Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Post-Scarcity Economics

Tea, Earl Grey, Hot... is the line from Star Trek The Next Generation's Captain Picard ordering from a replicator, a device that constructs whatever your heart desires from nothing more then energy, energy to matter.  We're not there yet but we're getting closer and some European nations are struggling with or experimenting with what comes after, what happens when labor is no longer scarce and not provided by human beings.

Finland is experimenting with simply giving people $600 Euros a month, no strings attached.  Drawn randomly from the ranks of the unemployed part of the experiment is to see what these people will do, will they sit around scarfing Doritos and Mountain Dew while playing the latest version of Call of Duty (hmm, perhaps that's too American), or will they become productive contributing members of society.  In Switzerland last year they held, and rejected a referendum, to simply pay everyone in the country $2500 a month.

France expects to lose 3 million jobs in the next eight years to automation.  Since the turn of the century the US lost 5 million manufacturing jobs yet during that same time frame manufacturing grew by 17%.  The jobs didn't go to China, they went to robots.  What do we do with people whose economic productivity is replaced with automation?  Robots are estimated to currently perform about 10% of manufacturing and industrial tasks, that number is expected to rise to 25% by 2025.  From 1998 to 2012 the production of computers and electronics rose 829%, using 1998 worker productivity rates today would equate to over 20 million more jobs.

What would you do if all your needs were met?  Suppose for a second that your current lifestyle was maintained free of charge.  Your house, cars/transportation, food, communications, medical, entertainment all cost free.  Would you sit around on your ass or would you start a novel, take up painting, or do something else?

Would you hire this to clean your carpets?

 Actually I was eyeing one of these at Costco the other day for $400.

Associated Press


The Economics of Star Trek

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