[ExI] Is unemployment the future?

JOSHUA JOB nanite1018 at gmail.com
Thu Nov 5 22:52:34 UTC 2009

On Nov 5, 2009, at 1:36 AM, Emlyn wrote:
> Well, you have to have food, shelter, companionship to live (plus a
> few more things on this list?). "Producing value" is a method of
> getting tokens to trade with other people to get those things.

>> So having a desire to be productive (i.e. a
>> work ethic) is a good thing.
> Good? It is useful to the individual, in a society organised to
> require tokens, because it helps the individual get tokens. If the
> "productive" work the individual has to do to get those tokens turns
> out to be a negative though (either through indulging in important
> looking makework like service work and middle management, which do
> nothing useful but consume extra resources, or through indulging in
> outright destructive behaviour like working in scams such as much of
> the finance work, or marketing/advertising), then it looks like the
> opposite of useful to the group, and the morality of the endeavour is
> questionable.
Well, if people thought the work was useless or negative (that it  
didn't somehow benefit them), then no one would be employed in such  
positions. Having middle management, for example, is one way to  
organize a company. If a company with it outcompetes a company without  
it on a free market, then clearly middle management serves a  
productive purpose. If not, then middle management is dumped to make  
companies more profitable. Scams are punished in the market and by law  
(you aren't allowed to defraud people, lie, etc.). They might run for  
a while, but they always fail eventually. So, any form of work is  
useful or at least potentially useful (only time can tell whether it  
is optimally useful compared to other possible activities or  
organization types). Being productive is moral however, because it  
serves your life.
>> So some work is necessary to
>> live a dignified life, absolutely.
> .....Toil is required now, in the current system, unless you are self
> sufficient for tokens. Work of some kind, which provides a sense of
> meaning, is probably required to live a dignified life, but that is
> not the same as "toil".
What is the purpose of the distinction between non-token work vs. work  
for tokens? Both are voluntary (you always have a choice in a free  
society about what you do, and can always decide to go hungry or be  
homeless, etc. if you really hate working). There is no real  
difference between the two, except one is for something that isn't  
money. But money is merely a means to getting certain types of values,  
like food, shelter, entertainment like video games or movies,  
education, etc. Some things we don't really use money to acquire like  
companionship and friendship and sex. Those sorts of things we have to  
acquire through means that don't involve money (such as having  
integrity, being rational, friendly, listening, etc.). But the end  
goal is the same: the attainment of values.

So splitting work into work for money and work for "pleasure" doesn't  
really make sense. Many people love their jobs (that's how it should  
be for everyone, and would be more so if our society was freer). Many  
hate them. Some love volunteering, others hate it. There are people  
who would go to work even if they weren't being paid, because they  
love their job. There are some who would only go to a homeless shelter  
only if they were being paid. So the two categories you are discussing  
aren't exhaustive or even mutually exclusive. And in the end, everyone  
chooses what they want to do, even if they wouldn't choose that  
particular activity if they had superpowers or had magic powers like  
Harry Potter and could do whatever they wanted without any restriction  
(which is a standard which is totally disconnected from reality, and  
therefore irrational)
> So you mean you shouldn't force people to pay taxes to support other  
> people? Actually I partly agree with this; I find it difficult to  
> stomach the
> idea of big new taxes. Especially income taxes, it's kind of the point
> that selling ones' labour as a means of participating in the market is
> failing as an idea, because technology is reducing the value of
> labour.
> If you are a government, whose job it is to look after the interests
> of the people (a fraught concept to be sure, and hopefully we can come
> up with something a bit more self organising and useful, but it's what
> we've got), there are other ways to raise money than to tax the
> working stiffs. For instance, the government hands out monopolies all
> over the place, especially on IP. If we are going to stay with IP (and
> there's another tar baby), then charge like wounded bulls for the
> privellege of these monopolies! If companies want to have exclusive
> rights over abstract ideas, make them pay for the privellege; after
> all, these monopolies damage us all.
> Property rights are also artificial grants, if you think about it,
> guaranteed by he with the biggest stick (that's the government,
> maintaining its monopoly on violence so we don't all need armed
> gangs). It could charge handsomely for those privelleges too; after
> all, it's expensive to guarantee that stuff.
> Or, you know, you could view the matter in the universe as belonging
> primarily to the collective of all humanity. Perhaps private property
> shouldn't be able to be owned at all? Perhaps it should be more like a
> subscription system? Hmm...
>> If you reject the ability to initiate force on those grounds
>> (as it seems to me one should, logically), then you are left with  
>> simply an
>> argument that charities are good things. I'll leave that question  
>> alone, but
>> I certainly think that any sort of guaranteed (through the state)  
>> minimum
>> income can be rejected based on fundamental principles.
> Unless you argue that the state should be entirely abolished (you
> might! Large collections of people acting together and imposing their
> will on others tend to be pretty shit), then how do you draw the line
> between when the state can use its based-in-force powers and when it
> can't?
Well, you might be interested in Georgism, its says all land should be  
held in common. I disagree with it but I'm not going to get into that.  
Just thought you might want to know about it in case you hadn't heard  
of it.

I do not believe any form of initiation of force against another  
person is justified in any circumstances, except perhaps (and it  
should be minimized) in an emergency situation (a situation where life  
without force is quite literally impossible, like if you are on a  
sinking boat and you have to throw someone overboard to prevent  
everyone's drowning). So taxes are illegitimate in my opinion.  
Government can instead by funded in exactly the way you suggested:  
fees for contracts of all kinds. It would be something like charging a  
tiny percentage of the value of a contract (defined in some manner,  
not going to go into legal theory, I haven't considered it in that  
detail), which would pay for the costs of enforcement as well as other  
functions of government (the criminal justice system and military).  
That way government is funded voluntarily (no one is making you pay  
the fee to the government, but if you don't, your contract won't be  
enforced by any court of law).

Along with my principle against the non-initiation of force, the only  
legitimate functions of government are those which do no initiate  
force, and those are courts, police and the military (which is used  
defensively to prevent force, almost solely being used for direct  
defense). The justice system doesn't initiate any force, it instead  
settles disputes people voluntarily bring to it, and punishes people  
who have initiated force (taking over the self-defense functions from  
people, effectively). Government is, it seems, necessary to settle  
disputes. The nice thing about my way of funding it, etc., is that it  
will allow it to wither away and disappear if at some point humanity  
somehow outgrows it (people won't need to have their contracts  
insured, private arbitration services take over in the criminal  
justice arena and civil arena, etc.).
>> A couple of things here. First: What is the problem if portions of  
>> the world
>> are "marginalized?" They are by powerless.
> Why do you say "they"? The only moral way to my mind of judging any
> system of social organisation, is to imagine yourself as part of the
> least well off group. Unless you can be ok with being that person, how
> can you support that system? To be clear here, would you be ok being
> one of those powerless people?
Well I disagree with your assertion that that is the way to judge the  
morality of a society. Even so, I would be unhappy that I did have  
cybernetic implants and my own nanotech factory and AI home computer,  
etc. just like I am now that I don't have an iPhone because it costs  
too much for me to think its worth it to buy it. I'd love a satellite  
phone, but I don't have one because they're too expensive. I would  
love a Ferrari, but I don't because its too expensive. Do I think its  
unfair that I don't have those things? Absolutely not. That is how  
society is and should be organized in my view, so it really doesn't  
matter where I am on the scale, I wouldn't think the system immoral.  
Might I not like my position? Sure. Might I want to change it?  
Absolutely. Does that make the system immoral? Definitely not.
>> On principle, they aren't allowed
>> to do anything. They can't attack the formal economy using  
>> violence, they
>> can't steal, they can't defraud people, they can't take away their  
>> property
>> (legitimately). So what is the issue?
> Marginalised doesn't mean powerless, just deprived of an ability to be
> involved in the "legitimate" economy. They can indeed use violence,
> steal, fraud. People can do whatever people can do, not just whatever
> they are legally allowed to. They might also be punished, but that's a
> different issue.
> Bleeding heart issues aside, these actions are increasingly possible
> and powerful and threatening to the existing order, as the percentage
> of people in that marginalised group increases. The issue is this
> increasingly is an example of a broken system.
Well preventing people from slaughtering millions, blowing things up,  
stealing lots of money, etc. is the job of government. That's exactly  
what its there for. In my opinion, you don't allow evil to determine  
how you live your life. Murderers, thieves, etc. are evil and/or  
committing evil acts. I won't allow them to blackmail me into giving  
them what they want. The proper response is to use whatever force is  
necessary to make them stop killing, stealing, etc. (locking them up,  
increasing fines, having more police, perhaps declaring a war if that  
is appropriate). Like the President in the movie "Air Force One," I  
say "We don't negotiate with terrorists" of any kind.
>> So if the needs of some group aren't being met by the
>> market dominated by the super-wealthy or the transhumans, etc., the  
>> poorer
>> people can start their own thing, making quilts or whatever like  
>> the Amish.
>> This a reason why markets are a positive thing, and why they will  
>> always
>> adapt to the needs of people.
> There are indeed lots of grassroots efforts to create local and
> alternative currencies around, for just this reason. But this seems to
> be quite hard, to often not sit entirely comfortably with the law, and
> is an example not of markets adapting to meet the needs of people, but
> of people trying to wrench new markets into being to escape the
> depredations of existing, non adapting ones.
I wholeheartedly support those grassroots efforts and alternative  
currencies. Just the problems you are discussing is why they should be  
totally legal and allowed to compete on the open market (have multiple  
currencies seems to work just fine for certain countries today, and  
worked fine for America back in the 1800s). Monetary systems, market  
structures etc. that aren't serving people will die off and be  
replaced by better ones. We may end up with two very separate and  
different markets for the transhumans or wealthy and another for the  
normal people or poor. But that isn't a problem, its one of the nice  
things about freeing people to do whatever they like so long as it  
doesn't involve force: they can solve problems in unique ways.
> ....There is also the matter of the human creative input to create
> physical things, and to create new information and social context. But
> do we need money to motivate this actual work? The great body of the
> internet says no. People will do things for money, but we see
> increasingly that enough people will do even more, far more, for
> reputation and just for the love of it, if they are not otherwise
> required to spend their time toiling. If the things they need to live
> have zero or almost zero cost, for the reasons stated above, then that
> will be the case; you don't need to financially reward people who have
> no use for that reward. And, you don't need (and can't use) the work
> of everyone, just of a few, which can be endlessly distributed to
> anyone who can use it.
> The great strength of the market is its signalling aspects, but you
> can still have that, because you can still have reputation markets.
> The social internet, if it is anything, is almost wholely an
> unimaginably large collection of variously sized reputation markets.
> These markets aren't command economy; they're bonefide distributed
> organisations of free actors. I'd like to think that we could
> eventually replace government with mechanisms that arise out of this
> sphere.
I am going to sort of steal an argument from F.A. Hayek's "The Road to  
Serfdom" here, because it applies really really well to your criticism  
that I quoted. The scarcity isn't information or material in the  
economy (well not in almost all cases). The scarcity that causes  
prices is the scarcity of time (there are only so many people-hours in  
a day). That's why we live in a world where things are scarce and thus  
need a distribution mechanism. Could it be something like a reputation  
market? Well let's examine that (and see if its any different from  
money, if applied to a whole economy).

In a capitalist economy, the market is totally impartial. People deal  
with each other based on the quality of products, and there are prices  
determined not by individual people but by all sorts of people, buyers  
and sellers, together resulting in the price (which is fairly constant  
across all transactions for a given good at a given time all around  
the market area). Things like individual prejudices are punished  
harshly (if you purposely only higher whites, even though some  
minority people would do a better job, you'll get hurt because your  
business won't be as efficient as the competitors who aren't racist).  
Grudges are overwhelmed by market forces, by pure rational assessment  
of costs and benefits. A system based on central planning cannot have  
that (as it won't have numerous people deciding things on a low level,  
but a central planner who will inevitably have some such biases).

Now, lets look at a social reputation market like you are talking  
about. First, this means that grudges, personal prejudices, etc. all  
have a role to play, and quite possibly a big one at that. Besides  
that, what exactly is the difference between your reputation market  
and a money market? The only conceivable difference is that in one I  
am doing something for money and one without. But in a capitalist  
market, you get paid more for the better work you do, the more  
innovative you are, etc.  In a reputation market, same thing. You have  
more pull if you have more money. Same with a reputation market. In  
fact, I can't think of any fundamental difference between the two in  
terms of how they work (other than giving more room for personal  
prejudice and grudges in a reputation market than a capitalist one).  
The end result would be basically the same. You have to manage  
distribution (assuming we aren't in a post-scarcity economy which  
would make this whole discussion moot anyway). That would, likely, end  
up being based on reputation (hardest/best workers get things first,  
etc.). What does that sound like? Oh yeah, capitalism. Haha.

You can call it what you want, but I really think that the basic  
structure of capitalism, whether something absolute like money or a  
reputation market, will remain as long as we ban force and still have  
> I hope you're wrong. The 20th century seemed to be all about
> capitalism vs socialism, various mixes of these showing up, and no one
> being particularly happy about most of the results. The 21st century
> dawns with a new connected humanity, with a new set of possibilities
> for living together, collaborating or not, communicating or not,
> helping each other or not, which invalidate the core assumptions of
> the previous ideologies.
> We have new possibilities for productivity, ones that don't require
> human toil (in fact which increasingly wont be able to find a use for
> it), yet we find ourselves mired in a pre-existing system which
> requires money purely for organizational reasons. The universal basic
> income is a kludge to tide us over while we sort out the new stuff,
> because people don't deserve to die in the streets just because things
> have gotten better.
Well you are right that we will find new ways to organize things, I  
totally agree with you there. So the capitalism of 2050 or 2100 won't  
look like todays (just like todays isn't like 1950s or 1900s or 1850s).

Like I've said before, my problem with the universal basic income is  
that it involves force to take from some people to give it to others.  
And that I can't see how it can be reconciled with the principles of  
extropy, which explicitly talk about the need for an open society,  
self-direction, and rational thinking (and force goes against all of  

Joshua Job
nanite1018 at gmail.com

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