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Robbie Parry
Byrne Robotics Member

Joined: 17 June 2007
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 12187
Posted: 09 November 2018 at 7:12pm | IP Logged | 1 post reply

I'm afraid I did that once, Mr Byrne (a flight from Glasgow to the Outer Hebrides)!
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Peter Martin
Byrne Robotics Member

Joined: 17 March 2008
Location: Canada
Posts: 11358
Posted: 09 November 2018 at 7:16pm | IP Logged | 2 post reply

Conrad, what you are saying seems to be a truism. I'm happy to concede that a perfect people being perfect in a perfect time would be desirable. I am very sceptical we will get there and, as JB points out, there's every reason to believe that our current trajectory won't allow us to get anywhere except dead.

As for 'Wouldn't thinking of new things be a primary activity for people who don't have to struggle to survive? '. That was my point. People will dream up new products and new fads and new  trends in order to create demand and thereby make it impossibility to eradicate scarcity.

Let's consider your Raspberry Pi example. Yes, it's more powerful than an 80s or early 90s PC. But it's also less powerful than an first-generation iPhone and no-one wants a first-generation iPhone. The demand is for an iPhone X... which won't be in demand in three years, because Apple will have released three generations of new iPhones by then, which they probably already have the technology in partial development for right now. Things change, yes. But it's generally true, that the most advanced technology is the most in demand and the most expensive accordingly.

Edited by Peter Martin on 09 November 2018 at 7:16pm
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Conrad Teves
Byrne Robotics Member

Joined: 28 January 2014
Location: United States
Posts: 1574
Posted: 09 November 2018 at 8:32pm | IP Logged | 3 post reply

Yes, Crom laughs at my iPhone 5SE.

Peter, are you *advocating* rampant consumerism as an ideal?  I'm unsure where you are coming from here.  People often want the latest iPhone despite them having no real advantage over a previous model they already have.  That's just successful marketing.  

Those $5 Raspberry Pi's are a different tool than iPhoneX.  Their cost allows you to use them for stuff it would be foolish to try and apply your $1000 phone.  The whole point of them is turn a hardware problem into a software problem, massively enabling the user. 

Post-scarcity doesn't mean you have an infinite supply of everything you could ever want and nothing new should be invented, it means your resource management vastly exceeds your need. No one need starve, no one need be homeless, education would be free to whoever whenever.  "Survival with Style" as Jerry Pournelle once said.  

The post-scarcity idea comes from simply extrapolating obvious trends in technology into the future.  Whether or not those projections come to pass as expected or in a new remarkable way (or a horrible bad one), the potential endpoint where no human intervention is required seems obvious.

Take the timber industry as an example. It used to take 10 lumberjacks with axes a whole day to cut down and dress a dozen trees for transport.  Now, literally one guy in a machine straight out of The Lorax can grab a tree, cut it off at the base in seconds, strip off all the branches and plop it on a truck in very short order, doing 10x the work with 1/10th of the labor force.  The bottleneck becomes moving over to a new tree.  It is not hard to imagine an AI replacing that one last guy, planting a new tree, and cutting the manual labor costs of the harvesting portion of a whole industry down to zero. Amortizing the machine becomes straightforward from there.  The 10 lumberjacks system was much farther from post-scarcity than the zero lumberjacks version. I don't know about you, but I find the latter scenario far preferable.

Also, those people in the post-scarcity society don't need to be perfect (whatever that even means). When you remove the value of materialistic, pure limbic-response consumer products, what people make themselves into can be what's valuable to them, not that they have the Cool New Thing. As for other people, does anyone care if person X has the newest Ronco Turnip Twaddler?  Really?

As goals go, post-scarcity may even be achievable.  The goal we seem to be working for is that (best case) in 500 years that world would still be 100+ squabbling countries with vast economic inequality and endless war.  Or gone altogether. I find one idea is as invigorating as the other is depressing.

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