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416 posts

Ultimate Geek

  #714713 9-Nov-2012 14:35
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BlueShift: In the short term, you'd end up with the crew of the spaceship in Wall-E - unmotivated fat couch potatoes.

+1 for above comment

However in longer term as we only have a limited amount of space in which to live - the Wall_E's will become self fish and they will develop bad behaviours that affect everyone else.

Already in todays world, cheap = semi free
- stereos mean these wall-E's PI&*&*^& off their neighbours.
- spray paint has resulted in graffitti
- booze results in violence ( NB I like drink).
- wrappings result in litter




703 posts

Ultimate Geek


  #714898 9-Nov-2012 20:27
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eracode: I'm trying to get my head around this interesting thread by going back to basics. At the risk of stating the obvious, I thought back to first principles.


If supply of everything (or many things) becomes unlimited (or vast) what happens to prices? I guess they become very low or nil. Money is not needed if things are free. Then money loses its own scarcity value and people who have lots of it are no richer than anyone else. I guess all this happens if everything is free - but so long as there are still at least some scarce resources money may still have some value. The few remaining scarce resources then become extremely valuable and holders of those materials remain wealthy.

Possibly, but only if your persist with a current era paradigm.

For example, it would be equivalent of a hunter-gatherer society assuming knowledge being passed on verbally, while a post agricultural society uses written language.

It's just as likely that truly scarce resources (matter, or even real estate) would be democratized - meaning that they become assets owned by the society. Like air is today.

This sounds like the role gold can play as medium of exchange and a store of value. However maybe nano-tech can produce gold in huge quantities, so we are back where we started.

Gold can be mined from sea water using nanotech by the millions of tons. Or from asteroids. While neither is infinite, it would certainly not be scarce enough to base a world economy on.

But there is an even more basic question: why do we, here today, persist in trying to fit a future paradigm into a current one? Why do we sub-consciously almost, try to for the mindset of scarcity economics onto a world to which it very much does not apply?

I think the answer to that would be quite interesting and perhaps useful to understand even in todays economic system.

What thing could always remain scarce? I'm thinking of that movie 'In Time', where time was the medium of exchange and the means of storing value. Poor people had only days left before they would die and wealthy people had decades or centuries.

But then if future-tech could produce a time machine, all this goes out the window.

Don't even need a time machine. If your brain is computer enhanced, your perception of time would be as fluid as you like. E.g. with the increased processing power, you could make a minute seem like hours.

If you had a enhanced brain that operated 1000 times faster than ours, 1 minute would be the equivalent of 16 hours to you.

Not even real estate is truly scarce: if you create a big enough computer, and 'upload' (virtualize) everyone's mind into that computer, you could simulate any amount of real estate. (this also helps the energy problems).

You could build a Dyson sphere, multiplying our real-estate available now by billions of times.

Terra form other planets.

Generally speaking, there is little I can think of that is truly, perpetually scarce from our current point of view:

  • Matter/energy is not only not scare, it CAN be made (re: quantum vacuum fluctuations near the event horizon of a singularity).
  • Real estate is not scarce, as we can virtualise, make space habitats, and possibly more.
  • Time is not scarce, indeed it may be the most plentiful element of all.
  • Ultimately, even proton decay may not do us in - I'd expect by then we'd have fled to a new universe via a Kerr inversion ring or bud off a pocket universe. lol.

So: what would economics look like in a post-nanotech world? Is it just thermodynamics, or would there be a thriving economy based on knowledge? Or recreation? Personal intellectual advancement?



703 posts

Ultimate Geek


  #714901 9-Nov-2012 20:41
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BlinkyBill: Money is simply a proxy for value; it's representational. So as long as there's value, and until such time as value is traded for like (as in bartering), there will always be money.

Will money always be represented by currency? I'd say we are 5-10 years away from no longer needing currency, but as a standard unit of value, we'll always have money.

So the better question is "what happens when we have infinite resources that have no value"? We don't need money, because by definition money represents value.

Wll we ever get to the situation where we have infinite resources without value? It's hard to image, even universally, since people seem to increase population to the level where resources are scarce and hence have value.

I can't see technology coming to the rescue here - a much more fundamental change to human nature would be required.

Interesting points, but I don't think you go far enough lol.

There would indeed be a fundamental change to human nature BlinkyBill - perhaps more fundamental than the invention of Agriculture or the written word.

It is my hypothesis that currently mankind is, basically, psychologically damaged. We behave like children, squandering resources, fighting, and generally acting in a pseudo-tribal way. Far too many of us put all our hopes into supernatural beliefs, cult like political systems, and psychopathic business leaders.

Just what is a society like that has abolished poverty, sickness, and inequality through technology? When you have machines that are smarter, and more benevolent than we are? We have never had THAT before.


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Ultimate Geek


  #714910 9-Nov-2012 20:58
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NonprayingMantis: there will always be scarcity. If nothing else people will create artificial scarcity to ensure they can keep making money.

One only hads to witness how e-books, music, and movies work in a digital world where there is no scarcity i.e. you could create unlimite copies of the same book if you want.

this article is a must read:

One of the most trans-formative forces acting upon mankind is technology.

Before we learnt to domesticate animals, no one could conceive of a society spanning more than a days walk.

Before the invention of writing, no one would understand the concept of knowledge passing through thousands of years.

Likewise, i think to assume scarcity has the same meaning in a post nanotech world as it does in a pre-nanotech world is a mistake.

You do raise a good point regarding digital media, and it is one I have often considered myself.
I fear that our future will be brought into a new Dark Ages by the implementation of draconian intellectual property laws, just at a time when we need all the freedom of information we can get to solve the REAL problems of this world (environment, energy, etc). This is the primary reason I am against IP laws as they currently stand.

But there is hope. People, at a genetic level, are 'programmed' to share information. It's in the genes, and no amount of law is going to stop that - just as no law will stop people having sex. It's that basic.

I think that in the future, people will look back at this time and the previous hundred years or so and see it as an aberration in human history, a kind of Dark Ages. They will not understand why or how we could squander our creative intelligence on petty business profiteering in the face of mounting multiple dooms.

People are resisting. Piracy is becoming so common place now that everyone is doing it (not the least of which is the corporations themselves). People are becoming increasingly fed up with their rights being taken away to prop up failing business models.

Political parties are being formed. Said laws are being ignored by the majority of the population. Even some corporations are saying their creativity is being damaged by a 'broken patent system'.

It's unsustainable because it's illogical. It was never going to work, and with every step up in technology the cracks become wider and wider. It's already a failed concept: we are simply waiting for the old guard to die, so progress can continue.


703 posts

Ultimate Geek


  #714920 9-Nov-2012 21:13
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jonherries: Great topic.

Neal Stephenson wrote a book called the Diamond Age, where nanotech could create what was needed.

From reading that and the Cory Doctorow piece mentioned above I have some thoughts:

If you no longer die ie. nano technology creates a replica with the correct neural connections to restore "you" from a backup, the capacity of the earth to support an infinitely larger population is questionable. Diamond age appears not to consider this, the Doctorow book does.

We move into space?

As far as books on the subject go, those quoted so far do not go far enough. They assume mankind is essentially the same as now, or almost so, and basically thrown into a wonderland full of the same petty drives we now have.

I'm not so sure this is correct.

For an alternative take, I suggest reading the Culture novels by Ian M Banks. Not so much for the main story line  but for a model of the highly advanced society as the backdrop.

The Culture is a society that has hand advanced nanotechnology for thousands of years.

Now, i don't propose we'd be like the Culture anytime soon, but as a model to discuss, perhaps as a ideal, I think it has merit. It does not seem so puerile as many other examples.

(the main storylines are as drama filled and space operatic as any, and fun, but the Culture itself is very thought provoking in the context of this thread).

In Diamond Age some people eschew nanotech for whatever reason and money is used to buy "handmade" items as luxury goods.

If you do still die, time becomes valuable ala the movie with JT "In Time" and becomes a proxy for money (ie. stored value/tradable).

I wonder if the result of developing nanotech results in some "accidents" which leaves part of the world uninhabibable (presumably though nanotech could make it habitable)?

Possibly, but no more so than say a viral pandemic would be now.

'Grey Goo' scenarios are unlikely.

Land/property rights would create scarcity I guess, unless you could "make more land", that would provide a need for money concept.

You can make land - even if it's in Space.

You can also live in virtual environments - just download into a body when you want to do something in real space. Or just use telepresence.

Also presumably unless the computers are sentient someone will have to spend time creating these, how would you value their time?


They'll be sentient. If you have the technology to duplicate the human brain and mind, you have just made an AI.


703 posts

Ultimate Geek


  #714926 9-Nov-2012 21:22
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BlueShift: Ian M Banks' Culture series of novels are set in a post-singularity society. Pretty much anything one could want is available, so there's no reason to accumulate stuff. People are free to do largely whatever they are interested in, and have very long lifespans to do so. The birth-rate is low, but children are valued. Social standing is important, "don't be a dick' is a golden rule.

Read them, like them, and indeed think they present a fair model of how I'd like it all to turn out.

I think I'd like being a member of Special Circumstances lol.

In actuality you ask a big question, there would be huge ramifications if scarcity ceased overnight - society crumbling, revolution and ruin as the old-guard claw desperately to hold onto their power (c.f. RIAA). But its more likely to slowly fade, and become less relevant, as other frameworks take its place.
In the short term, you'd end up with the crew of the spaceship in Wall-E - unmotivated fat couch potatoes. In the longer term, society would evolve ways of encouraging people to get out of bed in the mornings and do something.

Very insightful, thanks.

I also think a slow fade, a loss of relevance over time is more likely. They will be like religion is now - a vestigial organ in the body of society, eventually becoming something only archaeologists argue over.

I'm not so sure there would be many couch potatoes. With the removal of stigma of being unemployed, along with ample personal resources, and advances in psychotherapy I think there is a good chance of more people being happy, and fulfilled with many varied interests.

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