TED Conversations

Russell Richard

Piping Stress Analyst, Piping Stress Inc.

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How would an economic system not based on the acquisition of material wealth work?

The internet is essentially a machine that duplicates products without expending resources. It is a literal cornucopia of content products. The SOPA discussions are demonstrating that the old style economics of one-way distribution will not work for content companies in the present and future. But, what about everything else?

As we gather knowledge about the universe, we are able to create things with greater and greater ease. In the case of just about all content, we have gathered enough information to create a system that effectively generates product for no cost. There is also, usually, no profit - people make things because they want to.

Physical objects are more difficult to generate in this manner. We know this because it still takes effort and resources to make them. However, there may come a time when physical objects are created just as easily as content is created through the internet. What happens then?

What happens when we can no longer rely on profit from making things? How do we create an economic system that isn't based on acquiring material wealth?

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  • Jan 21 2012: There is no way to produce without a measure of capitalism. The amount a society produces is equal to the amount it is capitalist. Even on the Internet, capitalism is what allows people to produce: bandwidth and sites are bought and sold, and it is because of this that we are able to do everything we like doing on the Internet. When people do not think they will gain something, they usually do not work. Even on the Internet, people only do a few things here and there usually, not hard work.
    For example, my brother made a chrome app that would let you see when you had comments on Facebook: he did this because he thought it would be useful to him, and it only took a few minutes to make it public for everyone. When it got many downloads, he was hired to work for Facebook. Russel Richard seems to be under the impression that the Internet works without Capitalism - in reality, the capitalism is there, just usually invisible.
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      Jan 22 2012: Capitalism has one major benefit - it mandates over-production. Overproduction is needed to make up for expired value and to fund potential value - the funding of potential value is the benefit. It allows for advancement. The big downside, of course, is that all this investment funding is in the hands of the currency-masters, not the community. SO all the advancement is skewed to the personal interests of the bankers .. no mater how philanthropic they may be, it is an unbalanced way forward - and the interests of most people are not adequately served.
      • Jan 23 2012: Nobody has ever said, "Oh, look, I have to much wealth." Therefore, I do not understand your use of the word "overproduction". Also, the point of capitalism is to serve everyones' interests, so I don't understand that part of your statement either. People can do whatever they want in capitalism - so long as they pay for it. If you don't pay the consequences of what you do, then you just have looting. (e.g. if you don't pay for stuff you take, or if you dump waste in someone else's backyard, both of which are common in nonfree societies) Looting is bad for everyone - therefore, capitalism is good for "the interests of the community" except for the would-be looters.

        I would also like to point out there is no such thing as "the will of the community" or, as Rousseau stated it, "the general will". Will is a characteristic specific to individuals, not groups. Humanity is not a massmind. Any belief that is built on humanity as a massmind, or the general will of humanity or the community, is inherently misguided.
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          Jan 23 2012: ERm .. I'm not sure which post you are replying to? I haven't mentioned any "will of the people". But if you are replying to my previous post, I can't see your connection between too much wealth and overproduction The concepts are not connected. I also refute that "people can do whatever they want in capitalism" - currencies and economies are rigidly regulated and contracted. And as for too much wealth - have a look around, many people turn their backs on riches. Looting normally happens in societies that exert repression and maintain a large gap between the "haves" and "have-nots". There's a ted talk here somewhere on the subject. I find It helps to use reason in discussion - emotions and dogma don't cut it.

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