This is one of my posts from well into a thread on KurzweilAI Universal Basic Income in Nov 2014 that encapsulates a lot of my thinking clearly.
This post on what is wealth covers the issue from another perspective.
[From an older context, and still relevant:]
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.
[This could be achieved today with respect to all information, except that doing so would destroy many jobs and most industrial profits, and cause massive disruption to existing systems, because those systems are fundamentally organised on the basis of scarcity. Most of human knowledge is already in digital format, and could be made available to every individual on the planet, but is available only to those who are able to pay ($30 to read an individual research paper, even for those who need to read thousands to find the few that are actually important to them – very few have that sort of money – I certainly do not).]
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 to experience 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 (as the model is our experiential reality, it is hard to see that it is just a model, and not actually reality). 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 directly.
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 that 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, about the fundamental uncertainty underlying all reality, about the illusion of hard causality that many seem to be trapped within.
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 that seems to dominate most of reality at the scale of unaided human perceptions, and 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 that allow very unusual things to happen at very low frequencies.
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. 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 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.”