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 3 2013: Eugenics might be a good place to start.

    What you describe is a complete re-tooling of global human consciousness and how we describe our relationship to the universe. It seems to be a logical, and perhaps inevitable next step in evolving as a species.

    There are two fundamental truths which drive economics: Resources are scarce and demand for finished goods is unlimited. For resource allocation we need to choose. For the method of production we need to choose. For distribution of finished goods we need to choose. In classical economics, the 'invisible hand' brings balance to the system because it is a system based on 'unbounded rationality' - meaning, when presented with choices, we always choose the optimal over suboptimal.

    But we human beings do not have unlimited rationality :-) All value is perceived value.

    One of my favorite concepts of economics is called 'pareto-optimality' which sets a point of satisfaction in an exchange wherein the buyer cannot add more satisfaction without the seller giving up satisfaction, and vice-versa. This is not a natural condition for price setting, and seems to be what might be the 'evolutionary stem' to evolve a market system towards a quasi-utopian system as described above.

    In order to change global consciousness, you need a conciousness-changing event. Those aren't fun. As we see so many times in so many of the great novels or films about future society, usually there is a disaster of epic scale. It aligns the vision of everyone on the planet and proposes a clear incentive to adopt a belief/value system that contradicts millions of years of evolution in our biology in terms of competition and selection, as well as thousands of years whatever sociological belief systems that shaped their life-choices.

    Your vision would afford a person a chance to 'pursue their happiness'. We would all need to have the desire to be happy and the actions and choices needed to optimize in that direction.
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      Aug 6 2013: Thank you for your response, Chris!

      Indeed, transitioning to a resource-based society will be a paradigm shift of the greatest kind, and not without difficulty. But I think such a transition offers our species the greatest long-term opportunity for survival and prosperity.

      Generally speaking, there are two ways this could come about: 1) some form of global catastrophe (physical and/or economic) which brings forth an opportunity to start over, or 2) a very gradual, decades- or centuries-long transition which could be largely imperceptible.

      Finally, should such a society come to pass, it would be foolish to think - as you have alluded - that everyone would be on board and willing to participate at all levels. Still, I think it's interesting and fun to discuss the possibilities and challenges!
    • Aug 12 2013: Chris: in the modern world, do you think it is accurate to say that resources are scarce , and finished goods demand unlimited?! The creation of new resources, such as subsituting Aluminum for steel, sand for copper wire, etc. , along with automation, AI and Robots changes everything. Also, I gather that the sale of "Finished Goods" often runs into potholes, so to speak. And thanks to the past 150 years of cheap power, we have come me to a point where unsold overproduction of finished goods is an ongoing problem.
      As for Global Consciousness, is this not a practicallly unstoppable tendency? At the very highest levels of international finance, (pretty important) we have already seen the almost total collapse of "National Sovereignty". Some of these amorphous entities obviously have more power than a great many "Nations". Of course, this may not be as widely perceived as it should be. Thanks no doubt to clever distracting manipulations, the "Bread and Circuses" of our Time, such as the nonsensical "War on Terror".

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