Managing Director, Front Shore

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Can we discuss the economics of abundance? And the possibility of 'free' instead of a guaranteed minimum income?

I'm delighted to hear Mr. McAfee discussing this and would love to more about what professional economists have to say about the performance of economic models in a society of abundance, as opposed to scarcity.

I would love to hear thoughts, and be pointed in the right direction for further reading etc, on the possibility of providing essential goods and services for free - in place of, or in addition to, something like a guaranteed minimum income.

  • Jun 12 2013: Hi Ivy,

    It's an interesting idea, that a lack of need drives us to idle restlessness. I know quite a few extremely wealthy people and all of them (including those that have 'lucked' into their fortune) are highly motivated and spend most of their time either trying to build up their business or they have moved on from that onto philanthropic endeavours. I'm sure that a percentage of people would not contribute in such a way (were there no need for money) but I think those are the same people that aren't contributing anything to society now.

    The reason why the monetary system concerns me, and I would like to see a way out of it, is driven by the recent, current, financial crisis. This crisis is about nothing but money - it is money itself that is causing it - its creation through debt, its opaqueness (the global financial system is incredibly difficult to understand at an intrinsic level, and I just mean the money part here, not derivatives and financial instruments). The world has all this amazing stuff, and potential, and yet here we are, in a panic, with hard and harsh consequences for a lot of people as a result. I blame money.

    I appreciate your concern about the risk to interaction and relationships - I would love to know more about it. My own experience is that the more the daily grind is taken care of, the more we are liberated to realise how important people are in our lives. It's a very Maslow type of thing, in my opinion.

    All the best.
    • Jun 12 2013: Hi Gordon,

      My experience is that there is variability among the population. We will not know in advance how many, as a percentage, will opt for a life of high performance and self-actualization, and how many will opt for a couch potato lifestyle. What is clear is that even those who opt for the less productive life will fill the void with something.

      Clearly, those you describe as successful and wealthy are TEDs and not BILLs.

      Wouldn't it be great if some of these geniuses who are creating all this new technology would find cures to what really ails us: depression, obesity, alcoholism and drug abuse? I am talking about a cure, not a treatment.
      • Jun 13 2013: I don't believe those are things that technology can cure. These things are almost a byproduct of the society we live in. The only things I can see potentially "curing" depression, obesity, alcoholism, and drug abuse is the elimination of poverty and a better educated populace.
        • Jun 13 2013: Yes, Edward, you are right that technology has not been very effective in curing the negative aspects of the human condition. I know this will sound old fashioned, but I believe that in addition to education, connecting with a higher power is an important component of an “actualized” life.

          Here is my concern: the technology is waaaaay ahead of the biology. If the technology proceeds to its logical endpoint on the current assumed timeline, humans will not be psychologically ready for the shift. There will be huge unintended consequences. What can we do now to prepare?

          For example, when the individual can fulfill his or her needs using technology without the requirement of work or money, there is no longer any reason to have banks and banking, no need to save or invest (other than in one’s own education). Such a shift will cause huge dislocations in our economy. Will we survive it?

          One way to mitigate this dislocation, and maybe we are living it with the Fed’s zero interest rate policy, is if our governments eliminate the practice of charging interest on loans. If you cannot use your money to make money by earning interest (and I use the term “earning” loosely here), why have money in the bank or brokerage account? What will this shift do to our culture? What will happen when the powerful in our society (the bankers) are no longer in control? Will they go “quietly into the night” or will they devise a scheme to further enslave the population with debt of a different kind?
        • Jun 14 2013: Ivy, you're starting to really get to the nub of it here!

          You've identified a huge risk - what if the advances precede the social and psychological tools that can prepare us for the consequences of those advances? This is why we need economic models and preparation for the inevitable changes that an economy of abundance (for any given resource) will bring.

          I fully believe that the banking system will, at some point, completely implode. I suspect that we missed a huge opportunity to let it do stage 1 of the implosion by the bailout but that is based on instinct and nothing else so it's pure speculation. However, if it is not clear that such a collapse is merely a step in the right direction then it would indeed cause panic (as the current crisis has done).

          There is a great quote from Alan Watts about the Depression that applies to the present crisis and all monetary issues, to my mind:

          'One day there was a flourishing consumer economy, with everyone on the up-and-up; and the next, unemployment, poverty and bread lines. What happened? The physical resources of the country – the brain, brawn, and raw materials – were in no way depleted, but there was a sudden absence of money, a so-called financial slump. Complex reasons for this kind of disaster can be elaborated at length by experts on banking and high finance who cannot see the forest for the trees. But it was just as if someone had come to work on building a house and, on the morning of the depression, the boss had said, “Sorry, baby, but we can’t build today. No inches." “Whaddya mean, no inches? We got wood, we got metal, we even got tape measures.” “Yeah, but you don’t understand business. We been using too many inches and there’s just no more to go around.”'
      • Jun 14 2013: Ivy, I believe in some ways we are already beginning to get to that point. Look at the amount of food that is wasted globally, enough is wasted every year to feed everyone in the world. The constant evolution of technology is constantly creating machines that can do our jobs better than we can and that isn't just on the less skilled jobs. We are at the point where people could work less and lots of jobs could be replaced with more efficient technology if we chose to do so. I personally feel that it is time for us to invest in societies that test the waters for an alternative style of living on a small scale and see how they could work on a larger scale, because our current society I feel is a bit archaic.

        I'm in agreement with the connecting to a higher power aspect to a certain point. I feel that people need to start getting more in touch with the spirit of humanity and stop living with a narrow mindset focusing only on what effects them in the here and now. The human race has great potential to advance and live a more harmonious existence with less suffering for all if we could just move past the primitive mind set that our needs are the only needs that are important. I feel this is really the only way to cure depression, obesity, alcoholism, and drug abuse because it is the constant struggle of modern society that is predominantly the cause of these conditions.
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    Jun 11 2013: Money is the only thing that is stopping us from advancing as a society. Our current tech is great... except the actual product is shit, thats because instead of building a quality product we produce everything at the cheapest bid. Even the spaceships that launch man into space is built by the cheapest builder.

    What would the future look like if money was not an issue?
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      Jun 12 2013: What would the future look like if money was not an issue?

      Peaceful and unified. How do we create that path from here is the bigger question.
  • Jun 13 2013: I suspect that as material goods become abundant, the new currency will be time. Until we find a way to live forever or at least meaningfully extend the productive life span, scarcity will be what we do with the time we have on this planet. I think it is inherently (or instinctively) human to seek meaning and purpose in ones life - self actualization. Meaning and purpose are heavily shaped societies norms, expectations and values - I think we will recognize that once individuals experience abundance without fear of losing it, they will begin to focus on psychic rewards. These rewards will fundamentally be about recognition and achieving contentment.

    I wonder if the new measures of success will be an individual's impact on society.
    • Jun 14 2013: Hi Vincent, I think you're exactly right - the currency, per se, will change. Indeed, I believe that change has already begun to a certain extent (look at some of the people who are TED-celebrities - they have great influence and social capital without, necessarily, much financial capital at all).
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    aj trip

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    Jun 12 2013: I fully expect machines to replace the human labor force completly in my life time. I suspect once machines are able to self replicate and intuitivly build tools for tasks on their own, the monatary system will no longer exist. Our future economicly exists only through the lense of Moore's law.
  • Jun 11 2013: Indeed. It does have a positive effect in that it can drive efficiency, but there are, as you say, many, many disadvantages - inferior quality, dangerous parts etc.

    I personally (optimistically and naively, perhaps) think that if we just took care of the very basic rung of needs (food and shelter) that we would see a seismic shift in people's approach to life in general.

    I should confess, though, that I am a science fiction reader, and I buy into non-dystopian visions of a money-less society.

    But we are living in a world in which many resources are NOT scarce - are there no academic papers on the economics of this situation?
  • Jun 17 2013: We all talk and believe in abundance...one of those abundances is 'abundance of greed' and it challenges all the other abundances...

    And this is the tragedy of human society...India's first prime minister, Pt. Nehru had written the same in his letters to his daughter, the child Indira, when she was nine only...

    Regards
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    W. Ying

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    Jun 15 2013: . . .I think:

    A society of abundance may not give us happiness.

    Happiness is the short-time feeling of things being "a-step-better" for keeping our DNA alive.
    (No matter how small a step may be.)
    In a abundance society, it is difficult to find the "a-step-better"s.

    That is why the poor may not be the unhappy.


    Wrong?

    .
    • Jun 17 2013: There is always something to strive for and pursue and a society of abundance definitely offers everyone a better chance at happiness than a society filled with haves and have nots. In a society where there is more free time to pursue your dreams, do the things you want to do, and just generally live life more I can't imagine there wouldn't be any happiness.

      I always find it so interesting that material wealth has such a focus of importance and people put so much emphasis on it being the supreme motivator, but there are plenty of things that have motivated humans to achieve something greater than their current state. The pursuit of immortality, perfection, the cures for disease and suffering, the pursuit of exploration, etc... All of these things motivate more than money, but in our current world it takes money in abundance to truly pursue your dreams and goals. Imagine a world where people were able to focus on things besides whether or not they will be able to eat or have utilities and/or a roof over their head and the things people could achieve.
    • Jun 17 2013: Hi there,

      I agree that abundance in itself is no guarantee (or anything close) of happiness. But it does remove one of the primary obstacles to happiness and one of the primary motivators and accelerators of suffering (namely hunger and, I am assuming for the purposes of this discussion, diseases that are 100% preventable/curable/treatable.)

      And indeed poverty and unhappiness have little to do with one another. But suffering should be eliminated if possible, not so?

      I do not think it is difficult, at all, to find incentives and motivation to progress, even in a society where there is no scarcity of basic goods and services and the cost is as close to zero as to be meaningless.
  • Jun 14 2013: Alternative currencies???? Yes, and no.

    Bitcoin - no. it's a scam. Someone is getting rich off of the people.

    Barter - yes. clunky to implement, but the truest form of capitalism. I have heard that there is a huge shadow economy out there; cash only, nobody pays taxes. That is what is going on in Greece, for example. I am still operating in sunshine - no black market activities for me. But..... it's tempting.

    Cash alternatives - no - completely illegal. Only the Fed can create money.

    In my perfect world, there would be local alternatives for everything we need and trade could be done on a local, neighbor to neighbor level. Of course, the giant corporations wouldn't like it very much, nor the other quasi monopolies. When I try to think about creating this local world, it just seems so overwhelming.
  • Jun 14 2013: continued from below:

    3) Lastly, rehypothecation is the practice by banks and brokerage firms of using, for their own purposes, assets that have been posted as collateral by their clients. I think this is the prime mechanism behind the current stock market recovery. I believe (no facts, just hunch) that the Feds deposits in the major investments banks like Citi, JPM, BofA, and the like, are being used by the proprietary trading desks of these institutions to buy stocks up the stock market. They are presumably able to keep the stock market Dow, S&P, Russell 500, etc. net asset value high because the market is very thinly traded (small purchases can drive stock market values up or down); so these purchases of stock by the investment banks create the illusion that the market is functioning well and the US is in recovery. It is a confidence game. The Fed is gambling that this strategy will lure more and more people into the stock market, allowing them to exit. The jury is still out whether this strategy will work.

    Everything needs to work perfectly for the Fed to be able to keep all the plates spinning, creating the illusion of recovery. We’ll see.
    • Jun 14 2013: Hi Ivy,

      I'd better not start with my disclaimers or I'll be here all day (but as you will have guessed, I'm not an economist either)! I appreciate your transparency and assure you that I'm just as interested in your views as ever.

      The three issues that you identified are indeed all major factors in the current financial crisis. I think that there is a third over-arching factor that you raise in your point 1) above/below, which is the lack of understanding of the reality of the fiat/loan based nature of money itself. Not only is the true nature of how money is created not understood by the vast majority of people, it is not understood and misunderstood by almost everybody.

      I personally believe that there are inevitable consequences to the current system that are as drastic and revolutionary and anathema to society as some of the consequences of general relativity, for example. But it is not possible to speculate, theorise and test these consequences the way that one can with a mathematical formula describing the nature of the universe. And so, we are the experiment!

      (I am not saying I know what these consequences are, just that they exist.)

      There are some fascinating books on this including New Money for a New World (http://www.amazon.com/New-Money-World-ebook/dp/B006MXZBR6) which I am working my way through at the moment.

      It always amuses when people talk about how much Greece owes to this country or that country, and how much Ireland owed to Germany etc - as if the Entire financial system wasn't just a huge 3D spiderweb of debt that could never be fully repaid.

      But I'm heading off on a tangent... I believe that 'free' stuff and alternative currencies might be the chink in the armour that the monetary system needs. Have you come across these ideas or do you think they have any traction?
  • Jun 14 2013: Hi Gordon,

    First a disclaimer: I am not an economist, I am just an avid reader of extremely dry financial books and articles. So my opinions are just that.

    I agree with you that we (USA) missed out on an opportunity to press the financial reset button in the 2008 crisis. I am sorry to say I think we will have another chance to reset the system. Here is why.

    Clearly, you and I don’t think like a banker. The financial crisis occurred due to (at least) three things: the creation of fiat money that is not based on any measure of intrinsic value (it doesn’t have to be gold, but any asset that hold value), the financial practices of loan-making and rehypothecation.

    1) If you want to read a book about how money is created from thin air, I recommend “The Creature from Jekyll Island” by G. Edward Griffin. If more people would read and understand this material, I think that our cultural practice of living off credit, spending on consumables rather than assets, and accepting inflation as a natural phenomenon would cease.
    2) For the second point, what I am talking about is the way banks take your one dollar deposit, and loan it out ten times. Some of those loans are to other banks, who take their one dollar and loan it out ten more times, and on and on it goes. So one dollar of an asset (your cash) gets hyper inflated by multiple orders of magnitude. Borrowing money for an asset that will appreciate in value or an investment is ok, borrowing money to go on vacation is not. When enough consumer loans go bad, the entire chain deflates. Americans are levering up again, and they are not buying assets. They are buying cars on cheap credit, and maxing up their credit cards.
    3) Lastly, rehypothecation is the practice by banks and brokerage firms of using, for their own purposes, assets that have been posted as collateral by their clients. I think this is the prime mechanism behind the current stock market recovery.
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    Jun 14 2013: I am in deep and emphatic disagreement with the narrative of Andrew McAfee. Since this is not a place to criticize the idea contained in his talk, I shall place my perspective for consideration.
    The neo-classical economics does not take into account natural capital or the ecological cost of production. Within such a limited faculty, it does not seem wise to discuss abundance. We must be wary of taking the definition of technology (that it frees us up from labor) too far because we, human beings, have a biological identity too and that identity demands a threshold labor that we are not putting in. A modern human being, left to elements, has a very low probability of survival.
    Artful expression and pleasurable vacations are very possible within work of hard labor. That technology will free us up seem scary to me: free from what? Life loses true value without tangible and physical engagement with environment.
    • Jun 14 2013: Hi Pabrita,

      Thanks for your sharing your perspective. I do not see as direct an opposition between your views and those of Andrew McAfee but obviously I only have a very limited understanding of both of your positions.

      I do believe, however, that one of the primary drivers of the advances in society in general (including philosophical, medical and standards of living) over the past few centuries, is the technological advances that we have made.

      I think there is a fundamental question here as to what we are at our core. I believe that technology can allow us to become "more human" and that this is a good thing. I think it will empower greater engagement with our fellow humans, society as a whole, ourselves and our environment.
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        Jun 14 2013: I think it's bad news for both Ted and Bill but Ted is worse off as he doesn't know that yet.
        I agree with you about the fundamentality of the question about the core values, yes. I feel more human as failing, struggling and laboring with my environment than getting the better of it.
        Thank you for your reply.
  • Jun 13 2013: In my rare free time, I am slowly reading "Lights in a Tunnel" http://www.thelightsinthetunnel.com/, which is focused on just this issue from a different perspective.
    • Jun 14 2013: Thanks for the tip Robert, it's also now Amazon-ing its way to me.
  • Jun 12 2013: From http://poetry.rapgenius.com/F-scott-fitzgerald-the-great-gatsby-chapter-vii-lyrics#note-1178209:

    ""What shall we do with ourselves this afternoon?" cried Daisy, "and the day after that, and the next thirty years?"

    Fitzgerald emphasizes Daisy’s restlessness here. With a great fortune, social standing, and material possessions, Daisy does not have much else to desire or seek in her life.

    The seemingly endless language that Daisy uses draws attention to the upper class' restlessness in the 1920s. During this era of booming industrialization and progress, restlessness was solved with parties, drinking illegally during prohibition, and in Daisy’s case, day trips to New York."

    Is this our future? Drinking, drugs, apathy, depression, hopelessness? Will we continue the trend of a two tier system of TEDs vs BILLs? This will give the TEDs something to do (control the BILLs), and if the BILLs are blissfully stoned, things will be great - no?

    The place of money in our society is the least of my worries when machines replace humans in the world of work. Money is merely a means for people to exchange goods and services, nothing more. When we can get everything we need from machines and no longer need to interact with each other, money becomes irrelevant. What worries me is what happens when we don't need each other because machines take care of our every need but one.

    We can all get on the happy talk bandwagon to sooth our minds about the inevitable age of the machines. That will change nothing about the reality. Time to put your tray tables up and fasten our seatbelts. We are in for some turbulence.
  • Jun 12 2013: My prediction:

    Robots and automation will indeed reduce the need for "labor" and will continue to reduce the middle class.

    Nothing will be done about it until we have experienced at least 10 continuous years with unemployment above 7%.

    Things will get much, much worse before this country becomes capable of realizing that capitalism has never before faced this kind of challenge.

    The industrial revolution created millions of jobs for uneducated workers. We are progressing to the next level, which will eliminate a large percentage of those jobs.
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      Jun 12 2013: See the book, "The Third Industrial Revolution" by Jeremy Rifkin.
      • Jun 12 2013: Thanks for the recommendation Theodore, that looks like a book that might help me along in understanding some of the key drivers of the issues at stake here.
      • Jun 12 2013: Thanks for the link Theodore, I'll watch it this evening. (I've ordered the book already.)
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    Jun 11 2013: I have heard it said, that the best thing to happen for the world would be an alien/intergalactic invasion for the whole world to come together as one, aka Planet Earth against the invaders! Highly improbable as it may be, to me, this is the only real way to create the sort of ideal your post has posited, Earth needs to have one population, not one divided by countries.
    Imagine now, this place, as one. There would be a World governance of some kind. The minerals and natural resources of the planet would be for the populations of the planet. Further, it has been stated that the costs of World war 1, would have equated to being able to afford a tractor and farm for every person on the planet at the time (words to that affect).
    Without a doubt there is enough abundance to go around, tho me thinks it more realistic to have a bare minimum safety net for populations until they have been able to better establish themselves in terms of basic neccessities being met and quality of life. Presently there are extremes in terms of poverty between 1st world and their 3rd world counterparts.
    Incrementally, the world is raising the standard of living across nations and I have read that the next big cheap market to out source to, because China and India are getting comparatively more expensive, is Africa.
    That said, it may take a few generations but it would appear tracking this way will eventually see more people better off. Notwithstanding, if something could be done sooner, all the better! : D
  • Jun 11 2013: I got my first job at 15 at a restaurant taught me a bit but the Germans are getting 15 year old kids at Siemens on apprenticeship programs, you wonder if pharmaceuticals is the same. I think we've robotized everything easy to robotize or more accurately exported them to Bangladesh or a bit of both. I think Bangladesh may see more robots now that they had those fires and demanded so much attention. Still the robots are in place and humans are going where they can't HVAC/ Boiler repair comes to mind. The trucks that drive themselves why not just high speed trains?
    Now it's an issue of eliminate two jobs create one in regulation, because resources are harder to obtain, because we're interested in new things for instance revolution in DNA printing or environmental degradation. Also for twenty years or so we'll have that bubble we're an elderly class will take much of the leisure time of people.
  • Jun 10 2013: Really? As the marginal cost of producing something approaches zero, so does the price, and scarcity can certainly get close enough to being eliminated as to be effectively eliminated.
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      Jun 10 2013: The price of healthcare in the UK and soon the US is "zero" but the demand is infinite so they are forced to ration to the point of absurdity.
  • Jun 10 2013: Hmm, that's a witty take on it but is there any support for that? The height of Greek civilisation were characterised by what we would think of as free - on the backs of slavery of course, but it produced some excellent philosophers (which, using the term prosaically, includes mathematicians and astronomers etc).

    I don't see what's impossible about it, it's just getting from here to there. Does anybody honestly think that a monetary system would continue indefinitely into the future? If we survive the next 1,000 years and continue to make even a reasonable amount of techological progress, would we still be using a monetary system to exchange value?
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      Jun 10 2013: And look at the Greeks today (8^(l)

      Yup there will always be some sort of money.
      • Jun 12 2013: Yes, there will be some sort of money in the future society of abundance, there probably will be some sort of a government issued personal "credit card" which is assigned a given amount of "credits" for several categories of products as food, clothes, entertainment tickets, fuels or electric charges for cars, etc. so no nominal cash money would be involved. However, that's still money in essence.
        As for the robots vs manual labor, we must reckon that machine can outperform man in strength, precision/dexterity. injury resistance and endurance without emotion, so in practical sense, we only need human skills to innovate, carry out advanced research and development AND CARING OF OTHER PEOPLE (even that kind of tasks will have lot of mechanical assistance from the robots too.)
        Also the robots and new type of appliances will have a self diagnosis of which parts are broken and indicating the information to a robot to order a replacement part)
        Since there would be many such people who could only be in servicing the caring work of the young and elderly, there would be more leisure to everybody, like that shown in sci-fi movies. In a resource-abundant society, then the government will issue living credits for all citizens. Logically, the managers and new engineers and researchers in manufacturing industries and food industries and teachers, etc will be paid slightly more.
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    Jun 17 2013: Hello Gordon, I really am very grateful for your kind attention. Will be glad to send you this book as a gift. (no need to buy it)
    Must run, but will figure out where to send it tonight. Thank you. VN
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    Jun 15 2013: I wrote a book "THE NOBLE SOCIETY" where I depicted the society of Minds, extremely creative and interactive, where they are able to Create anything they wish --- on their own. I'd like to send it to you if you wish, as a gift. Do you have any PO BOX?

    "The Noble Society" establishes a new, unusual genre. It is part twenty first century fantastic comic book, part profound philosophical literary work. It views the essence of our existence in a new way while at the same time making us laugh. While the characters look, move, think, and act in amusing and seemingly ridiculous ways, the ultimate meaning of the tales is embedded in Vera Nova's surprising ideas that suggest to profoundly change fundamental human concepts such as understanding of mundane reality, independence, money, entertainment, social structures, ethics, love, war, time and space. This beautiful book is a literary, and undoubtedly philosophical treasure."
    - (C.W. Maes)
    • Jun 17 2013: Forgive my for "looking a gift horse in the mouth". Is there an electronic version available? Unfortunately, paper books tend to sit on my shelf, unread, forever. My iPad is my reading tool these days.
      • Jun 17 2013: Hi Vera - I'd love to read your book (and am perfectly willing to purchase it too). Is there a private message function here? I can't find one. If you go to my corporate website, which is part of my profile, then you'll find my email address on there and I can give you my PO Box (I trust this community it's the trawling programs that scrub sites for this info that I'm wary of).

        Thanks! (And your website looks fascinating, I'm reading through it now - I think that Edward Lyions (below) might be interested in what you're doing.
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        Jun 17 2013: Robert, hopefully some day soon I'll manage to make an electronic version. Sorry, for tthe inconvenience.
  • Jun 15 2013: Abundance is controlled by the scientists. Guaranteed income is the proper segway or transition to free. There can't be free with too many people still placing faith in paper-imagined-value. Step by step we shall be free. We are only babies and 90% of history is of a hunter-gatherer typing, so give your self a breather and we'll do fine.
  • Jun 14 2013: I think your (very understandable) reluctance and suspicion is one of the barriers to something like this taking off. "Alternative currencies" is misleading in that these solutions tend to be alternatives TO currency rather than anything else (so, not just a replacement like Bitcoin or a black market). More of a mix between barter and an alternative medium, without it breaking the laws that are present in most countries regarding legal tender etc.

    The local idea you have suggested is very much in line with the thinking these guys apply - but a lot of it local in the sense that it is within a given industry rather than a geographically local issue (although frequently, that too!) They give a number of examples but I don't have the book with me and would probably do them a disservice in any event. One of the authors gave a brief TEDx talk on it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nORI8r3JIyw
  • Jun 14 2013: So Gordon, the funny thing is, I have noticed that when I become of aware of trends and conditions like this, I'm not alone. I wonder if there is a general awakening going on right now?

    The Japanese government is giving us a preview of our future, showing us you can't devalue your currency to prosperity.
  • Jun 13 2013: Reading the comments brought back to mind an internal debate I've been having since I saw the latest "Star Trek" movie. The question I've been arguing with myself is; "What is the economical basis for the Star Trek civilization?" Given the sheer cost to maintain something equivalent to Star Fleet, leads to; "Where does the money come from?" Maybe that is where we are heading; a world where something equivalent to Star Fleet is what keeps everyone busy. ... or a world of pampered do-nothings. Bottom-line, today's economic structures most likely won't work in that world. How do we find a new structure?
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      Jun 13 2013: A new structure must take place slowly and not over night. Free money will not change much of anything. It will only increase the price you pay for a happy meal just as raising minimum wage does every time. This will not take the strain off of society in the long run just as been repeated over and over in history. We must start thinking less individually. Let technology ease us in a way everyone benefits from it by decreasing the hours we work per week with out layoffs. This will drive us to advance in technology rather than for one's own wealth (competition). New ideas, technology, and innovation should not be choked for the monetary system as it is today. Solar power is a good example of this or any alternative simple ways to produce energy. They are greatly suppressed by the monetary system by the fear of more jobs lost or unemployment. The service industries will be the last to fall under monetary policy. Sorry, I do not watch or ever been able to sit through a star trek movie or episode even. It seems very related but trying to watch them was painful for some dull strange reason. Go on and stick a knife in my side Star Trek fans. Does money make us perform better? Does money help us find the virtues within ourselves? It is in our nature to do good for the most part. Mix it with greed (money) and people get off track easily. Ask my baby's momma! HA Take me to the cleaners.
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      Jun 13 2013: Total abundance as seen in sci fi like star trek and the Culture is of course not yet possible. In order for us to attain this state E=MC2 must be completely explored, understood and controlled. We must get to a level of understanding and control where matter can be created from energy at our will.
      Once matter can be created - money will have no further meaning.
    • Jun 14 2013: Both Vincent and Douglas make good points here - a) it needs to take place slowly and b) once we have total abundance money will be totally irrelevant.

      But what is it that happens in the interim? It is highly unlikely that we will wake up one day in the next 500 years to find a complete lack of scarcity and, therefore, the ability to abandon money immediately. Can we direct the abundance that is present now (primarily information) and those that are around the corner, such that they could be a stepping stone to abundance for food basics and energy throughout the globe?

      (And thanks for mentioning the Culture Douglas, Mr. Banks is on a lot of our minds - if not Minds - these days, I miss him already.)
  • Jun 12 2013: Hi Ivy - em, mostly TED's but a couple of BILL's who took some risks early on and did very well out of it.

    I think it's tempting to imagine a world where if we all focused on the top 5 problems that we would solve them. But the solutions tend to be more tricky than that and history is full of lucky breaks from other fields that provide the solution so badly needed in this one. Personally I think that if we could just get a little more open in the way research and data is shared that we would see breakthroughs in many fields. That would be a wonderful first step.

    I haven't such long conversations about Bill & Ted since I was a teenager...
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    Jun 12 2013: None has mentioned the possibility of robotics that repair other robots.

    How about a very comfortable maximum wage. The middle class would not get strung out on the fact that they are the one's "supporting" the poor every time they get their pay check. Wait, where is the middle class exactly now?

    What about cutting the working hours per week as technology advances instead of lay offs?
    • Jun 12 2013: Hi Vincent, I think that the option to cut hours per week is something that does, largely, already exist. But to a very limited number of people (micro-entrepreneurs and employees at flexible companies).

      I think that any limitation on the top end creates a lot of issues - it's sort of like making lotteries illegal - it's the illusion of being able to win/earn unfathomable amounts of money that drives a lot of people. (When in reality you don't need anything like that to live extremely comfortably. But that doesn't mean that you should remove the incentive/possibility.)
  • Jun 11 2013: Yeah, the common enemy is certain a romantic mythology. The closest we will come is likely to be a near-earth asteroid threat or something along those lines.

    Curious statistic about the cost of WWI - I'm sure WWII would be something similar but it's not a difficult argument to make that the net effect of it many years hence, was almost the same (wars are, after all, massively 'productive' endeavours and we got computers and cheap airplanes, largely, out of the technological advances made in WWII).

    I do like the statistics that claim that the standard of life in India, for example, in 100 years, will be better than the richest person alive in the present day. That always encourages me - but I'm more concerned with the present day than a century on.

    Thanks for your thoughts.
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      Jun 11 2013: I don't think your thinking in your second paragraph is necessarily at odds with the claim that the requirement for physical labor of the traditional sort will be reduced. Your argument is opposed, rather, to the claim that physical/mechanical jobs will disappear entirely.

      I also did not hear him argue that Wall Street executives were the backbone of the economy. I heard, rather, the common argument that relatively speaking, knowledge workers would be in greater demand and those who do mechanical sorts of jobs would be in less demand. Knowledge workers are a much broader category than Wall street executives.
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          Jun 11 2013: I agree that his talk broke no new ground and that manufacturers are increasingly using labor overseas that comes at very low wages.

          I don't think, though, that the distinction between what you call labor and technical jobs is rigid. We all use a mixture of skills in our work, regardless of what we do. The "labor" job of the future or even the present may involve a different mix of skills than in the past, leaning more toward what the speaker might think of as knowledge.
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        • Jun 11 2013: Hi LaMar,

          You're right on so many points it's hard to know where to start!

          Yes, labour should definitely be both worth more from a monetary point of view and also be valued more by society. I do think, however, that there is a shift happening in that labour will, in 50 years or so, be more closely aligned with service and will have greater technical requirements given that there will be a lot of machines doing work that need repairs etc (as you point out).

          But one of the reasons why I am fascinated by the impact that free things might have is that I believe it could drive down the cost of, for example, a college education. Bear in mind that the US is almost unique in how much a university education costs. In most of Europe it is a few thousand dollars a year and in a lot of countries students attend for a nominal fee but then receive a monthly stipend that more than covers their tuition (but it is, ostensibly, for living expenses and so on).

          In those countries, it is quite easy for children from any working background to attend college.
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    Jun 10 2013: it is very easy. none of the laws of economics holds in a society of abundance, if you use it as an economic term. but it matters not, since scarcity can not ever be removed.
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    Jun 10 2013: Free would be tantamount to this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wnevk-6h6aI

    And no it is not possible