How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

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How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby Sweeney_Todd » Thu Nov 10, 2011 1:59 am UTC

Basically, what the title says. What would happen in a post-scarcity society in which all goods, services, and information was readily available through non-morally objectionable means? Could an economy exist? How would education work, with no one trying to get a new job? Would anyone try to create anything? What if innovation was manufacturable as well? I know this is very unlikely, so it'll mainly be hypothetical speculation.
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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby infernovia » Thu Nov 10, 2011 2:30 am UTC

The problem is that there might be a finite amount of things to consume, but an infinite amount of ways to rank and display superiority. But you can, of course have a society reliant on affluence rather than scarcity. What such a society would require is to be like the natives of Australia. The simply don't worry about anything because they assume nature will take care of them.

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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby StevenR » Thu Nov 10, 2011 3:24 am UTC

So we're at the point where money really doesn't exist and neither does barter because of unlimited resources? Who cleans the toilets in that society? Without pay of some sorts, all of the truly unpleasant jobs that get done now simply won't get done. For every ten people that now have the free time to be full-time surfers or guitar players, a whopping zero people will grow up dreaming of scrubbing grease traps at someone's dream restaraunt.

This is one of the big gripes I have with shows like Star Trek. They have virtually unlimited resources, but never seem to address who does the dirty work.

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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby RoberII » Thu Nov 10, 2011 3:36 am UTC

With any luck, exactly like The Culture.

In other words, we'd no longer have to show 'superiority', because to do so would be meaningless in a society in which everyone has access to everything. Want to build your very own floating island? And an economy might be able to exist in such a society, but why would it? It would be meaningless. And while The Culture has its AIs, I think people are naturally curious - no one becomes a scientist because of the pay, after all, and poets, writers and other (inferior) artists are ditto motivated by non-profit motives. I think 'play' would become the main human activity - we would do things because they are fun, challenging, and give our lives meaning.

A lot of laws would change, though - what would ownership mean in such a world, after all? All current ideologies would topple - most of them are meant to either keep the current economic system or change it.

As for whether or not such a technology is possible, I prefer to be an optimist, at least with regards to energy - we don't actually require "infinite", we just require "practically infinite". Food might still be an issue, of course, but if it ever becomes possible to transform energy to matter, we're golden. We will be as unto gods!

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As for the dirty work, I honestly think that people will still be doing it. After all, nobody paid your parents to clean your room when you were a kid, and a lot of people still volunteer for highway cleaning. If nothing else, we can put doo-doo duty on a rotating shift... So I guess we will be as unto doo-doo-cleaning gods, but still.
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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby elasto » Thu Nov 10, 2011 4:57 am UTC

StevenR wrote:So we're at the point where money really doesn't exist and neither does barter because of unlimited resources? Who cleans the toilets in that society? Without pay of some sorts, all of the truly unpleasant jobs that get done now simply won't get done.

A post-scarcity society where there is a scarcity of something (clean toilets) feels like a contradiction in terms :)

I suppose at its simplest, post-scarcity means near-limitless amounts of basic needs (energy principally, but also food, water etc). But typically it will extend to wants too (education, entertainment etc).

Realistically, satisfactory post-scarcity can't exist without (a) near-free energy and (b) a new slave-class (hard-ai robots) doing all the unpleasant jobs leaving us free to enjoy life in whichever direction most pleases us.

Alternately, if robots don't work out, The Hedonistic Imperative might make everyone enjoy cleaning toilets as much as they enjoy having sex, so noone will mind the planet-wide rota system.
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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby poxic » Thu Nov 10, 2011 5:01 am UTC

And since people seem to be more or less hard-wired to need to claw to the top of something... if there is no actual need to fight for anything, it will all become about fashion. Are you wearing the right cyberpacks? Were you one of the first 5% to read the latest from Current Hot Writer? Are you the best at New Dance Form? Or are you in the top 5% of the Counterculture Revolutionaries Who Disdain All That?

People will still be people.
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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Nov 10, 2011 6:20 am UTC

Currently, attractiveness is determined by (apparent) health, mental stability, fertility, and ability to gather resources. Useless skills like the guitar and wasteful spending like high-end sports cars are used as advertisements that you can produce so much wealth that you can waste extra time and money. Post-scarcity just removes the ability to gather resources from that. Apparent fertility, health, mental stability, and some other factors will still exist to 'rank' people.

Edit: why am I doubleposting everything?

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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby infernovia » Thu Nov 10, 2011 6:22 am UTC

But those things are attractive exactly because they can be used to acquire wealth, which would be pointless in a true affluent society.

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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby poxic » Thu Nov 10, 2011 6:27 am UTC

No. People will still prefer to mate with attractive people rather than unattractive ones. "Ability to gather resources" might decline in attractiveness, but physical appearance will continue to be important. After all, how many people with lots of wealth say they just want to find a mate with a great personality?
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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby infernovia » Thu Nov 10, 2011 6:31 am UTC

Right, but appearance is more attuned to the rule of fashion than anything else, on top of which, you will probably be able to modify whatever to whatever. Additionally, the concept of having a mate is probably a scarcity driven concept.

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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Nov 10, 2011 6:33 am UTC

No, "appearance" is more attuned to health and fertility. That's why we find it attractive in the first place. Smooth skin indicates lack of various diseases, youth indicates fertility, long and thick hair indicates proper nutrition and health, symmetry indicates lack of major genetic disorders. Broad shoulders on men indicate high amounts of testosterone and thus fertility, thick lips and flush cheeks indicate fertility in women (which is why make-up is used the most there). Muscle-tone and coordination (e.g., dancing ability) indicate health, and so on.

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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby infernovia » Thu Nov 10, 2011 6:44 am UTC

But again, those concepts are useless in a world where you are given virtually limitless resources (think about it, why care about health when you can have 90000 livers transplanted into you, you live in a mansion and have thousands of robots do all of your tasks for you). Also, what I meant was that the world of fashion as it is used right now is usually a commentary on appearances, it does not revolve around the health of the individuals (and many fashions are in fact, unhealthy). But in the regular world, health is still quite important and many people value it highly, thus being healthy is still a beneficial trait to have in our scarcity driven society. This, however, is not a contradiction to the claim that appearance is one of the traits easily manipulated by fashion.

So, my conclusion as to what will happen: people would get too bored and start playing games (of fashion, sports, w/e) to display their superiority in one way or another.

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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby Hedonic Treader » Thu Nov 10, 2011 8:10 am UTC

Who cleans the toilets in that society?.

Self-cleaning toilets. Generally, automization.

Alternately, if robots don't work out, The Hedonistic Imperative might make everyone enjoy cleaning toilets as much as they enjoy having sex, so noone will mind the planet-wide rota system.

That's a general answer to hedonism, independent of post-scarcity. I hope it works out.

we don't actually require "infinite", we just require "practically infinite".

Will reproduction be controlled reliably? Exponential growth is exponential, limited resources are limited. Unless we can literally create resources out of nothing, or aquire resources FTL, Malthus always wins.

what would ownership mean in such a world, after all?

Artificial scarcity will become big. Digging for virtual items in games, arbitrary status symbols. Even now, people waste time and energy fighting over attention: Whether or not cartoon ponies can be posted on a prominent imageboard seems an important issue for some even today.

People will still prefer to mate with attractive people rather than unattractive ones.

Given full VR, people will mate with virtual superstimuli.

My biggest worry is that people will create artificial sentience just to torture it out of boredom.

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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Nov 10, 2011 3:41 pm UTC

Hedonic Treader wrote:My biggest worry is that people will create artificial sentience just to torture it out of boredom.


It's called Dwarf Fortress.

Anyway, the post-scarcity world may not have positive exponential growth; as a society becomes wealthier, the growth rate shrinks and often goes negative. Japan has negative growth, as does Russia. Without immigration, Europe would have negative growth. Evolution ensured people have a drive to copulate, but until fairly recently the whole choice of whether or not that led to childbirth did not exist.

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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby Hedonic Treader » Thu Nov 10, 2011 8:02 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:It's called Dwarf Fortress.

Hm, are they really sentient at this point?

Evolution ensured people have a drive to copulate, but until fairly recently the whole choice of whether or not that led to childbirth did not exist.

Yes, but selection pressures may work around that. Eventually, we may be able to digitally simulate brains, or have other sentient intelligent algorithms that can be copied, complete with memories and personality. That circumvents the whole childhood and education phase. The result is darwinism on crack. Read Robin Hanson on this, he predicts uncounted near-subsistence lives, and I think he has a point. I'm not optimistic about average quality of life in such a scenario.

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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby HungryHobo » Fri Nov 11, 2011 11:54 am UTC

Hedonic Treader wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:It's called Dwarf Fortress.

Hm, are they really sentient at this point?

It's only a matter of time.

And yes I can imagine artificial Scarcity would become a big thing. Social status too. Things hard wired into our brains like some of the things we find physically attractive probably won't change much .

People sometimes claim that life would be meaningless or something but I long for the day when the greatest worry of third world children is getting to level 60.
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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby Hedonic Treader » Fri Nov 11, 2011 7:21 pm UTC

HungryHobo wrote:
Hedonic Treader wrote:Hm, are they really sentient at this point?
It's only a matter of time.

What would it take to create systems that recognize and prevent suffering and torture for sentient algorithms? Is this possible at all? Is there research at this point?

People sometimes claim that life would be meaningless or something but I long for the day when the greatest worry of third world children is getting to level 60.

lol, yeah, that would be something. I'm not sure I'd hold my breath at this point in time though.

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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby Zcorp » Fri Nov 11, 2011 10:00 pm UTC

Sweeney_Todd wrote:Basically, what the title says. What would happen in a post-scarcity society in which all goods, services, and information was readily available through non-morally objectionable means? Could an economy exist? How would education work, with no one trying to get a new job? Would anyone try to create anything? What if innovation was manufacturable as well? I know this is very unlikely, so it'll mainly be hypothetical speculation.


So you are proposing a world like Star Trek? Where we can replicate anything at essentially no cost?

Really what would happen would depend on the standard level of living. Does everyone have the ability to eat something prepared by a master chef for each meal? Or just have access to something decently tasty and sustaining?

How is knowledge shared? Through a more traditional learning process or something akin to the matrix?

How are we entertained? Do we all have access to any form of entertainment? If so, who entertains? If entertainment is customly automized who builds and sustains the system that allows for that? Or are we talking about a world with every system is self-sustaining and infinitely creative without human interaction with that system?

Are we in a magical world where everyone can have a giant custom built (and instantlyr re-designed and re-built) Manson on the beach, and in the mountains, private jet, sky fortress, space station, space travel and a yacht?

We won't just make up crap to create scarcity as many posters have suggested. There will very much be scarcity, and thus an economy and value of in behavior, even if we achieve of level of social and technological growth that makes it so no one has to worry about food or access to information (or what is generally considered post-scarcity).

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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby Sheikh al-Majaneen » Sat Nov 12, 2011 4:46 am UTC

Hedonic Treader wrote:My biggest worry is that people will create artificial sentience just to torture it out of boredom.

I think it is far more likely that people will torture themselves out of boredom. Maybe that is exactly what this world is? But philosophy is for wankers like me.

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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby infernovia » Sat Nov 12, 2011 5:15 am UTC

zcorp wrote:We won't just make up crap to create scarcity as many posters have suggested. There will very much be scarcity, and thus an economy and value of in behavior, even if we achieve of level of social and technological growth that makes it so no one has to worry about food or access to information (or what is generally considered post-scarcity).

Yes, this is a much clearer response of what I was going for in my first reply. My personal opinion is that even if you somehow eliminate a lot of the economical inequality, you will still have a lot of people creating seemingly arbitrary inequality.

Anyway, I think a better question would be how would an affluent mindset function in this world. Rather than letting the environment determine what is scarcity and not scarcity.

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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby lalop » Sat Nov 12, 2011 11:01 am UTC

StevenR wrote:So we're at the point where money really doesn't exist and neither does barter because of unlimited resources? Who cleans the toilets in that society? Without pay of some sorts, all of the truly unpleasant jobs that get done now simply won't get done. For every ten people that now have the free time to be full-time surfers or guitar players, a whopping zero people will grow up dreaming of scrubbing grease traps at someone's dream restaraunt.

This is one of the big gripes I have with shows like Star Trek. They have virtually unlimited resources, but never seem to address who does the dirty work.


Star Trek, ironically, had a better answer to this that was never fully explored: live in a holodeck. Since everything's artificial anyway, the computer can just perform all the scrubbing by erasing or transporting the dirt out of the program. Meanwhile, thanks to replicators and the world being a simulation, you could have literally whatever you wanted.

As a side note, the Federation wasn't actually a non-monetary society (they had federation credits, a Bank of Bolias, etc), only Earth. Beats me if that's really possible, but you have to remember they did have replicators and transporters.

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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby CorruptUser » Sat Nov 12, 2011 2:09 pm UTC

TOS was more or less all post-scarcity with no economy or way to distribute things that actually were still scarce (spots on a transport, a specific show on a certain night, a house in a certain spot). Because that was a massive case of 'insufficient understanding of economics', TNS introduced the Latinum credit thingies.

For more on people that have insufficient understanding of economics, look up Robert Mugabe, Chairman Mao, Karl Marx, I could go on all day really.

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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby fr00t » Mon Nov 14, 2011 11:56 pm UTC

A more general version of the iron law of wages makes me dubious that such a term can be meaningfully applied to anything like our current society. The only way to maintain non-scarcity would be voluntary or enforced population control - likely as an implied part of the social contract. Unless an AI-go-FOOM type situation happens, getting there (however unlikely it is) would entail large, but incremental changes in values and mores.

I imagine modern humans would look on whatever that society may be with terror, or disgust. I'd love to have a glimpse of it before I died - but I don't discount the chance that even someone like myself would be disturbed by what will come to pass.

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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby CorruptUser » Tue Nov 15, 2011 3:54 am UTC

Europe (including Russia) and Japan have negative birthrates. The US would have a negative rate if it wasn't for the Ultra-Christians.

I don't think overpopulation will really be an issue in wealthy societies. Besides, more people (assuming random distribution of genes) means more scientists which means faster research. That's how the economic 'boom' since the mid 18th century occurred; population had reached a critical mass where scientific advance (carrying capacity) could outpace the growth rate.

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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby caisara » Thu Nov 24, 2011 11:17 am UTC

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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby Argency » Thu Nov 24, 2011 4:18 pm UTC

infernovia wrote:But again, those concepts are useless in a world where you are given virtually limitless resources (think about it, why care about health when you can have 90000 livers transplanted into you, you live in a mansion and have thousands of robots do all of your tasks for you).]


These concepts are hardwired into our brains which are evolved for a world in which "attractive" traits are the ones that will allow your children to survive and have children. Post-scarcity won't change what is hardwired into us, at least not in the first few thousand years, after which point genetic drift will presumably make itself known. So those traits will still be attractive because they were useful in prehistory. The only thing that will change is that wealth will no longer be an applicable metric - everyone will be equally wealthy so you won't be able to point to someone and say "she's sexy because she's rich" because everyone will be equally rich and therefore equally sexy on that basis. Sexiness will be drawn from the other factors that people have mentioned, with no emphasis on wealth. Surely?
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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby infernovia » Thu Nov 24, 2011 6:59 pm UTC

Sort of. I am predicting a rapid social change however, one where having a concept like mate/husband/wife will sound ridiculous and what most people will be attracted to is things that are "different" and "unique." And like I said, "post-scarcity" (affluence) is more of a state of the mind more than anything because even in a scenario where everything is given to you, I can still think of a lot of what a "scarcity-driven" mindset can do. Scarcity here understood as the awareness of our use/destruction/consumption of finite resources.
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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Nov 24, 2011 7:10 pm UTC

caisara wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:Europe (including Russia) and Japan have negative birthrates. The US would have a negative rate if it wasn't for the Ultra-Christians.


I'm not so sure. In American ghettos, choosing to have a kid is often about making a meaningful life despite extreme poverty.

If you talk to women across America, this seems to be the trend. Poor women have kids -- middle-class, well-educated ones don't. America would have a negative birthrate if it weren't for the extreme income inequality.


The first is a book, not a study. Though to be fair, given that Octomom said her dream was to have a large family (despite having 6 kids already while on welfare), I don't think I'm going to be able to dispute that assertion.

Inequality really isn't the issue. The US has the same Gini coefficient as Mexico but a much lower birthrate. Has more to do with income in general; American and European poor are more or less guaranteed to have enough food and rudimentary healthcare to survive to adulthood (at least if Social Services are functioning). That isn't the case in many parts of the world. In places like Angola, you need to have 5 kids just so 2 of them survive long enough to have more kids of their own. Plus, in those parts of the world, kids are like intelligent cattle; the more you have, the more you can put to work making yourself richer. You have to wonder how child labor laws have affected the birth rate in the Western World...

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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby vvav » Tue Dec 06, 2011 9:43 pm UTC

The world would react by making fake scarcity. We're already doing it. I suppose if it was really post-scarcity that would mean eliminating all scarcity, which might end up different since right now the fake scarcity is used for people to obtain goods of genuine scarcity, but still, I don't think we'd ever see a completely equal society.

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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby liveboy21 » Fri Jan 06, 2012 1:29 am UTC

I also think that the world would make a fake scaricity, especially if it's the world we are in now and we are somehow suddenly presented with crates of unending food or something like that.

We will first seek to understand the new methods of production. While that is happening, the powerful will seek to control those methods of production in the name of 'research'. The system will then be slightly modified to ensure that there will be a class of people who will always be striving to access the resource. The resource may be infinite but the powers will never let those beneath them access it for too long, rendering them finite once more. Thus, society would continue as it did before. The wealthy will feel privileged and would not understand how there are still poor people and beggers despite global production being objectively better than it was before. Many wars would break out and the people would never truely understand why.

At least, that's why I think would happen. Unless there's something in original poster's words that prevents such a scenario from happening. Sounds like fun times! :)

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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby jseah » Fri Jan 06, 2012 3:38 am UTC

How about this timeline?

Spoiler:
RepRap prints first metal part
RepRap prints glass and rubber
RepRap prints first electronic part
First computing device (hand calculator) built by RepRap
(very soon after) First RepRap built from parts completely manufactured by 1st gen RepRap machine
First completely functional RepRap + controlling computer + screen built by RepRap
Production lines obsoleted by factory-sized RepRap
P = NP, constructive proof published, Abel prize awarded - May not be required
Advancing AI allows a 3D printing factory be given instructions, space and materials to eventually duplicate itself
Advancing AI allows 3D printing factory to maintain itself, apart from major malfunction
Advancing AI manages to repair malfunctioning 3D printing factory by replacing nearly everything
Advancing AI means all human-required jobs are maintenance, administration, primary resource gathering, services and IT
AI passes the Turing Test, still fails at management
Machine vision at useful proficiency
Specialized AIs fix a broken waterpipe, fill in a tax form, drive a combine harvester
Further improvements in AI means primary resource gathering as a human activity is obsolete - Robots do iron mining and farming
AIs are able to maintain complex systems (eg. computers) and replace those they can't fix, 3D printers make replacing entire sections feasible, low level maintenance as a human activity is obsolete, low level services are obsolete
Big Macs cost <2 dollars, a mid-range laptop is 200, universities have computing farms in the petaflop range, highspeed internet every where
AIs solve protein structure from AA sequence using known biological techniques, without supervision (problem solving advancement)
AIs write the first fiction novel at publishable standard; its not a well-written story, bestseller only due to novelty
Basic Income is written as policy, all citizens receive a substantial monthly income from the government, funded by government ownership of corporations mostly run by AIs (apart from administration) that consist of interlocking vertical monopolies (almost like a communist state + welfare, each corporation harvests, produces and distributes goods to its assigned area)
Only medicine now requires humans in frontline service, although many service jobs still exist for the human factor
Voluntary unemployment hits record high, economy is one-fifth the size of that three years ago, average working hours per person is 15 hours a week; average wage per hour is 150 dollars (purchasing power corrected to present day levels)


Sure it's not properly post-scarcity, but its pretty darn close, and I won't be too surprised to see this happening in two generations.

I don't think this would result in a fake scarcity.
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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby CorruptUser » Fri Jan 06, 2012 4:21 am UTC

No, but scarcity will still be in whatever traits people deem to be 'sexy'. The economy is more than just what you exchange money for, after all. From an evolutionary viewpoint, all of the extra income beyond survival is meant for attracting a more fertile and higher quality mate.

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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby Zcorp » Fri Jan 06, 2012 5:50 am UTC

CorruptUser wrote:No, but scarcity will still be in whatever traits people deem to be 'sexy'. The economy is more than just what you exchange money for, after all. From an evolutionary viewpoint, all of the extra income beyond survival is meant for attracting a more fertile and higher quality mate.

An evolutionary stand point is a bit of a misnomer, but regardless humans are much more complex than our instincts.

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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby Mordae » Sat Jan 21, 2012 11:12 pm UTC

Anyway, the post-scarcity world may not have positive exponential growth; as a society becomes wealthier, the growth rate shrinks and often goes negative. Japan has negative growth, as does Russia. Without immigration, Europe would have negative growth. Evolution ensured people have a drive to copulate, but until fairly recently the whole choice of whether or not that led to childbirth did not exist.


That's because these countries are not actually getting wealthy. It's just capitalism spinning faster and faster, depriving people of resources (money, the only universal resource in capitalism) required to sustain large families. I would be an idiot to have 3 children. Hell, I'd be an idiot to have ONE! I have problems with my own living expenses.

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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby lutzj » Mon Jan 23, 2012 2:06 am UTC

Mordae wrote:That's because these countries are not actually getting wealthy. It's just capitalism spinning faster and faster, depriving people of resources (money, the only universal resource in capitalism) required to sustain large families. I would be an idiot to have 3 children. Hell, I'd be an idiot to have ONE! I have problems with my own living expenses.


This doesn't make any sense. Population growth declines in non-capitalist societies as wealth increases too.
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CorruptUser
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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby CorruptUser » Mon Jan 23, 2012 5:28 am UTC

Some economic theory for you.

Economic output is a product of three things; capital, workforce, and technology. Capital is the value of permanent structures or improvements in place. Things like roads, sewer systems, machinery, factories, mines, etc. Workforce is the amount of workers available to the economy. Technology is a bit weird, as it is anything that affects productivity other than the amount of capital or number of workers. It could be better education, increased public health, longer life-spans, more honest police force, or the more 'traditional' better methods for smelting steel.

The estimated function is Y = A*(N^.7)*(K^.3), where Y is output, A is technology, N is workforce, and K is capital. When any one of those increases, the economic output increases. So more workers increases the total economy, but reduces it per worker wealth. More capital increases the production, but only until the maintenance of the capital outweighs the diminishing returns. More technology is always better. More technology is always better; it is the reason that China was growing so rapidly, as they were catching up technologically with the developed world. The exponents represent the diminishing returns, but when both the number of workers and the amount of capital doubles, so does the economy (assuming no change to technology).

The biggest thing you should have noticed was the maintenance cost for your capital. Reduce maintenance enough, and you can effectively have unlimited wealth. For example, you earn $10k a year. Assume you only buy cars. You buy 10k worth of car, but the car loses 1/5 of itself due to maintenance and fuel costs, so at the end of the year you have 8k worth of car. So next year, you buy another 10k of car, for 18k total, and at the end you have $14.4k worth of car. This process repeats until you are buying the maintenance cost of the car, for $50k worth of car. Now let's say the car only loses 1/20 of itself each year. You end up with $200k worth of car. As the maintenance cost goes to 0, you end up with unlimited amount of car. Recycling is similar; if you recycle 90% of the paper, the result is you get 10 times as much paper per tree. This is how you can grow the economy exponentially even though you have the same number of trees available to chop.

Anyway, Japan and Russia have a decreasing workforce, which explains why their economies shrank.

There are some other things to consider; more people = more potential scientists = faster technological growth. It's my belief that the population of Earth hit a critical point in the 18th century allowing for technological growth to outpace population growth, which is why we haven't hit a Malthusian apocalypse. Prior to that point, any innovation just meant more people, but not more wealth per person.

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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby TranquilFury » Mon Jan 23, 2012 10:31 am UTC

More money would be dumped into advertisement, people that wanted employment would shift to the service industry.

Mordae
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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby Mordae » Tue Jan 24, 2012 12:12 am UTC

lutzj wrote:This doesn't make any sense. Population growth declines in non-capitalist societies as wealth increases too.


I've discussed this outside of xkcd forums recently and you are probably right. On the other hand, I don't believe it's not a factor. But yes, more comfortable we get, the less children we have.

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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby Mordae » Tue Jan 24, 2012 12:19 am UTC

CorruptUser wrote:Reduce maintenance enough, and you can effectively have unlimited wealth.


Is this why it's so popular nowadays to make products with shortest possible lifetime? So that you need to put the wealth you would get in the direction of your supplier instead of someone else?

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Re: How Would The World React To a Post-Scarcity Society?

Postby CorruptUser » Tue Jan 24, 2012 12:38 am UTC

Mordae wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:Reduce maintenance enough, and you can effectively have unlimited wealth.


Is this why it's so popular nowadays to make products with shortest possible lifetime? So that you need to put the wealth you would get in the direction of your supplier instead of someone else?


There is a legitimate reason for getting an intentionally inferior product. If you know/assume that a superior product is in development, there is no point in making anything other than a stopgap until said product comes out. Let's say it's 1990. You could get a top of the line computer that would last up to a decade, but if you are going to replace the computer when it becomes obsolete in just 3 years, why spend the money? This of course can come back to bite you; the US's infrastructure was meant as a stopgap until the magical year 2000 when cheap nuclear power, off-planet manufacturing, flying cars, and who knows what else would've meant that any additional capital expended in infrastructure was going to go to waste anyway. The result is that now our infrastructure is in dire need of repair.

As for what you normally are thinking of, like clothing or car companies making things that are practically designed to fall apart, that's done to increase sales. However, the public at large is slow, but not stupid. Chrysler, Ford, and GM all made rolling pieces of shit in the 70s, and the result was for the first time Americans bought foreign cars. Despite 3 direct bailouts and countless subsidies, only Ford seems to have caught on to the fact that people want cars that last more than 5 years.

I love my used 2003 Avalon. 185k miles and still purring like a kitten. My next car will almost certainly be a Toyota. Look, I'm willing to pay a few hundred dollars more so that a fellow American in Ohio can keep his health insurance, but I am NOT willing to pay an extra $5000 for that plus get a car with terrible MPG and barely has a chance of getting to 100k miles.


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