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: How would usership be established? In the Army , there was no particular ownership, or money required, but there were certainly supply procedures. How could this idea be made to work? Surely it would not be very stable to just give everyone a "share" of whatever it is. Many people would not even want their share, so some sort of trading or barter, would start immediately, leading to reinventing money, no doubt. Either that , or setting up some logbook of transactions, which would be awkward and annoying . Then there would be also feelings of "ownership" ; have you ever tried to take an old bone away from a dog?
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      Aug 13 2013: I think the baseline or starting point for usership would be whatever it is we have in our possession at the moment. The car I am driving now is mine as long as I want it until I give it to someone else; then they maintain possession until they decide to give it away. The same paradigm would apply to your toaster, CD collection, and house. Through this method, no one would feel that they would have to share everything immediately, or that something will be arbitrarily taken away.

      With regard to naturally-occuring resources (i.e., un-mined iron or uncut trees), these would belong to everyone, and would be acquired and divided according to a universally-declared global agreement (based on a list of fundamental priorities).

      Moderately refined resources, such as gold or diamond jewelry, could remain in private possession for as long as the "user" wishes, but larger quantities of these items (i.e., gold reserves) would also be redistributed based on the previously-established global agreement.

      Of course, this process would be difficult as people have become accustomed to "ownership" over the course of centuries. On the other hand, once such a system is well-established, I think people will enjoy the opportunity to "escape" their possessions to travel more easily, live in different parts of the world, and experience new items without having to save for purchasing them.

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