TED Conversations

Andre Hoogeveen

Specialist, Apple Computer Inc.

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What benefits and challenges might arise as a result of transitioning from a monetary system to a resource-based society?

In other words, if we were to eliminate all forms of money and bartering, what changes - large and small, positive and negative - might we see?

Thus, imagine a world in which there is a comprehensive accounting of the planet's resources, such as fresh water, arable land, minerals, and animal life. Further contemplate that technology and automation have begun to eliminate dangerous, boring, or repetitive jobs. Finally, take a moment to ponder the possibilities if each person were given the opportunity for a quality education and the ability to reach their highest potential.

Indeed, there is a lot to take in, and no single answer could account for the many facets of such a scenario. Nevertheless, from a position of sustainability, I think we must realistically look at what the monetary system has done, and what ever-developing technology will do.

As you consider your possible answer(s), please reflect on the following:

- The effect of education on the birthrate.
- Ownership of the Earth's resources.
- The concept of "usership" as opposed to the "right of possession".
- The inevitability of "technological unemployment".

I thank you kindly for reading this, and for taking the time to answer!


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  • Aug 4 2013: (I am sorry in advance for my mistakes in English, I am not a native speaker)
    Money is a great tool. It's a tool that was invented to allow people to speak a common language when trading, exchanging, providing services. It also allows people to be equals, if not in the amount of money they possess, at least when it comes to the prices of the ressources they want to buy.

    Any single kind of currency causes inequalities. Start making water a currency and some powerful/skillful tradesman will get a sufficient amount of it to be considered "rich" and thusly will threaten your access to water. Money is not the problem and I don't think we can ever find a better system. Do you try to change mathematics if your equation shows you cannot fly and it is so unfair ? (I'm carricaturing a little bit here...)

    I think it would be a terrible mistake to make ressources a currency of any kind. Look at what happens with oil for example... You will not change a system by changing the elements it's hinged on, but by changing the perception and the use people make of it.

    So money is a great tool... and it is misused. And it is so because it is used based on selfish interests and on the principle that you can get as much as you want, it is not moral for anyone to limit your "success" (since success is measured by the amount of money you manage to get your hands on). When some people can possess as much money as some extremely poor countries can spend in years, to me there is something wrong.
    As a society, I think it irresponsible to not limit the access to money. I am not talking about comunism here. I think to give value to things we need people richer than others, it gives an authenticity and a reality to "success". But still, being successful and being allowed to get so rich you can out-influence governments are too different things. (aaaaaand I'm out of characters... :( )
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      Aug 6 2013: I agree with you completely: Whatever the currency at hand is, many of the chief power brokers will find ways to control and exploit it. However, I think the change that we seek has to take place in our collective social conscience. I am encouraged by the fact that I've noticed more and more "open source" projects, for example, Britta Riley's innovative gardening project. More good examples can be found in the book "Half The Sky: Turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide". This book showcases the efforts of small organizations, run by the people who need them the most, changing the status quo one life at a time. I feel that it is grass-roots efforts of people helping each other that may help to equalize some of the power inequities that we see presently. Then again, I'm just wishing, not really sure of the concrete impact of such efforts.
      • Aug 6 2013: It is indeed a matter of changing the way we see our own role in our soeciety (if this is what you mean by our collective social conscience). Yet, I would worry about the fact that this is not a all what our politicians seem to be aiming at. I'm young and may be wrong, but to me politics are about showing people the path, the solutions to nowadays issue. What strikes me more and more is how very often politicians point at today's issues rather than at tomorrow's solutions.

        While I grow more and more convinced that we need a change in the way we live together, to get to logics of groups rather than of individual comfort, I have a hard time seeing any sign from the politicians in my country towards such dynamics. Am I wrong or over simplifying things ? Probably, I certainly am aware of all the things I don't know and don't understand yet to believe others are just dumb while I'm a prophet having all the answers.

        The current problem with illegal downloading is to me a striking example. How can governments keep applying laws that massive amounts of users/consumers/citizens ignore simply because they KNOW they are being abused ? Although I do not download myself, because of principles I hold dear, I completely agree when friends tell me the price is clearly a rip off considering the benefits hollywood (for one) makes for each blockbuster they release. And the situation is stuck simply because people do it individually, despite the fact that they form bigger and bigger communities (the pirate bay for example), because these communities have no tool, no credibility to be heard by our leaders and decision-makers.

        By the way, it seems to me that some of the most influent groups that are not lobbying and still manage to have some sort of influence on their ways of consumption are great at using the internet as a way to stand for themselves. In truth, apart from these, I don't know of any other group managing influence without resorting to political lobbies.
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          Aug 12 2013: "I have a hard time seeing any sign from the politicians in my country towards such dynamics. Am I wrong or over simplifying things?"

          Unfortunately, Alex, I do not think you are wrong or that you are over-simplifying the issue. People in positions of power, or who have great wealth, will certainly do their best to avoid any change in the current (monetary) system.

          Also, as this is a complex issue, no single solution will resolve all of the challenges. However, I continue to believe that we need to move away from the corrupting effects of money and toward an open system based on true need versus available resources. Virtually every television program I watch, and every radio program I listen to that discusses some societal ill ends up tracing it's root cause back to some form of greed or corruption having to do with money.

          One example had to do with a program that discussed the fines banks were made to pay for the (U.S.) financial meltdown of 2008. The fines added up to billions of dollars. If money makes for such a great fungible commodity or resource, then we have simply wasted so much of it through greed and corruption. Imagine the billions of dollars currently tied up in the banks of the relatively small number of wealthy people around the world. What could we be doing with this "great resource"?

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