[p2p-research] Artificial Scarcity Is Subject To Massive Deflation | Techdirt

Paul D. Fernhout pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com
Thu Nov 5 23:58:00 CET 2009

Ryan Lanham wrote:
> On Thu, Nov 5, 2009 at 1:59 PM, Kevin Carson <
> free.market.anticapitalist at gmail.com> wrote:
>> As people
>> are able to meet present needs outside the cash nexus, with less
>> labor, they won't discover enough new needs to keep working the same
>> number of hours to buy additional kinds of stuff; they'll just work
>> less.
> I still tend to think there is infinite elasticity of demand for high end
> services--restaurant food for instance-
 > -but I even begin to see how that could wane.

On waning demand for services, how many meals can you eat in one day? How 
many times a year do you want someone else to clean your teeth really well? 
And so on.

Besides, someone cooks me a pizza every day (me :-) thought I get it premade 
frozen from Amy's. Sure, that is a service in a sense (or is that lumped 
under manufacturing?). But it is already pretty streamlined, though no doubt 
it could be more automated.
Still, I think about all those nice people making the pizzas I eat and I am 
thankful they are doing such a great job (the Pesto ones are especially 
good, I feel).

I'm not sure I would be that much happier going out every day to get a 
pizza. I consider watching poor young people struggling to make ends meet as 
a waiter or waitress and trying to be polite to obnoxious wealthier people 
to be an unpleasant experience to be avoided. Not to mention almost all 
restaurants serve food that is not organically grown, especially the meat. 
Still, no doubt, many people work at Amy's who'd rather be doing something 
else. A basic income for everyone would help me enjoy my pizzas more, 
knowing the people who were making them had the choice to stay home with 
their kids.

I went to a dental hygienist today (every six months), and while a nice 
person, if I had better home teeth cleaning equipment, I'd probably be 
willing to avoid that experience too. :-)

In any case, there is a huge difference between very large potential demand 
and infinite demand. And even if demand is potentially infinite, if demand 
grows more slowly than supply, it is still effectively limited.

> But the point is clearly taken on stuff.  There is a clear
> moral shift on climate change that is also impacting this discussion.  It is
> no longer fashionable to be a conspicuous consumer.

Yes, that is a very important trend that you would think economists would 
have been thinking about since Duane Elgin wrote "Voluntary Simplicity" 
around 1993 (or even way back to the 1960s and Drop City etc.).

I looked at this Wikipedia entry (something Nathan has been talking about 
and read:
However even a person drinking water from a good stream at his doorstep must 
"spend" labour to gain this value, at least if this action is relevant to 
economics. ... In the example of a person going to a stream at his doorstep, 
if this is a pleasant activity, it is not labour. If it is not pleasant it 
could be relevant to economics because, for example, the house could be 
built closer to the stream, plumbing could be installed, a person could be 
employed to fetch water, or investment in a better path to the water might 
be worth considering.

And I suddenly realized something. Only "unpleasant" things can be related 
to economics? The problem is worse than economics being the science of 
decisions under scarcity (and so "abundance" is not discussed). Economists 
as "disciplined minds" can't even talk or think about the alternative to 
things being unpleasantly under their discipline (at least, not in a 
coherent way that won't get them fired). So, the idea of making getting 
water be *fun* doesn't fit with that model of life and "economics". So, 
*economists* have no incentive to make things in life fun, because they know 
it would take away their power over everyone (or at least get them fired 
from their six figure senior faculty positions, even with tenure). So, Bob 
Black and Charles Fourier must be ignored into oblivion:

Would it be going to far to then say that economics is the discipline of 
torture? :-( That is, is economics a "discipline" about constructing systems 
that control what sorts of unpleasantness are delivered to whom on what 
schedule for what ideological reasons? And anything that is not unpleasant 
is not part of "economics"? Because that's sure what that article implies.

> The way I thought this would work has been tied to technology acceleration.
> I've always wondered...what happens when you build the best possible diesel
> locomotive and then start finding ways to make it cheaper and cheaper.  In a
> sense, the IP can go on for a while, but the relative value of the IP is the
> question.  The marginal value (utility) of IP is clearly falling as
> technology accelerates.

Value to whom? Maybe not to the user? Maybe only to the rent seeker?

If there was a basic income, would so many people be driven to rent seeking?

> It is difficult to build a better X now, and the rent value of an X (say an
> email system) will fall over time as technology improves in related
> domains.  It begins to become an interesting question to ask what if all
> corporate information services came from Google?  Would that be a license
> for corruption or the advent of the free economy?  Leading pundits are
> saying both things.

Yes, interesting points. But, as I've pointed out before, in about twenty to 
thirty years, people will be throwing out laptops with around a Google's 
worth of computing power to get something new, given Moore's law and an 
expected increase in computing power per unit cost of (with accelerating 
acceleration) about a million times more power. As Eric Schmidt said, 
lowballing it IMHO, every five years is a factor of ten in computing power 
increase for a fixed cost, so ten years in 10 * 10, fifteen years, 10 * 10 * 
10, and twenty years 10 * 10 * 10 * 10 = 10,000, and another ten years of 
that brings us up to one million times (probably by multi-processing). There 
may be difficulties along the way, but at least for two decades, people 
don't see much reason these trends will stop. So, all sorts of things will 
change. Most services revolve around applying intelligence or doing careful 
manipulations of objects. Almost all that will be doable by machine soon, 
and even if it is not, enough will be doable, and much of the rest can be 
reengineered to not be so important.

In college, I heard from someone taking a communications class about how the 
heroes in fiction always win because they have better communications.  :-)
Probably not true, and I'd add there is a lot to be said for organizations 
where people are not continually infighting and stabbing each other in the 
back, but the value of communications is a nice sentiment. And, so that is 
part of the value of p2p, to reign in global supervillians creating 
artificial scarcity. :-)

> Personally I cannot reconcile the IP world's obvious changes with changes to
> the service world.  I suppose robotics makes that leap.  What is the value
> of a French restaurant if my robot cooks a perfect French meal on
> demand--after going shopping for the necessary ingredients at the optimal
> prices?

Or, what if the robots just grow the food directly?

> As a recent strong skeptic, I am prepared to say something is definitely
> afoot and that it is accelerating.  I didn't see the beginnings of it as
> many here did, but I am clearly impressed that the outlines of the thing
> people here have been calling "post-scarcity" is starting to take real
> shape.  For the first time in some years, a logical economic progression
> toward something is beginning to emerge in my own mind...the last time this
> happened was about 1984 when the first Macintoshes fell into my hands and I
> realized computing was going to become ubiquitous and commonplace.  Now with
> that obviously in hand some 25 years later, I can now see a path to widely
> deployed post-scarcity 25 years from now.  I share strongly the balance
> concern that Reasons cited about value decay of productivity versus market
> force needs.  It could still end very badly.  Maybe today I am less
> pessimistic though.

Ah, my evil plan is finally taking shape. :-) First, brainwash Ryan; 
tomorrow, brainwash the world. :-) Muahahahaha! :-)

I saw my big chance when I realized most of the USA was vitamin D deficient
and thus susceptible to mind control in their weakened mental state.

Step by step, I have been following the instructions here, and they are 
starting to pay off:
Superheroes. Don't you just hate them? Goody-two-shoes, namby-pamby 
do-gooders the lot of them. Chiselled of jawline, rippling of 6-pack, and 
shiny white of teeth, they really do grind you down, right? And as for the 
superheroines - ridiculously hot women you don't stand a chance with, the 
lot of 'em. Someone needs to take them all down a peg or two.
   And while we're about it, isn't the world badly run today? Not enough 
people trampled under the jackboot of evil, despite some notable efforts? 
Too much effort expended on trying to save the Madagascan Rain Forests, and 
not enough spent building Volcano Fortress Lairs and Laser Death Rays? 
People not giving you the respect you deserve?
   What if there were a way you could do something about both of these 
problems? A way that you could rise up, overthrow the system, stamp your 
mark on the world for good, get a really cool nickname, and as a bonus 
side-effect, increase your chances with the ladies?
   Well, you could always try running for president, but that doesn't do 
much in the "cool nickname" stakes. You could just forget about it, get a 
nine-to-five job and just piss your boss off by doing as little as humanly 
possible while not getting sacked, but you have grander dreams, do you not?
   In short - you, my friend, are ideal Supervillain material, and we are 
going to show you how to make your evil rise to dominance!

Now, all I have to do is register the domain artificialscarcity.com, and my 
evil plans for world domination -- through subtle mind controlling media and 
self-replicating evolving robotic systems all launched via internet 
downloads to create artificial scarcity -- will be ready to set into 
motion... Just like I saw detailed here:
   "The Future Soon"

Drat, the domain name is already taken! :-)

Curses, foiled again! :-)

Probably my plans were anticipated by some other evil supervillian, or 
worse, maybe even by some goody-two-shoes! :-)

Back to being a code monkey, I guess. :-)
   "Code Monkey"

Maybe these people can help rehabilitate me now that I have been brought 
down, into a more senior position than code monkey? :-)
The Society for the Intervention and Rehabilitation of Supervillains, known 
by its acronym SIRS, is an official organization dedicated to helping 
recently defeated supervillains become productive members of society, so 
that their skills of planning, initiative, management, research, and 
maddeningly brilliant organ playing would not go to waste in prisons. Since 
villains are routinely defeated by heroes despite all efforts to the 
contrary, SIRS quickly grew to an international organization within only a 
few short years of its founding in 1941. Since its inception, it has 
rehabilitated many villains where they often find successful work as 
executives, heads of research, and architects.

--Paul Fernhout

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