Position Briefs

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Post-Scarcity Economy

(Note: I wrote this up a few days ago, before the O'Donnell and Miller stories broke.  So I'm putting this up NOW, but I'm going to come back tonight and address those two fascist clowns.)

Awhile back, I awarded Cracked.com (the website of Cracked Magazine) a Silver Star in my HoF. But articles like the one I’m about to refer you to seriously make me consider upgrading them to a Gold Star. Just to clarify: Silver Stars are for fun stuff, webcomics, pop culture sites, meme’s, games, and just random stuff I really like, Gold Stars are for serious political or philosophical resources that I find either profound in terms of shaping my personal philosophy, or (in the case of Election-Projection) have been repeatedly useful in terms of being a tool to provides some specific, useful information. Now… a decent portion what Cracked does is pop-culture based. and it’s hilarious. It’s A-List stuff. But its about movies, or Super Heroes, TV Shows… stuff like that. But they also do an decent amount of articles dealing with History, Science, Politics, Philosophy, Sociology and other more profound topics. Their articles are always very well researched, and cited, especially coming from a purely satirical site; and the end result is something that really makes you think twice about what you though you knew, and about the status quo, and does so with a sharp irreverence that can’t help but make you laugh. (Assuming of course that you’re not too heavily invested in believing in the status quo, of course!)

And… almost regardless of the actual conclusions they reach, there's something profoundly and inherently LIBERAL about researching a historical or sociological topic and reporting back with a result that challenges the status quo! (Am I right?) And while it is meant primarily for entertainment, some of you may already be saying, “Hey, the best comedy always has a grain of truth to it.” Actually, no, having a grain of truth? That’s Religion. With great comedy? The more truth, the better. In fact the greatest comedy of all has nothing but truth, and little to no exaggeration at all. Truth, of course, so often being much, much stranger than fiction. So with that in mind, I’d like to recommend that you read the following article, which just might be one of the most profound articles on economics that I’ve ever read – and I’ve got an MBA!

Five Reasons the Future Will Be Ruled by BS

First conclusion: That those who a good at "BS" will be all powerful in the future? In the future? You sure it will take that long?

But putting that said, the implications are incredible. The following could disappear overnight, right now: the Publishing Industry, the Newspaper Industry, the Manufacturing parts of the Music Industry, The Distribution parts of the Movie Industry, CD’s, DVD’s, the Post Office, 99% of the Paper producers, and others… Right now every single one of these things, beyond any doubt, has not only outlived its usefulness, but truly outlived all conceivable utility. Think of the number of jobs in those industries. Think of the amount of MONEY involved. Think about the vitally important role that some of these people play in our society and culture: Musicians, Authors, Journalists (just the good ones!). Now… Think objectively about how valuable that is… and then how you propose PAYING for it! (And how it might look, and how our culture might look, if it all went away, based on there being a single penny in it!)

500 years ago the Printing Press changed the world. The Conservatives (of the day) railed against it, seeing as how it would basically put the Monks out of business, being able to produce in a week what would take the Monks a hundred years. Literature flourished, literacy proliferated and the world changed. Just over a Century ago, Conservatives (of that time) were railing against industrial development, clinging to their agrarian lifestyles as Progressives laid railroad tracks and built skyscrapers. The industrial revolution kicked of a flurry of scientific research, engineering implementation that has never stopped accelerating, and continues to through to the present day. And, again, the entire world changed. Taking this article to its logical conclusion, and recognizing that these changes are being grappled with RIGHT NOW? I have no doubt that the full transformative power of the digital revolution is only know, even being GLIMPSED. This will change the world, in our lifetimes, and order of magnitude more that the industrial revolution. A decade or two from now? The transformative power of the Internet and of digital media will make the Space Shuttle look like the printing press.

The world is absolutely changing every bit as profoundly, more so actually, as it was then.

And this progressive? Can admit to having the slightest bit of trepidation abotu it. Not because of the technology itself, I’m an engineer, I love new technology, but because of how the rules are changing. For better or worse, the laws of supply and demand, based on economies of scarcity have existed, and driven human behavior (and really, even the behavior of everything else) since life first crawled out of the ooze. Now, I hate to act like those Monks, cursing the printing press, or those [once slave-owning] farmers, cursing the cities that grew up around them, but THINK ABOUT IT… What will replace this? What does a post-scarcity economic model even LOOK like? Socialism? Not really, not as I see it. Because socialism is still subject to market force. Forces that can be understood, quantified, manipulated… Market forces, driven by scarcity, are every bit as integral to a Socialist model as to a Capitalist one. But what will the rules be when supply is infinite at a cost of zero, and demand goes to zero very quickly as the cost go above zero?

And even though at the moment, it's limited to only certain intellectual property and the distribution of it, consider this: Development of Wind and Solar Power generation will do the same for Energy!  After all: How much does a gallon of sunshine cost? Or a pound of wind?

Already we have huge industries right now, and more coming, that are basically rearranging the deck chairs on their own Titanic and, at best, sending an Ensign down to the engine room with a few pound of paraffin… just in case there’s a leak or two.

We know the world is changing, but I believe Liberals and Conservatives alike are only beginning to get the slightest understanding of the real implications; good, bad and chaotic.  Assuming I live to my life's expectancy, I will die in a radically different world than the one I was born into.  Far more so that in my Father's case, or even in my Grandfather or Great-Grandfather's case. The progressive in me can't wait to see it... But I'm beginning to understand why the Glenn Beck / Tea Party crowd is so freak out.  That rate at which the world is leaving them behind is accelerating like never before.

I wonder what GOLD will be good for, in a post-scarcity economy.

2 comments:

  1. Gold will be sparkly and adorn old ladies with jewelry.

    And I suppose make good terminals for data cables. :P

    This is a pretty profound post. I consider myself HIGHLY liberal and progressive, and it even makes ME a little uneasy thinking about how different the world will be even a few decades from now. I've always considered myself lucky to be living in this particular time, with the information age just blossoming and huge leaps in quantum physics being calculated as we speak.

    Makes me think of Clarke's Third Law: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

    It makes me very excited to see what people will have dreamed up in a few decades.

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  2. If you're name is Christine O'Donnell, even BASIC science is indistinguishable from magic.

    Yeah, we will live interesting times. No doubt about that.

    Thanks for your comment.

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