What is Wealth?

6 Apr 15 ~ QofDay ~ What is Wealth?

What is wealth?
Should all wealth be common amongst this species?
What is an ethical or appropriate wealth of our kind?
If all life spans are unique, whilst common to all life forms…is this not the most significant wealth to appreciate as abundant and common in a universe?
To what extent does the representation of wealth in the physical shell of civilization (built environment), enhance the quality of minds in the quality of life and how should we grow this shell between the present and future if as a kind we are all in this together?
Is the meaning of wealth fit for the purpose of a living kind, if all life is wealth decreasing, between generations?
Inter generational cosmic wealth, distributed fairly within the concept of legacy and heritage…but, how?

It seems to me that there is profound paradox built into the most common sense of the word wealth.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines:

1 The condition of being happy and prosperous;

2 Spiritual well-being;

3 Prosperity consisting in abundance of possessions; ‘worldly goods’, valuable possessions, esp. in great abundance: riches, affluence;

4 Economics. A collective term for those things the abundant possession of which (by a person or a community) constitutes riches, or ‘wealth’ in the popular sense;

5 Plenty, abundance, profusion.

In the first two senses, it seems entirely possible to generate conditions that support every person on the planet being happy and prosperous, secure, and with a reasonable balance of personal and communal interests in their decision making.

It also seems entirely possible for us to produce technologies that deliver an abundance of of the material needs to every person on the planet, and deliver on the 3rd and 5th senses for all.

The really profound paradox comes in the most common sense, the economic one – number 4.

In the market based economic sense, the more everyone has of something, the less it is worth in a market. So the more abundance we deliver, the less market value is present.

This clearly demonstrates the major difficulty present in allowing markets to determine value in a context where universal abundance is a real possibility.

This is the sense that the promise of market based systems fails to deliver.

The more abundant we make something, the less market value it has.

So it is clear to me that Ghandi had not really thought through this issue – his thinking was scarcity based, because his situation was one of genuine scarcity.

We need not have scarcity.

We have the potential to deliver universal abundance – and the major obstacle to it is market values (money).

Really a very strange situation.

[followed by]

Hi Paul

This is a really complex topic.

To me, it is clear that rights are a human invention, an attempt to create both security and freedom.

Jefferson spoke in the terms of the conceptual sets available in his day. For him the terms made sense, for me talking of a creator and inalienable rights makes no sense, and I can see the roles that such ideas played in the path to the sorts of ideas that seem sensible to me now (which may well not seem anywhere near so sensible to me in 20 or 50 years time).

To me, I see evolution of ideas, percepts, concepts, strategies; abstraction upon abstraction upon ……

It seems clear to me that the only path that delivers individual security and freedom to any in the long term is to deliver it to all as quickly as possible.

It seems that the ideas expressed in http://www.importanceofphilosophy.com/Politics_Rights.html#RightToLife of the right to life being only a right to work are not stable.
In a time of scarcity, there was an essential competitive survival reality – some people had to die. Now we live in an age of technology that allows us to create abundance for all, yet most of our cultural and institutional patterns have evolved in times of real scarcity, and are adapted to that reality, and cannot deal meaningfully with universal abundance.

Using automated systems, we can now deliver universal abundance, which does in fact mean delivering enough food and water and energy and materials to every individual to empower them to do whatever they responsibly choose. Sure there are limits on the amount of energy one can use here on the surface of planet Earth, and if one has projects that really require a lot of energy, then we will need to do those in space. And there is plenty of energy here on earth for every person to have high quality housing, and the freedom to travel hundreds of kilometres every day if they so choose.

The concepts of markets and money which served us so well in times of genuine scarcity are now the greatest threat to the delivery of universal abundance and universal security. We need to transcend them.

The pursuit of happiness is a strange thing.

Happiness as most people experience it is largely a genetically controlled set of feelings, a tendency towards actions which averaged over vast spans of genetic time have served our ancestors well, but can often lead us towards danger in our hugely changed modern times.

The greater the level of choice one is able to create, the more one can choose happiness independent of circumstance, the more freedom one has. When one masters this discipline, then happiness can be thought of as an extension of freedom, a matter of choice.

For me, politics is mostly about history.

Some define politics as the art of the possible, some see it as force in action, some see it as power at play.

The political institutions present today seem to be, for the most part, an expression of the interests of a very small subset of humanity – those with the most money (the 1% of the 1%).

There is often a “cover story” framed in terms of “public interest” which is plausible, but when one analyses the flow of money that results from the implementation of the policies, the real objectives are abundantly clear.

So I am very sceptical of government. I see that often governments are simply pawns in the power plays of very powerful individuals.

And to the degree that we each cultivate awareness of such things, and the willingness to act when action is required, then to that degree we can bring about change.

All government, all centralisation of power, contains inherent dangers.

Real security lies in decentralisation, and in the formation of networks that allow for free cooperative action on an “as required” basis. Such networks, to work, require that individuals are prepared to act (at all levels, technically, morally, physically and mentally trained – self trained) in order to deliver security. Most often, simply being prepared is sufficient to prevent the need to act.

As Sun Tzu said “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

It seems the most powerful way to do that is to be able to demonstrate that working together for mutual benefit is far more advantageous than competing.

[followed by]

Hi Paul

As I have said elsewhere, I see many risks, many threats in life.
It is impossible to deal with all simultaneously, so we must each do our risk assessment and develop risk mitigation strategies for those that seem to be the greatest and most immediate threat.

I used the Sun Tzu quote in a highly metaphorical sense. I do not see individuals as enemies, and I see that some of the thought forms that are common in individual minds (what I call memeplexes – complex ecologies of memes – which had real survival value in our not too distant cultural history) are now, in our age of potential technical universal abundance, a serious threat, both to the development of that abundance and through that to the lives and liberties of most of us.
To me, in a very real sense, I see people whose minds are infected with such ideas very much the same as I see people infected with the common cold. Given time they will probably get over the cold, and if I need them to be productive quickly, I have treatments that can eliminate the symptoms of the infection, and allow them to function at near normal output (Vitamin C in the case of colds, other ideas in the more metaphorical case).

So to me, it is the cold virus, and the memeplexes that are the “enemies” in a very real sense, not the human hosts that just happen to be carrying them for the moment.

I agree with some aspects of the comments you referred to.
We certainly need to become much more aware of our relationship to nature, and to give it far greater respect than most city dwellers demonstrate today. We have wwoofers from all over the planet stay with us. Mostly I do it to meet the people. This year, from a productivity standpoint, they have been a disaster. Mostly city kids, with no real experience of living systems. So I have lost probably 80% of this year’s crops due to the kids not understanding even what I would consider the most basic of instructions, and not being willing to say that they were uncertain, resulting is massive damage. 4 different sets of wwoofers managed to destroy 4 different crops, by weeding them inappropriately, and did so in 4 quite distinctly different ways. Each time I took pains to explain to the next group the errors of the previous groups, and each time they managed to make new errors that were so basic, it never occurred to me that someone might not know them.
So yes – we have problems.
Life in our modern technical and social world is so complex that most people have little time or energy or interest for the complexities of the natural world. In my role as chairman of the Kaikoura Zone Water Management committee I see this in a hundreds of different ways that people behave. People don’t intend to poison the waterways, they just want to have their compost piles and grass clippings away from the house, so they put them down by the back fence, at the edge of the creek, where much of the nitrates and phosphates end up in the waterways. It’s not intentional, it is just ignorance. And often things are much more complex – like farmers using urea fertilisers to nitrogen force production, and the leachate from that taking 20 or 40 years to percolate into groundwater systems and show up in wells and springs many miles away. Complex systems with delays that take decades or centuries for the effects to show up (both harmful and beneficial – if and when we do change our ways).

So yes – very complex time, very complex sets of systems, very many systemic incentives working against us, most particularly money and market based values.

And for all of that, people are doing stuff. Committees like those I chair do exist. Farmers do come to meetings, fertiliser suppliers are starting to take responsible actions, and there is much more that needs to be done – at so many different levels across our society.

Striking a balance between delivering individuals as much freedom as possible, and using as little coercion as possible to actually change behaviours where there is evidence beyond reasonable doubt that behaviours do need to change, is not an easy thing.

Sometimes, the memeplex infection in particular minds is so strong, that the mind is simply incapable of recognising that an issue exists. The more abstract the issue, the more common that problem is. By the time one gets past 8 levels of abstraction the problem is close to universal. On some issues I have pushed my explorations to 12 levels of abstraction.

You always have the freedom to ask questions.
I always have the freedom to choose if, and at which set of levels, I respond to any question.

My ability to respond is sometimes limited by the urgency of my need to respond in other areas – so sometimes I simply have to say I don’t have time to adequately respond. That is a big part of why I capture as many responses, and as many thoughts as possible on my blog site.

I foresee a time in the not too distant future when I may have very little time to respond to anything but the most immediate of serious issues (because I will be too busy on other projects); and I hope that others may be able to gain some understanding of why I am doing what I am doing from consideration of responses such as this.

[followed by]

Hi Paul

While there are many similarities between genes and memes, there are some very big differences between the genetic and mimetic development.
In terms of levels of abstractions, they do not take us to any sort of mimetic inheritance, they take us in the other direction, into the exploration of an infinite set of infinities (the realms of the possible), any dimension of which could occupy anyone for the rest of eternity.

It seems to me that we all share a common beginning in a sense (in the birth of this universe, and the evolution of life on this planet), and if we really look closely at the long term options, it seems that the only real security for any of us is to deliver security to all of us. And it is relatively simple to use technology to deliver universal abundance and security, and universal freedom (once we get ourselves outside of the trap of scarcity based thinking that is imposed by the assumptions behind using markets and money as measures of value).

Being human doesn’t seem to be limited in any real sense. We each seem to have the potential within us to explore any part of infinite possibility “space” (at any level we choose).

There is a sense in which we need to confine our explorations of the possible on this planet to technologies that are within the limits of the energy and material needs of life generally (and we can do big projects off planet).

As to consensus, that is an interesting thing. For about a decade now I have been involved in a consensus process for fisheries management. It takes a long time, and it does produce results.
The danger I see is that people mistake consensus for a tyranny of a majority. Real consensus means that every person has to be able to live with every outcome – that can be an interesting process – not quick.

There are some real issues: like where is the starting point for discussions?
Does one start with the existing cultural set of restrictions on freedom, and work from there?
Does one start with a completely empty set of restrictions on freedom?
What is the start point for consensus development?

Transition issues, from one system to another, are always the most difficult, because often there is no clear correlate from one system to another.

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) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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