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Star Trek Economics

Soulskill posted about 6 months ago | from the once-you-have-their-money,-you-never-give-it-back dept.

Sci-Fi 888

An anonymous reader writes "Rick Webb has an article suggesting we're in the nascent stages of transforming to a post-scarcity economy — one in which we are 'no longer constrained by scarcity of materials—food, energy, shelter, etc.' While we aren't there yet, job automation continues to rise and the problem of distributing necessities gets closer to being solved every day. Webb wondered how to describe a society's progress as it made the transition from scarcity to post-scarcity — and it brought him to Star Trek. Quoting: 'I believe the Federation is a proto-post scarcity society evolved from democratic capitalism. It is, essentially, European socialist capitalism vastly expanded to the point where no one has to work unless they want to. It is massively productive and efficient, allowing for the effective decoupling of labor and salary for the vast majority (but not all) of economic activity. The amount of welfare benefits available to all citizens is in excess of the needs of the citizens. Therefore, money is irrelevant to the lives of the citizenry, whether it exists or not. Resources are still accounted for and allocated in some manner, presumably by the amount of energy required to produce them (say Joules). And they are indeed credited to and debited from each citizen's "account." However, the average citizen doesn't even notice it, though the government does, and again, it is not measured in currency units—definitely not Federation Credits.'"

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Beta test? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46245757)

Didn't they know that beta might kill them? Down with the Beta, up with the SoylentNews!

Re:Beta test? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46246049)

yawn.

The world has moved on. No one cares. Leave your basement and spend some time with your mom. She's ugly, but at least she pays for your electric.

Re:Beta test? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46246269)

Your mom is in beta. Mom jokes are the new black. Beta overlords beowulf cluster of these 1337.

Rule of acquisition 18 (5, Insightful)

genner (694963) | about 6 months ago | (#46245773)

A Ferengi without profit is no Ferengi at all.

You have violated copyright by posting this. (5, Funny)

Chas (5144) | about 6 months ago | (#46245951)

Your penalty is 15 bars of gold-pressed latinum.

Re:You have violated copyright by posting this. (2, Funny)

koan (80826) | about 6 months ago | (#46246155)

And 5 quatloos, oh damn I dated myself.

Wow (3, Insightful)

koan (80826) | about 6 months ago | (#46245791)

He couldn't be more wrong, the more likely scenario is collapse due to over population and limited resources.

Re:Wow (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46245877)

Let him live in his dream world. I'd prefer to live there, too, but too many facts get in the way.

but But BUT... (2)

Thud457 (234763) | about 6 months ago | (#46246261)

Without money, how else are males supposed to indicate their status and desirability of their genes?!!


HA HA, trick question!
If you're still encumbered by the shackles imposed by DNA, you're a sucker. Who needs progeny when you can live virtually forever? The secret it to bang the rocks together, guys.

Re:Wow (1, Flamebait)

bondsbw (888959) | about 6 months ago | (#46246355)

The amount of welfare benefits available to all citizens is in excess of the needs of the citizens.

I don't see why this is considered a good thing. If I have all necessity plus a few luxuries, I'm not going to work as a garbage man. (I don't doubt that some people who have worked that job all their lives actually love it, but I don't know of any teenager who would sign up for it willingly.)

Welfare's goal should be to cover exactly and not a bit more than the absolutely basic needs of life. Its goal is to help you survive, not to make you happy. If you want to eat Cheerios instead of cardboard, well, that's going to require either 1) a job, or 2) a waiver based on medical hardship, inability to find a job, etc.

Re:Wow (4, Interesting)

jythie (914043) | about 6 months ago | (#46245901)

I think part of the newness of the situation would be the lack of the 'limited resources' thing. It is an extreme that is unlikely to ever take place, it is interesting to ponder how you would run a civilization when resources (raw materials and energy) are effectively unlimited. Right now our hybrid capitalist/socialist economy is more or less the best solution given the situation and human psychology, but change situation that much and we would probably need to find some new way to organize society... crow, we would probably need to scrap and rethink what success criteria to use. Right now it is wealth, society and individuals are generally judged on how much wealth they have/generate and pretty much every bit of domestic and foreign policy circles back to optimizing the economy for maximum GDP or distribution. Take that away and what do we structure around? It would be fascinating to watch.

Re:Wow (5, Insightful)

PuckSR (1073464) | about 6 months ago | (#46246197)

I think you are misunderstanding or misconstruing the argument. Post-scarcity doesn't mean that "limited resources" cease to exist. The primary driver of our modern economy(and any new economy) is energy. Energy is becoming rapidly less expensive because of modern technologies. He is arguing that at a certain point we will have to acknowledge that we have enough energy to meet everyone's basic needs. At that point, excess energy can be used to meet everyone's luxury desires. We tend to think of everyone's luxury desires as limitless, but that isn't exactly true. Our appetite for luxury goods is highly pliable. A great example of this would be video games. In the late 80s, you probably would have wanted a lot of Nintendo games. Those were a desirable luxury good. Now, you can acquire all of those games(through illegal and quasi-legal channels) and play them on a machine that costs as much as 2 beers. Yet, you don't play all of those old games. Why not? Your appetite has changed and now you are more than happy to play one new game rather than dozens of old ones. Consider it the "Brewster's Millions" problem.
As far as "limited resources", they will continue to exist. However, we might find that their value and how we assess that value has changed dramatically. Gold will probably be the clearest example. Gold has very little intrinsic value. It is a rare metal, but materials of similar rarity do not approach anywhere near the value of gold in the current market. Tellurium, an element found with gold which is actually rarer, has similarly valuable commercial applications. However, tellurium does not trade for 1/100th the price of gold. In a world where you can have all of your needs met, what use will we have for gold? We only wear it now as a symbol of wealth. If everyone has quasi-limitless wealth, then what point is signaling your wealth? Yes, in the Star Trek economy, gold is still rare. However, since there are few commercial applications for gold, you would see the price drop precipitously.

Re:Wow (5, Insightful)

wiggles (30088) | about 6 months ago | (#46245933)

Overpopulation is only a problem in India and China. The rest of the civilized world, especially Japan, is having severe problems due to negative population growth. Population is predicted to plateau and start shrinking after around 2060. [spiegel.de] I am not worried about overpopulation.

As far as limited resources, we are only limited by the amount of energy it takes to extract those resources, and those sources of energy can and will transition to renewable sources as consumables become expensive. Indeed, we are already seeing that transition come into play with wind and solar electricity, electric cars, and efficiency drives. At the same time, we're seeing new sources of consumables come online as prices increase - see shale oil - and as technology advances to the point that we are able to extract more cheaply, effectively, and efficiently - see natural gas.

Overpopulation and resource limitations will work themselves out naturally.

Re:Wow (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46246009)

Re:Wow (2)

jythie (914043) | about 6 months ago | (#46246183)

2004? I feel cheated...... screw flying cars, where is my holodeck!

Re:Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46246219)

But more importantly... what does XKCD say?

Re:Wow (4, Informative)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 6 months ago | (#46246257)

Indeed: it is well-known that population growth is logistic [wikipedia.org] , not exponential, yet alarmist idiots keep yelling about it anyway.

Re:Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46246365)

All of what you've said is reasonable but a counterpoint to a post scarcity economy. Efficiency is something that matters in times of scarcity. In energy, a post scarcity economy would be buying electricity the same way we buy net access, flat rate and lots of it. Probably before your time but this was the promise of nuclear fission. The reality was very different. The Stanford Design School's Extreme Affordability approach is the more likely future. If you use so little power each month that the connection charge is the major part of the bill then it essentially becomes a flat rate. Notice this happens because of scarcity not a lack of it.

gfdsnjgsd (3, Informative)

baka_toroi (1194359) | about 6 months ago | (#46246003)

Most estimates show a bell-curve type of population growth. I think it is around 13 or 14 billion where it would peak and then it will go back down.

So I don't think he's that off. We waste tons of food a day.

Re:Wow (-1)

Jim Sadler (3430529) | about 6 months ago | (#46246055)

Right on point! Over population is the cause of most of our current misery and very few people are even capable of thinking it out. Pollution is a result of human activity by definition. Nature does not pollute itself. The greater the population the higher the level of pollution. The need to feed the mutitudes has reduced our oceans to near death. Our lands are exhausted and loaded with the chemicals required to feed the population. It is a spiral staircase to doom or hell on Earth. Yet over population will not be halted by individuals being self regulating. It can only be controlled by vigorous legal sanctions. Yet no politician can touch anything resembling the idea of population control by law and regulation as political doom would be heaped upon him. Essentially the situation acts as a proof that democracy can not exist and is self extinguishing as a political philosophy. We can see Joe Stalin as a butcher yet we do not see the problem of allowing personal freedom in reproduction to be far more deadly to far more people than Stalin could ever have been.

Re:Wow (5, Informative)

JWW (79176) | about 6 months ago | (#46246239)

Nature does not pollute itself.

WTF? I mean seriously WTF?

Have you ever seen a volcano? Nature - polluting.

We have evidence of asteroid strikes that caused massive extinctions by - massively polluting the atmosphere. - Nature

Nature doesn't pollute. Bzzzt, wrong.

Re:Wow (0)

scarboni888 (1122993) | about 6 months ago | (#46246341)

I wish I could mod that up +10. but who wants to hear the truth anyway, right? They'd rather live in their fantasy-land where we can all live exactly how we want and technology will always come along to clean up the mess.

happily ever after and ad nauseum.

Re:Wow (2)

Opportunist (166417) | about 6 months ago | (#46246057)

If you can convert energy to matter and have a near limitless source of energy, where's your limitation?

The main limitation I could see is space, but as long as you can put people off world, even that's no limit.

The only limit is possibly that people could not feel better than the rest by having more than everyone else. I doubt the powers that are would like a system like that. I mean, what's their reason to exist anymore?

Re:Wow (1)

jythie (914043) | about 6 months ago | (#46246231)

Even with space, with that kind of technology you can build up or down to your hear's content, or free floating cities in orbit.

As for the powers that be.... eh, for people who want to be better then others there will always be ways, it is just a matter of what society deems valuable. For instance if we moved from 'cars and houses' to 'degrees and books', you would probably see a big wave of people clamoring to get more education and bigger libraries. Take away material needs and I am sure people will still find social ways to stratify themselves. Just look at Star Fleet.. you have civilians, non-coms, officers and top brass. Not much room for lots of admirals and diplomats at the top.

Re:Wow (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 6 months ago | (#46246361)

The problem is that people are not only greedy and arrogant but also lazy. In other words, it's way easier to just buy stuff if you're rich than learning stuff and being smarter than anyone else.

Mostly also because the latter actually requires brains. That's not necessarily something you can hand down to your kids, and aside of the things mentioned above, a lot of people also enjoy leaving a legacy.

Re:Energy Independent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46246119)

I know, don't get how people come up with this even if we do have unlimited energy resources and we do Fossil fuels/Nuclear/Renewable Energy Star trek is not going because energy is to cheap to meter and it will happen the very cheap energy will happen but not the star trek thing

Re:Wow (3, Informative)

confused one (671304) | about 6 months ago | (#46246253)

You've missed the back story.

Prior to the utopian Star Trek, World War III was fought. Mass casualties on Earth. Those who entered into the Star Trek story were those who pulled themselves out of the ashes and rebuilt. Once Earth gained warp drive capability, humanity started spreading across the local arm of the galaxy, populating habitable planets. Population would be kept low(er) due to emmigration. Still, looking at the back story you'll see the bulk of people live in massive skyscrappers in cities.

woo woo (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46245797)

Airy-fairy woo-woo utopian garbage.

... said the peasants of a feudal system when they (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46245925)

... said the peasants of a feudal system when they described capitalism to them

Re:... said the peasants of a feudal system when t (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46246291)

People were still engaged in capitalistic behavior under fuedal systems, so it wouldn't be a fantasy land like this nonsense.

Based on what? (3, Insightful)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | about 6 months ago | (#46245829)

>> we're in the nascent stages of...a post-scarcity economy...'no longer constrained by scarcity of materials—food, energy, shelter, etc.

Tell that to:
- The homeless in our streets
- People blowing their savings on heating costs this winter
- Middle-eastern residents getting blown up because there's oil under nearby ground
- African children still dying of starvation

>> European socialist capitalism vastly expanded to the point where no one has to work unless they want to

Yeah...ask the Soviets or Cuba how that worked. (Or Venezuela if you need a more recent example.) Hell,. just ask Europe how that's going. (Looking at you, France.)

Yeah, that was about 75 years ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46245913)

and technology hasn't changed at all since, has it.

How about we don't ask "xxxJonBoyxxx."

Re:Yeah, that was about 75 years ago (3, Insightful)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | about 6 months ago | (#46246069)

>> and technology hasn't changed at all since, has it.

That's my point: France and Venezuela and other countries have money and access to the latest technology, but have still been unable to summon their slacker's utopia.

If you want a counter example, look how much the lives of Chinese citizens have improved since they began to emphasize reward-for-effort models (capitalism) over exist-get-paid models (socialism).

Re:Yeah, that was about 75 years ago (-1, Offtopic)

graffic (1419591) | about 6 months ago | (#46246187)

In socialism you get paid by your work. The difference with capitalism is that there is no big investor owning the company, doing what he wants and (the most important part) living from your work.

A cooperative is the best example of people working in those conditions.

Re:Yeah, that was about 75 years ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46246335)

No, the party bosses and the well connected live off the work of others, screwing people over for "the good of the state", leaving them to fight over scraps in the stores while they live in luxury.

Re:Yeah, that was about 75 years ago (1)

graffic (1419591) | about 6 months ago | (#46246221)

Sorry, I forgot to add an example to my previous comment: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M... [wikipedia.org]

Re:Based on what? (4, Insightful)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 6 months ago | (#46245923)

Nascent: (esp. of a process or organization) just coming into existence and beginning to display signs of future potential.

It doesn't mean we're there yet, it means we're approaching the tipping point. Compare it to a century or two ago and you'll see that many homeless now have a higher quality of life than a good portion of the middle class did back then. Obviously not everything is going to be solved overnight - it's a slow march forward and due to the nature of countries, cultures and other variables, it won't happen everywhere at once - even within a single nation.

Clueless about the past (5, Insightful)

sjbe (173966) | about 6 months ago | (#46246017)

Compare it to a century or two ago and you'll see that many homeless now have a higher quality of life than a good portion of the middle class did back then.

Bullshit. You CLEARLY have no idea what being homeless is actually like, nor do you have any realistic idea what being "middle class" was like 100 years ago. Let me give you a hint. My grandmother is close to a century old so she was around back then and her family could accurately be described as lower middle class. It wasn't all that different than it is now aside from some of the technology advances. Her father was a barber, her mom worked for a state agency, they had a house not so different from the one you probably live in. You seem to have some bizarre notion that people lived in caves and squalor a hundred years ago. It wasn't like that at all nor was it like that 200 years ago.

Re:Clueless about the past (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46246351)

The meaning of "middle class" may not have changed much, but the meaning of "poor" has changed a very great deal, as has the distribution of the population between the two classes. The poor now have a vastly higher quality of life than the poor did 100 years ago, in terms of creature comforts, available resources, availability of healthcare (in most parts of the Western world except the US), etc. etc. plus there are many fewer of them in relation to what you would call "lower middle class". Arguably (I wouldn't agree with this), there are none left in the Western world, except the homeless. (I'd say this may have been true in the mid-to-late 20th century but rising energy prices have messed that up for everyone.)

So yeah OP is talking some bullshit but there's a valid point there nonetheless.

Re:Based on what? (4, Interesting)

QuasiSteve (2042606) | about 6 months ago | (#46245985)

.'no longer constrained by scarcity of materialsâ"food, energy, shelter, etc.

Tell that to:
- The homeless in our streets

In all fairness, most homeless in the streets aren't homeless in the streets because of a scarcity of food, energy and shelter. There's more than enough space, more than enough energy, and way more than enough food. The problem is that these things aren't getting to them. Whether that's because society doesn't care about them, or because a fat cat doesn't want to pay to help them out (so that the people blowing through savings to stay warm don't have to), or because the homeless themselves are refusing the help, or ... is another matter. You could suggest that it's still scarcity, but defining scarcity on an individual or even local level is a bit strange given the fairly globally connected world we live in.

Re:Based on what? (3, Insightful)

idontgno (624372) | about 6 months ago | (#46246099)

You could suggest that it's still scarcity, but defining scarcity on an individual or even local level is a bit strange given the fairly globally connected world we live in.

You mean... a scarcity which is not natural? Artificial scarcity? [wikipedia.org]

People are poor because other people can be, and want to be, rich, at the expense of other people if necessary.

There will never be any such thing as a "post scarcity" economy until humans stop being humans.

Re:Based on what? (1)

jythie (914043) | about 6 months ago | (#46246279)

True, humans will still be humans, but the things they compete over can change from real life impacting stuff to abstract or luxury. Right now such status is tied to critical elements of living, but no reason it has to be. Wealth could, for instance, be measured in awards or some other social symbol, so the difference between poor and rich is how many lines they have on their CV.

"Could" being an important word of course.

Scarcity can be local (2)

sjbe (173966) | about 6 months ago | (#46246367)

In all fairness, most homeless in the streets aren't homeless in the streets because of a scarcity of food, energy and shelter.

What you are talking about is local scarcity. Just because the scarcity is caused by distribution problems rather than production limitations doesn't mean it isn't scarce. If you live in a desert, water is going to be expensive because it is relatively had to get. That is scarcity or more properly an economic shortage.

Re:Based on what? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46246047)

African children dying normally has nothing to do with lack of resources. It has to do with systems of "government" that make the dark ages look progressive and forward thinking.
 
For any death that has been caused oil in the middle east there have been ten fold that have been caused by religious/ideological difference and "government" that make the dark ages look par for the course.
 
This idea that the Iraqi and Afghan invasions was a "war over oil" is pure hyperbole. It made a nice Facebook meme but the vast majority of what went wrong involving the west in the middle east happened decades before 9/11. Iraq was overspill for mishandled relations going back generations.
 
Those who won't learn from this history are doomed to repeat it.

Re:Based on what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46246105)

The point is there don't need to be homeless in our streets (unless they choose to be there), and there don't need to be people blowing their savings on heating. These things are products of the current way in which the economy is managed, not products of any actual scarcity or lack of resources.

ask the Soviets or Cuba how that worked

How would they know, when theirs wasn't a post-scarcity economy?

You're missing the point. This isn't about history or where we are now, it's about where we could be in the near future. Potentiality, not actuality or even necessarily capability, to use the technical terms.

Re:Based on what? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 6 months ago | (#46246111)

France went full speed neocon when Sarcozy took the helm. As did Ireland.

Most others are still doing pretty well (provided they didn't have a shot economy to start with, like Greece). Well, as long as they didn't abandon the social market system in favor of a system that's more akin to playing roulette.

Re:Based on what? (2)

sociocapitalist (2471722) | about 6 months ago | (#46246185)

Yeah...ask the Soviets or Cuba how that worked. (Or Venezuela if you need a more recent example.) Hell,. just ask Europe how that's going. (Looking at you, France.)

It's going fine, thanks :-)

France
(and yes I do live in France)

Solved the distribution problem? (0, Offtopic)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | about 6 months ago | (#46245841)

Really? I haven't seen anything of the sort to be able to even consider that statement true. There is a huge segment of the population dedicated and paid to distributing things. They are truckers, couriers, merchant sailor and captains, rail road workers, road workers, logistics clerks, etc.

Re:Solved the distribution problem? (2)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 6 months ago | (#46245975)

Really? I haven't seen anything of the sort to be able to even consider that statement true.

Which statement? The one which only appears in the subject line of your post? I don't see anyone else claiming the problem is solved. To quote the summary: "While we aren't there yet..."

There is a huge segment of the population dedicated and paid to distributing things.

That is the current "solution." Has getting something from one side of the planet to the other ever been easier or quicker?

Re:Solved the distribution problem? (1)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | about 6 months ago | (#46246333)

TFS says "problem of distributing necessities gets closer to being solved every day". Sorry the subject of my post isn't as clear as it could be but I ran into character limits. As I say in my post, no, we are not nowhere to being close to solving it.

Re:Solved the distribution problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46246063)

They are truckers, couriers, merchant sailor and captains, rail road workers

5 years ago nobody even thought of having those jobs automated. How many years are left before trucking is done by a bot who doesn't do meth?

Re:Solved the distribution problem? (1)

jythie (914043) | about 6 months ago | (#46246313)

Probably within most of our lifetimes at this point. If insurance companies get behind driverless cars, I could easily see trucking (esp the long distance kind, local delivery would be more difficult due to the final few meters) going that route in pretty short order.

Re:Solved the distribution problem? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 6 months ago | (#46246151)

Well, in the world of Star Trek, that problem is solved by beaming. Next?

When you're dealing with a society that can transform energy to matter, has a near limitless energy source and can transport matter (living as well as dead) over planetary distance instantly, there is very little "material" need left.

Basic Economics (4, Insightful)

ShooterNeo (555040) | about 6 months ago | (#46245865)

The problem is simple, right out of the first chapter of a high school economics class. "wants" are infinite. Consider our daily lives in today's world. The "working poor" among us live lives right around the "poverty line". Yet they can generally afford motor vehicle transportation (even if it's the bus), to spend most of their time in air conditioned environments (even if it's the workplace at McDonalds), can call anyone on the planet in theory (even if it's from VoIP at a library), and so on. Even the shittiest life is the life of a king a thousand years ago.

Please note that I am not trying to justify social darwinism : I do think something is rotten in our society that causes all income gains to be accrued by the rich and NONE of them go to the middle/lower class.

If we have star trek grade technology, it merely means that the pie is a lot bigger. With Star Trek grade tech, presumably we can tap into the resources of entire stars and planets and manufacture almost anything with minimal effort. But people's desires for a slice of the pie have grown proportionally. Perhaps an impoverished person in Star Trek can get limitless food, basic medical care, and virtual reality porn. But he can't afford his own starship or planet or any of the other toys of the mega-rich. And can you imagine how expensive having a kid would be in such a world?

Re:Basic Economics (1)

JazzHarper (745403) | about 6 months ago | (#46246025)

Not everyone accepts the assumption that "wants" are infinite. They are certainly variable and, in many cases, conditioned.

Re:Basic Economics (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 6 months ago | (#46246083)

I don't. They're finite due to the limitation of time. Wants take time. It takes time to consume and satisfy them at the very least. There are only so many hours in a day.

Re:Basic Economics (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46246235)

Not everyone accepts the assumption that "wants" are infinite. They are certainly variable and, in many cases, conditioned.

Indeed. Most wants are for the necessities, such as food and shelter, but others are driven by society, such as trying to keep-up-with-the-Jones.

People only want things if others have them and they don't. If a society existed where all needs are handled easily (the replicator for example), then only thing left is material for the ego. Perhaps I'm wrong, but if my understanding of the Star Trek Universe is good enough, their technology doesn't really grow. It seems to have plateaued, so there is no "newer model" to always strive for, but everyone has things of the same quality. They may rig current technology for special situations, but those are a rarity and will not be worked into their standard.

Re:Basic Economics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46246103)

Presumably, it would be free to have the kid... Getting a star-ship or planet, as you say, would be another story arc...

Re:Basic Economics (1)

Qzukk (229616) | about 6 months ago | (#46246149)

And can you imagine how expensive having a kid would be in such a world?

What, you don't just ask the replicator for one?

Re: Basic Economics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46246165)

Yeah, yeah, yeah, the poor have refrigerators and cell phones. Medical care, education, and decent food is a problem. "Obamacare" and Medicare are half- assed solutions.

Re:Basic Economics (3, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | about 6 months ago | (#46246283)

The average Buddhist might disagree with your initial statement, but let's let it stand.

Looking at the "Star Trek economy" it becomes obvious that certain rules of our economy do not apply to them, provided they are used as they are in Star Trek (I'll get to that in a bit).

What kind of economy influencing technology do you have in Star Trek? Well, first and foremost, you have a near infinite source of energy with cold fusion and the ability to siphon hydrogen easily from gas giants. With replicators you have the ability to convert energy to matter, and I think it's safe to assume that the reverse is possible as well. Together with beaming, the transport of goods and energy across a planet is trivial. What's left is transport between planets. Apparently not everything can be produced in a replicator (since quite a few scripts of Star Trek revolved around them having to transport something important somewhere quickly), so these goods will still be in (relatively) short supply and valuable. But the basic human needs, food, shelter, etc is available in limitless quantity.

Provided technology is used as it is in Star Trek.

The alternative is of course a system where a small elite holds all the means for replication, energy production and matter transport. Whether or not this is a problem depends on how easy or hard it is to produce machines to replicate, produce energy and transport either in the first place. If it takes a lot of investment (or if patents still exist) it's likely that these means will be held ransom to ensure that those that have it can wield power over those that do not.

Re:Basic Economics (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 6 months ago | (#46246299)

As a lot of people have said before. Poverty in the modern world is entirely spiritual, and therefore no amount of physical wealth will ever solve it.
The richer America gets, the more poor it will have.

Re:Basic Economics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46246317)

I do think something is rotten in our society that causes all income gains to be accrued by the rich and NONE of them go to the middle/lower class.

I don't think that's an inherent feature of our society, or at least it's not usually an inherent feature. It seems to be the common pattern at each significant change in the structure of the economy, which is actually pretty obvious if you think about it. When your economy rearranges itself significantly, there are going to be a lot of people displaced, and the wealthy are going to be in a position to extract value from that, while the poor are just going to get screwed. This has happened repeatedly, but after the disruptions things have always settled down. A combination of philanthropic giving by the newly-minted super-wealthy and competitive markets driving out inefficiencies redistribute wealth more generally -- though we see it mostly as the uber-wealthy getting measurably but not appreciably poorer while the general standard of living rises across the board.

Re:Basic Economics (1)

jythie (914043) | about 6 months ago | (#46246369)

Thing is, within the Star Trek universe, there is no real reason an individual couldn't get a ship or a planet. I could see something like a wait list for time on a shipyard, but they show engineers building entire ships out of replicated parts in the series. I could easily see a maker community with plans for easy replicated ships, or even 'use a replicator to make a bigger replicator' patterns till you can just print out a whole ship. So I suspect that within that universe anyone who actually cared enough could do it.

Judge Dredd says "hi" (3, Funny)

cptnapalm (120276) | about 6 months ago | (#46245893)

Mega City One, too, had a "post-scarcity" welfare system where few worked. It worked out rather differently.

Re:Judge Dredd says "hi" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46245963)

The difference being the presence of a welfare system.

Re:Judge Dredd says "hi" (2)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 6 months ago | (#46246035)

They weren't "post-scarcity" at all, they just had a lot of unemployed people (due to low demand for human labor thanks to automation/AI) and a welfare system...pretty close to the point we're at right now.

Re:Judge Dredd says "hi" (2)

confused one (671304) | about 6 months ago | (#46246323)

The weren't post scarcity. They were post apocalypse. Remainder of humanity all pulled into one massive city-state, trying to survive.

In Star Trek... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46245929)

This worked because people stopped trying to friggan kill each other. They just came out of a world war that decimated the Earths population. We are a long ways from not hating and killing each other 9if possible at all).

Basic Income (4, Informative)

wvmarle (1070040) | about 6 months ago | (#46245939)

This is not future fantasy; it's happening right now. Just look into the current "basic income" debate in the EU: basically the idea is that all citizens get a basic income from the state, and can get more income if they go out and work. Switzerland is quite close to actually implementing this already.

For more details on implementation (and to keep your comments to my post informed and useful) please check out the wikipedia page on the subject, or simply google for "basic info" or "basic info switzerland".

Re:Basic Income (1)

rudy_wayne (414635) | about 6 months ago | (#46246129)

This is not future fantasy; it's happening right now. Just look into the current "basic income" debate in the EU: basically the idea is that all citizens get a basic income from the state

That "income" has to come from some where. So either the state prints more and more money, which is not sustainable ( ask Zimbabwe about their 11,000% inflation) or the state imposes more and more taxes, which is not sustainable.

The Star Trek universe is fantasy bullshit that is not possible in real life. Anyone with even the most basic understanding of the world around them understands this. In addition, most of the benefits of the Star Trek universe depend on fantasy technology that will never exist.

Re:Basic Income (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46246163)

So everyone will get more money... and prices will rise to make that money worthless.

Everyone gets $1000 a month? Rent goes from $500/month to $1250 a month and food goes from $100 to $250 a month. Why? Supply and demand...

Everyone gets free healthcare? Great... too bad it now takes months to get an appointment at an overworked doctor who has a whole 5 minutes to look at you... or you go to the ER and risk catching whatever is in the air.

Post scarcity? (2)

Rambo Tribble (1273454) | about 6 months ago | (#46245953)

Does he have any idea what the world water situation is?

Re:Post scarcity? (2)

EvilSS (557649) | about 6 months ago | (#46246259)

Does he have any idea what the world water situation is?

Unlimited free energy* = low cost desalination = no water problem. It's not like the water vanishes after it's used once by a human (assuming we don't pollute the hell out of it while using it). It's just unequally distributed in it's unsalted form at the moment.

*In this fairytale senario, energy would be over-abundant, non-polluting, and virtually, if not literally, free.

Re:Post scarcity? (1)

Dragonslicer (991472) | about 6 months ago | (#46246321)

Does he have any idea what the world water situation is?

Yeah, 75% of the world is covered with water. If you have unlimited free energy, water purification is not a problem.

You've Bought Into Federation Propaganda (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46245959)

All we see are the pro-Federation propaganda. All those pro-Starfleet shows with their fictional "Prime Directive" and an emphasis on exploration are just propaganda to paper over the federation's relentless military buildup to support their imperialist expansionist policies.

They show Starfleet and the rich nomenklatura, but never the vast backwater gulag planets where slave laborers work tirelessly to keep the military and party elite in Saurian Brandy and Starships.

Why do you think so many crew members wear redshirts, comrade?

Re:You've Bought Into Federation Propaganda (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46246139)

You didn't notice Bajor?

Or Cardassia?

If you wanted a starship, you work to get one. they are in rather short supply.

Basic living expenses were covered. You want more, work for it.

WTF? (2)

argStyopa (232550) | about 6 months ago | (#46245981)

"Star Trek represents a post-scarcity society evolved from democratic capitalism"
Check, I'm with you. Limitless energy, etc. In fact, I seem to recall Roddenberry saying exactly that.

but...

"...we're in the nascent stages of transforming to a post-scarcity economy..."
WTF? That's so wrong it borders on the incomprehensible.
Clearly, this was written from the well-compensated, comfortable easy-chair in a Starbucks somewhere by an over-educated upper-middle-class American (ie, unfamiliar with the daily lives of 60%+ of his own countrymen and -women, or about 90% of the world)

"European socialist capitalism" (1)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | about 6 months ago | (#46245983)

What is THAT supposed to mean? That the grass is greener at the other side of the Pond? Somebody really lost hist touch with reality...

Re:"European socialist capitalism" (3)

Opportunist (166417) | about 6 months ago | (#46246305)

I've seen both sides of the pond. It IS greener over here.

Smooth transition possible through mincome (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 6 months ago | (#46245993)

If we replace today's welfare systems with mincome, we can make a smooth and bloodless transition from capitalism to a post-scarcity economy - as more government-owned autonomous labor produces more, mincome can increase as the demand for work decreases...until at some point there's no need to work and lots of resources to go around.

It won't lead to a population increase - only adults get mincome and highly educated people reproduce less.

Re:Smooth transition possible through mincome (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46246179)

highly educated people reproduce less.

not by their own will!

I believe that this is best described (5, Insightful)

Chrisq (894406) | about 6 months ago | (#46246005)

I believe that this is best described by Ian M Banks in his culture series

Re:I believe that this is best described (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46246293)

Iain

Just another dreamer? (2)

kheldan (1460303) | about 6 months ago | (#46246045)

You know, concepts like socialism and even communism actually sound pretty good.. on paper, but in reality they forget one ineffable truth: Human beings like power and being in control. Money is just a way of gathering power and control. The rich always want to get richer, and the powerful just want to become more powerful. Of course, there are people who are exceptions to this, but let's be honest about them, too: even they are getting something out of the transaction when they spend their money and power for the benefit of others, even if what they're getting is a warm, fuzzy feeling of having 'done good'. Cynical as I am, I unfortunately believe that even in the fictional reality of the Federation where energy and posessions are easy to come by and essentially free, there's always going to be a group of people who want all the power and control they can amass. If someday the human race evolves past the need to be so transactional in nature and past the need to screw everyone else over if they can just so they can have all the sex, power, and money possible, then maybe we'll have a society where everyone makes sure everyone else is taken care of, but unfortunately I don't see that happening anytime soon.

Re:Just another dreamer? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 6 months ago | (#46246175)

Just because those people exist doesn't mean they have to get what they want. There are some people who would like to kill everyone alive right now, and in some hypothetical alternate reality there might exist a society which can allow them to obtain this goal...yet we are safe because of the rules of our society.

Maybe if we took the savage competition out of life itself people would find healthier avenues to channel those urges into. Being the best at designing something. Being the best at a sport. The best at painting. The best at EVE online (a great way to contain and placate the would-be psychopathic executives).

Venus Proyect? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46246107)

These people have been thinking in this for a long time already. Futuristic drawings are confusing I guess, but the ideas on how society could are similar.

http://www.thevenusproject.com/

You Keep Using That Word, I Do Not Think It Means. (3, Interesting)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 6 months ago | (#46246115)

In the history of humanity, and to this day, we have had societies with were scarcity was the rule and others where there was enough for everyone three times over.

Modern Western civilization (and based on some definitions, all civilization) is based on an over-abundance of the necessities of life. This invariably leads to hoarding, and monetary systems, and the rich and the poor; Because the economy can afford these inefficiencies; You might even say it needs them.

In hunter-gather based societies, things are different. There is a very limited food supply, and a huge scarcity of pretty much everything, and their economy is therefore a lot different. They invariably, share and share alike. Ownership of resources (like the only water supply for the entire village) is not a concept that is understandable. And monetary systems do not exist.

If you want a Star Trek style economy you are looking for a scarcity based economy.

Pipe-dream Utopia (4, Insightful)

TheGoodNamesWereGone (1844118) | about 6 months ago | (#46246133)

ST's vision of the future economy (at least from TNG on; TOS wisely avoided touching on it but implied it was a form of Capitalism) is a pipe-dream Utopia. If food, shelter, and energy were in virtually unlimited supply no one would need to work, yes, but more importantly, no one would *want* to. Where would the goodies come from then? Automation? Okay then, the Machines rule the Federation. And no one would ever emerge out of their self-created kingdoms inside holodecks. The future would be more like Wall-E. There'd be no more invention, no more innovation, no more anything..... Just everyone plugged into their fantasies in their holo-simulators, a civilization of lotus-eaters. This is the sort of shit that would cause Captain Kirk to charge phasers. Rewatch "The Apple".

Exactly, problems solved. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46246167)

Straight from a VC's mouth people. I mean he even used medium.com, probably typed it on his $9k Mac. There's no scarcity problems in the world anymore. Guess we can all just relax. Let's SnapChat and Candy Crush our way to subliminal bliss.

Wrong. Economics _is_ sarcity (4, Insightful)

minstrelmike (1602771) | about 6 months ago | (#46246171)

I believe Sowell's definition of economics is correct--it is the study of how we allocate SCARCE resources.
Given the laws of physics and mandatory recycling of biology, there will always be a scarcity some place.
You might have an endless pile of food but that means you have an endless stream of shit to deal with also.
We have just realized that we cannot burn all the oil in the planet without also burning us out of house and home.

In economics, the term to grok is 'externality." They have odd definitions but essentially it is something you think is not scarce and then eventually it becomes scarce like clean air or water after industrialization. I know people who say they can always live off hunting if the economy collapses. Ask someone who knows about population biology. If enough people start hunting deer, there won't be more than one or two year's worth of meat in most US States, maybe 4 years in Maine and Minnesota. As long as only 5% of the population hunts, the biology can maintain itself. If 40% hunted for food, we'd quickly run out of large animals.

The natural processes of biology can handle things up to certain limits. The fish in the oceans can feed a billion of us sustainably, but not 5 billion hence the collapse of almost all the world's fisheries formerly thought to be unlimited. (I know there are 7 billion folks in the world but a third of them are starving).

Individual productivity not accounted for. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46246181)

To be a successful society we would have to eliminate large, unproductive portions of our population and tie resources to productivity.

Star Trek = Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46246195)

FICTION!!!

not enough drugs to go around... (1)

thebjorn (530874) | about 6 months ago | (#46246201)

I'm pretty sure there's not enough drugs to go around in such a society (leading to scarcity, etc. ad absurdum). Or perhaps you have a very unrealistic view of what people do when they have no constraints on their time?

Err.. what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46246203)

Memory serves only certain species in Star Trek pride themselves with the acquisition of wealth (Ferengie, etc). For the most part, capitalism is replaced by replication and replication is powered by recycling. And only in certain circumstances such as low energy reserves is such replication limited through credits.

Re:Err.. what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46246325)

Memory serves only certain species in Star Trek pride themselves with the acquisition of wealth (Ferengie, etc). For the most part, capitalism is replaced by replication and replication is powered by recycling. And only in certain circumstances such as low energy reserves is such replication limited through credits.

ST will only be post-scarcity when they have an unlimited supply of green bitches. How come Kirk gets to fuck em all?

Horseshit ... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 6 months ago | (#46246205)

Rick Webb has an article suggesting we're in the nascent stages of transforming to a post-scarcity economy â" one in which we are 'no longer constrained by scarcity of materialsâ"food, energy, shelter, etc.

In what way are we going into a post scarcity economy? In what way have we eliminated scarcity of resources and arrived at a place where we can put them anywhere we need whenever we like?

Sorry, but Star Trek went post-scarcity because they had limitless energy, and the ability to create whatever forms of matter they needed, and more or less obviated the need for money and the like. When you can replicate enough food, shelter, and everything you need for people to survive, that is post-scarcity.

We are nowhere near this 'post scarcity' thing he's talking about. Not even close. We have finite resources, pollution, and a very highly unequal distribution of those resources as well as access to them.

Pre-scarcity = revolution (2)

quietwalker (969769) | about 6 months ago | (#46246267)

In the timeline of a pre-post-scarcity world, we have a population of unemployed individuals which will grow as job growth - especially unskilled blue collar labor - flattens or becomes regressive. Until we're in a post-scarcity world, however, these individuals will be in a society that requires money for things like housing, food, shelter and clothing - whether it comes from the government or not.

At some point, the government simply won't be able to provide; their budget will be scraped too thinly over the nation. This is one of those situations where we'd be hard pressed to iteratively progress - it's a "flip the switch" sort of thing. Doing otherwise will create a massive underprivileged underclass, who are likely to be quite frustrated by their life; no job or job prospects, subsistence level living, inability to focus on personal goals or desires...

Two things can happen at this point:
      Those who have focused their lives on acquiring wealth, the super rich, the 'haves', the ones who are most defined by the benefits wealth has brought them, they can all become completely selfless altruists, and together, agree to reduce their primary value to near zero by agreeing to, effectively, eliminate money in the spirit of pure socialism. Thus, utopia is achieved.
    Alternatively, they will not do that, and at some tipping point - say, 60% unemployed - there will be a revolt that destroys the current economy, form of government, and so on, settings us back to 0 on the cultural progress - and likely technological/engineering scale, but removing the then-existing artificial constraint that says work=money.

I really don't see the first happening. Do you? Am I overlooking some important alternative choice?

In actuality, I think we're headed towards a more corporation-centric outcome, as predicted by many of the darker sci-fi novels out there, rather than a post-scarcity world, but hey, that's just my opinion.

I'm waiting (1)

Mr_Nitro (1174707) | about 6 months ago | (#46246281)

that's exactly where humanity should aim for....I don't understand why people sees it as some kind of Utopian dream. so where do we set the bar? mega-corporations shit and police state you like that better? Cos I don't. Work can be superfluous, people can spend their lifes learning skills and knowledge just because they like it. Others will find continuous work still interesting and appealing and I think most will do in fact, given that works will exclude the robot-able ones and the pointless destructive money-making scams.. You will still have private property and all that , of course.... It's all about spreading resources and understanding that someone else does not have more power just because his daddy has an oil corporation... We are born on the same planet, with same rights and same share of natural resources. Accumulation of wealth by some specific individuals is the worst crap that can happen...and leads to the worst behaviors and unbalances. I hope to see just the hint of this change during my lifetime... else we'll just be another shit race in a once-beautiful planet that we turned to shit as well with our nice 'live to work to make someone else rich and to buy the items we need to go to work'....how excellent... but I want to believe a change is possible...

A loooonnnnnggg way off (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46246363)

We are a long way off from a post scarcity society, if anything some parts of our society are using more resources than ever. I pay at least 1/3 of my income to the government yet they are still spending more than than they take in, and I'm in one of the lower tax brackets. Companies are continually finding more ways of extracting money from us (rising service fees, marketing ploys, etc). We have come a LONG way to be sure, my grandparents generation made due with coal/wood heating half of a house, reusing nails, model T's & lard sandwiches. Today we have low maintenance central heating/air, power drills, 4 wheel drive cars in every flavor, and can stop buy Lowes for every imaginable home improvement item. And in their day they had to work 14 hour days to afford that much, today we work 8 or less and can afford much more. It will take a massive change (think replicators, "free" energy advances & major changes in government) before we get close to a post scarcity society.

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