Resource-based economy

Today, my brother shared two links with me. One is a somewhat sci-fi-ish video based on ideas from a certain Jacque Fresco, the other is an interview with Jacques Fresco himself. Consider this post a train of thought initiated by these videos.

Technologies of a resource-based economy

It is easy to dismiss things that don't exist (yet) as impossible. However, it would be a mistake to do this all too carelessly, for as a humanity we started from zero. All the things that we have beyond our skull were once not around yet.

You can judge the video on its own merits. If it makes you think and start discussions with your peers we've already gained a lot. One thing I'd like to write about that sounds appealing to some but is riddled with nasty complexities, is the idea of utilizing artificial intelligence to perform far-reaching decisions on how a global community should go forward (as opposed to have politicians do the governing part).

The field of artificial intelligence nowadays is driven by advances in designing as well as training neural networks in various forms. The training is done by us and requires an incredible attention to detail because it is all too easy to encode human biases into the training set and by extension the trained neural network. Take as an example the judicial system, say, in the US. If you use as training data past judgments, you will invariably encode systemic racism towards black communities. Thankfully people in the field are aware and think about how to deal with this, e.g. in this paper on Bias in Data-driven AI Systems - An Introductory Survey.

The Venus Project

The interview explains what is meant by a resource-based economy. It does resonate with me as I'm of the opinion that we've already crossed peak capitalism in that the disadvantages outweigh the benefits. What we see in nature all the time are systems defined by opposing forces. Such systems will usually reach an equilibrium where opposing forces are in balance.

A system that contains a mechanism like compound interest without any opposing force is practically predestinated to spiral out of control at some point and can only be kept at bay with heavy regulation. Even then, like with a pressure cooker for which you keep on the heat for too long, at some point the whole thing ruptures, leaving your kitchen in a mess. Consider all the small and bigger messes we already had due to our financial system. Is it really worth it?

A resource based economy is then a relatively straightforward approach to bring our economical system in tune with a system that has steadily improved over millions of years to utilize the power that flows to us every day from our sun at a high efficiency and which encodes strict rules of equilibrium: These are our resources, nothing more, nothing less.

Jacque requires us to do certain things which, at least at this point in time, I find it extremely hard to imagine how it could be implemented: The requirement to consider every resource on Earth to belong to all humans regardless of their nation or current location as well as for humans to actually not want boring repetitive jobs and instead go out and learn something new when necessary.

I think those premises require a paradigm shifts that has never been witnessed before and would shake from the ground up our nation-based (which are extensions of tribes) world system as well as the individuals' belief system that defines an individual's status by what they do with the trades they've learned.

Can we indeed expect from every human being the flexibility to redefine themselves if it becomes necessary?

We should also acknowledge, without any emotions or ulterior motives, that the skill level of some humans will be surpassed by certain machines in the near future. That is, we could end up in a situation where some people will not be able to do any job, because any job they could do can be done better by a machine. This line is not even a fixed one for with the increasing ability of machines, this situation will apply to more and more people. What will that mean for them?

As you can see, this raises a lot of questions with me, but that is a good thing :)

As a final note, I would like to say - technology isn't really the problem. We can live on this Earth in a sustainable fashion. We can go carbon neutral, we can adapt life itself faster to a changing world than evolution itself has ever been able to do. We could even reverse the harm we've done in the past centuries faster than reforestation could do if we really need to.

The real problem is us - how do we span the dichotomy that even though each of us is a unique ensemble of talents, abilities and beliefs we can only exist in Utopia when each of us is willing to truly accept that "all people are created equal".

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Frank Quednau 2021