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View Diary: What's a Human Being "Worth"? The Moral and Economic Crisis of the 21st Century (192 comments)

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  •  Excellent points. (13+ / 0-)

    I think what you said about the potential rise of "genetic caste" is particularly troubling. The human species could in fact diverge into two new species (the genetically modified rich, and everyone else), with extreme racism by the "enhanced" against the "non-enhanced."

    Also, your point about whether democracy can handle an era of exponential change: I'm honestly not sure, but we'll soon be finding out. It seems that democratic governmental institutions are not doing very well. They are becoming sclerotic and losing legitimacy. Whether that can be reversed remains to be seen.

    Some kind of techno-corporate fascism is the most likely future, but a revival of social democracy is a more hopeful possibility. Another possibility (a very slim chance of this ever happening though) would be a "rule by experts" kind of system.

    The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

    by Eric Stetson on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 04:33:20 PM PST

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    •  read you some William Gibson (18+ / 0-)

      cyberpunk sci-fi distopia stories.  Plenty of other thoughtful and provoking authors in that genre, now a third of a century aged.

      It's not like any of this is a surprise.  I remember having conversations with contemporaries in the late 60s about the emerging "cybernetic" revolution.  Naively, as it has turned out,  we thought the robots would liberate humans from the drudgery of repetitive mindless manual work.  They have, but...

      We neglected to realize that the machines would not be working for the people they liberated,  they would be working for the people who owned them.

      The word "commonwealth" has been eliminated from modern American English.

      My question would be, who will be left to buy stuff, if most humans become unnecessary surplus labor?

      don't always believe what you think

      by claude on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 09:04:35 PM PST

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      •  Re: buying stuff (11+ / 0-)

        Low money velocity economies are certainly possible. I suspect feudalism had relatively few people buying stuff, for example, compared to today's American consumerism.

        Of course, an economy with less buying and selling going on would tend to be stagnant and not allow as many people to participate and share the spoils of prosperity. Just like in feudalism.

        So, a post-consumerist ultra-capitalist economy might look a lot like feudalism or the "dark ages" for the majority of humans, while a tiny minority of humans would be richer than ever before, enjoying the products and services provided for them -- only for them -- by the robots which they own. No selling to non-rich people would be necessary; only trading among the rich themselves. Essentially, the majority of human beings would be "outside the economy," left to die or scratch out a meager living with what very limited resources they might still have.

        As long as there is democracy, such a dystopian economy could (and almost certainly would) be voted out of existence. But if democracy falls, it's game over for all but the non-rich. So let's hope we can keep our democracy!

        The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

        by Eric Stetson on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 09:18:35 PM PST

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        •  correction (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Temmoku, YucatanMan, greengemini, chuckvw

          I meant to say "if democracy falls, it's game over for all but the rich."

          The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

          by Eric Stetson on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 09:20:59 PM PST

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          •  Discouraging: look at Europe, Ireland, UK. (5+ / 0-)

            Europe, Ireland, the UK are all democracies. Yet they have stubbornly stuck to austerity policies the last 6 years that reward the elite while screwing most ordinary people. I think people are so blinded by fear that they can't look beyond their own short-term self-interest to band together for their mutual long-term self-interest.

            "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

            by HeyMikey on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 06:05:00 AM PST

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        •  This is exactly my thinking (10+ / 0-)

          People who claim that they will always need us to buy stuff are not envisioning the logical outcome of all of the wealth transfer. They will not need us as workers, and they won't need us as consumers either.

          •  Yep, they'll just print what they need, from (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            greengemini

            houses to cars to guns, and maybe to food?

            But wait... they'll need the raw materials to go into those 3D printers.  There still might be a chance for the masses to choke them off.

            "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

            by YucatanMan on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 09:16:32 AM PST

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            •  A very limited (0+ / 0-)

              scope of materials applies to 3D printing.

            •  Why should there be 'masses' at all (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Eric Stetson

              Allowing gradual population attrition without replacement would mean there would be comparatively few people living at an ultra-high living standard. Sounds pretty good to me!

              (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
              Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

              by Sparhawk on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 05:38:14 AM PST

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              •  Yes, gradual population reduction would be good. (0+ / 0-)

                But it has to be gradual, or else it would cause a lot of social upheaval.

                The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

                by Eric Stetson on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 06:35:11 PM PST

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        •  Corporate Mercantilism with a Feudal framework. (6+ / 0-)

          Your point about the rich 'only trading with themselves', reminds me of mercantilism.

          I keep coming back to corporate mercantilism as our future economy, and I see a corporate colonialism in our future.

          I think we will be lucky to get feudalism.

          Democracy - 1 person 1 vote. Free Markets - More dollars more power.

          by k9disc on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 02:47:35 AM PST

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        •  good but wrong. (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          YucatanMan, Ice Blue, greengemini, melo

          in feudalism, the working masses were not "surplus", they were the essential means of production. The wealthy didnt just tolerate them, they were dependent on their exploitation. That is radically different from your sketch.

          it seems claude has asked the same that I also asked below; and you ranswer is interesting but not sufficient. If the vast majority of wealthless people would be living "outside" of this economy, there wouldnt be much of an economy to speak of. "Low velocity" you mean: low volume, it would mean. The ultrarich can be ultrarich but still their personal consumption is only a minimal amount compared to the (potential) consumption of the vast number of other people. I find it on the face not credible to assume that covering the rich´s actual, physical needs (through robotic, nonhuman work) would claim the totality of Earth´s ressources - so that nothing would be left for others. And if it didnt, and there would be something left for others, for what reason should they withhold ressources from those others that they can not make any use of themselves? And if they didnt, how could those "others" not go on and have whatever society suits them (and is pssible) on those remaining ressources?

          economically this doesnt make sense. In terms of power it makes sense, such an elite might want to have power over the totality of the worlds ressources just to defend against the possibility of the rabble taking over. But you suggest that these multitudes would really not be useful for anything anymore (since any realistic use would be better done by roboters or AI). That would be a first in humanity´s history; and logically one would have to expect that the useless multitudes would be killed one way or the other. After such a kill, they wouldnt be there anymore, and the injustice embodied in their existence would also not be there anymore.

          •  Pandemics aren't that choosy (0+ / 0-)

            Maybe the AIs shall inherit the earth, but they are also subject to viruses!

            It always seems impossible until its done. -Nelson Mandela

            by chuckvw on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 11:57:15 AM PST

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            •  However a genetically engineered pandemic with (0+ / 0-)

              the treatment/cure only available to the super rich is.  Or perhaps once things get to that point how about a nanomechanical virus that can be programmed to kill or not based on a person's wealth?

              You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

              by Throw The Bums Out on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 01:38:53 PM PST

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          •  Yeah, this may be true: (0+ / 0-)

            As you said,

            logically one would have to expect that the useless multitudes would be killed one way or the other. After such a kill, they wouldnt be there anymore, and the injustice embodied in their existence would also not be there anymore.
            Although I didn't mention it in the diary itself (maybe I should have), a likely scenario is that a huge percentage of the population will be imprisoned for penury. Some form of "human warehousing" with minimal freedom for the masses of unemployed that will exist. But those people probably wouldn't be able to have children because of their lack of money, or wouldn't be allowed to, if they're incarcerated. So, the problem of excess population would burn itself out after a couple of generations.

            Basically, what might be the most likely thing to happen is a couple generations of hell on earth, with a constantly shrinking economy and population; and after that, a new world with maybe less than 1 billion people living in it, and probably a radically different type of society that will be created from the ashes of the one we know today.

            The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

            by Eric Stetson on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 12:05:55 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  One problem at a time. (0+ / 0-)

      Ultimately, we can't solve all the problems of future generations.

      Even given the progress on that front, it's likely we won't live to be the ones who have to deal with significantly enhanced humans.

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