Still not facing the stark logical fact that an economic system based on market exchange to alleviate scarcity cannot deal with universal abundance in any meaningful way.
We have the technology to make life great for everyone, right now.
What is stopping us is money – and the way it constrains thought to think in terms of money, rather than organisational systems and resources.
Money and markets now pose the single greatest threat.
Money requires scarcity.
Universal abundance has no market value (like oxygen).
Delivering universal abundance makes no sense within a market based mindset, as there is no profit. It will not happen if profit is the motive.
It only makes sense if you think about what is actually most valuable – and it must come back to human life and individual liberty – and there must be reasonable limits when the consequences of action affect all of us.
And I have no doubt that people are fundamentally cooperative enough to sort out the details if the basic survival needs are guaranteed, and they can see some justice in the system.
The current system of economic domination is not just, in any aspect.
Finding effective transition strategies is possible.
I am not saying that there are no limits.
I am making the explicit statement that we could easily meet the reasonable needs of every person on the planet for air, water, fresh food (fruits, vegetables, nuts), accommodation, education, sanitation, healthcare, and transport. And there is a reasonableness thing there, it’s not private jets for everyone, and it is public transportation networks that can get you most places quite quickly, and electric vehicles that will get you most other places.
So it wont be a case of a new house every year, there will be energy budgets to keep within, and there is plenty of room in such budgets to build a decent shelter in a day, and a substantial and fully fitted dwelling in under a year.
Shouldn’t be any need, in any sort of emergency, for anyone to spend much more than an hour without adequate shelter and assistance. We have that sort of capacity to respond if it is organised on the basis of need rather than on the basis of rules and profit.
Non scarcity is so much more than a glimmer.
We could do it now – we have the technology.
What prevents us doing it is thinking in terms of money.
In most cases the actual engineering is relatively trivial. It is all the rules and regulations that get in the way – and most of those rules and regulations are there to prop up a monetary system that simply cannot deal with the abundances that exist except by creating rules to remove them.
My issue isn’t lack of money.
My issue is the very concept of money. The fact that one of the factors contributing to how markets measure value is scarcity. The more scarce something is, the more it is worth (the higher the price point on the supply demand curves), and the less scarce something is, the less it is worth – the ultimate example of this being oxygen in the air – arguably the single most important thing to any person, yet of no market value due to universal abundance (lack of scarcity).
That was fine, when most things were in fact genuinely scarce.
It is not so great now when the only reason a large and growing set of goods and services is scarce at all is to maintain a monetary value on them.
In this sense, poverty is an integral component of any market based system of valuation.
So in this sense, I think we are talking about the same thing.
People are highly cooperative if they have a reasonable expectation of getting a fair deal, and can get rather upset if they detect intentional injustice, or preventable injustice.
Until recently there was a reasonable case to be made that it was just a matter of ignorance. That argument is becoming exponentially less likely.
What I suggest is a conversation about transition.
I suggest that we use the basic framework suggested by David Snowden for dealing with novel complexity – we fund many small independent “safe to fail” experiments, and then we look at what worked, what didn’t and why.
And then we iterate – path without end.
It seems this framework can be applied at any level, and is scale independent in a very real sense.
Then we put all the options out there and let different communities adopt different approaches. The essence of security is diversity and redundancy at all levels (quite the opposite of the JIT mentality promoted by “market efficiency”).
I suggest that we use the best science we have to identify as many “safe” options as possible, and then let people (at every level of organisation and cooperation) choose which to use.
I also suggest that we develop frameworks in every community for people to experiment at whatever they want to experiment with. And some things will have risk profiles that demand extensive risk mitigation measures.
In this framework, there are only two essential rules, and they are rules stated in terms of values:
1. Value sapient life: meaning take all reasonable actions to ensure the life of all other sapient entities; which by implication requires taking all reasonable steps to care for the environment and social systems that supports us all.
2. Value liberty: meaning take all reasonable actions to mitigate any reasonably foreseeable significant adverse impacts of ones actions upon others.
And yes, those boundary conditions are quite necessarily soft and flexible boundaries, and will involve specific conversations with appropriate communities to give greater specificity.
Life then becomes about the sorts of communities one engages with, the sorts of discussions one chooses to have, and the sorts of boundaries conditions one is interested in exploring.
I suspect that most communities will adopt quite conservative approaches in some areas, and quite novel approaches in other areas.
Provided every community has the two rules above as prime components, safe travel is possible. And part of travel will be bringing yourself up to speed with locally agreed risk mitigation standards.
That seems to leave room for infinitely recursive scales and levels of organisation to emerge, and for the boundaries of freedom to be a constantly evolving set of conversations.
Nothing is banned, and all things have constraints. So it may not be allowed to do X here, but over there X is just fine.
Some Xs may contain so much risk that experiments must be done off planet.
Some may be so risky that they must be done outside the orbit of Pluto.
Those are merely some of the possible constraints in possible risk management profiles.
Anything is possible, and everything has boundaries (flexible boundaries).
[added later followed by]
I get how difficult this is.
Just imagine a situation where anything can be automated.
Now consider, that it takes a lot of effort to design something new, and get all the bugs out of the manufacturing process, and once that is done, no further effort is required. Within the limits of available energy budgets, the systems just churn out whatever is requested.
Each time that happens, some new good or service is added to the class of available goods and services.
Energy becomes a sort of currency here on earth, it is limited, and it is quite large enough to deliver freedoms that very few today have real experience of. And for most people, they would have so much unused that they could simply put back into a general pool for others to use, or give to specific projects that they like, that it is unlikely to really become any sort of real currency.
And if you are prepared to leave the earth’s surface, then energy budgets are effectively unlimited (there are limits, but each individual’s limit would be close to the amount of energy used by the entire biosphere at present (including all of humanity).
What point would barter serve in such a system?
You don’t think about bartering for your next breath do you?
I get that we are not used to having a large collection of goods or services in the same class as air, and that is what full automation will deliver.
Most of the laws we have, they are simply obstacles put in place to prevent the delivery of universal abundance of anything other than air (when you actually look at them really closely).
Most laws are there to prop up aspects of the monetary system that fail as universal abundance comes on stream.
So in this sense, the idea of money and markets is actually sustaining poverty that need not exist.
Optimising production to meet demand is a very different function from optimising production to deliver profit.
Both are possible algorithms in a sense.
Both have measurable outcomes in reality.
And I really do get how hard it is to see a logical form that is so much a part of our cultural reality that it occurs like reality itself, rather than simply occurring as one possibility within an infinite class.
What I am talking about is completely beyond barter.
It is an exploration of the possibilities of freedom that is entirely beyond markets and trade.
It seems to require only two firm rules:
It seems that everything else can be a matter of choice, and some of the boundaries on those two are negotiable by context.
What I am talking about is beyond any sort of barter, any sort of currency.
[followed by “How to do it?”]
One conversation at a time.
Conversations like this one.
Conversations like https://tedhowardnz.wordpress.com/2015/08/06/a-battle-with-treasury/
I have stood for parliament on this platform 3 times.
I have been having conversations like this for over 40 years.
More and more people are becoming receptive to the idea.
More and more are starting to think that action might be possible.
There are now a lot of other people demonstrating a mathematical need for some alternative to the collapse in the trajectory of the current system.
As people more generally start to understand just how the economic system works, there will be very few at the bottom of the distribution prepared to tolerate it. We do have a very strong sense of injustice.