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writing geography extended essay
Submitted by essayE-rater on Wed, 11/06/2013 - 14:59
they in retirement age needs to care by their children and other close relatives,
they need to care by their children and other close relatives in retirement age,
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Attribute Value Ideal
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No. of Grammatical Errors: 1 2
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Fourth Root of Number of Words: 4.102 4.7
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On Saturday, I attended “London Z Day 2010 ” – described as
presentations about futurism and technology, the singularity and the current economic landscape, activism and how to get involved…
Around 300 people were present in the Oliver Thompson Lecture Theatre of London’s City University. That’s testimony to good work by the organisers – the UK chapter of the worldwide “Zeitgeist Movement “.
I also liked the sense of urgency and activism, to move swiftly from the current unsustainable social and economic frameworks, into a more rational framework. Frequent references of work of radical futurists like Ray Kurzweil emphasised the plausibility of rapid change, driven by accelerating technological innovation. That makes good sense.
I was less convinced by other parts of the Zeitgeist worldview – in particular, its strong “no money ” and “no property ” messages.
Could a society operate without money? Speakers from the floor seemed to think that, in a rationally organised society, everyone would be able to freely access all the goods and services they need, rather than having to pay for them. The earth has plenty of resources, and we just need to look after them in a sensible way. Money has lots of drawbacks, so we should do without it – so the argument went.
One of the arguments made by a speaker, against a monetary basis of society, was the analysis from the recent book “The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better ” by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. Here’s an excerpt of a review of this book from the Guardian :
We are rich enough. Economic growth has done as much as it can to improve material conditions in the developed countries, and in some cases appears to be damaging health. If Britain were instead to concentrate on making its citizens’ incomes as equal as those of people in Japan and Scandinavia, we could each have seven extra weeks’ holiday a year, we would be thinner, we would each live a year or so longer, and we’d trust each other more.
Epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett don’t soft-soap their message. It is brave to write a book arguing that economies should stop growing when millions of jobs are being lost, though they may be pushing at an open door in public consciousness. We know there is something wrong, and this book goes a long way towards explaining what and why.
The authors point out that the life-diminishing results of valuing growth above equality in rich societies can be seen all around us. Inequality causes shorter, unhealthier and unhappier lives; it increases the rate of teenage pregnancy, violence, obesity, imprisonment and addiction; it destroys relationships between individuals born in the same society but into different classes; and its function as a driver of consumption depletes the planet’s resources.
Wilkinson, a public health researcher of 30 years’ standing, has written numerous books and articles on the physical and mental effects of social differentiation. He and Pickett have compiled information from around 200 different sets of data, using reputable sources such as the United Nations, the World Bank, the World Health Organisation and the US Census, to form a bank of evidence against inequality that is impossible to deny.
They use the information to create a series of scatter-graphs whose patterns look nearly identical, yet which document the prevalence of a vast range of social ills. On almost every index of quality of life, or wellness, or deprivation, there is a gradient showing a strong correlation between a country’s level of economic inequality and its social outcomes. Almost always, Japan and the Scandinavian countries are at the favourable “low” end, and almost always, the UK, the US and Portugal are at the unfavourable “high” end, with Canada, Australasia and continental European countries in between.
This has nothing to do with total wealth or even the average per-capita income. America is one of the world’s richest nations, with among the highest figures for income per person, but has the lowest longevity of the developed nations, and a level of violence – murder, in particular – that is off the scale. Of all crimes, those involving violence are most closely related to high levels of inequality – within a country, within states and even within cities. For some, mainly young, men with no economic or educational route to achieving the high status and earnings required for full citizenship, the experience of daily life at the bottom of a steep social hierarchy is enraging…
The anxiety in this book about our current economic system was reflected in anxiety expressed by all the Zeitgeist Movement speakers. However, the Zeitgeist speakers drew a more radical conclusion. It’s not just that economic inequalities have lots of bad side effects. They say, it’s money-based economics itself that causes these problems. And that’s a hard conclusion to swallow.
They don’t argue for reforming the existing economic system. Rather, they argue for replacing it completely. Money itself, they say, is the root problem.
The same dichotomy arose time and again during the day. Speakers highlighted many problems with the way the world currently operates. But instead of advocating incremental reforms – say, for greater equality, or for oversight of the market – they advocated a more radical transformation: no money, and no property. What’s more, the audience seemed to lap it all up.
Of course, money has sprung up in countless societies throughout history, as something that allows for a more efficient exchange of resources than simple bartering. Money provides a handy intermediate currency, enabling more complex transactions of goods and services.
In answer, the Zeitgeist speakers argue that use of technology and artificial intelligence would allow for more sensible planning of these goods and services. However, horrible thoughts come to mind of all the failures of previous centrally controlled economies, such as in Soviet times. In answer again, the Zeitgeist speakers seem to argue that better artificial intelligence will, this time, make a big difference. Personally, I’m all in favour of gradually increased application of improved automatic decision systems. But I remain deeply unconvinced about removing money:
For example, the Kurzweil curves showing the projected future improvements in technology – such as increased semiconductor density and computational capacity – will very likely screech to a halt, or dramatically slow down, if money is removed as an incentive.
So whilst the criticism offered by the Zeitgeist movement is strong, the positive solution they advocate lacks many details.
The evening, which began at 7 with a two-hour critique of monetary economics, became by midnight a utopian presentation of a money-free and computer-driven vision of the future, a wholesale reimagination of civilization, as if Karl Marx and Carl Sagan had hired John Lennon from his “Imagine” days to do no less than redesign the underlying structures of planetary life.
Idealism can be a powerful force for positive social change, but can be deeply counterproductive if it’s based on a misunderstanding of what’s possible. I’ll need a lot more convincing about the details of the zero-money “resource based economy” advocated by Zeitgeist before I could give it any significant support.
I’m a big fan of debating ideas about the future – especially radical and counter-intuitive ideas. There’s no doubt that, if we are to survive, the future will need to be significantly different from the past. However, I believe we need to beware the kind of certainty that some of the Zeitgeist speakers showed. The Humanity+, UK2010 conference, to be held in London on 24th April, will be an opportunity to review many different ideas about the best actions needed to create a social environment more conducive to enabling the full human potential.
Footnote. an official 86 page PDF “THE ZEITGEIST MOVEMENT – OBSERVATIONS AND RESPONSES: Activist Orientation Guide” is available online .
The rapid growth of the Zeitgeist Movement has clearly benefited from popular response to two movies, “Zeitgeist, the Movie ” (released in 2007) and “Zeitgeist: Addendum ” (released in 2008). Both these movies have gone viral. There’s a great deal in each of these movies that makes me personally uncomfortable. However, one learning is simply the fact that well made movies can do a great deal to spread a message.
For an interesting online criticism of some of the Zeitgeist Movements ideas, see “Zeitgeist Addendum: The Review ” by Stefan Molyneux from Freedomain Radio.
Must admit to have ended up a little confused. Was the general suggestion that we could do without money?
If it was then I’m with you in the not really camp.
Money is nothing more than a single type of currency which allows for providing a common base for valuing (and in turn paying for) things.
Bartering is really no different. If I had a goat and you wanted to pay with apples we would need to agree an exchange rate.
Removing money (i.e. cash) doesn’t change that need in the slightest.
Why? Well, without having given it a great deal of thought, human nature is to gather, collect & horde more than your neighbour as a security blanket. It’s a survival mechanism. If I have more food I will survive longer. More apples than you then I have a bargaining power with which I can get goats.
Whilst it may be wonderfully utopian to think that human nature can change so far to the point that everyone has everything the need, all provided for by everyone else I just can’t see it happening without some major tipping point – and even something as catastrophic as natural or manmade disaster will only force people into survival mode.
Certainly will ponder but can’t see a way to, or real need for, the removal of “money” or currency.
From my understanding, the way a moneyless society would function would be that it wouldn’t even involve barter, but people would just do what needed doing without asking anything in return. I could be wrong and perhaps someone more informed about the concepts can clarify this.
I think your remarks about human nature are covered in “THE ZEITGEIST MOVEMENT – OBSERVATIONS AND RESPONSES: Activist Orientation Guide”. Basically, there is no human “nature”, only derived behaviour. This is another big debate but I am inclined to agree with this viewpoint.
David and you both raise some key points. The fact is, societies have operated without money before. Money is an artificial creation, based once upon a time on the real scarcity of the world, but now only a paralyzing mechanism.
It is very easy to see money as the enabler of great leaps in research, or freedoms of people to “go on holiday” or travel for example.
However, you’re only as free as your spending power allows you to be. And with almost all the money in the world belonging to 5% of the people on the planet, it is fairly easy to see that “enabling” is the very last thing it does.
Similarly, take pharmaceuticals – there is no actual way a pharma company could manufacture a cheap, available to all, cure for a disease – there needs to be profit, cyclical selling and a “future” for any product – so as long as we have the need for profit for survival, efficient products, equal quality of life and the successful resolution of problems that don’t also provide profit (for example the homeless issue) will have to remain with us.
I see the same data points as you, but draw different conclusions.
Just because something is “an artificial creation” doesn’t mean it’s bad.
It’s true, there have been societies without money – for example, some of the Incans. As it happens, the Incans also managed without the wheel. We can’t conclude from these facts that we, likewise, should do without the wheel, or without money. Societies with the wheel generally became more productive (even though the motor vehicle, for example, brings some problems as well as many benefits). Similarly for societies with money.
Inequalities in the distribution of money aren’t, by themselves, arguments against the existence of money. First, even if I have less money than someone else, the money I have can still be useful to me. Second, to the extent that inequalities cause problems, this is only an argument to work to reduce the inequalities, not to abolish money.
The argument about pharmaceuticals is interesting. Products that start off as expensive – and therefore restricted to customers who are rich – can often become significantly cheaper over time, as successive waves of innovation take place. Mobile phones are a great example here. Will the same cost reductions happen for medicines? I think so. There are many encouraging signs, though in my view there is plenty of room for improvements in how the medical industry operates.
Homelessness in many cases has little to do with monetary inequalities, but is tied to psychological and social problems.
Societis fucntioning on the infinite growth paradigm are destined not to be sustainable by definition.
The fact is that most people are extremely badly off in the world. This is a direct result of the way we presently structure our economics. Competition and profit logically pre-suppose that most individuals lose whilst some gain.
Additionally, the creation of money through new loans, and the leveraging of those loans via the fractional reserve system inflates debt further and makes all debt logically impossible to repay in full.
It is not all that radical to suggest that the world’s societies base everything they do on the available resources we have. Anything else is fictional and unsustainable.
Hmm, “by definition” and “logically” (you use the latter word twice) are particularly strong claims.
First, I don’t see anything inherently impossible about infinite growth. As we gain in ability to make fuller use of available resources (including all the energy from the sun, and then from other stars) we can keep on increasing what we do.
Second, competition and profit are at least logically compatible with everyone benefiting. For example, if person A has a personal surplus of material X, but a shortage of material Y, and it’s the other way round with person B, then both can benefit if A gives some X to person B, in return for some Y. Even if they haggle over the price, this doesn’t mean that one of them has to end up being worse off at the end than at the beginning. As economists (and games theorists) say, not every transaction is zero-sum.
Third, there are instances in history when debt has been fully repaid.
It is not all that radical to suggest that the world’s societies base everything they do on the available resources we have
On first sight, that seems sensible. But on further reflection, are the “available resources” objectively fixed? Some materials may look relatively worthless from one perspective, but look more valuable to someone who has an speculative innovative idea of using the materials in a different way. (Oil was one example. It was not always appreciated what people could do with crude oil.) In similar way, a bunch of dried flowers can acquire huge sentimental value in some circumstances. I believe we need to allow people the freedom to make their own decisions about how much value they assign to particular resources.
Moreover, can’t money also be regarded as a “resource”? It allows people to accomplish many tasks.
So a desire to base decisions on the availability of resources doesn’t rule out continuing to use money as a way of valuing resources and getting things at least some tasks done.
Firstly, I don’t see how you don’t see a problem with infinite growth. We live on a finite planet and efficiency will only go so far. The universe may be infinite, and there may be infinite universes, but that’s an unknown as yet, and doesn’t really apply to our current ecosystem.
With this limitation, scarcity will always add “value” (cost) to all resources. The scarcity mechanism encourages corruption by falsely creating scarcity (burning diamonds to keep their value up, banning exports when food is scarce, for example). This is both morally wrong and completely undermines the concepts of competition and profit.
Secondly, money is not a resource. It is, and always has been, a substitute for resource. The only true base resources are time, labour, and energy. Derived from this are skills, knowledge, and things we value, including, but not limited to, friendship, love, beauty, enjoyment. Money itself does not provide any of these, it just acts as a mechanism as a base unit of trade. The fact that physically, scientifically, has no tangible link to any REAL resources like those I just mentioned, means that it is inevitable that it would be subject to corruption. Real resources can not be faked. Money has no basis in nature, in reality, only in our minds. This is why it can be created “from thin air” or destroyed without any basis on what physically exists.
Your comments make sense on all counts, Stu.
However, while the concept money is, of course, a product of human minds it does o does have a direct link to the physical resource which underlies all the others, energy. For which “real” money is essentially a token.
You will find the basis for that assertion detailed in chapter 8 of “Unusual Perspectives” (free download).
A couple of qualifications to the above.
1. I have used the term “real money” to exclude the phenomenon of “virtual money” which is the “falsely created” money that you mention. Virtual money has no direct direct physical basis, although the section entitled Imagination in Ch8 of UP explains why it nevertheless is an indirect less representation of energy.
2. You very rightly point out that time can also considered to be a resource.
I have not dealt with this in “Unusual Perspectives”! Time is very tricky and I have not yet found a way of reconciling it with the energy-based discussion therein. It is important, though, and I shall attempt an integration in my next book. I would be pleased to hear if anyone has ideas on this, either on this forum or directly through the email address which can be found on the “Unusual Perspectives” website.
Perhaps we are using the same words with different meanings, and are failing to understand each other as a result.
By talking about “infinite growth”, I merely mean that there’s no limit to the amount of economic activity that can, in time, be achieved. In time, more innovative use of resources will create items of greater and greater value. I’ve written about this before, in my previous blogpost “Achieving a 130-fold improvement in 40 years “. As you know, although I’m an optimist about what technological development can achieve, I’m not complacent about any of this – I don’t see this as inevitable. But nor do I see the difficulties with our economic system as being a reason to take the very radical step of abolishing money.
>scarcity will always add “value” (cost) to all resources. The scarcity mechanism encourages corruption by falsely creating scarcity (burning diamonds to keep their value up, banning exports when food is scarce, for example)
It’s true, there are plenty of occasions when companies end up destroying resources, to boost their own revenues. However, there are two factors which can limit these occurrences:
1.) Government or other regulators can prevent monopolistic abuse or other market distortions;
2.) Companies can realise that it is in their own self-interest not to destroy resources.
To spell out 2.) in more detail.
Consider a company (or a cartel of companies) that has a monopoly of diamond production.
Suppose that it considers destroying (say) 50% of its annual production of diamonds, in order to push up the price of individual diamonds.
Suppose that the resulting increase in price is 30%.
In this case, the enlightened self-interest of the company is not to destroy the production.
That’s because its revenue, in that case, would only be 50% x 130% of what it would originally have been. In other words, it’s only 65%.
Sorry to jump in here again, but as regards that equation you give at the end:
The reason diamond mines burn diamonds is precisely because they *do* gain a net value from scarcity. Otherwise they wouldn’t bother.
Thanks for the reply.
You are right to question the meaning of language – my use of “logical” for example. However, if you do so, you may not then also use the same word yourself in your reply without due qualifications that I may have lacked.
You are also right – “infinite growth” isn’t impossible – in fact I spoke about it at this event you were nice enough to cover. The Infinite Growth Paradigm, however (and again, as you point out in later comments, this needs to be defined) is the deliberate tendency to consume, produce and sell more than a competitor company in order to grow your company to a theoretically limitless size. It is this precise behaviour that is the result of a decoupled attitude from the planet’s resources and capabilities.
Staying with that, I naturally mean any and all resources from the Sun or stars – those are planetary resources. But while we already have the abilities to provide free electricity, free clean water and much more, we don’t – why? Because maximum efficiency and aabundance cannot reign as long as we base all societal logics on money (tokens, etc) of any kind – as Stu says – these are mechanisms of scarcity. And while we trade in scarcity, this will not change.
As far as debts being paid off – what examples can you name? You might be thinking of the US National debt to the Federal Reserve about 100 years ago perhaps? This actually ended in the shutting down of the banking system, which was seen as a direct threat to the nation. In essence, this debt was “cancelled”, rather than paid off, and there is a big difference. The princiapl loan will always be larger than the ultimate debt owed due to inflation and interest.
Anything you have ever repayed has always cost you more.
As regards your example about Person A and Person B above – you have actually just named an instance where money would *not* be necessary for a transfer, so I’m having a little trouble understanding why it would be necessary to build in profit to a mutually beneficial exchange.
Also, unfortunately, “yes”, resources are fixed at any given moment – I’ll qualify that. We are using the resources we have the ability to harvest at a rate much higher than we have their natural replenishment rate. If we were able to harvest sunlight, wave power etc then obviously our society would grow hugely (and with less waste) – however, I have to bring you back to the mechanisms of money and competition. Monetary systems prevent efficiency and abundance and efficiency as it is in the interest of monetary gain to keep any and all possible services, items or resources out of the arena of abundance.
And as far as competition – and here I’m going to have to build in comments to your answer to Stu below as well – competition produces duplication of effort, duplication of wate (self-ecident with mobile phones) and means that actually in the long run more people lose out than win. Your point about government control over monopolisation only frames the monetary system in a more communist light – for then it is the government that has the monopoly by proxy.
It’s also worth remembering, that the logical by-product of any “free-market” system is the tendency towards monopoly. Profit, domination and defeating the competition has to be the central focus of any entity within it. How could it not be?
I just noticed I wrote “efficiency and abundance and efficiency” – i suppose that’s an inefficient way fo putting it 🙂
I would imagine as long as The Scientific Method is adhered to, we can test out different solutions to improve things and go with what works best, whether it includes money or not..
When there’s nothing to talk about while at the pub, I often throw this question out there: “Would Communism work with today’s systems of supply chain management?”
After all, of the many problems with Communism, the one that stands out in most people’s eyes is the 5 year plan. It’s impossible, today at least, to predict how many goods need to be produced, and at what rate, to appease consumption for the next 5 years, but what if we applied all the advanced technological systems we had today to supply and demand?
If Walmart (I suppose it’s called Tesco in the UK) can order more of item X the second you, the customer, purchase an item from one of the many shops around the world, without any human intervention, would Communism really work?
I agree about “we’re rich enough”. I’ve said time and again that you could stop progress today, and spend the rest of time bringing the rest of the world to where the richest nations are currently, and you’d have the happiest world.
I think we both know there’s going to be a equal measure of fierce support and fierce opposition to the Zeitgeist movement and their ideas. I think the important thing is that everyone remembers that we’re all “scientists” here, and that all discussions should be had in a logical and rational way.
From the ‘Pro’ Zeitgeisters, I would like to discuss the specific details on how a moneyless society would function on a day to day level. We all know about the ‘utopian’ vision that is supposed to result from the lack of the corrupting features of money, but this will not happen overnight, and may bring about unforeseen implications. Social science is a complex and often difficult to predict. All I’ve ever seen in this discussion is people taking Jacque Fresco’s word for how it will be. I want people to think for themselves a bit on this topic (I have explored these topics in some detail at resourcebasedliving.com).
From the opponents, I would like to ask you not to dismiss these ideas immediately based on the ‘cultish’ and quite often dogmatic features of the Zeitgeist movement. Much of the ZM’s direction is ‘good’, promotion of “futurism” and happily adopting new technology, acknowledging environmental destruction, fighting against government control and restriction, trying to create a more “friendly” society. In addition, as David points out, it’s a movement with a lot of sway, and shouldn’t be ignored. It could be a valuable ally to the H+ and futurism ‘movements’. Taking to people after this event it was clear that exposure to the futurism aspects was new to some of them, and they were happy to have been introduced to it. I would ask we stick to the topic of how a moneyless society could function, really, the whole credibility of the Zeitgeist movement should hinge on the feasibility of this idea alone.
I am very much interested in continuing this discussion of how technology would progress with regard to this radical new “moneyless” dimension.
Specifically David, I strongly disagree with your 4th point about how money provides incentive and stopping this will slow down technology. For me, the pursuit of money is a big negative incentive, it holds me back from achieving my true desires of advancing technology and increasing my creativity. There are far too many pointless jobs based on the monetary system that keep people away from truly enjoyable lines of work. Another aspect is my issues with how education currently plays a big part in this. Actually this is a big topic so I won’t go into it too much here..but you get my drift.
Hopefully you won’t find yourself too ostracised for daring to give these ideas the time of day!
I don’t think the concept of money itself is wrong, but the most common forms of it are lent into existence, requiring a treadmill of energy consumption to pay the interest. I suspect that is near the roots of what’s mistaken about how we currently operate as a species.
In my mental shorthand I see money as a lubricant for society, but the lubricant we have chosen turns out to be carcinogenic.
In “The ecology of money”, chapter 4 proposes a system based on national and local currencies operating in parallel. It is a short book, 70 pages or so, and worth reading for an overview of ideas about how changing the money we use would benefit us in terms of the way we live and manage resources. You can find it at http://www.greenbooks.co.uk/ .
I agree with you – I think society needs money (or at least a form of barter) to operate. To add to your arguments:
i) The right to own property is a basic tenet and prerequisite for rule of law. And once you have property you have barter. And once you have barter you might as well have money, which is just a more convenient form of barter.
ii) The statement “everyone would be able to freely access all the goods and services they need” assumes that nothing would be scarce. But that assumption does not hold. Even in a future with advanced technology and where all basic human needs are met there will be scarcity. A visit to Colosseum, a seat at the Wimbledon final, a ticket to Glastonbury, a place on an Everest expedition. As you point out peoples’ tastes vary, and central allocation of these scarcities will not work.
iii) Even in an advanced future there will be jobs that need doing by humans. Maintaining and restoring the Colosseum, teaching, healthcare, policing. Even though some of these activities are rewarding in themselves, I think monetary reward is needed to ensure an adequate and consistent level of provision.
I’m all for a more egalitarian society, but I think money has an essential part in that society.
i) Actually we advocate no property. Here is some reasoning from Peter as to why: http://dotsub.com/view/30c3995b-7cd9-4885-b173-c3241238d12d. There has been a natural progression through time as civilization, globalization and technology has advanced as to how far our concern for other reaches. From small communities of hunter-gatherers, to larger and larger communities in towns, cities and countries, we have always expanded our social identies and ways of collaborating in bigger and bigger systems. We feel that we now are ready to take the next logical step in our social development, as we now have the necessary technological and scientific know-how, that is to shift our cultural values so that we view the entire human race as one, big family. With globalization, people are realizing more and more how connected we are, as we see how we all share the same planet and that we have the most in common as we are all fellow humans. In this line of thinking, individual property isn’t really relevant, for we will share everything, trust each other, and see the great value of doing so. Of course evryone will have some basic things they use and have with them, like their clothes and the place they live (the place they temporaly live i might add, for everyone will probably want to move a lot and explore the world). While it’s not an easy undertaking to get everyone onboard on this line of thinking, I think its all about education and showing people new perspectives so they might question their values and be able to think in new ways.
ii) Well, we can’t do magic, unfortunately, and everyone can’t have unlimited amounts of everything, so people will have to act in line with a collective understanding of this, as will be natural if we view and care for each other as family. We don’t promote utopia, and there will never be a totally perfect system. I don’t think the examples you come up with are that problematic, if one has to wait in line for something, one waits in line for something. There are huge posibilites in automation, so i really believe it will be possible to make sure that there always will be enough of what everyone needs and reasonably wants. One can apply many sorts of statistical models and queries to check demand and plan ahead.
iii) We would automate all boring, mundane, repetetive jobs, as it lies in their nature that they are fit for automation. As for more complex jobs, people would want to do them bacuse it would be based on their own interest and need for self-fulfilment, and not because they are forced if they want to survive. It is only in this culture, where education and work has become a chore, that we naturally become lazy and often escape reality through mind-numbing TV-entertainment. This TED-lecture on motivation explains some new ways of thinking about motivation, and shows that the effect of money as incentive is limited: http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation.html
A collective shift in vaules is an important requasation before moving into a recourse-based-economy. Bringing about this value-shift is probably the biggest challenge we have in the Zeitgeist Movement, and of course, there are many likeminded groups who also try to spread the same values, so we don’t stand alone in this endavour. But I think many of todays youth cares deeply for the world and wants to see a new direction, they just don’t know what to do cause its hard to see viable solutions from within the system. This again leads to a lot of the unrational escapism and carefree behaivour we see in youth culture, I think. The Zeitgeist Movement looks at society from an outside perspective, and spread information on what we believe are the underlying causes of the world’s many turmoils. With this information in hand, one also has the necassary platform to point out truly viable solutions and directions for futher social development.
The ideas of the zeitgeist movement might seem utopian and far-fetched, and it’s hard to grasp you mind around it all at first, so you should defenitly investigate this futher if you are find it interesting, the FAQ here answers very many of the common questions: http://thevenusproject.com/the-venus-project-introduction/faq. Also see http://zday2010.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=47. I am btw a member from Norway, and the way these ideas have spread all over the world in a little more than a year is really amazing.
I think the best thing any one with doubts about the Zeitgeist movement RBE idea can do is go to the website and read all the material especially the Q&E sections. Also the Venus project website Q&E. all the doubts expressed here are being made without really enough research. I had very similar first impression doubts myself until reading and researching more about it. I don’t have any doubts anymore. The idea stands up to all the critisism’s I could think of.
To say that “all the doubts expressed here are being made without really enough research” is presumptive. The idea of a society without money or property is a recurring one. I reject the idea not because I have given it little thought, but because I have given quite a bit of thought to it over the years. Rather than “property is theft”, I think the right to property is an essential requirement for liberty. I’ve stated my arguments fairly simplistically above because I don’t presently have the time to state them with more depth.
It would be interesting to hear why you think property in an essential requirement for liberty.
For me liberty constitutes a number of essential freedoms, among these are the freedom to love, the freedom to create and the freedom to be an individual (to have my own views, values and interests). These freedoms are entangled with worldly manifestations of those freedoms. Love is entangled with the tokens exchanged as part of that love, be those tokens wedding rings or silly presents. Love is entangled with the worldly creations of that love, be it the garden dug together, the furniture assembled together, the boat or even the house built out that love’s blood sweat and tears. Denying the right to the ownership of those things is denying part of the love. Creation is entangled with the tools and objects of creation, be they the painter’s brushes and paintings, the carpenter’s tools and creations, the musician’s instrument, the cook’s knives or the athlete’s equipment. Denying the right to ownership of those things is denying part of the freedom to create. My individuality is entangled with the worldly things that express that individuality, be it the tools of my trade, the works of art I own or have created, and even the clothing and books I own. Denying me the right to own those things is denying me the right to express my individuality.
Property is not merely the object of consumption, it is also the product and tool of creation. In a future world of abundance I agree that we could share the objects of consumption, but I don’t agree that we can share the products and tools of creation. Are you saying a painter does not have the right to own their painting, a musician does not have the right to own their guitar, or that a couple does not have the right to own their wedding rings, or the house they built together?
Part of my individuality is that I value different things to other people. You say that, for things that are scarce, “if one has to wait in line for something, one waits in line for something”. But should I not be allowed to trade my place in line for someone else’s place in a line for something I value more? For things that are scarce people should be able to trade those scarce things according to their preferences, otherwise you are curtailing their freedom. This trading constitutes a form of barter.
And finally a property right is the most basic form of protection from a malevolent government.
>Must admit to have ended up a little confused.
Sorry for not being very clear. I confess that I often use these blog posts to help work out my own thinking on a topic. This is one such case.
>Was the general suggestion that we could do without money?
>human nature is to gather, collect & horde more than your neighbour as a security blanket… Whilst it may be wonderfully utopian to think that human nature can change…
I’m on the side of those who think that human nature can change – by a mixture of changed environment, changed education, changed examples, changed diet and supplements, and even changed genetics.
>…I just can’t see it happening without some major tipping point – and even something as catastrophic as natural or manmade disaster will only force people into survival mode
We are facing a kind of tipping point – and it’s going to become more pressing in the next 5-20 years. However, hopefully we’ll be able to respond sufficiently early, to avoid any meltdown situation with people going into a panic survival mode. We do need to find some way to modify how the economy operates. (But I remain unconvinced that this modification will involve the abolition of money.)
>I would imagine as long as The Scientific Method is adhered to, we can test out different solutions to improve things and go with what works best
I like this line of thinking, but experiments with macro-economics are hard to organise! What’s more, when comparing any two episodes in macro-economics, there are many variables that differ, so there’s lots of scope for people arguing over which of the many differing factors may be responsible for the difference in output.
As someone who spent four years in the Philosophy of Science department, I’ll make one more comment on this: there’s lots of scope for people arguing over what exactly is “The Scientific Method” (and whether there’s only one legitimate approach).
However, just because that task is difficult, doesn’t mean we should stop trying.
>of the many problems with Communism, the one that stands out in most people’s eyes is the 5 year plan. It’s impossible, today at least, to predict how many goods need to be produced, and at what rate, to appease consumption for the next 5 years, but what if we applied all the advanced technological systems we had today to supply and demand?
I side with Popper in this debate: plenty of new things will arise during the 5 year period, which even the most powerful of prediction engines will be unable to anticipate in advance. Think of the butterfly wing flap that gets magnified into a hurricane on the other side of the planet. Or think of the insights taught in Agile Software classes all over the world.
On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with setting a 5 year plan, so long as it is frequently revised in the light of new knowledge. Computers can play a big role in storing and revising this plan.
>I agree about “we’re rich enough”. I’ve said time and again that you could stop progress today, and spend the rest of time bringing the rest of the world to where the richest nations are currently, and you’d have the happiest world
I only half agree with this. Even well-off people in rich countries can experience terrible suffering, due to the inadequate state of our current medical knowledge. So, at the very least, I’m a strong advocate of continuing to research the causes and cures of diseases such as cancers, motor neurone disease, Alzheimers, and other aging diseases.
>I think the important thing is that everyone remembers that we’re all “scientists” here, and that all discussions should be had in a logical and rational way.
>I strongly disagree with your 4th point about how money provides incentive and stopping this will slow down technology. For me, the pursuit of money is a big negative incentive, it holds me back from achieving my true desires of advancing technology and increasing my creativity. There are far too many pointless jobs based on the monetary system that keep people away from truly enjoyable lines of work. Another aspect is my issues with how education currently plays a big part in this.
Yes, this is a complex picture. From my own life, I’m aware of many times when I’ve been deeply motivated without any monetary incentive – and I know this can apply to countless other people too.
I’ve also been impressed, recently, by research by people like Daniel Pink into the true motivational factors at work – particularly his book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us “.
(Added later: I see that Håkon also mentions Daniel Pink. Thanks!)
As you say, this aspect of the discussion deserves more thought…
Many thanks for the pointer to the book “The ecology of money “.
I’d love to find the time to read it, but I confess that my reading in-box already has quite a few other economics books queued up ahead. (I’m currently just finishing “Animal Spirits ” by Akerlof and Schiller. Next will be either “Freefall ” by Joseph Stiglitz, “The return of depression economics ” by Paul Krugman, or “The bridge at the end of the world ” by James Speth.
Thanks for the link to Peter Joseph’s reply to the video by Stefan Molyneux.
Clearly, this is not the kind of discussion that can be resolved in a few quick comments in a blog post.
My own bottom line viewpoint is that I’ve seen, countless times over 20+ years in business, that profit needn’t necessarily imply either deception or violence. The teams I worked with wanted to create the best possible products – without any designed built-in obsolesence (or similar). It was our honest and deep-held view that providing the best possible product to customers was the best basis for our company to thrive.
In other words, what’s good for the customer can also be good for the company – and vice versa.
That’s not to idolise the way capitalism works overall. But it is a counter to the view that capitalism is inherently flawed.
>the best thing any one with doubts about the Zeitgeist movement RBE idea can do is go to the website and read all the material
I will do some more reading, but I will look out for executive summaries to start with. The other thing I’d like to arrange is for a Zeigeist Movement speaker to come and make a presentation at a forthcoming UK H+ meeting, on a subject such as “The future of economics”. I expect the discussion would be enlightening.
Great review David,
Certainly the abolition of money is not the solution, the abolition of monetary monopoly though needs to be revisited. After all money didn’t disappear as we might think these days. It is hoarded and it is not circulated due to fear and uncertainty. Stimulus packages are like blood transfusion to a patient that can’t stop bleeding. Further regulation and government interventions will do even bigger harm as more panic and mistrust will be generated.
Wide spread financial instability, environmental change, unemployment and an ageing population are creating serious questions and as a result we are searching for new ideas.
Another idea, I was following for some time, is that of complementary currencies. Local, regional, or business network currencies are parallel efforts that want encourage social, business, teaching, artistic activities etc in an exchange system. Today with technological advances and commonality of mobile phone an electronic exchange barter system is easier to implement. already we see it as rewards points in the airlines, ‘nectar points’ in the department stores.
Most interesting is WIR Bank.
In the great depression Switzerland came with the idea of a creating a mutual credit system which started with 16 companies back in the 1930’s and now it is extended to sixty thousand or so businesses. The WIR as the call it is a B2B currency and its credit activity is growing when bank credit becomes scarce. It acts as a safety valve in the system. WIR is trading CHF 1.65 billion annually
As crisis with credit and debt is threatening every country the creation of parallel currencies can be the solution. The domino effect of massive layoffs and bankruptcies that are pressing SME’s and individuals can be averted.
One interested book is: The Future of Money: Creating New. Wealth, Work and a Wiser World. Bernard Lietaer, (2001)
Uruguay is testing this option:
The whole idea of money is based on ‘FIAT LUX’ Latin for ‘let it be light’. Creating money from nothing!
But it rather a promise. That if I teach 10 hours a day for £10 per hour I will get £100 credit in my account to spend while someone else will have the debit and the obligation to offer another service or product to keep the balance. This currency exchange can be free or minimal administration cost and interest free.
The YouTube video was particularly interesting – and prompted me to write another blogpost: https://dw2blog.com/2010/03/17/complementary-currencies/
It is indeed very likely that, should our species survive what is usually referred to by the rather silly buzz-word “Singularity” (phase transition is a much better metaphor) that a money-less society may be inevitable.
Not as the result of the implementation of any kind of political system but simply as a consequence of basically unlimited negligible-cost energy (BUNCE).
The reasoning behind this affirmation can be found in chapters 8 and 16 of my recent book “Unusual Perspectives”, which can be freely downloaded from the eponymous website.
The central theme that arises in this work is the evidence-based prediction that a key feature of the phase transition (which can be expected to occur within a decade of so) will be the emergence of a new and predominant inorganic life-form from what we now know as the Internet.
The evidence for this projection is drawn from chemistry and biology rather than computer science/AI. It reflects the kind of self-assembly process arising from standard evolutionary principles.
I agree with you that the name “Singularity” can be misleading. The essay by Tim Tyler, “The singularity is nonsense ” makes that point well.
But as you say, we can anticipate the possibility of a very significant transition, within the next few decades, in which artificial (machine) intelligence takes a much greater role in governing and operating human society.
Will there be a role for money in that society? I think it’s unwise to be dogmatic about this. The full extent of the likely changes mean we find it very difficult to envision what will happen. (That, of course, is one reason people like the term “singularity”, since we can’t predict what lies beyond it.)
However, I expect that, even with BUNCE (a great term, by the way) there will still be some scarcities, and therefore some benefit to having money.
I suspect that you have not read ch 8 (Money-Money-Money) and ch 16 (The Big Rock Candy Mountain) of “Unusual Perspectives” yet David.
The reasoning behind my assertions is to be found there in some detail. The implications and ramifications of BUNCE are quite comprehensive, and while there may be some commodities which I have overlooked (Real Estate seeemed to be a contender but BUNCE can, I believe, even fix that. One kind of category that would have some non-reducible cost is antiques and other collectibles.
Surprisingly, there do appear to be well-established patterns that can be reasonably extrapolated to give a meaningful view of likely conditions beyond the phase transition. It is anthropocentrism which clouds our vision mostly.
Thanks for letting me know of Tim Tyler – nice to hear an independent voice against the S word.
I did download your book (and installed the FBReader application, so I can view it) and scanned the 2 chapters you mentioned (as well as several of the others).
To try to be constructive: I think you try to cover so many different topics in your book, that it may be hard for readers to follow your line of argument. (I’m probably guilty of the same crime myself…)
Your vision of a future post-transition super-AI society, in chapter 16, seems credible and plausible, but I didn’t come across any part which made the case that there would be no scarcity, no personal possessions, and (hence) no need for money.
The more pressing question, however, is whether we should seek to dispense with money in the pre-super-AI world of the present.
Your comment on “Unusual Perspectives” is very perceptive, David.
Unfortunately, though,it is necessary to have basic understandings of these other topics in order to be able to grasp the important patterns and projections that emerge from chapter 11 onwards.
This is a fundamental problem with any discussion of this kind – our world is extraordinarily complex but folk consistently seek simplistic, tightly focussed, and usually anthropocentric interpretations of complex phenomena.
The “big picture” is the only arena where overall patterns can be discerned. Leave parts out or dumb it down too much and they disappear.
One small correction to your following paragraph – UP actually makes the case that a post-transition symbiosis would result in abundant personal possessions. Scarcity being represented only by a few such things as genuine antiques.
Pre-transition it would seem that money, which, when reduced to basics is a convenient token for energy (see why in chapter 8 of UP) is with us to stay. Until BUNCE is with us, energy will not be essentially free so the tokens representing it will necessarily be required.
Whether or not we seek to dispense with it. Our species likes to think we have control over such things as economics. We kid ourselves! Economic systems evolve autonomously. In the flowery words of Adam Smith “as if by an invisible hand”. Economic developments are tremendously complex and fraught with non-linearities, not least of which include the vagaries of human psychology. “The Death of Economics” by Paul Ormerod nicely underlines the essential futility of focussed forecasting.
This is a short 1-minute video that highlights some of the most cursial problems of a monetary system: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ECIN0Niw88 (voice is from one of Peter Josephs lectures)
Thanks for the link to the 1 minute video. It’s useful to have this short summary.
You won’t be surprised to hear that I take issue with the contents.
>The more there is of any resource, the less you can charge for it
But you can also do more with that resource, for example using it to create lots of new products and services.
Also, even if the price-per-unit reduces, it doesn’t mean that the overall profits decline – since the number of units sold can increase.
>Efficiency, sustainability, and abundance are enemies of our economic structure
My own experience in more than 20 years in industry is that companies persistently seek greater efficiencies, sustainability, and abundance, since that will allow us to accomplish more
>one billion people starving on this planet
The last 30 years have seen more people leave behind the levels of poverty and starvation than at any time in history – largely because of progress in India and China.
By chance, I’ve just started reading “The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World ” by Niall Ferguson. You might find it interesting too. Near the beginning, he discusses why the invention and utilisation of money allows for progress and development. He even mentions people in the Marxist tradition (most recently, “from the 1970s”) who support the idea that an ideal society would have no money – and he critiques that idea.
Oh man, you’ve really got a debate going here. Glad to be having it on your blog though, with this specific angle.
I was thinking today, you know, we can talk all we want about the theoretical aspects of getting rid of money and how it can be good or bad. But we should take a long hard look at how technology has progressed over the past 50 years.
I know capitalism has helped it to a certain extent. But has your washing machine ever broken down?
I found myself tonight washing my socks in a sink. It wasn’t too soul destroying, but it made me realise a few things.
I got thinking about how the washing machine actually works. All it does it smash clothes around and waste an abominal amount of water and chemical soap until my socks are ridiculously clean. Now, we all rely on washing machines to such an extent that nobody really questions them any more, the design is no longer being refined. You have to wonder, was the machine designed to make our lives easier, or, as ZM fans would have us believe, increase our consumption? Or was it made before consumerism took such a hold that it was still made with efficiency in mind, but never improved because it wasn’t worth it?
Dishwashers were made some time later and they seem even less efficient, it has to be said. Certainly there was no environmental concern in mind.
Those Pro-money cannot ignore these facts. But you can also not ignore the facts that technology could have been extremely stunted by the capitalist system – for all the good it has done.
I see its benefits, I truly do, but I also see these massive flaws. And I have to ask both sides to put aside their immovable positions and really consider this issue without any pre-conceptions. Capitalism forces business to seek out the best possible solutions. But at the same time it gives incentive to inefficiency and even bad design.
I guess at the end of the day the question is, which system would produce the best kind of washing machine, capitalism, or a resource based economy, and, it has to be asked, why?
It’s an important debate!
>we all rely on washing machines to such an extent that nobody really questions them any more, the design is no longer being refined
But washing machines are continuing to be improved. Improvements in efficiency and resource usage are one driver for these changes. A quick web search finds, for example, “Spin dry: The washing machine that needs just one cup of water ” where we can read that the inventors are in discussion with commercial partners.
>technology could have been extremely stunted by the capitalist system
One of the most interesting parts of the discussion at the ZDay event was the causes for the “technology gap” – why technological solutions (such as very long life light bulbs) that are technically feasible have not been brought to market.
One reason for this gap is lack of proper competition, when a company can get away with selling a poorer product (for example, one with a shorter lifespan) because competing companies are blocked from entering the market. But I see that as an argument to oversee and regulate the operation of monetary systems, not to terminate them.
The Dyson vaccuum cleaner is another good example, of where a newcomer to an industry can bring to market a product with improved technology.
>I have to ask both sides to put aside their immovable positions
Agreed, I’m all for open minds.
However, I think it’s misleading to talk about “both sides”, as if the ideas of “pro-money” and “anti-money” were on an equal footing. There are scores of different implementations of “pro-money” systems, which we can review and analyse. In comparison, the ideas of “resource-based economy” remain sketchy, and are without any industrial-scale implementation in modern times.
>Capitalism forces business to seek out the best possible solutions. But at the same time it gives incentive to inefficiency and even bad design.
There’s only incentive towards inefficiency if proper competition has broken down. Otherwise, the inefficiency in one company’s processes will be beaten, in marketplace competition, by greater efficiency by another company.
On the other hand, I don’t see capitalism as the only driver for progress. Far from it. Wikipedia and Open Source are two fine counter-examples. The more we can do to nurture this kind of collaborative development, the better.
I think that the biggest problem with money is the Greed for it.
Have you heard of “justfortheloveofit”? you may want to check it out as the site is gathering members very quickly. On the forum “The freeconomy community” there are some very interesting people with ideas on how to live with very little money.
Love to know what you think.
Thanks for the pointer to “JustForTheLoveOfIt “.
I am convinced that an increasing amount of work will be done for the kind of pro-sharing motivational reasons shown on that site.
However, I’m far from convinced that all work will be done for these motivations.
Just because money causes problems when some people become too greedy for it, it doesn’t mean that we have to stop using money. Otherwise, we could use the same argument to abolish lots of other things which can also cause problems when some people become too greedy for them. It would be like, for example, banning alcohol because some people’s misuse of alcohol can have tragic consequences.
first of all, I attended the event on Saturday, so I wanted to congratulate with you for the organization: it’s been a great day, and it’s been amazing to hear what the speakers had to say about the future of technology. I hope there will be similar events done in the future.
Coming back to the topic of the discussion here, I really appreciate that somebody of your calibre is taking time to think about the Zeitgeist proposals on how to engineer a society that should function in a better way.
Your objections are really sensible, however they make me wonder if you had a chance to watch/read some of the material that Peter Joseph and Jacque Fresco have produced for the Zeitgeist movement / The Venus Project so far.
I’m referring namely to:
They explain more in details the reasons behind Peter and Jacque claims.
Regarding the specific issue of money/no money, I think the main efforts to do in order to understand is to shift our point of view from “personal (or corporate) profit/interest” to “humankind profit/interest”: when you say profit has been driving technological progress so far, I partly agree, however it has held it back in a certain percentage too: for example think about how many companies in the world had to reinvent the same things over and over again, simply because of some other companies’ know-how not being disclosed to the world, or because of patents restricting the use of some clever ideas. Or think about how humankind could be using much more renewable sources of energy today, if the profit interests of big corporations were not standing on the way.
On this regard, the Open Source community is really teaching the way forward: any product of any sort will always be sub-optimal if the people engineering it are only a small subset of the ones on the planet that could contribute to it with their knowledge. Let’s then allow the whole human intelligence to collaborate, let’s harvest this huge potential, and have not it split in many little different corporations fighting against each other.
If you prefer an independent view outside the Zeitgeist movement, you may want to watch this (on how the next 20-50 years might look like in the fields of economy, energy, natural resources and environment):
Then, if possible I’d like to know your position on the nature of money itself; namely on things like the Bank’s fractional reserve system, the removal of the gold standard, the creation of money without assets backing it (FIAT money), the problems caused by interest etc..
About these topics, two great documentaries are:
and “The Money Masters” (3 hours and a half long, however the most comprehensive one on the topic):
I totally agree with the Zeitgeist movement ideas that we could in the future live without money thanks to technology, however I similarly support well-thought-out initiatives advocating monetary reforms like this one:
since it would help a lot releasing the monetary chains that currently imprison society, and it would be a great step toward a full money-free one later on.
(NB: the above website gives me a virus warning today, I don’t know why. It never happened before).
Anyway, I’d really like to argument much better than this, however it’s a long topic and do not have all the time I need now, I simply hope to instil some interest in you for future thinking on these topics.
Thanks a lot,
Thanks for your feedback about the H+UK event, and particular thanks for taking the time to provide a very useful list of links providing different angles into the Venus Project and Zeitgeist Movement thinking.
As you can see, my knowledge of the Venus Project is still only at a sketchy level, and I know I need to look into it more fully.
I’m in discussion with Ben McLeish about a possible presentation he could do, at an afternoon H+UK meeting some time soon, on “The future of economics – the view from the Zeitgeist Movement”. If the planning works out, it should provide a good opportunity to look more fully at these interesting ideas.
Your scepticism about the possibility of a moneyless world probably stems in part from not having seriously considered the obscene level of waste this bloated corporatocratic world generates. Set against that, the creation of a world of free access should be a dawdle. See the arguments in http://andycox1953.webs.com/
Thanks for your comment. You referred me to your essay on your website, but that’s pretty hard to read (since it covers so many different topics).
I have worked in the business world for more than 20 years and observe plenty of inefficiencies and waste. But that’s no argument, in itself, to dismantle the whole capitalist system and to try to put something completely unproven in its place (ie an industrial-scale system without money). It’s an argument to seek to reform the operation of the market economy (and the various processes inside that system).
Although the market economy has substantial inefficiency, it also has the result that most people nowadays have a quality of life far exceeding that of monarchs in bygone days.
Let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater :-0
One more comment: inefficiency, by iself, isn’t a crime. Rather than focusing on trying to increase efficiency, we should try to increase sustainable throughput. (That’s one of the key insights of Lean Manufacturing, and the Theory of Constraints.)
Thanks at least for looking at http://andycox1953.webs.com/. The essay does indeed cover a number of topics. They are, however, interconnected, though one could to some extent take a ‘pick and mix’ approach to the propositions connected with each topic. But to do so vitiates the case as a whole
With regard to the question of waste and inefficiency, I don’t think you’ve really grasped the argument: Its not just a question of, say, having clapped equipment or failing to deal effectively with an identified constraint – a la the Theory of Constraints. Those arguing for world of free access consider the issue in a far broader and deeper fashion, looking at the requirements and processes that obtain in present day captalism. and contrasting this system with the free access (or ‘communistic’) model. Let me give you a few examples of the sort of arguments raised by supporters of a moneyless world:
• Many categories of work predicated on the existence of money would have no place in a free access/ communist society; for example the work that goes on in banks, advertising, insurance, sales departments, stock broking firms, finance companies, benefits departments, pension companies, Inland Revenue, prostution, casinos, market stalls etc. Its hard to put a figure on the numbers, but I shouldn’t be surprised if something between 1 and 2 billion worldwide would find their ertwhile occupation non-existent and meaningless. The good news is that these people could then turn their energies to productive occupations instead, and thereby greatly increase output to meet actual needs. What needs to understood is that wastefulness entailed in these non-productive occupations is not something capitalism itself can address: Many of these occupations are systemically necessary.to capitalism
• Capitalism, or commodity production, involves offering goods and services for sale in order to realIse a profit. If there’s no market for them or no prospect of a profit being made, these goods and services will not be produced no matter how dire the need for them (let us disregard ‘loss-leading’ as this is done simply in order to inveigle consumers into purchasing other things). Hence capitalsm is highly inefficient as a mechanism for meeting human needs. Poor Africans die simply because they don’t have the wherewithal to purchase adequate food: They don’t constitute a large enough ‘demand’ This is NOT something you can tinker with. The raison detre of capitalism is profit, and any company or country (including state capitalist countries like Cuba or North Korea) wishing to ignore this does so at it’s own peril. Under a free access system, no such limitation would exist.
• Because capitalism’s overriding concern is with turning a quick buck, it will tend to cut costs to the bone (hence shoddy production, which is ultimately extremely wasteful of natural and human resources), and even skimp on safety (How many plane or train crashes are ultimately attributable to this, one wonders)
• Capitalism, entailing as it does millions of companies or corporations around the world competing with numerous others in producing particular goods and services for a particular market, is hugely wasteful in this regard too as you end up with a colossal amount of duplication with dozens of companies producing a particular good or service within a specific locale, and with each having its own premises, workforce, management structure, and so on. Moreover, this situation is also wasteful insofar as every company will have a number of administrative and financial operations to execute over and above its productive operations, which simply would not occur in a free access/communist society, such as holding shareholder meetings, carrying out financial audits, running pay departments, operating security measures, and implementing marketing strategies.
There are many other observations that could cited as evidence of capitalism’s inherent wastefulness and inefficiency; for example,the phenomenon of ‘built-in obsolescence, capitalism’s pandering to the luxury market – producing items that aren’t strictly speaking needed, the fact that capitalism generates wars, the boom-slump cycle, unemployment, the way in which research under capitalism is conducted on a competitive basis – thus impeding the progress that have been attained if research groups simply co-operated with one another; the list goes on and on. It is when you look at capitalism in this light, when you look at the broad picture rather than focus on mere technical shortcomings that might be tinkered with. then the feasibility of a free access economy becomes evident. And, no, we wouldn’t be throwing the baby out with the bathwater: Much of the industrial infrastructure would be retained (those bits that don’t serve actual human needs or pose environmental dangers would be jettisoned), and even aspects of the current organisational structure might be adapted to suit the new dispensation. Much of the initial thrust would be to address the most pressing problems. The problem of homelessness, for example, could be resolved within weeks. Since in 2008 there were almost 700,000 empty homes in England, homelessness reflects the capitalist dictum, that if you ain’t got the dosh, you won’t get the thing you’re after; in this instance, a roof over you’re head.
Andy, as dilligent as you are, there is a shorter way to communicate this (also, it’s not about “capitalism” but the entire logic of a monetary system at all in an age where abundance and optimization is possible.)
“Waste” is not yet correctly understood by most people.
Waste is not simply what we throw in the ground. It is the pointless expenditure of human labour on mindless jobs when they can be out curing cancer, innovating or simply producing beautiful music.
It is the chaotic planning and bad, even DANGEROUS implementation of city and transport planning that we take as “the way it is”. It is the astonishing duplication of products through competition.
It is the production of things we don’t even need. Waste is the harvesting of 25 tonnes of raw materials to produce one tonne of garbage – 99% of what US manufacturing produces ends up as waste in 6 weeks.
The system IS waste. And it needs to be redesigned completely.
Ben and Andy, have you ever taken a step back to consider how the conditions of waste and inefficiencies within our societies have arisen? or, say, why do we engage in wars?
As you indicate, from an overall human viewpoint these activities appear to to be pointless and counterproductive.
Is there another way of looking at these phenomena which makes sense of it all?
Hint: The answer lies in chemistry and biology rather than politics.
It’s certainly not politics, which is an artificial creation of society.
If you’re getting at “human nature”, I’d ask for evidence to support this.
Human behaviour certainly comes into play, but our behaviours are shaped by our environment. Giuven that we’ve developed our currentl global behaviours based on scarcity, competition and so on, of course human behaviour has become aligned with the practises that must be observed to “succeed” in this situation.
However, were “human nature” to blame we would have identical crime rates worldwide (which we don’t), we would have no examples of societies which operate in truly egalitarian ways (we do, as we find with tribes in the south pacific) and we would have no such thing as feral children, which demonstrate to a staggering degree how maleable human b eings are.
To say we are inherently greedy, inherently destructuve and cannot operate within our environment is to dismiss the very adaptability that evolution points to. It is another form of asserting that “original sin” is valid.
The works of Robert Sapolsky and Wilkinson and Pickett in “The Spirit Level” are good examples that show human behaviour varies according to levels of societal stratification. Genes don’t dictate behaviour.
A couple of points:
I think that you may be drawing unwarranted distinctions between ‘capitalism’ and the the entire ‘monetary system’ – or perhaps it’s just a difference of emphasis. Capitalism is essentially defined by the following attributes, amongst others:
• It is a system in which all goods and services are produced in order to be sold on a market with a view to realising a profit, and in which the former are acquired through purchasing them
• It is a system characrterised by exclusive ownership of the means of production (whether by private individuals, companies, or the state itself.)
• It is a system in which goods and services have an exchange value- the ratio at which commodities may be traded for one another – as well as an intrinsic ‘use-value’.
• It is a system in wages, profits, and money all operate ( which is proof positive of the capitalist nature of so-called ‘socialist/communist’ states, like Cuba or North Korea)
• It is a system characterised by social stratification in terms of wealth and privilege (whilst in laissez faire type economies this might reflect legal title to the means of production, in state capitalist economies it’s more a question of effective control of the means of production by a privileged nomenclatura.)
So basically, ‘capitalism’ is a term that applies to a type of economy in which money plays a central role. But obviously, as the above account suggests, it encompasses more than just the use of money. Money existed in Ancient Rome, but no stretch of the imagination could this society be described as ‘capitalistic’. So I’m not quite sure what you have in mind when you refer to the ‘monetary system’. Perhaps you could clarify the term.
Otherwise, I’m with you on practically everything you’ve said. Waste occurs in so many ways in a socety governed by money, or capitalism – call it what you will. And this only goes to demonstrate the feasibility of a society in which money would play no role and people would freely access goods and services. Being rationally ordered, such a society would not be wasteful.
I also concur with your response to Peter, by the way: Genes do not dictate behaviour
It is very obviously true that “genes don’t dictate behaviour”.
Nevertheless, genes are certainly the primary deteminant of behaviour in all animals, including ourselves.
To suggest otherwise would show a very poor grasp of evolutionary biology.
Genes may be considered to be the “hardware” component of behaviour.
This is supplemented by the “software” which is effectively programmed into the organism by its interactions with its environment. A process which is often known as “learning”
In the case of our species, which has a unique capability for large-scale transfer of imagination, a secondary evolutionary process is at play, the evolution of ideas.
It is most clearly reflected by the observed exponential development of technology.
It is the interaction with this non-genetic evolutionary process which results in the human animal having the very extensive “software” component which modulates our underlying behavior patterns to such a remarkable extent.
Because of the distributed nature of collective imagination, similar arguments apply to human societies as well. (We must not forget that, although we usually regard ourselves as individuals we are, in actuality, each of us is a cooperative society of cells and organelles.)
The gross structures of our civiliations have not been determined by human minds but, rather, as the result of a more general natural process for which we happen to be merely one of the vehicles.
Although it is currently not fashionable to consider it so, we do not control nature, and there is certainly no good reason to suppose that we ever will.
Such control of our own destiny that we do have, however, can be far more effectively deployed if we become aware of the overall natural processes and work within this context rather than just engaging in the arrogant hand-waving and fingerpointing that unfortunately seems to be the norm.
One cannot agree that genes don’t dictate behaviour, and then assert that they do, without confusing me… 😉
Nevertheless, to suggest genes are the primary factor for behaviour is non-evolutionary in itself. We don’t blindly act within the world. Our survival hinges on our behaviour from generation to generation, even from day to day. Our genes don’t change as fast as our behaviour.
On the whole i agree with you on technology – in fact, the event David went too is here and starts with the technological development process you describe: http://vimeo.com/10747794
Also, our current society is far from being a general by-product of our general development. To assert this is not to understand how the monetary system came to be, who installed it in Britain and the US (and ultimately most of the world) – it is a deliberate power structure. Mark Bass’s post above lists some great resources for this – the Money Masters from 1995 is a labour of love that details this history. G Edward Griffin’s giant tome The Creature from Jekyll Island goes even further.
And you are right – we certainly don’t (and never did) control nature.
Sorry if you are confused. To state that genes “dictate” behaviour implies that they are the sole determinant. Whereas, in actuality, they are but one one component of behavioural motivation, the other being, as I pointed out previously, the interaction of the organism with its environment.
Do you understand the difference?
This second determinant of behaviour is, in our species, to a very large extent, represented by the environment provided by the more recent evolutionary process which involves ideas rather than genes.
This is, of course, why our behaviours change at a much faster rate than our genes.
Some of us have been trying to draw attention to the exponential development of technology for 40 years or more.
Gordon Moore even quantified one aspect of it 30 years ago. It it is gratifying to see it in recent years at last becoming more widely accepted.
You are quite wrong about the gross structure of our present societies not being a result of this non-genetic evolutionary process. No individuals, except in the very short term or on small scales, control social developments.
Even in the case of technology (which is, by far, the most important motivator of social change) there are no true inventors. We would have become aware of “Newton’s laws”, for instance, had Newton never been born. The time was ripe for their discovery. A concrete example is the invention of the calculus independently and simultaneously by Leibniz and Newton, albeit using different notations. Such a development was rendered inevitable at that time because of (a) the body of accumulated knowledge and (b) the requirement for such a method to handle the rapidly growing use of machines.
We have a long-standing habit of glorifying individuals and I suspect that this is partly because we perceive, in our usual anthropocentric way, some kind of reflected glory for ourselves.
But to get real – Nature Rules!
Interesting – so what was your comment about “chemistry and biology” about?
Also, I was probably being unclear – the overriding mechanisms of control at present are financially based (through ownership and the monetary system) – these were deliberately swindled into place over and over again in the US and UK – and our ills, for the most part, are a direct result of this system. It is this mechanism which is a product of deliberate distortion, not “free advance” of a society.
Technological development (the only real improver of our lives) is different (and you describe this above), and actually progresses in a completely non-correlative way to economics. And i find it extraordinary that people have not listened to your group in the 40 years you have been pushing the message. It is as self-evident as day and night. I feel a little ashamed that I’ve only been aware of it for a year.
Yes – we do put people on a pedestal. Hegel is hailed as a great thinker – yet he berated the scientific community for “discovering” an 8th planet, because the philosophers had determined why it was “right” that there were seven. Aristotle is a great pillar of history, yet he never saw the issue of slave-ownership as a problem. Every great inventor will be redundant or just plain wrong one day. Perhaps it’s an extension or a cousin of the celebrity-fixation our planet seems to prefer to global welfare… and I have been just as guilty of it as the next person I suppose.
The confines of a blog preclude a useful treatment of the importance of chemistry and biology with regard to this subject.
The way in which the the properties and timely abundances of the chemical elements and their compounds not only allow, but make inevitable, the observed evolution of technology in the presence of our species with its pre-evolved imaginatory capacity is handled in chapter 11 of “Unusual Perspectives”, which is available for free download in e-book format from the eponymous website.
To fully understand the argument therein, however, including the biological aspects, it is recommended that the earlier chapters are read, digested and absorbed. Chapter 8, “Money, Momey, Money”, of course has a very direct, if unconventional, relevance to this thread.
So are we going to support the 2012 srike for the abolition of money? I hope so. sure we can get some good ideas 2012 Redemption, spiritual revolution.
I was thinking add
At said date, the use of any monetary unit will be illegal.
The edit will also include temporary edit,
The upholding of common law and front line services.
Front line services to include police. health and community and social workers. those in the production and distribution of food.etc.
All workers go to our place of work or if you want to stay home. stay home. If you don’t know what to do, then offer your services to a front line service. If you find you no longer have work then offer your services to font line services. If you have trouble procuring. heat. food or health service. then contact front line services.
It will be an illegal offence to leave a person starving or in urgent need of medical attention, without going for help.
Note. Priority of collective efort to ensure all have access to heath care, food and shelter
In the mean time. grow more vegetables.
I’m afrid that unless you have the majority on board, such a plan is likely to fall flat on its face. People’s ‘edits’ (edicts?) will degenerate into Robesperian tyranny. Also, the abolition of money per se is no guarantee that genuine communism will be established. Didn’t Pol Pot attempt something similar? For more on this, see my website.
my two pennies as it were! Read George Orwells “keep the aspidistra flying” its a book about money, being poor, being rich and what is important in life but there was a message in this book to.
It says that the world is enslaved by the money god. It’s a remarkable insight really. I mean just think for a second there are very few cultures left on earth that exist today, at least through the eye of media and communication and in terms of comparative population size, that exist without the money god.
What Orwell deduces is that money is god. But what he also says is you can’t escape it and that no one fully can because you are forced to comply with it. It really is quite absurd to think that we all let money rule and not equality. He goes to great lengths to infer that the thought of money slices into ones conscience at all times, it seemingly is like a real god that talks to us all. It is the character’s view that money decides if we live or die, have friends or not, love or not, self respect or not, not to mention all the usuals wants and needs. In some ways I feel people would be better praying to the money god myself, for it is a true god in this world.
Of course money isn’t actually any good is it? Money like any false god cannot really be relied upon when ones soul is poured out on the floor. I mean we all know how it works, zeitgeist is testimony to that. The character in the book knows this also, thats why he fights it, even knowing that he will have to succumb to it eventually, his will is broken.
I don’t think Zeitgeist isn’t a utopian ideal, it is a step in the right direction. I do hope there are enough people around who want a world in which everyone can be equal, after all that is the reality of things.
People often ask me, “what would be the incentive to produce anything if money and politics were not in the picture?” And I simply say that the love one has to contribute to the betterment of the whole is enough incentive. Look, people will always do what they love and what do people love doing? Some people might love to pick up garbage, some people might love creating a new FREE ENERGY technology, some people might love measuring the most effective and or energy efficient ways to operate the entire worlds production and distribution system. Think about that… 98% of all current jobs are unnecessary and wasteful, many of these existing jobs are ones that people hate doing, and they only do them out of the fear that if they don’t do them they’ll starve. We live in a scarcity based system which means we have to artificially create scarcity in order create the abstract idea of the value of money.
A new system that would benefit everyone would be a system that is based on the reality of an abundance of free energy technologies and resources. If we simply measure the most effective and or energy efficient ways to operate the entire worlds production-distribution system without any kind of money-political interference. This kind of system would automatically solve most every crime against man and nature. If every citizen were guaranteed an abundance of what they required to sustain their lives from the cradle to the grave, then what psychological need would there be to hoard, or be greedy, or to waste our precious resources, or to commit any kind of crime against man and nature? Roughly 98% of ALL crimes would simply cease to exist, oh, 2% of all other crimes would remain and these are crimes of a pathological nature, unrelated to money.
This is precisely the scenario examined in greater detail in chapter 16 of “Unusual Perspectives” ( a free download from the website of the same name). Unfortunately the far less attractive, and perhaps only, alternative for our species is extinction. And, unless we learn to straighten up and fly right rather quickly, the latter seems very probable.
Only in a perfect world would everything be free. Although trial runs that would mock it could be accomplished successfully it would be very unlikely for an entire world to be re-designed to render a free society system unless you start from scratch.”We are Borg”.Human emotion destroys the free society system in every aspect.
There is a very different and more fundamental way of looking at this question, Ian.
It is based upon the proposition that, essentially, money equates to energy.
The case to be made for this is rather too long to be presented here but will be found in chapter 8 of “Unusual Perspectives: An Escape from Tunnel Vision” and, less exhaustively, in my later book “The Goldilocks Effect: What Has Serendipity Ever Done For Us?” ( both are free downloads in e-book formats from the “Unusual Perspectives” website)
If the Incas can make a complex society work without money, why not globally.
Hi Daniel: My view on this:
The Incas (like most other native people in the Americas) also lacked the wheel, the true arch, the cart, the plow, the potter’s wheel, the bellows, glass, iron, and stringed instruments – see e.g. http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/223/why-did-the-peoples-of-the-new-world-fail-to-invent-the-wheel
Yes, the Incas had a complex society, but there are many different levels at which society can operate. Money, like the wheel, the true arch, etc, enables greater innovation, productivity, and accomplishment.
Great to see there’s still life in this thread after 2 years! David – you are suggesting that money causes innovation. Can you demonstrate this? What’s the relationship between applied human ingenuity and innovation? And do you think that without money innovation would not occur? Ray Kurzweil seems to think that one level of technology leads to the next level by the logic and ability of the extant technology – would you disagree?
>you are suggesting that money causes innovation. Can you demonstrate this?
I’d say, instead, that financial innovation can enable other forms of innovation, by making more resources available to entrepreneurs, inventors, etc.
On the other hand, financial innovation can have big drawbacks, just as technological innovation can have big drawbacks. In both cases, wise governance and regulation is needed.
Will a post-Singularity society still have money? That’s too hard to predict. As the name implies, it’s not possible to see beyond the Singularity.
For a more practical question, is money still a net positive in what the Khannas have called the “Hybrid Age” that lies between now (the mainstream of the Information Age) and the onset of the Singularity? See https://dw2blog.com/2012/06/16/beyond-future-shock/
My answer to this is: probably. But it deserves serious discussion.
>Great to see there’s still life in this thread after 2 years
Even though the thread is two years old, the topic remains highly relevant – especially in the light of the developing crises in the banking and monetary sectors.
That’s one reason I’ve been keen to get the subject of “Futurist politics” back on the Humanity+ / London Futurist agenda. Hence the meeting scheduled for August 4th: http://www.meetup.com/London-Futurists/events/71179262/
An article which better examines the evolution and implementation of the wheel can be found here:
It is important, of course to make a distinction between the wheel and the roller. An axle being the key feature of the wheel.
A point missed in this article is that the axle has indeed evolved within the biological realm, providing the rotational motive power of the flagellum which is used by various microorganisms for propulsion. Also, for that matter, in the ATPase protein motor which is a feature of the cells of all living organisms.
So biology, like the meso-Americans, would seem to have had the capability to evolve a wheeled system of the kind with which we are familiar but was under no particular pressure to employ it. Horses for courses!
To return to the main thread, it is a mistake to think of money, per se, as a component of the various pressures that drive the evolution of society/technology. That role is played by commerce. Money merely being the only practical means of a universal implementation of barter. Furthermore, as discussed in chapter 8 of “Unusual Perspectives: An Escape From Tunnel Vision”, money ultimately equates, perhaps surprisingly, to gravitation.
My thoughts about a money-free world are simple; if everyone could get everything that they needed all of the time for free, excessively poor countries (Malawi, Chad etc.) would be relieved of their poverty, and actually find that they had a point to continue living, instead of leading a poor and miserable life. Think; it’s our fault that fellow human-beings are living that way! Everyone, no matter where they are, would be happy. As my ideal society, this is what I would have;
-Every member of the country would have some form of work to do; just as we have jobs for money now, the same work would be done for no money.
-The products, just as they are now, would be available to everyone, however a price would not be required.
-It would be government-regulated; if a person did not work for at least the amount of time they’ve been told that they must, then what is made available to them will be limited. However, the idea is that this rule should not be necessary, as everyone would be far more honest than they are now.
Lastly, wouldn’t it be lovely to get rid of those useless excuses for businessmen known as politicians?!
Eclectic thoughts on technologies, markets, innovation, openness, collaboration, disruption, risks, and solutions.