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 12 2013: Andre : I sympathize with you general goals, but I still do not have a plausible vision in mind of how it might work. Perhaps you know of the many experiments along these lines, from the Soviet Union, Brook Farm,, Israeli Kibbutzes., and many others.; They usually start with some Charismatic leader. but run afoul of ordinary life. Most people tend to let the enthusiasts do most of the work, unless there is some strong "shaming" going on, or some overly organized administration. It comes down to "Fairness". In times of crisis, many people are willing to pitch in, even to an extreme degree, but after he crisis seems over, people tend to relax (let others do the work). This attitude undermines the whole scheme, and leads to calls for "Privatization" Something similar happened in England in the Middle Ages, when the Common Land custom broke down, by "Enclosures". How do you plan to deal with that?
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      Aug 13 2013: Shawn: I do not think there is a simple answer for any challenge related to transitioning to a resource-based society. Any one problem will likely have a multi-faceted solution.

      With regard to work/labor, technology and automation will play an increasingly significant role, much more than they did in any "utopian" experiment. I think that "technological unemployment" is a very real - and growing - phenomenon, and needs to be addressed head-on. Naturally (one might presume), the owners and operators of businesses and factories will be attracted to further cutting back their overhead by replacing human workers with machines. Why not embrace this trend and stay ahead of the curve, so that people may be freed from danger and drudgery, and at least given the option to do something meaningful?

      As to laziness, there may always be a subset of any population who choses do to little to nothing, and - short of public humiliation - I do not know if there is a simple solution to rectifying this. However, I am confident that most people either have or will develop a desire to do something with the time they have. Furthermore, I see education and training being entirely different in a resource-based society. With no artificial cost structure limiting access, people will more easily train or re-train in a variety of fields. Education will become more hands-on and real-world, with technology making learning more engaging and interesting.

      Finally, as we progress further into a resource-based society, fewer and fewer people will have to work "traditional" jobs. For those jobs that do remain, there should be a large enough well-trained populace so that no one person has to work more than a few hours per week.

      I remain optimistic that this is possible if we "work" together in coming up with solutions!

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