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August 10, 2012 7:05 AM   Subscribe

The PBS Idea Channel takes a look at how Minecraft can be a useful simulation for what life could be like in a post-scarcity economy where technology like Makerbots has become common. [slyt]
posted by quin (32 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Post-scarcity economy, assuming it's even a possible reality, is still a long way off because our society doesn't prioritize for it. Consider when we landed on the moon and how much technology we gained and time passed before the Curiosity landing--if America had stayed focused on a space exploration, think where we'd be now? Same goes for being able to "print" a spoon, food, a human heart, etc. The question to ask is where does the profit motive fit into creating a post-scarcity economy?
posted by mikeo2 at 7:16 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Frankly, I am kind of hoping that science will evolve to the point where I can chop down trees to make bioplastic for my giant makerbot maker, which will make makerbots.

(I'm also hoping that all these media references to Cory Doctorow will drive up the value of my signed pre-publication review draft -- printed, on paper -- of Cory's "Eastern Standard Tribe", enough so I can buy a giant makerbot maker.)
posted by markkraft at 7:17 AM on August 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Post-scarcity economy, bah. What you do is sneak into your neighbor's basement and take all their redstone blocks and then carve a smiley face into their floor for them to find when they get back. It seems to be a pretty good system.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 7:21 AM on August 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


mikeo2: Society has radically prioritized the first post scarcity economy: information. As soon as it's remotely possible, we'll get there fast. Think of the makerbot as the Apple II computer, the first computer that could actually be used by someone who wasn't a specialist. We're getting there, faster than you think.
posted by Freen at 7:22 AM on August 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


The PBS Idea Channel takes a look at how [fantasy technology] can be a useful simulation for what life could be like in a [fantasy world].

Hard-hitting stuff!
posted by Sys Rq at 7:22 AM on August 10, 2012 [9 favorites]


Post-scarcity economy: The solution to the world's problems are not found in concepts like love, justice, and harmony - the solution to the world's problems are found in endless, conspicuous consumption.

The human race will reach its highest potnetial when no one ever has to get off the couch, and we can have all the frozen pizza and beer we want. All we need are robot football games, and then we will have paradise for all.
posted by Flood at 7:23 AM on August 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


We won't get past scarcity until Makerbots can make energy and water.
posted by Iridic at 7:27 AM on August 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


And corn.
posted by notyou at 7:28 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


...and plastic!
posted by markkraft at 7:28 AM on August 10, 2012


Yeah, every time I read the phrase 'post-scarcity economy' I have to pause & remind myself that it's not referring to food.
posted by Rat Spatula at 7:28 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I immediately thought of Professor Farnsworth's duplicator that Bender used to make two copies of himself that were 60% of his size, and then they copied themselves ad infinitum.

But, if we were to take a TV show serious, that kind of technology won't be available until 3011...apparently.
posted by PipRuss at 7:32 AM on August 10, 2012


I was hovering over my 8-year-old son's lagoon-spanning 30-story hotel, which he made out of red wool and blocks of gold, watching him build a giant room full of hot tubs and bookshelves, and I thought to myself, "so this is what it'd be like to live in the Culture."

Then he built a spawner (?) and these flame creatures came out and burned huge holes in it and he begged me to help him rebuild, so I spent the next hour sticking red wool blocks into place thinking, "in the Culture, reality probably has a scripting API."
posted by mph at 7:37 AM on August 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


Interesting point about destruction, mph. In a post-scarcity economy, if I return home to find that you've packed my house with TNT and turned the whole block into a crater, my reaction (assuming everyone was evacuated first) would have to mild annoyance. "Hey...cut that out. Now I won't have a new one for hours!"
posted by echo target at 7:48 AM on August 10, 2012


Post-scarcity economy, assuming it's even a possible reality, is still a long way off because our society doesn't prioritize for it.

The first step toward "post-scarcity" is not ridiculous overabundance of any imaginable consumer good. That is indeed a long ways off. The first step is not needing anything remotely like the number of people we have to produce the limited level of abundance we are capable of.

That's here now, and it's an issue we have to deal with in some fashion or human civilization will simply collapse before we ever get to true post-scarcity. Technology has drastically reduced the ratio of producers to consumers and will continue to do so. But we don't yet understand how to distribute goods in a way that isn't tied to production. Right now we're sliding toward an unsustainable system that produces a shitload of stuff that nobody can afford and a lot of people who are hanging off the edges, scavenging for trash while surrounded by treasures they aren't allowed to have.

Even now, I'd argue that a hell of a lot (most?) economic activity takes place not because there's actual demand for its output, but because the people doing it need a way to participate in the economic system. What was that line from the Homeboy Industries post a while back? Something like: “We don’t hire homies to bake bread. we bake bread to hire homies.”

That's what is driving far more of our economy than you might think. Right now.
posted by Naberius at 7:54 AM on August 10, 2012 [8 favorites]


I've always thought of Minecraft as a simulator of the post-industrial economy, set 50-100 years after the oil ran out or got too expensive. After we couldn't grow enough monoculture food to support our population anymore (what is it, 8 calories of oil energy that go into every calorie of corn?), and the resulting human die-offs and wild reclamation of the land.
posted by zjacreman at 8:12 AM on August 10, 2012


Post scarcity economics is already hear, and has an easy to remember name: Hoarding.

It ain't a pretty place to live, you can't find anything because it's all buried under something else.
posted by MikeWarot at 8:25 AM on August 10, 2012


Ugh... for want of an edit button..... it's already HERE, that is.
posted by MikeWarot at 8:26 AM on August 10, 2012


The question to ask is where does the profit motive fit into creating a post-scarcity economy?

No, the question to ask is: What technologies will lead us to a post-scarcity economy as an unintended byproduct?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:28 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


The human race will reach its highest potnetial when no one ever has to get off the couch, and we can have all the frozen pizza and beer we want. All we need are robot football games, and then we will have paradise for all.

Isn't this what Star Trek was about?
posted by asnider at 8:32 AM on August 10, 2012


Much as I'd like to believe otherwise, land will continue to be a scarce good regardless of how good the makerbots become.
posted by Ritchie at 8:38 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


There will never be a 'post-scarcity economy' as we are all mortal.
posted by borges at 8:38 AM on August 10, 2012


In the post-scarcity society, we will all punch trees, as many as we want.
posted by bonehead at 8:53 AM on August 10, 2012


At first my reaction was about how great it would be if this became true and everyone had access to these things. Then the implications of the concept started to become apparent. Yes, you can print anything you want (presumably provided it'll fit inside a makerbot printing frame), but that depends on having an unlimited source of plastic.

Then it occured to me, that although the number of things you can make with plastic is extremely large, plastic is not a suitable material to use for everything you might need an object for, e.g. saucepans, windows, socket wrenches, etc. So unless someone invents a makerbot that can print using metal, fabric, paper, glass etc, you're still going to need to manufacture stuff.
posted by talitha_kumi at 8:54 AM on August 10, 2012


Yes, you can print anything you want (presumably provided it'll fit inside a makerbot printing frame), but that depends on having an unlimited source of plastic.

Which is simply not going to happen unless we develop much better bioplastics than those that are currently available.
posted by asnider at 9:32 AM on August 10, 2012


I'm not sure why, but hearing the term "post-scarcity economy" used this way pisses me off.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:39 AM on August 10, 2012


"Post-scarcity economy" sounds a lot like "In the future, all the labor will be done by robots and machines, thereby freeing mankind's time for leisure and creative pursuits!"
posted by Graygorey at 9:58 AM on August 10, 2012


asnider: "The human race will reach its highest potnetial when no one ever has to get off the couch, and we can have all the frozen pizza and beer we want. All we need are robot football games, and then we will have paradise for all.

Isn't this what Star Trek was about?
"

Well the Zero-G Football Games were Red Dwarf, I know that much.
posted by symbioid at 9:59 AM on August 10, 2012


Isn't this what Star Trek was about?

Yes, but someone still has to squeegee the walls of the Holodeck.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:00 AM on August 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


In MineCraft, you have a huge, huge world to use as your sandbox, and yet my son builds in one area of it, then discards it to start a new world. Until everyone in the MineCraft world has to play on the same world, you can't really get a sense for how f'd up it would be to have unlimited everything in a finite space.
posted by davejay at 10:27 AM on August 10, 2012


But, would a game of thrones fan-fic be less sexual??
posted by joelf at 10:49 AM on August 10, 2012


mikeo2: Society has radically prioritized the first post scarcity economy: information. As soon as it's remotely possible, we'll get there fast. Think of the makerbot as the Apple II computer, the first computer that could actually be used by someone who wasn't a specialist. We're getting there, faster than you think.

Calm down, Mr. Kurzweil.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:29 AM on August 10, 2012


I'll be convinced the day makerbot prints itself.
 
posted by querty at 8:43 PM on August 11, 2012


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