around 2060. I am not worried about overpopulation.

    The problem is not really that the number of people is increasing in "the civilized world." The problem is that the rest of the world is getting "civilized," and China and India are at the forefront of multiplying the resources consumed per capita while also growing their populations. If everyone in the world lived at a US standard of living, we absolutely could not feed and provide energy for the populace. Especially without transitioning away from carbon-heavy energy.

    We're caught between a rock and a hard place. You don't want to kill off people or impose harsh fertility limits, because, you know, ethics and human decency, but you can't feed everyone steak in air conditioned restaurants either, and it's extremely hard to say, "No you can't have that," while having it yourself or convincing the people who already have it to give it up.

  • Re:Based on what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by atriusofbricia (686672) on Friday February 14, 2014 @12:02PM (#46246475) Journal

    You could suggest that it's still scarcity, but defining scarcity on an individual or even local level is a bit strange given the fairly globally connected world we live in.

    You mean... a scarcity which is not natural? Artificial scarcity? [wikipedia.org]

    People are poor because other people can be, and want to be, rich, at the expense of other people if necessary.

    There will never be any such thing as a "post scarcity" economy until humans stop being humans.

    So, in your world wealth is finite and if I have more then by definition it is because I, directly or indirectly, took it from someone that has less? What a dreary and depressing little world you live in.

    Out here in the real world wealth is created by the process of work and innovation among other things. Wealth is not this finite pool where if I have more then you have less.

    There will never be a post scarcity economy until we figure out a way for virtually limitless energy. Not very cheap, but limitless and the ways to use it to directly provide goods. That is what makes the Federation run and allows people to work more or less only when they want to. The combination of replicators and limitless energy, which at this point may as well be magic. Coincidentally magic is pretty much required to make any socialist utopia run for too long so I guess one ought not be surprised.

    One thing that is never answered in the ST universe is why would anyone want to be a waiter in a restaurant (or similar service job)? They show them from time to time but the number of people who feel their true calling in life is to bring people food and deal with crappy attitudes is vanishingly small so where do they come from?

  • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by harrkev (623093) <<kfmsd> <at> <harrelsonfamily.org>> on Friday February 14, 2014 @12:06PM (#46246535) Homepage

    There is one thing that will never be able to replicate easily: human time and human skill. While a citizen might be able to "replicate" food, some people might still enjoy the touch of a real person, and feel that it carries a certain status. Let's assume that you have all of your needs met. So, you decide to open up a restaurant because you enjoy it (let's call it "Milliway's"), and for no other reason. You cook great food, and people flock to your restaurant because of the reputation. You cook for fun, so you have no desire to expand, and you can only serve a few dozen people per evening.

    Now, if you can seat three dozen couples per evening, and you have 300 dozen couple wanting reservations, how do you decide which ones to seat? First-come, first-served certainly seems fair. However, your friend runs HIS own restaurant: you want to eat there, and he wants to eat at your restaurant. So, you can bump each other to the top of the reservation list.

    Hmm. You decide that there is some food in the next town (state, country, continent, etc.) that you want to try. You do not know the person, but you want to figure out a way to exchange bumps to the top of the reservation list. Rather than having to do this manually, and having to contact each restaurant owner individually, you come up with a scheme. Each diner that you serve suddenly counts as a "dining reputation token." By accumulating, these tokens, you can use them to visit other restaurants. All of the chefs agree that this is a wonderful idea, since, by serving food, they can also get themselves to the top of the reservation lists at other restaurants.

    Suddenly, you now have a new currency.

    Of course, similar arguments can be made for other things that have more value when done by a person. Art being another fine example. An original painting can be worth millions, while a poster of the same painting can be worth $10. Both can look the same, but the inherent value is that one of them is one-of-a-kind, while the other can be produced by the boatload.

    So, it is easy to imagine an "artistic" or "prestige" form of money, where the value is determined by the human skill and artistic vision that went into it.

    Another thing is that not everything can be easily reproduced. Yes, you might be able to get a house built by robots for cheap (or even free). But there are only so many plots of land available by the side of a lake / ocean / river / etc. How do you divide up this property?

    I cannot imagine a world without money. I can imagine that the essentials are free, so that you do not actually NEED money to get by. But there will always be luxury items that will NOT be free.

  • Poker (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Quila (201335) on Friday February 14, 2014 @12:07PM (#46246551)

    I always wondered how people in a society with no money could play poker.

  • Re:WTF? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by confused one (671304) on Friday February 14, 2014 @12:09PM (#46246567)
    There really is no shortage of anything but money and will. Clearly the reality is that you have to have money to acquire things you need. Those who don't have access to basic needs -- well that's usually a political problem or a corrupt leadership. For example, no one on the planet should go hungry -- food production is more than adequate to feed the global population. I think that's where the author is coming from.
  • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by s.petry (762400) on Friday February 14, 2014 @12:09PM (#46246573)

    Over population is the cause of most of our current misery and very few people are even capable of thinking it out.

    This belief is overly simplified propaganda and simply wrong. No, the problem is not population. The problem is that we allow money to dictate how we behave, treat the environment, treat each other, and treat animals. Greed is the problem, and in the grand view of the world the percentage of population causing these problems is extremely low.

    It is cost effective to dump waste instead of process waste and recycle. There is little enforced regulation, so companies dump. This makes somebody (or a few somebodies) millions of dollars a year, and in the US if he gets caught the Government pays him more money to clean up his mess. If there were enforced regulations, those millions would never be in the hands of the few. That money would have to pay to process and clean up.

    It is cost effective to kill certain endangered animals. There are a few wealthy people that pay for the skins, horns, etc... Some use these parts as trophies, others resell smaller chunks to make more profit. The 2 poachers that can eat for a week on what they sell from killing a Rhino don't benefit, they get to eat. Again, this is not population but a few greedy people fucking things up.

    We can look at farming, energy production, fishing, manufacturing, health care, etc.. and we get the same result over and over. The problem is not due to the number of people in society, but with a few people gaining more and more wealth by abusing people and resources.

  • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CreatureComfort (741652) on Friday February 14, 2014 @12:10PM (#46246587)
    Why are you so sadistic that you want to force people to work as garbage men? Especially when it would be much more efficient, clean, and environmentally friendly to automate the entire process? Already the number of garbage men needed is far less than those willing to work for it. My municipality never has a shortage of people applying for the job when a position becomes open, and most of the folks that start in those positions either promote up out of the job, or retire after 25 years. Very few leave because they found "a better position".

    In your example, what to do with the billions of people for which there is no useful "1) a job" available? If/when we get to the point that 100,000 people can operate and maintain the machinery to provide all the needs and wants of the other 8 billion people on the planet, is it honestly your suggestion that the 8 billion should live in squalor and poverty, and the entire production of the planet only be distributed among the 100,000 who have the needed skills?

    Better hope you're one of the 100,000, but the odds are against it.
  • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday February 14, 2014 @12:15PM (#46246643) Journal

    He couldn't be more wrong, the more likely scenario is collapse due to over population and limited resources.

    The one handy thing (much as it irks ethnic nationalists and pension-fund planners) is that, time and again, humans have shown signs of not actually wanting to breed like rabbits. Fuck like them? Sure; but add a bit of wealth and access to prophylaxis, and birthrates go down. The process gets tricky because adding the wealth and medical access usually makes the last one or two giant crops of high-birthrate babies start surviving at far greater than premodern rates immediately, while it takes time for the birthrate to fall, leading to a nasty little spike; but once you can separate hot animalistic fucking from years of tedious childcare, people tend to. Crazy.

  • Re:Wow (Score:4, Insightful)

    by evilviper (135110) on Friday February 14, 2014 @12:20PM (#46246715) Journal

    the more likely scenario is collapse due to over population and limited resources.

    There's ample space across the surface of the earth for several orders of magnitude more people, without resorting to even basic technology like high-rises, let alone exotic technology like landfill in the oceans, space stations, etc.

    http://overpopulationisamyth.c... [overpopula...samyth.com]

    And just what resources are "limited"? With enough energy you can extract the carbons from the air to make more oil from scratch, pull trace elements of anything out of seawater, etc. And with cheap energy it's a no-brainer to start mining the moon, Mars, or asteroids for anything we'd want.

  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Friday February 14, 2014 @12:32PM (#46246817)

    There is only so much beach front property, downtown workspace, premium ski lodge property, 20 minutes at the top of mount everest (currently costs $100,000 plus you have to wait in line with 200 other climbers even at that price-- they should seriously wait at a lower base camp instead of right below the peak- it's killing people the way they do it now. they could wait at a lower camp- then leave for their 20 minutes at the top).

    And premium time saving options like the superpass at disney (since most of us are all really just trading hours of our lives for things ultimately).

    For normal things tho- I think we are approaching post scarcity and an inability to find work which can't be done cheaper by a machine or program. Even the lowly security guard job is about to take a 95% reduction over the next decade due to a sub $30,000 robot that can work 3 shifts semi-autonomously.

  • Re:Based on what? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dentin (2175) on Friday February 14, 2014 @12:35PM (#46246855) Homepage

    The homeless in our streets are primarily a mental health issue, not a resources issue.

    People blowing 'their savings' on heating costs are doing something fundamentally wrong.

    Middle eastern residents are getting blown up because their governments are incompetent. Canada, the US, and Norway also have a ton of oil under their ground; nobody gets blown up there.

    African children are similarly dying of starvation because their governments are incompetent.

    None of these is a resource issue. All of these are a people problem.

  • by WrongMonkey (1027334) on Friday February 14, 2014 @12:41PM (#46246957)

    It wasn't all that different than it is now aside from some of the technology advances.

    You are dismissing a lot of important changes with that sentences. Washing machine, dryers, dishwashers, vacuum cleaners, central heating and AC: these are important time and laborsaving devices that were unheard of 100 years ago, but taken for granted today. Indoor plumbing and electricity were still rare in rural areas.

    And don't even start with 200 years ago. Any lower-middle class American has a better quality of life than Napoleon did 200 years ago. In 1812, even king and emperors were literally wading through shit. The Palace of Versailles is a gilded tenement building.

  • Re:Wow (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bondsbw (888959) on Friday February 14, 2014 @12:43PM (#46246985)

    Why are you so sadistic that you want to force people to work as garbage men?

    Because today we need garbage people. I'd love for it to become automated. Once that happens, there are still plenty of jobs [discovery.com] people don't want to do.

    If/when we get to the point that 100,000 people can operate and maintain the machinery to provide all the needs and wants of the other 8 billion people on the planet, is it honestly your suggestion that the 8 billion should live in squalor and poverty, and the entire production of the planet only be distributed among the 100,000 who have the needed skills?

    Our society has become massively automated compared to the middle ages. And we have 25 times the world population now. Yet we still have plenty of jobs; I'd wager that employment as a percentage is much higher today. This seems to contradict the idea that we will ever come to a point that automation will reduce jobs permanently.

  • Re:Wow (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cheesybagel (670288) on Friday February 14, 2014 @12:52PM (#46247081)

    I see no evidence for this. There is not enough oil to spend on transportation driving fuel guzzling vehicles like in the US but this is not the model used in other 'civilized' places in Asia like Japan. They use electric public transport a lot.

  • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by boristdog (133725) on Friday February 14, 2014 @12:53PM (#46247097)

    For more proof that greed is the problem, look at the major post-scarcity issue we deal with every day: Books, music, video.

    All of these are now digitized and digitizable, everyone in the world can have copies of them for nearly nothing. And if the creator or each works was given a few cents per copy then the creator would be well rewarded, assuming people want the content.

    Yet we still have the RIAA, MPAA, etc. These people get 90+% of the reward for the content without creating it. The only service they provide is the creation of artificial demand ("Everyone is listening to this! You should too!") and some marketing.

    So yes, greed is the problem.

  • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Grishnakh (216268) on Friday February 14, 2014 @01:04PM (#46247253)

    Your "human touch" and "original painting" ideas are bogus.

    An original painting can be worth millions, while a poster of the same painting can be worth $10. Both can look the same, but the inherent value is that one of them is one-of-a-kind, while the other can be produced by the boatload.

    Wrong. If both of them look exactly the same, down to the smallest detail, then how exactly do you convince someone to pay millions for one when they can get the other for $10? In a 3D-printed future (or better yet, a future with replicators), you won't be able to tell the difference. If some moron is willing to pay millions for an exclusive item, how does he verify it's exclusive, and not a "forgery"? He can't.

    Same thing goes for all that other "human touch" crap. Why would anyone go to a restaurant where the food is made manually, rather than in a replicator, if they can't tell the difference? Are they going to go in the kitchen and verify no replicators are being used?

    In a post-scarcity world, the only things that'll have real value are things which simply can't be replicated, mainly real estate as you point out yourself. You can't replicated oceanfront property, though I suppose you could try to make more of it the way they do in Dubai.

    But there will always be luxury items that will NOT be free.

    No, there won't. Not when it's impossible to discern them from copies. The only things which won't be free will be real estate, and maybe commissionings (i.e., you want a new piece of art which doesn't already exist, so you commission an artist to make it for you), and also anything else which is creative and doesn't yet exist (new spaceship designs, etc.).

    Instead of trying to accumulate wealth with which to buy more stuff, peoples' focus in life will change. Some people will try to accumulate wealth to buy nicer real estate, while others will focus on other endeavors, such as trying to create new interesting things (art, music, video games even), traveling, or building fame and power rather than money.

  • by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning.netzero@net> on Friday February 14, 2014 @01:31PM (#46247545) Homepage Journal

    Humans are social (aka we gather together in groups rather than work individually... for the most part) omnivore chasers who captured prey by literally making the prey run to exhaustion. That is also where human intelligence comes from, and is the basis for most of human society as well. Human society tends to be hierarchical because we needed a "chief" to direct such hunts and to communicate tactics as well as pass information about how to do everything from one generation to the next.

    What allows that lack of hardcoded traits is intelligence. Of course the primate heritage also helps with that including delayed gestational development that happens outside of the womb (aka infancy where young human children are particularly vulnerable and unable to perform even self-locomotion).

    I like how some science fiction authors, particularly ones like Larry Niven, think through these aspects of what makes humans essentially human and acknowledges that species who have different evolutionary heritages will be thinking and behaving in very different ways. The Kzinti and Pearson's Puppeteers were particularly well designed in terms of psychological viewpoints as species (and interestingly even a part of the Star Trek universe as Larry Niven used them in a script that he wrote for one of the Star Trek episodes).

  • by RabidReindeer (2625839) on Friday February 14, 2014 @01:43PM (#46247719)

    We've got plenty of ludicrously rigid hardcoded traits, it's just hard to see them as such - having been born and raised here.

    One of them, ironically, is how much we hate to see others given stuff that they didn't "work" for.

  • Re:Wow (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mcgrew (92797) * on Friday February 14, 2014 @01:46PM (#46247747) Homepage Journal

    You and the guy you responded to are victims of your own culture. We are the weirdest people in the world. [psmag.com] This ape-like chest thumping needs to evolve out of our species, along with selfishness and greed. And the thing is, it isn't genetics that need to evolve, it's our sick culture.

  • by causality (777677) on Friday February 14, 2014 @01:49PM (#46247799)

    Also helps explains why some people labeled hipsters are so concerned about music that other people haven't heard before, or hearing it on vinyl. If you pride yourself on your musical tastes, and any Taylor Swift fan like me can come along and download the music you like, that might be damaging to your sense of self. Two solutions are to insist that scarce physical media makes a huge difference, or to only like music that I'm unlikely to have heard of.

    That's one of the biggest forms of foolishness that's still widespread in our societies: getting your identity from meaningless externals like this. Hey here's a crazy idea: I listen to what I like based on my own tastes and preferences and celebrate your ability to do the same if you so choose. Oh, that requires fixing one's insecurities instead of pretending they are virtues? Damn, this won't sell at all...

  • by JoeMerchant (803320) on Friday February 14, 2014 @01:50PM (#46247807)

    We've got plenty of ludicrously rigid hardcoded traits, it's just hard to see them as such - having been born and raised here.

    One of them, ironically, is how much we hate to see others given stuff that they didn't "work" for.

    I think it's more backwards, along the lines of "I never had it so easy, why should anyone else?" Can't people see that their life sucked, and making other people's lives suck equally, while "fair", isn't something to strive for.

  • Re:Wow (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RabidReindeer (2625839) on Friday February 14, 2014 @02:05PM (#46247963)

    Wrong. If both of them look exactly the same, down to the smallest detail, then how exactly do you convince someone to pay millions for one when they can get the other for $10?

    The same way we do currently. You can have a perfectly good copy of a van Gogh in your living room (I do, in fact), but only one is the actual one that van Gogh himself sweated over, had standing in his home when he had mental attacks, possibly has hairs from his own cat stuck in the paint and so forth.

    Value is often not an absolute, but rather a matter of perception. Nowhere is this more so than in the art world. Even a copy by a notorious forger can sell for much more than a mass-market copy.

"Out of register space (ugh)" -- vi

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