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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
"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.
"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.
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.
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.)
"...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.
"...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?
"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.
"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?
"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.
"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.
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.
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.
If 'everyone' does it then the few who don't will have an advantage.