[ExI] Fwd: [Open Manufacturing] Re: Will abundance hurt motivation to create?

Bryan Bishop kanzure at gmail.com
Wed Aug 5 15:45:42 UTC 2009

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Paul D. Fernhout <pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com>
Date: Wed, Aug 5, 2009 at 10:27 AM
Subject: [Open Manufacturing] Re: Will abundance hurt motivation to create?
To: openmanufacturing at googlegroups.com

Emlyn wrote:
> We keep seeing this assertion, that without incentive to create, our
> society will stagnate as we all become hopeless lotus eaters, and no
> one invents or creates or designs anything significant because they
> can't get paid for it.
> Now I think we all suspect that not only would this not be true in an
> abundant society, it is not true now. In fact, it seems that all
> people require to be creative is that they can easily interact with
> like-minded others and that it doesn't cost them too much (never mind
> being paid).
> However, just saying it aint so doesn't really cut it. Does anyone
> (Paul?) know of useful work in this area, ie: what it takes to
> optimally foster innovation? Do someone need to put serious effort
> into researching & writing something?

That issue comes up too in Joseph Jackson's excellent presentation here:
(you need to download the 2/4/09 show, it is discussed about 3/4 way
through, where Joseph talks about the Fundamental Attribution error, as, in
that case, "We blog for free, but all those people out there are lazy." :-):

Alfie Kohn is a good source, because he has studied the literature:

"Studies Find Reward Often No Motivator
Creativity and intrinsic interest diminish if task is done for gain" by
Alfie Kohn

"No Contest: The Case Against Competition "

"Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's,
Praise, and Other Bribes"

What I find interesting is that people's first objection to post-scarcity or
abundance or a basic income is always: "Nobody will work, and people will
all be bums, and society will collapse because no one will pick up the garbage."

But, the second objection is always the opposite: "If everyone has free
time, they'll make lots of free music, figure out ways to use robots to pick
up garbage for free, give free counseling and advice over the internet, and
thus put musicians, garbage collectors, and psychologists and doctors out of
work, and the economy will collapse." :-)

So, which is it? :-)

Try it. Next time someone talks about motivation, ask them how much current
businesses are under pressure from people doing stuff for free, or would be,
if everyone did not have to work. :-)

What I see happening, is that, as Bob Black suggests,
  "The abolition of work"
based on the ideas of Charles Fourier:
that without economic wage-slaves to do the disagreeable tasks of the world,
we will either decide they don't need to be done, we will re-engineer them
to be fun (fun like blogging for some), or we will find some way to motivate
people to do them (status, a sense of ownership, whatever).

How many people like taking out the trash at home or cleaning their own
toilets? How many people like changing diapers on babies day after day? But
it gets done. So, some of this is also a perception of "ownership" or "duty"
or "love".

Debian GNU/Linux has *only* thousands of maintainers out of millions of
users, but that one out of a thousand is enough to make it all work.

So, another aspect is that, because technology is an amplifier, if a billion
people can use 3D printers to print out iPhones, you only need a few
motivated people to design them and everyone else benefits. In the end, we
really don't need that many good designs to supply basic human needs to
everyone. So, the few can, out of the joy of meaningful work, supply the many.

Naturally, once people have the free time, more people will design for fun.

This argument also often confuses two things: do people have the
*motivation* to be creative, or do they have the *time*, *tools*,
*resources*, *education*, and *community* to be creative? In a world where
everything was free or cheap, a lot of people would be able to be creative
when today they are just frustrated. Not everyone might want to be, say a
mechanical engineer designing free cars, as it does take some talent and
some interest, but lots and lots of people might want to, *if* they had the
time and resources to be generous.

Actually, the orange without the tree idea came up because the other day I
was talking with someone about these issues, and he objected that people
with orange plantations in Florida would just sell them because they weren't
profitable enough, especially if they could not get people to work for cheap
because everyone had a basic income and so no one wanted to pick oranges for
cheap. So, I said, well, let's really look at that problem. What would
really happen if, as a society, we could not get illegal immagrants to pick
oranges for cheap? Well, you'd either pay the people more, or you'd build
robots to do the picking, or you'd engineer the trees so they dropped their
oranges into troughs when they got ripe, or you'd figure out how to grow the
oranges without the trees. :-)

People say that one reason why the Greeks did not develop innovations like
the steam engine for pumping water, even though they had a version by Hero
of Alexandria, is that they had slaves. Well, we have "wage slaves" in the
USA (and China) which are much the same thing. And so, as a society, we have
not been that motivated :-) to re-engineer things so we don't need to do
them, or so that doing them is fun (even "hard fun" with a sense of "flow").
So, just think of all the new *motivation* we would have to redesign our
infrastructure more compassionately if no one would work for pay. :-)

--Paul Fernhout

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- Bryan
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