The Economics of Unlimited Supply

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Beckboy
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The Economics of Unlimited Supply

Postby Beckboy » Mon Apr 23, 2007 7:33 am UTC

As the virtual world becomes increasingly common and interfaces continue to get better one can easily predict (or read a good book about) some sort of cyber/virtual/matrix-esque world. As automation, AI and robotics technology get better one can see a world without a need for human labor.

Analyzing these trends one realizes that there effectively stops being a limit on supply of well anything particularly if we live in a virtual world.

As this happens what happens to economics?

thanks.
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Postby German Sausage » Mon Apr 23, 2007 7:50 am UTC

its commerce, jim, but not as we know it...


Second Life is a fairly good example of this sort of economy (as i understand second life - mostly based on a few academic papers and second life safari to a lesser extent). There are no resources as such, bar intellectual property. and that is where productisation (word?) comes in. sure, you don't need anything, but wouldn't it be cool to have a virtual car?
its like people paying for code/programs (as both companies and end-users) now.
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Postby Beckboy » Mon Apr 23, 2007 8:25 am UTC

but second life's economy is Managed and that there is an exchange of real for fake money and all that stuff.

but more importantly there is a limited supply of time / creativity / skill. while time will always be limited fr humans (maybe) i can easyly imagine computers that can be just as creative as humans and far mor skillful in the crafting of their products.

you are not wrong but my intended thrust of the question is towards the far future. now in virtual worlds time skill creativity knowledge are all in limited supply. but imagine a world where those aren't limited where such a vast plethora of computers has assembled a vast set of virtual objects and actions.

but looking at that last paragraph it seems sort of silly so as an addendum / clarification I'd like to ask two new questions

First: Will there ever be a world without effective limit to supply of anything?

secondly: What do us humans do then? what would you do the? rampant hedonism? introspection? enlightenment? or do we just die off?
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Postby German Sausage » Mon Apr 23, 2007 8:39 am UTC

I feel that the resource that we will be limited by is time. and it's pretty finite.

human culture will take the steps you proposed, probably in that order. i know thats my plan for life (i'm currently in hedonism)

second life's economy has outside value, but thats imposed. i imagine that it would still function without the impetus of being a potential cash cow. people like their computer games.
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Postby Beckboy » Mon Apr 23, 2007 8:46 am UTC

but time while limited is not exactly transferable. it is in the sense that it can be (as marx would say) objectified but when objects having unlimited supply are valueless i'm not sure there is a valid way to transfer time from one party to another.

also eternal life? it could exist not as a human body but rather as some sort of cyborg or entirely electronic state. but to be honest that seems unlikely that a human could be encoded in binary (which is why i predict analog computing!)

but thanks a lot for the responses
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Postby evilbeanfiend » Mon Apr 23, 2007 9:49 am UTC

presumably by limitless we mean no human limit, even if there is a greater physical limit e.g. amount of O2 on the planet?

there are of course some things we will probably never be able to treat as limitless. e.g. there is only so much EM spectrum we can broadcast in.

its an interesting subject, i strongly suspect that today's western capatalists societies would ideally change to a much more socialist system. but large companies will resist these changes. i think we can see this with the RIAA to a certain extent now.
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Postby Yakk » Mon Apr 23, 2007 1:25 pm UTC

There will always be limited resources.

Some resources can become unlimited, but others will remain limited.

As an example, in a modern western society, for most people there is an unlimited amount of food calories. This is a huge change from history, with one of the most important goods being next to free. It wouldn't take saving up money for all that long to have enough money to feed yourself for the rest of your life: your food would be crappy, but it would be enough food.

In a world with computers capable of producing any physical object using more creativity and innovation than any human could bring to it for minimial effort, there would still be shortages. Within a 10 light year radius, there is only so much matter and so much space.

One could imagine people wanting to build planet-sized sculptures in the real world. You could do it much cheaper in a virtual world, but someone will want to do it in the real world.

Those that choose not to interact with the real world will have less shortages: but today, in North America, you can live with very little in the way of "luxuries", things in limited supply, yet very few people choose to.

Examine the games that people play. These games are not "unlimited resources", they are designed to require effort to achieve results. Even in virtual worlds. So I suspect there will be constructed virtual worlds with rules that create scarcity, and these will remain more popular than the ones that have no scarcity.

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Postby evilbeanfiend » Mon Apr 23, 2007 1:58 pm UTC

Within a 10 light year radius, there is only so much matter and so much space.


there is only so much O2 on the planet now, but it is still to all intents and purposes limitless. whether there is a physical limit is irrelevant if the human need is always less than it.
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Postby Yakk » Mon Apr 23, 2007 7:02 pm UTC

I want a world-ship to launch a copy of myself on a cross-galactic trip.

This want isn't very strong, but it exists. If resources where truely limitless, this is one thing I'd find tempting. Because it would be cool.

I doubt there is enough resources in the solar system to launch a planet-earth sized craft to a decent fraction of the speed of light, then slow it down again. There might be enough resources to build a handful of them -- but there isn't enough to build a few billion of them.

The limited amount of O2 doesn't matter because other limitations get in the way before one can start to put a dent in the amount of O2 you want. Before we run out of O2, we will overpollute the atmosphere with CO2, or run out of food, or a bazillion other resources will run short.

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Postby blob » Mon Apr 23, 2007 7:48 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:I doubt there is enough resources in the solar system to launch a planet-earth sized craft to a decent fraction of the speed of light, then slow it down again.

Would you need to? I suppose it depends what the speed of light is relative to - if you're moving slowly relative to your destination you're fine...

Teleportation would make things so much better, though :P (apart from breaking spacetime)

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Postby Vaniver » Mon Apr 23, 2007 11:44 pm UTC

As soon as scarcity is no longer an issue, economics is no longer an issue. The scope of economics is scarcity.

That said, I seriously doubt that there will ever be *limitless* resources. There's always an opportunity cost- that processor running a game for me could be running a different program instead.

As well, people will always lust after value. The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester has some interesting examples of this- people can instantaneously teleport, so the rich use extravagantly outdated modes of transport, like cars or trains, because they can. There will always be people who want to grow their own vegetables, instead of having the fabber produce them a meal.
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Postby a thing » Tue Apr 24, 2007 4:37 am UTC

Since matter can't be created, there will never be unlimited supply.
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Postby Beckboy » Tue Apr 24, 2007 5:59 am UTC

but i virtual worlds can be created that are as real as the real world and then the limit is only related to bits. and the limit on energy is high enough that virtual worlds pretty darn near unlimited
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Re: The Econmics of Unlimited Supply

Postby medfly » Tue Apr 24, 2007 8:21 am UTC

Beckboy wrote:As the virtual world becomes increasingly common and interfaces continue to get better one can easily predict (or read a good book about) some sort of cyber/virtual/matrix-esque world. As automation, AI and robotics technology get better one can see a world without a need for human labor.

Analyzing these trends one realizes that there effectively stops being a limit on supply of well anything particularly if we live in a virtual world.

As this happens what happens to economics?

thanks.


look at this worlds history (the industrial revolution).
its basically the same - resources were getting cheaper and human labor became more expensive.

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Postby Yakk » Tue Apr 24, 2007 2:40 pm UTC

Beckboy wrote:but i virtual worlds can be created that are as real as the real world and then the limit is only related to bits. and the limit on energy is high enough that virtual worlds pretty darn near unlimited


But the real world is rare. Suppose I want to play in the real world -- you can't provide an unlimited number of beings that right or privledge.

Viola, scarcity.

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Postby fjafjan » Tue Apr 24, 2007 3:01 pm UTC

We are already manufacturing desires, and I imagine in the future that will be the main purpose of economy, commercials leading the way to manufacturing desires to keep us productive.
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Postby Belial » Tue Apr 24, 2007 3:03 pm UTC

Except what's the point of productivity if nothing is needed?
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Postby fjafjan » Tue Apr 24, 2007 3:05 pm UTC

What do you mean?
EDIT: Well my point is ofcourse that productivity will pretty soon be much greater than what is needed, making it more or less wasteful
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