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View Full Version : Your favorite "bad socioeconomics" is SF?



Ilya
2006-Jan-19, 03:12 AM
Very often an SF writer may do a decent job with his science, but would not think through some obvious social/economic implication of the technology he introduces. (Actually, an author who does that often misses the science too.) A typical example is a world with interplanetary travel... and shortages of energy. In Frederick Pohl's "JEM" every little country has nuclear weapons... and they are at each other's throats over the dwindling supplies of oil and coal. Apparently the idea of using all that uranium and plutonium to produce energy does not occur to anyone. :)

What are your favorite examples? Let's limit this to books -- picking similar blunders in SF movies is like shooting fish in a barrel.

montebianco
2006-Jan-19, 03:19 AM
Very often an SF writer may do a decent job with his science, but would not think through some obvious social/economic implication of the technology he introduces. (Actually, an author who does that often misses the science too.) A typical example is a world with interplanetary travel... and shortages of energy. In Frederick Pohl's "JEM" every little country has nuclear weapons... and they are at each other's throats over the dwindling supplies of oil and coal. Apparently the idea of using all that uranium and plutonium to produce energy does not occur to anyone. :)

What are your favorite examples? Let's limit this to books -- picking similar blunders in SF movies is like shooting fish in a barrel.

Well, I can pick plenty of examples of this phenomenon from this forum. I've learned not to point it out, though, it's kind of like arguing with the people who say there is giant planet hovering in an invisible cloud of dust between the earth and the sun...

Lord Jubjub
2006-Jan-19, 03:49 AM
One real bad economic model is Star Trek. I know that this is not a book series (though there are books), but the idea that an advanced society could just do without an common exchange medium for the distribution of goods and services is difficult to fully explain. Even if the Federation didn't have an official medium, one would arise.

Indeed, it is an interesting point that the one series that was based on everyday life on a ordinary space station found itself somewhat dependent on latinum.

montebianco
2006-Jan-19, 04:04 AM
One real bad economic model is Star Trek. I know that this is not a book series (though there are books), but the idea that an advanced society could just do without an common exchange medium for the distribution of goods and services is difficult to fully explain. Even if the Federation didn't have an official medium, one would arise.

Crikey, even prisoners of war develop their own exchange system...

N

X-COM
2006-Jan-19, 12:24 PM
Star Trek has "Replicators" that work cheaply enough to produce everyday food and they dissolve the plates after a meal rather then cleaning them. Still there are cargoship carrying rather ordinary things. STDS9 "Stembolts" anyone? It's obvius that the Federation must have some draconian copyright laws and probably enforce them harsly to prevent people from using the replicators to "Make another one" themself.

Maksutov
2006-Jan-19, 12:45 PM
Your favorite "bad socioeconomics" in SF? Right?

I agree re the "moneyless" ST-TNG society. When they announced that back in 1987, I though, "Huh?" Maybe it was a plot device to demonstrate superiority to the Ferengi?

Ilya
2006-Jan-19, 06:32 PM
I agree re the "moneyless" ST-TNG society. When they announced that back in 1987, I though, "Huh?" Maybe it was a plot device to demonstrate superiority to the Ferengi?

I think it was other way around -- Ferengi were introduced to demonstrate inferiority of "greedy capitalism." Mostly it was just Hollywood lefties indulging in their dream of socialism without any drawbacks of real socialism.

Another example from Frederick Pohl: in "Gateway" world population is 25 billion, most of the food is made from oil (shale oil -- all liquid oil had long been pumped out) -- and most of these people may be malnourished, but they are not starving to death. Nobody wants to think what will happen when shale oil runs out. In the sequel to "Gateway" there is a mad scramble to get a hold of alien (Heechee) technology which makes food from elemantal C, H, O and N.

Excuse me? Earth already has technology to make something more or less nutritious from plain hydrocarbons (which is what shale oil is). First, that's just a step from CHON-food synthesis. Second, if people have that kind of technology, they don't even need to mine shale oil! Better apply it to human and animal waste and plant detritis -- all of which is a lot closer to human food than hydrocarbons are.

Disinfo Agent
2006-Jan-19, 06:47 PM
Another example from Frederick Pohl: in "Gateway" world population is 25 billion, most of the food is made from oil (shale oil -- all liquid oil had long been pumped out) -- and most of these people may be malnourished, but they are not starving to death. Nobody wants to think what will happen when shale oil runs out. In the sequel to "Gateway" there is a mad scramble to get a hold of alien (Heechee) technology which makes food from elemantal C, H, O and N.

Excuse me? Earth already has technology to make something more or less nutritious from plain hydrocarbons (which is what shale oil is). First, that's just a step from CHON-food synthesis. Second, if people have that kind of technology, they don't even need to mine shale oil! Better apply it to human and animal waste and plant detritis -- all of which is a lot closer to human food than hydrocarbons are.If I remember correctly (perhaps I don't) the technology for CHON food synthesis was alien. Earthlings only found alien factories with it in book 2.

Ilya
2006-Jan-19, 07:00 PM
If I remember correctly (perhaps I don't) the technology for CHON food synthesis was alien. Earthlings only found alien factories with it in book 2.
Yes, that's why I wrote "in the sequel to Gateway." But food from oil is there right at the beginning of Book 1. Which is not far removed from Heechee's "CHON food".

My point is -- with technology Pohl introduces in the first chapters of "Gateway", people a) do not need to mine oil to make food at all, and b) do not need the alien food-producing technology all that much. It is not tremendously superior.

Disinfo Agent
2006-Jan-19, 07:11 PM
Perhaps the point was that oil is a limited resource on Earth, whereas with the alien technology they had thousands of comets to feed on.

gopher65
2006-Jan-19, 09:58 PM
On star trek they have "credits". No actual physical money though. Even though I have never seen anything on star trek which explicitly states it, I get the feeling that only Earth has a communist economy, not every planet and colony. The federation is more like the united nations than the EU or the US. They are seperate civilizations with a defence and economic pact.

But yeah, the no money thing is stupid:P. There are a lot of stupid things on ST.

pmcolt
2006-Jan-19, 11:50 PM
Jake: I'm human; I don't have any money.
Nog: It's not my fault your species decided to abandon currency-based economics in favor of some philosophy of self-enhancement.
Jake: Hey, watch it. There's nothing wrong with our philosophy. We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity.
Nog: What does that mean exactly?
Jake: It means... it means we don't need money!
Nog: Well then, you certainly don't need mine.

DukePaul
2006-Jan-20, 01:35 AM
Somewhat in the same vein is the scifi concept of having prisons or sending prisoners to the other side of the Moon, solar system or galaxy(aka Aliens 3).

Van Rijn
2006-Jan-20, 01:53 AM
In the later Star Trek era with replicators for material things, near instanct medical technology and unobvious machinery to handle many mundane tasks, I could see where money wouldn't be that big an issue in everyday life, but scarcity would still exist. So, yes, it is silly, but I could understand that money might not be used for as many everyday things.

I was annoyed when, in ST III, Bones clearly has money but in ST IV Kirk seems to find the concept of money bizarre. One of the many annoyances in ST IV.

Maksutov
2006-Jan-20, 05:40 AM
Originally Posted by Maksutov
I agree re the "moneyless" ST-TNG society. When they announced that back in 1987, I though, "Huh?" Maybe it was a plot device to demonstrate superiority to the Ferengi?I think it was other way around -- Ferengi were introduced to demonstrate inferiority of "greedy capitalism." Mostly it was just Hollywood lefties indulging in their dream of socialism without any drawbacks of real socialism...Note that I wrote "to demonstrate superiority to the Ferengi"... IOW, "to demonstrate superiority [of the Federation system] to the Ferengi", i.e., we're in agreement here.

Now, what we really need is a visit from Stuart (http://www.bautforum.com/showpost.php?p=292334&postcount=72) to set things straight about Star Trek socioeconomics!

Fr. Wayne
2006-Jan-20, 05:55 AM
Dan Simmons "HYPERION" - just replace farcaster terminex with WALMART and voila - "the key to the delivery of humanity" =commerce is the Messiah...

Faultline
2006-Jan-20, 07:04 AM
Star Trek always wants to portray Earth as a Utopia. They've solved all their problems.

But that is just the problem. They never portray Earth as anything! They just leave any discussion of Earth and its politics out of sight and let the viewer assume that it is Utopia behind a curtain.

Disinfo Agent
2006-Jan-20, 12:03 PM
Somewhat in the same vein is the scifi concept of having prisons or sending prisoners to the other side of the Moon, solar system or galaxy(aka Aliens 3).Or Mars (some of Heinlein's books).

Fram
2006-Jan-20, 12:50 PM
In what way is sending prisoners to some barren place to work as cheap "machines" in dangerous conditions "bad socioeconomics"? I mean, it may not be the best method, but it isn't unrealistic. It's the same thing the British did with Australia...

gopher65
2006-Jan-20, 01:38 PM
They mention Federation Credits several times in the series'. I gather that they are mainly used on the more undeveloped worlds as an official controlled means of trade and barter. How they manage to avoid having people on developed worlds use them is beyond me*eyeroll*.

As for prisoners, using them for slave labour is very expensive. Slaves are not good economics. But I agree that it isn't altogether unrealistic that a government would choose to use forced labour to punish prisoners, even if it were uneconomical. I mean, you have to feed, clothe, and shelter the prisioners one way or the other, so you might as well get some productivity out of them.
But shipping them off to a another planet? Do the authors in question realize how expensive that would be? Why not just use robots? Cheaper, safer, and not as likely to revolt and hold your mine hostage.

AstroSmurf
2006-Jan-20, 01:53 PM
Charles Stross "Singularity Sky" tried to explore the concept of a semi-utopian anarcy, realised through "cornucopia machines", i.e. small nanotechnology-based factories that can provide you with more or less any item (the Star Trek replicators perform approximately the same function). This would take care of most everyday needs that people might have and in theory, this would eliminate the need for money.

I tried to fit my mind around how it would work, but I keep running up against problems. As long as you have any sort of scarcity, you still need a way to measure the value of limited or unique items. There are also all sorts of services that would be difficult to replace with robot labour; law enforcement and caring for those unable to function normally in society comes to mind (children, elderly, mentally handicapped or insane). Major items such as construction, spaceships and so forth would also need to be limited, so how do you regulate those things without money? How do you reimburse those who provide them?

The only society I've read about where this would work is Iain Banks' Culture, where the AIs run everything and humans for the most part just entertain themselves. This only works because you're either provided with any wish, or flat out denied it. But I think it would take some acclimatisation before we'd be happy as pets...

Disinfo Agent
2006-Jan-20, 02:19 PM
In what way is sending prisoners to some barren place to work as cheap "machines" in dangerous conditions "bad socioeconomics"? I mean, it may not be the best method, but it isn't unrealistic. It's the same thing the British did with Australia...You have to build them homes in a faraway planet, ships to carry them, get fuel for the ships, send supplies... Not cheap things.
Would you give your taxes away for that?

Fram
2006-Jan-20, 08:58 PM
If they mine costly ores? Perhaps. If you are willing to mine there, you need to build ships etcetera anyway. The question is, do you use robots (if possible), voluntary workers, or prisoners?
And it's not as if keeping them on Earth is so cheap.
And I still don't see the difference between this situation and the Australia one (yes, it's on another scale, but the potential revenue as well).

Disinfo Agent
2006-Jan-20, 09:17 PM
If they mine costly ores? Perhaps. If you are willing to mine there, you need to build ships etcetera anyway. The question is, do you use robots (if possible), voluntary workers, or prisoners?Forced labour? I don't remember reading about that in Heinlein's books that take place on Mars...


And it's not as if keeping them on Earth is so cheap.Compared to sending them on a vacation to Mars, all expenses paid? Come on, Fram!... :p


And I still don't see the difference between this situation and the Australia one (yes, it's on another scale, but the potential revenue as well).In Heinlein's books, at least, I don't remember reading about the colonists mining any valuable ores on Mars...

Humots
2006-Jan-20, 09:27 PM
Perhaps the point was that oil is a limited resource on Earth, whereas with the alien technology they had thousands of comets to feed on.

I agree. The CHON technology worked from the raw elements, which were available in astronomical amounts. Comets contain megatons of CHON. Earth's food-making technology had to start with oil. The fact that oil was more like the food being made was a limitation, not an advantage.

Ilya
2006-Jan-21, 12:56 AM
In Heinlein's books, at least, I don't remember reading about the colonists mining any valuable ores on Mars...
You may be thinking of Jerry Pournelle's "Birth of Fire," which reads very much like Heinlein, and is very obviously based on "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress." Socioeconomics are equally bad in both. In TMIAHM the basis of Lunar economy is exporting food to Earth (??) In BOF the basis of Mars' economy... is never explained.

Disinfo Agent
2006-Jan-21, 05:22 PM
I have never read The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, but Heinlein uses that idea (of a colony that started out as a prison) in other books, such as Podkayne of Mars (I'm not sure about Red Planet; it's been a while since I read it).
I'm going to add that just because a science fiction book has a little dubious economics, or dubious sociology, or whatever, it doesn't mean it's a Bad Book. It can still be entertaining and thought-provoking, with a little suspension of belief. (Just like a movie with Bad Astronomy...)

TheBlackCat
2006-Jan-21, 05:50 PM
If they mine costly ores? Perhaps. If you are willing to mine there, you need to build ships etcetera anyway. The question is, do you use robots (if possible), voluntary workers, or prisoners?
And it's not as if keeping them on Earth is so cheap.
And I still don't see the difference between this situation and the Australia one (yes, it's on another scale, but the potential revenue as well).
I gather in the aliens series there are two problems. One is that cheap robots are limited. If you look at alien as an example, apparently the ship (which is really a robot with crew override capabilities) can handle itself fine most of the time. It only needs the crew for landing, docking, and fixing problems. Apparently when everything is running fine the ship, and I presume robots as well, can handle things just fine. However, if anything goes wrong or anything unexpected happens then you need a human operator to take over. This idea is backed up in the comics when, at one point, someone piloting a remote-controlled craft mentions that something is inhibiting one of the thrusters, and another tells him to compensate, adding that is the only reason they still have jobs (dealing with problems with the craft).

There are robots that can handle unexpected situations (i.e. androids like Bishop), but they are extremely expensive to buy and maintain. In that situation you are probably much better off using cheap, expendable "forced" human labor. The implication in the novels and comics isn't that the labor is not actually forced, they get commutted sentences if they do these dangerous jobs...and survive. This is apparently a rather common way of getting crew for extremely dangerous jobs normal workers won't do, the criminals have little choice in the matter if they want to get out of jail. Whatever the case, feeding and maintaining the humans at minimum possible levels is probably much less expensive than buying an army of worker androids and completely re-building them every couple of years. The only situation where they use a whole area run by androids is in an extremely lucrative biotech research facilitiy involving aliens, one where a human staff would not last a day but androids can last a long time and can continuously be repaired if the aliens tear them to pieces. Otherwise humans seem to be a cheaper and more effective alternatives in the alien universe.

Glom
2006-Jan-21, 09:25 PM
Now, what we really need is a visit from Stuart to set things straight about Star Trek socioeconomics!

Will Michael Wong (http://www.stardestroyer.net/Empire/Essays/Trek-Marxism.html) do? That Marx sure had some nutty ideas. The problem was that the nuttiness was masked by a cloak of feel-good slogans and seemingly benevolent intentions. It's very easy to say, "Wouldn't it be great if everyone had full equality in society?" and get everyone to agree, but beneath the soundbite is the cold reality that bland, fashionable quotables are not a solution to society's problems.

TheBlackCat
2006-Jan-21, 10:48 PM
Men . . . are easily induced to believe that in some wonderful manner everybody will become everybody's friend, especially when some one is heard denouncing the evils now existing in states, suits about contracts, convictions for perjury, flatteries of rich men and the like, which are said to arise out of the possession of private property. These evils, however, are due to a very different cause— the wickedness of human nature.
-Aristotle

Kahless
2006-Jan-22, 03:14 PM
What about the trilogy, "Red Mars", "Green Mars", "Blue Mars" by Kim Stanley Robinson. Do you think that was well thought out or another poorly concieved economic system.

Inferno
2006-Jan-22, 10:01 PM
What about the trilogy, "Red Mars", "Green Mars", "Blue Mars" by Kim Stanley Robinson. Do you think that was well thought out or another poorly concieved economic system.

I hated Red Mars. Imagine a goverment spending an absolute fortune on sending people to Mars only to have not spent a single minute thinking about what they will do when they get there. The mission was so poorly thought out as to make me throw the book across the room.

I don't know, maybe that was Robinson's point, but it just made the story ridiculous. Add to that the most annoying bunch of characters of all time and it's hardly surprising I wanted them all to die by the end.

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-22, 11:19 PM
I only made it through all three books once. I love the way he portrays setting up a colony, but I can't stand his... well, bizarre political and economic views.

Gullible Jones
2006-Jan-23, 01:59 AM
I hated those books because of the characters. All lying, filthy politicians... Gah.

Re bad socioeconomics, Trek takes the cake... Obviously nobody put any thought into it at all.

(Also, the Ferengis have a *completely* uncontrolled free market IIRC, so shouldn't they have long ago split into working class Ferengi, who toil their lives away, and rich upper-class Ferengi who don't do anything? What's going on there?)

Fram
2006-Jan-23, 09:12 AM
Forced labour? I don't remember reading about that in Heinlein's books that take place on Mars...

Compared to sending them on a vacation to Mars, all expenses paid? Come on, Fram!... :p

In Heinlein's books, at least, I don't remember reading about the colonists mining any valuable ores on Mars...

I wasn't really thinking about the actual books, more of a situation where sending them (prisoners) to Mars may be good socioeconomics. But you're right, just sending them there without some purpose is bizarre (perhaps they secretly filmed their live there and used it as some huge Big Brother show? "The real life on Mars"? Just guessing... :razz: ).

Damburger
2006-Jan-23, 11:40 AM
OK, a couple of things.

One - Star Trek. I'm not the biggest trekkie going, and I realise its a very unrealistic show, but you lot are trying to decide which 19th century model of economics a 24th century society functions on. Its a nonsensical question.

All economics - even Marxist economics - is based on the idea of scarcity. People want more than can be produced. As soon as you've the technology to literally satisfy any material want at the flick of the switch, scarcity and therefore economics as we know it becomes utterly irrelevant. There will always be, I suppose, a greedy minority with wants so excessive to put a strain even on the technology of star trek - but because the majority will be happy with an existence that today would be equated with being a millionaire, the greedy minority won't have anyone to make a profit of, and won't be able to realise their wants. At some point it is therefore likely they would grow up, and accept a society that can provide an immensely comfortable standard of living and where work is basically optional (every person in trek doing a profession treats it as a hobby). Although given that, the kind of trades you see going on (e.g. stem bolts) are also rendered irrelevant by treknology.

As for the other subject, transportation to space as punishment: It is realistic in certain circumstances. Lets say you've got a spartan mining colony on Io, constantly suffering radiation bombardment and volcanic activity. Nobody wants to work there except for amounts of money that would make the mining venture unprofitable. So, the company running the place makes a deal with the government - take some prisoners off their hands in order to use as slave labour at the arse end of the solar system. Not a bad premise for a sci-fi story is it?

montebianco
2006-Jan-23, 12:04 PM
All economics - even Marxist economics - is based on the idea of scarcity. People want more than can be produced. As soon as you've the technology to literally satisfy any material want at the flick of the switch, scarcity and therefore economics as we know it becomes utterly irrelevant.

No problem so far.


There will always be, I suppose, a greedy minority with wants so excessive to put a strain even on the technology of star trek - but because the majority will be happy with an existence that today would be equated with being a millionaire, the greedy minority won't have anyone to make a profit of, and won't be able to realise their wants. At some point it is therefore likely they would grow up, and accept a society that can provide an immensely comfortable standard of living and where work is basically optional (every person in trek doing a profession treats it as a hobby).

That may well be what the early utopians would have predicted would happen in the industrial societies of today...

Damburger
2006-Jan-23, 12:10 PM
That may well be what the early utopians would have predicted would happen in the industrial societies of today...

And they were wrong. Its a total non-sequitur to think that must mean my prediction is also wrong.

Modern industrial societies still require labour to turn raw materials into goods. Star Trek does not. Their system isn't just an incremental change to our present economics - its an entirely new system. Like I said, nobody does any labour in Star Trek. People do jobs because they feel like doing them.

montebianco
2006-Jan-23, 12:31 PM
And they were wrong. Its a total non-sequitur to think that must mean my prediction is also wrong.

Didn't say that. I merely raise the possibility...


Modern industrial societies still require labour to turn raw materials into goods. Star Trek does not. Their system isn't just an incremental change to our present economics - its an entirely new system. Like I said, nobody does any labour in Star Trek. People do jobs because they feel like doing them.

Far be it from me to get in a debate about the functioning of a fictional society, but if there are limits (as you state there may be in your earlier post), perhaps people in this fictional society will find the limits aren't high enough...

Damburger
2006-Jan-23, 12:54 PM
Didn't say that. I merely raise the possibility...


What has the possibility to do with any kind of debate? Keep it rational please.



Far be it from me to get in a debate about the functioning of a fictional society, but if there are limits (as you state there may be in your earlier post), perhaps people in this fictional society will find the limits aren't high enough...

There are entire planets in Trek with populations in the 100s. These people have more wealth than any human in existence now (a significant fraction of a planets resources, plus limitless replicator labour). Some planets are also apparantly uninhabited, and new ones are always being found - so anybody unhappy with the incredible high level of life the Federation can provide is free to find their own planet(s).

As I said, the number of people unhappy with the productive capacity of the federation would be so small, that they would not be able to form any significant economy. Without consumers, without employees, their greed would not be able to have any consequence for society. Their attempts to establish a market would probably be seen as quaint and nutty.

gopher65
2006-Jan-23, 02:22 PM
There are a fair number of things on star trek that they don't have the ability to relicate or synthisize (e.g. Latinum).

Damburger
2006-Jan-23, 02:52 PM
There are a fair number of things on star trek that they don't have the ability to relicate or synthisize (e.g. Latinum).

Yeah, but such things had the molecular structure deliberately designed to deter replication. It's unlikely that any such object would have any other use than being unreplicatable - and even if it did something that could be replicated would be able to do the same job.

Its also likely the Ferengi had copyright laws that make the DMCA look liberal. They would have to in order to create an artificial scarcity in order to run their apparantly capitalist system.

Basically, what I'm getting at, is that the technology of Trek is so fantastic (in both senses of the word) as to render all current economic theories useless.

pmcolt
2006-Jan-23, 03:39 PM
I hated Red Mars. Imagine a goverment spending an absolute fortune on sending people to Mars only to have not spent a single minute thinking about what they will do when they get there.

I'm reading "Red Mars" for the first time right now (about halfway through it at the moment). I'd always heard positive things about it, so I was sort of wondering just how all these Martian colonists managed to get their governments to spend $Texas to send them there so they could satisfy their own personal scientific fantasies. Let alone why so many mining projects were underway when it was repetitively made clear that such activities weren't yet economical.

montebianco
2006-Jan-24, 01:14 AM
There are entire planets in Trek with populations in the 100s. These people have more wealth than any human in existence now (a significant fraction of a planets resources, plus limitless replicator labour). Some planets are also apparantly uninhabited, and new ones are always being found - so anybody unhappy with the incredible high level of life the Federation can provide is free to find their own planet(s).

As I said, the number of people unhappy with the productive capacity of the federation would be so small, that they would not be able to form any significant economy. Without consumers, without employees, their greed would not be able to have any consequence for society. Their attempts to establish a market would probably be seen as quaint and nutty.

Do you have proof that a dramatic increase in living standards would result in satiation? If not, maybe you need to listen to the advice of this person:


What has the possibility to do with any kind of debate? Keep it rational please.

If your definition of "rational" is, "accepts every unproven conjecture of Damburger's uncritically," then I certainly hope I will never "keep it rational" in your eyes.

Damburger
2006-Jan-24, 10:43 AM
Do you have proof that a dramatic increase in living standards would result in satiation? If not, maybe you need to listen to the advice of this person:


There are plenty of people satisfied with 21st century western living standards, even when the media presents to use on a daily basis images of far greater wealth than we have. Besides, Trek doesn't have just an increase in living standards, it removes the barriers to changing ones living standards - you can simply replicate more.



If your definition of "rational" is, "accepts every unproven conjecture of Damburger's uncritically," then I certainly hope I will never "keep it rational" in your eyes.

Pointing out the possibility I might be wrong (when its always possible for any position to be wrong, duh) is a pointless and underhanded snipe.

montebianco
2006-Jan-25, 03:20 AM
There are plenty of people satisfied with 21st century western living standards, even when the media presents to use on a daily basis images of far greater wealth than we have.

And plenty of people satisfied with far lower standards of living. Any proof that as aggreagate wealth goes up, satiation goes up? (There is a great deal of study on this point - I'm sure you're familiar with it.) I know you weren't simply posting your opinion, because if you were, then you wouldn't have written this:


What has the possibility to do with any kind of debate? Keep it rational please.

So I know you have proof. What is it please?



Besides, Trek doesn't have just an increase in living standards, it removes the barriers to changing ones living standards - you can simply replicate more.

Don't know much about the show actually, but on this point I would reference the earlier post of Damburger, who points out that people might not be satisfied even with a far higher material standard of living. Now, if you can make a convincing case that Damburger is wrong, I might be swayed, because, after all, I really don't know too much about Star Trek. I just commented on the satiation issue.


Pointing out the possibility I might be wrong (when its always possible for any position to be wrong, duh) is a pointless and underhanded snipe.

I'll express my opinion in this forum when I like, with or without your permission. If your opinion is different than mine, then I suppose your expression of it must also be a pointless and underhanded snipe. Please go immediately and edit all of your posts so that they contain no opinions which conflict with mine. I know you wouldn't want to make pointless and underhanded snipes.

montebianco
2006-Jan-25, 03:34 AM
Pointing out the possibility I might be wrong (when its always possible for any position to be wrong, duh) is a pointless and underhanded snipe.

Like this?


you lot are trying to decide which 19th century model of economics a 24th century society functions on. Its a nonsensical question.

Damburger
2006-Jan-25, 08:28 AM
And plenty of people satisfied with far lower standards of living. Any proof that as aggreagate wealth goes up, satiation goes up? (There is a great deal of study on this point - I'm sure you're familiar with it.) I know you weren't simply posting your opinion, because if you were, then you wouldn't have written this:



So I know you have proof. What is it please?


OK, now you've overstepped whats polite. I know you're type - basically you try and 'win' arguments on the internet by demanding as proof of any point a half dozen peer reviewed articles. I'm not going to research this like its a Masters level assignment because I have a real life which im not going to neglect just to satisfy trolls on this forum.

Take this as an intellectual victory over me if you must, but the fact is I'm not stopping arguing because I can't I'm stopping because this has simply got too petty for me.

ToSeek
2006-Jan-25, 02:43 PM
Okay, I'm tempted to ban some folks temporarily, but I'm going to refrain because I don't think it's quite at that stage yet. However, these phrases are all violating the limits of what's permissible on this forum:


Keep it rational please.

I think montebianco made a reasonable observation ("That may well be what the early utopians would have predicted would happen in the industrial societies of today...") and Damburger overreacted to it, taking it far more personally than necessary.


If your definition of "rational" is, "accepts every unproven conjecture of Damburger's uncritically," then I certainly hope I will never "keep it rational" in your eyes.

Another overreaction, this time by montebianco.


Pointing out the possibility I might be wrong (when its always possible for any position to be wrong, duh) is a pointless and underhanded snipe.

As we work our way toward DEFCON ONE....


I'll express my opinion in this forum when I like, with or without your permission. If your opinion is different than mine, then I suppose your expression of it must also be a pointless and underhanded snipe. Please go immediately and edit all of your posts so that they contain no opinions which conflict with mine. I know you wouldn't want to make pointless and underhanded snipes.

Unnecessarily snippy.


I know you're type


just to satisfy trolls on this forum

Two definite ad homs.

Let me remind both of you of Rule 2 on this forum:


2. Civility and Decorum

Politeness is the top rule here. Of course, we expect to have spirited debates! That’s fine, as long as the people involved extend one another basic respect. Disagreements are inevitable, but even in those situations you must still be nice.

Attack the ideas, not the person(s) presenting them. If you've got concerns with what someone is saying, feel free dismantle their arguments, but do not resort to ad hominem or personal attacks. Be mindful and respectful of others' feelings. If you feel that someone has crossed the line and insulted you, please contact one of the moderators via private message or e-mail. Don't write scathing posts in the forum to try and humiliate people publicly.

If these guidelines are not followed, the administrators/moderators will take swift and appropriate action, so please behave accordingly.

Both of you should consider yourselves warned. Further transgressions will result in bannings, and they won't be short ones.

parallaxicality
2006-Jan-29, 06:43 PM
I wouldn't go so far as to call the Federation Communist. That guy put forward a damning case, I'll admit, but I think he's missing a rather fundamental point; Roddenberry was exploring the idea of a future "fifth generation" economy, where nearly all of our problems were solved, all of our tasks performed, all of our jobs done by technological replacements. In the 1960s, some people, like Roddenberry, Arthur C Clarke and Isaac Asimov, saw the advance of technology and its liberation of humanity as a kind of apocalyptic New Age Utopia, where everyone would feast on plenty and live middle-class lifestyles. The question the "optimistic" school of scifi had to ask itself was, what happens to to society once that point is reached? Obviously, in such a society there would be nearly universal unemployment, so humanity would have to figure out what to do with itself. Roddenberry assumed, (wrongly in my view) that this liberation would set humanity on higher goals such as philosophy, art and exploration, and that we'd all become cultured, spartan and outgoing. That's where I think Michael Wong got it wrong; he assumes this society would be enforced from the top down, whereas Roddenberry assumed that it would happen from the bottom up. Isaac Asimov imagined a similar scenario in his Robot novels with the Spacer planets, only he understood human nature perhaps a bit better than Roddenberry did. His techno-utopia led to indolence, decadence and stagnation.

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-29, 06:49 PM
Of course, Marx thought that his society would be enforced from the bottom up as well. It never happens that way.

The Incredible Bloke
2006-Jan-29, 10:59 PM
What about the trilogy, "Red Mars", "Green Mars", "Blue Mars" by Kim Stanley Robinson. Do you think that was well thought out or another poorly concieved economic system.

He idealizes these socialist-scientist communes, and then minimizes the fact that it was the Evil Corporations that allowed them to get to Mars and built all their infratructure there in the first place. Great science,questionable socioeconomics, and rather uninspiring characters

Ilya
2006-Jan-30, 03:45 PM
Obviously, in such a society there would be nearly universal unemployment, so humanity would have to figure out what to do with itself. Roddenberry assumed, (wrongly in my view) that this liberation would set humanity on higher goals such as philosophy, art and exploration, and that we'd all become cultured, spartan and outgoing. That's where I think Michael Wong got it wrong; he assumes this society would be enforced from the top down, whereas Roddenberry assumed that it would happen from the bottom up. Isaac Asimov imagined a similar scenario in his Robot novels with the Spacer planets, only he understood human nature perhaps a bit better than Roddenberry did. His techno-utopia led to indolence, decadence and stagnation.
Then I would say Michael Wong got it right. He looked at society as presented, and inferred how it could be supported. The way Roddenberry presented the society and how it was supported is impossible.

Which is why in OP I asked for book examples, as being (usually) a little more subtle. It's hard to come up with WORSE socioeconomics than Star Trek.

Ilya
2006-Jan-30, 03:46 PM
He idealizes these socialist-scientist communes, and then minimizes the fact that it was the Evil Corporations that allowed them to get to Mars and built all their infratructure there in the first place. Great science,questionable socioeconomics, and rather uninspiring characters
IOW, Robinson is a lefty who pines for "real socialism" which never existed. Yes, socioeconomics of "Red Mars" are pretty awful.

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-30, 06:02 PM
I mean, an economy based on giving more than one recieves in a barter? Come on!

eburacum45
2006-Jan-31, 07:40 AM
I sympathise with the writers of Star Trek in some ways; it is difficult to imagine economics in a post-scarcity society.

We are used to think of our planet as running out of resources; in fact there are plenty of material resources to go round. We have barely begun to exploit the matter of our planet. But we are short of energy in an easily usable form; if abundant energy were available then the resources of our planet could be endlessly recycled.

If and when our civilisation becomes a Kardashev class I (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kardashev_scale#Type_I) civilisation we will have twenty thousand times as much available energy per person (assuming the population does not increase). Quite a large proportion of that energy would be required to produce food, but at least our planet would be kept warm by the waste heat from such a civilisation.
If we become a Kardashev type II (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kardashev_scale#Type_II) civilisation without an increase in population each person would have trillions of times as much energy at their disposal. Probably the replicator as depicted in Star Trek will never be physically possible; but with abundant energy any desired commodity could be manufactured almost as easily (if not necessarily as quickly).

So how does economics work in such a post-scarcity society? If manufacturing if largely automated then commodities will become vanishingly cheap, so will we have a Star Trek like moneyless society?
I don't think so.

For a start the engineering projects required are very energy intensive. If too many ambitious projects are attempted at once the resource-based economy could easily experience a severe resource-flow problem; a dozen half-baked projects going on at once could lead to resource bankruptcy of sorts, where none of the projects can be finished in a reasonable timescale. With a system of capital and exchange such over ambitious projects would be self-regulating.

Worse than the prospect of temporary resource bankruptcy is the possibility of asymptotic growth. If an advanced, comfortable civilisation can be achieved by good resource management alone, the citizens of that culture might get the idea that they can basically consume as much as they like, use as much resources as they desire. This cannot be the case indefinitely, most particularly if the population continues to grow.
If a comfortable society continues to double in size over a given number of years, the population will eventually get too large for the system. Given asymptotic growth, this happens surprisingly quickly.

So even a resources driven utopia needs population controls; in a money regulated economy the rate of population growth can be controlled by making it too expensive to have many children. Plenty of people in western societies feel that they would rather not have the expense of a family. But in a money-less society (as far as I can figure) such population control could only be achieved by edict.
Even in a resource rich civilisation there are restrictions on freedom; then again there are limits in any society (of course).

parallaxicality
2006-Jan-31, 10:33 AM
But of course if you had access to an entire galaxy, then you could export your excess population elsewhere

eburacum45
2006-Jan-31, 11:29 AM
You would think so; but in practice physical laws such as the speed of light would limit the speed of this expansion. With an asymptotic increase in population the expansion would eventually need to occur at the speed of light. After that date the increase in population would need to be restrained.

Disinfo Agent
2006-Jan-31, 01:38 PM
Has anyone here read Frederik Pohl's Midas World?