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 7 2013: This idea has already been tried many times and has always failed (see communism). What would be different this time - how exactly would you put it into practice?
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      Aug 8 2013: One of the differences would be the complete abandonment of any form of money or bartering. Even those nations under Communist rule used money.

      The idea is to bypass the corruption, fraud, and abuse that seems to be inherent in a monetary system; simply look at any single problem in our world, and it usually leads back to something having to do with money. During the Great Depression, everything needed to operate the factories was there...except money. It's a tool that I believe has outlived its usefulness in our ever more technologically advanced world.

      Indeed, how to initiate a resource-based society is a good question (and one that I have no qualms acknowledging). Some believe it will require a global catastrophe before it can come into existence, while others think it is an inevitability that we will slowly transition to.

      Take some time to think constructively about how the entire world might benefit by sharing in the bounty of the world through thoughtfully developed technology. What would you do with your time if you did not have to "work" more than a few hours per week, and could pursue what it is that you would really like to do? How might your family (or your community) benefit?
      • Aug 12 2013: In other words, government confiscates all value and property. Government assigns all work. Government assigns all materials and outputs. There will be no compensation for anything, merely the government assignment. After all, if you give access to a "resource" based on that person's "labor" or based on ANY OTHER CRITERION than that person merely existing, then you have barter and you will have competition for people to get to those situations that obtain the most resources. All against all. And what of those who husband vs. those who squander? Does there have to be another redistribution to make sure everything stays "even"

        Go read "Harrison Bergeron".
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          Aug 12 2013: in another conversation (out of the many) i got the answer that it would be voluntary. there is no government, but computers that tells what to do, and it is up to the people to follow or not.

          there are many problems with that, but the most problematic for me is that it is never like that. first, all such ideologists tell you that they just propose. they are explaining what is good. but there is a logical followup to that. anyone not following the good way is obviously following the wrong way. it does not take long for people to start to force the good behavior. the thinking that X is bad, but we allow it because we value freedom is just not working. intentional or not, the VP is just another communist manifesto. only the wording has changed.
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          Aug 13 2013: Bryan, thank you for your response.

          Transitioning from our current system to one that is based on the optimal use of resources and escalating use of automation is - admittedly - very complex, and wrought with challenges. Consequently, one of the purposes of this conversation is to work through some of these challenges.

          While I do not think any one form of government would necessarily be the best or only method of exiting a monetary system, some form of central organization would probably help.

          Also, I don't think there would necessarily be a need for any form of (forced) mass exchange or redistribution. If we were to transition from "ownership" to "usership," people would be able to keep their existing property for as long as it is in their possession. For example, as long as you want to continue to use your current car, you may do so. However, once you decide to give it away, or trade it with someone else, then it falls within the sphere of "usership" of the recipient.

          I would love to hear your thoughts - if any - on this specific matter. Thanks!
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          Aug 13 2013: Krisztián, I would like to respond to your comment regarding the use of computers.

          Based on how I see computers being used in a resource-based society, I do not think they will tell anyone what to do. Rather, they will simply be a tool that is very fast and efficient at compiling and analyzing data. They will present information, which will then provide the user(s) with some options.

          For example, imagine a database that is being compiled regarding global sources of iron, both raw and from recycled sources. Information from around the world is entered via terminals located around the globe into a central computer. This ever-changing information is compared to another (ideally linked) system that follows the worldwide demand for iron. An AI algorithm may be used to help illustrate which source best suits a corresponding need (related to location, ore type, and priority). Those who ultimately set the wheels in motion to distribute the ore may or may not use the information or suggestions provided by the computer. As the database becomes more accurate (because of greater accuracy in measuring both ore supplies and demand), people may begin to rely more upon the computer, but it is not a requirement.

          Finally, I imagine that the priority of distribution could be controlled by a commonly held and agreed to "global declaration of universal rights," (explained further elsewhere in this conversation) where the ore would be used for the construction or rehabilitation of schools and hospitals before it is used for the construction of a roller coaster or dragster. This is just an example, of course, but I think you get the idea.

          Please let me know if you have any ideas for improving this!
      • Aug 13 2013: The first step will be to kill all humans, since this proposal runs counter to all human nature. We all innately value things differently, and it is impossible for these different values to perfectly mesh. What to do with dissidents? Kill them? Send them to the Gulag? If there is nobody with lots of guns around to kill people who don't play by the "no barter, no money" rule, people WILL come up with barter and then some form of money, simply because NO SYSTEM IS INFALLIBLE. Somebody will end up with something they want less than something someone else has. Either the two will barter/sell, one will steal from the other, or one will build up smoldering resentment that expresses itself in antisocial behavior. Money/trade/barter function as social pressure releases. The "fairness" of the schoolyard can only happen if we are dealing only with children and the adult has both no interest in the resources and absolute power over the children. You wish to reduce adults to tyrannized children.
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          Aug 14 2013: "You wish to reduce adults to tyrannized children."

          Far from it, Bryan. Please read carefully my other responses, and you will see that one of my repeating imperatives is to provide everyone with a broad, meaningful education. A well-educated population is one who is better able to prioritize people over things, better able to understand that a reasonably managed set of resources can provide for everyone, and better able to communicate and work through their differences.

          Sure, there will be exceptions, just like there are now. And it is certainly reasonable to think that we will have police, courts, and jails for some time to come...but the idea is that the need for these institutions will decrease as we move further into a society where necessities are more easily met, and the desire to steal or hurt is sharply reduced.

          Instead of assuming that everything will go to hell in a hand-basket, why not come up with ideas to help prevent that type of scenario. Thank you for your time.
      • Aug 14 2013: If an idea is simply blindly stupid, there is no point to trying to come up with ways to "make it work"--it will not and cannot work. This alleged "educatin" amounts to no more than diversions--bread and circuses for the plebes. No system is infallible. Somebody will be dissatisfied. So, you will either have to kill or imprison them. I live in something called "reality". In "reality", centralized control of economies will always end up in greater injustice than even the evils of unrestricted dog-eat-dog competition. No amount of airy-fairy fantasy will change this. What you call "education" could just as easily be called "indoctrination" or "brain-washing".
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          Aug 14 2013: Well, I find it hard to believe that you are truly happy with the current state of the world. Surely you can acknowledge the hundreds of millions who still live in poverty. How will our current system work for them, especially when more and more jobs are replaced by machines and robots? All I know is that this type of situation cannot go on indefinitely.

          Anyway, thank you for participating in this conversation!

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