The repercussions, ethics, and morality of a post-scarcity society:

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I imagine ancient hunter gatherer societies working barely 20 hours a week must have been engaged in all sorts of evil behaviour.

Or you know, they didn't.

I think people are mistaking privileged well to do teenagers who are above the law because they are the elite of society with people who have enough food and shelter and can finally decide what to do in life.
252 Wolf106614th Oct 2013 01:42:37 AM from New Zealand , Relationship Status: In my bunk
Strange Kiwi fella
Twenty hours a week. I've heard that figure before - both in terms of how long hunter-gatherers generally need to work to ensure the basic needs of their survival and in terms of how many hours per week I was working prior to being made redundant.

My answer to a lot of the work-related aspects is simple: make it illegal for anyone to work more than twenty hours per week.

This will mean that, in order to cover all the times when work must be done, people who are currently unemployed will have to be hired.

It will also mean that everyone will have leisure to spend with family/friends, pursue hobbies, write that novel, work on the latest Linux kernel, paint a masterpiece - whatever flips their switches - as well as something to give their lives structure.

You could also make it so that every person must spend some of those hours doing one of the "shitty jobs" that has to be done - it'd be nice to see some fat over-paid middle-management type actually doing real work instead of trying to look like his job has a function by "micro-managing" every last aspect of the employees beneath him.

This would ensure the essential work got done, there were more jobs available to enable people to spend their earnings on luxuries (which may be finite resources but because they're infinitely varied, there should be plenty to go around - not everyone's going to want a yacht and a Maserati).

In a Post-Scarcity context, everyone could have the basics - accommodation, warmth, food, water, perhaps some of the things that have ceased to be "luxuries", such as ready access to transport (free public transport where available, concessions on fuel where it's not), communication (phone/internet/TV), etc - and, with the above constraints on work hours, there'd be jobs for them to buy luxuries (afford a larger place than their basic allocation, expensive foods, club fees, personal transportation beyond their normal requirements, Maserati, camping gear, whatever it is they need to do what they want to do.)
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253 TheyCallMeTomu14th Oct 2013 04:31:36 AM , Relationship Status: Anime is my true love
Totes Moe
Star Ocean 3 was an absolutely shitty game, but one innovation in its plot was the idea that in a post-scarcity society, work opportunities are what's scarce, so people basically tried "stealing work."

The game is riddled with plot holes and bad writing, but I found that amusing.
254 Wolf106615th Oct 2013 01:26:30 AM from New Zealand , Relationship Status: In my bunk
Strange Kiwi fella
Drunk Girlfriend referenced Marshall Brain's Manna story, earlier.

Marshall has done a number of essays on what he sees as an inevitable time when robots will have supplanted a great deal of the world's workforce (OK, his essays primarily deal with facts and figures surrounding the USA, but the repercussions are worldwide, especially given that a lot of the companies he cites as being the easiest to fully automate - Mac Donalds, BK, KFC etc - have outlets all over the globe and there's no way that they're going to pay employees in New Zealand, Australia, UK, Germany etc when they're not paying employees in the USA).

A lot of his arguments make very sound sense and I don't think his predictions for a time scale are unrealistic.

His contention is that robots could take over a lot of jobs that are currently performed by low-paid - or even higher-paid - workers and create a potential post-scarcity economy if managed right.

Or create a fucking nightmare in which The Rise Of The Machines is real but instead of an alien emotionless AI like Skynet controlling them it'd be greedy-arsed pricks who want to maximise their personal fortunes and "fuck everyone else".

One of his suggestions is that a stipend - sufficient to live fairly comfortably on - be paid to everyone (I presume he means everyone of school-leaving age or greater, but perhaps he means everyone) financed by advertising, fines, taxes etc in order no one need to work just to survive, thus freeing up those who wish to pursue other things.

Entertaining the idea - just the basics so far: the automation increase and the laying off of millions of workers worldwide - we could possibly be looking at a time when the choice is shovel all of the jobless into disused cruise liners/shipping containers, concentration camps or pay a livable welfare to them (with all the stigma it entails) or paying everyone equally (thus removing the stigma of "welfare", giving people buying power (which, if millions are removed from the workforce would have vanished, killing those same corporations anyway) and freeing up people to start living in a "post-scarcity" world where they don't have to worry about food, water, sanitation etc).

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255 Fighteer15th Oct 2013 07:26:04 AM from the Time Vortex , Relationship Status: Dancing with Captain Jack Harkness
It's entirely consistent with my views on post-scarcity. If many jobs can be automated such that humans are no longer needed to perform them, then logically we should provide the fruits of said jobs to all equally.

Otherwise, the only people who benefit from automation are the people who own the robots, which makes no sense.

edited 15th Oct '13 8:29:09 AM by Fighteer

256 Wolf106615th Oct 2013 03:10:29 PM from New Zealand , Relationship Status: In my bunk
Strange Kiwi fella
To me, it would certainly make sense to not, basically, destroy 50% of the consumer base. Economy requires the movement of money - a fact that the "anti-welfare" brigade don't seem to grasp - and if you've shovelled all your burger flippers, cashiers, kiosk attendants, cleaning staff, pilots and such out of the wage-earning bracket, then you've effectively removed 50% of the people who're buying the goods and using the services that your company makes money from.

Kind of hard to maintain a level of "uber-rich" when the remaining 50% of the workforce (until such time as automation makes everyone except CE Os and boards of directors redundant) is not going do be consuming as much as was consumed when everyone had money to spend.

Shoving "undesirable" unemployed people into free housing projects and feeding them predigested-pap-in-a-can is not going to make money for the corporations.

Nor is letting them all die off as one paranoid anonymous comment of Marshall's pages suggested.

The only way the economy could work is if there were some other form of income available to the displaced workers - and Marshall does raise some perfectly viable means achieving that.

So it's not about "ethics" and "morality" of giving money to people who are "not working" - for a start, the proposal mooted is that the money is given to everyone, so that those who are working are actually earning money on top of that stipend - it's about the practicality of ensuring that money keeps circulating (a working economy) instead of just "migrating to the top" (stagnation and, eventually, rendering the money worthless).

I'm no brilliant economist - in fact, I'm shit with money handling - but even I can see the repercussions of removing the incomes of 50% of the consumers (we're already seeing the repercussions of diminishing the incomes of a smaller percentage of the consumers).

So, never mind "morality" and "ethics", ensuring that people have the money to spend on rent/mortgage/rates, food, electricity etc is essential.

But, but, but... some people are just going to sit on their arses all day, long playing computer games, stuffing their faces with pizza and not contributing.

Yes, some people are going to sit on their arses and consume power, buy/rent video games, buy pizza and contribute to the working of the economy.

Others are going to say "Fucking sweet, I'm going to open a shop selling my own blend of coffee to anyone who walks past - and if I only sell one cup a week who the fuck cares, because I'm able to pay for my food, rent, movies, electricity etc - because that's what I've always wanted to do"

edited 15th Oct '13 3:12:54 PM by Wolf1066

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258 TheyCallMeTomu18th Oct 2013 08:18:45 AM , Relationship Status: Anime is my true love
Totes Moe

edited 18th Oct '13 8:18:54 AM by TheyCallMeTomu

Chaotic Greedy
Bumping this thread because it's no longer the main subject of discussion in the US politics thread.

@Fighteer, you say "you can't call those who can't work or choose not to lazy". Problem is, while I wholeheartedly agree with you on the former, I have a hard time wrapping my mind around the latter. Mind to explain?

Note that I differentiate "not work" from "not have a regular job that pays". I consider that art is work.
"And as long as a sack of shit is not a good thing to be, chivalry will never die."
260 Fighteer21st Feb 2014 07:07:03 AM from the Time Vortex , Relationship Status: Dancing with Captain Jack Harkness
That's certainly one point - it helps if you define "work". If it's wage (or profit) earning labor, then you exclude a lot of recreational and artistic activities. There's charity, there's entertainment, all sorts of venues that don't necessarily earn a wage (unless you are really good) but contribute measurably to society. My wife, for example, would much rather be doing amateur acting, stand-up and improv comedy than calling businesses to collect unpaid bills.

Heck, even if you want to sit at home and stream video of yourself playing games, that's entertainment for someone.

Part of these concerns seem to be about the idea that, "I do work and earn a living; why should someone who contributes nothing also get to make a living?" Bear in mind that under any logical post-scarcity system, there should never be a situation where not-working would allow you to earn a better living than working. That is, wages and economic conditions should be such that you could always improve your lot if you chose a productive and/or creative occupation.

You could even set it up so that everyone has a guaranteed minimum standard of living regardless of work, and then wages simply add to that. So you could work part-time for $2/hour, but that $2 adds to what you get at the baseline; it doesn't replace it. Basically, if you want luxuries, you work, but you are guaranteed to never starve.

The big question then becomes deciding what constitutes a minimum standard of living based on available technology and productivity.

Certainly in such a system there will be folks who, despite all the opportunities in the world, cannot or choose not to contribute in any way. There are such people now, even. I don't see why we have to be so concerned about it. As long as enough people work to maintain our society's desired standards of living, we can afford to let a few "slackers" ride free.

At the risk of making a bad analogy, people like to condemn homosexuality (or even asexuality) because it's "non-reproductive". If 90 percent of the population decided not to have children, we'd be in trouble. But we don't seem to be running out of babies, so what's the problem?

edited 21st Feb '14 7:55:13 AM by Fighteer

scratching at .8, just hopin'
If 90% of the population decides to go Quaker, just means the rest of us have to get busy. cool *starts writing pick-up lines*

Good summary by Fighteer. I would add that there should be incentives for emergency training - post-scarcity means infrastructure, and we should be prepared in case the infrastructure fails.
Chaotic Greedy
[up][up]I think the "standard of living plus bonuses" is a good solution.[tup]

edited 22nd Feb '14 5:35:59 AM by Medinoc

"And as long as a sack of shit is not a good thing to be, chivalry will never die."
263 Fighteer22nd Feb 2014 08:53:39 AM from the Time Vortex , Relationship Status: Dancing with Captain Jack Harkness
Another important thing to consider is that establishing minimum mandatory living standards vastly decreases the incentives for low-level crime. If you can feed, house, and clothe your family without having to work, then the motive for stealing goes way down.

264 pagad22nd Feb 2014 12:31:45 PM from perfidious Albion , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
Sneering Imperialist
If 90% of the population decides to go Quaker, just means the rest of us have to get busy.

Eh? I didn't think Quakers were particularly anti-reproduction, or am I missing something here?
With cannon shot and gun blast smash the alien. With laser beam and searing plasma scatter the alien to the stars.
265 lordGacek24th Feb 2014 07:04:13 AM from Kansas of Europe
I guess he meant Shakers.

Fighteer, I assume you can provide some info on the critical ratio of workers-to-slackers? To extend your analogy: if you have to make up for the non-reproductive 90% of the population, that'll take bit more effort than it would for 10%. Not extending further 'cause I don't feel like playing devil's advocate at the moment.
"Atheism is the religion whose followers are easiest to troll"
266 Fighteer24th Feb 2014 07:26:16 AM from the Time Vortex , Relationship Status: Dancing with Captain Jack Harkness
I don't have precise numbers, but asking for them is sort of missing the point of the exercise. It's a derivative value, based on the maximum sustainable employment rate given our technology and productivity.

As a very general formula, if the economy is capable of providing X jobs at full productive capacity, and we have Y working-age population, then the slack that we can support is Y - X.

Another way of putting it is that, as long as we can produce enough goods to feed, clothe, house, etc. every person, it doesn't matter how many people are employed to accomplish that task. To take an extreme example, if ten people could manufacture every product and provide every service that the country requires, there would be no reason to employ more than those ten people. Everyone else could go chase butterflies if they wanted.

Of course, in reality, what would likely happen is that the enormous freedom offered would allow those slack resources and workers to produce something even more awesome. There's no reason we have to stop striving just because our basic needs are met.

edited 24th Feb '14 7:33:01 AM by Fighteer

267 lordGacek24th Feb 2014 07:44:52 AM from Kansas of Europe
Paint me skeptical. After basic needs are met, then you'll have to meet the need for entertainment, then education, then exercise (random order), then you might expect folks — on average, as is the point, not on exception — to create something awesome. Provided, of course, that the ten who keep the show running never find themselves overworked and never falter in their motivation.

But that's playing devil's advocate and I said I won't do it further.
"Atheism is the religion whose followers are easiest to troll"
268 Fighteer24th Feb 2014 07:49:07 AM from the Time Vortex , Relationship Status: Dancing with Captain Jack Harkness
Devil's advocacy can be useful for pointing out flaws in an argument. Still, throughout human history, we've had a consistent pattern of technology increasing productivity, with the labor thus freed going into producing newer and better things.

When agriculture made it so that male members of a tribe didn't have to spend every waking hour hunting, it was a form of post-scarcity, at least as far as those folks were concerned. There's no reason to believe that we've reached some kind of a plateau in our technological and cultural advancement; we just need to shift our paradigm a bit.

edited 24th Feb '14 11:25:33 AM by Fighteer

269 TobiasDrake24th Feb 2014 10:09:04 AM from Colorado, USA , Relationship Status: She's holding a very large knife
Labor isn't as simple as just having enough bodies to fill pre-assigned slots. It's not a constant of, "X amount will be produced once you reach your Persons criteria."

If ten people can produce enough resources to feed a community with 8 hours of labor, then twenty could produce it in 4. Forty could produce it in 2. Having a ton of members of society free to slack off and not produce anything means that those people who are working have to work longer and harder hours to make up for the slackers.

Why should I have to work longer and harder hours to support someone who refuses to get off the couch? The luxuries are nice, but what if the luxury I want is to not be carrying far more than my share of the workload?

edited 24th Feb '14 10:14:16 AM by TobiasDrake

270 Greenmantle24th Feb 2014 10:10:42 AM from Greater Wessex, Britannia , Relationship Status: Hiding
[up] And one person might be skilled enough to do the work of two people, while someone else may only be able to half the work of an average person in the same time.
Keep Rolling On

271 TheyCallMeTomu24th Feb 2014 10:25:55 AM , Relationship Status: Anime is my true love
Totes Moe
Here's my state of mind:

I just glanced over Tobias' post, and only saw the word Persons and 4. My mind immediately concluded he was writing about Persona 4

edited 24th Feb '14 10:26:01 AM by TheyCallMeTomu

272 BlueNinja024th Feb 2014 11:07:03 AM from An Overcrowded Island , Relationship Status: Charming Titania with a donkey face
Under Construction
If ten people can produce enough resources to feed a community with 8 hours of labor, then twenty could produce it in 4. Forty could produce it in 2. - Tobias
That's assuming a number of things. Ten might be the ideal number due to equipment, or the type of task, or workspace. It's not a direct multiplier to add more people and get the job done faster.
The luxuries are nice, but what if the luxury I want is to not be carrying far more than my share of the workload?
Presumably there would be other people lining up to get those extra luxuries that you no longer want.
We sit in a darkened room smoking cigars and drinking pretentious wines from snifters while guffawing about the ignorance of the masses.
273 Fighteer24th Feb 2014 11:27:29 AM from the Time Vortex , Relationship Status: Dancing with Captain Jack Harkness
@Tobias: There are incentives for working, such as access to luxuries. Otherwise you are correct: what you have is a Communist system in which there's no individual motive to produce because you always get the same amount of stuff regardless.

You work because you want more or better stuff than other people. How much you work and how much value that work contributes are not really meaningful to this discussion in a quantitative sense, only in a qualitative sense.

edited 24th Feb '14 11:29:03 AM by Fighteer

scratching at .8, just hopin'
I think a post-scarcity society is easy to sell in times like these. For those who assume people don't want to work, consider how many people really really do.
275 IsaacSapphire30th Mar 2014 08:54:31 PM from North of the Moon
It doesn't seem like anybody's gone over the differences between "work" and "a job" here and a lot of the posts seem to be confusing the two.

Many people will work regardless. For example, already mentioned examples of Wikipedia and Linux, but in non-techy things, people retire and start volunteering, or wish they had more time to volunteer, except they have to work. What do people do when they retire? Spend time with family, cook for people, travel, volunteer, write, provide childcare for grandchildren... And how much of that is "work"? A fair amount. A lot of hobbies are "work" by some definition. Somebody who knits or quilts as a hobby is churning out scarves and socks and blankets. A gardener is growing food. There's usually some efficiency differences, but even now, fine handwork is valued. A lot of that is now practiced mainly as a hobby or at most a second, don't-quit-your-day-job kind of thing.

The split between the two is also, historically and up the the present day, related to gendered labor. That is, Andy isn't making cash when se does the dishes at home, so it isn't applied to the GDP. If Andy is a dishwasher by trade though, and does get paid for washing dishes at hir job, then that counts for GDP. It's even more glaring when we look at do-it-yourself housework vs hiring a maid. Exact same tasks, not counted if done inhouse.

The most immediately apparent post-scarcity cultural change to me that would be necessary (beyond whatever was necessary to achieve said post-scarcity), is that management styles would have to change. Pay would adjust for various jobs, but the big issue is that if somebody's boss was a dick to them, they'd quit. Even now, dickish bosses are a big motivating factor in people leaving jobs. A pleasant workplace environment and culture, a boss who treats you with respect; people are glad to take a lower paying position for those things. In a post-scarcity society, that's going to be necessary to keep workers. Even now, in industries that have a lot of competition for workers, they give them all kinds of non-money goodies to attract and keep good employees, like letting people bring their dogs to work. I've seen really low-paying jobs that had great camaraderie between the workers, such that people would stay on when they could get higher paying jobs elsewhere.

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