You Are Panem’s Capitol

A reporter asked me how the world would be different if people took a year of leisure after each seven years of work, instead of retiring at 65, as I suggested in Why Retire? I guessed that young people would have more interesting stories to tell about what they did with their year off. More interesting at least than the typical retiree story of another year of golfing or organizing photo albums. As people get older they get more comfortable with set patterns, and less eager for adventure.

This might be good for their near needs, but less fits our far ideals about how we should live our lives. This is also probably why people tend to like marriage more than you might think from their youthful inclinations.

I thought of this while watching The Hunger Games. The book and movie express a strong sincere class and urban/rural envy and hatred. People from the heroine’s poor starving coal-mining District 12 are not allowed to leave or choose their laws, and are forcibly humiliated by the Capitol region, where folks live in lazy shallow luxury.

You might think this echoes your 99%er hatred of the 1%, but not only is the anti-urban-elite element strong here, on a cosmic scale you are more like Panem’s Capitol than District 12. Because unless humanity creates a strong permanent central government to control fertility, far future folk will return to very slow growth, and thus to near subsistence incomes. And you might consider what this vast horde will think of your rich ways.

Yes, you didn’t choose to live now, and you may have a right to spend your wealth any way you want. But future folk may have a right to hate or despise you, if they think you have mostly squandered the gift of living in our rare age of luxury. District 12 folks despise Capitol folk not just because their riches seem stolen, but also because they seem weak, shallow, selfish, and self-indulgent, with little sense of or contribution to larger possibilities. Future folk may think the same about you.

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  • Poelmo

    “Because unless humanity creates a strong permanent central government to control fertility, far future folk will return to very slow growth, and thus to near subsistence incomes.”

    I don’t understand this part? Is Robin saying population growth is out of control causing shortages in the future, or is he saying that population growth is too slow and that somehow causing slow economic growth in the future? Both views would be wrong: the first because global population growth is actually slowing down because more people have access to contraception and the second would be wrong because technology can also fuel growth (besides, if our economic system would require perpetual population growth then it’s the economic system we should do something about, not fertility).

    • Randaly

      Poelmo, you’re thinking too short-term. Lower fertility groups are due to cultural factors and tech; groups (eg the Amish- who, IIRC, have a fertility rate of 6.2 children/couple) that are able to resist these factors will inevitably grow to such a large fraction of the population as they out-breed lower fertility groups, that their high fertility rates represent the primary influence on world fertility rates.

      (Also, if you take a somewhat longer time scale (eg hundreds of thousands of years), it’s reasonably likely that there will be a fair amount of genetic selection for increased fertility and resistance to low-fertility memes; 100,000’s of years is indeed the far future, but (hopefully) not a huge fraction of the future lifetime of mankind.)

      For more details, see his paper “Burning the Cosmic Commons”:

      http://hanson.gmu.edu/filluniv.pdf

      • Poelmo

        Alright, now I see where he’s coming from. I have two objections however: 1) if things really get that bad we probably will just end up controlling fertility, like China today, and people would be fine with it, knowing the alternative 2) I think it’s more likely groups like the Amish will disappear (or remain very small because most of their children will go “mainstream” on them), that or the world be destroyed by war if such religious fanatics outbreed the rest of us.

      • Poelmo

        P.S. conforming to the rules of your zealot family (staying and getting lots of kids just like them) because otherwise they threaten to cut off contact and throw you in the deep end of “the outside world”, does not equal being genetically predisposed to not wanting to use contraception.

      • http://don.geddis.org/ Don Geddis

        Poelmo said: “if things really get that bad we probably will just end up controlling fertility”.

        Is that not what Robin already said? Re-read his original post, and notice: “unless humanity creates a strong permanent central government to control fertility”

        The likelihood of that scenario is at the heart of the issue. Most of Robin’s post assumes that central fertility control fails.

      • Poelmo

        P.S. 2

        It’s also possible humanity will become split between zealots and everyone else. With these two groups taking different planets. Living conditions would be appalling on zealot planets and their technology would stagnate, but the other planets could prosper and continue to advance technologically, allowing them to keep the zealots away.

      • Andy

        Historically fertility rates have changed dramatically over significantly shorter periods, so it seems questionable to assume that we can project them over anything longer than a generation or two.

      • Thomas Jørgensen

        That is not how the world works – if the fertility rates of social subgroupings of society had anything to do whatsoever with the future composition of society, then the “universal high religion, high fertility” setup of the quite recent past would have been perfectly stable. Which obviously was not the case. Conversion is the dominant factor in which worldviews are popular and this has ever been so. Confucianism (and communism) in China, the christianization of rome, The spread of islam, the reconquest of Spain, the enlightenment.. Population displacement was not a factor in any of them, Conversion by persuasion or force was.
        And long term genetic drift will simply not happen – on that timescale, the only selective pressure that matters is that of the future fashions in genetic engineering, because evolution is very slow and technology is very fast.

      • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

        An Amish-like fertility rate is not sustainable long term with Amish-like technology.

        Fertilizer is required to maintain soil fertility, fertilizer requires ammonia synthesis, mining of phosphates and potassium salts.

        Maintaining a medical infrastructure of vaccines, pharmaceuticals, doctors, hospitals is not possible with Amish-like technology.

        At some point either the Amish accept and become part of the technological society required to sustain them, or the death rate will increase to match the birth rate and the average birthrate will go back to 2.

      • Randaly

        @ Poelmo, first post: Well, maybe. But it’s highly unlikely that *every* nation would simultaneously chose to limit fertility (or alternately, that there’s a world government by this point.) As long as there’s any competition, in the long run an evolution-like mechanism will select for fertility rates.

        And, I believe Hanson is assuming interstellar colonization within a few centuries. (Before what I, at least, would consider to be the “far future”.)

        @ Poelmo, post 2: I’m not claiming that there is *currently* a genetic predisposition to higher fertility among these groups- just that one will eventually evolve. (Naturally- since we all agree that people are having fewer kids than they could support due to memetic reasons, and so any change that leads to more kids will increase fitness and eventually spread throughout the human population.)

        @ Andy and Thomas: We can reliably expect the (sufficiently distant) future to broadly look like the past, ie a return to evolutionary competition.

        (Barring out various other factors, like the emergence of a singleton, which Robin explicitly ruled out in the post.)

        (Note, eg, Robin’s argument that we are living in a “dream time”)

        @ Daedalus: Yes, the Amish were only an example. See also, eg the Mormons- Utah has the highest fertility rate in the US. The point is that, as long as there is any variation, the higher fertility/fitness will be selected for.

      • KPres

        “…Living conditions would be appalling on [religious] zealot planets…”

        Materially? Possibly, since presumably they’d spend less energy on that sort of thing and more energy on their religious zealotry.

        Of course, they might be happier despite that, given that religious participation is persistently and positively correlated with life-satisfaction.

  • Andy

    Even if you assume near zero growth, people in the future could still be fantastically wealthier than we are. Imagine that you have Star Trek’s replicator and holodeck. You can now experience anything you want and obtain any good you want instantly for free. Even if you can’t improve on that it’s still pretty nice, no?

    • Poelmo

      Precisely, with energy accounting no economic growth is required to maintain prosperity for all. Capitalism requires perpetual growth but there are alternatives to capitalism. I cringe at the idea of humanity not having progressed past capitalism when it colonizes the galaxy. We would be nothing more than a highly volatile virus, a brbaric, greedy horde banging at the doors of more evolved civilizations, and all kinds of dystopian scenarios, like the ones Robin describes, would indeed become a reality.

      • Jayson Virissimo

        In what way does capitalism require perpetual growth?

      • Poelmo

        @Jayson Virissimo

        “In what way does capitalism require perpetual growth?”

        Because unless bankers started showering the poor with cash periodically, loans could not be repaid without someone getting poorer.

      • roystgnr

        Note that, for the purposes of Poelmo’s accounting, bankers spending their profits counts as “showering the poor with cash”.

      • KPres

        “Because unless bankers started showering the poor with cash periodically, loans could not be repaid without someone getting poorer.”

        Uh, if there’s no economic growth, why is anybody borrowing money? You just live off your income.

        Of course, this line of reasoning requires an ultra-static economy is a reductio ad absurdum, because while there may not be GROWTH, per se, there will always be CHANGE, and change brings opportunities for investment, even if you’re gain is necessarily somebody else’s loss. And this brings income mobility, as capital owners who invest poorly are replaced by laborers who have saved and invested wisely.

        I don’t see why there’s a problem for capitalism at all.

    • brian huntington

      A “holodeck” still requires energy, and some form of intelligence to create scenarios. And I’m not sure how “replicators” were supposed to work in star trek, but they would still require matter and energy, (as well as intelligence, to design the objects) to work, and could therefore never be truly free.

      And those resources of energy and matter are finite, and our reproductive capacity is infinite…. Eventually unless a universal central government is created (pretty hard to do in the vastness of space), malthusian pressures will limit the amount of energy and matter per capita to near-subsistence levels.

      • Poelmo

        Energy credits and real estate credits would exist to ration goods. Their distribution would be either completely egalitarian or based on merit (as decided by an elected government). If a lack of communication between distant planets makes a central government impossible then it will also make the exchange of people and resources between those planets impossible, in other words: no central government would be needed in the first place because one planetary system’s troubles would never spill over to other systems.

        Because there would be no banks or rich people who only invest in things they’ll make a profit on, no economic growth would be required to sustain “business as usual”.

      • Dremora

        Eventually unless a universal central government is created (pretty hard to do in the vastness of space), malthusian pressures will limit the amount of energy and matter per capita to near-subsistence levels.

        The vastness of space would be irrelevant if defending local clusters – such as a solar system – turned out significantly easier than attacking them, and central government per cluster worked out fine. I think reproduction control is more about willingness to coordinate than feasibility, and central government can be interpreted as central per easily defensible organizational unit/location only. This circumvents the need for interstellar coordination while enabling the maintaince of local equilibria above subsistence per capita.

      • roystgnr

        It would also be sufficient if teams of local clusters coordinated to defend themselves from attack. In such a scenario “clusters” could be as small as individual families protecting themselves within a large polity that strongly respects property rights. Malthusian breeding becomes much a less optimal strategy if your grandkids can’t count on taking the non-Malthusian-breeders’ stuff to avoid starving to death.

      • Poelmo

        They wouldn’t be bankers if they spend all of their income on goods and services provided by the poor. Bankers and other investors spend a small percentage of their income on goods and services and lend the rest and they want to keep making bigger profits on their investments (the working classes work for a meal and are content if that meal is the same size it was last year, investors want a bigger meal every time). In a zero-growth scenario lending money with interest would result in the investors controlling an ever increasing share of the money and of the goods and services.

        Essentially nobody could increase their possessions without taking something away from someone else. A system using gold bars or barter among working villagers could still work but it wouldn’t exactly be capitalism because their would be no such thing as interest or investment.

      • Poelmo

        Note: I’m not saying a zero-growth capitalist could not exist, it just wouldn’t “work” because the majority of the population would be dirt poor.

      • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

        Poelmo, please see the About page for rules about comment frequency. (If you’d given a valid email I’d have said this that way.)

      • Poelmo

        @Robin Hanson

        It is a valid e-mail address. If my comment frequency breaks the rules I will, of course, comment less often.

      • KPres

        “Note: I’m not saying a zero-growth capitalist could not exist, it just wouldn’t “work” because the majority of the population would be dirt poor.”

        Why? Production would still require labor and labor would still be scarce. So why would the price of labor be affected at all? Why would anybody be poorer than they would be in a growing economy?

      • KPres

        “A system using gold bars or barter among working villagers could still work but it wouldn’t exactly be capitalism because their would be no such thing as interest or investment.”

        Look, this is just Marxist nonsense. So long as there’s a time delay in the production cycle and depreciation of assets, you’re going to need interest and investment. Period. The growth rate is not relevant.

      • KPres

        “…the working classes work for a meal and are content if that meal is the same size it was last year, investors want a bigger meal every time…”

        You haven’t really thought about any of this at all, have you?

  • Shawn

    I think the main reason, at least for the male work patterns, is because we want to get laid, ideally with quality women. The quality (i.e. hot, smart) women tend to be really into hypergamy. If a guy doesn’t have the money she won’t be interested. That’s all there is to it. Also normal healthy guys want to be able to support a family. Employers won’t hire someone with a resume with a bunch of year-long holes in it.

    • Poelmo

      The retiring part was a bit off-topic here, but you’re partly right. I think there’s a more important reason for people not trading in retirement for sabbaticals: namely that working at age 80 really, really sucks, unless of course you belong to that tiny minority of college professors, like Mr. Hanson. He seems to forget there are still a lot more bricklayers and gardeners than college professors out there…

  • http://muwgumpery.com Dave92F1

    Because unless humanity creates a strong permanent central government to control fertility, far future folk will return to very slow growth, and thus to near subsistence incomes.

    I’m not sure why it needs to be central (or even what that would mean in a relativistic universe once the we’ve spread to other stars).

    But otherwise the argument is strong and depressing.

    And yet…

    Optimism is a duty. The future is open. It is not predetermined. No one can predict it, except by chance. We all contribute to determining it by what we do. We are all equally responsible for its success.

    –Karl Popper

  • asdf

    Taking a year off every seven years would dramatically set back your career.

    • Poelmo

      Unless everyone does it… But I’m still convinced people would rather retire because they fear they won’t physically be able to do their jobs until the day they die.

      • John

        If ‘everyone’ does it then the few who don’t will have an advantage.

    • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

      Only when there is a high discount rate. If interest rates and discount rates are negligible, why does a year off affect anything?

      If economic wealth is based on seniority (which it would be if we retain a legacy wealth system), then the youngest entities would also be the poorest, but also the most numerous. If the economy becomes unable to support the more numerous, they will revolt and change the economic system.

      Those with legacy wealth will only be able to co-opt sufficient members of the more numerous group to stave off reform of the economic system if they can offer sufficient incentives to them.

      If people are effectively immortal, there can never be sufficient positive incentives, the incentives can only be negative, fear of being killed. Then the more numerous poor have no incentive at all to not bring down the economic system.

      The economy has to become essentially egalitarian or it will not persist.

    • KPres

      “Taking a year off every seven years would dramatically set back your career.”

      If true, that implies that taking a year off makes you less productive, in which case all you’d need to do is be willing to sacrifice an offsetting wage/salary demand. It might be worth it if it increases your life satisfaction, as Robert is claiming.

      If the opposite is true, and taking a year off every seven makes you MORE productive, then of course the businesses will want to implement the strategy themselves.

  • Hansenista

    How does slow population growth imply low incomes? That doesn’t seem at all obvious to me, and in fact the correlation is largely the other way, when comparing countries in the present day.

    • Poelmo

      Without technological advances real economic growth (as in there being more goods and services in circulation, meaning GDP growth higher than inflation) can only come from increased resource consumption. Population growth forces increased resource consumption in some areas (the bare necessities) and facilitates overall resource consumption by increasing the labor force. Without population growth or technological advances resource consumption barely increases, except when unemployment goes down (but that’s always temporary because unemployment can’t go below zero). Of course technological advances will take place but they can’t be forced all the time, and growth would still be slower compared to an economy where the same technological advances are taking place but where the population does grow. Zero economic growth is a problem in capitalism because it stifles investment and makes the economy a zero sum game where the rich get richer at the expense of the poor.

      • roystgnr

        This is obviously incorrect, because with the exceptions of a few short-lived patents and a few mostly-irrelevant trade secrets, the technological advances enjoyed by the most advanced first-world nations are available in published accounts for the least advanced and most impoverished to read. For a few examples, North Korea, East Germany, China-outside-Hong-Kong-and-Taiwan, etc. weren’t relatively impoverished because of accidents of geographical resource distribution or by lack of technology, but rather because of foolishly trying to put “OMG capitalism evil!1!!” into practice instread of just into manifestos.

      • Poelmo

        What exactly do communists have to do with this?

      • KPres

        Uhhh…..how do the rich get richer if there’s no investment? So long as the markets are competitive, capital owners can’t increase their profit margins. Ceteris paribus, a zero growth economy is just that. Distribution is unaffected, although you’d still presumably have upward and downward mobility.

  • richard silliker

    “Because unless humanity creates a strong permanent central government to control fertility, far future folk will return to very slow growth, and thus to near subsistence incomes. And you might consider what this vast horde will think of your rich ways.”

    Seems to me that if population growth is slowed there will be a lack of vast hordes.

  • Abelard Lindsey

    Why would the population continue to grow when we do reach the ultimate limits to growth? We already see a dramatic slow-down in birthrates around the world. Even the Muslim world birthrates are declining (Spengler wrote a book about this last year).

    Of course, the universe has a finite size, thus implying a finite limit to growth. However, I see no reason why the far-future people cannot be much wealthier than we are today (or will be, say, 10,000 years from now).

    District 12 folks despise Capitol folk not just because their riches seem stolen, but also because they seem weak, shallow, selfish, and self-indulgent, with little sense of or contribution to larger possibilities. Future folk may think the same about you.

    What larger possibilities? You just said they will be at the ultimate limits to growth. If this is true, then there are no larger possibilities at all. At least not from their perspective.

    • KPres

      Bingo. As resources are depleted and become more scarce, the cost of raising children increases. The incentive is then to have fewer children. The population levels off. Not that hard.

  • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

    Robin’s older post on why population growth will lead to declining living standards (though as a total-utility utilitarian he views it as a good outcome)

    Regarding revolt, deprivation theory is wrong. I’d say North Koreans are the most deprived people on earth, yet the system persists beyond that of the far superior Tunisian regime.

    I think one could construct a steady-state model of the economy which still had banks/interests, but since I’m not an economist I won’t build one. Maybe something like Nick Rowe’s story about inter-generational debt.

    • Poelmo

      North Korea is taking precautions to prevent uprisings: they have such a closed communication system that they are able to fool citizens into thinking the rest of the world has it even worse and people need permits to move outside their district so multiple districts can’t band together in an uprising. Still, it’s only a matter of time before their will be an uprising strong enough to collapse the central government.

  • Kevn Harris

    Maybe the districts don’t hate the capital for their shallow ways as much as for the fact that the ruling regime requires them to sacrifice 2 children every year …

  • http://www.joachimschipper.nl/ Joachim Schipper

    Your blog readers do live a privileged life, but why invoke far-future EMs over, say, the more salient 80% of the world living on <$10/day?

    (Speaking of which: time to do something useful.)

    • Poelmo

      Imagine that.

      “Lowly peons, don’t complain about having to work harder for less, be content with what you have and STFU because you still have 10 times more than people in Africa.

      Signed:

      The people who have 1000 times more than people in Africa, are robbing both you and the Africans blind and still want more tax cuts.”

      It’s like the medieval catholic church asking the poor to donate to the church for charity and then using the donations to buy golden statues and hold feasts for the cardinals.

      “Practice what you preach” and “lead by example” come to mind here.

  • Poelmo

    @Kpres

    “Of course, they might be happier despite that, given that religious participation is persistently and positively correlated with life-satisfaction.”

    Maybe, I doubt it, but maybe. It doesn’t matter much though for my point which was that in the off chance these populations would continue to grow the other populations would just keep them away from the more sparsely populated worlds.

    “Bingo. As resources are depleted and become more scarce [...]“

    Yes, of course having less children is the more rational thing to do, however Robin believes people will increasingly ignore this based on religious belief or genetic predisposition (whatever that means). He does not deny that is irrational.

    As to the zero growth economy: people would most likely still borrow to buy houses and such and that would make the rich richer and the poor poorer. It’s possible people get rid of loans all together and go live like people in a medieval village did: living off their wages, with no banking or speculation (yes people would pay for upkeep of their own business, but you know damn well that’s not what I meant by investment and it’s something that also occurs in communism or energy accounting, meaning it doesn’t imply capitalism). But that would not be capitalism anymore (no long term accumulation of capital). It’s also possible the economy will be based on communism or energy accounting.

    If people maintain a capitalist system then there will be, as you admit, “social mobility” and that will mean the rich getting richer at the expense of the poor because people who started out richer will have a huge advantage. In the long term (and on average) billionaires just won’t lose their riches to cleverly investing workers, and there won’t be an equilibrium either, it never worked that way, it doesn’t work that way and it never will work that way, it’s just not gonna happen.

  • Poelmo

    @Randaly

    Actually I believe it is very likely their will be global (or interstellar) government within a few centuries.

    If not then the non-zealot nations (or planets) will at least band together (they are sustainable and therefore not in competition) and likely have the military prowess to keep the the zealot nations (or planets) contained (the zealots are in direct competition over scarce resources with each other, and have religious disputes so they won’t band together and won’t prioritize funding technology).

    Of course I don’t believe in huge zealot populations in the future. I think most Amish, Mormons, etc… will eventually be “converted” to modern society and that this will keep happening to new generations.

    It is also doubtful evolution always selects for the most fertile specimens. If it did humans would lay thousands of eggs like fish. This might seem illogical but it really isn’t: populations that are sustainable or put more energy into raising fewer offspring are often more succesful because the highly fertile populations destroy or decimate themselves time and again. After a long time the less fertile population may actually be larger (this is the case with humans today) and therefore its genes become dominant. Only when the highly fertile populations get to leech off the resources and stability of the less fertile population will the highly fertile population’s genes become dominant. It is precisely this assumption that I contest: if Utah remains Mormon this will cause strife in the future and either Utah will withdraw (or be kicked out) from the Untied States (or its successor state) or the Mormons will leave (or be kicked out) for their own nation or planet. Then the sustainable nations (or planets) will contain the Mormons so they can’t destroy global (or galactic) prosperity.

  • https://sites.google.com/site/themattprather Matt Prather

    On a cosmic scale you are more like Panem’s Capitol than District 12. Because unless humanity creates a strong permanent central government to control fertility, far future folk will return to very slow growth, and thus to near subsistence incomes.

    We are indeed more like Panem’s Capitol than District 12. This is abundantly clear and true.

    But it’s hard to conceive and then articulate a response that describes the many ways your many implicit, erroneous assumptions have led you to the rest of this conclusion. Plus, I think you have a word or character limit on the replies that people can make.

    Plus it wouldn’t help even if I did fully research and then articulate which inferences about what implicit assumptions are behind the explicit (explicit elsewhere in your writings) assumptions that lead you this statement are wrong. Truth in such response would be overlooked or downplayed, and errors and falsities seized and harped upon.

    I’ll just give a short contradiction and move on. No need to even worry about refuting me or my implicit assumptions. I know I’m refutable in anyone’s mind. And that’s not because I or anyone else is officially an idiot. It’s because we have not overcome bias. For all the smart, “cognitive elite” people I see posting and commenting here, I still see hidden bias in too many of them — the most biased are the ones who would admit it least.

    The need for technological progress and “growth” on the course we took through the 20th century, to where we are now, and then on to the directions Western experts generally conceive that we will probably go is imaginary, not imperative.

    Modern science — for all its objectivity, rationality, and certainty — is tainted and shackled by initial assumptions and even human subjectivity. So many experts with status and reward today who feel reasonably sure of so many things are actually in no different a position than Euclidean geometers of the past — they think that parallel lines can never intersect, having forgotten that their academic knowledge was merely predicated on the assumption that parallel lines can never intersect.

    I take strong issue with the axiomatic “imperatives” of our Western civilization, which modern experts don’t realize are merely arbitrary and subjective, and which lead them to such conclusions as that only a strong, permanent central government must control fertility in order to have a pleasant future.

    I hope to identify such assumptions and articulate alternatives, some distant day, even as I think and feel them every present day.

  • Evan

    District 12 folks despise Capitol folk not just because their riches seem stolen, but also because they seem weak, shallow, selfish, and self-indulgent, with little sense of or contribution to larger possibilities.

    It seems to me that it would be the Malthusian ems of the future who are more like that then the people of today. A person of today, even if they spend their lives in a generally monotonous existence, generates positive pecuniary externalities, overall. The work they do increases the availability of goods and services, lowering their price. Their existence, on average, makes everyone else better off. This is evidenced by the fact that the average person is far wealthier, and has an income far higher above subsistence, than does the average person of the Middle Ages.

    By contrast the Malthusian brain emulators of the future will generate negative pecuniary externalities for the overall population. The work they do might make a few people richer, like the investors who loaned their em clan money to make yet another em. But because they live in a Malthusian world their work will not increase the availability of goods and services for others. Instead it will make those goods and services more expensive for everyone. Their existence, on average, will make everyone else worse off.

    People of today, even if they do not accomplish much more personally than being an office drone, benefit many others by their existence and make at worst only a select people few worse off. Malthusian ems harm many others by their existence and make at best only a select few people better off. Which existence seems “self-indulgent, with little sense of or contribution to larger possibilities” to you. (If ems were the same as children you could argue that it’s not their fault they make the world worse. But they’re exact duplicates of the person who chose to make them, so arguably they should be held accountable for that person’s actions)

    You could argue that Malthusian ems increase total utility, which is good. But total utility, while an important and necessary value, is not the only value. There are many other values, including average utility and equality of utility. Malthusian ems increase total utility at the expense of those other values, which is a bad thing on the net.

    I’m not sure how easy it will be to coordinate to prevent ems expanding to the Malthusian limit. On one hand it will be a new technology, and restricting copying people digitally will have different emotional connotations from restricting natural childbirth. It will probably be more like coordinating to restrict CFC production than coordinating to reduce fertility. On the other hand, unrestricted em growth has greater potential rewards to defectors than unrestricted CFC use. It could really go either way.

    • Poelmo

      EMs could simply be outlawed: they serve no real purpose (unlike children, they don’t even increase genetic diversity or come up with truly new ideas), in fact they are mostly a burden for the reasons you listed as well as the destruction of democracy (a rich person could get infinitely many votes if the EMs all think exactly like him).

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