What would a Post-Scarcity economy look like?

DiscussãoHobnob with Authors

Aderi ao LibraryThing para poder publicar.

What would a Post-Scarcity economy look like?

1LShelby
Mar 14, 2023, 5:17 pm

So I read a book that said that we are living in a "Ponzi" economy, and claiming that if it wasn't for government interference there would be only deflation, not inflation, because due to technological advances almost everything is constantly getting cheaper.

Which got me thinking about Star Trek, because I'm a geek or a nerd or something like that. Okay, not Star Trek exactly, but just the fact that it claims to depict a "post-scarcity" society, and wondering what that actually means and how everything getting cheaper would change things.

Is it really possible for everything to be super cheap?
Will people not work if they don't need to work to survive?
What would they do instead of "work"?

2paradoxosalpha
Mar 14, 2023, 8:46 pm

I've just read the Terra Ignota books by Ada Palmer, and she describes a relatively post-scarcity 25th century in which most people do have jobs that take up 10 to 20 hours per week, but there are also people who find special satisfaction in their work, and put in 40 hours or more. These latter are distinguished as vocateurs.

Clearly, in such a society personal disciplines and social and cultural activities would expand to consume freed time and effort. Arts (of all types) as commercial production become dwarfed by arts as individual and social expression.

3Cecrow
Mar 14, 2023, 10:51 pm

I've been led to understand deflation is as troubling a problem as inflation, just different (bad) symptoms.

The costs problem centres less on actual cost - on whether bread costs a buck or a million - but where that price stands relative to average income. If I make a billion annually, then million dollar bread is "cheap".

World building has to account for what will motivate people to work if they don't have to. Most people I know would retire on the spot if they won the lottery.

4LShelby
Mar 17, 2023, 3:11 pm

>2 paradoxosalpha: "Clearly, in such a society personal disciplines and social and cultural activities would expand to consume freed time and effort."

A world full of dilettantes and do-gooders?

Would it change how we value things? My writing can't really be said to be particularly commercial, but the fact that people have paid money for it matters to me because it means that my work is valued.

If I had to come up with a new criteria for feeling people valued my work, I'm not sure what it would be. I don't trust social-media valuators like "likes" and "members". To easy to do without meaning it. To easy to fake. I have a website that has supposedly been getting over a hundred visitors a day for over a decade. Most of those visitors aren't real. The ones that are real mostly don't mean much. Or how about this group with its 2000+ members most of whom haven't even visited the site for years?

...How about time as a measure of value? It's wonderfully egalitarian--as long as earning a living has become optional for everyone. Everyone has the same amount of time to spend. But how would I know how much time people are spending?

5LShelby
Mar 17, 2023, 3:48 pm

>3 Cecrow: "I've been led to understand deflation is as troubling a problem as inflation, just different (bad) symptoms."

If everything gets cheaper, then in theory everyone's quality of life improves, but if the price of everything getting cheaper is mechanization that causes people to loose their jobs, then are the unemployed going to be able to take advantage of the lower prices?

I think everything has bad and good consequences. Wouldn't it be about how well societies are set up to minimize the bad and maximize the good?

One solution to the unemployment issue is the one mentioned by >2 paradoxosalpha: everyone still works, they just work less.
Another solution I've seen proposed is the government providing everyone with a base income capable of providing the necessities of life.

"World building has to account for what will motivate people to work if they don't have to. Most people I know would retire on the spot if they won the lottery."

My husband certainly has his moments of not wanting to go to work. But, interestingly, he doesn't handle long vacations at all well. He starts looking for things to work on: house renovations, charity work... anything to make him feel he isn't just wasting his time all day. I also am happier when I feel like I'm accomplishing something worthwhile.

But my thinking on the subject of motivating my theoretical future people always seems to break down over the question of motivating them to do what, exactly?
I think the first question might actually be: what jobs will still need to be done?

6paradoxosalpha
Mar 17, 2023, 4:13 pm

>3 Cecrow: Most people I know would retire on the spot if they won the lottery.

"Retirement" is an odd proposition. Just because people resent their specific jobs doesn't mean they'd be better off without work. If I won the lottery, it would allow me to concentrate on non-remunerative projects. So, yeah: I'd "retire" from my meal ticket, but I'd probably end up working harder than before.

7LShelby
Editado: Mar 20, 2023, 7:40 pm

>6 paradoxosalpha: "So, yeah: I'd "retire" from my meal ticket, but I'd probably end up working harder than before."

I am suddenly reminded of scenes in my Asian dramas of the ultra-rich doing manual labour for charity. It's for public relations reasons, of course.

But that isn't even work that they actually want to do... they just want the public to like them better. The more horrible the work, the more they are admired for being willing to do it.

There's a motivation that probably won't go away.

8reading_fox
Mar 21, 2023, 7:37 am

I see post-Scarcity as being essentially free energy - in the hiarachy of needs this supplies heating, shelter, and maybe food. However it doesn't solve the limited resources problem - unless you also have matter transformers?! Some stuff will always be in limited supply, lithium, minerals, feedstock.

Motivation will change, but it will always be the case that people will continue to do the things they enjoy simply for the sake of enjoying them, whether that's baking, creating or organising spreadsheets - I work in academia and you just can't get rid of old Profs who have nominally retired, but always have one more experiment/student/paper. It may mean the end of office culture, but the rise of true craftspeople.

If you can just 'create' stuff than the handcreated will have special cachet if you can tell the difference. Ditto unique 'raw' items. Approval will come from one's peers. If an acknowledged master says you've made a tasty cake then you gain satisfaction...

However you also have menial trades, emptying bins, cleaning et al... and perhaps those few who chose to provide a clean environment for others would be truly appreciated, until they did something else.

9paradoxosalpha
Mar 21, 2023, 11:32 am

>8 reading_fox: It may mean the end of office culture, but the rise of true craftspeople.

There's an attractive gloss!

10LShelby
Mar 22, 2023, 3:41 pm

>8 reading_fox: "However you also have menial trades, emptying bins, cleaning et al... "

The amount of time people spend doing housework has apparently been taking a nosedive for the past hundred years or so, due to increasingly efficient mechanical assistance. For example, while I am typing up this message, a robot is doing my vacuuming for me. I do still need to empty it into the trash when its done, but there are fancier robots out there to be bought now that handle that chore too.

We may not end up needing a whole lot of manual labor to be done.

Limited resources though...
Even if the futuristic versions of digital printers revolutionize manufacturing, we still need stuff to make stuff out of. Surely something will still be hard to get our hands on.

I need to think more about this one.

>8 reading_fox: "It may mean the end of office culture, but the rise of true craftspeople"

>9 paradoxosalpha: "There's an attractive gloss!"

Agreed. This sounds like a future I want to be around for. :)

...

The book I read postulated VR taking the place of travelling, but I'm dubious. I think VR replaces TV, not travel. Maybe VR replaces a certain amount of business travel? But I think tourism is eternal.

What do you think?

>8 reading_fox: "you just can't get rid of old Profs who have nominally retired, but always have one more experiment/student/paper"
:D

Clearly academia is eternal. There is pretty good evidence that handicrafts and art are also eternal. Storytelling is eternal!

What else is eternal?

11ThomasNorford
Mar 30, 2023, 11:53 am

I suspect the old adage about communism applies here, "Good idea, wrong species."

12MHThaung
Mar 30, 2023, 1:00 pm

Have you read Michael Moorcock's Dancers at the End of Time books? From (distant) memory, everyone can have what they want, which means they spend their time however they want (and not necessarily being satisfied with that).

13paradoxosalpha
Mar 30, 2023, 1:07 pm

>12 MHThaung:

Yes, those books offer a sort of radical asymptote of post-scarcity.

14reading_fox
Abr 3, 2023, 4:49 am

>10 LShelby: "The amount of time people spend doing housework has apparently been taking a nosedive for the past hundred years or so"
Interesting I'd heard the opposite - despite the amount of automation and devices around, the amount of work has remained constant. I don't know if houses are cleaner(tidier... xxxer) for the same amount work. In my experience work expands to fill the time available for it. (eg not much because there's always reading to be done).

15LShelby
Abr 17, 2023, 11:59 am

>11 ThomasNorford:
We have several large scale studies of communism to look at now, but not everyone agrees on why they fail. Some people argue that it's more about the impossibility of micro managing everything on such a grand scale rather than human frailties.

I'm enough of a cynic to believe that human frailties probably equate into it somewhere, but human frailties can cause problems in every system involving humans, so its all just a matter of degree. :)

As a thought experiment I find this one difficult. I just don't know enough about what happens when such an overwhelmingly large group of people is suddenly relieved of the pressure to make a living.

What I do know is that there are very few people in the USA who are willing to live on the amount I live on. When my daughter did a presentation in her family studies class in college based on our family's actual finances the entire class was sitting there going "No. Not happening. We don't accept your figures even as a minimum to work up from." And yet, all my material needs have been met. We even own our house. Plenty of people in other parts of the world would consider us blessed.

I think that if the need to make a living is removed most people will just change what they think they want, and keep doing the hamster-wheel thingy trying to get ahead of the new baseline.

...

I guess what I'm wondering is: will money still be the default means of keeping score, or will something else replace it? If it is replaced, what will replace it?

16LShelby
Abr 17, 2023, 12:01 pm

>12 MHThaung:
I don't think so. I know I haven't read a lot of his books, and none since I was a kid.

Something else to put on the wish list I guess. :)

17paradoxosalpha
Maio 4, 2023, 11:22 am

>15 LShelby: We have several large scale studies of communism

I'm not sure what you mean by this. Are "studies" real-world instances? Real-world "communist" countries all have been cases of state capitalism, as far as I know, and none of them remotely post-scarcity.