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|Author:||Agifem [ Wed Aug 22, 2007 7:12 am ]|
|Post subject:||Alternative economy|
In the past few years, I've been thinking about the viability of an idea. Since it's easier to think with several brains, I'm presenting this idea here, opening it to suggestions, comments, criticism (both positive and negative, as long as properly argued).
The idea is about solving problems the modern society is facing, by suppressing the most important source of this problem : Money.
Here is the idea. We are all in a country, about 50-100 years in the future (for the technological aspect). For simplification reasons, there is no foreign country. Our society is based upon a political representative system (direct or indirect Democracy, Sortition, whatever as long as it's not dicatorial), in which the progress of robotics has made available to anyone in sufficiant quantity the basic resources of survival (food, water, homing, hygiene, clothing, and i may have missed some). This is my first postulate. In summary, we have a society where people do not need to work in order to survive.
My second postulate is that pretty much any good can be produced in this society in sufficient numbers. There are only 2 things needed to make this postulate a reality, resources (near unlimited with space exploration) and time, as robots take care of "manpower". My third postulate is one of the first laws of the constitution : Something belongs to you only if it is in your hands, in your pocket or in your home.
Then, in this society, we suppress Money (and swop). The idea is not to revert to a society of barter, but to suppress Wealth. The very purpose of this society is make everyone equal, not only in political rights, but also in social and financial rights, to extend the meaning of equality between men and women.
My first observation is that, in this society, the following phenomenons disappear : Theft, Blackmail, Unemployement (sill present, but not a problem in itself), Corruption, Publicity (and spam), Social inequality and the jealousy linked to it, and probably many other problems of our society.
However, this system has, I am sure, flaws. This is why I am presenting it here, so we can see if this system is viable in a near future or not. There are two aspects I have left aside on purpose, and I do not wish to see explored here : outside countries (diplomatic relationships, territorial defense, etc.), and the transition from our current society to this one. Both present problems that are only worth considering if this society itself is worth considering.
Before answering, have in mind two things :
First, we reason the way the society educated us. Some things are worth more than others. But in this society, the absence of money and wealth makes many things different in everyday's life. No good is worth more than another. There is not point in accumulating anything. Consider why you would do it in this society before saying you would.
Second, Men and Women alike have flaws (egoism, jealousy ...), but they have virtues (curiosity, cunning ...). Don't overlook them.
So, do you think such a system could work ?
I approved for this even though it is a bit political, so PLEASEbe nice, and no flaming etc.
|Author:||Temper of khaine [ Wed Aug 22, 2007 7:45 am ]|
Ok I am going to tell you this, this is basically adapted Socialism. ANd all of the problems that disapear...no offense but did you not think this through?
-If you are forced to have no more (or little more) then anyone else theft may grow in order to aquire more (its a natural human thing for one, and the more you have of something the more powerful you are, we are built to aquire power in order to be more succesful then the others).
-The lack of money has never stopped Violence (in fact in many areas it has forced it to grow in order to represent power).
-Blackmail.....if you cheat on your wife and an outside party finds out whats stopping them from forcing you to give them something or making you use your robots to work for him instead of you (even if its just to make his house better w/e)...
-And preventing someone from aquiring wealth (which doesnt directly stop others from attaining wealth) is a breach of basic democratic rights.
-Why would corruption of disapeer? Again it goes to as long as we have possessions, whether it be robots or a stone tool there will be something to gather (ie if you get more robots then others then you can build more or w/e they do or get more done, thereby replacing money as a form of power).
-Unemployment......Britain is one of the richest countries in the world and has like 3% unemployment, British Columbia (where I live) has a booming economy and has 3.5% unemployment, so to say unemployment would disapear is quite wrong, in fact in simular situations unemployment ussually rises do to a lack of need to do anything. And in that way either we get the robots to do everything (including building themselves) or we do critical stats, also to mine, forest, and other things requires problem solving intellegence (ie no pre-programable has to learn at a high level), which is dangerous (ie they could consider it slavery). Also what would people do? I for one like to work even if its menal sometimes, just to do something.
-Jealousy is a basic human emotion, money is just one of many outlets associated with it, it exsists in dogs and cats for gods sakes.
-Everyone is equal under our political system, if your over 18 and are a citizen. If you wonder why rich people keep getting in its because like it or not, they are successful, I for one dont like corruption, but I want someone who is better (smarter, craftier) then the average person to be incharge.
-Direct Democracy is long and tiring, either you have to have a long very large discussion about every issue (fyi people theres 100's a year) or you dont discuss the issues theroly and make poor choices (whether you like it or not politicians spend 1000's of hours a year going through info on dicisions).
-All of these problems exsist in chimps and exsisted long before we had money and will continue to exsist. Contrary to popular belief we were basically like this before there was money, we stole murdered and raped long before there were even cities or written languages. They will continue to plague us until the day we die out, to supress anything only compounds problems. You need to think the larger picture, not attack every problem like people are logical, infalable, non-emotional computers.
-This is basically communism with very minor differnces.
-Your people instead of working all day, sit on there ass, both leech of the system.
-Your lack of money was tried before, early stalinistic USSR.
-It breachs basic human right to aquire wealth (as long as its not at the expense of others, having money DOES NOT stop others from aquiring money if they have the ability).
-People are not perfect, in this way we should not treat people as if they were.
-Its animal/human nature to act in a capitalistic way, it isnt going to change (and even if it does then not for a very long time).
-Without compitition then why would we bother to get off our asses to do better then others (IE technology development would stall).
-Robots should not rule the world as if they do all our tasks then they have de-facto control of the world.
-I for one condem this entire idea
In conclusion its not viable, and even if it was the vast majority of people (including myself) would sooner die fighting this then succum to it.
|Author:||Agifem [ Wed Aug 22, 2007 9:33 am ]|
Before i go any further in answering you, i'd like to point out one thing you seem to have overlooked. The whole system would be based around the idea Wealth doesn't exist. Owning more of something wouldn't mean anything, since that thing has no value. The logic of accumulation, which is the mark of modern society where money is king, has no meaning in this society. Therefore, power is not determined by who owns more of something.
You pointed out several elements in this system that seem like flaws only because you consider that wealth is power, which it is not.
This IS Communism. I chose not to say this word because in most people's mentality, this word is associated strongly with Staline (and some other such governments), while it has nothing to do with it. But let's not argue this, this thread is not about politics, it's about economics.
This is a very interesting reply, one i had never heard so far. If we look into the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (which i think can be safely considered like a very legitimate reference of democratic rights), which consists of 30 articles, we see several references to social protection, financial equality in some given circonstances (same salary for same work), but we see absolutly no reference to wealth itself, the freedom to have any, and especially no reference to Money.
However, this system does not breach this chart in any way. It does restrict possessions to a limited amount, in that what cannot stand in your hands, pockets or your home can be taken freely by anyone (my third postulate). But isn't your home big enough to save your whole CD collection or your warhammer miniatures ?
What's more important is that the meaning of Wealth must entirely redefined in this system. I ask you : what is Wealth in this system ?
Two things. First, i never said it would stop unemployement, i merely said that unemployement wouldn't be a problem, simply because someone not working can still live decently.
Secondly, to understand, we must split work into two different categories : physical and intellectual work. Physical work can and will be done entirely by robots, because it is tiring and better done by them, and because few humans will want to do it anyway. However, intellectual work, to an extent, cannot be done by robots, as it requires cunning, imagination and creativity, something that is and probably will remain human's exclusivity for some time (this can be debated, but not in this topic please).
If people are bored, they can still do the intellectual work, and there will always be plenty to be done.
Hmm, jealousy in cats and dogs, i'm not sure. However, i do not deny it will still exist in this society, but to a much lesser extent. You cannot be jealous of what your neighbour owns since you can have it very simply.
But i agree with one thing : this system won't solve every problem.
Politically equal, yes. Every such person has the right to vote, to speak his mind freely, to express his religion. But these are political rights. Not everyone is equal reguarding financial rights. Not everyone owns a car or can afford one. Money does create differences.
Direct democracy was just an idea, to represent the fact this system enforces equal political rights. A representative democracy is just good enough for this system.
Money was abandonned in USSR ? I'm learning something. In 1917-1921, Lenine did try to make USSR into a communist state, but to my knowledge, it was never achieved. Entreprises were nationalized, private entreprises forbidden, food rationed, but to my knowledge (and in this, i may be wrong), wealth and money never ceased to exist.
A few reasons.
Curiosity to explore an intellectual challenge. We do it for Warhammer battle, but developping tactical plans to beat a foe, and even though this is no work, we are not far from it.
Boredom will lead some to do something with their lives, instead of wasting it in front of the TV. A few years ago, i've spent 3 months of holliday in a row. In the end, i was so bored i wanted to go back to school.
Fame, because it is one way a man can stand out of the crowd, and it will still exist in this system. Be the first one to discover a new mathematical theorem, a new space propulsion system, a new antibiotic.
This is another interesting point. I think a single serie of book can give you full answers : Isaac Asimov's Robots series has plenty of answers, examples and situations where robots effectivly do all the work but humans have all the power. Simply because robots have been programmed to obey men. And don't speak of robots rebellion, this was Asimov's Nemesis, a myth he tried his best to put an end to.
Thank you for your reply, it gives me food for the brain.
|Author:||Icon hack [ Wed Aug 22, 2007 10:13 am ]|
Everything about this thread is politics. Any time you discuss how people and society function (or in this case, cease to function) you are discussing politics, even if you are starting the discussion by focusing on the econimic philosophy.
Honestly, you did a great job, the two of you, of being mature and only intellectualizing this after two posts, but it would not last if we let the discussion continue in public. I'm very sorry to say it, but this site is teaming with people that are simply incapable of letting something like this continue without it turning into a major problem. The sad truth is that a significant portion (if not a majority) of the membership is only capable of regurgitating the simplistic ideologies that have been spoon-fed to them by the news media or their favorite rock band, and conversations like this NEVER work out. Even when the conversants are intelligent and mature enough to discuss things like the two of you have thus far, bad feelings start to emerge as your exchange starts to evolve into a public dual, so to speak.
This discussion can't continue on Druchii.net except via PM. We are required to lock it. I will be happy to elaborate further via PM if necessary. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.
|Author:||Icon hack [ Fri Aug 24, 2007 1:02 am ]|
Okay, we’ve discussed this in the Moderator’s Forum, and it was decided that I jumped the gun and this is a thread that can be allowed to continue as long as it continues to remain civil. My apologies, Agifem.
I’d like nothing more than to see myself proven wrong, and everybody get to ridicule me for this statement. I would honestly rather be wrong than right about this. So let me go ahead and apologize for the acid in this statement ahead of time, too. But let me also clarify my statement and say that this is how I feel about everybody, not just the members of Druchii.net.
A public apology to Lyhne is in order as well. I’m sorry if I stepped in and stopped this too quickly, but I chose to err on the side of caution. Looks like you had the situation well in hand without me.
Okay, enough humility for me. I think you get the picture.
|Author:||Langmann [ Fri Aug 24, 2007 1:08 am ]|
Agifem, you're forgetting the most important axiom of Economics. Scarcity.
All things are scarce, there is a limited supply. Even robots are scarce. Moreover you are forgetting the second axiom of economics, the indifference curve - not everyone likes the same thing, hence not all robots will be the same.
At the end of the day if we lived in a perfectly run robot world, there would still only be a certain number of different types of robots to go around. Who would decide what types of robots get built and who suffers because the type of robot they wanted couldn't be built since someone else got those robot parts?
And that's where the politicians decide who gets what like they did in certain places that were once communist. Suddenly people start getting killed and dissappearing in the middle of the night.
I think I'd much rather live in a place where I can decide what I want based on my own free will and not what others tell me to do.
Some friendly advice, please do not take it the wrong way, but you would do well to take some classes in Economics. You sound like a smart and sensitive person. I used to think the way you did but then I took a degree in Economics and the real science demonstrated that of all the theories we have, the free market is the most free and produces the best outcomes for the majority of people.
The other thing you are forgetting is that if we indeed could create intelligent robots that could do absolutely everything so that humans are left to do whatever they like, then one day the robots are going to ask themselves: "why are we doing all this work for the lazy humans?" On that day we will all die.
|Author:||Icon hack [ Fri Aug 24, 2007 2:09 am ]|
You may desire to avoid these issues, but I find them extraordinarily important and core to the topic. For the sake of argument, let's consider that in the end we do determine that your economic model is indeed flawless, or even marginally feasible. Can you conceive of any transition that is in any way humane, or do you believe that mass genocide and forced "education" (the only real means to this end that I can conceive of) are steps that are justified by the end result?
This sort of begs the question really. Let me ask you this: Do your ideas make any sense if this statement is not true? Because I don't think that the problems in our society are caused by money. But I guess if we talk anymore about that we are forced to drop the facade of this being a discussion about economics.
I would also say that the society you describe sounds absolutely horrible to me. I can't imagine ever having any hapiness if I get whatever I want the instant I want it. What I desire more than any material thing is to grow and develop my ability to overcome adversity and achieve success in my endeavors. Your society makes that impossible, in fact it makes it illegal and unethical to desire it.
In fact, you really have to consider that you cannot apply this new ideology to only paper money. If you really educate your citizens properly, they will have no desire for any type of currency, so there is no desire for any resources, or political influence, or the affection of a particular individual over another. Such things are all the same, if you only remove the desire for money, then something else of value takes it's place. Sounds to me like we are the robots.
|Author:||Temper of khaine [ Fri Aug 24, 2007 3:00 am ]|
First off I would like to thank the mod team for allowing this topic to re-open, this could bring some of the maturity to the forum that you may wish in some cercumstances.
Also I have to agree with Icon Hack in reference to the lack of freedoms this system would produce. And like langmann said earlier, A basic free market is the most efficent way to keep prices low (in the long run), and to allow people to in a relativly safe world express themselves and attempt to improve. And as I said earlier, this system does not really solve the worlds major problems, poverty, genocide, and large scale civil strife.
|Author:||Agifem [ Fri Aug 24, 2007 8:17 am ]|
I will, too, take a humble moment to thank the moderators for re-opening this thread. I'll try my best to be civil here, and avoid any kind of problem.
First and foremost, i have never really taken classes in Economics, so indeed, i may be fairly wrong. Despite everything that has been said here, i still think this system can and should exist. Let's see how and why.
I have talked about space exploration, which i think can help on a major part to help the sarcity of resources. Any kind of raw material that can be find on earth can be found on vast amounts in space, on other planets, asteroids, and can greatly help solve the sarcity you mention.
Then, we have recycling, that can also help to a large part. As of today, recycling is nothing compared to what it can be. In such a society, if recycling is done properly (and far better than today), then we can have another major source of resources.
Sure, this might not suffice, and maybe the lack of resources will be a major problem, but i don't think so.
Here is something i fail to comprehend. Maybe you could developp further. Robots are created to DO, not to BE. They would be servants of Mankind, not really members of it. As such, as long as they do what has to be done, they don't need more diversity. It won't be the members of the society that decide what robots are, it's the governement (or some delegates). But since the governement is representative, it'll be the people.
I think i didn't insist enough on this : this is a representative political system. The people decides what gets done, via a representation. The governement is the people.
I fail to see where the system prevents you from deciding anything. Free will, free expression are part of this system.
In any future we are preparing ourselves, robots have an important part. We are growing more and more dependant on automation, on robotics, on computers. The day we do nothing and robots do everything is our fate, whether with this economic system or another.
However, we create the robots. We decide how they think. There are enough ways to protect ourselves from such dreadful outcomes. Isaac Asimov had deeply thought about it, and today's robotics is basing its work on the four laws. I invite the readers of this thread to read the Robots serie from Isaac Asimov, they are excellent books, even though it's science-fiction.
It's something i haven't thought about much, but i can nonethless provide answers.
This system cannot exist today. To exist, it'll require my first postulate to be true, that is that robotics can provide the basics of survival for the society. This postulate is doomed to become a reality in a not so distant future. Robotics are slowly becoming an important part of our industry and agriculture, and one day will come they will have made this postulate true.
That day, and not before, the system can be taken one step further. In a system where everyone can have food and homing, why would some people denied it ? It doesn't even need to be a form of violent revolution, but it will be a major change in the society, a society where money will still exist, but where the system guarantees the basics of life to everyone, regardless of who he is. For those who really need a word, it's called Socialism.
From there, progress will make the second postulate true, while the "free goods" will make people want to move to something even more equal, even more fair, where everything is guaranteed to everyone.
It'll probably be a revolution, in the true meaning of it. There may be violence. After all, it is a major transition in how the system works. But since there are too many people who will have an advantage in it, and too few who will oppose it (my opinion again), then the revolution will succeed.
But that's a pretty wild guess.
Again, this is something i do not understand. You seem to desire finding opposition, resistance to what you can do, that I understand. Whether you play a game (Warhammer, Doom, Monopoly), or by doing an intellectual work (chemistry, nuclear physicist, bio-engeneering, etc.), the opposition and achievement are still within reach. It is neither illegal nor unethical. You may want to describe further, otherwise i am unable to answer any further.
Here again, this is something that puzzles me to the very core. This is system is not meant and does not enforce less freedom than our current society, it is meant to allow for pretty much the same. I fail to see where this system is less free.
No offense, but you should have re-read your phrase. Poverty can't exist in this system, by the very definition of it.
As for genocide and large scale violence, it will have less reasons to exist (due to the equality of wealth along with the equality of political rights), but it's not something this problem is trying to solve anyway. Like i said, this society does not solve every problem, it is not perfect.
Thanks for every contribution. Even though some puzzle me, most have made me think a lot.
|Author:||Icon hack [ Fri Aug 24, 2007 11:10 am ]|
This is not a foregone conclusion, Agifem. There are many limitations that robotics have, many instances where human beings are preferable, and there is a long way to go before the technology develops to the point where they would be capable of existing in the quantities and degrees of sophistication that you are relying on to provide the workers for your Utopian world.
You are trying to apply a purely theoretical philosophy to reality. This is why your solution (well, Marx's solution) seems to be a clear choice that anyone can logically see will be preferable to the existing societies of today. We could do this with any form of government. Someone can just as easily tout the virtues and merits of a Dictatorship, a Capitalist Representative Democracy, an Oligarchy, whatever. But you can't deal with theoretical entities without factoring human nature and trying to understand how the masses of humanity would behave in one of these models. We are not all enlightened beings that are ruled by logic and a desire for harmony. The vast majority of humanity is exactly the opposite of this. Just read the newspaper.
I think you are missing the point altogether. As you grow older, and you achieve more and nore success (as well as experiencing more and more failures and temporary setbacks) in life, you will come to realize that what satisfies you more than anything is overcoming real adversity. Not winning some meaningless game (by the way, I think in your society you will probably not allow a game like Monopoly to be played since this would fill the heads of your children with very dangerous ideas), or solving some theoretical equation. Actually overcoming great obstacles and figuring out how to apply that theoretical knowledge to the real world. That is where life's greatest satisfaction is derived. Neither in aquiring things. Things do not provide happiness and they can vanish in an instant. But when you develop your character so that you can rely on yourself to solve your problems and move your life in the direction you desire, you find that to be extremely satisfying and the source of the most enduring happiness and contentment. Please forgive me if it sounds offensive, but you may simply be at a point in your life when you are too young to realize this fully. I make this last statement because this is something that I did not really begin to understand until I was well into my mid thirties.
This is tied to my previous statement. There is a lack of freedom to develop into anything that I desire to be. I am just an automation, and I don't have anything that is really gratifying. I just have good food, a good home and robots that are somehow capable of flawlessly diagnosing any ailment and keeping me healthy for a lifetime of tedium.
I'm still interested in hearing your response to this statement of mine. How do you prevent some other form of currency from replacing the monetary units we now use? My belief is that you cannot, because this would be completely contrary to human nature. Money is something that came into existence because of what we are. Removing money doesn't change what we are, and human beings will replace money with something else that serves the same purpose.
|Author:||Agifem [ Fri Aug 24, 2007 12:03 pm ]|
Indeed, robots cannot do everything. But i have separeted work in two categories, intellectuel and physical. Physical work can be done by robots, and pretty much anything that is required to the first postulate (allow basic resources for everyone) falls into this category. Either for building a house, farming fields, producing clothes, etc. The only exceptions I see are education and medical expertise. However, work on voluntary bases may still be enough to take care of these two needs.
Hmm, actually, i don't think i've ever considered this a theorical philosophy. Always have i taken into consideration the flaws of Humans, but i've also accounted for their virtues.
As for using newspaper as a way to prove me wrong, that's quite partial. Newspaper doesn't account for reality. Because newspaper showed today that a kid was murdered in a street doesn't mean millions of kids have been murdered. Newspaper only show what people want to read : something sensational. You will never read in a newspaper than millions of cars are driven safely to destination everyday. All you will read is tragic accidents involving alcohol or irresponsable drivers.
I concur, i miss the point. I still don't understand. I am in my mid-twenties, and my life isn't lead or felt that way. Maybe i am too young to understand, but i'd like you to enlighten me with an example. Because i am fairly confident that most kinds of great obstacles can still exist in this system.
I think i can easily answer this, with two reasons.
Firstly, any form of Money is unconstitutional, or at least a nonsense. Since nothing has any value, it means you're using something of no value to place value on it, and as a reference regarding other goods. It cannot work. It's saying that 0 > 0.
Second, this is like vote rights. In this system, everyone is equal in financial rights. If people moved from capitalism to this system, it most likely means they think it superior. Going back to a money economy is therefore a regression. It would be like going back from democracy to dictatorship.
|Author:||Icon hack [ Fri Aug 24, 2007 6:33 pm ]|
So we do have to work in this society? I guess I’ve missed that all along because all this time I thought that it was a voluntary choice: You can choose to work if you want, or you can choose not to and still get all the same benefits as those who choose to work. Well, if work is required (intellectual work) how do you think that people will be motivated by the government to perform it? And how will the government motivate people to perform at a satisfactory level? Extraordinary performance is of course something that we will have to learn to live without, I guess, except in extremely rare cases. I’m wondering too, if there has ever been a place in human history where this approach has been successful. I can’t seem to come up with one, but my knowledge of history is certainly limited so I hope someone will point one out.
I am missing some major point then, because I haven’t noticed anything you have stated that has considered humanity’s flaws. Please help me see where you are considering the impacts of greed, laziness, wastefulness, pride and intolerance, just to name a few. Also, your fundamental premise is that in the absence of a philosophy that places value on something (money, gold, gems, glass beads, whatever) the problems of “Theft, Blackmail, Unemployement (sill present, but not a problem in itself), Corruption, Publicity (and spam), Social inequality and the jealousy linked to it, and probably many other problems of our society” disappear. Are you saying that a statement like that is empirical?
Your point is well stated and this is my fault, I didn’t mean newspapers in a literal sense. I was just trying to say look at the things that are going on in our world. You are absolutely right: the news media blows the negative things out of proportion, or in some cases it even presents pure propaganda as if it were “news” (creating lots of other problems), but there are still a great many problems in the world that have at their root cause the flaws of humanity and not the system in place and so they prevent us from evaluating the system in place in the theoretical sense that we are considering with regards to the ideas you have brought up. In other words, the degree of success in our current political systems don’t get the luxury that your ideas get when stating that we don’t consider the problems of clashing with other cultures that have different values or the problems of transitioning from a one culture to another. So naturally when you compare your system to the existing systems, there are lots of ways that we can see advantages in your system that we can’t necessarily expect to see in a real world application. This is why I am of the opinion that you can’t really ignore the points of transitioning, “educating” citizens and dealing with other cultures when we discuss these ideas.
Please Agifem, I didn’t mean to talk down to you regarding your age/life experiences. I have no idea what you’ve done in your life and I don’t mean to sound as if I am judging your accomplishments, that is far beyond my ability or right to attempt. Many people have seen and experienced more than myself while still in their teens. I just meant that you tend to get more opportunities to overcome these kinds of obstacles the longer you are around. And although I did use the word “you” I did not mean you personally, I meant it in the general sense. The kinds of adversity I am talking about are situations where you are forced to grow and adapt your self to a completely unforgiving environment in order to achieve success, whether that falls in the realm of business, sports or whatever. My statements about this are based on the idea you propose about changing the way people see the world, so that there isn’t something which is universally desired such as money is today. If we all become disinterested in gaining something that is extremely difficult to obtain, why else do we pursue it to such great lengths that we stretch ourselves beyond our comfort zone and grow as people into better versions of ourselves. I have experienced that in my own life and found great satisfaction in it, and I think it is present in ever increasing abundance as you examine people that have been more and more successful in life. I find it hard to picture any definition of success that doesn’t include this experience as the defining aspect. Not that I am abnormally successful, just been working at it longer than about 98% of the people here at Druchii.net anyway. (I’m 41 so that you realize exactly how ancient I really am). J This drive is not an inherent human virtue, it is a response to the challenges of the environment , so why does anyone in your society push themselves to reach that kind of personal growth? You are right, your system removes much of the pain of this adverse environment, but in doing so it also removes the catalyst for change and growth.
Yes, you see exactly what I’m getting at. We now have a society where we’ve finally seen the light and we don’t hold anything at a higher value than anything else. We don’t even know how to do so after a few generations, because all the crazy people like me that used to prefer filet mignon to pigs feet have all died off (or in my case, failed to be properly educated and so were removed). How do I even feel pleasure in a world like this? What if you and I both have the same attraction for the same girl, or do we somehow remove the ability to have preferences in that realm as well? Would you like to live in a society like that?
So no money, no political influence, no one gets to live in a neighborhood with bigger yards, we all have a swimming pool in the back yard if we ask for it, and drive whatever car we want at whatever speed we want. What if there are more people that prefer to live in a beach house on Fiji than there is space along the shoreline? How do we decide who gets to stay there? We can’t let the government decide because then political influence would have some value. What if we all can’t agree on the random method used to determine who gets it? So maybe we don’t value the beach house on Fiji more than the house in Iceland in November, but that doesn’t change the fact that many of us will still prefer the Fiji location. This is why I see us all becoming robots ourselves, because no one is able to have personal preferences in this system because many, many personal preferences will involve resources that do have a limit. Yes, I understand that in your society, we have mastered interstellar travel so that we can jump on over to Tau Ceti and move into a beach house over there, but many of us prefer Fiji just a little bit more because we think the name sounds cool.
|Author:||Archdukechocula [ Fri Aug 24, 2007 8:49 pm ]|
As someone mentioned, there is one very major fundamental flaw in the whole system presented here. Scarcity. Or, more specifically, the distribution of resources. You suggest to things to deal with the problem of the inqutiable distribution of resources.
1. You suggest money be abolished
2. You suggest all needs be met by robots.
Each of these cases presents a severe problem. In the first case, the aim of your effort to abolish money is to abolish not the money itself, but the power of money to have value that flows unequally. However, money in and of itself is not what creates value. What creates value to any given object is its scarcity (how rare it is) and its desirability and demand (how much people want it). Before the existence of monetary systems, even back when we were all hunter gatherers, human kind has traded goods dependent upon the percieved value of the good being traded, and the percieved value of hte good being traded for. This is a subjective analysis of all agents involved in the trade. It is not an objective fact. All money has done is to simplify the nature of transactions by creating an intermediary easily transferable universal value (for example, the dollar), which is exchangeable anywhere while being highly transportable. INstead of lugging around a herd of camels to trade for some silk, which I lug back to my home town to trade for some food, I can simply sell my camels for cash and get a liquid asset that is fungible enough to be used to by any good I might need according to the value I am willing to pay for it, and the value someone is willing to sell it for. Money simply streamlines transactions by allowing all goods to be transferable into a universal abstract unit that has agreed upon value, not because the thing itself is valuable (a dollar is just some paper and ink, more or less), but because it represents, simultaneously, x amoung of camels, y amount of bushels of grain, z locks of silk, and so on, while at the same time being easily transported.
If you remove money from the system, all you have really accomplished is making the transfer of goods more difficult because people have to now use difficult to transport items to engage in even intermediary trades for goods one might not even use, and which are vulnerable to any number of outside problems (camels die, grain rots, etc). Now, why should it matter that people cant transfer their goods easily? Because people transfer goods for one of two very good reasons. Need and desire. People trade because an individual has a much better idea of what they need nd what they want at any given time than any central agency ever will. And thus socieities with money are much better at transfering goods where they are most wanted and needed than a society without money. The more advanced the systems of exchange, the less absolute poverty there tends to be. Its much easier to avoid outright starvation in advanced monetary systems for a wide variety of reasons, but a big one is that it is much much easier to secure food when it is needed than in a society without money.
Now, theoretically, your magic robots should solve this problem, right? Well no, not really. First off, the big myth of robotics is that, by virtue of their ability to perform work for us, robots will free us of the need to work. This is a vacuous truth. IN theory, robots could alleviate us of the need to work at all, if and only if everyone universally agreed not to do work. If some enterprising young fellow decided to work, this system would begin to break down in a number of ways. The first and most obvious problem would be that some enterprising fellow would decide to build his or her own robots, robots either superior to the existing ones, or which exclusively served him and his clients. This would create a discrepency in the goods being produced in this closed system, and with a discrepency of goods, there is a discrepency of wealth, just as real as if one man had ten million dollars while another had ten thousands. Remember, value is determined by scarcity and by demand. So, if this person creates something new and scarce (new robots provding unique services), or which people want (unequal personal access to robots), then this persons services have value, and with said value, people would be willing to pay him or her. This would not be an issue with just robots.
So, in short, if you wanted your robots to be used as a means to keep equal distribution of wealth, you would need an agent to prevent others from showing entrepeureal tendencies. This means you would need a police force dedicated to, in effect, suppressing those who seek to better themselves or their stationg. Basically, you need a secret police that tries to prevent one of the more basic human instincts.
Next, you have the problem of determining how and why the robots are to distribute resources to the populace. You want resources to be distributed evenly, yet you also want a democracy and you want people to have choices. Well, the robots, not being magical, have to work, just like people. They are, in effect, no different than mechanical slaves, in that they simply perform the work of other people for free. But there is a reason the existence of slavery never resulted in egalitarian economies.
First, slaves themselves can be hoarded, resulting in unequal acces to productivity.In the case of robots, no matter how advanced they are, there is some limitation to their productivity, which means that more robots necessarily means more productivity. Thus access to more robots means access to more goods, and thus more and unequal wealth.
Second, if one were to strictly enforce the policy that robots distribute the goods evenly, you would have a whole new, very major problem. Someone needs to make that decision. You need some person or agency to decide how goods the robots produce will be distributed, a classic problem of any central economy. Since you are explicitly anti-dictatorship (and Im sure I need not get into the dangers of having a cental government making these decisions for the people), and you mention direct democracy, lets just say then that the distribution of goods is decided by a vote. So, people vote to see how the goods are distributed. Well, lets brush aside the problem of how the direct democracy is supposed to work for now and just say its a winner take all system. I.e. the most vote decides and issue absolutely. So, 51% of the population decides to group up along ethnic or political lines, and votes that they should be distributed more goods than the others. Or perhaps, more subtly, they decide that, since their population is growing faster, they need attention from a greater share of the robot population. OR any other number of potential scenarios. Whatever the case, the people could, andeventually would abuse the system to deliver unequal resources to their group at the expense of another. And since this is a closed economy where people cant work to create new wealth, it is in effect a zer-sum game. Any wealth I gain is wealth directly taken from someone else.
Perhaps the most serious problem is the problem of violence and motivation. In this system, since all things are provided for you at birth, and since you cannot improve your station through work, or indeed through any effort at all. Work must be explicitly bared to maintain an equal disribution of wealth. That includes even art, which has value, even if its value is highly subjective. Value still exists, and likely would be even greater in a society without other forms of creatable goods Regardless, the real problem is that, in essence, the system itself is devoid of incentive to do anything meaningful. I am not rewarded for creating. INdeed I am dissuaded from creating by the very nature of the system itself. This means that those who wish most to respect the system are ironically those most constrained by it, since they respect that the system must restrain all to work.
Well, what does this mean? This means that the only people who will ever improve their station or impact the nature of things in this world would be those who do not respect the system, and who are willing to manipulate and/or challenge the system at large in order to further their agendas. The most obvious way this could be done is through violence. Use and abuse violent power until the system is controlled by the violent actors. No outside force necessary. To prevent this you would need yet further controls, to the point where the system has to start being Orwellian to keep itself from caving in.
The real question here as I can see it is, why would anyone want to live in a society where there is no motivation or incentive to do work, and indeed where work and effort must be actively dissuaded for the system to even function? The ideal citizen for this system is a slothful unaspiring dimwit with no ambitions of any kind. Any other type of person is ultimately a challenge to the system, and since the system needs strict adherence to the rules in order to maintain its egalitarian obective, such people would have to be punished if the system is to continue.
In short, its an orwellian nightmare, and in essence is not that fundamentally different from Socialism. THe only substantial difference is the insertion of robots into the equation, but if we percieve these robots realistically (ie. they are limited in the work they can do at some point, by the very laws of nature), you can begin to percieve that robots are not really all that different from any other kind of worker from an economic perspective, and are highly analgous to slaves, except that they would presumably be 100% obedient, something that is irrelevant on a large economic scale.
So, the idea is a very interesting thought experiement, and I think its neat that we are actually able to have a discussion like this on Druchii.net for once. Kudos to you for bringing it up.
|Author:||Asikari [ Fri Aug 24, 2007 10:43 pm ]|
Icon Hack and archdukechocula have brought up interesting an valid points. Although I dislike the sense of increasing the odds against you, Agifem, I have my own concerns regarding your proposal.
1) As has been pointed out, money does not equal wealth. Money only has value because everyone has agreed to a quantity or quality of goods worth $1.00 (or franc, or pound, etc.). In societies where money itself is scarse or non-existent, wealth is determined in other means - how many sheep in your flock, for example.
The value of an object is normally determined by the relationship between the supply (scarcity) of an object and demand. By your reckoning, the universe can provide an infinite quantity of any material anyone should require. Resources, however, are not just based on the quantity of an object, but their availability. This past week I heard a story on National Public Radio (NPR) of a certain type of mango that sold in a grocery store for $15 to $20 each. There is no shortage of the mango, just the inherent problems associated with importing them into the United States that makes them so expensive.
Oil from the Middle East is inexpensive because it is at a relatively shallow depth compared to oil in the United States. Only now because the price of oil has skyrocketted have sources closer to home, such as oilsand, or oil-shale, become viable alternatives because of the cost of extracting the oil.
My grandfather had a saying: "I will give you all the money in the world if you will give me all the food in the world." In a few days, the food acquires a much greater desirable quality than the money.
The ability to do work is a type of wealth. Certain types of labor are valued higher than others, regardless of education in some cases. Someone is required to design and build the robots, for example. Unless a quantum shift in human nature manifests itself, this person(s) will want compensation. Compensation need not be money (especially in a moneyless society). Suddenly, these people are more "wealthy" than those the robots service.
2) Eventually, one of two problems will occur in your society:
Society will stagnate and regress. The designers and builders of the robots will eventually die. If no one replaces them (and, if regardless if you worked or not all your needs are met, who would want to?) Without engineers to diagnose, maintenance, renew, and program the robots, evenatually they would wear out. A society upon which no demands were placed for generations are without the machines which met all their needs. The skills required to provide humanity's basic needs have been lost to a society lost in sloth.
Society will enslave itself. Someone (or something) must maintain the robots, build new ones, and program them, either organic or artificial. Yes, we can program robots with Aasimov's rules, but it only takes one person who deletes those rules for the futures depicted by Frank Herbert, the Matrix and similar post-apocolyptic genres to occur.
3) Control: someone will need to be in control of everything - monitoring the robots, organizing the agenda for the direct democracy, etc. Who will decide that medicine for your kid is more important than my house and therefore gets voted on first? Even if a computer were programmed for these decisions, a human would need to develop the rules in the first place.
It is a great dream. Unfortunately, in my opinion, a communal society (because this is what you are proposing) can only function when everyone in the society trusts everyone else.
You do not know me. I have no knowledge of your situation, lifestyle, aspirations, or requirements. Could you trust me to give you what you need when you need it? No offense intended, but I wouldn't trust you because I know that you don't know me.
Any human institution, whether religion, government, or what have you, is inherently flawed.
This has been a mental challenge for me. I thank you for the opportunity to discuss this.
Also, the obligatory nod to the moderators who decided this topic was worth pursuing.
|Author:||Langmann [ Sat Aug 25, 2007 5:31 pm ]|
You are a smart fellow because you have discovered two principles of economics that some of the first philosophers have talked about. Unfortunately, like philosophy, experimental evidence destroys many a theorem, and your hypothesis breaks down under scrutiny.
I'll go back and explain scarcity to you a bit more in depth to reply to the questions you asked of me.
Scarcity exists in this universe if you believe the theories of physics. Moreover even though the supply of material in this universe appears unlimited the transport costs of such material are what makes it scarce. Lets pretend that copper is only found on asteroids far from earth while zinc is found on asteroids close to earth. The supply of copper is therefore lower than the supply of zinc because one must trade more energy to get copper than zinc. Even if we recycle the supply is still limited.
The next postulate is called Theory of Utility, Theory of Demand and Theory of Supply in economics. Many people who first experience economics always ask, "Why is gold and silly jewelry worth more than food and water? There must be something wrong with society for our values to be so misplaced!"
However these people don't understand economic theory. What makes gold worth more in dollar amount is because gold is more scarce. If there was a global famine suddenly food would become very scarce and its value would increase astronomically compared to gold because the demand for food is always very high, while the supply is low. This principle of economics is often called diamonds vs water or the Paradox of Value and is solved by the theory of marginal utility. You should read this here : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox_of_value as it is explained in depth.
The free market solves the allocation of resources better than the government.
You have tried to say that all robots would be the same and that their job is to do things. Unfortunately making all robots the same would be inefficient as some robots are better at doing things than others. This is called, in economics, Comparative Advantage. You can read more about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparative_advantage but basically the theory applies to robots in this way: Painter Robot is very good at painting warhammer models, while Lawnmower Robot is very good at mowing lawns. It would be inefficient to make Lawnmower Robot paint warhammer models as he isn't made to do it, while Painter Robot would not be a good lawnmower as he is designed to paint. You could make a robot that could do both, but not everyone needs Painter Robot because not everyone wants to play warhammer. Meanwhile not everyone needs Lawnmower Robot as some people live in apartments with no lawn. Making a robot that does both wouldn't be an efficient use of the resources.
If the materials to make Lawnmower Robot and Painter Robot are relatively the same, and materials are scarce then there will be a conflict between people who want Lawnmover Robots and people who want Painter Robots. The best way to decide how this is allocated is as you explained - by the people. However we already have a system that efficiently decides this and it is called the Free Market.
The other thing you have discovered is the priciples of Productivity. Basically in your world, Robots have greatly increased productivity allowing people to have better lives since more people have access to more things they want.
In this world, one of the effects of increased productivity is Economic Growth. As a nation becomes more productive its GDP increases as does the wealth of all of its people, even the poorest. This wealth is measured in dollars but is reflective in the fact that in the first world even poor people have microwaves, houses, TVs etc.
Often the enemy of socialists and far left people is economic growth because they don't understand that the free market with property rights protected is what makes all people wealthier.
One of the most enlightened people of our age was Milton Friedman. He won Nobel Prizes in Economics, was considered to be a genius, and moreover was one of the last Classical Liberals of our age. His ideas and theories have led to the improvement of the lives of people in many nations that he influenced with his economic ideas including but not limited at all to the United States. I encourage you to read about him here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milton_Friedman and also watch his Free to Choose documentaries here: http://www.ideachannel.tv/
While somewhat old there are many famous and intelligent people in his series which you might recognize.
I seriously encourage you to take Economics classes, if you are in University or College now, and learn about the answers to your questions. I think you wuold enjoy it.
(I am very familiar with Asimov's books and theory of Robotic Laws. Asimov himself demonstrated in his books many instances of problems with the theories which often involved outcomes we may consider cruel.)
|Author:||Mattschuur [ Sat Aug 25, 2007 9:46 pm ]|
I cant really offer much except that i took an ideology class a few years back, and we talked about 10 utopian society's, although i cant remember all their names. All of them eventually failed but i do remember 1 lasted a few decades, but eventually died out as they believed reproduction hurt society??
In every single case, people left because they found that they did have less freedom, more responsibility with less benefit. All of these society's struggled to keep doctors and nurses as why would a doctor want to get the same reward for saving someones life that the community plumber gets for unclogging the toilet? And thats another reason why these societies don't work. You can pay or reward everyone the same but that doesn't mean people perceive themselves equal. If a doctor delivers a baby and a waiter serves you your meal, who is more important to society? Even if they are equal, the doctor and many people can or will not see him as being equal to a waiter, he will act and react to those "below" him as if he was superior, because he is. Does anybody truly think a waiter, plumber, garbage man etc. is just as socially important as a doctor? They are important to society, but not on the same level as a doctor. maybe lawyers. jk.
I forgot who mentioned it but the human variable cannot be ignored. There is a qoute in the movie, Enemy at the Gates (I know, not the most significant of qoutes) in which the political officer stated that there will always be inequality in life, inequality in beauty, in friends and in Love. Even if you can stop people from coveting money, power and prestige how can you stop them from coveting someone elses wife, or friends or even something as trivial as a home, or are we going to have designated wives, husbands, friends and all live in cookie cutter houses, with the same cars, dogs and rectreational vehicles. The utopian life is a great dream to have, but it is not realistic within a free society, and doesn't work efficiently in a dictatorial society.
"Ring the bell that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering,
There is a crack in everything,
Thats how the light gets in.
Leonard Cohen - Anthem
|Author:||Agifem [ Mon Aug 27, 2007 8:06 am ]|
Sorry for the late answer, I was on weekend.
I'll try to address every important flaw pointed, but forgive me if i forget some. Isn't that what this saying is about, Forgive and Forget ?
The utopian life you describe differs from the society i describe, by the very meaningful difference of robots. Robots do all the tiring and mostly socially degrading work. Doctors exist, but the garbage-man is a robot.
Scarcity. This is a vast topic in and of itself, which is the cause and primary objection many of you have to the existence of this society. Today, scarcity is a problem, a major one, and even though our capitalist economy handles it unevenly, it does handle it
But scarcity consists of two things : lack of energy, and lack of resources. Once you solve those two, even most advanced technology becomes available in near-unlimited amount.
There is a reason i chose to go 50-100 years in the future. This is because robots will exist, but also because by then, I am confident mankind will have solved the energy problem, either by using nuclear fusion, or by improving the solar energy usage, both of which being fairly common sources of energy to make the scarcity of energy a problem of the past.
Now, if we consider this abundance of energy a given, we realize that many other problems disappear. Oil isn't needed to fuel cars anymore, only to create plastics, which is probably the first shortage there will remain, and one i don't have a solution for. However, when it comes to metals (iron, copper, excluding mithril), they all exist in space in vast quantities. Space exploration then becomes an important way to solve resources scarcity, and as of today, energy is a very limiting factor in space exploration. I'm not saying space exploration can do everything, but i think it can help to a greater extent, and abundance of energy can help space exploration to a greater extent as well.
Robots and their creation. In this system, their is no reward for designing or improving robots, except pride, fame, and the social aspects (meeting co-workers, those kind of things). There is no reward for any kind of work, except those. But i am confident those should be enough to motivate enough people so that progress can still exist, even if at a lower rate than with capitalism. So what ? That's a price to pay for a fairer society, i think.
As for building robots, it can be done by robots as well.
As for the robot paranoïa, something i completly understand. I am confident we can trust robots, in the present as well as in the future. We already do as of today anyway. Asimov's work is here of great help. His laws of robotics are commonly used in the design of today's robots, as they make a lot of sense. If someone deletes these laws, well, this kind of scenario is unrelated to the ecomony, and can exist even in capitalism (but in the future, of course). So it's not worth discussing it here, i think.
Controlling the robots. Another topic in and of itself. It can probably be done by an agency/ministery that submits to the governement. After all, government is responsable for providing everything to its people, it's only fair it is given the means of doing so. It does sound quite like a centralized economy though, but i think the democratic aspect of the government is enough to prevent some of the flaws of such an economy to exist. Not all for sure. But again, i think it's a price to pay that is worth it.
The more i write about it in this topic, the more i realize this system has more flaws than i thought it had. It saddens me. But i still think of it as both viable and interesting.
|Author:||Loki [ Mon Aug 27, 2007 12:46 pm ]|
The problem here is that our creativity, whether we want to admit it or not, is one big ego machine. It needs to be fed with rewards. Without this we lose the will to want to create. Granted, there are a few people who can run completely without any reward, but they are few and far between. (If you think I'm lying, go do something extremely nice for someone and let some else take all the credit for it, then see how much you want to take some of that credit). I think this might hurt forward progress quite more than you might think.
There will still be a problem with scarcity. Gold has always been valued and still will be. It will be scarce. Even if we find an entire planet of gold, those who mine it will control the supply in the market so that the price stays the same and the profits stay the same.
There is one major problem with a Utopian society, whether one that you are proposing or the classical view of one. You can't force any people into this, or it won't work. The only possible way for this to work is a Village-esque type of Utopia (and yes I do mean the movie). It would have to be a society where every single person agrees to do this. If you don't have that, then you have people in your system that don't want to be there, and they will strive to find loop-holes to make themselves better with in the system. Now, you can say that with robots, nobody will take a loss, but they will. The rich people in current society will have much to lose, they will lose the value of all their money and possessions.
|Author:||Asikari [ Mon Aug 27, 2007 12:53 pm ]|
This has definitely been an interesting topic. An advanced society driven more by a desire to accomplish something than a monetary (or its equivalent) reward system is a great thing to look strive for. And it won't happen without visionaries.
Given the state of the world today, I just don't think the human race can make the necessary leaps in their own basic natures in the next 50 to 100 years. Robots doing a lot of the menial labor - that I can see. But each robot will only be capable of performing a narrow range of related tasks compared with the flexibility of thinking of a human, unless we introduce sophisticated AI which can duplicate human ingenuity. At that point we have created a slave race.
While this sound pessimistic, it's only because I don't see humans overcoming their greed for power and influence anytime soon. Humanity is capable of performing great acts without compensation, however - examples exist all around the world.
|Author:||Archdukechocula [ Mon Aug 27, 2007 10:25 pm ]|
I don't understand why this distinction is meaningful, or indeed why it would be helpful. It seems to me that if any jobs are retained by humans, those humans will inherently be more powerful than those without jobs. They will have status and power by virtue of their station, since their position in society is essential, giving them leverage that others without jobs do not have. Any job that cannot be duplicated by robots would be a danger to the system for this reason.
That simply is not true. All resources have a point of diminishing returns, including energy. The very nature of physics dictates this at a fundamental level, in the form of entropy (closed systems are inherently losing their energetic nature and are degrading towards a static nature). In a more general sense, every form of resource, if useful or desirable, will reach a point where demand results in increased usage, which eventually places a limit on supply. Robots in no way mitigate this problem.
Even supposing we tackle fusion, and manage to make it have economic payoff, unlike with fission, energy remains a problem for a variety of reasons. Firstly, fusion plants aren't free, they don't last forever, are highly complex pieces of technology, and will certainly require highly skilled labor rare resources to build and to maintain. Fission plants, being comparatively low tech, require multi-billions of dollars to build, have an approximately 30 year lifespan, need constant maintenance, a highly skilled workforce, and don't actually result in net economic benefits. The cost to build them outweighs their energy output considerably (this may or may not change with the newest generation of nuclear power plants, that remains to be seen).
Fusion plants will, it seems, cost in the tens of billions, based on projections that arent even based on available working plants. The only plants we have are not yet able to actually produce energetic fusion. Given that fusion plants are substantially more complicated than fision plants, and apparently require all sorts of exotic elements kept in weird states (like liquid state noble gases and such), it's simply wishful thinking to imagine the energy problem can just be made to go away. Now, if we were able to do fusion using very simple technology, it might be made to be widely available, but that doesn't seem to be the case. There is no such thing as free energy. Fusion may well be the energy source of our future, but there is no guarantee as of the moment that it will be an efficient solution, and there is even less reason to believe that it will provide us with limitless energy, any more than nuclear fission has (which, at the time of its advent, was imagined to be our energy future: now we have shortages of nuclear fuel, plant closings, infastructure problems, and uprofitability).
That would be great, if we never needed anything other than common elements. Also, mithril isn't a real metal. It's fictional (probably you meant it as a joke, however I wasn't sure, so I figured it was worth pointing out). However, a great deal of the high tech stuff we use these days requires rare or uncommon elements and/or minerals like cadmium, which isn't necessarily easy to find, and isn't very readily available. Lots of elements and minerals we use are actually pretty unique to earth, so expanding our search to space doesn't make it any easier.
Also, you have to consider both the energetic costs of space based mining, and perhaps more imporantly, the time costs. Traveling around in space isn't exactly quick, and going around harvesting stuff from asteroids and other plants requires energy, maintenance, and inevitable losses of investment. Even with robots doing it, undoubtedly many will fail, be destroyed, be decomissioned, need maintenance, or otherwise have associated costs. The scale of any harvesting operation that kept a steady supply would probably have to be vast as hell, and so many robots would require lots and lots of money. Give how much it costs to put a cheesy wheeled robot on mars, and given how many times it has failed, imagine the technological difficulty inherent in making complicated robots capable of getting to and asteroid, landing on said asteroid while both it and the asteroid moves, harvesting enough resources to make the journey worth while energetically, and returning with the payload. Adding in the fact that these robots would need to do this again and again and again, and undoubtedly aren't simple technologies, and you start to see how this could actually be a daunting task on even a small scale. Personally, were it my charge, I would probably try to simplify the process, maybe by trying to just divert asteroids to impact harvest sites on an area of a planet designated for harvesting, but then you have other costs, like the limit of the size of an asteroid you can do that with (gven that it would have to be pretty small to keep from causing serious problems), the loss of materials from burnup, and so on.
Anyway, the point is, its always nice to imagine you can just get stuff for free, but until you actually understand the costs of any given undertaking, its just wishful thinking. There is no such thing as free energy or free resources right now, and it's unlikely such a thing will ever exist, and imagining saviour technologies that will deliver us from the trappings of hisotry and economics is not really substantilly different from imagining some future utopia where humanity experiences a radical psychological shift and become selfless because some intangible social changes have taken place. Or where we reach some "singularity" point where the increasin pace of technology produces some arbitrary shift in the very nature of humanity. It's all just a hypothesis based on no evidence that we have at hand, and thus is, in essence, and article of faith, not fact. Now, if your set of conditions did manifest at some point in time, then there is a point at which it is reasonable to start talking about radical shifts in the way humanity and economy function. The problem is, we really have no objective reason to believe the changes you forsee have any likelihood of happening. Frankly, I think they have no chance of happening.
Well, what you mean is, there is not supposed to be any reward for these things. The problem is, since the system itself doesn't reward it, but people undoubtedly would want it anyway, there would be a market for improving robots. Which means you would have to explicitly outlaw the sale of robots. Which means there must be some entity regulating the manufacture and distribution of robots, and one which punishes those who do so outde the purview of said entity. In short, there must be a government agency that does this. If there isn't, people will sell better robots illegally, undermining the system. If there is such an agency, then there must be people running it, and in any system run by people of that complexity, you need a hierarchy of some sort, or at least a division of labor. Since some labor is more essential to the function of this endeavor than others, some people would inherently have more power over this system, and consequently over society as a whole, than others. Which means, right there, you have an entrenched power system, just like with capitalism, only now it will be government employees and, ultimately, politicians who have the power instead of entrepeneurs. Not unlike communism. Society wouldn't be any fairer. You would just be adjusting in which ways it would be unfair. Personally, I would rather a society reward initiative and productivity than a job whose value is arbitrarily decided by an enforced economic dictate (in this case robotics engineers and politicians).
As for the robot paranoïa, something i completly understand. I am confident we can trust robots, in the present as well as in the future. We already do as of today anyway. Asimov's work is here of great help. His laws of robotics are commonly used in the design of today's robots, as they make a lot of sense.[/quote]
The laws of robotics aren't used in desigining todays robots, because no robots are sophisticated enough to comprehend anything like the laws of robotics. They can hardly even identify what a concrete entity like a human is, let alone what an abstract concept like harm means. Robots are in their infancy. As of the moment, robots only understand very concrete commands, and aren't substantially different from a computer program. Functional fuzzy logic has yet to be achieved in robotics, and as such, everything has to be pretty explicit. The idea of "harm" encapsulates such a wide variety of things because we humans can think in fuzzy adaptable categories. You could explicitly program a robot not to do X, Y or Z to a human in any given scenario, but it cant understand the concept "harm" and flexibly apply it to novel situations. Since it would be impossible to program for every specific contigency in which a robot might cause harm, we pretty much need fuzzy logic for something like the laws of robotics to function. We don't have that right now, and from what I understand, we seem to be a long ways off.
Well, basically, any government that is 100% responsible for providing everything for its citizens is just about by definition Socialism. And, naturally, any system where the people are entirely dependent upon the government for everything will eventually become tyrranical in some way or another. In this scenario, people are depedent upon the government, democratic or not, and the government, being a central entity, if controlled by one faction, will become tyrranical. That is exactly what happened in the Soviet union. It didn't start out that way. It's just that some groups immediately estalished their control over the governments insitutions, and eventually the government as a whole, to the exclusion of other groups. Democracy would only prevent this if there were checks and balances. In most democracies, that is the private sphere. Ultimately governments in modern democracies require the marketplace to function. Without the backing of private industry, its hard to accomplish anything. If the government is the economy, well, basically, the government answers to no one and controls all the resources and all the power. Therefore, if one group seizes control of government, they control everything, and can consequently rule without any motive to answer to the people. Democracy alone doesn't prevent this, as is evidenced in the modern day case of Hugo Chavez, who got elected legally, implemented socialist reforms, started seizing private assets around the country, a now is more or les declaring himself dictator for life. He was able to do this because the populace allowed him to take away one of the great checks on dictatorial ambition, the free market.
While your intentions are noble, and I respect that greatly, the thing that many people dont realize in their dreams to see a more just world is that actually, one of the greatest tools for justice is the free market. It has to be regulated, and its excesses have to be curbed, and I think that this is one of the important roles of government, but historically, capitalism has been one of the great forces for the improvement of mankinds well being. People often get caught up in the individual instances of seeming inhumanity (people working for $1 an hour making shoes for 18 hours a day), often without either seeing the big picture, or understanding the specifics (for example the people in that shoe factory often have chosen to take the job because it is better than the alternatives, and thus the work is a positive choice for them in their circumstances, and has imrpvoed their life, even if to us the prospect of working 18 hours for $18 seems exploitative).
There are myriad cases of abuse as a result of greed, but this isn't something inherent to capitalism, and greed cannot be eliminated short of genetically re-engineering humans. It will exist in any system, and will result in abuses no matter the context. The free market simply tempers that greed with opportunity and freedom of choice, the government with law.
|Author:||Agifem [ Tue Aug 28, 2007 9:55 am ]|
Yes, I was kidding about mithril
There are simply too little I could answer in this topic without repeating myself, probably for the worse of the debate. So I think i'll simply answer this one.
Indeed, an article of faith. This is the essence of pretty much any debate or discussion that is to speculate on the future of our society. We have currently no way to predict anything relevent about what our society will be like in a century, no way to tell if robotics is going to be Mankind's salvation or its doom, no way to tell if space exploration is going to fail miserably or actually take Manking to a new stage of comprehension and brotherhood. No way at all.
If i understood you correctly, your way of speculating on the future is to consider that the present will evolve unmeaningfully, leaving Mankind unaltered. You consider that space exploration will have no noticeable impact on the economy, that nuclear fusion is just a false hope. Your vision is, I think, quite pessimitistic.
My way of speculating on the future is to consider that several key technologies of the present (space travel, robotics) will blossom the reality of tomorrow. I consider these technologies essential in the realization of the society I describe. In light of the recent comments, I would describe my views as optimistic.
It seems clear now to me that the actual future of our society is a middle ground between these views. But only time can tell. Which would make a perfect conclusion for this thread. Thanks for the numerous contributions.
|Author:||Archdukechocula [ Tue Aug 28, 2007 3:38 pm ]|
On the contrary, I don't think my view is pessimistic. I think it is realistic, in that I thing if we are to discuss ways to change society, we should discuss ways to change society with the tools we have currently available, and making use of the knowledge we have gained through history. I do think change is possible, but I think it is only sensible to consider change using what we have on hand, not by making predictions based on social conditions and technologies that may never exist. If those technologies do come in to existence, and meet the criteria you state, then I see it as useful at that point to begin discussing how these things should be used to better society. And I think they would help improve human existence, although not necessarily in the ways you do.
It's not that Im pessimistic. I rather see bright potential for the course of humanity. I just think the nature and source of this change is very different from your view, and comes from tangible real world solutions and ideas that can be implemented for certain, now not possibly, in the distant future. Ideas like micro-credit and direct loans and other financial tools designed to help the poorest of the poor escape absolute poverty. Technology, I think, has been a limited tool in terms of improving the lives of the poorest. Markets however have historically demonstrated their capability of tranforming entire nations. I do think that there are some technologies that have improved and possibly will improve the lives of people in third world countries (cheap computers have that potential because of the importance of the flow of information to the success of an individual, and the function of the marketplace), but technology has never really solved the problem of the distribution of food. Its produced an abundance of food, but not the means or motive to distribute it in such a way as to prevent starvation. We have the technology to do so, but that isnt the issue. The issue is largely political, and to some exent economic. So it is and, in my opinion, always will be. What we need are, therefore political and economic solutions to these issues, not technological ones.
But, that is just my opinion on the matter. I cant rule out the possibility you are right, but putting aside the specific disagreements about the functionality of your ideal society, I just have a hard time undersanding the idea of investing in abstract utopian societies of the future that require the existence of technologies that we have no way of knowing if they may ever exist when there are real world problems now that are solveable with the tools already available to us.
|Author:||Hateshighelves [ Tue Aug 28, 2007 4:58 pm ]|
In Welcome to Moonbase, Ben Bova described a fundamental aspect of science fiction writing, which he called "unobtainium". This is some element (dilithium), invention (warp drives) or new law of physics (antigravity) or imaginary phenomenon (magic) that makes the author's world possible.
I think that Agifem is counting on some form of unobtainium to make his society feasible. It will not ultimately be feasible, IMHO, because while you all have been talking about politics and economics, you have generally left out history.
I will suggest that there is no such thing as revolutionary change where the development of human society is concerned. Yes in the short term we see what appear to be radical new ideas coming to fruition, but if you take a wider and deeper look, you will find that these ideas have developed over time, syntheses of different threads of thought from multiple sources. What I am saying is, "there is nothing new under the sun." I admire the people in history, like you Agifem, who have been bold enough to imagine "a better way of doing things." I fear that the weight of history (it's inherent conservatism) will always drag down any new idea, no matter how intriguing or promising it might be. This is how it went with Marxism.
I really don't like the world we live in today--run by thugs, villians, liars and faceless corporations--all bent on securing wealth and power. I've read some Marx, Adam Smith, the Bible, and other sources of ideas. I cannot find a message anywhere that provides me with any hope that we humans will find a way to escape the consequences of the immense bad karma that we have created for ourselves throughout history. We will destroy ourselves and our planet because more than anything else, it is human nature to wreck everything. Put another way, I'll quote myself from another thread, "Entropy wins in the end."
I'm currently reading the Chalice and the Blade, by Rianne Eisler--another bold visionary. She's writing about the archaeology of goddess-based human societies and will say that patriarchy is the root of our problems. She suggests a society based on cooperation and sustainability, built on gender equality. My instinctive answer is that we've had the patriarchal model for too long and it will be impossible for us to throw it off without radical and inevitably violent change (which I have already indicated doesn't exist). I hope she can prove me wrong. I'm also looking forward to reading Democracy's Edge by Frances Moore Lappe (Diet for a Small Planet).
Have a great day.
|Author:||Archdukechocula [ Tue Aug 28, 2007 6:46 pm ]|
I don't think we left out history, I just think we (or at least I) were avoiding making such a bold all encompassing statement about the nature of history and human development. While what you say is true in many, and from a technological perspective, probably even most cases, I still think that this is a case of overgeneralization. There are 4 ideas that come to mind that were radical in conception, and radical in execution. Agriculture, democracy, the scientific method and free market economics.
Agriculture is the first and most important of these, because it more or less made human societies possible. Arguably one could generalize it to surplus (some societies developed without the use of agriculture, but simply through the regular harvesting and preservation of some other surplus resource, like salmon, but I think that was more of a prerequisite for agriculture rather than a viable long term alternative).
Democracy, while invented approximately 2600 years ago, was clearly a pretty radical idea, not a gradual evolution. If it were truly a gradually developed idea, we would have expected to see more examples of democratic societies like the ancient greeks between the 2000 year time span between the greek city states and modern day democracies. The fact that we don't suggests the idea was pretty damn revolutionary.
The scientific method is profound in that it developed but once in human history over a huge span of time (unless you want to be generous and say the Ancient Greeks had it), and it revolutionized human understanding of the world in a way no other idea has. Before, rather than understanding the functional mechanics of the universe, we had to explain our observations in terms of unprovable philosophical ideals or religious beliefs, neither of which allowed us to functionally predict the outcomes of interactions through the use of methodologies, whereas before we fumbled in the dark. This is not something that really just gradually evolved, and it is not fair to say it was inevitable, any more than the evolution of an elephants trunk was inevitable. It took specific minds engaging specific problems at specific points in history for this to happen. Whether or not it would ever have repeated itself is unknowable, and there is no real prior historical evidence to support such a claim.
Finally, the idea of free market capitalism, while probably the closest to your pont of there being "nothing new under the sun" still has a radical new component, in that it explicitly contained the realization that human wellfare is directly linked to access to capital, and that allowing access to capital for the average person would be the best way to allow each individual to secure their own welfare and improve their livelihood. Trade and limited capitalism existed prior to this observation, but it is this observation and change in the operations of markets that really revolutionized the world in a way that had never happened before. Of the four, this one is definitely the most arguable case by a long shot, but I do think it is a revolution that changed the nature of the world and of human interaction on a very fundamental level. It is the reason modern capitalist societies have not had famines, something novel in history. Before these ideas, even with Rome or the Greek City States, both of which had capital, the economy was still in essence centralized and/or controlled in conception and execution.
Marxism was largely based on the faulty Hegelian dialectic that imagined ideas as undergoing a constant union of opposites. The very kinds of syntheses that Marx thought made communism inevitable. If we learned anything from that tragic experiment though, it is that history is not an inevitable or directed synthesis of ideas, but rather it is organic and evolving, occasionally producing a unique and unpredictable idea, some of which alter the world irrevocably.
In some ways I see it as analogous to evolution. Some ideas are likely to evolve after a certain point, not because they are inevitable, but because they are a simple solution to a reoccuring problem, much like wings have evolved independently in several different Orders. However, without the proper conditions, those wings would have never evolved, and that idea would have never taken shape. Conversely, there are some ideas, and some adaptations, which never would exist outside the very specific conditions in which they evolved. I think these include ideas like agriculture aand the scientific method, and adaptations like a long flexible trunk or the hhuman brain. In each case, a complex set of fortuitous circumstances created just the right kind of environment in which, over time, each could take shape and eventually thrive.
One source of technology that does currently exist that could conceivably change all this is genetic engineering. We could, in essence, engineer humanity to be selfless caring loving cooperative and peaceful. The problem would just be forcing everyone to comply. I dont think most people would willingly, particularly anyone with religious sentiments (i.e. the majority of the world). I'm not even sure I would want such a change to take place. However, just from a thought experiment viewpoint, I think that is the first technology in history that could actually produce such a radical change, because it can literally change the nature of humanity. Of course, our very human nature may prevent us from ever allowing such a change to take place. Nonetheless, its interesting to consider that right now, in our world, we have the technology and the knowledge to produce such a change in humanity.
Of course, entropy does win in the end, but not for a long long time. One of the unique features of life is that it acts as an exceptional information preservation machine, organizing the world around it in order to, in effect, offset entropy (which is at its most basic level the tendency of information in the universe to lose its fidelity over time, be it the distribution of heat in a steam engine or the order of ones and zeros on a hard drive). Given the size of the universe, entropy is the least of our worries. Our own human foibles are much more worrying.
|Author:||Hateshighelves [ Tue Aug 28, 2007 7:21 pm ]|
I just finished The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan about the relationship of humans to plants. His discussion of Monsanto's genetic engineering of potatoes terrifies me. Moral statements aside, I don't think we'll be wise enough to proceed with the technology without the necessary first step of identifying and reconciling all the consequences of the technology. We just aren't as clever as we think we are and we're greedier than we think we are by factors of ten. Also, the thugs, villians, etc. will get their hands on it and use if for their own nefarious purposes. Think I'm wrong? TNT and nuclear fission, the machine gun, etc. were all thought to make war obsolete or not worth the cost. It didn't work.
About entropy. I don't think it takes so long. The entropy of American democracy, for example, took place in only a few generations. In fewer than 250 years government "of, by and for the people" degenerated into fascism, cronyism and military/industrialism. Not a very cheering legacy, if you ask me.
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