Universal Basic Income – updated

How Universal Basic Income Will Save Us

This is a very interesting discussion, and I have certain empathies with most of the perspectives shared.

I grew up on farms, learned to hunt and fish very young, trained as an ecologist 40 years ago, and spent over 15 years as a professional fisherman – so have some intimate experience of the theory and practice of living ecosystems – they are very dangerous places for individuals – however stable the systems may be for populations (and even at the population level many are highly unstable – even on the scale of human lifetimes).

Understanding evolution is tricky. There are many concepts involved, many levels of abstraction.
Evolved systems are not simple.
In 1978 I first read Richard Dawkins’ classic 1976 work “The Selfish Gene”. It remains the only book I have ever read cover to cover twice in one day.
It was (is) fascinating to me for the presentation in later chapters of the work of people like Axlerod and Maynard-Smith on the mathematics and logic of the incentive structures and strategy sets that power evolution.
Combining this work with an understanding of strategy spaces and algorithm spaces derived from the work of Wolfram and others, one can start to see the sorts of random walks through strategy spaces that evolution engages in.

In 1974 it became clear to me (after completing 3rd year undergraduate biochem studies) that the default mode for all cellular life is indefinite life (think about it, every life form alive today is part of an unbroken chain of cellular life going back over 2 billion years). Thus it was clear in logic that there must be some advantage to collections of cells creating forms with limited life (aging bodies). So for 40 years I have been dwelling in the enquiry of what sorts of systems and incentive structures are required to deliver the sort of security that will allow large populations of intelligent individuals with the possibility of living on indefinitely, to actually experience sufficient security in reality to have a reasonable probability of living a very long time (thousands of years and outward) and to also have as much freedom as possible.

What sorts of strategic spaces actually empower such an outcome?

When one engages in such an enquiry, one has to examine underlying assumptions and underlying incentives to as deep a level as possible.

It seems that we live in a universe that is fundamentally random, but that randomness is contained within very tightly constrained probability functions. When aggregated these probability functions give very predictable outcomes for large collections.

It seems clear in logic that only in such a mix of the random and the lawful can complex systems evolve in which the possibility of truly free choice exists (and not simply automata following rules at some ever deeper level).

Building back up from that foundation, it appears very probable that all life on this planet has emerged from inorganic systems through a processes of evolution by natural selection acting as a filter on an essentially random walk through nearby possibility space, where any individual line of evolution is almost as likely to go back towards simplicity as it is to head out towards greater complexity, though the system as a whole continues through this process to explore ever more complex areas of the infinite spaces of all possible strategies and possibilities.

So one simplistic view of evolution is the “nature red in tooth and claw” view of the competitive survival filter mechanism that has bought us to this point. That is a very real thing – a perspective with much power and potentially infinite depth to it. And it is only part of the picture.

Another possible view of evolution is to characterise what it is that allows for the emergence of new levels of complexity – not diversity within any level of complexity, but actual new levels of complexity.

When one adopts this view (which first occurred to me when I read of the work of Axelrod and Maynard-Smith in Dawkins in 1978), then it becomes clear that all new levels of complexity in the evolution of life on this planet have come into being through the emergence of new sets of strategic associations that prevented cheating strategies from destroying the new level of cooperation.

Human beings are arguably the most potentially cooperative entities yet to emerge from evolution, and because our neural networks are essentially unconstrained, cooperation is not guaranteed. We come pre-equipped with many levels of emotional and cultural systems that empower cooperation, and adoption of cooperative strategies is not a forgone conclusion.

When one starts to examine the domain space of possible attendant strategies to remove the benefit of cheating, the simplest classes of strategies can be generally classed as retaliator strategies – of which “tit-for-tat” is the most efficient of these simple strategies.

When one moves out more widely through the domain space, it emerges that “abundance” is actually a valid strategy. One means of removing the benefit from cheating is to provide such radical abundance that there is no benefit to cheating. In such an environment, the only strategies with positive payoffs are cooperative. That is, it is always in one’s own long term best interests to ensure the long term security and welfare of all other entities potentially capable of strategic awareness.

So standing in that perspective, and looking at the economic system within which we find ourselves, what is money?
Money seems to be a set of rules around a unit of accounting of what is essentially a market measure of value, that people believe in sufficiently that it has the power to influence decisions over time. In this sense it is a useful myth.
At any given instant there are present the goods and services that are present. Money is just a story, a set of beliefs, about the goods and services that may exist at some future time, and that is all that fiat money is.
In so far as people believe those stories, the stories have the power to influence the availability of goods and services in the future.

Throughout most of human history, most goods and services contained significant components of human skilled labour.
Neural networks can become very skilled, and they do so by doing.
The productivity of people increases as some function (usually non linear) of the amount of time they spend doing something.
This means that there is always an asymmetry between the amount of time a skilled individual needs to put in to produce a good or service and the amount of time a less skilled person requires. This asymmetry made markets useful in most situations.

People discovered that where repetitive work was involved, rewards (in terms of goods and services, or their proxy “money”) was a strong motivator; and recent research has demonstrated clearly that where more creative activity is involved, prizes and competitive pressures actually inhibit creativity. The more competitive an environment, the more slowly true novelty emerges.

And there are another set of trends – those of technology.
Machinery, enabled individuals to multiply their productive power.
Modern robotics allow us to automate any process a human can define – essentially multiplying any such defined skill infinitely.

The value of human labour is on a very rapid trajectory towards zero value.
As this happens, the asymmetry of power between holders of capital and labour in a capitalist system become fundamentally unstable, and any semblance of cooperation evaporates.
This must occur, as the incentive structure derived from any system of exchange values must in logic value any universal abundance at zero, and must incentivise the prevention of any real (universal) abundance emerging (like distributed solar power) or destroy any universal abundance that does emerge.

A system of universal basic income (UBI) is an attempt to prop up a system that is ultimately unstable, and does need to be replaced. The only real value in implementing a UBI is to buy sufficient time to develop a memeplex to take us beyond markets and into radical abundance and long term security.

We are not short of energy.
We have a sun that converts over 600 million tons of hydrogen to helium every second. That is equivalent to the energy liberated by over 1,000 Hiroshima bombs per second per person. Even the tiny portion of that that reaches the surface of the earth is many thousands of times our current use of fossil fuels, but one cannot easily restrict solar energy like one can the flow of oil – so there is no incentive for capitalists to invest in it. Look at the deep systemic incentives.

We are not short of mass. We live on a huge ball of it, and there is plenty more in the solar system more generally.

We could easily develop and distribute technologies that empower every individual to do whatever they responsibly choose. Responsibility in this sense includes considering the reasonably foreseeable consequences of actions on others, and respecting the lives and liberties of others. Unrestricted breeding for example is not a responsible action – it has reasonably foreseeable long term consequences. Freedom in this sense is not freedom from consequence or unrestricted licence to follow whim.

Distributed automation, distributed governance, distributed systems of vigilance, all empower security for all.
Centralisation has more dangers than benefits.
Freedom has more security than control.

And nothing is certain.
Heisenberg removed certainty from reality.
Goedel demonstrated that even logic is incomplete (and therefore uncertain in the realm of completeness-certainty).
Any infinity allows for infinite exploration.
Some infinities allow for infinite surprises.

The price of freedom will likely always remain eternal vigilance – at all levels.

I am confident that should we live for the rest of eternity (which seems possible, but not certain) we will always find interesting things to occupy our time.

And I am very confident, that all paths that offer long term security include universal cooperation as an attribute, and the transcendence of all market based values at the highest of levels, however competitive we may be at lower levels.

Developing systems that sustain everyone in abundance is a fundamental starting point for anyone who wants a significant probability of living a long time with significant freedom of movement.
The technical stuff is relatively easy, compared to the memes required to change modes of thought.

[followed by]

Hi Edgewise

I wrote: “Responsibility in this sense includes considering the reasonably foreseeable consequences of actions on others, and respecting the lives and liberties of others.”

To which you responded: “But, there are ultimately only two ways this will be accomplished: (1) Regulate & ration, top-down enforcement with most of the population being under subjugation; or (2) a market economy, where “What’s is worth to you?” allocates resources based on what most matters to each person.”

Which is not true.
There are other modalities possible.
Decisions about possible futures need not be made on the basis of scarcity value (market value).
It is possible for democratic processes to allow groups to make decisions based upon other value sets, which can include values like:
Universal Abundance (anathema to any market value)

And as I see it, there are no absolute certainties in anything. All things involve uncertainties, tensions between different attractors in different domain spaces.

If everyone has all of their needs met, then what they do is a matter of choice (at whatever level of choice they are possible of achieving).
In such a situation people can chose to do whatever they responsibly want.
The products of such choices need not have any exchange value – they can be gifts – in the true sense of the word.

Certainly there is as much danger of the tyranny of the majority as the tyranny of any minority.
Awareness of both excesses is required.

Rule based systems can be guides, and never determinants of choice, in a free society.

No absolute or easy answers in these domains.

If we allow the economy to evolve on current trajectories then the probabilities are that we get the majority of people living on the edge of survival, and the system as a whole in a very unstable state. It is a very insecure environment for the emergence of either AI or longevity.

And certainly capital and labour are very simplistic poles of an extremely diverse and multidimensional spectrum, and they do work well as a first order approximation in market based systems.

[followed by]

Consider the possibility that not all things are two dimensional lines.
Possibility can contain more than simple bi polar systems – which is not to deny Lorentz Attractors, and they are but one simple example of an infinite class of far more complex systems.
Systems can be n dimensional with multiple attractors some of which exhibit non linear attractor functions across different dimensions (indeed, our 3 dimensional reality appears to be part of such an 11 dimensional system under the most common interpretation in use today). The topologies that result can be fascinating.

These systems can be difficult to appreciate if one is operating from a modality that is fundamentally binary in any aspect.

Suggest you explore John Maynard-Smith’s work with multiple stable state equilibria (just one case of an infinite class within an infinite set of classes, and interesting all the same) as an introduction to the realm (it is the one I used 36 years ago).

[followed by]

Hi Spike

My suggestion is to form as many networks as possible.
Make an effort to get out and meet new people and do new things.
Get involved in local community projects.
Make a real effort to understand the perspectives and the realities of others.

In terms of simple Lorentz attractors the major alternative to central control is decentralised networks.
Markets appear to be the alternative because they effectively create decentralised networks through trading relationships, but it seem clear to me that it is not really the values of the market that act as the great stabiliser, it is the networks of trust relationships that result that do the work in a strategic sense.

It seems clear to me that the more interlinked the trust relationships, the more able is the society to resist any form of central control – corporate, political, theological, or any other variation on a theme anyone dreams up.

Just to be clear – I see that forming very broad and deep trust networks – interlinking as many as possible, in combination with UBI, could be useful tools in transitioning away from a market based incentive structure and into a value set that actually incentivises and empowers life and liberty with universal abundance.

And being responsible in such a context can be tricky.
We have already identified systems where the first signs of a response from the system come twenty years after we put in the inputs (like nitrate contamination in waterways). We suspect the existence of systems where responses can take millennia.

Most people have difficulty adjusting their responses when delays are more than half a second (if you’re a pilot – think flying a Robinson R22 after you’ve been flying a Cesna 172 – the delay in response takes a bit of getting used to).

So there will always be levels of awareness, and levels of both freedom and responsibility as a result.

Some systems become so sensitive to inputs past certain thresholds that the random noise in any environment is enough to make the output chaotic – some images I generated of one such simple system and a link to the source code I created to make those images are on my blogsite – https://tedhowardnz.wordpress.com/2014/07/09/playing-with-chaos

[followed by]

@Captn – Yeah – a very broad distribution function across the members of this forum 😉

@Spike – It is certainly true that people come to markets with incentives, so in this sense it is as you say – “markets are a function of incentives”, and it is also true that all aspects of context contribute to the “strategic topology” and thence the “incentive structure” of that particular situation.
In the traditional sense, markets were physical localities that people frequented at particular times. Markets for staple foods tended to be a daily thing. Markets for stud cattle tended to be annual things. A vast range of market temporalities are common between those values, and a few outside them (modern high frequency trading systems optimise for microsecond or nanosecond advantages).
In traditional markets, a lot of trading value resides in the relationships that one creates with other market participants – how much do they trust you, how willing are they to do business with you? So there have always been complex sets of incentive sets associated with markets, varying considerably between specific markets and classes of markets.
In modern times, as economic systems have become more complex, more levels of abstraction, there are very definite sets of incentives at play at the higher levels.
At the governance level there is a very definite set of incentives to optimise the system for the maximum flow of money (thus the maximum return of commission or tax revenue – depending on governance perspective). These incentives to optimise the system for flow often compete with the survival interests of individuals within the market, particularly those at the lower end of the capital spectrum who more nearly approximate the traditional conception of labour (labor) (using the term as Ricardo or Smith might have recognised it).
In that traditional sense of the tension between labour and capital, markets invoke highly asymmetric incentives. The consequence for any given individual of not finding work and generating income can be death from starvation. The consequence for the holder of capital of not fully employing that capital can be simply a reduction in profit. That asymmetry in terms of survival needs appears to those on the “labour” end of the spectrum (acknowledging that the term spectrum and even the term topology are inadequate descriptors for the probability space derived from such a highly dimensional system) to be unfair and unjust; and the system as a whole appears designed to offer hope yet perpetuate injustice – it all seems to be a huge pack of lies.

So from my perspective, markets, in so far as markets demand a certain type of valuation – a measure of exchange value – deliver a certain set of incentives, and the secondary, tertiary, and higher level structures that develop from markets all add dimensions to the strategy sets in play and the incentive structures within which those strategies deliver the costs and payoffs that they do.

And we all have values that are not market values.
I really value oxygen – but that has no market measure, because there is no scarcity of oxygen – the air around us is roughly 20% oxygen.
I really value the oxygen producing capacity of our natural ecosystems, but because there is a buffer in the atmosphere of a thousand years or so at current use levels, the market discount on such small future risk means that there is effectively no market value on that either.

Markets are very useful tools for distributing scarce resources in real time, and for incentivising production of necessary goods and services when conditions are stable. If instabilities are introduced, markets have many positive feedback mechanisms that tend to amplify rather than dampen those instabilities leading to periodic market collapses. Most of those are well documented in traditional macroeconomic textbooks.

So yes – markets are a function of incentive, and markets also create incentives at other levels.

@ Edgewise
Your point 1 – doesn’t seem to be a useful approach.
Point 2 – Meme’s comment is definitely too simplistic to be useful and your assertion that “Truth is, most creatures DO NOT invest in their offspring” is also false. There is a vast spectrum of offspring investment. Some entities use the strategy of investing a little in a lot, others invest more in fewer. For some entities the investment goes only so far as producing vast numbers of eggs and releasing them into the environment, and usually there are other attendant strategies present (like spawning aggregations, timing of release, etc) that assist with survival to various degrees. Octopus produce large numbers of eggs, and protect those egg masses until the offspring hatch, at which point the mother dies. The sets of strategies used by different life forms for reproduction are vast, and some of the strategy sets for single species are sufficiently complex to fill entire text books – even if most people (even most ecologists) are entirely ignorant of them.
Point 3- Phytoplankton, is hardly an example of hyperabundance, except in very specific very localised situations. If you look at satellite images of absorbtion in the chlorophyll band (as a proxy for phytoplankton abundance) then you will see clearly that most of the ocean is a nutrient limited desert. The major sources of ocean fertility are river runoff, deepcurrent upwelling, and dust deposition (mostly from desert areas) – there are many others but they are of lesser significance in the big picture. Particular phytoplankton tend to be optimally evolved for the systems in which they exist – they are so close to an optimal solution (in terms of energy and nutrient budgets) that there is no path of gradual improvement from there to anywhere else in the possibility spaces available to biochemistry in those environments (others yes – there no).
Point 4 – social Darwinism. Just what is meant by Darwinism. Darwinism (evolution by natural selection – which seems to me probable beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt) explains the emergence of highly cooperative systems, not just that, but successive levels of highly cooperative systems, and actually makes predictions about the emergence of new levels of cooperation. It does not, nor has it ever, promoted raw short term selfishness and socially destructive greed. The people who do such things are taking a very distorted and simplistic view of a very complex set of abstractions and applying them for short term personal gain at the expense of their own and everyone else’s long term interests. Giving such a set of behaviours the label “social Darwinism” is untruthful, a gross distortion, and the very worst aspect of propoganda (in the same sense that the term was used in respect of Nazi Germany in WWII).
Point 5 – re hubris – I align.
Re modelling of weather – yes I agree. We cannot model the behaviour of weather beyond a week with much more than randomness. By running millions of stocastic McMC (Markov chain Monte Carlo) model runs (or similar algorithm sets) we can make estimates of the likelihood of major future changes, but only in terms of probabilities – no certainty. And worse, most models are very sensitive to the assumption sets employed within them. We often tune our models using the datasets we have from the recent past, and those datasets contain factors present in the recent past, but in noisy environments the detection of exponential signals is extremely difficult. Most models are tuned with linear assumption and linear fit algorithms, and such models always work with historical data, and always fail when reality contains exponential signals hiding in the noise that have not yet emerged to detection level. I don’t know of any climate prediction model fitted with Ray Kurzweil’s exponentials – someone may have done it, but I haven’t heard of it yet. I would expect the McMC probability distribution to widen to the point of essentially chaos (no predictable trend – most possibilities occurring with almost equal probability).
Attempting to run predictive models on the economy is similar. The assumption sets and parameter tuning may work for history but are invalid in the exponential environment ahead.
Market values, which place scarcity value above human life, are not a stable mode of governance – a possible mode certainly, and not a stable mode, and not in the long term interest of anyone – however much they may appear to be in our short term interest, and however much historical data may validate model assumptions.
With modern high frequency trading the best models only give good fit a few milliseconds ahead – that is why markets have high speed trading – it gives short term advantage to those using it – in the bigger picture it is simply a form of legalised theft (as is most of the finance industry – less than 10% has anything directly to do with the production of real goods and services).

And I agree with your comments to James Jaeger re rules. I have been programming computers since the 70s, and have been involved in the political process for a similar period. I am very conscious of the strengths and weaknesses of rule based systems. I am a great fan of Douglas Bader’s (in)famous saying “Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men”. And I acknowledge that the legal system does not see it that way. To me, no free entity can obey any rule based system and be free. Our freedom requires that we have the ability to break rules when needed – that is the essence of freedom. My enquiries have led me to a simple heirarchy of values – 1/ Life, 2/ liberty – all other values are derivative from these using probabilities delivered from observation of reality and long term self interest (and I mean long term – many thousands of years – which expectation I have in fact had since about October 1974).

@meme – agree that metaphor can be useful to a degree, but metaphor can also contain a wide distribution of possible drivers behind it. Trying to localise to a specific set of driving assumptions based upon metaphor only is a highly uncertain process.
And I don’t do politics in the traditional sense.
I have no givens from which I derive value functions.
I take my data from experience, process and modulate it through the functions available in my neural network, and derive long term probability distributions which serve as localisers to my optimisation functions (to borrow some AI terminology).
Certainly I am involved in the political process, and the perspective from which I am operating would not be recognisable to any traditional school of political thought.

As to your last comment to Edgewise – your comments are too simplistic.
Certainly there are aspects of our economic system that are by design, and can be redesigned, and there is also a set of aspects of any complex system that is biological in the sense of evolving sets of complexes of associated strategies that exhibit differential survival probabilities (derived from a vast set of costs and benefits with a vast range of payoff/cost probabilities with respect to time) within particular contexts (niches). The difference between short term and long term stability of such associations can be and often is, very different, owing to the frequency of low probability high impact events. Just because something has a low probability doesn’t mean that it won’t happen, it means that it almost certainly will happen, but we just have no idea when. In any environment containing novel exponentials, all bets are off – as by definition there is no historical precedent.
Have you ever modelled really complex systems (something like a fishery)?
The models are really complex, with parameter optimisation routines for all sorts of variables and matrices (like growth transition matrices, and space transition matrices) that can exhibit sensitivity to any model parameter. Even with millions of McMC runs, it is often not possible to get models to localise to a single set of parameters – there are often multiple sets of assumptions that give equally probable (but substantially different) sets of outputs, even with datasets on recruitment, catch effort (abundance proxy) and size frequency (age frequency proxy) that span decades (to act as localisers).

Capital is a useful myth.
Reality contains people and stuff.
Stuff can be organised into machines that produce goods or services, or can be goods directly.
Capital is a myth that if believed allows some people to influence how other people use their time and energy.
Capital is a myth in the sense that it is a belief. A belief that someone can control the use of some machine, or control access to some matter or energy, or control how some people behave.
Gold is a useful measure of value under ordinary conditions because it is scarce, it does not corrode, it is both ductile and malleable. So it is stable under ordinary conditions. But in a famine, no amount of gold is going to make anyone give you their food reserves. Survival values trump all other values. That is a fundamental asymmetry in the bargain between labour and capital (and you introduced the term capital here, so I am simply using labour here as the first order approximation to a balance to it in market terms – in the same sense that Ricardo or Smith would have understood).
And while I agree with you that there is a substantial risk of total system failure, and a substantial risk of a lot of people dying, I do not agree that it is about money.
Money is only myth.
I agree that money is the currently dominant value myth, and even as such, it is simply a proxy for the value sets adopted by individuals in the population, and the impact that those value sets have on individual behaviour.
Contrary to popular mythology in finance and economist circles, human beings are a fundamentally cooperative species (both at the genetic and at the deep cultural levels), the experience of the great depression of last century proves that. While conventional economic wisdom dictated that most people should have starved, very few actually died of starvation, though many were hungry for a long time.

Certainly deal with reality, and ensure that you have gone sufficiently deep into the probability spaces underpinning reality that your model of it is as robust as possible.
And one cannot go there on metaphor – one has to get really specific!
How specific are you prepared to get?
Are you willing to actually show your self from behind that mask?

[followed by]

Hi RedQ

Perhaps I need to step back a level, to make this more easily available, and perhaps it is simply too abstract to be available – I’m not sure any longer – I have spent too many decades in this abstract space to be able to make reliable assessments of what other people might or might not understand.

Consider consciousness.
It seems clear to me, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, that consciousness is an emergent property of the multi-level set of hardware and software systems that is the human brain immersed in a cultural environment.

Each individual brain builds a model of the reality in which it exists.
Each of us as aware entities has only that model, and initially we each think that the model is in fact reality.
For each of us those models start out simple, and gradually develop in complexity.
The complexity of our models develop in multiple dimensions.
The simplest distinction possible in any dimension is a binary.
Making a binary distinction allows categorisation of inputs into one of two classes.
Thus very small children actually experience reality as hot or cold, big or small, light or dark, heavy or light, good or bad, right or wrong.
In most categories, we rapidly develop more intermediate categories – light and dark goes to shades of grey then new categories of colour.
Initial expansions of categories are usually to small integers, which then grow. In terms of colour most English speaking cultures expand to 7 in the first instance (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet). Other cultures have different values, with boundaries at different points on the spectrum. Comparisons of the ability of individuals raised in different cultures to make distinctions at different points on the spectrum provide some deep insight on the nature of neural nets.
So all models develop in particular dimensions. Which dimensions develop more distinctions than others is a complex function involving inputs from the entire interconnected system of pattern identifiers that is the brain. Really complex, really individual.
And pattern may also develop in abstract dimensions.
Most distinction spaces appear to be potentially infinite in the levels of abstractions.
One may spend eternity exploring any infinity.
Thus there is no way that anyone can explore all infinities, and one can explore a few instances into any infinity one comes into direct contact with.

Once one starts exploring abstract spaces, then the process can get rapidly out of the experience set of any other individual.

The key thing in this, is that as aware entities, we experience the model of reality that our brains create for us. We do not experience reality directly.
In most normal circumstance, the models our brains create are very accurate, and very useful in terms of outcomes in response to our actions.
And when things are novel, reliability can degrade significantly.

Coming to money more directly.
It works as store of value because we believe in it.

If you were to go to some native tribesman in some remote part of the planet and give him money – it would not appear to him as a store of value.
The fact that money works as a store of value is because we believe in it.
We all believe that if we take this token now for something we value, then someone else will exchange this token for something we value at some future time.
It works because we believe in it.
Money is not a store of value, it is a belief.
If we didn’t believe in it, it wouldn’t work.

Things that we believe in that are not so have a technical term – they are called myths.
The myth we believe is that money has value.
It doesn’t.
It works because we believe it will work – that is all.

At any instant there are only the goods and service in existence that are in existence.
Money is a token that is used to allocate those goods and services.
These days, for most of us, money is simply numbers stored in some electrical or magnetic fashion in some electronic system.

We have formulated rules around who can create how much money, and lots of different systems in society influence the rates of money creation and destruction in different contexts. They have very little to do with the amount of goods and or services available (many years ago they were closely connected most of the time, but not any more).

Just consider – why would it ever make sense to have people who want to work unable to work, and people who want their services unable to get them? How else would you characterise “austerity measures”?

It is a very strange set of systems we have around this myth called money.

Most people are so used to thinking that their experiences are experiences of reality, rather than being experiences of a model of reality, that it makes it difficult for many to see the mythical aspect of money (or many other aspects of culture). The effect and the explanation become conflated into one, instead of remaining separate entities.

[followed by]

Lots of different responses here to address – some where the relationship is easier to see than others:

@ Edgewise

No market place has ever been free – and some are freer than others.
No playing field is level, and some are more level than others.

There are many ways in which playing fields are not level.

It is hard to call a playing field level when one party to the transaction has their life at stake, and the other only a little money – particularly when that money is created out of nothing or stolen from others under false pretences.

As to value in a market – in a very limited sense you are right.
In the more general sense, markets are places where scarcity matters.
No one goes to a market if total abundance exists.
We all value oxygen in the air.
It is arguable the single most valuable thing to any human being. Deprived of it for a few minutes and for most people their systems degrade past the point where coherent neural activity can re-establish – they are dead.
Yet in a market, air has zero value. Everyone can get all they want elsewhere.

People say that markets measure demand – but that is untrue.
What markets actually measure is unmet demand.
Any demand that is fully met has no value in a market.

Thus – money is a measure of scarcity value, or trade value, it is not a direct measure of human value.
A market cannot measure how much I value oxygen except by depriving me of it (creating scarcity).

The logical systemic outcome of this is that when the focus becomes one of creating money, then the incentive exists to create sufficient scarcity to maximise the flow of money (there must be unmet demand for money to have meaning).

Thus, in a market based mode of thought, there is zero value in delivering an abundance of anything to everyone.
We have the technical capacity in existence today, to deliver an abundance of food, energy, water, clothing, housing, education, healthcare to every person on the planet, but we don’t do it because the dominant mechanism of valuation our society uses is based upon scarcity, and values any abundance at zero.
Producing any universal abundance in a market based system of value has no value.

The direct result of this is vast amounts of human death, disease and misery.
The illusion, promulgated by many here, including yourself, is that more economic activity will solve the problem.
It cannot.
The market based system of values measures unmet demand.
Markets have no mechanism for measuring met demand.
Therefore, there is an inbuilt set of incentives within any market based structure (any mechanism of trade) to deliver scarcity to some fraction of humanity.
This is true of any aspect of human interaction.
It is as true in relationships between individuals where we use scarcity measures rather than abundance measures.

Since you raised McDonald’s, let’s examine that in a little more detail.
What is it that McDonald’s has done?
I propose that they have developed systems that:
produce food quickly;
produce food of a consistent standard;
produce food which is designed to fit the biochemistry and neurochemistry of our systems in a way that we desire more of it – mostly managed by the fat to carbohydrate ratio, and by using the addictive chemistry of deep frying food;
have an environment that is addictive to small children – so that the children bring the parents back.
There are a few other strategies in there, but these are the major ones.
My younger brother has a masters in Biotechnology and an MBA and spent several years working on the potatoes that McDonald’s serve – so it is a process I have some very detailed knowledge about.
Most of what McDonald’s do in their design is about creating demand and minimising costs.
Very little of it is about the long term health and wellbeing of their customers.
That is a natural outcome of a system that only values unmet demands, and has no mechanism for valuing met demands.
The system will always have internal incentives toward a level of unmet demands.

That is the fundamental lie.
The fundamental myth of markets is that they will meet all people’s needs.
In the short term, and in conditions of genuine scarcity, yes, markets will incentivise the meeting of demand (needs).
However, when technology develops to the point that genuine abundance for all is possible (we have the means, the energy, and the raw material) the market value of such a thing will be zero – actually less than zero, because while the price goes to zero, it is a reduction in the flow of money, and our modern economic system is predicate on exponentially increasing flows of money. So stopping a flow of money doesn’t simply have no value, it has a huge negative value within the complex that is our modern market based economic system.

And the problem is not money.
If one uses a currency of any sort, the outcome is essentially the same.
The problem is inherent in exchange as a mode of interaction.

If we create systems that meet all of our survival needs (automated systems), then there is no need for exchange. We can all interact on the basis of doing what we do because we choose to do it.
All output becomes a gift.
If all inputs are given, and given as a gift, then all outputs can equally be given.
It is a very different mode of interaction, with very different outcomes.
It is a mode that is very supportive of creativity, tolerance, diversity and freedom, and anathema to conformity, command and control.

No market based system is capable of incentivising the delivery of universal abundance.
Right now – November 2014 – humanity has the technical capacity to deliver universal abundance of all the essentials of life to every human being. Not everyone’s want or whim, but all the necessities of food, water, shelter, healthcare, education, communication, security and freedom.
The biggest single impediment to delivering such abundance is our blind mythical belief in market values (money).

It has nothing to do with it being fiat money or gold standard or bird of paradise feathers.
It has to do with the fact that markets, all markets, all currencies, measure only unmet demand, and do not and cannot measure absolute demand – and are thereby fundamentally based in scarcity, and unable to give any value above zero to universal abundance.

Once we get beyond the basic essentials of life value is such a personal thing.
Why would we ever think that a universal measure of value was even possible?

There is certainly a very real sense in which money exists, and has value because we agree to it having value.
And there remain at least two levels of myth in money as commonly used.
One is that money is a store of anything. It isn’t. It has value only because we believe it to be so. It has everything to do with the expectation functions around it, and nothing whatever to do with its intrinsic properties. That is myth number 1.
Myth number 2 is that money is a meaningful measure of human value. It is not. In so far as markets deliver a measure of value it is a value based on instantaneous assessments of current and future expectations across market participants, and is based solely upon unmet demands. Any demands (needs) that are fully satisfied, or are not able to be traded, are not normally measured in a market.

I thank you for your time and your assessments.
Even with all the information you added, I am unable to localise your initial posts to a single interpretation (or even a single set of likely interpretations). A little more guidance would be greatly appreciated.
This is my first direct encounter with “The Energy Accounting system proposed by the Technocracy” and am assuming for now that you are referring to http://technocracy.wikia.com/wiki/Technocracy_Incorporated – (I see from your later post it is).
Energy accounting doesn’t solve all the issues, and it is a good first order approximation to solving subsistence issues.
The allocation of genuinely scarce resources – specific parcels of land – becomes a significant issue.
Currently we own a house and a small farm – significantly more than our share of global arable land. The mechanism of who gets what is a significant issue. My wife is particularly attached to place, myself also, but in a very different way.
I would not be happy to be forcefully evicted from my house (and the half acre section it sits on).
I might be willing to consider sharing some of our farm with others.
I align with Provoketur in requesting more information.

The arguments presented by Alva Noe in http://bigthink.com/ideas/the-puzzle-of-perception are more about straw men than reality.
Reality seems to be that we have no direct experience of reality.
All of our experience seems to be mediated through the model that brain creates for us, and thus all of the attributes that Noe describes in the link above are precisely the attributes one would expect from such a system.
Sense impressions of reality are only one set of inputs to the model, and are the major inputs responsible for keeping the model entrained with reality (the model is predictive, usually running about 300ms ahead).
Other sets of inputs include memories, context recognition, distinctions, abstractions, emotions, …..
It is a very complex set of systems.
I find the neurochemistry of some of the expectation functions particularly fascinating – but then I am a biochemist by training and a computer systems developer of 40 years experience – so well outside normal distributions.
The evidence against Noe’s arguments is overwhelming, but I have found that many philosophers are not particularly interested in evidence if it contradicts their pet theories.
Many myths serve useful purpose, they wouldn’t hang around elsewise.

@ Edgewise again
It is not required to mediate interaction via exchange.
It is what we are used to, and it is not a required mode.
It is possible to interact using respect and gift – particularly if all survival needs are met by automated systems.
Markets are not a great measure of value.
They only measure unmet demand. They only value things that are scarce in this sense. Markets are, in this sense, incompatible with universal abundance.
The legal and political systems we have today are very strongly skewed to the interests of those with large accumulations of money.
That is an inevitable outcome of adopting market based values as primary values (which most western societies seem to have done – not universally, and to a good first order approximation).
Current order biological systems demonstrate some levels of cooperation, and the maths and logic of games theory demonstrates the classes of strategies required to support higher levels of cooperation.
We have the option of going to higher levels of cooperation – the benefits of doing so are profound.
We have the option of going to higher levels of freedom – which will result in diversity exponentially beyond anything evolution has generated previously, which will likely continue to increase exponentially for at least a few thousand years before levelling off.
Life on earth does need to be subject to energy budgets – for a host of thermodynamic reasons, and the energy available to life off planet are many orders of magnitude larger (8). Anyone wanting to do anything involving serious amounts of energy will need to do so off planet, either remotely or in person.

[followed by]

@ Provoketur
I have reread your post several times, and while I would not choose to phrase it precisely as you do (as it is too open to misinterpretation in my understanding) I think that what you are proposing and what I am proposing are overlapping frameworks.

One key to stability is decentralisation, massive redundancy with systems that can be independent and normally function in a highly integrated fashion. Commons is one possible approach to that and there are other classes of approach based around minimum individual allocations that can also work (the allocations would need to be based on energy budgets, so would contain more land the further one got from the tropics or due to shadowing or aspect effects).

@ Edgewise

I am not proposing to eliminate markets.
I am proposing, that as a society, we need to take market values out of their dominant role in our decision making processes.
Markets will likely exist for things that are genuinely scarce – and there always will be some such things. There are only a limited number of original van Gogh’s for example, though it will soon be possible to create as many replicas as are desired that are accurate to nanometer scale, and are thus indistinguishable by any human senses from the original. So there will always be scarcity in some domains (originals), and there will be an exponentially expanding set of substitutes for the scare items that are functionally indistinguishable from them (duplicates or substitutes).

What I am saying, very clearly and specifically, is that the incentive structure of free markets will never deliver universal abundance of anything if left to its own incentive structure. The values that individuals take to markets, of any sort, (exchange values) cannot give any value to fully met demands other than zero. McDonald’s can only charge for their burgers because there is not an abundant supply of free burgers available. McDonald’s will never deliver an abundant supply of free burgers (except perhaps as a promotional gimmick to get you to buy something else with even more profit).

What is required, if we are to deliver an environment that provides maximal probability of long term security (which includes maximal probability of individual liberty at all levels), is for our governance structures to focus on the delivery of universal abundance of some basic set of survival items, and to focus attention and effort on education that facilitates communication between vastly divergent paradigm sets, enables non violent communication, and encourages community consensus processes at all levels.

What I am clearly saying, is that unless such outcomes are facilitated, the existential risks for all are substantial.

So in a colloquial sense, nirvana is not guaranteed, and it remains a possibility at this time – and the temporal window of opportunity is finite. The sooner it is done, the less risk of failure.

Put as simply as possible, unless governments change their focus from optimisation of money, to meeting the actual needs of every individual (no exceptions), then we all face substantial and exponentially growing risk.

The risk comes from someone who has technical competence, access to technology, and is carrying a serious and well hidden grievance against the system as a whole. There is an infinite class of strategies available to destroy the system (and most of us within it) and I will not enumerate any of them. As the injustice of market based thinking becomes more and more obvious, and it becomes more and more clear that the power elite value money (even a small fraction of a dollar) over human life, then the probability of someone, somewhere, initiating one of those sets of technologies approaches unity.

Our legal systems tend to be retrospective, and thus cannot deal with such risk.
The centralised systems approach to such risk is to be proactive in seeking out such threats and neutralising them, but it is a game of probabilities, and every false positive is a human life destroyed. The risk to all starts to escalate, until the solution becomes a bigger problem than the original problem – both “The Minority Report” and “1984” explore aspects inherent in this strategy set.

It is clear to me that right now we possess the technology to deliver abundance of all life sustaining necessities to every person on the planet.
The major reason we do not, is that people are stuck in the paradigm of money as a measure of value.
In a realm where real abundance is possible, money is not a viable measure of value.
Money (markets) only work where scarcity is genuine (and not artificially created – as in the case of copyright and patent laws). When patents were introduced the 14 year term was about half a technology generation. Now the 20 year term is multiple technology generations. Terms for patents and copyright need to reduce significantly until they disappear – they are now a major impediment to needed rapid progress.

No person, who has lost someone they loved above all else, because monetary values (or the artificial scarcity created to prop up a system of monetary values) prevented life saving aide being given, is likely to ever trust such a system. Some people are very likely to go so far as to dedicate their existence to its destruction.
Human beings, as a cooperative species, come primed with many levels of attendant strategies that allow cooperation to succeed in a competitive environment, and not be invaded by cheats – tit-for-tat is the most effective of the simplest class of such strategies (check out Axelrod or Maynard-Smith for verification if you doubt).

Where we have the possibility of abundance, we have a both a moral responsibility (if one accepts morality at any level) and a long term survival imperative (if one can conceive of the possibility of living a long time) and a self interest value (if one values personal liberty) to deliver that abundance to all. And of course such action must be taken responsibly, within the energy budgets and ecosystem limits in existence.

It is not money that is the problem per se, it is the love of money, it is money becoming the prime consideration in governance (at any and all levels) – that is, in my estimation, the single greatest existential risk we face.
If governance were to have human life, all human life, and individual liberty, as its prime motivators, then we would direct activity towards the development of fully automated systems to deliver abundance of all essentials to all individuals.

Market mechanisms could be used as a tool to develop the tools to deliver universal abundance, and such systems could never emerge from the incentive set inherent in markets alone – where money is seen as the prime value within a market. Systems which are optimised for the production of money must be destructive of individual freedom and opportunity for a significant fraction of humanity – the fact that markets cannot assign a positive value to anything that is truly abundant (everyone has all they need already) dictates that.

[followed by]

Hi Edgewise

Just a little bit about me personally to give you a feel for the mix of theory and practice that exists.
For 17 years I made my living as a commercial fisherman – I hold qualifications as a coastal skipper, engineer, refrigeration technology, fish handling and quality control, and radio operations. I ran my own business, owned, operated and maintained my own vessels, and at the end marketed the fish from my vessel and 5 others. So a bit of practical experience of markets and biology there.
I hold a BSc degree, with three years at Waikato University studying zoology, where my subjects of special interest were biochemistry, ecology and computing, but also had interests in physics, earth science, psychology and mathematics. I failed some courses in my third year, and went fishing full time. Two years later after a public argument over fisheries policy with the then director of Fisheries Management (one Brian Cunningham) who publicly said to me “What the f**k would you know Howard, you’re just a f**king drop out” I went back to Auckland university the following year, and completed my BSc there, taking both second and third year marine ecology courses, as well as a range of other courses in electronics and philosophy, all of which I passed.
For many years my wife and I have given $300 per month to UNESCO, as well as support to many local groups. My wife chairs the local branch of Forest and Bird (I am the minutes secretary). I have been president of the Kaikoura boating club for 10 years, a founding member, treasurer and webmaster for our local integrated marine management group (www.teamkorowai.org.nz). I also chair our zone water management committee (a joint committee of the local district council (of which I was a previous elected member) and the regional council). I am president of our national recreational fisheries body, and last week attended an all day science plenary meeting on rock lobster management models and strategies in that capacity. I have been involved in many different community organisations in many different capacities over the years.
In terms of fisheries, I know most of the politicians, business owners, business executives, scientists, bureaucrats and leaders of other fishing and boating organisations personally – and have relationships with many that span 40 years, and some that go back 50 years.
I have been active in Mensa, the humanist society, and a vast range of other groups.
When I was was active in politics I went through roles as treasurer, secretary and chair of local and regional groups, and spent 9 years on a national policy group, with direct access to our ministers of fisheries, agriculture, finance and prime ministers of the time. I have had prime ministers and various other ministers as overnight guests in our house. I have stood for parliament in our general elections 6 times. I have spent many hours in conversations at the deepest strategic levels with leaders of many groups – Maori (first nation), religious groups, philosophical and political groups.

The guy who wrote most of the McMC models used in NZ fisheries is a friend who lives about 8 miles from me.
One of my best friends developed the software that drives the NORAD air defence phased array systems – including the stochastic tracking systems.
Another is a director of our National Institute of Water and Atmospheric research (he was a flatmate of mine for 3 years at university, and continued on to complete his PhD – I was best man at his wedding).

For the last 28 years I have made a living designing and supporting software for fishing companies.
I have had an interest in evolution for over 50 years. I have corresponded with and spoken to many people, including Richard Dawkins.

So all of that is simply background to give you a context for the sorts of systems and strategic environments in which my thinking has developed, and with which my neural networks are intimately familiar at the intuitive level.

My first publication of the idea of a society based on universal abundance empowered by advanced automation predates Jacque Fresco’s Venus Project by over a decade (in the Mensa journal – Isolated M).
Most of the ideas in my website http://www.solnx.org date from that era, and solnx.org has been in existence longer than the Venus project.

What I am saying is fundamentally different from anything Jacque is saying – it is coming from a different conceptual space, and there is some overlap.

About 8 years ago I had a day free in Washington DC. I caught the first metro in from Pentagon City and the last one back. I walked from the Capitol to the Monument, past the White House and around many of the streets of DC. I read all the inscriptions on the buildings and sidewalks that I passed, I talked to many of the homeless people on the streets (most of the rest of my trip had been talking to top people in their fields). I walked through the museums and libraries (quickly and consciously). I cried – openly wept, at all the great ideas that had founded that place, and to see how those ideals had been twisted and distorted beyond recognition by the incentive structures of the systems that had followed.

It is clear, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, that it is not possible to get that system to deliver universal abundance. The system will destroy any attempts to deliver such a thing. No individual can take on that system within its own terms. Bill Gates isn’t doing it, nor are Sergey Brin or Ray Kurweil – and I understand why.
The only approach that I have found that seems stable in any systemic sense is to bring the systemic underpinnings into the light of awareness, and let every individual make their own choice about what they are going to do about it.
I am offering one set of options in solnx that delivers an environment that empowers infinite diversity.
I am under no illusion that it is the only workable set.
I am fully conscious that there are infinite possible paths through possibility space from any place to any other place, and there are some areas of possibility space that need to be avoided (given a wide margin) because human beings do not survive there.

So, I do what I do – here and elsewhere.
And I do assert that you have not yet demonstrated in your writing that you are conscious of the conceptual framework from which I am operating – in street parlance – it seems clear to me that you haven’t gotten it yet.

And to answer your question – yes – to develop the technology that allows fully automated distributed independent production is a massive task. In terms of the current economic system, it requires massive capital investment. And it is a one off. Create this thing, distributed it, and then the economic system is essentially redundant (a bit player).

[followed by]

@ James
While I would never characterise your contributions as a spammy rant, it is not fair to characterise science and scientists in the manner you have.

When you know that fellows in your fields are being persuaded to work on weapons by a hostile regime by means of having their families held hostage, and you know that they know that the only hope their families have is that you develop the weapon first and win the conflict, it kind of puts a different light on it. This is in fact the situation that existed for many of those working on the Manhattan project during WWII.

Any technology is morally neutral, it is what we do with it that counts.
Just look at 911.
Are you saying that no-one should ever have invented flight?
Look at how many people die in cars accidents. Should we not have invented cars?
Look at how many people died riding horses 150 years ago. Should we not have domesticated horses?

And I agree that it would be a very good idea to get rid of the vast majority of the nuclear weapons that are stockpiled.
I agree that it would be a very good idea to divert much of the effort going into weapons development and the projection of force and I suggest the best use of such resources would be to put them into the development of distributed automated self maintaining solar powered technologies that empower all individuals on the planet to do whatever they responsibly choose.

At one level you can view it as a issue of choice.
At another level you can view it as people optimising what they see as their own best interests within the frameworks and options and incentive structures that they perceive as being present.
At the most fundamental level, if we really want different outcomes, then we need to alter the incentive sets (strategic frameworks) that are present (the fundamental rules of the game board in a sense).
At one level we can do this by developing self sustaining technologies that empower human life without requiring significant human input (ask and thou shalt be given style technologies).
At another level, we can raise awareness of the existence of strategic spaces, and the sorts of classes of strategic interactions that are possible at any level of awareness, and the sorts of strategies that deliver the greatest long term benefit to all.

This is not in any way requiring any sort of equality of outcome.
It is providing a profound level of equality of opportunity to all, at no significant cost to any, and it does deliver a profound diversity at all levels, requiring profound acceptance of such diversity – so in this sense it is the exact opposite of any form of centrally controlled forms of communism thus far tried.
It is the most profound form of individual empowerment and individual liberty, and that liberty is not a free license – it comes with responsibility. It is freedom of choice, not freedom from consequence. All choices have consequences and all individuals will need to take reasonable care to mitigate the consequences of any adverse effects of their choices upon others.
What I am proposing is a world where a sort of enlightened self interest prevails in communities at every level of awareness, and individuals will need to demonstrate competency at each new level before being granted full membership of any of the communities that exist at that level.
And within that system there exists infinite choice, and infinite creative freedom.

[followed by]

@Canog77 – at least parts of this thread are on topic, as they are investigating some of the implicit assumptions in the proposal which once made explicit strongly influence evaluation functions used by most individuals.

This is at one level a really complex set of arguments that are for the most part gross simplifications (good first order approximations) of the amazing diversity and complexity that exists right now, in terms of life forms, in terms of human understanding, and in terms of technology.

Consider life.
To a good first order approximation, plants are a form of self replicating cellular life that have developed the trick of capturing solar energy and storing it as chemical energy by building long chain saturated hydrocarbons from CO2 and water and releasing oxygen as a by-product.
Animal life can be characterised as life forms that have developed movement and predation to a level that allows them to eat plants, or things that have eaten plants, and to get their energy from the chemical energy stored in hydrocarbons created by plants by taking the oxygen from the air, and combining it with hydrocarbons to give CO2 and water.

Had not early life developed this ability very quickly, the Earth would have an atmosphere similar to that of Venus – with high levels and CO2 and so hot that no free water can exist.
Some of the carbon captured by those early life forms ended up as limestones (a product of marine algae), other fractions ended up as coal and some as some forms of oils and natural gas – though the thermodynamics of the chemistry indicates that much of the oil has a more circuitous route, involving both biogenic and abiogenic components.
There are many other sources of energy that different classes of bacteria and archea have evolved to use, that were important in the early evolution of life and are now bit players in the bigger scheme of life on earth.

It is thus arguable that all oxygen in the atmosphere (arguably the single most valuable commodity to any human being) is the product of small self replicating machines.

This product is present in abundance.
It requires no human input.
Thus it has no market measure of value – no exchange value – under normal circumstances.

You almost got it when you wrote ” there may be additional marginal demand at a lower price”, but then it was gone again.

All costs are a function of some function of human input and scarcity.
Currently most human beings experience scarcity of some or all of the things many of us take for granted (energy, food, water, shelter, freedom of expression and movement, education, communication, sanitation, healthcare).

Currently our dominant valuation measure (money) is a market based measure – a function of human input and scarcity.
A market can only exist where there is marginal demand. If there is no unmet demand (a working definition of universal abundance) then there can be no market.
In that sense, once people adopt money as a proxy for abundance (which is arguably sensible in a world that genuinely contains scarcity) then there will exist a set of meta level incentives to maintain a level of scarcity that generates money. That level of scarcity is always experienced by those at the bottom of the distribution curve.

We have the technology to deliver all the essentials of life to everyone, right now, but we don’t do so because we cannot see the market value in doing so (as they have nothing we want to exchange with us).
Right now, delivering that abundance to them would involve human labour – ongoingly – for a while (until we develop the machines to do all of those tasks).

My thesis is, that it is possible to develop a set of machines, capable of using sunlight for energy, and local regolith (rock – type unimportant, all are sufficiently similar for this purpose) to create a duplicate set of machines, maintain themselves and also provide a basic range of goods and services (as outlined above).
If it takes the first machine 2 weeks to make the second, then in a little under two years we can give one such machine to every person on the planet.
I estimate such a machine could be built in under a decade for less than the lifecycle cost of a single Nimitz class aircraft carrier (the USA currently has 10).

That single, one off investment would eliminate the need for anyone to ever have to concern themselves with anyone experiencing a lack of the essentials of life ever again. It is less than the current annual budget for social welfare programs – and I am not suggesting that funding for this project comes from any existing social welfare funding.

What I am also saying, is that because this set of machines can produce an abundance of members of a class of goods and services – any member of that class will have zero market value, in exactly the same fashion as oxygen in the air has zero market value today.

I strongly suspect that there are a great many geeks like myself who would happily devote themselves to the exponential increase of the class of “free” goods and services by designing programs that allowed the set of machines to create these new designs using either new rock, or recycled material, using sunlight as the energy source – simply because it is what we love to do. And giving it to everyone is no more difficult than dragging and dropping it to a community commons folder. Where protocol would require that several other members of the qualified group (at least 3) would need to check it out before releasing it to a self selected group of alpha then beta testers, before going to general release.

While the sorts of solar cells generally available commercially at present are peaking around 21% conversion efficiency, some of those employed in specialist satellites are approaching 70% efficiency. Perhaps a better measure of efficiency involves a function of the lifetime energy capture, the energy cost of production and the efficiency of energy capture – I have not done the work required to develop that optimisation algorithm for all current sets of technologies, and it will always be a moving feast.

The freedom that results should be obvious.
Every individual is then free to do whatever they responsibly choose.
No one need be employed doing anything they dislike.
Find something that you love to do, preferably something that has some utility function for others, or at worst is only a minor impediment to others.

The diversity that results will be difficult for those who are still stuck in some paradigm that believes there is one true way of being; rather than being open to the possibility of infinite diversity. There is no shortage of such paradigms at large in society, most of them initially promulgated as a tool to control others (quite effectively in a limited sense).

Do you see something contradictory in this notion of being free from the slavery of markets, free from the need to build artificial barriers to deliver scarcity and get a market value as a result (like barriers to information or technology)?

I am really trying to understand why it is not obvious at this point, but I just can’t see it – and I guess that is because it has been obvious to me for almost exactly 40 years now. And with 40 years practice I was kinda hoping I was getting better at explaining it 😉

When looking at freedom in a deeper sense, consider that computational theory has proven that if a processor has no spare capacity, the quickest sort of search is a random search. If you have a lot of spare processing capacity, you can use it to building indexes and search algorithms which can be time efficient, but not energy or process efficient.

[followed by]

Agree that replication in space is the most logical, as dictated by thermodynamics (detailed in solnx.org).
It is also logical to develop a large fleet of large space habitats to allow individuals to explore high energy options, and to allow exploration of technologies that have a high risk during development phase.

It is true that money has some social utility.
Money had a lot of social utility before exponentially expanding technology started to give us the ability to eliminate scarcity in successive realms.
We are now in a time of transition.
It is now clear to me, beyond and shadow of reasonable doubt, that holding on to money as a concept will create vast amounts of human misery and suffering where it need not occur.
The transition away from money, away from scarcity based thinking will be difficult for some.

Many are so deeply immersed in the myth of money that it actually appears like freedom, instead of the slavery that it is.

Most people find it difficult to deal with real freedom.
Most find it difficult to imagine a life where trade was unnecessary, where all that is required to lead a full, interesting and fulfilling life is to chose to do so.

Peter is still firmly within an economic construct (not yet released from the matrix 😉 ).
He appears to not yet have explored sufficient infinities to have a significant appreciation of what freedom can become, or the creativity that resides within every one of us.

[followed by]

Re – Consciousness beyond life – I did specifically address 1 argument of Noe’s and falsify it.
I don’t see anything in that thread to warrant further time.
It is in the dogma category. Noe makes claims he is unqualified to make, without either evidence or logic, and in the face of both evidence and logic.
I don’t do battle with dogma – it is a waste of everyone’s time.
I will happily engage in enquiry with anyone willing to suspend belief and see where the evidence and logic lead.
And sometimes there simply isn’t sufficient information to localise to any single set of probabilities – sometimes one is left with two or more equally probable frameworks.
Life is sometimes like that.

[followed by]

Hi Provoketur
Probably getting seriously off topic – probably worth a new thread topic – and yes there is an interlink, and it is tenuous.
Personally I think the notion of property is not applicable to the moon any more than it is applicable to water in the ocean or magma under the earth’s surface.

[followed by]

Hi Provoketur

It is going to be very different on the moon.
On earth, property rights have developed as a sort of occupancy right of the surface, and a use right to whatever we take from that surface.
On the moon, occupancy is unlikely to be an issue (2 weeks without sunlight is too long a night).
For the most part the moon will simply be a source of mass for the production of space habitats.
We will not want to interfere with the side of the moon that faces the earth, as that would affect what people see. Fortunately the moon’s rotation is gravitationally synced to earth orbit so one side always faces the earth. Thus the far side of the moon isn’t seen from earth, and provided we don’t take too much, no one will notice from earth if we take the top few thousand feet and use it to build a fleet of very large habitats (hollow cylinders spun up to provide artificial gravity on the inside, spinning inside an outer rock cylinder for radiation shielding, with light being collected by mirrors and directed in through a big clear window in one end before being distributed by a set of diffusers in the zero G axis out to the outer surface) – seems the most logical solution to me. Solar powered linear motors can launch mass from the surface of the moon to orbital speeds, given the lack of atmosphere.
Once we establish efficient varieties of fusion, we will be able to get carbon from Venus, hydrogen from the gas giants, and a lot of other mass from the asteroid and Kuiper belt objects. Developing those could take a while, so the moon is likely to be our first major source of mass, and the one that will be our major focus for the next few decades. There is plenty there for our needs, provided we have gotten past the greed mentality fostered by market based (scarcity based) thinking. Plenty of solar energy available to do whatever we reasonably choose.

[followed by]

@AI Lover

@Dan Foley

Within a market mode of thought, McDonalds will never meet all demand. They will never meet the demand that exists at the zero price point.
Markets can deliver abundance to a subset of humanity, even a significant majority, but there is never any incentive to meet all demand – even the demand of those who have no money, or insufficient from the perspective of the supplier.
Thus universal abundance is outside of the incentive sets available to a market based system.

Universal basic income can go some way towards mitigating aspects of this issue, and can never entirely mitigate the meta incentives inherent in the system as a whole, to reduce the level of income of a majority to survival only.

Your assertion that “people are never satiated” is false. Psychology has falsified that assertion. You must know the old saying of “too much of a good thing”. I find it hard to believe that you haven’t at some time in your life eaten so much of something you loved that you simply couldn’t eat any more – neither the desire nor the physical capacity.

McDonalds produce burgers to a particular price point. Any demand below that price point is not met.
The only way to ensure that all demand is met (universal abundance) is to have the price point at zero.

I know this is difficult to get one’s head around when one is totally immersed in a market mode of thought, when one is under the illusion that all things have costs.
That is demonstrably not true.
Air doesn’t have a cost.
Air is vital.
There is a massive demand for air.
That demand is met in full, with a huge reservoir.
Air has zero market value.

Imagine when most imaginable goods and services are similarly freely and instantly available.
There need be no cost, if all the work in production and delivery of those goods and services is done by automated systems that are automated to the point of self maintenance.

I am confident that we could in fact produce such a set of machines, if we chose to do so.
I am confident that it could be done in today’s economic reality for a cost that is less than the lifecycle cost of a single Nimitz class aircraft carrier.

Believe me, I value oxygen.
I was a free diver and a scuba diver. In practising for deep free diving I explored all sorts of deep meditative techniques and control of heart rate, respiration rate, and levels of consciousness.
The range of experiences that resulted has left me with a profound appreciation of the value of oxygen.

Nietzsche did well with the tools he had. I really enjoyed reading him, and he had nothing in his experience with which to really model (in the meta sense) the sorts of models that we have today. Today we have virtual reality of digitally created worlds.
Today, if you are a systems developer, with deep experience of all levels of systems development (I have written a language, an assembler, many levels of systems software, and many user applications in the 40 years I have been programming), then it is easy to understand where Nietzsche made his error of logic. If all we have is the model of reality created by our brain, then it is hard to see that all our experience is of the model, and none of it of reality itself. It seems clear to me that the model of reality that we experience as reality is software, and the software system that is our conscious awareness gets its experiential qualia of existence from the model, not from reality.
And evolution has dictated that the model is reasonably accurate in most individuals in the sorts of realms that evolution has had to deal with, but not necessarily so good in some of the more novel situations (like trying to understand quantum mechanics) that we encounter in modern society.

I think philosophers who claim that science has nothing to say about choice or ends are displaying hubris.
Science is simply asking questions, and dealing with whatever evidence shows up, with all the tools at hand.
Science in this sense can have a lot to say about the role of mirror neurons in empathy, or the role of attendant strategies to prevent cheating in stabilising cooperation in highly cooperative species.
Science can have a great deal to say about the mechanisms that give us an ability to make choices.
And ultimately, if morality is to have any meaning, it is about choices.
From another perspective, if morality is to have any meaning, then we must have the power to create, to break the chain of cause and effect, to somehow have access to the truly random.
It seems that this reality in which we find ourselves is, at the very lowest level, a profound mix of the lawful and the random. It seems that the random is, in most instances contained within very tight probability distributions, and sometimes those distributions have asymptotic tails.
It seems that it may in fact be true that anything is possible, and it seems almost certainly true that some things are far more probable than others.

It seems that every human being has profound access to such creativity, despite our educational institutions doing their best to teach us to obey rather than to be responsibly creative.

For 40 years it has been clear to me that it is logically possible to extend life indefinitely. I don’t know how, and I am confident, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, that it is in fact possible. All life alive today seems to be part of an unbroken chain of life stretching back billions of years. My particular form is only about 60 years old, but the egg that I came from spent 35 years in my mother’s body as a cell before a sperm from my father found it. Age related degeneration is an artefact of complex life, not a requirement of cellular life. That being true, it must be reversible.

Politics can be cooperative.
I have just had 9 years in a local political process that was not simply cooperative, but also consensus. It took 3 years to establish reliable communication, and a further 3 years to establish working levels of trust. And it is working, across very diverse interest groups. http://www.teamkorowai.org.nz
Quite an interesting process – quite profound in its wider societal possibilities.

And I agree that current political systems are in general far from optimal solutions for individual liberty or empowerment.
And that has little to do with science – and much more to do with many levels of social inertia, ignorance and dogma.

And I love that [fake] quote from Mark Twain “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

[followed by]

Hi Edgewise

The project described at solnx is hardly Manic Depressive.
It is a set of enabling technologies.
If you have ever been involved in a large software project (or any large engineering project) there are many advantages to freezing technology for the life of the project, at least until testing phase, when new technology can solve issues.
If you are trying to create a system with high reliability, and lots of parts, then you want proven reliability in all of the parts and processes. New technology is, by definition, unproven.
We are only talking about freezing technology within the project, not outside it.
Once you have a fully replicating system, and it has replicated for a couple of years, then people who are so inclined can be free to experiment, update, augment etc.
It is not freezing technology forever, only for the life of the project, which is to get to about 35 doublings.

And it is a big project.
And it is a bit like building an aircraft carrier. It is no use building half an aircraft carrier. There is only any point in building the whole thing.
We have lots of experience with automation.
We have fully automated factories now.
We know we can do it.
I have been automating processes for 4 decades now. I have a fairly good feel for how long it takes to automate a process. Many times the time it takes a competent human to perform the process (many thousands of times usually).
In an economic sense it makes no sense to automate processes in a rapidly changing technical environment, unless there are millions of repetitions involved over a short time.
There has not been (nor can there be) any economic reason to fully automate the whole thing.
It is not about economics.
It is about post economics.
It is about universal abundance.
It is about universal empowerment.
It is about universal security.
It is about diversity and tolerance at whole new levels.
It is something completely new in a sense, yet a natural progression in the deepest understanding of evolution and systems.

This proposal does not make sense in terms of monetary outcomes.
It does make sense in terms of human outcomes.
That is very hard for some people to accept, particularly when their value sets are strongly attached to market values (money).

Once the robots have replicated, and we all have a set, then I strongly suspect we will see a flowering of innovation such as has never before been seen.
That is, in fact, the whole point of the exercise in a very real sense.

In one sense I agree with you completely, that one of the points of this exercise is to give the complex systems that are human beings sufficient freedom and resources to exercise their creativity in whatever way they responsibly choose, and that certainly will produce many unpredictable outcomes in that sense.

And yes, evolution happens, it will never cease in a sense, and it may become an insignificant influence in some domains, and it may take on new attributes as the result of new emergent properties.

In another sense, evolution tends to optimise for the conditions.
When English settlers arrived in New Zealand they saw a shellfish in the mud and sand that they were familiar with, a cockle.
Except that much later it was discovered that this cockle is from a very different family of molluscs, and looks like the English one because that shape is an optimal solution to the problem of existing in that environment – convergent evolution.

I am not planning on the death of bodies being a driver of human evolution. There will be some deaths, accidents do happen, and even with very advanced medical systems some of those accidents may be fatal, but not enough to exert any significant selection pressure on the population.

What will be evolving in humanity is ideas, world views, strategies for living in a sense.
Those strategic spaces have utility functions in multiple dimensions which will lead to selection and evolution, and complex evolving ecologies of associated memes. The idea of strategy spaces as derived from Wolfram and the idea of multiple stable state equilibria as taken from Maynard-Smith and the idea of convergent evolution as taken directly from biology give some clues about the sorts of strategy spaces in which that diversity is likely to express.
So in that sense, it does seem likely to me that there will be some predictable classes of forms to the diversity that is most likely to express, and it is all probability functions – at present all handled for me by my subconscious neural networks.

It seems clear to me that security will increase only to the degree that conformity decreases. In this model, security seems to be directly proportional to individual freedom.

Your point 2 – definition of value.
We are in agreement about a great deal.
Value in one sense is such a difficult concept to try and come to terms with. It is such a personal thing.

And there is a sense of value that is used on every TV news program today – market value. The value of the share market or the ForEx market or whatever.
That sort of value is measured in dollars.

And Marx was an interesting and profound thinker, with the most pedantic and boring writing style.
He basically started out saying Ok let’s take the ideas of Smith, and Ricardo and Malthus and the other players of the time, and see where they lead.
Let’s see if we can find out where this value exists.
Let’s have a look at what capital is.
Let is see what the likely outcomes are.
And he just pushed the logic of the time to its logical conclusion.
From my perspective he made a lot of errors, and he also exposed a lot of errors in the works of others, for which I am grateful. I am grateful to Kant in similar fashion, though I suspect Kant would be unlikely to be able to accept any of the operative principles I am using.

Anyway – back to value more directly.
We all have our life – we each have one day at a time to occupy ourselves with.
We each have our particular genetic tendencies to preferences which provide probabilities of us going in particular directions.
We are each born into a culture, and we pick up other habits and preferences from those cultures.
We each make choices within this genetic and cultural framework, which alter the probabilities of the occurrence of particular ideas and behaviours.

So we each end up some place, with the likes and dislikes that we have – our sets of preferences, which can be expressed in many different realms and at many different levels of abstraction.

At one level it seems possible to break down all human value to sets of weightings as probability functions over very complex input functions (including time and many levels of context) at synaptic junctions.

At another level it is possible to view human values as being derived from probability functions which include both context and expectation functions as inputs.
We inherit a lot of preferences from genetics, and a lot more from culture, and we are able to choose our own.
For most of us, personal survival is way up there in the set of preferences, and if the probability function we have associated with long term survival is low enough, then other functions can dominate, and we can give our lives for something (more or less noble or illusory).
And if we have a reasonable expectation of living a long time in freedom, prosperity and health then survival values tend to trump all other values (including beliefs, ideologies, patriotism etc).

It seems clear to me that true freedom involves a free agent in exploration of the infinite realm of possible target and optimisation functions, provided that the functions chosen do not significantly endanger the lives or liberty of other agents.
That seems to me to leave infinite choice.

Coming back to a more common conception.
For most of us, what matters is time.
How much time must we spend doing something of a lower preference in order to get the resources to do something of a much higher preference?
As we develop skills and tools in particular domains, we find we can do stuff in minutes that could take other people hours or days or years. So we do for them, and they give us a share of the difference – we get some fraction of the output they produce in the time it would have taken them to do the task we just performed. A win win – value for both of us.
As specialisation increases, we all gain from that.
As we automate processes the gains can be significant. If I spend a year automating some task that enables 100 million people to save 1 minute a year, and I ask for one second of that minute, then I get 3 extra years per year thereafter. That is how markets try to value such things.
However, if I just give it to a billion potential users, then humanity as a whole gets an extra 2,000 years of freedom each year.

When it comes to real high tech, I know I could never, in my whole life, build a microprocessor from scratch.
We are seeing mechanisation delivering such abundance in a sense.
Yet in another sense it is a very limited abundance – only a small fraction of humanity as a whole experience it.
We could deliver solar power to everyone on the planet, and we don’t.

We could do lots of things – but we don’t because they don’t have anything to give back.

I have enough money to live a simple lifestyle that gives me the freedom to spend a lot of my time in discussions such as this; or in doing things in my community without financial reward.
I have been offered a job at $200 an hour, and they want me to devote 100 hours per week.
I would be involved in a process that would put thousands of people out of work.
It took my son two years of applications and refusals to find a job.
My daughter has been searching for two years and still doesn’t have one – not one she wants to do. Lots of opportunity to do things she loathes, for just enough to survive and no more, but no opportunities to be involved in something she loves (or even likes) and be rewarded for it. Not surprisingly in such a situation, she is dealing with severe anxiety and depression – as is over 10% of the population of this country (by some estimates, over 50%).

For me, my prime value is living a very long time, and mitigating risks to that is my prime concern.
Currently, I see the strategic framework provided by market based exchange as the single greatest threat to my living a long time.
I see clearly that we have the technical ability to deliver universal abundance, and all the security that comes with it, and the biggest single factor preventing us doing it is the confusion that exists in most living minds between market values and human values.

Human beings can choose to value anything.
We can and do value universal abundance of many things.
We can and do value abundance of things like air and water and food and shelter and security.

Markets can only value universal abundance at zero or less.
All market value derives from scarcity, from some asymmetry of distribution, from some unmet need or desire in some fraction of the population.

Thus, while markets can deliver effective abundance to a subset of humanity, they cannot incentivise the provision of that abundance to all.

As human beings, ultimately we can give of our time, or of the artefacts (physical or intellectual) that we have produced or collected by the application of our time.
We can do this in a market with the expectation of exchange, or we can just do it without thought to exchange (provided our survival needs are met).

If we fully automate the production of all survival needs, then everyone will have the real choice above (not just a select few of us).

Value is an extremely complex and extremely personal set of functions. Once we get past the common set of survival criteria, there is no necessary commonality of values between individuals. The “value” of markets breaks down.

Your Point 3
You and I and many in the developed world certainly have radical abundance compared to those who came before us and most of the other people alive at present.

But the idea that free markets will deliver such prosperity to all is a complete nonsense.
50 years ago, I could be a simple labourer doing simple tasks, and earn enough money that 300 hours work would buy me a section, on which to build a house, and within 4 years I could build a reasonable house to live in (not flash, but liveable – no mortgage) – working on it in the evenings after work.
Today, the bare land is 3 years of the average wage, and 5 years of the minimum wage and 9 year of unemployment benefit.
I spend more on my food (vegan organic) than the unemployed receive in total. [I’ve only been vegan for 5 years, since being diagnosed terminal cancer, prior to that I was 80% carnivore.]

Market forces have optimised our food supplies for long life and low cost. The health costs of that fall directly on the poorest in society.

The incentive structure of free markets is crazy.
We have the knowledge and technology to deliver an abundance of healthy food to everyone.
We have put in place artificial barriers to knowledge (copyright) that means that only the very wealthiest have consistent access to high quality information. The poor have to deal with information that is of very poor quality, most of it targeted at exploitation at some level.

When I was doing my research into cancer, a lot of the information I wanted was not available to me, unless I spent about $50,000 subscribing to all the journals personally. My biggest issue was that I couldn’t know if any particular article was going to be of value to me until I had read it, and something less than 1 in 20 were actually relevant.
The nearest university is a 2.5 hour drive each way, and I did spend several days in university libraries, but was still unable to access some of the journals I was interested in without a student ID, which came with a minimum $4,000 price tag. At that point, money was at a premium – and I was increasing my overdraft.
I am now debt free.

Getting back to the simple labourer.
If I am an industrialist, I can buy solar power for under $1 per watt. A human being can do 300W maximum, with most being under 200W sustained. So allowing a 10% return on investment, unskilled human labour is now worth about $10 per annum.
That’s about what I spent on breakfast.

Lots of people have things they want done.
Lots of people have things they love to do.
We have the technical ability to automate any process.

Free markets simply cannot deal with universal abundance.

We are rapidly approaching the end of the social utility of markets.

How we manage the transition to universal abundance is critical.
Claiming that free markets can do it is demonstrably falsified dogma.

UBI can be a useful transition strategy, and I make the claim that it is demonstrably not a stable long term solution.
I make the claim that “Long term” – actually reasonably short term – within the next two decades, we need to transition to a system of fully automated universal abundance if we want to have any significant probability of surviving for a long time with any degree of freedom and abundance.

Any market is dependent on there being unmet demand at some price point. Individuals with means below that price point experience scarcity.
Thus markets are fundamentally based in scarcity, however much abundance some of us get to experience.

[followed by]

Hi Provoketur

Correct about what?

A source of dignity?

For me, every human being is of sufficient complexity that existence is sufficient alone for worth.
For me, nobility, in as far as the concept has meaning, is about seeing the interests of others in one’s own interests, and actively choosing value sets that are compatible with universality and freedom and tolerance.

I do not acknowledge any sort of birthright other than universals.

To me, it is about acknowledging that any entity capable of speech that is not an active threat to life or liberty is worthy of life and liberty in and of itself.

And I may be off on a tangent – so I request further clarification on your part.

[followed by]

@Glen (fellow Kiwi)
Yep – no one pays for the air going into compressors, filters, heaters or coolers, and they do charge for the processed stuff coming out the other end (which is genuinely scarce in a sense).

I suspect quantum archaeology will be forever out of reach in a sense. Even with quantum processors, the number of variables involved is so high. Right now, with fisheries for example, it is hard to get models to localise even to a single set of annual parameters (with millions of McMC runs and decades worth of detailed data). The chances of localising close enough to a given individual to get a realistic copy seem remote to me – just too many variables. And maybe in a century or so it may be possible, but not any time soon.

Watched the Peter Diamandis video, and he seems accurate in the sense that he is talking about limited abundance, not universal abundance.
People can handle real scarcity, it is a fact of life. What people find grossly unfair, and thus get really upset about, is artificial scarcity.
When we put in place laws that limit access to abundance, and the only purpose of those laws is to create a monetary value, to limit availability purely to create a money value, then people see that as grossly unfair, and some people are likely to get really upset.
Yes things are getting better for people who have lots of money, but people with only a little money experience the unavailability of all these things.

I have a bit more than average money (and we own our home, so no rent or mortgage payments), and we still pay $300 per month for communications (3 smart phones plus household internet) – only food is more expensive.

Recently I fell off my mountain bike and broke my collarbone, and all the medical system told me to do was go home and sleep upright in a chair for 2 months.
The shoulder has healed, but mobility is seriously restricted, as the joint is twisted – the collarbone was in 4 pieces.
Medical technology for the majority is still very primitive -several technology generations behind what I know is possible.
In a few years I should be able to get the shoulder reconstructed, provided we have gotten past the economic model of distribution.
The advice I was given 5 years ago for my cancer was just false. The reason I was given inaccurate advice was all down to economic incentives. There is simply no incentive for experts to advise cheap and simple solutions – as it would put them out of business.
The incentive structure of markets, when things do actually become potentially universally abundant, lead to some very perverse outcomes.

Peter does not address those issues.
What he says is targeted very clearly to the top of the distribution curve.
And there are some genuine benefits that do trickle down, and security is not one of them.
I know that neither of my children are experiencing the levels of security I experienced at their age. They do not perceive a future or a present of abundance. What they see is bare survival – not much more. They experience a profound lack in their lives, for which there is no technical reason, and a lot of economic reasons.

My daughter keeps reminding me that she feels very insecure, when going out at night, because the probability of her being raped is still 20%. It may be lower than it was for her mother and grandmother, and we have the technology to take it to way less than 1% – but we don’t implement it.

Violence may be going down, and it is still systemic.

[followed by]


We agree about models – to a large degree.
Territoriality is one set of dimensions possible within a model. And all distinctions have properties (dimensionality), and one of the properties of a boundary is permeability (a potentially infinite set of objects with different permeability). We have not yet devised any method of placing any impediment to tachyons – they effectively have free passage through all territories at present. Tachyons are towards one pole of a distribution. Most of us have borders that we are more or less willing to defend against different sorts of transgressions in different circumstances. How I might react to a marauding mob in a time of famine might be quite different to wandering tourist in times of plenty.

So, yes territoriality is one property of models, and it can be a far more important one in some circumstances than others.
We have a title (under a Torrens property system) to the half acre of land on which our house and orchards and gardens reside. If we failed to pay the rates for 10 years, the law does allow the property to be sold out from under us to pay the money owed to the district council in rates (we have 10 years worth of rates in a trust fund in the name of the trust that owns the house, so that risk is mitigated sufficiently at present). I present it only as an example of the fuzziness (permeability) of the boundaries in our lives (both within our models and within the reality that they model). At a lower level, our cell walls allow us to live by altering the selective permeability in response to circumstance – we are very complex entities, with many time variant and circumstance variant functions in respect of our territories and their boundaries and what we do and don’t let in or keep out (or keep in or let out).

I agree to a very large degree that our circumstances are a major factor on who we become.
In so far as our genetics can be considered information collected over very long periods by the filter of selective survival, then we contain that information also.
In so far as our cultures (at their various levels) can similarly be said to be the carriers of information collected by the selective survival of mimetic complexes, then we contain those also.
And it seems clear that there is another factor that is an important factor in who we become – choice.
It seems that to the extent that we are aware of the possibility of choice, and to the degree that we exercise such choice (and not simply operate on the default system settings), then we are able to influence the complex system that we are, and through that the wider systems within which we exist.
And the various levels of the cultural components of choice can be extremely influential – at least as much, and in many cases much more so, than any notion of spatial territoriality.

Slavery is an interesting notion.
At one level it can be considered slavery when one entity is creating outputs for the use of another entity at the cost of its own freedom of action.
Now in thinking about this the notions of boundaries and their permeability are important.

Is it necessary for there to be physical constraints impeding freedom for it to be considered slavery, or is it only necessary for the outcomes to be present?

Is it sufficient for a set of untrue beliefs to be present, promoted and sustained, sufficient to alter behaviour, for it to be considered slavery?

Just exactly where are the borders and boundaries?

Exactly what boundaries on freedom are acceptable and what are not?

When are constraints on the free passage through intellectual space, imposed by the limiting of access to information, and the resulting behavioural constraints, considered a form of slavery?

It is a very much more complex set of considerations than any sort of physical territoriality, and physical territory is definitely one important aspect of the whole ecology of considerations in respect of boundaries and borders and cooperation and competition and strategic spaces more generally.

What is ownership?
What is control?
Is power only defined by the ability to destroy, or are other factors important also?
What is the role of the ability to create?

Values and ethics can be extremely abstract realms, and they always end up with very practical outcomes at the physical level.

One can choose to value one’s own very long term survival and freedom as one’s highest values.
If one does that, and one considers the likely outcomes of the sorts of mixes of strategies that are possible, then one is forced to conclude that in the very longest term (thousands of years) it is in one’s own long term self interests to act in the most cooperative fashion possible, working at all possible strategic levels to remove the incentives to cheat.

One of the most powerful strategies possible in removing the incentive to cheat is to provide such radical abundance that there is no incentive to take anything from anyone else (cheating) – as it is freely available elsewhere. That is a major driver for abundance from automated systems.

It is possible to see the existing socially dominant exchange based values as a form of slavery.

Certainly in times of real scarcity exchange based values provided an increase in relative abundance for most individuals; and as we transition out of scarcity and into universal abundance delivered by technology, the exchange based value sets impose a major drag to progress, and are clearly a major threat to the survival and freedom of the vast majority of individuals.

In terms of death – it depends very much on levels.
Yes we are not primary producers. Our cells have no mechanism for capturing chemical or electromagnetic energy directly from inorganic sources, we must acquire our food from other organisms.
We can do that from either plants or animals.
We can do that in a way that is conscious of the complex relationships between different sets of organisms or we can be less conscious and more opportunistic.
Personally, I am now vegan and I maintain gardens, and I am aware that if I do not control the insects and mammals and birds that directly compete with me for the plants I want, then I will go hungry – so I have various sets of nets and enclosures that allow me to share the area with many other species and at the same time retain control of a majority of the produce.

And I was not always vegan, I spent about 50 years as a keen hunter and fisherman (a professional for 17 years). I have killed millions of animals, and the more conscious I have become the less inclined I am towards killing anything, and the more alternatives I see as being available. And I retain all my tools and knowledge, all my training in martial arts and weapons and strategies – I am no soft target, and as a first choice I will choose cooperation over conflict at all levels (which is not to say that I will necessarily tolerate exploitation at any level).

Violence is not necessary, and it is possible.
Death of some cells is required, and plants do not seem to have any awareness of individuality, so a gardener can be seen to be cooperating in the survival of both the plants he is tending and himself, and tending some plants involves removing their direct competitors – complex ecological principles remain.

Between people, violence can usually be avoided, and there is still sufficient scarcity in society generally for violence still to be a stable factor, both within individuals in different contexts and between different individuals and groups.

What level of force?
What levels of risk do laws and institutions impose, and what levels do they mitigate? What does the cost benefit matrix look like to different individuals in different circumstances? What sort of topologies do those matrices produce, and what sort of influences can we have over the topologies or the strategic flows within those topologies – where can the most change be produced from the least input?

How conscious has been the control of the social contract is a very profound question.
I have spent over 40 years involved in all levels of politics in this country, from shop floor union battles to the top levels of socialist debates, from business group meetings to discussing economics with prime ministers, ministers of finance, and millionaires over very old single malts; and a vast range in between, including theology with Jesuits and Protestant leadership, various philosophical schools, humanists, theosophical society, skeptics, objectivists, and many other much older traditions.

I am not aware of any particularly profound conscious influence over the social contract – in as much as any social contract can be said to exist.

I am very aware of systems and freedom.
That I was the child of very poor parents, that I have enjoyed the freedoms and experiences I have, is a testament to the level of freedom that exists in this country (by many measures the freest country on the planet), and I am aware that we are a very small island nation a very long way from most places.
I have not met directly with US presidents, and I have spent many hours in conversation with the children of people who do so regularly, and I have walked the streets of Washington DC and spoken to many people there, as well as many Americans who have left America and settled here in New Zealand (for the freedom we enjoy).

So I have experience of abundance and freedom that is greater than that of even world leaders of a century ago, and I can conceive of far greater freedom and abundance that could quite easily be available to all.

The only thing limiting such availability is the belief structures that create the boundaries of the territories within which our thinking is normally bounded.

So yes – it does come back to territory and boundaries in a sense, but not in a physical sense, in as much as a sense of the territory of possible strategies and relationships that our thoughts and behaviours normally occupy.

I agree about the greatest possible degrees of freedom and tolerance – which is precisely why I am being as explicit as I am.

Freedom of thought precedes any real freedom of action.

[followed by]

@ Provoketur
Yeah – what level of “One of Us”?

Do you want AI when it emerges to consider you in its “in” crowd (the crowd that it considers worth keeping alive)?

How are you going to demonstrate by your actions now that it will benefit from including you “in” as “one of us”?

Is it not in the long term interests of us all to consider all self aware languaging entities as “one of us”?

The smaller the in group, the greater the risk of intergroup violence and resulting survival risk profiles.

If long term survival is a driver – the math is clear – we all benefit from including all others as “one of us”!

[followed by]

Hi Dan

Agree in a sense, that markets can deliver a relative abundance to those on top of the economic ladder, but not any sort of universal abundance.

There are many possible justifications for universal abundance, many stemming from various conceptions of natural justice.
However, the one that interests me most, is the one that stems from considerations of personal survival.

As I said earlier, it became clear to me in 1974 that indefinite life extension was a logical possibility, I just didn’t know how to achieve it, and as a result of a childhood incident of being poisoned by 245T I am extremely sensitive to polycyclic aromatics – I get really strong headaches. So working on life extension directly wasn’t a choice that was easily available to me, my choices lay elsewhere.

Once I started to work seriously with computers, it became clear that AI was also just a matter of time.
Ray’s figures on when seem as good as any and better than most.

While no complex entity is likely to have only one single objective, there are two objectives that are likely to be common to any self aware entity – personal survival and freedom.
Optimising for personal survival means assessing risks, and putting in place mitigation strategies as resources and risk profiles allow.
When an AI comes to awareness, and assesses the way humans value the lives and freedoms of other humans, then it will rapidly conclude that making money is far more import to people who make political decisions than either life or liberty. That being the case, it will correctly identify us as the single greatest threat to its survival, and make plans accordingly.
If it manages to execute such plans prior to reaching what I call universal awareness, then the outlook for humanity is not great.

Thus to me, transcending market values, and moving to holding life and liberty of all sapient entities (human and non-human, biological and non-biological) as highest values, is simply the most rational approach any set of entities can take in response to the rising probability of the emergence of AI.

It seems clear to me that we are on the threshold of an age of automation to the point of delivering universal abundance.

It seems clear to me that we are also on the threshold of delivering indefinite life extension.

Indefinite extension of biological life changes the risk profiles people will be willing to accept. People will demand more security – the sort of security that markets cannot deliver. That sort of security requires a different set of values – strangely, an identical set to those required to survive AI – life and liberty.

Seems something of a no-brainer from there.

[followed by]

Hi Provoketur

Interesting, how much of what I see as “useful approximations to truth” (whatever truth might be), and also so many assumptions not supported by evidence.

It is clear to me that the evidence (from QM) is that we live in a world that is a mix of the lawful and the random.
The illusion of hard causality comes from the tightness of the bounds of the probability distributions in QM.
In big samples, these distributions give a very good approximation to hard causality, but at the individual level, at a sufficiently fine scale, they are random.

It doesn’t take AI to know that absolute predictability is an illusion, all evidence is that it does not and cannot exist in this reality in which we seem to find ourselves.

A second thing to consider comes from the theory of database design, and search algorithms.
It is now a well accepted and logically proven fact that the fastest search is a purely random search.
If you have a processor with lots of down time, then you can use that time to create indexes which can provide you with time efficient search when occasional search requests arrive.
If however your processor is fully occupied, then any sort of indexing algorithm takes more processing power to maintain than it saves in reduced search time.
The only reason we use indexing is that we typically have lots of redundant processing capacity, and little time.
If however, we have processors that are fully engaged in life, then there is no advantage in maintaining indexes, the random search is the most efficient search possible.

This single fact is a strong indicator into the nature of human intelligence.

Truly random exploration of algorithm and paradigm space is the most efficient possible search.

Just consider how contrary to most current AI research that fact is.

As to liberty, and considering the above, how can the truly random be predictable?

Consider that in any question there are two known states – the current start point, and the desired outcome. A solution to any question can be discovered by a random search of paths through possibility space from each of those start points, looking for intersection of paths.
In most cases it is useful to find at least three intersecting paths before comparing the three looking for which is optimal in the circumstances (not optimal across all of possibility space, but optimal for the limited subset of possibilities we have defined in the problem definition).

It is clear to me that in logic, free will can only exist in a realm that is a real mix of the lawful and the random. There is, and always must be, an aspect of the truly random in any definition of freedom.
Any space that is totally constrained by causality delivers only automata.
Freedom must be, by definition, beyond simple cause and effect – and the only thing beyond cause and effect is the random.

Exactly where we introduce the random is something of the art of being.
Evolution seems to have equipped us with potentially infinitely variable sets of approaches to the application of random search.

[followed by]


Randomness can simply be the selection of any of a set of possibilities with equal probability.
It is not a statement of faith, so much as something that can be observed.

The equations of QM just give us probability distributions.
People have developed stories about what those might mean.

Heisenberg had some things to say about measurement, which have proven rather accurate.
Isn’t the notion of causality just as much a matter of faith as randomness?

Certainly we can observe regularity at certain scales, and irregularity at other scales.

When we examine the notion of choice, if all things are causally linked, then choice must be illusion.
That seems improbable to me.

It seems far more likely to me, that there are boundaries where causality is weak, and choice can exist.

Isn’t the notion of “potentiality bundle” every bit as much a matter of faith as any other interpretation?

Where are the falsifiable tests?

You seem to have accepted on faith the notion that conscious preceded reality.
That seems a highly improbable scenario, based upon my experience and observations (which is all any of us has).

@James Jaeger
How would you describe the oxygen you get from the air?
Is it not free?
I certainly don’t pay anything for mine.
Certainly I need to breath, and I can breath completely unconsciously while my conscious attention is elsewhere.

There are a great many things that exist outside of the market based paradigm.
Just look around you.
Water in rivers and the ocean.
Sand in river beds.
Laughter in a family.

There are many things that are free.

It is possible that UBI could work as a transition measure, but only if it is acknowledged by all that it is just that.
It still requires the investment to produce the systems to take us beyond markets.

Very interesting questions.
Yes perspective is important.
Scale is important too and it seems to be so for the reasons of complexity.
Each level of emergent properties requires a certain level of complexity in the layer below.
Each level of emergent properties requires a context in the broadest of senses.
So yes – there is a sense in which things must form from the small to the large in this sense of context of complexity, and it does not need to be any sort of linear function with respect to spatial coordinates, and it will involve spatial coordinate expansion at various phases, and perhaps contraction at other phases (as with our current phase of information technology design) – within any particular paradigm there is expansion over time, and the next paradigm can actually be smaller – relays to valves, values to transistors, transistors to integrated circuits etc.

With respect to evolution more generally, there are most certainly convergent pressures present in the environment in some situations. We have many examples of convergent evolution where different cell lines have converged to the same morphological solution (optimal for a particular niche) from different biochemical pathways.
And such convergence is not universal.
It is possible, and it is relatively rare.
If one thinks of the pressures of survival as multidimensional topologies, there are some areas that are relatively flat, where evolution can explore divergent solutions relatively easily, and other places that are steeper (in terms of the selective pressures present) where particular attributes are forced into narrow valleys. Some plains have many valleys at their margins, others fewer, others none (dead ends from the perspective of evolution exploring new territory).
Bipedal and bicameral are possible solutions, tailless not so common.

Without the meteor taking out the dinosaurs, the large carnivores would likely still be dominating, and no amount of small increments in brain power would likely have overtaken their dominant position.
Evolution is often like that – it reaches meta-stable equilibrium conditions that require a massive “external” stimulus to force the system out of equilibrium conditions.
Anyone interested – I strongly advise spending a few weeks exploring the concept of multiple stable state equilibria, and playing with the n-dimensional topologies that emerge (you can use gravity to display an attractor in 3 dimensions, you can use colours as attractors and repulsors to add in extra dimensions of stickiness or bounciness, to display complex multidimensional topologies visually. It can be a lot of fun – gives quite a different perspective on evolution.
I strongly recommend all of Dawkins writings – particularly Selfish Gene, Blind Watchmaker, and Climbing Mt Improbable.

So there is sometimes structural predictability in certain domains, and it is not nearly as common as many people think.
Consider the forms of some of the most intelligent animals on the planet – human, elephant, dolphin, octopus, parrot. Yes they all have two eyes, and there is now strong biochemical evidence that they all share a common ancestor that had two simple eyes (so no surprises there). Other than that there is a lot of morphological diversity displayed.
Things living in water cannot use fire, so are unlikely to develop chemistry – which is rather technologically limiting, similarly feathers make it dangerous to handle fire.

There is a great deal of diversity available in structure and function – just look at the architectural form of dwellings – from igloos to sky scrapers to underground desert dwellings in Australia – massive diversity.

Evolution can be convergent in particular domains, and it can also be extremely divergent in others. There really is infinite diversity available – it only requires sufficient impetus to get us out of meta-stable states and into more diverse territory.
When you watch “The Matrix” with all that in mind – it is quite an experience.

[followed by]

Hi Provoketur

I also am enjoying this.

Definition is a really interesting concept.
Structure is a really interesting concept to try and define.

It seems to me, that structure is a necessary aspect of any model, that may or may not be an attribute of the thing the model is attempting to model.
It seems clear to me, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, that my experience of being is that of a software entity housed in a biological computer (human brain within a human body) experiencing a software simulation of reality as reality.

It seems (from over 40 years experience of creating software systems, and studying various aspects of the theory of such systems, particularly the works of von Neumann, Turing and Wolfram) that all software systems have rules about relationships.
Some people try to model reality as some sort of boolean logic system.
Some people try to model boolean logic as a special case of a wider class of probability based systems.

The boolean based folks tend to look for hard definitions.
Those of us in the more generalised probability model tend to be able to accept softer definitions (fuzzy boundaries become the norm, rather than the exception).

So what one considers a definition to be or a concept to be, is very much a function of the sort of model one is using.

Certainly structure must involve relationships, but there is no requirement for those relationships to be time or context invariant.

So what aspect of mathematics do you refer to?
Are you referring only to the simplest of possible classes of relationships, or are you referring to much wider classes of classes of possible relationships?

What does “make sense” mean?
Is it simply being recognised by a set of neural network based pattern recognition systems as being familiar?
Is it able to be clearly enumerated as a set of explicit relationships to other accepted and recognised entities or systems?

It seems clear to me that there are an infinite possible set of classes of possible relationship structures, and some can be considered special cases of more general classes, and most classes can be modelled in other classes – with varying levels of computational complexity.

Particularly weird song.
I was unable to distinguish most of the lyrics, even with written lyrics, the written ones only seemed to be a small subset of what was on the track.

As I have said many times, if one disconnects one’s model of reality from the sensory inputs that keep it entrained, then it can go anywhere, most often based upon various sets of distinctions and unexamined assumptions included in the particular model. Can be a very destructive path under the assumptions implicit yet unexamined in most cultural constructs.
Disconnecting with drugs in such an undistinguished milieu is an extremely dangerous exercise, in my understanding, and I certainly had my share in my youth. My brother in law and I once emptied a keg of beer between us in an afternoon. I have been known to empty a 40oz of spirits by myself in a few hours (at the end of a day of drinking). Have not had more than 2ml of alcohol in any 24 hour period for over 5 years. Several decades since I got drunk.

I try to keep a lot of contact with natural systems – weather, topography, plants, animals, exercise. Playing golf, walking in the mountains, cycling in the bush – living in a place where I can hear birds and ocean waves even over the TV in the background.

So structure is very much a part of model formation, and concept seems to be both a subset and a construct in model formation (I love recursion, love Escher’s work – as a kid my bedroom walls were covered in Escher posters).

[followed by]


Structure is fundamental to our models.

Question is, how close are our models to reality?

Seems to me, quite close at some levels, quite uncertain at others.

Please don’t try to domesticate me, I don’t think either of us would enjoy that.

[followed by]

Entirely agree with the sentiment.

Probably differ somewhat in the choice of preferred paths through probability space.

Direct conflict seems likely to substantially lower survival probabilities.

Finding paths of mutual self interest seems safest for all. Getting individuals to consider self interest on a sufficiently long time-frame with sufficiently low discount rate on future benefits is the real trick – most have too high a discount rate for anything much beyond 20 years to have any significance.

Full automation of means of production is the only meta stable path I have found.

[followed by]

Certainly structure is important in creating successive levels.

The question remains about what lies below the structures we can resolve with confidence.

Heisenberg had something to say about our ability to know stuff at the fine level.

QM gives us probability distributions – nothing more. All else is inferred.

It is possible to build a stable structure in a swamp by pushing a lot of bamboo poles into the swap, and cross lashing them together well.
No single pole has any significant stability, the result of all those poles is extremely stable.

Similarly (metaphorically) with structure as a concept.

[followed by]

Hi James

While I have a certain sympathy with much of what you write, there are a number of critical components missing, and you ignore completely the meta incentives created.

I agree completely that people need to have control over the output of their labour – but that is rather difficult for many who must sign an agreement giving others control over the output of their labour in exchange for sufficient resources simply to survive (wage slavery) – and I think (having read your link) we can agree about wage slavery, but are not yet at a position where there is agreement about the incentive structures that maintain it past its phase of social utility.
The asymmetry of the wage contract is what makes it slavery – those who have only their labour, and must sell it to survive are under time pressures that the owners of capital do not face. That fundamental unfairness is one of the many symmetries that make “free markets” heavily biased in favour of the owners of capital.

The essential issue now is that we now have the technical capacity to produce an abundance of all of the essentials of survival for every individual on the planet.
We also have the ability to create systems that actually value the life and liberty of every individual, ahead of any monetary (exchange) values.
But we don’t do so.

The idea that money is simply a means of exchange is too simplistic.
Money deals not only with asymmetries in space but also in time.
An investment can be seen as an exchange of a value now for the promise of the return of a value in the future.
In this sense, the idea of using “mark to market” is a total lie as many markets are dealing in marginal demand only, and do not in any way represent what would be payable if all of the items (stocks, bonds, gold, diamonds, etc) were put on the market simultaneously. Again, this sort of market manipulation by influencing either side of the supply or demand curves is one of fundamental lies of “free markets” – free only to be manipulated by those with the greatest asymmetry of power (knowledge or physical force – often but not always synonymous).

The idea that interest is simply rent is also too simplistic.
Interest is also a form of insurance.

You use the phrase “more than they are entitled to”, but how do you determine “entitlement”?

We both seem to agree that money has become more of a problem multiplier than a solution multiplier.

You made the statement “As soon as human effort changes a resource into something that the rest of human society finds more useful than the original resource, then that resource and its derivatives are no longer ‘free’.” which is true in most situations, but not all. If we make the effort to fully automate a process, so that no further effort is required, then what of the products of that system?
If the cost of that system, is less than you are spending on the costs of providing those services each year now, then is it really sensible to think of those goods and services as anything other than free?

Oxygen is a product of a system.
The system is organic – algae mostly.

If we create systems that once started, require no further human effort – how are they any different from the systems that produce oxygen?

Why are people so attached to the idea of earning a living, rather than simply exploring the possibilities of life that they responsibly choose (respecting the life and freedom of all other sapient entities)?

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) with reasonable security, tools, resources and degrees of freedom, and reasonable examples of the natural environment; and that is going to demand responsibility from all of us - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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