Monday, April 18, 2011

A Poison Pill for the Scarcity Zeitgeist Zombie

In How to Kill a Debt Monster (The Ingenesist Project) explains:
Suppose someone discovers a new form of energy that is free for all to use with no negative environmental impact. Suppose that another person creates a device that allows people to communicate telepathically. Suppose someone discovers an anti-gravity machine that can transport people and objects cheaply and rapidly. Suppose someone invents high-yield perennial food crops that don’t need to be replanted every year.

Each would deposit huge amounts of economic value while simultaneously wrecking havoc on the financial system. Oil companies would go out of business, telecoms would go bust, transportation industries would cease, and agribusiness would fail, etc.  Millions would lose their jobs and mortgages would collapse, etc.
This is the straightforward conundrum humanity faces at the inflection point from a scarcity to postscarcity existence. We achieve such overwhelming surpluses, in so many domains, that the Scarcity Game is literally laughed out of existence.

While the scenarios above illustrate the point well, we don't have to wait for telepathy to see these forces at work, right now. Today. Present tense.
  1. We have the "new form[s] of energy that is free for all to use with no negative environmental impact." They are called solar, wind, and geothermal.
  2. We have the devices that allow people to effectively communicate telepathically. They're called smart phones, bluetooth headsets, mobile chat, and SMS. We all have fun with this every day as we use this "digital telepathy" to talk with friends about the other people who are standing right there in front of us.
  3. As for perennial food crops, okay, this one maybe has a little ways to go; however, there's no debating the magnitude of the productive disruption created by improved technologies, genetically modified crops, and the bombastic Brute Forced Scarcity of various subsidies which are only in place in order to prevent the collapse of food prices described, above.
Obviously, postscarcity isn't evenly distributed, yet. However like William Gibson's future itself, postscarcity is indeed already here. What's a bit counterintuitive is the discovery that it actually isn't about distribution at all, it's about circulation, sustainable flows, transpiration at the economic capillary level; at the edge, where all True Value is -- and always has been -- ascribed, created, and exchanged.

1 comment:

  1. The scarcity paradigm has its roots in our mammalian past. But it is very important to understand that as soon as any single human achieved the level of security that insured his survival (an abundance of food, shelter and the other needs of life) post-scarcity became a reality. The fact that it hasn't been achieved for all humans has nothing to do with the fact that POST SCARCITY HAS ALREADY BEEN ACHIEVED BY THE HUMAN RACE. The technology and advanced science which enables even one person to live an entire lifetime without needing to fight/kill or die of starvation or exposure to the elements is the proof of concept -- a concept that hasn't been equaled by mammals or apes. So when people say that post-scarcity is not possible that is a social issue based on greed and fear -- it is not based on the facts of science and the laws of physics. We live in a world of post-scarcity technology with an outdated scarcity mindset. It is the mindset that needs to change to suit the sophistication of our technology.