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Eripsa
Jan 13, 2002

Proud future citizen of Pitcairn.

Pitcairn is the perfect place for me to set up my utopia!


First, a parable:

Imagine you and I are two young, educated Europeans in the late 17th century, right at the dawn of the Enlightenment. We are up to date on some of the new philosophy, where talk of "human rights" has dominated the intellectual discussion of what an ideal society looks like. We have also witnessed the new sciences start to develop, only to be quashed by the oppressive power of the Church. We feel like we are on the brink of major social revolution, a fundamental reconception of human life and society, but the power of the Church and of the Kings and Lords is incredibly strong, and the future is uncertain.

Imagine in that scenario, I come to you in hushed tones. "I fear that we may never live out the ideals of our Enlightenment," I say, "because I do not believe such an ideal society is possible under the oppressive rule of the Church. The Church will never recognize a conception of Human Rights that challenges their absolute authority."

"Nonsense!" you reply. "The ideal of Human Rights and a Liberal Society is a noble goal, and one worth pursuing for the good of all people. But the Church is a fact of life, and it has been this way for generations, back to Constantine himself. However we choose to realize the ideal state, we must do it while acknowledging the power and authority of the Church. Only by cooperating with the Church and its wishes will we be able to advance our cause. That's how it has always been, that's how it always will be."

I object again, explaining how the ideal of individual liberty cannot be realized within a theocratic state. I say that, in order to realize our ideal state, we must have a secular society, that the road to Human Rights requires bringing down the Church and its monopoly on power. You silence me, and give me a look like I'm a lunatic.

"Enough! Even if I agree that a secular society would be ideal, it will never happen! Religion is part of human nature, and we will always structure our societies on the basis of our religious beliefs. Maybe intellectuals like us can daydream about secular societies, but for hoi paloi in the fields, they need their Church to make their lives meaningful. How could we possibly manage without the Church? The very idea is so far-fetched, it is not worth considering. Any plans for a new society that include secularization are simply unrealistic."

And yet here we are, a few hundred years later, most of us in states that are quite explicitly secular. Religion is still a powerful force in society, but it is no longer an organizing principle. Secularism is not only commonplace, but assumed as part of the basic institutional framework that structures the social lives of most of the people in the world. At the dawn of the Enlightenment, such an idea would easily be considered so outlandish as to be not worth entertaining, but today we take it for granted.

___________________

Now in this spirit, I want to talk in this thread about replacing our current economic system entirely, with the ultimate goal of a cashless, trade-less society, post-scarcity society. Impossible, you say! Well, I think it is demanded by the onset of the Digital Age. Our current technological situation has presented us with tremendous challenges and amazing opportunities to reevaluate the basic infrastructure that runs our global society, and at the moment money is the blood that keeps it all running. So I say let's put it on the chopping block and see if anything is worth salvaging or if there is some better alternative. If we can take the Church down a few pegs over the last few hundred years, let's see if we can't do the same for the Almighty Dollar.

For context, we currently have the production capability to feed and clothe and house every human being alive, and to provide them with basic medical care and education. I take these to be minimal obligations owed to all people, and yet we are not satisfying these obligations, with over a billion people living in poverty who cannot meet even these basic requirements. The flow of capital has not adequately directed the resources where they need to go, and we are left with incredible waste and human suffering. We can do better, we must do better, to create a sustainable alternative.

A post-scarcity society won't just happen. We must build it together. And that means talking seriously about alternatives. So let's use this thread for that. Let's not use this thread to talk about BitCoins or Fiat Money or anything like that. Those are alternative currencies, and I'm talking about alternative economies. Like, for instance, a Participatory Economy.

I'll post my own ideas later, but I want to start with this article from about a year back.

quote:

The second economy
24 October 2011 | W. Brian Arthur, guest contributor

Digitization is creating a second economy that’s vast, automatic, and invisible— thereby bringing the biggest change since the Industrial Revolution.

In 1850, a decade before the Civil War, the United States’ economy was small – it wasn’t much bigger than Italy’s. Forty years later, it was the largest economy in the world. What happened in between was the railroads. They linked the east of the country to the west, and the interior to both. They gave access to the east’s industrial goods; they made possible economies of scale; they stimulated steel and manufacturing – and the economy was never the same.

Deep changes like this are not unusual. Every so often – every 60 years or so – a body of technology comes along and over several decades, quietly, almost unnoticeably, transforms the economy: it brings new social classes to the fore and creates a different world for business. Can such a transformation – deep and slow and silent – be happening today?

We could look for one in the genetic technologies, or in nanotech, but their time hasn’t fully come. But I want to argue that something deep is going on with information technology, something that goes well beyond the use of computers, social media, and commerce on the Internet. Business processes that once took place among human beings are now being executed electronically. They are taking place in an unseen domain that is strictly digital. On the surface, this shift doesn’t seem particularly consequential – it’s almost something we take for granted. But I believe it is causing a revolution no less important and dramatic than that of the railroads. It is quietly creating a second economy, a digital one.

Let me begin with two examples. Twenty years ago, if you went into an airport you would walk up to a counter and present paper tickets to a human being. That person would register you on a computer, notify the flight you’d arrived, and check your luggage in. All this was done by humans. Today, you walk into an airport and look for a machine. You put in a frequent-flier card or credit card, and it takes just three or four seconds to get back a boarding pass, receipt, and luggage tag. What interests me is what happens in those three or four seconds. The moment the card goes in, you are starting a huge conversation conducted entirely among machines. Once your name is recognized, computers are checking your flight status with the airlines, your past travel history, your name with the TSA (and possibly also with the National Security Agency). They are checking your seat choice, your frequent-flier status, and your access to lounges. This unseen, underground conversation is happening among multiple servers talking to other servers, talking to satellites that are talking to computers (possibly in London, where you’re going), and checking with passport control, with foreign immigration, with ongoing connecting flights. And to make sure the aircraft’s weight distribution is fine, the machines are also starting to adjust the passenger count and seating according to whether the fuselage is loaded more heavily at the front or back.

These large and fairly complicated conversations that you’ve triggered occur entirely among things remotely talking to other things: servers, switches, routers, and other Internet and telecommunications devices, updating and shuttling information back and forth. All of this occurs in the few seconds it takes to get your boarding pass back. And even after that happens, if you could see these conversations as flashing lights, they’d still be flashing all over the country for some time, perhaps talking to the flight controllers – starting to say that the flight’s getting ready for departure and to prepare for that.

Now consider a second example, from supply chain management. Twenty years ago, if you were shipping freight through Rotterdam into the center of Europe, people with clipboards would be registering arrival, checking manifests, filling out paperwork, and telephoning for- ward destinations to let other people know. Now such shipments go through an RFID2 portal where they are scanned, digitally captured, and automatically dispatched. The RFID portal is in conversation digitally with the originating shipper, other depots, other suppliers, and destinations along the route, all keeping track, keeping control, and reconfiguring routing if necessary to optimize things along the way. What used to be done by humans is now executed as a series of conversations among remotely located servers.

In both these examples, and all across economies in the developed world, processes in the physical economy are being entered into the digital economy, where they are “speaking to” other processes in the digital economy, in a constant conversation among multiple servers and multiple semi-intelligent nodes that are updating things, querying things, checking things off, readjusting things, and eventually connecting back with processes and humans in the physical economy.

So we can say that another economy – a second economy – of all of these digitized business processes conversing, executing, and triggering further actions is silently forming alongside the physical economy.

Aspen root systems

If I were to look for adjectives to describe this second economy, I’d say it is vast, silent, connected, unseen, and autonomous (meaning that human beings may design it but are not directly involved in running it). It is remotely executing and global, always on, and endlessly configurable. It is concurrent – a great computer expression – which means that everything happens in parallel. It is self-configuring, meaning it constantly reconfigures itself on the fly, and increasingly it is also self-organizing, self-architecting, and self-healing.

These last descriptors sound biological – and they are. In fact, I’m beginning to think of this second economy, which is under the surface of the physical economy, as a huge interconnected root system, very much like the root system for aspen trees. For every acre of aspen trees above the ground, there’s about ten miles of roots underneath, all interconnected with one another, “communicating” with each other.

The metaphor isn’t perfect: this emerging second-economy root system is more complicated than any aspen system, since it’s also making new connections and new configurations on the fly. But the aspen metaphor is useful for capturing the reality that the observable physical world of aspen trees hides an unseen underground root system just as large or even larger. How large is the unseen second economy? By a rough back-of-the-envelope calculation, in about two decades the digital economy will reach the same size as the physical economy. It’s as if there will be another American economy anchored off San Francisco (or, more in keeping with my metaphor, slipped in underneath the original economy) and growing all the while.

Now this second, digital economy isn’t producing anything tangible. It’s not making my bed in a hotel, or bringing me orange juice in the morning. But it is running an awful lot of the economy. It’s helping architects design buildings, it’s tracking sales and inventory, getting goods from here to there, executing trades and banking operations, controlling manufacturing equipment, making design calculations, billing clients, navigating aircraft, helping diagnose patients, and guiding laparoscopic surgeries. Such operations grow slowly and take time to form. In any deep transformation, industries do not so much adopt the new body of technology as encounter it, and as they do so they create new ways to profit from its possibilities.

The deep transformation I am describing is happening not just in the United States but in all advanced economies, especially in Europe and Japan. And its revolutionary scale can only be grasped if we go beyond my aspen metaphor to another analogy.

A neural system for the economy

Recall that in the digital conversations I was describing, something that occurs in the physical economy is sensed by the second economy – which then gives back an appropriate response. A truck passes its load through an RFID sensor or you check in at the airport, a lot of recomputation takes place, and appropriate physical actions are triggered.

There’s a parallel in this with how biologists think of intelligence. I’m not talking about human intelligence or anything that would qualify as conscious intelligence. Biologists tell us that an organism is intelligent if it senses something, changes its internal state, and reacts appropriately. If you put an E. coli bacterium into an uneven concentration of glucose, it does the appropriate thing by swimming toward where the glucose is more concentrated. Biologists would call this intelligent behavior. The bacterium senses something, “computes” something (although we may not know exactly how), and returns an appropriate response.

No brain need be involved. A primitive jellyfish doesn’t have a central nervous system or brain. What it has is a kind of neural layer or nerve net that lets it sense and react appropriately. I’m arguing that all these aspen roots – this vast global digital network that is sensing, “computing”, and reacting appropriately – are starting to constitute a neural layer for the economy. The second economy constitutes a neural layer for the physical economy. Just what sort of change is this qualitatively?

Think of it this way. With the coming of the Industrial Revolution – roughly from the 1760s, when Watt’s steam engine appeared, through around 1850 and beyond – the economy developed a muscular system in the form of machine power. Now it is developing a neural system. This may sound grandiose, but actually I think the metaphor is valid. Around 1990, computers started seriously to talk to each other, and all these connections started to happen. The individual machines — servers — are like neurons, and the axons and synapses are the communication pathways and linkages that enable them to be in conversation with each other and to take appropriate action.

Is this the biggest change since the Industrial Revolution? Well, without sticking my neck out too much, I believe so. In fact, I think it may well be the biggest change ever in the economy. It is a deep qualitative change that is bringing intelligent, automatic response to the economy. There’s no upper limit to this, no place where it has to end. Now, I’m not interested in science fiction, or predicting the singularity, or talking about cyborgs. None of that interests me. What I am saying is that it would be easy to underestimate the degree to which this is going to make a difference.

I think that for the rest of this century, barring wars and pestilence, a lot of the story will be the building out of this second economy, an unseen underground economy that basically is giving us intelligent reactions to what we do above the ground. For example, if I’m driving in Los Angeles in 15 years’ time, likely it’ll be a driverless car in a flow of traffic where my car’s in a conversation with the cars around it that are in conversation with general traffic and with my car. The second economy is creating for us – slowly, quietly, and steadily – a different world.

A downside

Of course, as with most changes, there is a downside. I am concerned that there is an adverse impact on jobs. Productivity increasing, say, at 2.4 percent in a given year means either that the same number of people can produce 2.4 percent more output or that we can get the same output with 2.4 percent fewer people. Both of these are happening. We are getting more output for each person in the economy, but over- all output, nationally, requires fewer people to produce it. Nowadays, fewer people are required behind the desk of an airline. Much of the work is still physical – someone still has to take your luggage and put it on the belt – but much has vanished into the digital world of sensing, digital communication, and intelligent response.

Physical jobs are disappearing into the second economy, and I believe this effect is dwarfing the much more publicized effect of jobs disappearing to places like India and China.

How fast is the second economy growing? Here’s a very rough estimate. Since 1995, when digitization really started to kick in, labor productivity (output per hours worked) in the United States has grown at some 2.5 to 3 percent annually, with ups and downs along the way. No one knows precisely how much of this growth is a result of the uses of information technology (some economists think that standard measurements underestimate this); but pretty good studies assign some 65 to 100 percent of productivity growth to digitization. Assume, then, that in the long term the second economy will be responsible for roughly a 2.4 percent annual increase in the productivity of the overall economy. If we hold the labor force constant, this means output grows at this rate, too. An economy that grows at 2.4 percent doubles every 30 years; so if things continue, in 2025 the second economy will be as large as the 1995 physical economy. The precise figures here can be disputed, but that misses the point. What’s important is that the second economy is not a small add-on to the physical economy. In two to three decades, it will surpass the physical economy in size.

There are parallels with what has happened before. In the early 20th century, farm jobs became mechanized and there was less need for farm labor, and some decades later manufacturing jobs became mechanized and there was less need for factory labor. Now business processes—many in the service sector—are becoming “mechanized” and fewer people are needed, and this is exerting systematic downward pressure on jobs. We don’t have paralegals in the numbers we used to. Or draftsmen, telephone operators, typists, or bookkeeping people. A lot of that work is now done digitally. We do have police and teachers and doctors; where there’s a need for human judgment and human interaction, we still have that. But the primary cause of all of the downsizing we’ve had since the mid-1990s is that a lot of human jobs are disappearing into the second economy. Not to reappear.

Seeing things this way, it’s not surprising we are still working our way out of the bad 2008-09 recession with a great deal of joblessness.

There’s a larger lesson to be drawn from this. The second economy will certainly be the engine of growth and the provider of prosperity for the rest of this century and beyond, but it may not provide jobs, so there may be prosperity without full access for many. This suggests to me that the main challenge of the economy is shifting from prosperity to distributing prosperity. The second economy will produce wealth no matter what we do; distributing that wealth has become the main problem. For centuries, wealth has traditionally been apportioned in the West through jobs, and jobs have always been forthcoming. When farm jobs disappeared, we still had manufacturing jobs, and when these disappeared we migrated to service jobs. With this digital transformation, this last repository of jobs is shrinking – fewer of us in the future may have white-collar business process jobs – and we face a problem.

The system will adjust of course, though I can’t yet say exactly how. Perhaps some new part of the economy will come forward and generate a whole new set of jobs. Perhaps we will have short workweeks and long vacations so there will be more jobs to go around. Perhaps we will have to subsidize job creation. Perhaps the very idea of a job and of being productive will change over the next two or three decades. The problem is by no means insoluble. The good news is that if we do solve it, we may at last have the freedom to invest our energies in creative acts.

Economic possibilities for our grandchildren

In 1930, Keynes wrote a famous essay, “Economic possibilities for our grandchildren”. Reading it now, in the era of those grandchildren, I am surprised just how accurate it is. Keynes predicts that “the standard of life in progressive countries one hundred years hence will be between four and eight times as high as it is to-day.” He rightly warns of “technological unemployment”, but dares to surmise that “the economic problem [of producing enough goods] may be solved”. If we had asked him and his contemporaries how all this might come about, they might have imagined lots of factories with lots of machines, possibly even with robots, with the workers in these factories gradually being replaced by machines and by individual robots.

That is not quite how things have developed. We do have sophisticated machines, but in the place of personal automation (robots) we have a collective automation. Underneath the physical economy, with its physical people and physical tasks, lies a second economy that is automatic and neurally intelligent, with no upper limit to its buildout. The prosperity we enjoy and the difficulties with jobs would not have surprised Keynes, but the means of achieving that prosperity would have.

This second economy that is silently forming – vast, interconnected, and extraordinarily productive – is creating for us a new economic world. How we will fare in this world, how we will adapt to it, how we will profit from it and share its benefits, is very much up to us.

One possible way that a cashless society developed is by just giving all the money to the robots and letting them deal with it. A world where the economy is entirely automated is a world where money is effectively invisible, and that's probably just as good as getting rid of it entirely.

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The Pink Ninja
Sep 19, 2006

Guess where this lollipop's going?

Why talk about a post-scarcity economy when scarcity of livable land, oil, electricity, water, and more are all in our near future. Maybe you could make this case seriously if you completely ignore the current economic meltdown and the effects of global warming, which are only just beginning to ramp up. Alternate economic systems chat is interesting, but any system based in post-scarcity fantasy land is not worth discussing.

Pipe Dreamer
Sep 2, 2011

by Y Kant Ozma Post


We already live in a post-scarcity society, there is enough food, water, money and shelter to take care of everyone on earth.

More Later
Mar 31, 2010


Eripsa posted:

One possible way that a cashless society developed is by just giving all the money to the robots and letting them deal with it. A world where the economy is entirely automated is a world where money is effectively invisible, and that's probably just as good as getting rid of it entirely.

The article is just a palatable version of the ole "In the future, being white and male will be even more awesome".

The Pink Ninja
Sep 19, 2006

Guess where this lollipop's going?

Post-scarcity implies to me something more drastic then that, ie essentially unlimited resources and manufacturing capacity (nanomachines are usually involved). The resources we have will increasingly be stretched by global warming, not to mention massive population growth. Obviously if distribution was even what you say is true...

Eripsa
Jan 13, 2002

Proud future citizen of Pitcairn.

Pitcairn is the perfect place for me to set up my utopia!


Jackie 4Chan posted:

Why talk about a post-scarcity economy when scarcity of livable land, oil, electricity, water, and more are all in our near future. Maybe you could make this case seriously if you completely ignore the current economic meltdown and the effects of global warming, which are only just beginning to ramp up. Alternate economic systems chat is interesting, but any system based in post-scarcity fantasy land is not worth discussing.

I actually prefer the term "false scarcity", as Naomi Kline described it at OWS:

quote:

The point is, today everyone can see that the system is deeply unjust and careening out of control. Unfettered greed has trashed the global economy. And it is trashing the natural world as well. We are overfishing our oceans, polluting our water with fracking and deepwater drilling, turning to the dirtiest forms of energy on the planet, like the Alberta tar sands. And the atmosphere cannot absorb the amount of carbon we are putting into it, creating dangerous warming. The new normal is serial disasters: economic and ecological.

These are the facts on the ground. They are so blatant, so obvious, that it is a lot easier to connect with the public than it was in 1999, and to build the movement quickly.

We all know, or at least sense, that the world is upside down: we act as if there is no end to what is actually finite–fossil fuels and the atmospheric space to absorb their emissions. And we act as if there are strict and immovable limits to what is actually bountiful–the financial resources to build the kind of society we need.

The task of our time is to turn this around: to challenge this false scarcity. To insist that we can afford to build a decent, inclusive society–while at the same time, respect the real limits to what the earth can take.

You are right that some things are scarce. But the things we actually need aren't scarce (we have enough food, etc), they are just poorly used and inefficiently distributed, because the incentive structure right now is not towards sustainability, but towards profit. In other words, the apparent scarcity we see is an artifact of our economic models. Adjusting economic models will reveal that what appears scarce may actually be abundant.

The technology really is getting to the point where certain kinds of objects will be so abundant that it can't be handled by our economic models anyway. We are facing these problems in IP because information is so abundant that controlling its flow is harder than measuring a neutrino.

Soon objects will see the same sort of abundance. The Pirate Bay just opened a new category of torrents: Physibles. This is specifically in anticipation of the spread (and piracy) of plans and blueprints for 3D Printers. If you haven't been keeping up with replicator technology, prepare to be blown away. This poo poo is happening, and it is happening real soon, and if we don't prepare our economic models to deal with it properly, then the next few decades is going to be really rough.

Pipe Dreamer
Sep 2, 2011

by Y Kant Ozma Post


Printing transformer toys off a computer: the true path to humanity’s self-actualization. Forgive me for not being impressed when billions still go to bed hungry.

EasternBronze
Jul 19, 2011

I registered for the Selective Service! I'm also racist as fuck!

Don't forget to ignore me!


If you asked anyone living 2000 years ago what they would consider a post-scarcity society, you would find it would be exceeded by the lifestyle of your average middle class suburbanite.

People create new needs and demands. Noone wanted or even imagined a computer 1000 years ago, but now not having one feels like a grinding poverty. I literally don't know a single person who does not own a computer.

A post-scarcity society only exists in the mind of someone who comes from a society poorer than the one being postulated. We are living in the post-scarcity society of a person living in the 1st century.

Feels pretty good, doesn't it?

deptstoremook
Jan 12, 2004
my mom got scared and said "you're moving with your Aunt and Uncle in Bel-Air!"


My main concern is that the article seems to fetishize the industrial revolution without even paying the most basic lip service to the vast amount of people whose quality of life it drastically harmed and continues to harm. This worries me because the author seems similarly pie-in-the-sky about this technological revolution; he supposes that the only problem with said revolution is the unemployment rate in the West will go up.

He hopes the problem will fix itself. But that points to a deeper problem that he neglects: who will maintain and (more importantly) produce the vast physical referent of this technological network? We already see the egregious human rights violations associated with producing computers in the numbers they are today.

In short, are we really to suppose that somehow capital accumulation will be drastically different than it has been over the last 500 years? If so, why? And how? I suppose that's the point of the thread. I just want to phrase the issue in a more problematic way.

Eripsa
Jan 13, 2002

Proud future citizen of Pitcairn.

Pitcairn is the perfect place for me to set up my utopia!


It is worth noting that "unemployment" (as if people should be employed) is really just a sign of underproduction. We have the capacity to produce far, far more than we produce right now. There are hundreds of factories that have closed shop not because the goods they could produce aren't needed, but because there is no money in it. There are millions of workers who want a job, but cannot be sustained in the current economic situation. The problem of need and want we experience in the world is real, but is it not because we are running up against fundamental limits in our capacity to produce. It is because the current social organization does not seek to maximize efficiency or sustainability, but only seeks to maximize profits for the Robber Barons who "own" all of the stuff.

More Later
Mar 31, 2010


Eripsa posted:

It is worth noting that "unemployment" (as if people should be employed) is really just a sign of underproduction. We have the capacity to produce far, far more than we produce right now. There are hundreds of factories that have closed shop not because the goods they could produce aren't needed, but because there is no money in it. There are millions of workers who want a job, but cannot be sustained in the current economic situation. The problem of need and want we experience in the world is real, but is it not because we are running up against fundamental limits in our capacity to produce. It is because the current social organization does not seek to maximize efficiency or sustainability, but only seeks to maximize profits for the Robber Barons who "own" all of the stuff.

Do we really need to produce at maximum capacity all the time? Is that your goal here? I 'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, but for god's sake, flesh it out!

Gough Suppressant
Nov 14, 2008


EasternBronze posted:

If you asked anyone living 2000 years ago what they would consider a post-scarcity society, you would find it would be exceeded by the lifestyle of your average middle class suburbanite.

People create new needs and demands. Noone wanted or even imagined a computer 1000 years ago, but now not having one feels like a grinding poverty. I literally don't know a single person who does not own a computer.

A post-scarcity society only exists in the mind of someone who comes from a society poorer than the one being postulated. We are living in the post-scarcity society of a person living in the 1st century.

Feels pretty good, doesn't it?

That would be great if everyone in the world lived at the level of a middle class white suburban male, but they don't, so perhaps you should attempt to understand posts before replying.

The OP specifically stated post-scarcity being the ability to care for the basic needs of everyone on the planet. Currently there are still people who a 1st century person would not see as living in a post-scarcity society because they are still dying of starvation, exposure, thirst and preventable illnesses.

EasternBronze
Jul 19, 2011

I registered for the Selective Service! I'm also racist as fuck!

Don't forget to ignore me!


What makes you think I'm male and white? Do you think my mother lives a materially worse existance than my father? Is this the in-vogue DnD way to invalidate someone's opinion now?

"White and male, IGNORE."


We already can care for the basic needs of everyone on the planet. It's not a matter of "not having enough food", it's "we grew all the food and aren't shipping it halfway across the world." If we don't care now I would like to know how we are going to start caring two or three generations later.

This person just got dropped in suburbia. They're going to have a mighty long walk until he finds someone starving to death, dying of the plague, or facing any kind of problem that he or she would be familiar with back home. The fact that some people on Earth might be in poverty doesn't negate the fact that entire societies have basically eradicated these problems. We are so rich that people who are poor are more likely to be obese.

Do you think our ancient friend ever even saw an obese person? What would their opinion of that be? 

Pipe Dreamer
Sep 2, 2011

by Y Kant Ozma Post


Why in God's name are you using first world suburbia as the benchmark for what humanity has progressed to?

EasternBronze
Jul 19, 2011

I registered for the Selective Service! I'm also racist as fuck!

Don't forget to ignore me!


Pipe Dreamer posted:

Why in God's name are you using first world suburbia as the benchmark for what humanity has progressed to?

Because it best illustrates my point.

Do people who live in suburbia believe they are living a post-scarcity existence? Probably not.

They might point to a need for free medical care, cellphone, computer, maybe a car or at least public transportation, etc.

None of these would be listed by our 1st century friend. My point is that people create demand and desire things that had never even be imagined before. Now adays not having a cellphone would be a major hassle.

Would our 1st century friend feel the same? Or would he not consider cellphones in his or her post scarcity society?

Pipe Dreamer
Sep 2, 2011

by Y Kant Ozma Post


Who cares about your hypothetical first century person? I care about the hundreds of millions of people currently scrabbling around in the dirt looking for something to eat right now.

EasternBronze
Jul 19, 2011

I registered for the Selective Service! I'm also racist as fuck!

Don't forget to ignore me!


Pipe Dreamer posted:

Who cares about your hypothetical first century person? I care about the hundreds of millions of people currently scrabbling around in the dirt looking for something to eat right now.

First of all, nice post/avatar combo.

Second, this discussion was about "societies" not "every nation on Earth".

My point is the same as before. Post-scarcity societies can't really come about because people keep moving the goalposts about what constitutes "post-scarcity". What you consider as "basic" to live is determined by your culture.

Surely you aren't going to try and tell me that an American born in 1990 is going to have the same ideas of "necessities" as someone born in the 10th century?

Scrree
Jan 15, 2008

the history of all dead generations,

Before we declare a post-scarcity society impossible because 'people will always want more' we should probably switch away from an economic system that requires and promotes endless consumption.

EasternBronze: Its important to note that we already do "ship food halfway across the world", have you ever heard of farm subsidies? The Third World is flooded with American produced-food, and local farmers cannot compete with the more efficient/subsidized foreign companies. They are driven from their land into the cities, where they and their children become sweatshop laborers and earn 4$ a day to buy American corn. This is bad.

The obvious solutions I see are 1: Stop heavily subsidizing food in exporting nations and let countries set tariffs on agricultural products or 2: Switch to some non-profit oriented system and give the local farmer a living wage even if his produce cannot directly compete with the foreign companies, as long as he succeeds in building up infrastructure for the future. Both are easily feasible and historically proven to work, although they come with their own set of problems. However, instead of any of these solutions being explored, for the past 40ish years governments have been doing the exact opposite and exacerbating the issue (see: how the Haitian rice producers were destoryed by trade liberalization). This is, of course, a direct effect of the current Capitalist system, which is why we are talking about what people should replace it with.

Also, I will take up your challenge: A 10th century peasant and a 20th century American both essentially desire the same necessities: Food, Shelter, Health, and good company. Humans NEED all of these things to stay alive, everything else is extra. A cellphone is not a necessity, neither is a car; they are simply things that make human life more convenient. These are good things (as long as the benefit outweighs the cost E.G car pollution), but they are not inherently needed for human life. In a modern American city a car might be seen as a requirement for a job(and thus living), but that's due to car companies buying up all the local public transport and running them into the ground.

This doesn't mean a post-scarcity society will ONLY provide the bare necessities; it will obviously also have to provide the objects that the society itself judges to be required. If people think that everyone should have a cellphone, then they will go about organizing a way to produce cellphones for everyone. That's what the idea of a post-scarcity society means! Whether or not any society could possibly be capable of producing enough 'extra' goods for everyone, and thus be truly post scarcity, is up in the air. I honestly think that even in the far-future there will still be a way of managing personal consumption. However, we know we can produce enough to provide the necessities, and then some, for every human being on this earth because we already do so.

Eripsa
Jan 13, 2002

Proud future citizen of Pitcairn.

Pitcairn is the perfect place for me to set up my utopia!


Allow me to introduce the Attention Economy.

This is basically my pet theory about what an alternative economic system looks like. I don't want the whole thread to be about my crazy theories, so please discuss other alternative economies in this thread. But I've done a lot of thinking about Attention Economy, so I'd like to explain it as best I can.

First, the notion of an attention economy is not original to me, I just have a particular take on it. But before I let my crazy out, let's get some neutral definitions of the way.

The term is currently trendy in marketing and design circles, where the question of how to attract attention is always important. In these contexts, Attention Economy is usually about managing the audience's attention, on a web page for instance, or in an advertisement. When web designers ask questions like "what are users looking for, and how do I best arrange the site so they will find it quickly", the techniques for doing this are sometimes categorized under the term "Attention Economy". In this sense, Attention Economy is not meant as an alternative economy in the sense of this thread, but just as a framework for dealing information management in terms of the user's experience. Although this is not completely unrelated to my purposes, it is a different sort of thing.

The idea of Attention Economy originally comes from Herbert Simon:

quote:

"...in an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it"

The idea is that in the Digital Age, attention is the only scarce resource that I actually have to manage, and so the social order is arranged in such a way as to facilitate my management of that attention.

Attention is defined by Davenport and Beck as:

quote:

Attention is focused mental engagement on a particular item of information. Items come into our awareness, we attend to a particular item, and then we decide whether to act.

So the idea of an Attention Economy would be to have the flow and management of Attention replace the flow of Capital as the blood that runs society.

Traditional economies take the transaction as a basic unit of economic activity. A transaction is essential a contract between two people to trade something of value. In other words, it is an abstract, formal relation. In an attention economy, the basic unit of activity is attending, which is an action, and instead of having formal or abstract consequences, it has practical consequences.

I "pay" attention, and though my attention is a finite resource and can only be split so many ways, it is also a resource that I produce constantly, simply in virtue of being conscious. I never lack attention, but I can have difficulty paying attention or keeping my attention focused on some particular thing, so managing my attention is no trivial task. But it is a task that all people are always engaged in, naturally, as part of the work required to be alive.

When I pay attention, all I get in return is whatever value has come from the attention paid. When I watch a movie, I get its entertainment in return. When I build a chair, I get the chair I built. I can't lose attention, or go broke by paying too much attention; there is no debt in an attention economy. However, that doesn't mean that my attention is not valuable. What I lose by paying attention to X is the time spent paying attention, which is an Opportunity Cost, since it is time not spent doing Y or Z. As I have only a limited amount of time to spend my attention, I must learn to spend that attention wisely. But that's not a huge deal, so paying attention (and participating in the society) is relatively effortless. My ability to participate in the society is not a question for me. The only question is what should I pay attention to. But apart from the experience and wisdom gained from paying attention, I get nothing else in return.

I have a lot more to say, but it is late and this is already a wall of text. I'll continue tomorrow.

Quasimango
Mar 10, 2011

God damn you.

Well, that is an economy in the sense that our attention is a scarce resource we can allocate, but how exactly is it an 'alternative' economy?

Eripsa
Jan 13, 2002

Proud future citizen of Pitcairn.

Pitcairn is the perfect place for me to set up my utopia!


Quasimango posted:

Well, that is an economy in the sense that our attention is a scarce resource we can allocate, but how exactly is it an 'alternative' economy?

Good question! My idea for an Attention Economy is that the distribution of resources should be a function of the flow of attention. Right now, resources are allocated not on the basis of need or usefulness, but on the basis of money. One dollar can be exchanged for one cheeseburger, so the cheeseburgers end up where the dollars are. But cheeseburgers are needed where empty stomachs exist, and there is no guarantee that wherever an empty stomach exists there will be a dollar to exchange for that cheeseburger. Often, dollars are completely absent where resources are needed most, and so a dollar-based economy may not even recognize the failure of distribution at all. The alternative is to distribute resources based on the flow of attention; since attention can't be faked, there will be less room for these kinds of oversights and inefficiencies. An person with an empty stomach can still pay attention, so if we can track where the attention is flowing we have a better shot of making sure the cheeseburgers get there. I don't expect that attention is a perfect indicator of value, but my view is that it will be a hell of a lot more accurate than money.

So how would this work? Bear with me, because things are about to get wonky.

Imagine that every human being alive straps a little box on their foreheads. These little boxes shoot out tiny invisible marbles at some constant rate, say 10 marbles a minute. It shoots these marbles out at the objects you happen to be looking at, which are equipped with other boxes to absorb those incoming marbles. These marbles are a crude approximation of the attention you pay. Every time you pay attention to some object, it gets bombarded with your marbles.

Of course, this will all be done digitally without little boxes strapped to anyone's head. And where a person is looking is a terrible indicator of attention; to do this properly we'd need to retina-tracking hardware or sophisticated real-time brain scanners. But leave these technical details aside for the moment. I want to give you the big picture of what the Attention Economy looks like. So boxes on foreheads with marbles shooting out at a constant rate and getting absorbed by other objects. Still with me?

Now here's the trick: you can't store marbles. You can't stockpile attention or reserve a bank of attention-units. Just as there is no debt in an attention economy, there are no "attention reserves" and there can be no surplus of attention. Attention must always be paid as it is produced or acquired. So when people pay attention to me, and thus I am absorbing their incoming marbles, I don't put those marbles in a jar for a rainy day.

Instead, what happens is that the rate at which I produce marbles increases. Say that, for every 10 people paying attention to me, the rate at which I produce marbles increases by one marble a minute. The more attention I get, the more marbles I produce per unit time, and the faster they get shot out of the little box on my forehead. In other words, the more attention paid to me, the more influence I have over the flow of marbles through the network.

In other words, I claim that the inverse of attention is influence. When you "pay" attention to something, you are effectively trading attention for influence. The movie I pay attention to, for at least the time I am paying attention to it, has some degree of influence over my thoughts, experiences, desires, and interests. When I pay attention to my work, I have influence over anyone who benefits or interacts with the products of my labor. The more influence I have, the more control I have, at least locally, of how resources get distributed, and how those resources are taken up and used by the wider society. If I have the last pound of sugar in town, then I have a lot of influence over who gets access to that sugar, and I will therefore be getting a lot of attention from anyone who wants sugar. This dynamic of attention and influence generates competition and the dynamics usually associated with capitalism, but without money serving as a mediating value structure to augment and distort the distribution of those resources.

Ok. So how does this generate an real economic alternative? We need to describe how the flow of attention informs the distribution of resources. I'll take another break to go teach, but I'll continue shortly.

Gough Suppressant
Nov 14, 2008


EasternBronze posted:


Sorry, I don't share your pre-adolescent emotional development, and am able to consider the needs of people in non-identical circumstances to my own.

Michaelos
Oct 11, 2004

Upgraded to platinum to donate money to Lowtax.

I sent a private message to Eripsa and he wanted me to post it here, so here it is, minus the part at the end about me thinking it wasn't really good enough for a public point:

Let me attempt to portray a story of where I see this argument going, having seen arguments like this before.

Our Titanic Economy is sinking and the water levels are rising. Passengers are dying left and right.

Eripsa is in the engine room trying to build a new engine from scratch. There are other engineers down there, but they're very few. Most people are either piling into lifeboats or pulling passengers out of the water. Some few haven't even realized the Titanic Economy is sinking yet!

Other people are trying to pull drowning people from the water onto the sinking Titanic.

Still other people are yelling at Eripsa saying "Why are you worried about the engine when there are literally people drowning right now and only first class gets the lifeboats?"

Eripsa yells back "Look, the problem is that those first class life boats aren't going to last very long out in these hellish waters. We need to get the whole Titanic Economy to stop sinking. Then we'll want for nothing!"

Other people: "You're only trying to avoid the trivial inconvenience of a lifeboat! They're are people out there who would KILL YOU for your lifeboat if they could. If you don't believe the lifeboat is important, why don't you give up yours?"

Eripsa: "Because I'm fairly sure I need to breakdown my lifeboat for engine parts later! I'm doing this for the good of all of you, and for your children!"

Other people: "Break it down LATER? oh so if you're wrong about this whole 'New Engine' thing, you get to sail away with the rest of the greedy first class while we that actually used are resources to help the drowning rot?"

Eripsa: "I'm telling you, I'm not that evil! I truly care about the good of all of you and that's why I'm trying to save the whole Titanic Economy!"

I feel like I should point out the first step to instituting a large scale social change is to have the trust of a large number of people, a smaller number of much more powerful people, or possibly (considering where technology has been going.) even the aid of a massive number of obedient machines. It doesn't matter how beautiful the design of your economic engine is if you lack the resources to bring it online.

I'm still working out the details of this. There are future bits such as the fact that "Gathering more resources to save the day later." is easily corruptible, etcetera.

R. Mute
Jul 27, 2011



That's a pretty stupid comparison. Ships don't sink because their engine is broken. If the ship is sinking, there's a structural failing somewhere, probably a huge hole in the hull or something. So building a new engine (from scrap, it seems) isn't going to help. Movement would probably make things worse, even. Is that what you're trying to say? It's pretty convoluted, straw-manny and bad regardless.

edit:

Anyway, everything the OP has said sounds like the usual stuff you'd hear from people who still believe in the Myth of Progress. It was bunk in the 19th century, it's bunk now for exactly the same reasons.

Helsing
Aug 23, 2003

DON'T POST IN THE ELECTION THREAD UNLESS YOU JOE BIDEN


Eripsa posted:



1. If you actually manage to prevent people from accumulating savings and/or debt then you're not going to end up with anything resembling a capitalist economy. Honestly I'm not sure how you'll have any sort of functioning economy with no viable way of transferring wealth or property into the future.

2. A society geared around tracking every movement of every human being's retina sounds like the most utterly horrific dystopia imaginable. I think I'd take 1984 or Brave New World over such a place.

Michaelos posted:



For a metaphor or analogy to be convincing it needs to somehow be related to reality.

EasternBronze
Jul 19, 2011

I registered for the Selective Service! I'm also racist as fuck!

Don't forget to ignore me!


MonsterUnderYourBed posted:

Sorry, I don't share your pre-adolescent emotional development, and am able to consider the needs of people in non-identical circumstances to my own.

Your assumption that I live in the suburbs is pretty far off base.  

So your response to "People's idea of what constitutes enough to participate in society changes depending on the materials circumstances of society" is "You are immature." What I've said is perfectly reasonable and, I think, overwhelmingly true. People define themselves and their level of wealth or need by the people around them. Going for a day without food in the United States has a vastly different connotation than in, say, Burundi.

Of course, I probably just can't understand your high-minded morality. You are surely seconds away from selling your cellphone and computer in order to raise funds for those living in grinding poverty. You are so emotionally developed.


The attention economy sounds great. I can assume given current trends that around 85% of the world economy will turn to producing porn.

Edit: Why waste time instituting a reasonable wealth/inheritance tax? Surely it is easier to just replace the economy with futuristic eye tracking technology for everyone so that the things we look at will gain more "marbles".

Because that is what I want to spend time doing. Paying attention to food and gasoline, so it keeps getting produced. Not exercising, reading books, visiting friends. Let's just make sure the guy who has no life gets everything first. God it's like the real world economy is turning into an MMO.

I just dont want to be the guy that has to pay attention to the latrines.

Michaelos
Oct 11, 2004

Upgraded to platinum to donate money to Lowtax.

R. Mute posted:

That's a pretty stupid comparison. Ships don't sink because their engine is broken. If the ship is sinking, there's a structural failing somewhere, probably a huge hole in the hull or something. So building a new engine (from scrap, it seems) isn't going to help. Movement would probably make things worse, even. Is that what you're trying to say? It's pretty convoluted, straw-manny and bad regardless.

edit:

Anyway, everything the OP has said sounds like the usual stuff you'd hear from people who still believe in the Myth of Progress. It was bunk in the 19th century, it's bunk now for exactly the same reasons.

I only posted it because Eripsa asked me too. I didn't think I had even finished my thoughts (I had been typing for too long and had to go to work.) So I'm not surprised that there are gaps, stupid parts, and convolutions. I'm curious about his reply though, since he seemed to think it was good as is?

Also, thank you for the reference to the Myth of Progress, it is a new concept and I will have to read more about it.

Yiggy
Sep 12, 2004

"Imagination is not enough. You have to have knowledge too, and an experience of the oddity of life."


Eripsa posted:

So how would this work? Bear with me, because things are about to get wonky.

Imagine that every human being alive straps a little box on their foreheads. These little boxes shoot out tiny invisible marbles at some constant rate, say 10 marbles a minute. It shoots these marbles out at the objects you happen to be looking at, which are equipped with other boxes to absorb those incoming marbles. These marbles are a crude approximation of the attention you pay. Every time you pay attention to some object, it gets bombarded with your marbles.

Of course, this will all be done digitally without little boxes strapped to anyone's head. And where a person is looking is a terrible indicator of attention; to do this properly we'd need to retina-tracking hardware or sophisticated real-time brain scanners. But leave these technical details aside for the moment. I want to give you the big picture of what the Attention Economy looks like. So boxes on foreheads with marbles shooting out at a constant rate and getting absorbed by other objects. Still with me?

Now here's the trick: you can't store marbles. You can't stockpile attention or reserve a bank of attention-units. Just as there is no debt in an attention economy, there are no "attention reserves" and there can be no surplus of attention. Attention must always be paid as it is produced or acquired. So when people pay attention to me, and thus I am absorbing their incoming marbles, I don't put those marbles in a jar for a rainy day.

Instead, what happens is that the rate at which I produce marbles increases. Say that, for every 10 people paying attention to me, the rate at which I produce marbles increases by one marble a minute. The more attention I get, the more marbles I produce per unit time, and the faster they get shot out of the little box on my forehead. In other words, the more attention paid to me, the more influence I have over the flow of marbles through the network.

In other words, I claim that the inverse of attention is influence. When you "pay" attention to something, you are effectively trading attention for influence. The movie I pay attention to, for at least the time I am paying attention to it, has some degree of influence over my thoughts, experiences, desires, and interests. When I pay attention to my work, I have influence over anyone who benefits or interacts with the products of my labor. The more influence I have, the more control I have, at least locally, of how resources get distributed, and how those resources are taken up and used by the wider society. If I have the last pound of sugar in town, then I have a lot of influence over who gets access to that sugar, and I will therefore be getting a lot of attention from anyone who wants sugar. This dynamic of attention and influence generates competition and the dynamics usually associated with capitalism, but without money serving as a mediating value structure to augment and distort the distribution of those resources.

Ok. So how does this generate an real economic alternative? We need to describe how the flow of attention informs the distribution of resources. I'll take another break to go teach, but I'll continue shortly.

Helsing
Aug 23, 2003

DON'T POST IN THE ELECTION THREAD UNLESS YOU JOE BIDEN


EasternBronze posted:

Because it best illustrates my point.

Do people who live in suburbia believe they are living a post-scarcity existence? Probably not.

They might point to a need for free medical care, cellphone, computer, maybe a car or at least public transportation, etc.

None of these would be listed by our 1st century friend. My point is that people create demand and desire things that had never even be imagined before. Now adays not having a cellphone would be a major hassle.

Would our 1st century friend feel the same? Or would he not consider cellphones in his or her post scarcity society?

We tend to define words based on how the living community uses them. That's why our dictionaries are constantly incorporating new definitions for words, rather than just be musty old history tomes.

Scarcity is a word with a specific meaning, and most people today who talk about post-scarcity economics have at least a somewhat specific sense of what they mean by that term. Its simply wrong to claim that we can't coherently talk about what a post-scarcity society would look like just because human expectations change over time.

R. Mute
Jul 27, 2011



Michaelos posted:

I only posted it because Eripsa asked me too. I didn't think I had even finished my thoughts (I had been typing for too long and had to go to work.) So I'm not surprised that there are gaps, stupid parts, and convolutions. I'm curious about his reply though, since he seemed to think it was good as is?
I'm guessing because it agrees with him. Regardless of the thing you're trying to bring across, the main problem is that your analogy is just too complex and removed from the subject at hand. I'll admit I'm half asleep at the moment, but I'm having trouble penetrating the whole thing. An analogy is supposed to explain a situation or concept in a simple and easy to read way, which just isn't the case here. I wouldn't even bother to try and fix this analogy. You can let this ship sink, I think.

EasternBronze
Jul 19, 2011

I registered for the Selective Service! I'm also racist as fuck!

Don't forget to ignore me!


My point is that whatever definition we are using of scarcity now is not going to reflect what people living in that society will define as scarcity. It's like chasing a rainbow, for every step you advance it appears to move ahead one step and you never actually reach it.

Talking about post-scarcity societies is only sightly more rooted in reality than arguing about what year the singularity is going to appear.

Never mind, just tell me more about living in Star Trek.

archangelwar
Oct 28, 2004

Teaching Moments


Yiggy posted:



Just think, you have increased Eripsa's marble output. Don't worry, he posts this same copy/paste every few months and then yells at everyone who "doesn't get it."

quote:

My point is that whatever definition we are using of scarcity now is not going to reflect what people living in that society will define as scarcity. It's like chasing a rainbow, for every step you advance it appears to move ahead one step and you never actually reach it.

Talking about post-scarcity societies is only sightly more rooted in reality than arguing about what year the singularity is going to appear.

But it doesn't make you right. Post scarcity has a pretty specific meaning:

quote:

Post scarcity (also styled post-scarcity or postscarcity, and also known as Resource-Based Economy) is a hypothetical form of economy or society, in which things such as goods, services and information are free, or practically free. This would be due to an abundance of fundamental resources (matter, energy and intelligence), in conjunction with sophisticated automated systems capable of converting raw materials into finished goods, allowing manufacturing to be as easy as duplicating software.

Perhaps the most important aspect of a post scarcity society is abundant and free energy, something that is limited now, and only likely to become more limited in the future.

Helsing
Aug 23, 2003

DON'T POST IN THE ELECTION THREAD UNLESS YOU JOE BIDEN


EasternBronze posted:


Talking about post-scarcity societies is only sightly more rooted in reality than arguing about what year the singularity is going to appear.


I agree, but that doesn't make your actual argument any less weak. The fact that people had a different understanding of a word in the past or the fact they might use it differently in the future has nothing to do with a discussion of scarcity or post-scarcity. Provided that the person in question gives some sort of criteria for judging what does or doesn't count as scarcity, its totally irrelevant whether or not the precise meaning of the word changes latter or changed in the past. If you're going to go after post-scarcity economics then attack it for being unrealistic rather than attempting to argue via semantics.

A bad argument that happens to be largely correct is still a bad argument!

Maxwell Lord
Dec 12, 2008

I am drowning.
There is no sign of land.
You are coming down with me, hand in unlovable hand.

And I hope you die.

I hope we both die.






Grimey Drawer

EasternBronze posted:

My point is that whatever definition we are using of scarcity now is not going to reflect what people living in that society will define as scarcity. It's like chasing a rainbow, for every step you advance it appears to move ahead one step and you never actually reach it.

Except then there's food.

Look, there are the basic needs we've established- food, water, shelter. They're the bottom of the pyramid. Post-scarcity generally means making sure these things are taken care of no matter what. Food is something where there's a hard minimum we need and a relative maximum- there's only so much you can stuff yourself before you need the vomitorium. Water's the same, there's a minimum of it and a maximum. Shelter's a bit more flexible, but it works differently.

To be truly post-scarcity, you can't have anyone on the globe starving or unable to get food. You have to establish a basic level of food security for the entire world.

Now, I'm sort of an idealist, I like to think we aren't living in the end of days, maybe we could actually achieve this. But that's what any new economic model has to address- how people get the essentials of life. Take care of that before we get into attention economies or bitcoinage.

Eripsa
Jan 13, 2002

Proud future citizen of Pitcairn.

Pitcairn is the perfect place for me to set up my utopia!


Michaelos posted:

It doesn't matter how beautiful the design of your economic engine is if you lack the resources to bring it online.

I love the dialogue

I'll say that my point here isn't to Rally the Troops to start a New Economy! Given the history of Goon Projects I don't think anything like that has a shot.

Instead, I'm trying to articulate what a different economy might look like, really just in an effort to start proposing different economic models, to start talking and thinking about them publicly, if for no other reason than to try to get the creative juices flowing. I'm not claiming that I've found THE ONE SOLUTION TO RULE ALL PEOPLE. Instead, I think I've just found another consistent model that can do the work we want an economy to do (to distribute resources), and I think we need to at least be thinking about alternatives because the one we have doesn't work. I do strongly believe that money as a medium of exchange is an unworkable system that has perpetuated itself through oppression, and not through well-functioning. I do believe we can do better, and almost nowhere do I see discussions of serious alternatives; indeed, most people take the very idea that money is optional to be a nonstarter. The claim it in the name of "realism", but it strikes me a pure dogmatic convention with no support to justify its continued use except that its how things have always worked (see my parable above). I honestly believe that, if we are going to be serious about the problems we face, then we have to be willing to question fundamental aspects of our existing institutions. Money is a universal and incredibly problematic feature of our fundamental social order, but I don't think it is sacred, and I think that if we can do better than money, than we should try to do it. And the problems we face are immense and incredibly real, and the timeframe we have for dealing with them is shrinking by the minute.

Look, Attention Economy is insane. The marble poo poo is deliberately designed for you to not take it seriously. But I think that once I lay out the system in detail sufficient enough to see how it works, then it will be absolutely clear that an Attention Economy is far better suited to handle these problems than our current system, which is categorically and systematically incapable of solving them. And this is just some stupid theory an idiot like me came up with that involves marbles shooting from people's foreheads. If I can develop such theory, then the truly great minds of our generation can surely do much better. But they have to know its possible, and at the moment I fear that too many people take the existence of money for granted so deeply that they might never even consider the possibility at all. And that's a tragedy. I'm thinking about what things look like on the other side of a great paradigm shift that most people still don't recognize is coming, and though it will look insane from this side of the shift I see no choice but to press on.

But now I'm just waxing revolution. Let me get back to the theory.

ryde
Sep 9, 2011




Yiggy posted:



I was getting a serious, "Imagine four balls at the edge of a cliff.." vibe reading that.

In all seriousness though, we're eventually going to have to figure out how to deal with a post-scarcity world, as more unskilled jobs become automated and jobs become highly specialized. I'm thinking that's going to look more like Star Trek socialism than any sort of attention-based economy.

rudatron
May 31, 2011

by Fluffdaddy


I think the core difference between the current economy and any alternative economy is the inherent undemocratic nature of the way resources are handled today. This is obviously because of the way the unit of currency is so unequal, but in truth it's inevitable in a capitalist system.

If you're going to have a unit of currency that is able to purchase productive goods, then the ability to produce more in value than it costs to assemble (a basic property of productive goods that are technologically current) means that those with more capital can keep their large capital pools, and expand it, through having a greater share of their capital invested in productive goods. You can amplify your ability to obtain more capital. As long as you have basic consumption (which is necessary to live) and this process of capital amplification, you will have inequality. It may still happen without basic consumption though, because the return on your productive goods is random - those who initially score slightly above the mean can amplify that away. Those initial random returns will create your inequality, through no fault of incompetence or laziness. Once they are unequal however, the system will always favor the person who pays more over the ones who don't.

The inevitable result is that, even if you have a society of people who are just as competent as each other, this capital amplification will cause inequality in capital distribution, and thus the system will always be non-egalitarian. This is ignoring the problem of corruption, which is all too easy.

The fundamental basis of any alternative economy is the equal valuing of all human beings. I'm not personally a fan of eripsa's attention economy, but it is it's democratic basis that makes it egalitarian. Currently, corporations are nothing more than medieval fiefdoms running around fighting each other - no one but a fool would consider that an efficient way to distribute resources.

R. Mute
Jul 27, 2011



Maybe... communism?

Helsing
Aug 23, 2003

DON'T POST IN THE ELECTION THREAD UNLESS YOU JOE BIDEN


Eripsa posted:

I love the dialogue

I'll say that my point here isn't to Rally the Troops to start a New Economy! Given the history of Goon Projects I don't think anything like that has a shot.

Instead, I'm trying to articulate what a different economy might look like, really just in an effort to start proposing different economic models, to start talking and thinking about them publicly, if for no other reason than to try to get the creative juices flowing. I'm not claiming that I've found THE ONE SOLUTION TO RULE ALL PEOPLE. Instead, I think I've just found another consistent model that can do the work we want an economy to do (to distribute resources), and I think we need to at least be thinking about alternatives because the one we have doesn't work. I do strongly believe that money as a medium of exchange is an unworkable system that has perpetuated itself through oppression, and not through well-functioning. I do believe we can do better, and almost nowhere do I see discussions of serious alternatives; indeed, most people take the very idea that money is optional to be a nonstarter. The claim it in the name of "realism", but it strikes me a pure dogmatic convention with no support to justify its continued use except that its how things have always worked (see my parable above). I honestly believe that, if we are going to be serious about the problems we face, then we have to be willing to question fundamental aspects of our existing institutions. Money is a universal and incredibly problematic feature of our fundamental social order, but I don't think it is sacred, and I think that if we can do better than money, than we should try to do it. And the problems we face are immense and incredibly real, and the timeframe we have for dealing with them is shrinking by the minute.

Look, Attention Economy is insane. The marble poo poo is deliberately designed for you to not take it seriously. But I think that once I lay out the system in detail sufficient enough to see how it works, then it will be absolutely clear that an Attention Economy is far better suited to handle these problems than our current system, which is categorically and systematically incapable of solving them. And this is just some stupid theory an idiot like me came up with that involves marbles shooting from people's foreheads. If I can develop such theory, then the truly great minds of our generation can surely do much better. But they have to know its possible, and at the moment I fear that too many people take the existence of money for granted so deeply that they might never even consider the possibility at all. And that's a tragedy. I'm thinking about what things look like on the other side of a great paradigm shift that most people still don't recognize is coming, and though it will look insane from this side of the shift I see no choice but to press on.

But now I'm just waxing revolution. Let me get back to the theory.

You do realize that many different societies have independently come up with the idea of money, right? If you want to come up with an alternative system then you should go for but you'd have to be insanely ignorant of basic history and anthropology - not to mention political economy - to think that the only reason people use money is force of habit or irrational reverence for how things were done in the past. You're in such a rush to come up with a better system that you haven't spent enough time thinking about why we developed the system we have. If you're going to make a critique of the existing economy then it really needs to be an intelligent and thoughtful one.

You also really need to address why you think it's better to have an economy with no savings and how / why people in this economy will invest in plant and machinery.

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Eripsa
Jan 13, 2002

Proud future citizen of Pitcairn.

Pitcairn is the perfect place for me to set up my utopia!


Helsing posted:

1. If you actually manage to prevent people from accumulating savings and/or debt then you're not going to end up with anything resembling a capitalist economy. Honestly I'm not sure how you'll have any sort of functioning economy with no viable way of transferring wealth or property into the future.

Good! I think the idea of accumulating and storing wealth for its own sake is one of the fundamental problems with capital. When you let the medium (money) stand as a proxy for value, it is then possible to sequester that value and restrict its use. I think an object that is not used (in that it is not the recipient of attention paid) is culturally valueless, but the presence of capital distorts that value against the standard of the medium. I think this distortion is one of the basic corruptions of money; value no longer becomes tied to how the item gets taken up by the crowd.

The idea of attention economy is that value just is what the crowd takes up, and there is no way to sequester or restrict value apart from letting the crowd take it up, because it is in the taking up of culture that it comes to have value. There's no middle man to clog the flow of culture, as money does now.

quote:

2. A society geared around tracking every movement of every human being's retina sounds like the most utterly horrific dystopia imaginable. I think I'd take 1984 or Brave New World over such a place.

There are definitely going to be privacy issues in my system. I completely sympathize with your point, and I want to in good faith take up this challenge in more depth a bit later on. But I'll say that it is clear to me that the system will gain functionality the more information flows freely, and that will certainly include what we consider to be "private" information today. Part of the challenge, then, is restructuring our values about what we consider private.

And, of course, whether we like it or not, a tremendous restructuring of privacy values is already undergoing a significant generational shift, with the first generation raised entirely in the shadow of Internet now in college and on Facebook, where corporate access to what was once "private" information has sparked an explosion in advertising and marketing that now values Facebook, which produces literally no content and whose service is complete poo poo, at close to a hundred billion dollars.

Right this second we are living through an incredible and largely voluntary erosion of privacy, being carried out in the name of private profit. This is saying nothing to do with the extensive (and probably unconstitutional but we'll never know because they have immunity) wiretapping and surveillance campaigns that the NSA carries out in conjunction with the telephone companies. So there are serious privacy concerns about the existing system too.

I think that Attention Economy will give us elegant ways of handling these problems, which are horribly thorny and tangled in the current system because of the complication and overwhelming attraction of money. I'm thinking of the example of Google Navigation, which ultimately wants to track the data of all the cars on the road (or at least a statistically significant sampling), in order to determine flows of traffic patterns. If you know where the cars are, you can route them along the roads in a way that maximizes the usefulness of roads. Seems like a hell of a good thing if you want to address the traffic problem (and all the inefficiencies therein) but it means you have to give your location to Google, and that might rub you the wrong way.

But there are ways to make this palatable. I think you can make a lot of the information anonymous in ways that don't link information back to some particular individual. I think this is how all the marbles get tracked: it doesn't matter who shot the marble at you, all that matters is that you got an extra marble. I also think you make that (anonymous) information entirely public. It wouldn't be the private property of a business trying to make profit, nor would it be the top secret database stored by an oppressive government, but it would be information open to the crowd, so they can all see how it works, and tinker with it, and optimize it so we can improve that system.

And that's really the point. Right now there is some official person who is paid to handle issues of traffic control as a state bureaucrat, and that person is engulfed political and social and economic system that makes it very difficult to actually seriously address the problem of traffic in any meaningful way. Solutions proposed within this system tend to be slipshod, good-enough-for-now operations with no larger perspective or eye to sustainability. These kinds of massive problems are simply too big and complicated, and involve too many factors, to trust a top-down organization, with all the limitations that entails, to adequately address it.

But the crowd has lots of time on their hands, and a far more diverse skill set and background, and they are more than willing to go over that information in exquisite detail to optimize formulas and tinker with alternatives and otherwise map out the solution space. You just have to make it available for them to work with, and they will. Its what they do best.