Spit-balling post scarcity societies

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Swank

and debonair
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I think humans will get there some day. Individual means of production so everyone has the possessions and food they need/want. Such technology will probably come along with subtle or brute force health advances. What happens next?

Some of the things I would expect:
1. Everyone retires to Hawaii. Not Hawaii in specific, but without the need to live near work or shopping, human beings could spread out and make very nice homes in places no one lives now, like Siberia or the Gobi.
2. Art, service or just appreciation will become the new specie. People will trade culture and take pride in their aspirations rather than their stuff. They will still take doing such things very seriously, creating another economy - but one not linked to basic needs.
3. Innovation will take new forms as people with the ability to do research act without the need to get grants or prove their worthiness for tenure. Some innovation will slow as people become unwilling to allow major rocketry or extreme engineering nearby.

So let's hear what you think would happen if everyone on earth was automatically self-reliant.
 
I think the following points are very debatable:
Whether People will largely prefer to be spaced out in spacious, tranquil private estates, rather than living in cities, where the action is more intense.
Whether given the resources, people will become aesthetes and innovators, rather than passive consumers of popular culture and junk food ( or even luxury food.)
Whether one-upmanship will disappear.

I suspect the picture would be mixed.
 
I think the following points are very debatable:
Whether People will largely prefer to be spaced out in spacious, tranquil private estates, rather than living in cities, where the action is more intense.
Whether given the resources, people will become aesthetes and innovators, rather than passive consumers of popular culture and junk food ( or even luxury food.)
Whether one-upmanship will disappear.

I suspect the picture would be mixed.
I guess I wasn't very clear. I don't cities will disappear - I think that they will scale back as those who want to have more space take advantage. But they will be residential/entertainment cities/art commune cities rather than primarily workplaces.

I do think that many people will continue to be "consumers", but they can consume material things that they recycle endlessly for material things, and those things will be viewed more as utility and less as prestige items. What I think is likely is that those same drives to consume and keep up with the Joneses will go toward conspicuously consuming art and hospitality. Most people won't be producing art, but they will patronize it.

One-upmanship won't disappear. It just might be channeled into other places. Some of that could remain toxic - people won't have wealth or possessions to show off, so the social climbing might be outrageous. But people will also form their own communities, so the climbers that infect one might not impact others at all.


But my thoughts aren't based on people changing as much as staying the same, and having different outlets to act upon in their same old ways.
 
I think humans will get there some day.

I disagree that we will ever be post scarcity due to the physical limits of technology (i.e. no Star Trek matter transporter tech), unequal distribution of resources (water, sunshine, good soil, minerals, fertilizer etc), problems generating energy as fossil fuel runs out, pollution from replacement energy production (like nuclear fuel, solar panels), the death of pollinators, climate change and water shortages, etc. etc. IMHO you can't extrapolate the zero marginal cost revolution in intellectual goods (like music, entertainment and information) to food production or manufacturing industries. Even with the zero marginal cost of digital goods you have scarcity - just that the scarcity is within the distribution systems (see the chip ad GPU shortages caused by Lockdown / Crypto mining).

Even consensus mechanisms like Blockchain are ways of mitigating infinite reproducibility (hence, blech, NFT's).

However, putting that aside for a moment and imagining that we were able to go post-scarcity, the biggest threat to the Utopian idea of luxury space communism are as follows:

The AI revolution, taken to its extreme means the end of all labour. Most people (namely the thinking classes) think this means an end to menial jobs, manual labour and people indulging their interests and hobbies, getting involved in research and so on or working in some exploratory capacity. Imagine all intellectual endeavours are obsolete. Humans are simply not needed for research or any kind of civic or intellectual capacity. Everything is automated.

Schools are obsolete. There's no need to train humans as everything they ever need is available at the touch of a button. The motivation to get qualifications to research or attain knowledge is simply not there. Generations of children growing up without basic knowledge. Just like what happened to human memory after the invention of writing, our brains will shrink to fit the environment.

That, coupled with the kinds of diversion that entertainment systems that deliver individually optimised entertainment tailored specifically to your needs is the end of social interaction. Imagine being hooked on something that knows exactly what you want and can deliver it to you there and then. Systems that exploit our reward systems. Instant dopamine hits. Virtual beings that can immerse us in echo chambers of our own choosing. Constant praise and admiration from virtual constructs. No need to interact with real human beings. Man made culture ceases to exist. The social space disappears.

Art, Music, Performance - all unnecessary in the face of artificial wonders that can produce beyond the highest ever standards of art, greater than humankind is able.

Imagine a society with hierarchies of popularity, of social credit - where popular or good works are rewarded. Where people collect the equivalent of likes for activities in the real world. Where the socially awkward or the outcasts are penalised and marginalised for not fitting in. A transitory stage for the obsolete human.

Or a world where thrills are obtained by violence. Groups of roaming males, hopped up on testosterone and boredom seek out thrills, smashing and breaking stuff. Maybe our Ai keepers have to step in and adjust our genetic makeup - dial down the warrior gene, up the docility, reduce our curiosity, reduce our sexual drive and reduce social conflict. Release women of the burden of childbirth - perfect neutered gentle apes. To domesticate us. Give evolution a helping hand by making us docile, contented herds, grazing on humanfeed, wandering around in fields in states of dumb bliss, all watched over by Richard Brautigan's Machines of Loving Grace.
 
Strife is a necessary component of life, i think.

There are a couple of interesting videos on YouTube about the Mouse Utopia experiment. I think a post scarcity society would be doomed to fail.
 
The problem with everyone having all of the possessions and food/drink that they want is that it would make money redundant, which I just can't see ever happening. It would require the whole world to move into a non-monetary based system at the same time, and would also raise the question as to why anyone would work a 40 hour week shift when they didn't have to.

So who then would build the properties, maintain the power, manufacture and repair the replicators, keep law and order etc etc? It would also require those who are rich and powerful to relinquish their elevated status, which I think again would be unlikely. There's also the danger that in a society where there is mass unemployment due to no actual requirement for people to work, they wouldn't turn to cultural and artistic pursuits; which is one of the reasons why historically those in charge have tried to keep the population busy.

It would be great to think of a society where we could dispense with money, hunger, want and just generally get on with each other. This is the kind of society that I think Gene Roddenberry envisaged with Star Trek. But I don't think that we will ever reach that situation; its far more likely to end up with HG Wells' vision of a far off future in The Time Machine.
 
I don't know if we'll get there, but something like The Culture would be quite pleasant and could survive. I think you would need a large amount of technology to support and protect such a society, but why not? I could see one society getting to this state first, and having to fight off rivals trying to prevent post-scarcity happening.

Since different people have different ideas of enjoyment and fulfilment, you might have different planets or regions dealing with different styles of life: library planet, exciting sports planet, club 18-30 planet etc. Likewise cities and countryside. I do wonder how many people would genuinely find meaning in quiet and philosophical pursuits, at least not to begin with, and you might have to deal with a lot of couch potatoes. People would still strive though, just not to survive in society. Maybe a lot of activities would be graded like martial arts.

You would also need to be vigilant against the sort of people who find pleasure and fulfilment in creating suffering: psychopaths, sadists and so on. I'm sure a future society would have a way of removing or reprogramming them. Also, the removal of gross inequality and turbulence would make it much harder for demagogues to whip up support.

I wonder if a lot of this depends on what you basically think about human beings.
 
For post-scarcity to happen we need to rid ourselves of the idea that we must compete for every little thing. Those days are over. Start small with free and open education as a basic human right, for life. If kids (and adults) never have to worry whether they will have a place in education or worry about having to pay for it, I think you'd see a dramatic drop in crime and such. I'm not saying that standards aren't maintained, but if someone wants to go to university, trade-school, or whatever, then they can just go. They still need to do the work to qualify, but if they don't then they can just try something else until they do qualify.

Once we stop inflicting crushing debt on people just to be educated, the idea of post-scarcity will be well on its way, IMO.
 
The problem with everyone having all of the possessions and food/drink that they want is that it would make money redundant, which I just can't see ever happening. It would require the whole world to move into a non-monetary based system at the same time, and would also raise the question as to why anyone would work a 40 hour week shift when they didn't have to.

So who then would build the properties, maintain the power, manufacture and repair the replicators, keep law and order etc etc? It would also require those who are rich and powerful to relinquish their elevated status, which I think again would be unlikely. There's also the danger that in a society where there is mass unemployment due to no actual requirement for people to work, they wouldn't turn to cultural and artistic pursuits; which is one of the reasons why historically those in charge have tried to keep the population busy.

It would be great to think of a society where we could dispense with money, hunger, want and just generally get on with each other. This is the kind of society that I think Gene Roddenberry envisaged with Star Trek. But I don't think that we will ever reach that situation; its far more likely to end up with HG Wells' vision of a far off future in The Time Machine.
You're looking at this as an imposed system upon our own. But a lot of the problems we have, like crime, are a function of scarcity. The people that are criminals and their victims are generally have nots.

The reason to continue to "work" is the same as today - to provide for yourself. Its just that now you are the employer assembling your house, maintaining your power grid, etc.
 
Does post-scarcity imply that individuals have ready access to all goods that they may desire or does it imply that all goods are also of equally high quality? In the former case, there is still a reason for monetary systems and conflict. It is no longer about the availability of goods but the quality of goods. Everyone can have shoes, but only a few may have the latest logo emblazoned shoes. Everyone may have food, but only a few will be able to dine in a five star establishment. In this case, perhaps we are closer to a post scarcity situation than we think.
 
Does post-scarcity imply that individuals have ready access to all goods that they may desire or does it imply that all goods are also of equally high quality? In the former case, there is still a reason for monetary systems and conflict. It is no longer about the availability of goods but the quality of goods. Everyone can have shoes, but only a few may have the latest logo emblazoned shoes. Everyone may have food, but only a few will be able to dine in a five star establishment. In this case, perhaps we are cl8oser to a post scarcity situation than we think.
In my view, true post scarcity (and the most likely scenario) is when individuals all own devices that can manufacture almost anything with minimal energy and waste.


And my premise is that such an enviroment would end traditional economies, but new economies would arise to replace them. Even if the product quality was quite high, you may still want to barter the output of your interests for a pair of handmade shoes or actual cooking. And you might offer your attendance at a concert or sharing of a rare song in compensation. Which is a bit like what you're suggesting.
 
No wonder dystopian fiction is so popular. No one even wants to discuss anything good happening.
I think that's the case because like it or not, most people are at least subconsciously aware of our nature. Human's are carbon based life, and here's the big billy bitch in the room about that: Every form of life currently catalogued is in some way, in conflict with some other life form or its environment. From single cell organisms to vertebrates. Everything is in conflict. Trees compete for the best spots to grow to get the most sunlight. Prides of lions compete for territory and food resources, and humans, well, we compete for literally everything! People wonder why there can be no peace on Earth? The answer is simple: because we're all just monkey's with car keys. We throw poop at each other figuratively and sadly, in some odd circles, literally.

We'd have to evolve intellectually in a positive way to put conflict behind us. That, sadly is not going well as we are actually getting dumber due to the side effects of our own achievements of conveniences. We're living in the very beginnings of the "idiocrisy."

The only real hope is for the right group of people to leave this planet and never come back to colonize a world far from here. They'd need to be of a common intellectual and scientifically minded nature who can design an idyllically utopian colony. Even then, that society would eventually face strife. Unless we genetically engineer ourselves to remove greed and violence out of our psyches, if you run the clock out long enough on even the most carefully planned civilization of humans, eventually there will be conflict.

Short of physically changing our DNA, which may still not be enough becuase of the very way our brains function, It's not possible to "idealist" our way towards a separation from our nature.
 
Even if the product quality was quite high, you may still want to barter the output of your interests for a pair of handmade shoes or actual cooking.
I believe the barter economy quickly breaks down and necessitates having an intermediate equivalent. There are only so many shoes that a shoe maker can provide in exchange for a particular meal. It becomes even more problematic when there is a time lag between the acquisition of raw materials and the availability of the finished goods.

I think embedded in this definition of post-scarcity, it is implied that raw material may be readily available, but finished goods are not. Without this restriction, there is no need for barter or trade.
 
I believe the barter economy quickly breaks down and necessitates having an intermediate equivalent. There are only so many shoes that a shoe maker can provide in exchange for a particular meal. It becomes even more problematic when there is a time lag between the acquisition of raw materials and the availability of the finished goods.

I think embedded in this definition of post-scarcity, it is implied that raw material may be readily available, but finished goods are not. Without this restriction, there is no need for barter or trade.
There is no need for trade in this scenario. Just desire.
 
I think that's the case because like it or not, most people are at least subconsciously aware of our nature. Human's are carbon based life, and here's the big billy bitch in the room about that: Every form of life currently catalogued is in some way, in conflict with some other life form or its environment. From single cell organisms to vertebrates. Everything is in conflict. Trees compete for the best spots to grow to get the most sunlight. Prides of lions compete for territory and food resources, and humans, well, we compete for literally everything! People wonder why there can be no peace on Earth? The answer is simple: because we're all just monkey's with car keys. We throw poop at each other figuratively and sadly, in some odd circles, literally.

We'd have to evolve intellectually in a positive way to put conflict behind us. That, sadly is not going well as we are actually getting dumber due to the side effects of our own achievements of conveniences. We're living in the very beginnings of the "idiocrisy."

The only real hope is for the right group of people to leave this planet and never come back to colonize a world far from here. They'd need to be of a common intellectual and scientifically minded nature who can design an idyllically utopian colony. Even then, that society would eventually face strife. Unless we genetically engineer ourselves to remove greed and violence out of our psyches, if you run the clock out long enough on even the most carefully planned civilization of humans, eventually there will be conflict.

Short of physically changing our DNA, which may still not be enough becuase of the very way our brains function, It's not possible to "idealist" our way towards a separation from our nature.


This reminds of the bit from HHGTTG when, on the false pretext that their world was doomed, the third of the world's populace deemed as 'useless', the so-called 'middlemen' (insurance salesmen, pubic relations executives, telephone sanitisers etc) were packed into a spacecraft and blasted into space, having been told the rest of the planet's population would follow.

Instead, the 'worthwhile' sections of the population stayed where they were, and lived happy and fulfilling lives. Until they were all wiped out by a particularly nasty bug someone picked up from a dirty telephone.
 
There is no need for trade in this scenario. Just desire.


It requires a great deal of understanding from the population, and an acceptance that they may have to work far harder, and for much longer, than someone else for the same returns. Humans aren't at that stage at the moment, and I'm not sure if they ever will be.
 
I think that Sorceress21 has hit on something when saying that part of the problem is that we are carbon based, and ingrained into us is a competitiveness to get what we need to survive and to thrive. A single carbon based form of life cannot survive without achieving an advantage over other carbon based life. Whether that's a tree reaching higher than others to grab the most sunlight, or animal growing faster or stronger to attack or evade other animals,

The problem is that this inbuilt formula for survival doesn't stop when we have what is needed to survive; partly because if we did it would allow the evolution of other lifeforms to catch up.

I suppose the answer lies in a non-carbon based life, when we can weed out the desire for things, because 'things' then become irrelevant. Virtual bodies in a virtual world would allow us to grow intellectually. But would we still be what defines us as human?
 
It requires a great deal of understanding from the population, and an acceptance that they may have to work far harder, and for much longer, than someone else for the same returns. Humans aren't at that stage at the moment, and I'm not sure if they ever will be.
No one would have to work. That's the point of post-scarcity.
 
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