Marx was somewhat further down the line of evolutionary development of money.
A lot of people in history, including most economists, seem to have gotten very confused looking for some sort of definition of money and the value in it.
Money started out simply being commodities that were common enough for general usage yet rare enough to be useful in trade – many metals served the purpose, most commonly copper, silver and gold. In some societies they used rare shells, some used rare feathers. All that really mattered was agreement about value.
The thing that most people don’t get is that all value is subjective and context sensitive. Money is, in this sense, a useful myth. It has value because we all agree to give it value. That is all.
It is useful as a means of exchange.
It has served many complex coordination roles in human society (all of which can now be done far more effectively by modern digital systems).
It has served as a tool of control and domination (which needs to stop if any of us to experience the sort of security that will allow potentially very long lived individuals to actually live a very long time).
For the last few thousand years it has served many useful purposes, in helping build societies from hunter gatherer systems to complex societies with complex technical and cultural constructs.
And we are approaching the end of money.
Automation allows us to produce any product or service that can be fully automated in universal abundance (and anything universally abundant has zero exchange value).
Automation is on a double exponential – currently doubling about every year.
And all of this is beyond the scope of the original topic as to how did money evolve, and is more about what is likely to be the next evolutionary paradigm of human values, coordination and interaction.
OK, let’s forget Steve, and look at evolution and money – since that was purportedly the topic.
And one cannot look at either evolution or money without examining the very idea of knowledge or understanding – which also has an evolutionary path.
The Greeks had the idea that Truth existed, and could be known.
That now seems highly improbable.
What now seems likely is that all knowledge is heuristically based, and has evolved through differential survival at some level.
It now seems clear that all any of us can experience is a subconsciously created model of reality that our brains produce. We have no direct access to reality – whatever that actually is.
It seems that all we have is these levels of historically useful approximations to something.
It seems that possibility space, algorithm space, the space of possible logical and mathematical systems, are all infinite, and we have explored a close approximation to none of them (and should we live for the rest of eternity, exploring, that will remain true). Such profound ignorance, profound uncertainty, is our reality – not any sort of Truth.
It seems clear that the sort of Truth that most searched for was illusion.
So, within that context, of useful approximations to reality:
Marx looked to labour for a measure of value, which was a step in a useful direction, but he didn’t have the intellectual tools to understand evolution.
Most people have a very distorted view of evolution.
The popular understanding of evolution is about competition, nature red in tooth and claw, and all that stuff.
That is certainly an aspect of what is possible in some contexts, and it is not what evolution is.
Evolution is simple.
It is differential survival of variants.
If a context has insufficient resources to sustain a population, there will develop within group competition. That is a possible context for evolution. It is not necessarily a dominant context for evolution.
If there are sufficient resources for all individuals within a group, then traits that lead to cooperation in surviving out group factors can be strongly selected for. Hence we see such things as predator signalling in most species – from blackbirds to baboons.
Context is king.
Humans seem to have spent most of their existence in a sort of stochastic “sweet spot” where external factors were the major limitation on survival rather than in-group competition. This allowed the evolution of many cooperative heuristics. And to be stable cooperation requires attendant strategies to prevent cheating strategies from dominating – we have an abundance of those. Hence we are the most cooperative species known.
In the last few thousand years, a subset of individuals have exploited certain strategies to effectively dominate the majority of humanity.
One way or another, that is going to end soon.
I would like it to end peacefully, with everyone leading long and interesting lives. And other options are also possible and have roughly equivalent probabilities at present.
Marx looked at labour for value.
He failed to grasp the strategic role of survival, and the many levels of deeply embedded heuristics in the human psyche.
I could never make a single microprocessor. The processor and memory in this machine is more complex than I could possible build in a lifetime, yet it is made possible by a series of processes that have evolved over many decades, and they are produced in vast numbers at a small unit cost.
This difference, between what an unaided individual can produce, and what a productive process (with or without humans) can produce, is the value that is traded in markets. Can I get more value from an extra hour at work, rather than an hour tending my garden? In money terms, without doubt.
A few days ago I was wondering about the distribution of numbers within Pi – was it random, so I spent a few hours and wrote some routines and searched the first billion digits of pi – and the distribution of spacing between digits does appear to be entirely random. Even 100 years ago, that task was impossible even for humanity as a whole. I did it in a few hours, with the aid of this laptop, and a set of tools I have spent 40 years developing, along with many others.
Our potential for productivity is vast.
Our potential for destruction is similarly vast.
In the years I spent as a commercial fisherman I personally caught and delivered to market over 2 million fish.
In the 30 years I have owned and operated a software company systems I have produced have saved thousands of man years of clerical time. Just yesterday I had one person tell me how she cried when a new system I delivered worked, as it meant 6.5 hours per week of her time she didn’t have to spend typing numbers.
Most of our systems are hugely suboptimal.
Most are work for works sake – soul destroying, humanity destroying.
Capital is about slavery.
Capital is about dominating the means of production, and survival relies on production.
The so called bargain between capital and labour is highly asymmetric.
Labourers need food to survive, many live an almost day to day, certainly week to week, existence.
Capital can usually stand idle for much longer than labour, without any serious risk to the survival of the capitalist.
The entire capitalist system is a form of slavery with a whole bunch of myths associated with it to make it acceptable.
When most things were in fact genuinely scarce, the system did have a certain utility to it.
Now that we have the technical capacity to fully automate production, the system is in crisis.
Fully automated systems can deliver universal abundance, but anything universally abundant has zero value in a market, so no capitalist will ever allow such abundance – hence poverty as a necessary structural part of any current market based system.
Marx correctly foresaw that we would reach a point where automation would mean that most people could not add sufficient value to justify their existence. Amongst modern economists Robin Hanson is one of the few with the intellectual honesty the take that paradigm to its logical limits. I completely disagree with Robin that it is an ethically acceptable outcome, but I don’t disagree with him that it is the natural outcome of any market based system.
Money is a myth.
It is something that works only because we believe it will work.
In that sense, it is a useful myth, to the degree that it is.
Reality is, that there exists in any instant a potential for the production of goods and services. Any such potential not used, no longer exists.
Austerity is nothing less than the deliberate disabling of production, to intentionally deliver poverty.
We are not short of energy.
We have sufficient sunlight to meet the reasonable needs of everyone, with a wide margin to spare. But it is hard to make profit from a distributed power source like solar, so it is resisted at every level of capitalism.
It is easy to make super normal profits from Saudi oil, when it is produced for under a dollar per barrel and retails at over $300 per barrel. Lots of snouts deeply into that trough.
We need to stop using oil as an energy source, but all levels of the capitalist system are addicted to the profit it delivers.
The problems are not technical, they are mythological.
The myth of money.
The myth of power.
The illusion of security that both deliver.
Once you can see past the myths, it is clear that real security, real power, lies in cooperative action at the highest levels, that delivers security and freedom to everyone.
And that does have the necessary outcome of exponentially expanding diversity.
Its going to be a close thing.
Will we survive into a future of abundance and security, or will we fall foul to the great filter of out of control competition and short sighted narrow self interest leading to extinction for all.
I am cautiously optimistic that cooperation and survival will win out, and it is by no means a certain thing.
It is going to take a lot of effort by a lot of people.
Perceptions of coherence are very much a function of paradigms in use.
I cannot create a coherent argument for people who still believe in Truth. For me it is like asking me to explain Santa Claus – a myth.
Money is kind of like that.
It is pure myth.
It works because people believe in it.
It worked in history because life with it was easier than life without it.
In the transition period we are entering, we may still need to experience life with money, and some form of Universal Basic Income may be part of an effective suite of transition strategies to life beyond money.
Most people only want a fair share (enough for their needs), and some people want all they can get – that about sums up wealth distributions.
And I do get it is far more complex than that, and it is a good first order approximation.
When we required labour to create things, the idea of dead labour made a certain sort of sense.
But now we can mechanise and automate processes to the point that there is all most people need, for nothing.
Yet we don’t do it.
We don’t do it because most people are trapped inside the idea of money as a measure of value, and the need for profit that is derived from that.
I guess Steve and I agree in a very real sense, that money is just numbers that people believe in.
Most people simply get the numbers they need to survive, and sometimes do what they want, without taking it much deeper than that.
We didn’t have video cameras back in the deep cultural past recording what actually happened, so everything about the history of the evolution of money is going to be conjecture.
Even if we could somehow get images of what happened, that would explain the what, not the why.
The paradigms that individuals use, moment by moment, to make sense of the model of reality that their brain is presenting to them as their experiential reality, cannot yet be recorded, so even today we can only guess at what is going on in anyone’s head – ourselves included. Our conscious experience is only the tiny tip of a vast computational iceberg.
My brain has all these concepts, from computing, biology, complexity theory, Wolfram’s NKS, Einstein, Heisenberg, Russell, Turing, Goedel, and thousands of others. In my head, they create a unique ecosystem, with many populations at many levels of complexity of concepts, ideas, abstractions, interpretations, conjectures, intuitions, analogies.
How can I explain Kurt Goedel, when it took me nine months of nightly headaches to come to terms with everything in his logic? And I’m not slow, when active in Mensa I was invited to join the 4 sigma club, and I consciously chose a different path, followed my own intuitions.
I know I have not the time or patience to connect all the dots for anyone else. My writing or talking speed is a tiny fraction of my thinking speed. I just leave pointers, as best I can, in case anyone else is interested in doing the work.
And some things are quite straight forward (unfortunately evolution is not one of them – simple principle, recursively complex reality, with at least 20 levels of cooperative systems present in most human beings – and many instances of different systems at every level).
I am not too interested in the past.
I am very interested in the future we are creating.
I would like to live in it for a very long time – the rest of eternity sounds about long enough.
And I may have only a small chance of doing that, and so long as any chance remains, I’ll keep going.
This is getting really tricky.
I can sort of agree with everything you wrote, and it mostly seems to stem from a misunderstanding of what I wrote, and that (I am afraid) is very much to be expected.
Let me approach it this way.
Some things we can get agreement on fairly easily.
Some things are much more probable than other things.
I called Truth with a capital “T” a myth, as in something that one could be absolutely certain about.
I don’t have any such thing.
I have many things I am very confident about, that I rely upon operationally, and don’t normally entertain any doubt, and if pushed, I have to admit the possibility of doubt, however small.
A myth is a story, that at some stage for some people served a useful purpose, and within the paradigm in use is demonstrably untrue.
Saying that money has value is such a myth, to me.
That is not to deny the operational reality that I can get a variety of goods and services by giving people money – that is very true most of the time.
The really interesting question is why?
Is it something in the money, or something in the people.
To me, it is clear, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, that money works because people believe it will, and for no other reason.
It is the degree to which we all trust that it will work, that makes it work.
Money works – that we agree upon.
The idea that money itself has value, that to me is myth.
What has value is the goods and services that people have, or want, and the trust that they have in an abstract token of value (money).
As to evolution, that too is complex.
If we reset the clock, wind the earth back to how it was 4 billion years ago, and try again, we might get life forms (and maybe not).
If we did get life, there is very little chance that it would be like us.
There is a lot of randomness in evolution.
The general forms of the processes we understand well, but that does not make the process as a whole predictable.
And sure, we could go back and look for clues about how money evolved, and some of us have, and it seems to be part of the whole thing about the invention of writing, about keeping accounts, keeping track of tribute and taxes in complex societies.
And of far greater interest to me is the strategic bottleneck we currently face, where the strategic interests of the monetary system and the strategic interests of individual human beings are now coming into direct opposition, as the result of automation.
Any fully automated process allows us to produce whatever goods or services it creates in universal abundance with no human labour required. That is great for people who want that good or service.
But, anything universally abundant in a market place drops to zero value in that market. Zero value means no profit. Banks, financial institutions, governments, stock markets, all fear such loss of value, loss of profit. It is anathema to them.
Hence the conflict.
We already have the ability to fully automate the production of a large set of goods and services (mostly services at present) and that set is exponentially expanding.
Right now, we have the technical ability to deliver a high standard of living to every individual on the planet, but doing so would break the money system. I have run a software company for 30+ years. I have some practical experience of such matters.
I don’t want to force anyone to do anything.
I do want everyone to have the real resources and freedom and security to do whatever they responsible choose – where such responsibility involves make conscious assessments of the risks of actions to others and to the environment we share, and minimising such risks as much as is reasonably possible, and cleaning up whatever messes our mistakes create.
I find it odd that you seem passionate about the details of the history of money to about the same degree that I am passionate about creating systems that empower everyone. And it is odd to me, that I see clearly the need to disinvent the concept of money, or at least relegate it to a bit player in the larger ecosystem of human value judgements and the influence on the direction of societal systems development, because of the clear and present danger it presents.
But then I’m a systems geek, have been fascinate by systems for over 50 years, biological, mechanical, human, ethical, computational, strategic, paradigmatic…..
Thank you. Thank you for the anecdote, and for everything else.
Our world views are so different, I think I have a reasonable model of yours now, and it will only be a useful model in some circumstances, as all human beings are vastly more complex that any of our models of them (ourselves included) – this I know with great operational confidence. 😉
To try and give you a model to help you understand me, and where I am coming from – consider that in 1974, as I completed my undergraduate studies in biochemistry, it became clear to me that the default mode for all cellular life is indefinite. Only the complex forms of life have developed the trick of giving some cell lines a limited lifespan.
Once I saw that, it was obvious that indefinite life extension was possible. I did not know how to do it, and I did know, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, that it was technically achievable.
Having confidence that the biological aspect of dying from complications directly related to aging could be cured, the question that immediately occurred to me was “What sort of social, political and technical institutions are required to allow potentially very long lived individuals to actually live a very long time, with both freedom and security?”
That question sent me down several different practical and theoretical explorations. I started joining and volunteering in many different aspects of society, to gain practical experience of how things actually work now, as well as looking at theoretical investigations.
I read large numbers of works, by philosophers, mathematicians, physicists, chemists, logicians, historians, economists, computational theorists and many more. I am 42 years into that journey. In all those many works, only one did I find no significant errors – Kurt Godel’s incompleteness theorems. And I suspect that is so because he stuck strictly to the realm of logic and made no claims at all about reality.
Proudhon had the beginnings of a philosophy, just as Marx made some interesting investigations into the consequences of particular trends in economic and social patterns. David Harvey even argues that Marx foresaw the elimination of labour by fully automated systems. I have looked at those passages, and I doubt that Marx actually made that connection.
Marx viewed life as a class struggle.
I view life in terms of evolving open complex systems.
I see we are near the limits stability of exchange based systems.
Exchange based values cannot survive fully automated systems.
What I am about is empowerment of individual freedom, which comes with a responsibly to act reasonably within both social and ecological contexts.
The only way everyone can have all the empowerment, is if we automate all the systems. That doesn’t mean that people do nothing. People can do whatever they responsibly choose, and if no one does any of the critical things that need to be done, then the automated systems can step in and do what must be done to ensure survival.
In markets, asymmetries always magnify. There is no way of avoiding that.
So markets are not stable as a dominant coordinating paradigm (as per Hayek).
So for me, the answer is, to develop a set of machines that can use sunlight to make a copy of themselves and do all the important things that really need to be done. That is a huge task, but once done, if it takes two weeks to make a copy, then within 2 years there can be one for every person on the planet.
That is a major game changer.
We don’t need money then.
We use labour to make a system that then delivers all the labour anyone needs.
No need for exchange or further labour.
Every individual free to self actualise in whatever fashion they responsibly choose.
Gifting becomes just as useful – perhaps even more so.
And I really do get, that what I wrote can be almost impossible to get.
And I am confident, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, that it is possible.
Not nearly so confident that we will actually do it – about 50/50 at present.
Again, thank you for taking the time and effort to offer the depth of critique you have, and to be as explicit as you have been. I have found it very helpful.
Marx’s understanding/conception of human nature, of existence, was so different to my own, that it is hard to find paths of relationship, yet they must be there in history somewhere.
In the time he lived, there was no understanding of nuclear fission, no explanatory framework for how either the earth or the sun could stay hot over deep time, so their conception of time was very much shorter than ours.
There was no generalised understanding of topologicalspace, nor of algorithm space, logical space, infinitely dimensional conceptual space, or general computation or modelling in anything like the modern conception of virtual reality.
The idea of atoms was not generally accepted, and the modern conception of the quantum mechanical processes that allow atoms to exist and behave as they do, as what seems most likely to be the sum over time of random events within probability functions, was not available.
There was no mechanism generally understood for the hereditary that was required to power Darwin’s natural selection, Darwin himself went down a dead end on that particular subject.
The fundamental role of cooperation in the emergence of complex life did not exist as a concept.
The idea that life started as cooperation between a set of RNA molecules, then built out to stable assemblages of RNAs and proteins, then adding in lipids and sugars eventually delivering cells, and through many more levels to us, was not present.
The idea that our individual experience of being is the result of some 20 levels of complex cooperative systems (each system with its attendant strategic systems to prevent invasion by “cheating” strategies), wasn’t available.
The idea that every thing alive today is part of an unbroken chain of life some 4 billion years long wasn’t around.
The idea that at the most basic level, life is a collection of heuristics (at many different levels) that survived in practice, wasn’t available to Marx. It seems most likely that only the variants that survived the test of existence in the particular contexts that they lived in at least long enough to leave some descendants, form part of our ancestry. From a cell’s eye perspective, every cell alive today has been alive for some 4 billion years (it may have gone through many millions of cycles of halving its number of chromosomes then receiving more from a another cell – and that is what sexual reproduction is from a cell’s perspective).
So Marx came up with his ideas on human nature.
From my perspective, occasionally useful approximations in some contexts, and wholly misleading overall.
So, yes – I will agree that framing Marx as being based in class struggle can be seen as unfair, and that is what Marxism has developed into in practice- which is arguably not of his doing or choice.
I grew up in relative poverty in New Zealand (which was still relative wealth by world standards, I was rarely hungry for more than a few hours) and discovered very early that I found little joy in working for others, so with very few exceptions, I have been self employed my entire adult life. I have spent a few times of a few months working for others, and have retained an interest in my own businesses through all but one of those.
I like solving problems, finding easier and quicker ways of doing things, so I have at times made lots of money, and now put very little time into making money. In that respect (and many others I suspect), I am unusual.
You used the phrase “Marx viewed [future] life of men as associated/socialized devoid of class based or other “struggles” born out of alienation/ separation.”
I don’t see life in those terms either.
What I see is many levels of systems surviving, and most of the key control systems within those systems having had their controlling heuristics selected by differential survival over deep time.
At the highest levels of human abstraction something else is possible, and it is only possible because of all the levels of supporting systems below it.
For me, the concept of “collective labor” is anathema to freedom.
For me, real freedom can only exist when every individual has the real option of existing entirely without the labour of anyone else, which is not to say that anyone actually need take up that option, and it does need to be there as an option. In this sense, I see fully automated and fully distributed means of production as the only tool capable of delivering real freedom.
If every person has such a tool, then perhaps markets can start to measure real human values, but so long as there is a survival asymmetry between capital and labour, labour needing employment to survive, then there can be no justice in a market based system.
If I understand you correctly, then I do not believe that framing my thesis as “I think you mean to say the end of road for human exchanges when “fully automated” systems are in place” is accurate.
I expect humans will do things for each other for as long as humans survive. Reciprocity is a fundamental part of the neural heuristics that make a human brain what it is, that much is very clear.
My thesis is at a more abstract level, and has a lot to do with the fundamental nature of value.
Marx tried to support the idea of a labour theory of value, and that does capture part of the picture, but nowhere near enough.
I am clear that value is a personal thing.
For most of us, most of the time, the amount of time we must devote to something to achieve an outcome is a reasonable proxy for value. Some things we just love doing, and will happily do them for long times, other things we have much shorter tolerances for. The amount of discipline required to perform tasks is part of our personal measures of value in most cases.
And sometimes attachment to particular beliefs can change our balances of value (I tend to think of values as having their own ecosystem within any individual – with what gets expressed being very context dependent). Sometimes such beliefs come from our own choices, and sometimes they are instilled by culture or propaganda at some level.
When one starts dealing with values implicit in multi-level abstractions it really does get complex – complex dispositional systems.
I deeply challenge the claim that private property is anathema to freedom.
Marx was wrong on this, not because his logic was faulty, but because his implicit assumptions were invalid.
There is nothing wrong with private property as such, and there is a deep problem if all property is private.
So I see no problem with every individual having an allocation of property – something like a half acre of land and whatever they and their automated systems can produce from it – which is a rather radical abundance even by millionaire standards today, using efficient molecular level manufacturing and recycling.
And certainly, there needs to be large areas that are in commons, and large area where natural systems dominate.
All are required.
Monocultures (of anything, at any level) are dangerous in the single point of failure they pose (from a systems perspective).
Security demands diversity, at all levels.
Freedom, fully empowered by fully automated systems, will deliver diversity.
My freedom does not lose sight of socialisation, it does nothing to impede it, nor does it do anything to enforce it.
It is truly neutral.
That can be really difficult to get if one comes from a strongly rule based background.
Just consider, right now, what percentage of machines that could be productively employed meeting real human needs actually are?
I don’t have a hard answer to that question, only a guess.
My guess is that the productive capacity of existing machines exceeds the total of human demand by a substantial margin.
In our current system, the problem is, most people with the real demand do not have enough numbers.
Doesn’t the idea of an insufficiency of numbers strike you as just a little bit odd?
Again, I thank you deeply for your engagement, and the integrity of your critique, it is deeply valuable to me.
It helps me to understand my failures of communication.
For me, exposing the basic levels of systemic influence makes clear the higher levels of diversity experienced.
I see clearly from your critique of my writing that such linkages are not intuitively obvious to you, and if they are not obvious to you, how much more deeply opaque must they be for the average mind.
I find out later today if enough of the citizens of our district thought me a suitable candidate for mayor. If not enough, then I may well focus my energies on making many of those links explicit in a book.
It is not that I find the history of money et al worthless. It is very interesting from an academic perspective. For me, it is an example of a how a conceptual tool with practical utility that is founded on trust can evolve in a human population, and how that tool can be thoroughly exploited by “cheating strategies” at many different levels. For over a hundred years cheating strategies can be said to have held dominance, and for much of that time an argument could be made for their benefit, but no longer.
I see human beings as deeply, fundamentally, cooperative, and that is context dependent. If people have a context of abundance, then cooperation will tend to dominate.
And people are also habit machines.
Our neural networks develop habitual patterns at all levels, so we tend to repeat patterns, unless some context pulls us out of the context triggering that pattern (recurs as deeply as you care to go).
You are right in a sense.
I am not a keen reader of Marx.
I found his style pedantic and boring.
He had some very interesting insights, but they were based on sets of assumptions clearly invalidated within the frameworks I use. So while they worked within the context of the example sets he chose, they tend to fail if pushed too far (much like Newton in science). Newton is famous, because he did some great work. He expanded a paradigm, and created some great mathematical tools (discovered is probably more accurate than created, and for me the words are almost synonymous in most contexts). The work done by Newton allowed others to take those ideas and apply them to other contexts, and to test them against reality, and discover that they didn’t always work as expected – something else was present. Many people were involved in those discussions, adding perspectives, designing and doing experiments, thinking about the results of those experiment, coming up with different interpretations that more elegantly connected the observations into a coherent pattern.
The problem for me, with Marx, and with most social science, is the invalid sets of assumptions around the nature of human nature.
I can read in those areas, and see a certain beauty, a certain creativity, in the conceptual development, and I can also see where there is a conceptual failure caused by an inadequate set of foundational assumptions.
And in saying that, I am clear, that my understanding is not any sort of end point in understanding, it is simply where I am on my journey right now. I make no claim to perfection, merely to a utility appropriate to circumstance.
As I have said many times, I don’t do Truth, I just do best approximation based upon current data sets.
And quite often those data-sets clearly invalidate some sets of assumptions.
I too am concerned with certain things and why they happen to be together.
I am concerned with these large collections of molecules called human beings and why they believe in myths like money and gods.
These things are deeply interesting to me.
Those two are deeply connected in my understanding.
And everything I have tried to point to is part of that understanding.
Some assumptions are useful for certain purposes. The assumption that the earth is flat is perfectly adequate for building a house out of lumber, and fails completely if one is trying to navigate a yacht from Auckland New Zealand to Hawaii.
That is why I critique Marx, critique Darwin, critique every philosopher and scientist I have read, from Plato to Wittgenstein, Newton to Dawkins.
And all of them have made contributions to the process, that too I acknowledge.
I acknowledge Marx as a great thinker, and I deeply challenge some of his fundamental assumptions, and those are critically important. And I am not a great expert on Marx or anyone else. I have read some of Marx – not all. I really struggled with Marx, found it hard work reading all the stuff he put in between the interesting concepts.
Don’t avoid me “taking Darwin to task”. In my world, I don’t “take him to task”, I simply clarify where he made important errors of assumption and logic – based entirely on inadequate data-sets.
I don’t think any less of Darwin or Marx for their errors, and nor do I pretend that those errors are anything other than errors.
Darwin pointed in the direction of evolution. He had no idea how it actually worked, and he could see that something had to be at work. Of the possible explanatory frameworks available in his day, he sided with an approach that was fundamentally flawed, and logic could have told him that, but obviously he didn’t ask that question in a way that the answer was obvious to him.
That isn’t a condemnation of Darwin, it is an observational data-point about the evolution of ideas in human minds.
Agreement of people isn’t my purpose.
Having a model of reality that is as close as possible to reality, and still with sufficient heuristic shortcuts to give useful outputs in useful time-frames is my objective.
I do my best to make that model as available to others as possible, and I acknowledge that the model any individual uses is very much a matter of individual choice and individual style. It is clear to me that all models must contain simplifying heuristics if they are to work in anywhere near real time, and which heuristics are selected will vary with the demands of the specific context of the moment.
Right now, you, me, and about 7 billion other people find ourselves in the intellectual, technological and cultural context that we do. It is a time of rapid exponential change, the most rapid in human history, possibly the most rapid in the history of this galaxy (of that we cannot be certain and it does seem possible).
It seems clear to me that there are many levels of existential risk present.
One of those levels of risk does appear to me to be very strongly increased by a set of invalid assumptions contained in Marx’s understanding, that has carried forward to our day.
And it is part of something much wider, as you say, of “social science” more generally.
Your comment ” You need to work more in certain areas where you “differ” with Marx.” is extremely helpful, as it shows a complete failure of the approach I took to make such things clear.
And right now I feel something akin to “Terror” at the thought that I might need to write something akin to the style of Marx to achieve communication. For me, that would involve years of “soul destroying” effort, of the sort that makes what I did to beat terminal cancer seem like a romp in a playground. I wonder if I really have such strength of will?
I don’t have an issue particularly with the classification of social issues.
What I have an issue with is the systemic causes (in as much as the term cause can be said to have meaning) that have greatest explanatory utility in this context.
I love your sentence “By “collective labor”, Marx (not Stalin’s farm collectivization programme) it is meant to say that there is “network”, “relation”, “web”, “connection”, “mutuality” et al.” I align with that perfectly as a statement about what is.
As a statement about deeper causality or about desirable outcomes of human evolution it is more problematic and needs greater explanatory depth.
For me, there are many aspects to the complexity of this concept, but if I just focus on two polarities, and leave the infinite spectrum between those for and others to enumerate as you choose, it goes something like this:
Yes, we are all networked at many levels, that is accepted as both a given and a necessity.
The issue I have is not the networking, but with dependency within those networks.
Biology is a massive web of networks.
Human culture replicates much of that complexity in the domains of ideas and behaviours.
So yes, we must all act in reality, and that “labour” must all connect in many different ways.
And Marx seems to me to have gotten the necessity of that network confused with meeting essential needs.
If one looks at a human body, as an analogy for human society, and looks to individual cells within that body as an analogy for people, then it is clear that the survival needs of every cell in the body are met.
Not every cell in the body plays a direct part in the meeting of those needs, in fact the vast majority do not.
Marx seems to be saying that we need to maintain that web, that mutuality, to meet our survival needs.
I don’t see that.
And I see that it is possible to read Marx as saying something much closer to what I am saying, and I really wonder if that is what he intended.
I am saying that we could develop the technology, via a one off set of labourings, that would automate all of the processes for meeting all of the survival needs of any human being (including the production and maintenance of that set of machines) – essential fulfilling the requirement of Lupinski’s famous 1978 quip to Milton Friedman that “socialism can only work if everyone has two servants, including the servants”.
One pole of the spectrum seems to say that human society requires the dependency of labour to give it stability.
The other pole says that every individual requires independence of the needs of survival.
I say, that if the outcome is a system which enables potentially very long lived individuals (many thousands of years, perhaps even many billions of years) to actually have a reasonable probability of living a very long time, then that sort of security can only exist in a context where the highest values of the vast majority of individuals are individual life and individual liberty, and such a set of values will demand the sort of security provided by fully automated systems capable of meeting the reasonable needs of everyone.
I have been quite explicit that such was indeed the question that started me on the quest that has occupied most of my attention over the last 42 years.
So I am all in favour of networks and I am also in favour of freedom.
And the only way in which individuals can in fact have complete freedom about which networks they choose to come and go from is if their survival needs are completely independent of any specific set of network connections.
Marx does not seem to make that explicitly clear, though he does quite explicitly see an end to capitalism – it’s just not the sort of end that seems to have the qualities of long term stability I am looking for, and it is entirely possible that I have misunderstood him in this. As I have often said, I did not find him an easy read. His writing style was like that of Thomas Hardy to me. I never did get past the first chapter of any of Hardy’s works, and it was hard to read even one page of his without falling to sleep. Contrast that to Goedel, where sometimes I could spend hours rereading the same paragraph confident that there was something there that I was not getting, and staying with it until I was confident I understood what was said, and had verified all of the dependencies. And I did actually make it all the way through Capital, and partially through other works of Marx.
You class my ideas as “They are chaotic and tend to go into all possible directions”, yet for me they are coherent, and it is my attempts at expressing concepts that involve up to 12 levels of abstraction, about systems that involve about twenty levels of complexity, that make it difficult to say anything in a way that another can get with confidence.
I get, that your reality is that my ideas are chaotic.
My reality is that my ideas are coherent.
Our shared reality is one of a failure of linguistic tools available to achieve a shared comprehension between two independent minds.
Just to correct a misinterpretation.
I am not a millionaire.
By NZ standards I am middle income.
It is almost 20 years since I put any significant effort into making money. I do still run a small software company, but it only takes me a few hours per week, and it brings in minimal income.
I do have about $10,000 in cash reserves, and I do own my own home debt free, and a small block of land growing trees.
But I am certainly not a millionaire, though I have made several million dollars in my younger says, I spent most of it doing things – flying aircraft, etc.
For the last decade in particular I have lived a very much simpler lifestyle, with minimal personal expenses, and quite low income by the standards of my society.
I have been involved in many collectives, at many different levels. I chair one charitable trust, I am treasurer for another, I am active in the Lions club here in Kaikoura, to mention just a few.
I loan out tools to many people, and very few of them look after them as well as I do.
My systems knowledge of incentive structures matches my observations of behaviours in practice.
What I see is that every person needs to be able to ensure their own survival.
With any particular set of technologies, that will have a certain requirement for energy and space, that will translate into a certain area of land (and the technology housed in that land). Those are the necessary conditions for survival, given the current reality of solar power and our biological needs.
That physical reality is what it is, at any time and set of technologies.
That is my definition of a minimum set of personal property that no amount of social agreement can remove.
That is also my working definition of private property.
In any social system that would have the characteristic of stability, no person would be able to trade their particular set of property for one less than the minimum for survival and a reasonable freedom to self express as they see fit – that would be the minimum. Within that, people can do whatever they choose.
If all survival needs are met, people don’t need to exchange anything.
People can choose to create any network for any purpose.
Exchange does not need to be part of the interaction, only alignment of purpose, for whatever reason.
If all survival needs a met, then the journey can be its own reward, exchange is not required.
Certainly mutuality, connection, webs, relationships, these are a fundamental aspect of existence for complex entities, and are not necessarily related to the idea of exchange as that concept is used in markets.
Certainly in information terms, networks exist due to exchange of information – that is the definition of a network in information theory. In that sense of exchange, in the bidirectional flow of information between nodes, then certainly – exchange is required.
But in the economic senses, of a flow of a scarcity based value measure through a market – no, that is not required, it is possible, and it is not required.
Abundance based systems do not require exchange in this sense of exchange.
And I do understand how difficult it can be to even conceive of such abundance when one is in the midst of scarcity, and one is bombarded constantly with scarcity based media and advertising.
I spend the vast bulk of my time free of media and advertising.
When the needs of survival are met, value does not exist for me in any material object, value exists in the journey, in being, in choice, in awareness, in possibility, in the exploration and creation of context.