The Three Requirments for a Post Scarcity Economy

March 27th, 2012 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on The Three Requirments for a Post Scarcity Economy)

I have identified just three necessary ingredients for achieving a fully sustainable, post-scarcity economy – open information, open manufacturing and full regenerative use of local materials. All of these are proving to be unstoppable.

Lets look at each of them in a little detail:

1) Open Information  – The modern trend towards increasingly open information began with the Gutenberg printing press in 1436 and became unstoppable ever since.  There is not a single instance anywhere in history where information has been successfully censored indefinitely. The Internet is merely the most recent and dramatic example of this ongoing information explosion. Despite the best efforts of powerful interests everywhere to control and censor information, information wants to be free, and makes it so. The end result will be a totally decentralized and uncensored global network “brain” where everyone will be able to create, share and receive bits from anyone else. For example, the Pirate Bay, the biggest victim of censorship attacks, is now designing and building solar powered, high-altitude (70,000 feet) wireless servers that will be extraordinarily difficult to shut down. Open source hardware devices like the $50 Arduino and $25 Rasberry Pi, are only the beginning of cheap, widely available general purpose computing devices. With the rapid digitization of everything, including books, music, movies, money, recipes, formulas, designs, manufacturing processes, patents, copyrights, trade secrets, state secrets, solutions of every kind, and most importantly computation itself, the genie is out of the bottle for good on this one. No amount of laws or wars to stop it will succeed. Sadly, until the old order collapses, much of the progress in these domains will be done by outlaws.

2) Open Manufacturing – With the advent of open-source desktop manufacturing, the means to create physical goods locally will be made available to all. Open sourced manufacturing generates some dramatically positive outcomes:

  • Radically improved product design without planned obsolescence – think 50-100 year product lifetimes. Indefinite product lifetimes means no further expenditures on tools, and radically reduced requirements for new materials. This translates to far less consumption, waste and strain on the planet.
  • Modular construction methods for easy and rapid construction, repair and upgrading. Example: Wikispeed designed a totally modular car in less than 3 months that gets 100mpg, has 10 minute average repair times, and can be changed from a gasoline to an electric car (and back again!) in less than an hour. Currently automobiles are deliberately designed to fail within a few years, in which repairs and parts are both expensive and difficult to replace. This planned obsolescence is a deliberate design flaw for maximizing auto industry/auto mechanic profit margins. Open source automobiles totally eliminates this waste and expense.
  • Designed from the beginning to use local and biofriendly sources of raw materials – current business models favor the use of expensive or hard to obtain materials for maximizing profit margins. If the materials are cheap and readily available, prices can’t be fixed by resource hoarding. There are strong incentives withing the current closed-source system for incumbents to use materials and processes that are hard to duplicate elsewhere. Prices only drop when their is genuine competition in raw materials. By designing open-source products to use locally available and renewable resources, the price fixers, hoarders, renters and other middle-men are completely cut of of the equation.

3) 100% Regenerative Use of Local Materials – Currently many of the products of our civilization require precious materials from far away places. However the means to create advanced technologies like high capacity batteries and computer processors is becoming possible using everyday organic materials like carbon. A good example is graphene, a new and spectacular type of carbon molecule whose strength and electrical conductivity is greater than any material ever recorded. Already people have figured out to make graphene supercapacitors and do microlithography (the process used to make microchips) using nothing more than a $50 DVD burner! The continued work on creating new materials using readily available recyclable and biodegradable resources makes the possibility of having an fully regenerative, earth friendly, advanced technological, post-scarcity, thriving abundant civilization, a tangible possibility. See Spime.



I just read an interesting excerpt from Edward O Wilson’s book ‘The Future of Life’ over at James Media:

Environmentalism is something more central and vastly more important. Its essence has been defined by science in the following way. Earth, unlike the other solar planets, is not in physical equilibrium. It depends on its living shell to create the special conditions on which life is sustainable. The soil, water, and atmosphere of its surface have evolved over hundreds of millions of years to their present condition by the activity of the biosphere, a stupendously complex layer of living creatures whose activities are locked together in precise but tenuous global cycles of energy and transformed organic matter. The biosphere creates our special world anew every day, every minute, and holds it in a unique, shimmering physical disequilibrium. On that disequilibrium the human species is in total thrall. When we alter the biosphere in any direction, we move the environment away from the delicate dance of biology. When we destroy ecosystems and extinguish species, we degrade the greatest heritage this planet has to offer and thereby threaten our own existence.

I agree with this on many levels, but Wilson and many other environmentalists are missing a much larger picture and more holistic perspective- The human species with all our technology and pollution is a part of nature.

Wilson then goes on to say,

We must forget our urge to colonize space, to expand technologically. We must get back to nature.

Dr. Wilson is working within a false dichotomy. We are a part of nature, and nature is a part of us. We are inextricably one and the same. Our inexorable drive to expand and explore is what life itself has always done. Life has never once settled into complete homeostasis. There has always been a small segment of it mutating, evolving, growing, expanding, filling new niches, creating new habitats. Without intelligence the biopshere will eventually die in a billion years from the Suns lethal radiation output. But evolved intelligent life expanding beyond the womb planet does have a chance of living indefinitely. Intelligent life, like us, have the ability to expand life off the womb planet and out into the cosmos, enabling it to escape the eventual heat death of it’s parent star. In the meantime, the biosphere is plugging along nicely, despite our civilization. Yes, we are seeing massive species extinction. This is not the first time, but at least the fifth time this has happened, and the biosphere has survived all of them.

I’m with people like Timothy LearyRobery Anton Wilson Lynn Margulis and Dorian Sagan on this one. I think whats really happening is the Biosphere (aka Gaia) is giving birth, and we are part of this birth. The children of the biosphere are about to leave the womb planet and spread out into the universe. And this isn’t just plain old life, but intelligent life, complex life, beyond anything a mere bacterium or even domesticated primates like ourselves can imagine at the moment.

There was an old debate raging in the circles of the transhumanists circles a few years – Gaians vs Extropians. Like then, and now these two philosophies are not mutually exclusive. We are seeing the beginnings of biotechnics, regnerative technologies, clean energy and tools of radical abundance like nanotechnology, that will enable the human species to continue evolving while simultaneously repairing and regenerating mother earth.