Modern feudalism

Oligarchy, Predators, and Parasites: What the New Feudalists Would Be Doing Now, if They Had Sense.

The smartest billionaires today want nothing to do with feudalist trends

A great deal of truth in all you write David.

Yet you do not explicitly reference the 18ft caterpillar on the coffee table: which is the fact that anything that is fully automated has zero market value, and that the set of goods and services that can be fully automated is already large and is exponentially expanding.

Markets only measure unmet demand.
Markets can only work where people don’t have all they need.
So poverty is structural to a market system.
That wasn’t an issue when most things were genuinely scarce.
It is very much an issue (a core issue of injustice, that is becoming far more generally known) in an age where most things can be automated to universal abundance.

Most people don’t need a lot.
If you have fully automated climate controlled greenhouse production, then 100 square meters can feed a person easily. It takes about 20 square meters of solar cells to deliver enough energy to produce 1.5T per year of steel, while 1 square meter can supply the energy to deliver 15g of semiconductor grade silicon. 100 square meters of solar cells delivers plenty of energy for a very high standard of living. Allowing another 100 for sundry other requirements – 300 sq m / person – and leaving half the land area in its natural state, the continental USA could hold twice the world’s current population.

We are not short of land, energy or materials.

There is no need for poverty, anyone, anywhere.

No market based system, in and of its own internal incentive structures, will ever eliminate poverty. Adam Smith knew that. It is almost 250 years since he published his Theory of Moral Sentiment, which for all its many errors is still a profound work, as is the Wealth of Nations.

I agree with all you wrote above, and what I am saying here is deeper than that.

There are many people who really do want to live a very long time.

Those at the peak of the capitalist heap do not want to be an impediment to that – that is a very dangerous strategy – for everyone!!!

I am not suggesting that everyone have the same – quite the opposite.

And I am demanding that everyone have a high minimum – what most alive today would consider a high minimum – 20 KW continuous power over and above subsistence, with all the distributed redundancy of automated production and service delivery necessary to ensure security for all.

And I acknowledge it will take time to deliver, and that time has to be less than 10 years, preferably less than 5 – 2020 is a good target date.


[Followed by – in reply to Roberts reply to my post]


Hi Robert,

I kind of agree with you, and kind of don’t.

If I were planning some grand thing to solve everything and provide the perfect life to everyone, then I would be very skeptical of that.

What I am planning could act as enabler of people getting to do whatever they responsibly choose, so in that sense it does help people, and it doesn’t determine what those choices are. So it isn’t directional in that sense, just a tool that enables people to go in a direction of their choice (like the motor-vehicle is for many in the realm of transport, except at one level higher of abstraction).

I fully agree with you, that things will change. There is a lot of randomness in reality.

I’m not trying in any way to remove that, much more along the lines of celebrating it.

And yes – building that machine is a significant engineering challenge, in the same way that building the first Nimitz Class aircraft carrier was a significant engineering challenge.

The differences are also significant. We are looking to put together a machine that only weighs a few tons, but has the ability to make another copy of itself. So don’t need a lot of materials, and we do need a lot of very smart people with some very expensive tools to stick it all together and get all the bugs out of the systems.

I am definitely not trying to determine what everyone does.
That is not part of my plan.
I am trying to set up systems to ensure what everyone doesn’t do – which is pose any unnecessary risk to the life and liberty of anyone else, or to the biosphere.

I am all for unanticipated discoveries – I love them.

And it took a lot of work to eradicate smallpox. That was planned, and achieved.
Such planning is possible.
People have developed amazing technologies to plans (and continue to do so).
And there are usually unanticipated things along the way – to me that’s called life.

I am definitely not making any claim to predict all possible futures.
And we do predict futures all the time.
Every time someone sets out to build something, there is a set of predictions involved, and usually a set of unpredicted things happen along the way, and are dealt with in such a way that the predicted thing happens, be it a house, a sky-scraper, a yacht, a computer system, a self driving car, or whatever.

No one need ever work for anyone else, and anyone can choose to work with whomever reciprocates that desire. Such agreements would seem to me to be very probable indeed.

We are social entities.
Most of us form many associations outside of paid work, even now.

A couple of predictions I do make.
The rate of technical change and innovation will increase exponentially under such a system – without the constraints that market forces impose on us at present.
Most people would find such an existence far more interesting and secure than their current existence.

Beyond that, I have little idea what people will actually choose to do.

And there will be a transition phase, from the ways of being we have now, to the new ways that become possible.
I strongly suspect that there will be many thousands of different and successful ways of managing that transition.

Having faced a terminal cancer diagnosis, I did have to find a cure for that particular problem, in my particular case. What I did worked, and it was much more difficult than having some doctor prescribe something. And that is a different story, already well documented on my blog.

No one has been able to create a just and fair society, because everyone requires servants to do the work they don’t want to, but needs to be done. That is the single key difference that this level of automation provides.
Everyone gets a set of fully automated servants.

Yes – there is a lot of work to be done.
And a lot has been done in the 42 years since I started talking about things like this.

When I first stood for parliament on this platform (11 years ago) I got 180 votes.
I knew that was the likely outcome, and it was part of the process of initiating conversations at different levels.

I am currently standing for Mayor of our town, and I may just actually win this time.
The conversation is spreading. Awareness is happening.

And yes – we live in a very complex reality, that is in many aspects fundamentally unpredictable, even if some things (like sunrise, or GPS systems) are very predictable and very reliable.

And like you, I will keep on working, and I have a very clear goal of enabling everyone on the planet to live as long as they choose to, and ensuring that they are empowered throughout that life to do whatever they responsibly choose (myself included in that – and wanting it for myself, the only way I can see of creating the sort of security that delivers a reasonable probability of such a very long life is to deliver it to everyone).


[Followed by – new thread]


Hi Sally,

Yeah – Drexler had some great ideas. I attended the 25th ForeSight conference at Google’s Headquarters a few years ago.

I am definitely no fan of central control at any level.
I am also clear that markets have passed their peak utility.
The problem with markets is that they cannot deliver a positive value for anything that is universally abundant. Thus no market based system can ever, of its own internal incentive structure, incentivise universal abundance of anything. That means that in practice, markets will always have meta level incentives to prevent or remove any universal abundance that does develop. In a very real sense, that is all that IP laws are.

So while I am all for individual freedom and individual empowerment, I am no longer the fan of free markets I once was.

I see clearly now that markets are not the great friend of liberty that many think.
We now have far more effective ways of decentralising and empowering distributed decision making and communication more generally.

So for me, free markets are not the opposite of government control.
For me, both free markets and central control pose unacceptable risks to life an liberty.
We need a different paradigm.
Fortunately there are an infinite set of possibilities, some quite close in the possibility space of all possible strategies. And many of them are relatively trivial to implement with modern technology.

I align with a lot of things Peter Diamandis says, but not with his unquestioning acceptance of market dogma.
Companies are not inventive – some of the individuals they employ are.


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
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