A comment at my recent post on how innovation might be >50% of future GDP points us to a Thursday post by Matt Yglesias, favorably citing a December post by sociologist Peter Frase, who imagines an “Anti-Star Trek” society. Frase says that Star Trek society is:
Both Star Trek and anti-Star Trek are military autocracies. Without a way of accumulating or even measuring wealth, and with all property and power under the control of a group of starship armed managers, the vast majority of the population is at their mercy. Thus when Starfleet decides to evacuate a planet, then simply go there and tell the people they will be moved - and that's that.
The difference is in how brutal Starfleet is in exercising this total power. Star Trek does so with a light touch, while anti-Star Trek is much more ready to use coercive power and ruthless tactics. Thus while Star Trek's Starfleet might use diplomatic manipulation and steady pressure to get what they want, the Starfleet of anti-Star Trek would be more likely to mass their fleet and simply take it. But in either case, the empire maintains control by controlling how people are fed and supplied - albeit, by doing so with high technology and with a high general standard of living. So more Brave New World rather than 1984.
Who came up with the idea that it's fair to pay creators for work that wasn't done? Why should the creator be paid per instance of use of his idea when, beyond the original development, there are no production costs? It's only fair to compensate the creator for his investment and work (developing the idea and uploading it to a public server) and nothing more. In a star trek economy there would be almost no investment costs because education and taking "inspiration" from other people's creations would be free, while a social dividend plus perhaps a small luxury compensation (as deemed fit by society) would allow the creator to live comfortably and thus be adequatly compensated for his work.
@the people who wander why anyone would do anything at all in star trek
None of the scientists and science students I know (and I know quite a lot) are in it for the money, they're more concerned with the funding of their projects than with their own salaries. Also, doing nothing all day gets boring soon enough. All in all, there will always be a portion of the population that volunteers to work, especially when there are hardly menial jobs left because of automatization. It's also stated in star trek that higher ranks in starfleet come with greater privileges, the same would likely be true of critical civilian jobs (like mining). 20 hours of mining a week can be worth if you get to see the galaxy for free and get a nice house from the government after a few years. There may also be a draft system to make sure everyone works at least a few years in their lives. Finally, it's not like our current capitalist model doesn't have a growing question of employment of its own, after all, automatization is occurring already, causing rising global unemployment.
To add to my previous post. Here are some more disadvantages of an anti star trek economy:
- the existence of poverty and economic inequality, which would lead to crime and you know, poor people dying in the gutters...
- a financial system and that means completely idiotic economic downturns from time to time, greatly hurting ordinary citizens
- corruption in politics: the mere existence of money, coupled with income inequality makes it possible for a small elite to "buy" politicians and influence public opinion with propaganda
- commercials, everywhere, all the time, god, I hate those, and so does everyone else, to the point where you have a hard time distinguishing news articles from commercials
- the existence of trust fund babies, lottery winners, extremely rich crime lords and extremely rich immoral bankers and businessmen while honest, hardworking people struggle to get by
- exclusion of talent: the person who has the potential to find the cure to aids will be prohibited from finding it if he can't go to college because his parents are poor or because he was shot and killed in the bad neighborhood he grows up in
- the mere existence of money make corruption, robberies, blackmailing, etc... possible at all
If it were up to me the world would swith to a star trek economy today
For a professor of economics you haven't really thought this matter through.
For one the star trek economy (which isn't communist, in many aspects, it does for example allow for private ownership and guilds/cooperations) does reward replicator engineers (creators): they get a social dividend at the very least and can be rewarded with luxuries such as additional energy credits and/or real estate.
However the most important thing is to think about how profoundly the disappearance of money would be and that it would really be better than having a monetary system based on patents. You yourself admit society would require much less work to function because of advanced technology, distribution of wealth and products now being designed with the consumer, not profit, in mind, in a star trek economy. Say the average citizen would only have to work 10 hours a week (instead of 40-60 hours today), or half the population works 20 hours or one quarter works 40 hours or some volunteers work 30 hours a week while others have to work for a civil draft system a few years before given the choice to continue working or not, etc... Meanwhile everyone has the basics covered: no one goes hungry or without a roof over their head.
Now let's look at the anti star trek economy. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume the patent system will be like the European system, not the horrible, fucked up, patent-troll paradise, American system. Now let's look at what will happen by observing known parallels in the modern world: the entertainment industry and the software/tech industries. In all of these industries it is apparent that the vast majority of creators make between 1-3 times the median wage of their country (the same level of wealth they would have in a star trek economy), so apparently the anti star trek economy doesn't reward creators any better than the star trek economy. Meanwhile there would be some people going hungry or without a roof over their head. Who does reap the rewards? Well, of course, a handful of executives and shareholders (of the corporations the creators work for)! People who do a tiny fraction of the total work of society and are not even creators themselves.
What would this mean essentially? As you know a patent is a legal monopoly , so the corporations owning the patents can set any price they like for their products and this they will do: ultimately forcing the average citizen to work 40-60 hours (citizens will pay for stuff with money but they're actually paying with work deep down). This means the majority of the workforce will spend a majority of their time doing utterly useless work (society itself requires only 10 hours, remember) in the service of the executives and shareholders living in luxury. Because all material needs would be taken care of by replicators and a handful of workers, most of the 30-50 working hours per citizen that are left must be in the service of the rich elite (they could quite literally have a dozen citizens clean every inch of their villas with a toothbrush, every day, if they wanted to). The vast majority of the population would end up being near slaves of a tiny elite who reap huge rewards from the work of the actual creators. Of course an important side effect would be an increased consumption of natural resources since the elite will make sure all replicator designs will be designed with profit, not the consumer, in mind and the elite will occasionally want to endulge in material pleasures, these factors will mean the consumption of natural resources will increase and more damage will be done to the environment.
So, in conclusion, even if the creators got a slightly greater reward in the anti star trek economy then that would be the only advantage of the system, the disadvantages would be a greater work pressure for the creators, near enslavement of the vast majority of the population by an undeserving elite as well as increased use of natural resources and more environmental damage. That's a piss poor fuck of a deal, wouldn't you say?
From a professor of economics I would have expected a bit more skepticism of the kind of "fairness" that is championed by large corporations.
Given: Cost per unit of commodities; including but not limited to energy; the United States built its infrastructure at very low unit costs. At the same time, Indochina and the Mideast were beginning to value new things from leaders to Lexus's; pretty much anything different than they had in way of freedom. A casual observer or innocent visitor from star trek land would be struck by the time and energy we devote to arguing over essentially, Who's number 1. As if at a college football game while engaged in a serious debate; with wide ranging implications to the rest of the human race.
Assume: Author acknowledged to has the rare combination of life experiences' training and empathy to see the truth in peoples actions and derive without effort the fundamental factors driving said human(s) actions.
Assume: That common sense tell you people , are born at a rate higher than they die, and is base case until Darwinism acts. Assume: Common sense says, people want only what they know about. The opposite of course, you can not miss what you do not have or know even exists.Assume: All scientific studies and simple data review leave no doubt that the relationship between a countries citizens access to the I-phone/net. is a game change. On a scale that is nearly asymptotic with its upward and constant pull from the date of seeing what is available and continuing well past the point of every human being enjoying access to same. And all it shows that is available.
People, as a group, want stuff. Lots of it. Not less. More stuff, cool stuff, the more the better.Am bullish on America which in any competition involving "inventing" something neat, usefull, desireable or kewl in any way, will win in the near term again. For the same reasons they have over the last 250 years or so of.Being a melting pot, (non-Facist) it is the first and last refuge of the more confident risk takers striving for something more. Common traits shared include risk taking, entrepenurial spirit and actions.
The combination of more people, and their predictable desires and actions are well know and shown on charts of price vs time from the time of salt as the most valuable commodity in the world through tulips, butter,oil and credit default swaps. Simply put, if you look at equity charts, you are looking to find how it got to the price and compare it relative to previous prices or similar. What you are looking at is a graph of predictable human behavior measured by their reacitions to fear and greed; primarily.
So? India, China , and those Mideastern countries involved in the Arab Spring to those whom will follow soon, there will be a lot of people looking to buy more stuff. Lots of it, and the kewler the better.
Anyone not thinking intellectual property will not be the most valuable asset to be protected might reconsider. Those that argue whether star trek tech is bad or good compared in a literal or relative sense, are very close to accidentally stumbling over the truth.
Steve Jobs. Was unique. So was Edison. So will be others. It seems that whatever laws and actions that need to be taken to ensure that rewarding the risk takers who invest real and intellectual capital, their lives so it were.
Nanotechnology, molecule size motors, technology of all types known and yet to be imagined or discovered, invented and voted on by people whom want more as to the success of the invention is not just a fundamental freedom that should be protected for individuals out of fairness or to encourage constructive risk taking .
intellectual property has and will always be the driver of change. It has the ring of truth. Some look to religion for peace of mind and answers to unanswerable questions that face the earth and its inhabitants. i will put my money on the smart guys our of MIT being paid and rewarded to invent, discover and improve new technologies until anything is possible. Limited only by the ability of one human beings imagination.
Important. Nah. Even the Supreme Ct. won't be bothered with it unless it is sexy and has the right lasting imprint on their legacies. They leave it to lower courts as clearly, the right of human behavior within ones own bedroom is more important that the only real solution to well, anything of importance to not just quality of life, but actual life. Seems that would be a constitutional issue in their somewhere? Until the Supreme court decides, intellectual property is indeed worthy of protecting as a fundamental right protected by the Constitution , we will be handicapped by such shortsightedness, but succeed in spite of them. As we always have. And always will.
They are just slow. It is built into the process to protect us from ourselves it appears to me, beauracracy exists because we vote it in to protect us from things changing too fast for us to feel comfortable. That process is about to hit supercharge boost .
Enjoy the ride.
Frase's "Anti-Star-Trek" view is a straw man. The reason to be anti-Star-Trek is not because you don't like free access to replicators and want to profit from them. Sheesh, who cares. Just use the replicators to make whatever you'd buy with that profit...
The reason to be anti-Star-Trek is that you dislike the idea of an authoritarian, centralized society in which all resources are directed toward a giant, ever-active military and few other meaningful institutions or endeavors appear to exist. The society of Star Trek, to the (limited) extent that its portrayal of the future is coherent in the first place, is a fascist society.
On the few occasions in episodes or films where there is mention of having 'abolished money', to the extent this even seems feasible (in fact, it doesn't because at times, businesses on earth e.g. bars are mentioned), it's only because Starfleet is virtually the only institution we see. All jobs and life roles are with Starfleet in one way or another. The only school we see (unless you could the Q training Wesley Crusher went to) is Starfleet Academy. You are assigned your role with Starfleet and then that is what you do. You are a foot soldier taking orders in a giant, all-encompassing army-state. PIcard gets to sit in the Captain's chair, but you are to stand in the engine room all day watching a glowing monitor, until of course that day you put on a red shirt and are coincidentally called over to the transporter room. Don't like it? Tough.
Is this really what Frase sees as a 'communist' society? Even if so, what exactly about it appeals to him?
Now yes, you have a replicator in your wall that can conjure up some mac 'n cheese on request. Okay, so you're an especially well-fed/-entertained foot soldier. This is still a fundamentally fascist vision.
Of course, maybe this is all just because we happen to be shown the Starfleet side of society disproportionately. Someone mentioned the warped picture a show set on an aircraft carrier would create. So maybe this is all incorrect and there are the expected number of normal institutions and business and endeavors back on earth. But that just means that the 'moneyless society' lines occasionally tossed off in some of the episodes/movies are incoherent.
Basically, if the Star Trek society is truly 'moneyless' as it sometimes claims, it's fascist. If it's not fascist, then there is normal business and trade back on earth and we just aren't shown much of it due to the show's setting, and Picard is lying about that 'moneyless' stuff. I don't see a coherent option that involves Star Trek being moneyless and yet Starfleet not being all-encompassing in a fascist way. Does Frase?
Peter Frase responds here:http://www.peterfrase.com/2...One of his main points is that he's merely using a thought-experiment rather than defending actual (fictional) existing Star Trek society.
The iteration you describe can only happen in the absence of intellectual property laws. Otherwise there's a delay between iterations of however many years the government-granted monopoly lasts for.
There are plenty of non-monetary motivations that could be used instead, as well. Everything from prestige to badges can be at least as motivating, if not more, than pure survival. We are already observing the inefficiencies of capitalism in post-scarcity sectors of our economy (such as open-source systems administration tools, which have roundly trounced any produced under intellectual propert law.) I see no reason why we should assume money or trade as the future motivating force, when it already isn't the exclusive force today.
As for energy, in Star Trek the main visible power source is anti-matter reaction, which is clearly efficient enough (once Dilithium can be synthesized) that it is not a concern. And energy=matter, which is why the replicators are central. While it will certainly be a long way off before we reach that level of sufficiency, we are approaching the point where, as a world, the problem is becoming one of distribution rather than production. Capitalism, unfortunately, appears uniquely unsuited to this problem.
Wikipedia says 37 million in the episode, retconned to 600 million in First Contact.
By the way, any reason to assume that the characters in Star Trek (all variants) aren't living in some sort of enormous holosuite of their own? I agree with several of the commenters that the overwhleming majorities of sane people have long since retreated to their individual nirvanas, but it would also be likely that those unwilling to do this voluntarily (religious issues, perhaps?) would probably have been confined (albeit pleasantly) in some sort of simulation to protect the rest of the Galaxy from the side effects of their galavanting around.
To the original point, however... The notion that open-source development (the hobby of a tiny fragment of the population...and a somewhat socially dysfunctional portion of that population as well) might be a workable model for an economy is risible at best. Yes, some of us (myself included) might be delighted to tinker with problems and generate new concepts for little more than the admiration of our fellow nerds, but a great many more will want something a bit more tangible for our efforts. Barring the 'lets all live in the holosuite' (which really makes all of this debate pointless), a great actor for example, will expect to be paid for his performance, as would a great prostitute or a great chef.
As many others here have stated, money is simply a way of standardizing a means of exchange, the value of that exchange to be determined at the moment of exchange. Some values are not amenable to monetization, but most are likely to be. Pretending that the former group will make the latter obsolete is more an act of wishful thinking (and to be honest, fairly silly), than reasoned analysis. There will always be people willing to undertake difficult or even unpleasant tasks for their own personal reasons, but these people (often referred to as 'loons') are likely to remain a very small minority for what I am sure are obvious reasons...
A final point, at least one episode of the original Star Trek series (Mudds Women) explicitly shows a group of miners on an extremely inhospitable planet who (also explicitly) state that they are doing this dangerous and unpleasant work for the remuneration that they expect to obtain. Numerous other episodes in the first series include freighters moving large cargos, bars and shops where monetary exchanges take place, etc. Hence until TNG, the whole replicator technology must not be fully in place. Yet even after its introduction in TNG, we have traders, private property, cargo ships, etc....
Wikipedia quotes Spock saying 37,000,000.
Neither Star Trek nor Anti-Star Trek is accurate. As you say, there will always be true scarcity in matter and energy, but at the same time, artificial scarcity will not be enforceable with totalitarianism and fascism. If that is the future you endorse, then I hate it with a passion.
Here, the point is "interstellar trade". Even if the Federation as a whole would be a fully developed replicator-utopia, there are a lot of place that are not. For example, Bajor was not part of the Federation. It was essentially a war-torn, semi-governed hellhole with completely outdated technological foundation. Similarly, Cardassia or Dominion are not part of the Federal utopia economy, whatever it is. In such trade relations, you have some kind of monetary economy by necessity. You can't allow the foreigners an unlimited access to federal technology and resources, even if you would allow it to your own citizens. Thus, if you allow individual freedom in cross-civilization contacts, you are bound to have an area of monetary economy on the fringe of you utopia. DS9 takes place there.
I find no reason to believe that the Federation, Cardassia, Romulans, Dominion and Ferengi share the same economical system. Anyhow, none of them is a classical economy "free, effective market". Indeed, many of the plot points center on smuggling contraband: stuff that one government does not want transported to the area of another's.
The three musketeers, in context one imagines they are paid some salary by those for whom they sling muskets, but it is not the major part of the story.
In the actual novel by Dumas, the money plays a rather large role. However, it has nothing to do with capitalist economy. Instead, as noblemen, the musketeers are socially obligated to use all their money lavishly, when they have it. When they don't have money, they hang out with comrades who do, so they get to eat. Or they buy thngs on credit, knowing that no unnoble craftsman or merchant can sue them in real life. They would be assaulted or killed for it. Of course, the merchants know this, so getting credit is often tricky. Basically, the musketeer is saying: "Please give credit now. Later, when I get money, I'll pay you back as generously as my nobility requires. If you don't give credit, however, I just might to decide to whack you for being so uppity."
The monetary "pay" the Dumas's musketeers get is essentially a series of one-time bouties from their superiors, each time a gesture of voluntary, paternalist benevolence by the superior in question. The musketeers are supposed to have independent income for their day-to-day survival, although they really don't have it. However, from the glory of being in the king's service, they get the de facto right of not paying their debts and mildly extorting business-owners for private gain.
lets also not ignore the vile antisemitism in the depiction of the ferengi (seriously, even for those not sensitive to such things (or who think others are oversensitive to such things), the grubby trader stereotype was so close to shylock it was ludicrous).