Friday, July 17, 2015

Socialism Proves Socialism Works


Grogard said...

World currency attempts will be next. Hopefully this will lead to a violent revolt.

Edward said...

That seems to be the plan, a cashless society, everything tracked and logged, no more tax havens in a fully globalised economy. Money is just a virtual concept anyway, so in some ways it's no great loss, unless you were going to be doing something slightly less than legal with it...

Honestly, people seem to get so hung up on concepts like this. What is wealth for anyway? Provided there is enough for food / water / shelter / safety / healthcare etc. what is the difference between owning $100,000 and $2,000,000? How much do you really need? What are you going to do with it? Why do you think you deserve it so much more than someone else?

The whole economic system is just a big game, that some people seem to work out how to rig to their benefit. But why should your desire for a relative status boost deprive someone else of a basic standard of living? If a new system was introduced that meant you had to have a status pot/indicator that represented the value of your contributions to the world, but which was separate concept from your allowance for physical possessions or living expenses, would it really do you so much harm?

If you're already a very good programmer / designer / architect / brain surgeon / physicist, you could still get to gloat over your status tally as much as you liked, but maybe you wouldn't also get to live in a mansion or be allowed to force someone else to work below the poverty line for your material benefit.

The value of so many things is already so distorted that very little even makes much sense any more in terms of potential monetary rewards vs. mental / physical effort expended, so why not just break down that relationship entirely? We only originally introduced the token economy to stop people killing each other or stealing from each other directly, but the whole thing has now gotten so out of hand and the numbers involved are just ridiculous, despite the fact that there is still pretty much only the same amount of physical 'stuff' on the planet as there ever was.

Some of it is now a lot more organised admittedly, but a lot of it is now less organised, spread about the world in landfills and pollution. Most of the conceptual wealth in the world is really just electronic blips on computers or ideas in people's heads, not gold bars in a vault somewhere, or even in peoples houses or pockets.
What is GDP really for if most everyone in a nation is depressed or exhausted a lot of the time? Why even keep having this competition between nations if there is already basically enough stuff to go around?

I for one would be perfectly fine living in a Star Trek TNG style post-scarcity economy. In a world with transporters and matter replicators etc. who really needs a private jet? We're already living in an age where nearly everything we want is either virtualised or easy to duplicate, so why are we still fighting the same old ideological battles over what are now nearly outdated concepts?

Ave said...

Edward, the thing is that people don't have a sense of limit. There is no "enough" for them. look at the present american suburbia, : every family there has more wealth than your average third world engineer ( ) and what do they do with it ? How does it contribute to humanity ? If you give them Star Trek Technology, it is going to become even worse.

I plead guilty : if I had it my way, I would have a fully stocked and operational vault. Then, as is often the case, I would loose interest in it and want yet another thing.

Somebody's elses work (to build the vault, to extract the ore, and smelt it, and transport it etc.) has to be paid. There are not enough ressources for every human to live that way, and this is why there has to be an organization of society. I'm not saying the repartition is good, but it's always been like this, stupid greedy people at the top with no concept of proper ressource management.

Wealth is an incentive. Few people would become doctors or engineers without the perspective of an improvement in social rank and material comfort. Only complex societies can have a monetary system and schools to train engineers.

If you don't have a complex society you have a tribe, that is more or less the equivalent of a cubicle farm (look at Og ! His desk not full ! He social loafer !), the kind of environment that actually destroys intelligence an initiative.

Edward said...

Obviously making the transition to a Star Trek style economy is going to be really difficult, given the number of holdouts who want to keep their guns and their vaults etc.
Separating the concept of status from the concept of material wealth seems like the key challenge. If there were matter replicators/assemblers you would have a physical property budget dictated by the size of your household. When you reach your allowance if you still want new stuff you must recycle old stuff, but there is no great penalty for changing your mind and the new stuff does not deplete overall resources or deprive other people.

People already seem happy enough with virtual status tokens, be it friends/followers, retweets, Xbox live gamerscore, or any of thousands of other systems. If people do game those systems for extra rewards, they don't drive others into material poverty at the same time. As far as training engineers goes, freed from the constant grind to achieve a basic standard of living I think you'd be surprised what people are capable of, or how community minded they might be. With all these MOOCs already existing the demand for so much education infrastructure is diminishing, (big label colleges are more of a status thing than an actual representation of the quality of the education anyway). Maybe people would be prepared to mentor other people and pass their creative skills along.
But even if they weren't, they'd still have the material budget much the same as everyone else, they just don't get to collect so many of the status tokens if they lounge around by the pool all day.

I like this guys ideas as a utopian system that seems to tick all the boxes. Maybe we can't eliminate all the grunt jobs outright, but we surely don't really want to keep living in a world where some have so much and yet so many can barely keep their heads above the water line.

OK, it's just a dream, maybe it can possibly happen on the other side of WW3, if there is anything left worth rebuilding by then.

Texas Arcane said...


You lost me at utopian system, Edward. Have you been punched in the face as an adult?

There is no scarcity, Edward. There is no resource shortage. No water shortage and no food shortage and no oil shortage. These are things you want to be true. Evidence for them is nonexistent.

If there is no shortage, there is no need for you to plan for how to best manage the lives of others. If there is a shortage, there is still no need. All of this has no existence outside the boundaries of your own skull. It is a world you need to believe in.

People who say "Maybe we can't eliminate all the grunt jobs outright," have lost touch with reality. Can you even eat right, exercise and manage your own affairs, Edward? Do you know how neurotic it is to dwell constantly on how best to do this for others? Very.

Edward said...

I know there isn't a fundamental shortage of water, or of food, they are obviously part of a big cycle of materials if managed properly. (Or left to their own devices, rather than intentionally mismanaged by us..) The artificially imposed shortages are in the quality and distribution of materials not in the materials themselves, a problem we have essentially created for ourselves thanks to the profit motive.

I'm not entirely convinced about oil because I don't know for sure if it's made from ancient compressed sea creatures or not, but since burning it increases entropy and extracting it and processing it costs a lot of money and energy, I'd sooner move to things like hydrogen fuel cells powered by water split by other energy sources that we also know are not finite, (solar, geothermal, nuclear fusion, whatever..)

I just don't have that, 'other people should have to work harder than me, other people should have less than me' thing, since I already know I probably have too much, I just can't seem to get it to work very well right now.

It's just you've got to laugh when you see so many people that would rather play FarmVille than do their 'proper job' filing insurance claims or whatever, but are prevented from doing so by the perceived 'status' implications. The world really doesn't need more insurance processors, but it most of the actually useful jobs don't seem to pay well enough for people to be allowed to do what they really want to do. If status could be more linked to decreasing entropy rather than increasing it, we would be a lot better off.

Yes I know I'm neurotic, I've already worked out all the biology behind all that and I'm going to get help for it. I don't want to end up being another Ted Nelson type, forever climbing up to higher and higher levels of abstraction, supposedly full of great ideas, but always doing things that never really get off the ground. There are enough people attempting to build new towers of babel out there already.

Ryan David G said...


Money is not just about status, even beyond the basics needed for life. That sounds like what only someone who always had plenty of money would say. The reality is, even if you gave everyone on the planet somewhere to sleep and enough food to eat, people would want a bigger house for their family, better quality of food, enough money so they could travel and see some of the World. Most people would want these things but the reality is there are not enough resources to provide them for all 7 billion people.

So people work hard, make sacrifices, study difficult subjects and even do jobs they may not want to do because they are motivated to acquire these extra resources. Every communist system ends up only providing these things for a ruling elite, meanwhile the masses have no motivation for working harder or striving for a better future.

It's not all about status.

Grogard said...

But star trek told me the future is world communism and everyone is rich!

Of course it will take more energy than an atom bomb for a replicator to build my egg sandwich, I guess the successful world communism will come at the same time this technology is feasible.

Edward said...

Well I know actual transporters and replicators are still in the domain of the technically infeasible. The closest we have are 3D printers, which are slow and make solid objects out of a single material, not edible foods out of raw molecules. But we seem to be making a hell of a lot of technical progress very fast right now, so maybe it won't take as long as we think it will.

In Star Trek not everyone is rich, everyone just has what they need. No one is rich as that concept simply no longer exists. No one thinks about it or works towards it, instead they work towards contributing their knowledge and skills wherever their talents may lie. There is no ruling elite, no man behind the curtain, apart perhaps for section 38, which we don't talk about.

I don't think the people you think of as the ruling elite really work the way you think they work. They've recognised that beyond a certain level money is largely an illusion. It's more of a lubricant to make sure things easily happen your way. A way to create a certain kind of 'glamour' to keep everyone outside the clique striving for things just outside of their reach. The goal at that level isn't really profit leading to either more possessions or better experiences any more, its just a tool to manage other people and keep the larger systems running smoothly. A reservoir to be used in case of emergencies, and a way of supplying sufficient resources to promising new technologies and artistic creations.

Money is just like interchangeable tokens for doing works that decrease entropy. All things being equal, the higher the level you work at, the more entropy you can reduce, the more money you can earn. Yes, with the money you can have more stuff and larger houses, fancier foods and nicer holidays, but the question is, do you need it, does it really make you happier, or do you only want it for 'status'?
Bigger houses equals bigger mortgages, more maintenance costs, more utility bills, pretty soon you are back to working yourself to death just to keep standing still. What have you really gained in the process?

Well I don't know, I have Asperger's apparently, so whatever status is to you it just isn't a concept that is emotionally meaningful to me. Not getting physically attacked by other people is something I care about, but outside of that I don't really care much.

The more of the system we automate out of existence, the less useful entropy reducing work there is available to do, but due to the legacy constraints of the existing social programming, we have to find 'work' for people to do, even if for many nowadays it is largely useless electron pushing.

If you divorced the innate concept of relative status, from the artificial concept of money, what remains is a lot of freed up mental energy that could be devoted to other things, like closer family ties or mentoring relationships, scientific research, or just creating works of art to express ourselves. Not pushing records into databases, or telling people they don't deserve healthcare.

The planet as a whole is essentially a zero-sum game, but individual lives can be rich and rewarding or full of pollution, slums and violence. If we are able to, shouldn't we try to elevate everyone out of the pit?

Look, I'm not an 'elite' myself, but I'm training myself to think like one, or going crazy, depending on your perspective. Yes, maybe it doesn't exist outside of my own skull, but if I'm happy enough spending my time and energy thinking up grand theoretical systems, why should that matter to others? I'm an INTP, so its what I'm gonna do anyway. If I have no power to exert that kind of influence on the outside world, maybe its safer for others if it does all stay inside my head. Or maybe my ideas are useful to someone, who knows?