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Old May 22nd 2016, 12:20 PM
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Default Post-Scarcity

I've been reading some science fiction books which postulate a post-scarcity society (the Culture series, by Iain Banks, if you're interested). It's got me thinking about what it would mean to move beyond scarcity and what society would look like if that happened. The books assume super-advanced technology, the most crucial of which being easy access to limitless energy (laws of conservation notwithstanding). They also have "replicator"-like technology which can "print" any physical object, including food, quickly and accurately if its in the system, and mastery of genetic manipulation.

Anyway, I'm mostly just throwing this topic out there for anyone interested in it. I don't think we've touched on it before. Some specific questions I'm pondering:

Assuming a "post-scarcity" economy is one in which "most goods can be produced in great abundance with minimal human labor needed, so that they become available to all very cheaply or even freely," what's necessary to get from here to there? What technology is required as a minimum? Perhaps more importantly, what governmental/social/cultural structures would have to be in place?

Assuming one did achieve such a society, would it be (ala Gene Roddenberry or Iain Banks) inherently free, tolerant, and egalitarian? Does eliminating scarcity naturally lead to freedom, tolerance, and equality? Or might it, in fact, be far more self-destructive?

A natural follow-up: Would a post-scarcity society even be desirable? And on what basis?
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Old May 24th 2016, 11:13 AM
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Default Re: Post-Scarcity

Love the Culture books; just started one last night actually.

I think at the moment the move toward post-scarcity is what part of what is fueling growing inequality. I think it paints an ever clarifying picture of what we need to do to re-tool our society for that reality. Others call it a post-work world.
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Old May 24th 2016, 06:10 PM
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Default Re: Post-Scarcity

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Love the Culture books; just started one last night actually.

I think at the moment the move toward post-scarcity is what part of what is fueling growing inequality. I think it paints an ever clarifying picture of what we need to do to re-tool our society for that reality. Others call it a post-work world.
I've only read Consider Phlebas and The Player of Games so far. Our library only has a handful of them (had to get The Player of Games via ILL), so I think Excessions is the next one that's available.

It does seem like many of the same technologies which move us toward a potentially post-scarcity world (e.g. automation) are the very ones which potentially widen the wealth gap between the extremely wealth and the extremely poor. It's hard to see how a capitalist economy could ever phase smoothly into a post-scarcity future.
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Old May 24th 2016, 06:26 PM
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Default Re: Post-Scarcity

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Originally Posted by dilettante View Post
I've been reading some science fiction books which postulate a post-scarcity society (the Culture series, by Iain Banks, if you're interested). It's got me thinking about what it would mean to move beyond scarcity and what society would look like if that happened. The books assume super-advanced technology, the most crucial of which being easy access to limitless energy (laws of conservation notwithstanding). They also have "replicator"-like technology which can "print" any physical object, including food, quickly and accurately if its in the system, and mastery of genetic manipulation.
In other words, after nuclear fusion is invented.

Anyway, the topic is interesting and I've been toying with some of the concepts for years, trying to wrap my head around them. I'll read up on this Iain Banks fellow to see what his angle is and add a more in-depth comment later.

That being said, I do find it difficult to imagine a world where we magically go from the present status quo (where everything is scarce and/or running out) to a future where everything is materially limitless. That seems almost too utopian to consider a realistic possibility.
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Old May 24th 2016, 09:50 PM
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Default Re: Post-Scarcity

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I've only read Consider Phlebas and The Player of Games so far. Our library only has a handful of them (had to get The Player of Games via ILL), so I think Excessions is the next one that's available.
I checked and I've read (listened to) most of them. I read Player of Games first and I didn't care for it, so I'm glad I gave it another shot.

Use of Weapons is incredible and heartwrenching; The Hydrogen Sonata is an amazing book to read when you know the author knew he was dying.

His ability to to incredible grand scale as well as individual narratives is impressive and unlikely.

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It does seem like many of the same technologies which move us toward a potentially post-scarcity world (e.g. automation) are the very ones which potentially widen the wealth gap between the extremely wealth and the extremely poor. It's hard to see how a capitalist economy could ever phase smoothly into a post-scarcity future.
Destroy capitalism?
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Last edited by dilettante; May 25th 2016 at 07:00 AM.
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Old May 25th 2016, 08:22 AM
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Default Re: Post-Scarcity

I should add that Banks has a penchant for the grotesquely violent that I don't necessarily appreciate these days, although I understand why he does it.
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Old May 25th 2016, 09:52 AM
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I should add that Banks has a penchant for the grotesquely violent that I don't necessarily appreciate these days, although I understand why he does it.
Ugh. I noticed that in the two books I've read but have been hoping they were exceptions and that was something which would fade out in later books. I could see the point of it in The Player of Games (though I think he could have "faded to black" or something a bit earlier and still had the same effect), but there are parts of Consider Phlebas I sincerely wish I had entirely skipped and which didn't seem to actually contribute to the overall plot.
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Old May 26th 2016, 09:32 PM
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Default Re: Post-Scarcity

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Originally Posted by dilettante View Post
I've been reading some science fiction books which postulate a post-scarcity society (the Culture series, by Iain Banks, if you're interested). It's got me thinking about what it would mean to move beyond scarcity and what society would look like if that happened. The books assume super-advanced technology, the most crucial of which being easy access to limitless energy (laws of conservation notwithstanding). They also have "replicator"-like technology which can "print" any physical object, including food, quickly and accurately if its in the system, and mastery of genetic manipulation.

Anyway, I'm mostly just throwing this topic out there for anyone interested in it. I don't think we've touched on it before. Some specific questions I'm pondering:

Assuming a "post-scarcity" economy is one in which "most goods can be produced in great abundance with minimal human labor needed, so that they become available to all very cheaply or even freely," what's necessary to get from here to there? What technology is required as a minimum? Perhaps more importantly, what governmental/social/cultural structures would have to be in place?

Assuming one did achieve such a society, would it be (ala Gene Roddenberry or Iain Banks) inherently free, tolerant, and egalitarian? Does eliminating scarcity naturally lead to freedom, tolerance, and equality? Or might it, in fact, be far more self-destructive?

A natural follow-up: Would a post-scarcity society even be desirable? And on what basis?
I can't speak to the books because I haven't read them.

However, as to the overall issue of scarcity I am highly suspicious about the idea that suddenly, given the means to eliminate scarcity, we create an egalitarian society.

My real issue is that the whole scarcity issue has two parts. Part 1 is the fact that there are not enough resources to support everyone on the planet having an American upper-middle class lifestyle. In fact the small portion of people who do have that lifestyle are killing the planet. Science fiction and scientific research only seem to focus on this part of the problem because they seem to believe that if we can achieve a thing than it will happen.

That is only the first part though. The second part of scarcity is what is called the "myth of scarcity" which goes like this: there are not nearly enough resources and my tribe/people/country/neighborhood deserves the lion share of everything. This part of the problem is not an economic problem, but a condition of the human person that stems from a persons beliefs (theologically I call it Sin). People all over the world believe this myth so we act accordingly. Donald Trump is playing right off this myth saying "hey, the Mexicans/Muslims/capital-O-Others are taking your stuff and they need to be expelled because there is only so much to go around." Regardless of all economic evidence to the contrary this myth is believed.

This is all to say that even if somehow achieved the technological level in which the resources to support a middle class American lifestyle could be available to the whole planet I am not sure this goal would be achieved because the "myth" would still be believed and people would build systems (economic and cultural) designed to horde and protect.
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Last edited by Non Sequitur; May 26th 2016 at 09:36 PM.
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Old May 26th 2016, 09:37 PM
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Default Re: Post-Scarcity

I don't think anyone is talking about "suddenly" though.
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Old May 26th 2016, 10:45 PM
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Default Re: Post-Scarcity

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I don't think anyone is talking about "suddenly" though.
Ok... by suddenly I mean it can't be achieved in a society wide level until Jesus returns.
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