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Post scarcity economics fiction and non fiction - Rynn - 04-18-2013

One of the things that attracted me to science fiction was the idea of how technology could radically alter the economics and therefore daily life of the future. As a kid I remember watching shows like Star Trek with its replicators and seemingly super liberal society and always wondered how things would work in such a world. I've spent a lot of time thinking about this topic and have tried to tackle the questions of how a post-scarcity economy would work from both a technical and logistical angle. There are obvious difficult questions like how remaining scarcity would be distributed, if by monetary system how is money earned when the vast majority of labour is automated and so forth. Relevant to OA this led me to write the money article which I've never been fully satisfied with.

Can anyone recommend any sources fictional or otherwise that explore how a post-scarcity society could operate in detail? A few that spring to mind are the short story Manna, Down and Out in the Magical Kingdom and the Voyage From Yesteryear (the latter has an interesting part in the middle where a scarcity economic society tries to prevent its collapse due to living next to a post-scarcity one). From time to time I've managed to find non-fiction on the topic but it always seems lacking.

Obviously the technology to easily implement post-scarcity doesn't exist (though I've read arguments that it could be implemented in a way now) and its not a topic that has much real world data to work with but I'd appreciate anything anyone can think of worth reading.


RE: Post scarcity economics fiction and non fiction - Drashner1 - 04-18-2013

Hmm. Interesting. I'll need to mull this a bitSmile I'm sure I must have something floating around on this...

I'll get back to you.

ToddSmile


RE: Post scarcity economics fiction and non fiction - stevebowers. - 04-19-2013

Incidentally, I found the story Manna very inspiring, as a cautionary tale. The idea that each human citizen could have a dedicated AI advisor that in fact controls them like a robot, rewarding obedient behaviour and punishing inefficiency, is a powerful one.

I think that such a society could easily emerge in the Dark Age Solar System (or among the new colonies established after the Great Expulsion). Similar societies might emerge at later dates as well, but under different circumstances. Imagine a benevolent AI tyrant, that is only concerned about the best use of human labour, and uses wearable monitoring equipment and (possibly, but not necessarily) neural interfacing to ensure fine control over its human subjects. Such a system might even be tolerable for the humans involved, so long as the AI tyrant continues to monitor the humans' well-being and ensures they do not suffer discomfort.

I'll mull it over and produce an outline, unless someone else produces one first.


RE: Post scarcity economics fiction and non fiction - Drashner1 - 04-19-2013

(04-18-2013, 11:04 AM)Drashner1 Wrote: Hmm. Interesting. I'll need to mull this a bitSmile I'm sure I must have something floating around on this...

I'll get back to you.

ToddSmile

Actually, I just googled 'post-scarcity economics' and the wikipedia article came up. It includes a number of references at the end that you might find useful:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-scarcity_economy

Will see what else turns up as time permits.

ToddSmile


RE: Post scarcity economics fiction and non fiction - Rynn - 04-20-2013

(04-19-2013, 08:01 AM)stevebowers Wrote: Incidentally, I found the story Manna very inspiring, as a cautionary tale. The idea that each human citizen could have a dedicated AI advisor that in fact controls them like a robot, rewarding obedient behaviour and punishing inefficiency, is a powerful one.

I think that such a society could easily emerge in the Dark Age Solar System (or among the new colonies established after the Great Expulsion). Similar societies might emerge at later dates as well, but under different circumstances. Imagine a benevolent AI tyrant, that is only concerned about the best use of human labour, and uses wearable monitoring equipment and (possibly, but not necessarily) neural interfacing to ensure fine control over its human subjects. Such a system might even be tolerable for the humans involved, so long as the AI tyrant continues to monitor the humans' well-being and ensures they do not suffer discomfort.

I'll mull it over and produce an outline, unless someone else produces one first.
Sounds good. I think one of the reasons manna works so well is that the software isn't really strong AI. At least not until much later in the story line (although its never really stated). What's scary about that is that it's not some conscious entity oppressing the people through its agency but rather a non-conscious system whose outcome is oppression. A potentially good analogy for societal systems be they political, economic or cultural.

The most obvious point though is that if a transition to what we call post-scarcity does occur there are certain socioeconomic systems that would be ill-equipped to adapt for the change. A system whereby being unemployed or lacking marketable skills was judged as a failure of the individual, and therefore not something society should spent resources helping, is not one in which a transition would occur smoothly for the majority of people. Personally I think a Keynesian social democracy set up would be much better but IRL those societies are few Sad which sucks for more reasons than "in case we transition to post-scarcity"
(04-19-2013, 12:59 PM)Drashner1 Wrote: Actually, I just googled 'post-scarcity economics' and the wikipedia article came up. It includes a number of references at the end that you might find useful:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-scarcity_economy

Will see what else turns up as time permits.

ToddSmile
Cheers Todd Smile I've read the wiki article before and have read most of the books it mentions (although there a few I've noted down to look into). Some of them though like the Culture aren't entirely what I'm looking for. Like the Star Trek universe the Culture's post scarcity system is a background feature. It's rarely mentioned how it operates nor explored. One example where it partially is that I know of is in Player of Games where a citizen of a pseudo-feudal society asks questions to a Culture citizen. The conversation goes along the lines of:

"What if I wanted my own planet?"
"We'll you could find a planet with no one on it I guess and live there"
"Yes but what if I wanted to surround it with a fleet of warships to keep everyone else out?"
"How would you convince the warships to do that?"
"I don't understand"
"We'll warships are sentient"
"Ha! Your machines think they are sentient..."

Conversely the three stories I mentioned in my OP (less so Down and Out) explore the life in a post-scarcity world directly. In manna every citizen gets a certain amount of credits with which to buy items that are then built and supplied by publicly owned robots. In Voyage it's similar except there are no credits, one just has to ask. However neither system really explores further with questions like how are the inevitably scared resources allocated (I.e land)?

Recently I've been thinking about a post-scarcity society which uses money still for the non-scarce things and trying to think what such a society would look like. It's interesting because it looks like a world where people rarely use money, many might not even care about or think of it regularly and some will probably have accounts that are left untouched for years. But for some the pursuit of money will still be important because they want to trade for the remaining non-scarce things like land, antiques etc. From some perspectives these people are an elite but from others they are just hobbyists playing a game continually that other people might pick up and put down from time to time.

One more thing to add is that this remaining money might not be fiat, it could be an independent currency like Bitcoin IRL.


RE: Post scarcity economics fiction and non fiction - Drashner1 - 04-21-2013

So, I found a bit more. The book The Spike, by Damien Broderick (about the Singularity and worth a read all in its own right), talks a bit about post-scarcity and mentions the writings and works of Robert Theobold:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Theobald

in particular his ideas on a Guaranteed Minimum Income and his book Free Men and Free Markets and The Guaranteed Income.

The Spike doesn't go into great detail on either of these or on Theobold (not the main focus of the book) but it's possible his works may go into the level of detail you are looking for, at least for this particular type of society.

On a more general note, you might look at some of the websites and groups cited on the wikipedia page and see what writings they refer to or can point you to if you contact them. And of course, OA itself could be a great exercise in multiple detailed group thought experiments on different forms of post-scarcity society. I certainly think it could be fun to talk aboutSmile

Hope this helps,

Todd


RE: Post scarcity economics fiction and non fiction - Rynn - 04-22-2013

Thanks Todd Smile ill look into Theobold and I would really be interested to hear people's ideas about what it's like to live in a post-scarcity society.


RE: Post scarcity economics fiction and non fiction - stevebowers. - 04-23-2013

One of the systems I intend to describe in some detail is the double planet Nele and Nete (originally named Helen and Clytemnestra); these two worlds are roughly similar in size and characteristics, but one has an economy based on the Uncapped Personal Resource system (and is loosely affiliated with the Utopia Sphere) and the other uses a Metric Determined Distributed Utility Credit system, which is loosely affiliated to the NoCoZo.

Most of the time there is unrestricted movement between these two worlds, although relations sometimes get a bit frosty or worse. The interaction between these two systems should be an interesting example of how they deal with contingent events and with each other. I'll be needing quite a bit of help with this one, as different viewpoints should make the interaction more dynamic.;


RE: Post scarcity economics fiction and non fiction - Rynn - 04-23-2013

I'd love to lend some help with that Big Grin seems like a great way to explore post-scarcity systems


RE: Post scarcity economics fiction and non fiction - Dfleymmes1134 - 06-11-2013

The most obvious point though is that if a transition to what we call post-scarcity does occur there are certain socioeconomic systems that would be ill-equipped to adapt for the change. A system whereby being unemployed or lacking marketable skills was judged as a failure of the individual, and therefore not something society should spent resources helping, is not one in which a transition would occur smoothly for the majority of people. Personally I think a Keynesian social democracy set up would be much better but IRL those societies are few Sad which sucks for more reasons than "in case we transition to post-scarcity"
[quote='Drashner1' pid='463' dateline='1366340366']



Two more articles about the coming transition..
http://hplusmagazine.com/2013/05/16/humans-need-not-apply-the-economics-of-ai/

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/01/the-end-of-labor-how-to-protect-workers-from-the-rise-of-the-robots/267135/