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Star Trek Economics

rufty_tufty Re:Basic Income (888 comments)

I agree the Star Trek way will never exist but please consider this; roughly the basic human needs are:
* Food/water/air
* Housing
* Clothing - actually not that essential, let's all go naked!
* Medicine - difficult, one for a later post
* Broadband Internet

Let me assert that we can currently produce enough food to meet the calorie intake of everyone alive. Let me also assert there is enough housing for everyone. There already is enough of everything, we just need to maintain it. Well actually there is never enough internet bandwidth but...
That aside, as long as we are prepared to do the work to maintain our current housing and as long as we don't grow the population we're almost post scarcity now. We just need to keep having the food, heating, (medicine) and then the rest is luxuries.
For food, I believe something like 10% of the population is involved in farming and this is a downward trend.
Heating/Lighting - yeah we need some advances in technology to get this one sorted but again I can't imagine there is more than 10% of society involved in energy production. That said for 1/2 my yearly take home pay I could buy a solar panel array that would produce more energy than I consumed. So if I put 1/2 a year's work into it I would have enough power to tide me through the rest of my life (discounting maintenance)

So we have massive gaps in things like transport and mobile phones etc. But we're not far off 100% robotised car plants and tech factories. It's certainly plausible that we could see it in our lifetime.I ask you what else is left in what humans need?

Well there's the service industry, there's design engineers, management, teachers etc; but, really once the basic needs above are met these are luxuries.
To briefly cover medicine, then there is plenty of historical precedent for people who do this voluntarily. Simple put, you could imagine a society where the drugs are mass produced in a factory and people in the community care for each other.

Let's suppose all this happened and maybe 15% of the society would need to work in farming, house maintenance, etc Who would do that?
ME! Somewhat naively I already grow a lot of my own food and keep chickens. From the farming friends I have, yes it is hard work but also very rewarding and were I not an engineer I could easily see myself doing it. Then maintenance wise I love DIY so I would still do that. So really I would love to be one of those 15%, so would almost all of my friends and family.
But what about everyone else what would they do? Perhaps many would sit around and do nothing, many would probably produce art, or maybe there's be engineers free to work on that new massively parallel architecture they have in mind. I honestly believe the service industry would suffer, so good luck getting your starbucks or McDonalds but if that is the price to pay for a liberated society I'll make my own coffee.

So yes I believe we're a long way off the society I imagine, but I don't think it's impossible and with the right willpower I believe we could reach within a few percent of it in our lifetimes if everyone wanted to.
But then any plan that starts with "if only everyone..." is bound to fail.

about 5 months ago

Star Trek Economics

rufty_tufty Re:Basic Economics (888 comments)

I think when everyone has food, shelter, clothing, education, health and the chance to have at least 2 children, I think we can say that poverty is solved. (I'm not sure as a society we have the ability to quite do that yet for everyone, but it feels like we're close.) It feels like you're arguing that we'll never solve poverty out of some definition of the bottom n% of society is defined to be in poverty because they can't have everything they could desire.
Instead of Star Trek I wish the article would have at least considered arguably the most famous post scarcity society, the Culture. They cover the problem you mention by a mixture of social conditioning - it's considered an illness to want those things, so people are inclined not to go too far overboard out of social convention - and that you can have those things in VR anyway. The Minds there are explicitly stated as spending most of their conscience in virtual worlds. For the odd sentient who would like to become a warlord they've found that virtual worlds are way more entertaining.

For me I see what you mean that most people will always try to be the top dog in their social circle. At the moment in our society that is achieved by possessions and social status. It's easy to picture that in another society that accrual of something else - fame, interesting artworks, new inventions, people helped etc would be the yard stick by which people were measured.
Let me put it this way a man from prehistory who lived in a dessert might view scarcity of water as we view money, something to be acrewed, hoarded and lauded over. That doesn't mean he'd drown, or drink himself to death as soon as you gave him running water from a tap; he'd pretty soon settle down and find something else to define his place in society by.

about 5 months ago

Wikipedia's Participation Problem

rufty_tufty Re:Bad Answer to the Problem (372 comments)

Think how annoying this must be for the established editors though:
You've just got this article prefect and some mayfly comes along and *changes it*. You'd got it the prefect mix of concise and thorough and someone with a different opinion, sorry someone who is wrong comes along and ruins it; and somehow you're the bad boy for trying to maintain standards!
They must be leaving out of frustration too,

(Yes I stopped editing pages or even participating in the talk pages several years ago, they don't want your help, they don't want your input they just want you to read their minds and do their work for them in exactly the way they would do it but any variance from that ideal is removed).

about 9 months ago

Finland's Algorithm-Driven Public Bus

rufty_tufty Re:Meh (123 comments)

Since we're doing comparative bus fairs here
Cambridge, UK. Where I live has no busses so Bus from the next village (30 minute walk) to the city centre is £4.80 for a day ticket(so about $7.7). About 6 miles each way on the bus.
If I want the bus to work then I've got to go two villages over (lift from the wife) at which point it is £5.80 (about $9), That's about a 5 mile bus trip.

about 9 months ago

ITER Fusion Reactor On Track To Generating Power By 2028

rufty_tufty Re:Why Didn't I think of that? (232 comments)

People always say that Fusion has always been 20 years away.
I believe it is much more accurate to say that Fusion has always been $20 Billion away. If Fission and Space travel had had the same funding history as Fusion then they too would also probably also still be perpetually 20 years away.
On the bright side ITER looks like it is going to break that impasse!

about 9 months ago

China's State Press Calls For 'Building a De-Americanized World'

rufty_tufty Re:Summary says it all (634 comments)

No it isn't.

Much of the middle ages were defined by the following process:
* Stable economy and chance brings a few years of agricultural plenty which means more surviving children.
* Population expands to fill the available food and chance brings a year of less than agricultural plenty.
* What do you do if you have a hungry population and lots of them? Easy! Declare war and seize some resources/kill off your excess population - two problems solved at once.

In more recent - and directly applicable - look at Napoleonic Europe, or the Austro-Hungarian Empire or Germany in the '30s.

Let's not forget America is vastly under-populated for a developed nation and one of the larger ones too, so it will have a lot more inertia behind it with these things.

The US has already been doing that for a while

I was trying to make this point, perhaps not as directly but yes the fall of Rome would also be a good analogy. However that in a large part was dictated by there being no-one else who could take over the role, there are several who could and would step up to take over the US's role here, so perhaps the fall of the British Empire would be more appropriate,

about 9 months ago

China's State Press Calls For 'Building a De-Americanized World'

rufty_tufty Re:Summary says it all (634 comments)

One of the traditional ways out of these sorts of problems is to build up your military and go conquering.
Unfortunately that isn't going to work in this situation given the military is already the biggest both in actual size and proportionate size and there is no-one left to conquer who wouldn't do the economy more harm with the retaliation.

about 9 months ago

Largest US Power Storing Solar Array Goes Live

rufty_tufty Re:That's a Lot of Area to go pure solar! (377 comments)

A bunch of desert, and $3,000,000,000,000+

So that's your number for all electricity for every house in the US? If you're happy with that number I am. For that much money you would effectively have free energy for the entire nation.
So that's about $10K per person for free energy for life.
Sign me up! Hell I'll take 2!

The numbers seem about right that this plant costs about $20K per supplied house. Assume this is 5-10% of current prices then why aren't we doing exactly what you suggest?
This is speaking as an Englishman but I spend about $1800 per year on heating and electric for my house. $20K to never have a fuel bill again is a bargain. That's the price of a new Kitchen, what isn't there to love?

about 9 months ago

Government To Build 4G Into UK Rural Broadband Plans

rufty_tufty Re:Why has this not already been done? (40 comments)

most people would wonder what's the hold-up?

As one of those who is suffering at the end of a 4Mbit piece of wet string that passes for a BT broadband connection I have to agree with you.
I wouldn't mind if I really was in a rural area, but this is Cambridge! Well I am rural if you could 30 minutes cycle/12 minutes drive to the city centre to be rural! This is supposed to be one of the high tech hubs of Britain and yet the exchanges haven't been upgraded in a decade and there are no plans to upgrade our local ones either. (The irony is that the latest ADSL chipsets are designed just over the road from me by the company i work for but that's another story).

The reason for the holdup is as far as I can tell why would they bother? The money to be made is in the big cities and because we're classed as none rural we don't get the benefits of the programs mentioned in TFA, however we also have BT saying that it's not worth doing FTTC because there aren't enough subscribers in our village either.
As far as I understand the costs would be because the problem would snowball - well it's only a couple of miles of fibre needed from our cabinet to the local exchange. Except then that exchange would need its links upgrading which would mean about 5 miles more fibre, but then the Cambridge to London link would then need upgrading...

How are they going to re-coup all that investment from me? Well I pay about £30 a month for my broadband. Assume this upgrade would last for a decade before it too was out of date then they've got a mere £3000-ish per user to pay for this upgrade. Assuming say £200 in equipment costs per user port and about £1million per mile of fibre then they're barely making 50% profit!
You can't be expected to run a modern company on those numbers... (as opposed to doing nothing like they currently are and still making the money)

about 10 months ago

Newly Discovered Meltwater Streams Flow Beneath the Antarctic Ice Sheet

rufty_tufty Re:There always has been water flow under the ice (130 comments)

This is an old thought experiment of mine. They say that the mass of ice is decreasing and that surface water freezes immediately, (what with it being -50 degrees and all that) .
Would it be possible therefore to do some engineering and pump relatively warm water onto the surface ice sheets and therefore act as a heat radiator. Surely you could radiate colossal amounts of extra heat this way?
The only problem I can see with this is the quantity of water you'd have to pump. The question is for me would it help radiate more heat than it would cost to do?

about 10 months ago

The Luddites Are Almost Always Wrong: Why Tech Doesn't Kill Jobs

rufty_tufty Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (674 comments)

Many people spend their whole lives in minimum wage jobs, for whatever reason they are not able to get another one. For some people waiting tables or working in a call centre is their life and all they know how to do. Should they be denied things like healthcare and the ability to have children? Should their children be denied basic things?
Fine if you want to say that there should be no full time waiting staff because it is economically not possible to do that job and survive unless you are something like a student topping up your wages, I'm fine with that, but what you're saying then is that some people can earn less than a living wage because that is not for them how they support themselves - again fine; but if the outcome of this is that starbucks needs to pay its regular staff more than a pittance and therefore there isn't one on every corner then I'm fine with that.

Take a step back, I don't care about how this is achieved but I think as a society some basic things need to be catered for, because I don't want to live in a society of people starving on the street or dying of trivial medical problems, or even quite complex yet treatable medical problems.
However I am quite aware that because resources are scarce we can't hand out this standard of living to absolutely everyone, you need to do something to earn it. That is an advantage of doing this via a minimum wage; seriously what are the consequences of what i propose? No more need for obamacare, The cost of flipping burgers means that junk food becomes more expensive to match its societal cost.

The reality is, the more you increase the minimum wage, the more people you make unemployable, since employers will tend to only hire those that are worth $15/hour

That says to me that the current situation is already unsustainable and the only thing papering over the cracks is those people currently in that situation are effectively wage slaves living for less than is sustainable. If the employer cannot afford to employ someone to have a western standard of living then that job has no right to exist in the western world. Either that or we fess up as a society and state we are happy with exploiting people and economically forcing them to live at a lower standard of living so we can have a big mac.
Take your pick, you can either say you are happy for those who flip burgers to live at below western standards (i.e. no healthcare no pension, food shortages etc) or you can say that this is not acceptable to us and people should be paid enough to survive even if this means some fringe groups can't exist by exploiting people.
The only way out of this I know is to have a full welfare state providing a minimum acceptable level of living (this could be quite low) and then remove the minimum wage alltogether.
Seriously what fix would you prefer?

about 10 months ago

The Luddites Are Almost Always Wrong: Why Tech Doesn't Kill Jobs

rufty_tufty Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (674 comments)

The money goes to the owner of the business who invested in that machine, to the engineers who spent their time designing and building it and to the shareholders in the form of profits. Alternatively this allows a lower cost of product in which case it goes nowhere, except not out of the consumers pocket. This is why in real terms the cost products can fall.

about 10 months ago

The Luddites Are Almost Always Wrong: Why Tech Doesn't Kill Jobs

rufty_tufty Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (674 comments)

Any job is/becomes a minimum wage job if it meets any of the following criterion:
1) It takes relatively little training, i.e. replacements can be brought in rapidly.
2) It is a skill that is common, either because of a good education system or desirability of the task(mostly just a re-phrasing of 1)
3) The people once employed do not have much incentive to move on: i.e. they won't leave if conditions deteriorate

The capitalist in me says this is fine* as long as the minimum wage provides a basic level of acceptable living**. If you wish to have more than the minimum it is then up to you to do a job that is either undesirable or one that is both highly & unusually skilled. Alternatively if the problem with that sector is that the business owner is skimming off the profits then it is up to you to challenge that and become a business owner yourself***; take the risk and make the investment or stop complaining.
Look at some of the most successful tech companies and I don't think it is any co-incidence that they put a lot of effort into making sure 3 is not a factor by trying to have good working conditions. They need to do this because !1 is such an issue for them.

* If the employer can't afford to pay the minimum wage then capitalism should kick in and mean that they don't employ someone for that role because it is not worth it for society to do so.
** I do not believe this is the case and this needs to change. Acceptable minimum to me includes healthcare, pension and ability to support a basic family.
*** There are some sectors where again this is not an issue, one man can't decide to become the next Apple, but there are always ways into a sector if you have idea and skills and luck and are prepared to take the risk.

about 10 months ago

Boeing Turning Old F-16s Into Unmanned Drones

rufty_tufty Re:Artificial Intelligence (239 comments)

Just out-source the control of them to teenagers who think they're playing flight sim. End of ethical problem.

That's how these things work, right?
Bonus points if you can have the teenagers who are unknowingly piloting it in the country you are attacking!

about 10 months ago

GTA V Proves a Lot of Parents Still Don't Know or Care About ESRB Ratings

rufty_tufty Re:Some people... (621 comments)

In most countries of the world, if a non-parent gave an 8-year-old access to the same level of porn as GTA 5's strip club, they would be severely punished.

Handing GTA 5 to an 8-year-old child and telling them to enjoy themselves is not acceptable.

Not played GTA5 yet, just 4.
I find it ever amazing that what you think is most unacceptable - or at least the example you choose - is not the murder or the general violence, or the drugs or the rape, but the soft core porn.
Now I will accept the argument that it's the attitude around that soft core porn that is pernicious and corrupting - that women are sex objects to be used and then discarded - but I cannot accept that a strip club is the worst thing in that game.
Why does a film showing people shooting each other get a PG while you still can't yet have a fully naked man in a sexual situation in mainstream entertainment. Seriously? Which one do you think is actually the more dangerous idea of acceptable behaviour?

about 10 months ago

Its Nuclear Plant Closed, Maine Town Is Full of Regret

rufty_tufty Re:This is disputed (380 comments)

Just to play devil's advocate, solar may be more expensive, but where does that money go? It doesn't just evaporate, it goes back into the economy somewhere providing more jobs and more demand. Assuming Germany is buying panels it produces itself, then the increased cost of electricity is met by the jobs needed to make and install these panels. As opposed to fossil fuels which would likely be imported and likely creating no new jobs except vanity projects somewhere in the middle east.
So although the end user sees a hike in electricity prices they could also see lower unemployment, crime, better education etc as a result of all this extra industry needed. Sure it requires big subsidies, but so do all other forms of energy production.

I obviously don't have the figures to prove it but given that Germany is currently bankrolling most of Europe implies that on average its overall economic policy is good. In the past countries have fuelled boom times by resource exploitation (Thatcher in the 80s for example with north sea oil) so perhaps you have Germany doing something weird here.

Of course all this theory falls down if the solar panels are being made in China and installed by Polish immigrant workers who are sending all their spare cash home. But then I have no explanation for Germany's current economic boom.

about 10 months ago

40-Million-Year-Old 'Walking Whale' Fossil Found In Peru

rufty_tufty Invertibrate Whales? (102 comments)

They lost their spine and hind legs 5 million years later

I can see why slashdotters don't read the article if the article claims things like whales are invertebrates ;-)

about 10 months ago

Google Releases Raspberry Pi Web Dev Teaching Tool

rufty_tufty Re: Making it too simple for kids to learn (68 comments)

Erm the pi is about as powerful as a desktop from 2003. Are you saying we did nothing useful before then?

about 10 months ago

Google Releases Raspberry Pi Web Dev Teaching Tool

rufty_tufty Re:Making it too simple for kids to learn (68 comments)

Surely for the the issue isn't assembly vs everything else it's demonstrating the ability to use a range of language philosophies, There are lots of languages under the sun and certainly I'd be worried about someone who always had garbage collection at their beck and call if I was trying to implement any system with real time requirements or involved lots of heavy lifting of data. However isn't there a worry someone can get too stuck in the nuts and bots. I've seen so many examples of code where someone has done something in hundreds of lines of C for something that would take 5 lines of perl, (and before you say the implementation they used would make the C slower)

So if a CV turned up for someone who had no assembly experience but had experience in C, Perl, Ruby, Occam, Lisp. I'm fairly sure if they would have a grasp of the fundamentals, much more than someone who just had x86 assembler and C++.

about 10 months ago

Google Releases Raspberry Pi Web Dev Teaching Tool

rufty_tufty Re:Making it too simple for kids to learn (68 comments)

How many people today can function without a compiler?
How many welders can function without a foundry to produce the iron for them?
How many people can function without farms to grow their food for them.
How many farms these days can function without computers and iron tools?

It's called civilisation, we build on top of the work of others and do ever greater things. If everyone in all of life had to know how to do everything we wouldn;t get very much done.

about 10 months ago


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