Post-Scarcity Fiction

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= overview of fictional approaches to Post-Scarcity or Abundance economics and societies


From the Wikipedia [1]:


"Fictional post-scarcity societies include such varied settings as the Bitchun Society from Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow, The Queendom of Sol in the same-named series by Wil McCarthy, "the Festival" from Singularity Sky by Charles Stross, and possibly the United Federation of Planets from the Star Trek series (although canon sources do not provide much detail about the Federation's economic system, and it has been suggested in sources such as the Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual that there are many items the replicators can't make duplicates of, including starships).

Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy describes the beginning development of a highly automated society whose economy was to be based on caloric input/output and had only a few materials valued based on their scarcity. However, the inherent problems of such a system (such as its remaining capitalist elements or the difficulty in fixing the worth of academic work) are not resolved within the timeframe depicted in the trilogy.

An intermediate step to a post-scarcity society is shown in Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age, where fabricator technology allows the growth of any item that one has design plans for - however, the poor receive a lesser amount of energy and resources per day to use, and thus have to wait longer for their items to be fabricated. Also, their items tend to be smaller, as they have no access to large-scale fabricators. This system, fueled by a centrally-distributed matter 'feed' is eventually replaced by the protean 'seed', which is able to take in raw materials from its environment to develop into whatever its program dictates. No longer bound to the aristocratically-controlled feeds, the society moves to a post-scarcity economy.

James P. Hogan has written several works where post-scarcity plays a major role. Voyage from Yesteryear details the society of the "Chironians", embryo colonists of Alpha Centauri who have adopted such a lifestyle. Cradle of Saturn and its sequel The Anguished Dawn is mostly told from the perspective of the "Kronians", a pseudo-religion who colonize Saturn's largest satellite in the process of developing such a society. Both stories are driven by the difficulties of changing an existing economic paradigm, and postulate that a fresh start may be necessary to overcome old thinking about money and possessions.

Rudy Rucker also dealt with this jarring transition in Realware in which humans receive an alien device that can instantiate any consumer product they have seen. This leads to a breakdown of the market, with stores blacking out their windows in a vain attempt to prevent people from 'copying' their products. Still, people who do buy the products find them instantly copied once out on the streets.

Iain M. Banks' The Culture stories center around an advanced spacefaring civilization that has used artificial intelligences to provide extremely abundant (and in daily practice unlimited) amounts of goods and services using advanced technology, describing a fully post scarcity society, which also attempts to influence other galactic societies towards the advanced cultural stage that freedom from greed and material need has allowed it." (


"There have also been fully dystopian science fiction societies where all people's physical needs are provided for by machines, but this causes humans to become overly docile, uncreative and incurious. Examples include E. M. Forster's 1909 short story The Machine Stops and Arthur C. Clarke's 1956 novel The City and the Stars. "Riders of the Purple Wage", Philip José Farmer's dystopian 1967 science fiction novella also explores some ramifications of a future wherein technology allows everyone's desires to be met. In Stanislaw Lem's Cyberiad, a central motif is unbounded progress of technology. In The Highest Possible Level of Development civilization, the inhabitants have become passive, and the visitors have to shoo away machines trying to comfort them. In H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, the Time Traveller speculates, based on the Eloi, that mankind had been "armed with a perfected science" which reduced all dangers in nature, epitomised by the quote: "Strength is the outcome of need".

The recent Pixar film WALL-E can be argued to include an example of a post-scarcity dystopia." (