Enough Already

I’ve been hearing the words post-scarcity economy a lot lately. Like any buzzword, there is a little bit of truth in it, but a lot of people don’t understand it. Though you can see some parts of a post-scarcity economy in the Western world – the reach does not go much further. A post-scarcity economy, which would lead to a post-scarcity society, is one in which scarcity – the finitude of materials is solved. People are able to get what they want to their hearts’ content.

If you do something ‘to your heart’s content’ you do it for as long as it makes you happy. ‘After quitting her job, Melissa was able to travel to her heart’s content.’

We wrote about how 3D printing is making everything from clothes to organic tissue a possibility. The technology could reduce production costs but it is still far away from doing what is written about in science fiction books. First, people will still have to buy the raw material which the 3D printers need and buying products is not a sign of post-scarcity.

A downside is the problem or disadvantage in an argument or debate. We can also use ‘upside’ as the opposite, but it isn’t used as much as downside. ‘The downside of going to Greece is the beaches are always full of people. The advantage is the flights are very cheap.’

Perhaps nanotechnology will bring this excess of goods, but even so it remains mostly speculation. The only area in which we do have a seemingly unlimited supply of products are cultural commodities – film, TV shows and music. Digitalization means that fewer people are paying for the cultural products they once spent a lot on. Admittedly, much of the consumption is illegal, but that doesn’t change the fact that today we have much greater access to culture. With these cultural products so easy to access, it could be that people don’t have a reason to earn money. This is one of the supposed downsides of a post-scarcity economy.

Even if there is a lot of cultural experience – or social experience as helped by computer technology, it represents very little of our economy. We may be more aware of the music, clothes, films, books and art we use. But the gadgets we use to watch YouTube or download music need some limited materials such as rare earths. Plus, the energy which fuels this hi-tech world is not going to last forever. And energy costs are going up.

One argument is that increasing automation will make these goods relatively cheaper. Then, the divide which sees many of these technological benefits limited to the developed world will spread. Maybe, but that will not eliminate scarcity. Even if tablets and downloads all become so cheap practically anyone can have them, it will not eliminate scarcity. Authentic experience – or what we call authentic experience – will become more important.

Many of these predictions are just that – predictions. But talking about post-scarcity economics may be a way to not think about the bigger global problems which seem impossible to solve. Yes, some people may have lost their motivation because of the plenty brought by technology. But it remains a small problem when 80% of the world live on less than $10 a day. For most, scarcity remains a real issue.

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Original article by Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team

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A buzzword is an important sounding word that usually doesn’t mean much but people use it to sound important.

People are talking a lot about a post-scarcity economy. Like any buzzword, there is a little bit of truth in it, but a lot of people don’t understand it. You can see some parts of a post-scarcity economy in the Western world but you can’t see it in poorer countries. A post-scarcity economy is one in which scarcity – the finitude of materials is solved. People are able to get whatever they want.

We wrote about how 3D printing is making everything from clothes to organic tissue a possibility. The technology could reduce production costs but it is still a long way from doing what is written about in science fiction books. First, people will still have to buy the raw material which the 3D printers need and buying products is not a sign of post-scarcity.

A downside is the problem or disadvantage in an argument or debate. We can also use ‘upside’ as the opposite, but it isn’t used as much as downside. ‘The downside of going to Greece is the beaches are always full of people. The advantage is the flights are very cheap.’

We do have a seemingly unlimited supply of cultural commodities – film, TV shows and music. Digitalization means that fewer people are buying the cultural products they once spent a lot on. Admittedly, much of the consumption is illegal, but that doesn’t change the fact that today we have much greater access to culture. With everyone able to have these cultural products, maybe people don’t have a reason to earn money. This is one of the supposed downsides of a post-scarcity economy.

Many scarce resources are used to create the world which allows us to watch YouTube channels or download music. The gadgets we use are made from some limited materials such as rare earths. One argument is that more automation will make these goods a little cheaper. Then, the divide which sees many of these technological benefits only for the developed world will spread. Maybe, but that will not end scarcity. If everyone can buy tablets and downloads, authentic experience will become more important.

Many of these predictions are just that – predictions. But talking about post-scarcity economics may be a way to not think about the bigger global problems which seem impossible. Yes, some people may have lost their motivation because of the plenty brought by technology. But it remains a small problem when 80% of the world live on less than $10 a day. For most, scarcity remains a real issue.

Original article by Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team

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If there is an element of truth in something, some part of it is true, but most of it probably isn’t.

I’ve been hearing the term post-scarcity economy quite a bit lately. The term has been used to describe various sci-fi entertainment, the reason unemployment may remain higher than it was for past generations and the general behavior of young people today. Like any buzzword, there is an element of truth and a great deal of misunderstanding. While some elements of a post-scarcity economy are evident in the Western world – the reach does not go much further.

If you do something ‘to your heart’s content’ you do it for as long as it makes you happy. ‘After quitting her job, Melissa was able to travel to her heart’s content.’

Let’s start with a definition. A post-scarcity economy, which would lead to a post-scarcity society, is one in which scarcity – the finitude of materials, or the practical finitude at least, is solved. People are able to obtain to their hearts’ content. Think of the matter replicator in Star Trek – it can create any inanimate object. While this remains deep in the realms of science fiction, we have already written about how 3D printing is making everything from clothes to organic tissue a possibility. The technology has the potential to reduce production costs but it is still quite far away from bringing the cornucopia imagined in fiction writers’ wildest imaginations. For a start, people will still have to buy the raw material which the 3D printers need and buying products is not a sign of post-scarcity.

Perhaps nanotechnology will bring this surfeit of goods, but even so it remains mostly speculation. The only area in which we do have a seemingly unlimited supply of products are cultural commodities – film, TV shows and music. Digitalization means that fewer people are paying for the cultural products they once spent a lot on. Admittedly, much of the consumption is illegal, but that doesn’t change the fact that today we have much greater access to culture. With these cultural products so easy to access, it could be that people lack the incentive to earn – which is one of the supposed downsides of a post-scarcity economy.

Within the bounds of cultural production, many artists today behave in ways predicted in discussions on post-scarcity. They often produce things as gifts – or accept small donations through platforms such as Subbable or Kickstarter. The motivation is less to earn a living and more as a means to display personal talent and skill, the one thing which will always remain scarce.

However, even if there is an abundance of cultural experience – or even social experience as facilitated by computer technology, it represents a small fraction of our economy. Sure, we may be more conscious about the music, clothes, films, books and art we consume, but a great many scarce resources are used to create the world which allows us to watch YouTube channels, download music or explore our own creativity. The gadgets we use are made from some finite materials such as rare earths. On top of that the energy which fuels this hi-tech world is not going to last forever. And energy costs are going up.

One argument is that increasing automation will make these goods relatively cheaper. Consequently, the divide which sees many of these technological benefits isolated to the developed world will spread. Perhaps – but that will not eliminate scarcity. Even if tablets and downloads all become so cheap practically anyone can have them, it will not eliminate scarcity. Authentic experience – or what we call authentic experience – will become rare and more valued. Whatever cannot be easily copied, whatever is genuinely unique, will become the preserve of the few. This exists today. Many of us have reprints of works of art on our walls because the originals are beyond our price range. But if we can soon copy anything, we may only push up the price of ‘the real’.

Admittedly, many of these predictions are just that – predictions. Trying to envisage the world of the future has a long history. But the discussion of post-scarcity economics may be a way to not deal with the broader global problems which seem insurmountable. Yes, a certain section of society have perhaps lost their motivation because of the plenty brought by technology. But it remains a narrow problem when 80% of the world live on less than $10 a day. For most, scarcity remains a real issue.

Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia

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