Peripheral Belters or Retooling Finance and Tech for Everyone's Benefit
May 27, 2019 3:45 AM   Subscribe

Going to Space to Benefit Earth - "Bezos then went on to discuss his plan to ship humans off of the best planet in the solar system and send them to live in floating cylinders in space."
Earth is our home. It’s what we’re made for. The earth went through a lot to give you life. Sparks had to catch, oceans had to freeze, billions of cells had to survive endless disease, all of these amazing things had to happen just right to give you life. You belong here. You are as much a creation of the earth as the air you breathe. You may feel like a singular organism but you’re actually as much a singular organism as one of the many billions of organisms that make up your body. You and earth are one. And because you evolved on earth, you are perfectly adapted to earth and it is perfectly adapted to you. It yearns for your breath as you yearn for its breeze on your face.

We absolutely have the ability to transcend our unhealthy tendencies as a species which, when you really look at them, are merely creations of a mind that feels alone and separate and like it is in a constant fight for its life. If we just put down our mental swords for a hot second and learned to channel our creativity into the thriving of our society and our ecosystem instead of into killing and out-competing one another then we will be okay. The way out of this is the way towards health. For example, once women have been given back even the most basic rights of sexual sovereignty such as birth control and access to terminations as they have in most western countries, birth rates fall below replication levels. Women’s own internal bodily wisdom makes the problem of overpopulation moot if given half a chance just to make decisions on behalf of her own body.

Another example. People lament the lack of jobs due to AI and automation but we actually desperately need people to do less. We need a whole lot of people doing nothing, not using the roads every morning and evening, not producing widgets that no one needs and creating advertising campaigns to brainwash people into buying them anyway, just to have them end up in the ocean or leaching heavy metals into the earth. Having a whole lot of people doing nothing for more of their week would take the strain off of our health systems as the single biggest factor in disease is stress. Studies show that stress also shrinks your brain and lessens your creativity and innovation too, so all the punitive-minded libertarians out there who are worried that we won’t progress as a species if we start sharing resources around to people who aren’t doing things that traditionally made money because we’ll be too relaxed can chill too. We don’t need to crack the whip to get people to make beautiful innovations. Humans are at their best when feeling playful and relaxed. Nearly all the technological advances of the past came from people who had a lot of leisure time due to their privileged status. Releasing humans from 9 to 5 slavery would be the fastest way to slow our resource consumption and take pressure off of all our systems and would have the added benefit of making us smarter, funnier, more creative and more innovative too.

And for that matter, having every idea and innovation be required to make money is also killing us. We need the ability to fund things that will not make profit. How many times have you been in a conversation and someone’s come up with an idea that will solve a major environmental, energy or health problem and no one’s got excited because it will never get off the ground because it will never make money? Fully disappearing a problem never made anyone any money. Healthy people, for example, never spend a dime at the doctors. The way out of this is detaching human innovation from money and allowing solutions to flourish without the imposition of also having to turn a profit.

These are merely three things I can think of that will dramatically improve our collective ability to reverse this extinction event and all we have to do is get saner, stop punishing each other, start sharing and start collaborating. The only issue we have as humans is that a handful of highly competitive, highly sociopathic and yet incredibly mediocre people have all the power to build our future for us with virtually no input from anyone else. Because all the power in the form of all the money has been allowed to pool into the hands of those most willing to do whatever it takes to get it, we have just a few ruthless yet surprisingly dumb individuals calling the shots on the future of all living beings. The competitive mindset that gave rise to Jeff Bezos is the exact opposite of the kind of collaborative, harmonious mindset we’ll need if we’re going to overcome the challenges we face on the horizon.
Capitalism in crisis: U.S. billionaires worry about the survival of the system that made them rich - "'It's a choice to pay people as little as you can or work them as hard as you can', he told the audience gathered in the 1,000-seat auditorium. 'It's a choice to maintain pleasant working conditions ... or harsh ones; to offer good benefits or paltry ones'. If business leaders didn't 'ask hard questions about capitalism', he warned that they would be asked by 'ideologues seeking to point fingers, assign blame and make reckless changes to the system.'"[1] People, Power and Profits, by Joseph Stiglitz - "A progressive agenda for how to save capitalism from itself."
Somewhere America lost its way. Behind the scenes lobby groups control regulation and twist it for their own purposes; trade deals are stacked against workers; the media cannot be trusted; democracy risks becoming nothing more than a sham contest between oligarchs...

The system really is rigged and companies have profited over the past 30 years not from innovation and progress but from exploitation and monopoly power. “The disparity between what was promised and what happened was glaring,” he writes of the period...

The first half of the book examines four trends the author believes set the US on a path to a dismal economy: monopoly power, mishandled globalisation, poor financial regulation and new technologies that enable further exploitation and psychological manipulation — all familiar themes on the Democratic party’s campaign trail.

The second part sets out what to do next. Alongside the standard centre-left prescriptions of more government spending, a stronger welfare state and beefed up regulation, are a few of the more radical ideas bounced around by Democratic outriders: employment guarantee or universal basic income.
The Wealth Detective Who Finds the Hidden Money of the Super Rich - "Thirty-two-year-old French economist Gabriel Zucman scours spreadsheets to find secret offshore accounts... Zucman met his future wife, Claire Montialoux, in 2006, in a university economics class. She's now finishing her Ph.D. dissertation, which shows how the U.S.'s expansion of the minimum wage in the late 1960s and '70s helped black workers, narrowing the racial earnings gap. 'We share the same vision for why we are doing social sciences', Zucman says. 'The ultimate goal is how can we do better?'" Government contracts become Amazon's new target market - "Companies complain that the tech giant may take their business as it has in retail."
So if the wholesalers don’t like the Amazon model, why don’t they simply get together and create their own platform? ... Even if they could, it may be too late... What’s more, traditional companies would have to embrace the competition and collaboration mix inherent in the e-marketplace as practised by Amazon. Coming together to share technology and data would be a major culture shift as has been the case in other industries.

Mr Van Dongen says his members don’t mind competition, and are all for more government efficiency via ecommerce. But they believe this is a fight, as he puts it, about “how the game is played”. Amazon, say rivals, has used its outsize Washington influence — it lobbies on more issues than any other company — to stack the deck. Amazon hired Barack Obama’s chief procurement officer, Anne Rung, who has since had email exchanges with an official in the Trump administration about how the GSA process should roll out...

Still, purchasers preferred the ease of using Amazon. But that may be part of the problem. The idea that buying stuff for the government should be as easy as buying it for yourself — no matter what the costs in transparency — is Amazon’s framing. But the public sector is not a household. If businesses and citizens feel that the purchasing process has become captured, it will be a net loss to the government — and society as a whole.
China, Leverage, and Values - "We can now expect China to redouble efforts to roll out a homegrown smartphone operating system, design its own chips, develop its own semiconductor technology (including design tools and manufacturing equipment), and implement its own technology standards. This can only accelerate the process of creating a digital iron curtain that separates the world into two distinct, mutually exclusive technological spheres."
On the other hand, for all of the praise that is heaped on Chinese service companies like Tencent for their innovation, the fact that everything on Tencent is monitored and censored is chilling, particularly when people disappear. The possibilities of a central government creating the conditions for, say, self-driving cars or some other top-down application of technology is appealing, but turning a city into a prison through surveillance is terrifying. And while it is tempting to fantasize about removing “fake news” and hateful content with an iron fist, it is a step down the road to removing everything that is objectionable to an unaccountable authority with little more than an adjustment to a configuration file.

This is the true war when it comes to technology: censorship versus openness, control versus creativity, and centralization versus competition. These are, of course, connected: China’s censorship is about control facilitated by centralization. That, though, should not only give Western tech companies and investors pause about China generally, but should also lead to serious introspection about the appropriate policies towards our own tech industry. Openness, creativity, and competition are just as related as their counterparts, and infringement on any one of them should be taken as a threat to all three.
The problem with Ben Thompson's 'aggregation theory' - "All those apps are doing is providing an algorithm that lowers search costs and makes booking easy. Expedia didn't design, build and maintain the airplane that flew him to Sydney; build or operate the airport; train pilots; or find, produce, refine and transport the necessary jet fuel to power the plane over its continental voyage. Uber didn't design and manufacture the car used to transport him to his hotel; find, produce, and process the raw materials that go into it (such as steel and aluminium); or actually drive him from the airport to his hotel. AirBnB didn't design, build, maintain, or clean the house he stayed in, nor supply it with electricity. UberEats and OpenTable didn't grow and process any raw foodstuffs, or use them to cook a meal, and TripAdvisor didn't design, manufacture or operate any of the tourist attractions he visited. In fact, all these companies did was write some pretty simple code that made matching buyers with sellers easier and more efficient, and the real question that should be being asked is whether these platform companies are extracting too much value from the supply chain relative to their value-add, and whether that is likely to be a sustainable situation in the long term, or will invite potential disruption and/or an eventual supply-side/regulatory response." The internet that should have been - "There is the potential today to reclaim control of our digital lives from monopolist platforms and unnecessary rent-seeking. There is a world within reach where always-on, always-connected pocket computers become personal data stores. All your photos, documents, messages, and other data live with you, not on a faceless server belonging to a random corporation. The only machine learning done is done for you. Data only leaves your device because you want to send it somewhere. Here's what it might look like..."
  • How we need to remake the internet - "I don't believe our species can survive unless we fix this. We cannot have a society in which, if two people wish to communicate, the only way that can happen is if it's financed by a third person who wishes to manipulate them."
  • A Modest Proposal: Tax Worthlessness - "How some economists are looking for ways to reduce the 'material incentives' of pursuing lucrative but destructive professions."
Shaping the World - "I'd like to talk to you about the work of James C. Scott, and his book 'Seeing like a state'. Seeing like a state is about the failure modes of totalitarian regimes, and other attempts to order human societies, which are surprisingly similar to some of the failure modes of software projects."[3]
Before I talk about totalitarian states, I’d like to talk about trees... James Scott talks about this sort of thing as “legibility”. The unmanaged forest is illegible – we literally cannot read it, because it has far more complexity than we can possibly hope to handle – while, in contrast, the managed forest is legible – we’ve reshaped its world to be expressible in a small number of variables – basically just the land area, and the number of regions we’ve divided it into...

In a technical sense, legibility lets us turn our control over reality into optimisation problems. We have some small number of variables, and an outcome we want to optimise for, so we simply reshape the world by finding the values of those variables that maximize that outcome – our profits. And this works great – we have our new simple refined world, and we maximize our profit. Everyone is happy... At least, for about eighty years, at which point all of the trees start dying. This really happened...

This isn’t actually a talk about trees, but it is a talk about complexity, and about simplification. And it’s a talk about what happens when we apply this kind of simplification process to people. Because it turns out that people are even more complicated than trees, and we have a long history of trying to fix that, to take complex, messy systems of people and produce nice, simple, well behaved social orders that follow straightforward rules...

Tech may not look much like a state, even ignoring its strongly libertarian bent, but it has many of the same properties and problems, and every tech company is engaged in much the same goal as these states were: Making the world legible in order to increase profit...

We’re just giving people things that they want, not forcing them to obey us... This is what’s called Soft Power. Conventional ideas of power are derived from coercion – you make someone do what you want – while soft power is power that you derive instead from appeal – People want to do what you want. There are a variety of routes to soft power, but there’s one that has been particularly effective for colonising forces, the early state, and software companies. It goes like this.

First you make them want what you have, then you make them need it...

And we’re going to keep doing this, because this is the logic of the market. If people don’t want and need our product, they’re not going to use it, we’re not going to make money, and your company will fail and be replaced by one with no such qualms. The choice is not whether or not to exert soft power, it’s how and to what end.

I’m making this all sound very bleak, as if the things I’m talking about were uniformly bad. They’re not. Soft power is just influence, and it’s what happens every day as we interact with people. It’s an inevitable part of human life. Legibility is just an intrinsic part of how we come to understand and manipulate the world, and is at the core of most of the technological advancements of the last couple of centuries. Legibility is why we have only a small number of standardised weights and measures instead of a different notion of a pound or a foot for every village.[4]

Without some sort of legible view of the world, nothing resembling modern civilization would be possible and, while modern civilization is not without its faults, on balance I’m much happier for it existing than not.

But civilizations fall as well as rise, and things that seemed like they were a great idea in the short term often end in forest death and famine. Sometimes it turns out that what we were disrupting was our life support system.
The Second Mountain, David Brooks explores the four commitments that define a life of meaning and purpose - "I don't ask you to believe in god or not believe in god -- that's somebody else's department -- but I do ask you to believe that you have a piece of you that has no shape, size, color or weight, but it gives you infinite value and dignity. And that rich and successful people don't have more of this than poor and less successful people. That slavery is wrong because it's an assault on another person's soul. That rape is not just an attack on a bunch of physical molecules, it's an attack on another person's soul. And what the soul does is, first it gives you moral responsibility. A tiger's not morally responsible for what it eats, but you are morally responsible for what you do. And the second thing it does is, it makes you long to have a meaningful life... You have to have a bigger mind and a deeper heart and a bigger consciousness. So somehow you have to get better as a person."[5]
posted by kliuless (37 comments total) 57 users marked this as a favorite
 
The very rich are increasingly obsessed with, leaving Earth, their superweapon in the class war they're waging. Not having to "rely on Earth" for their future means not having to rely on humanity for their future. It means they can leave us to die.

That's why positive visions of a future for Earth and humanity are so vital. The people holding the power to build our future have no interest in doing anything for our future at all, only theirs. We, ordinary people, are more responsible for imagining the future now than at any point in history, because the capitalist ruling class has lost any conception of humanity's future as a goal. For them, the future of humanity is something to flee, not nurture.
posted by howfar at 6:03 AM on May 27, 2019 [15 favorites]


This post will give me good work all summer long. Thanks!
posted by allthinky at 6:32 AM on May 27, 2019 [2 favorites]


This is a great post full of interesting things!

On another note: I just don't understand why people thinking "shipping humans off to space" is even possible in the medium future. I think Bezos doesn't understand that Iain Banks (who would have recommended the guillotine for people like Bezos) was writing hand-wavy fiction, not even hard SF.

I mean, just off the top of my head, these seem like difficult problems:

1. Humans don't seem to do real well in zero G and possibly not in space generally. This means that you need to hack all those health problems and develop a reliable, no-fail kind of artificial gravity. At this point, we don't even know if an earth-like environment in space will have its own intrinsic, human-killing problems.

2. If you're talking about fucking orbitals, you're also talking space mining. Do you have a plan for mining...in spaaaaaaaace? I mean, space elevators are possible, in theory, but you're also talking about building very, very large things in space and there's a limit.

3. You need all kinds of technology that will be really, really damn reliable in space, because while you can bring spares you can't exactly run down to Home Depot for anything you miss out. We have been just barely able to run a small space station for a handful of people. Are we ready to scale up to a self-sustaining population that will include children and frail elderly people eventually?

4. Even if you're thinking that you'll start small with a couple of research and development space stations - well, first, you're still talking a very very long timeline, and second - how do you picture the leap from space stations to actual dwelling places in space for self-sustaining populations? Just the sheer amount of physical material you'll need to ramp up is staggering.

The kind of time and money it will take to solve those problems dwarfs everything that has been spent on space research so far and it's going to have to be done while the climate collapses and society is in tremendous upheaval. Even if Bezos thinks he can fund this work, does he think he can fund it in a war zone? And frankly, Tesla simply doesn't have the record of doing high-quality, life-or-death-reliable work. A couple of big disasters and they're not going to be able to carry on at all.

Leaving literally every consideration about Earth, climate change and just not being a piece of shit human aside, I cannot imagine how people think that there will be large-scale human habitations in space on any reasonable time scale.
posted by Frowner at 7:07 AM on May 27, 2019 [18 favorites]


Frowner, you're seeing the human cost to people being sent to work in space (and I think are being fair and insightful about what that cost could be), but maybe Bezos (et al) see that cost as an externality and fundamentally not their problem? If they're working in unregulated space (literally) in areas of disputed property and jurisdictional rights (like asteroids, for example), in practice, they can do whatever the hell they want.

And philosophically/morally, it's very possible that these moguls and neo-industrialists think of the human costs/dangers as a public health issue that's just not theirs to deal with anyway. In an ideal world, governments would take it on (after all, that's kind of the point of governments in capitalist systems -- to clean up after the capitalists by ameliorating negative externalities on behalf of the public good). But given the political and financial environment, I don't think that very many governments would reliably even acknowledge those externalities, let alone put any real will and effort into solving them. The public good has been a red-headed stepchild for a long time.

I mean, look how pollution and its externalities have been handled over the last couple hundred years. There are some regulations and lots of people care deeply about it, but for the most part and in many places (if not virtually everywhere), the public just can't feasibly check capitalists or even our own governments at this point.

What's especially dizzying is that for many of these moguls, it probably wouldn't even matter if the space projects saw a profit or have any real hope of ever seeing one. Because of financialization, "making money" doesn't even mean profit any longer, it could just mean shifting money around in ways that allow the robber baron to take a good skim from the tax man or other rich people or whoever as the money moves around.

Anyway, I appreciate the reference to Belters in the post title! Gotta just cross your fingers for Basic, I guess. That said, things look crummy in the Belt but it's not like they're so great in Baltimore, either, though. What a dystopia.
posted by rue72 at 7:51 AM on May 27, 2019 [2 favorites]


"Why don't you just use your unimaginable wealth and power, and uh, use that to try and make this planet a better place?"
"These go to elevengeosynchronous orbits!"
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:08 AM on May 27, 2019 [2 favorites]


Not having to "rely on Earth" for their future means not having to rely on humanity for their future.

Well, except for the humanity required to put them in space in the first place. I'm not sure how smart it would be to go into space encased in equipment built by the people I'm blithely abandoning. "Sorry about those o-rings, Mr. Bezos. Was that your entire board of directors on that ship?"
posted by Thorzdad at 8:11 AM on May 27, 2019 [5 favorites]


Capitalism, rapidly running out of places to colonize and loot and, conversely, dump unwanted side products (pollution, people), has resorted to fantasy to sustain their withered dreams. Of course, it’s the Left that are “unreasonable dreamers.”
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:32 AM on May 27, 2019 [9 favorites]


I love O'Neill colonies as much as the next nerd, but I always wonder what happens if you are unemployed or a slacker or simply a malcontent in the giant-everything-must-be-managed-or-everyone-aboard-dies space mall. I'm not going until I see a working dystopia version.

Also, of course, I'm not going at all, and to a first approximation, neither is anyone else. Colonization usually doesn't empty out the home country, even if it costs nothing. And setting that aside, getting into space is always going to be far too expensive to ship a significant portion of the Earth's population there. Shipping a billion people into space might also cause widespread environmental devastation. We are stuck with the problem of billions of people living on Earth.
posted by surlyben at 9:02 AM on May 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


Our society used to pay people enough that only one person had to work to support several other grown adults and they didn't even HAVE AI. They just paid people.
posted by bleep at 9:14 AM on May 27, 2019 [9 favorites]


It would all just be monstrously stupid but proposing this while the potential extinction level threat of global warming looms makes it incredibly tragic. This is fiddling while Rome burns. This is the Pharaoh justifying slave labor with his dream of building a personal playground in the afterlife. This is Marie Antoinette letting the people eat astronaut ice cream. Plans for the Hindenburg lit match included.

Why can't one of these eccentric billionaires fund a Manhattan Project to solve global warming? I would contribute to the crowd sourcing fund. I would volunteer my time for free to do whatever they wanted. I would shed tears. I would be blinded by the sanity.
posted by xammerboy at 9:20 AM on May 27, 2019 [10 favorites]


Hey - how about we prove we can self sustain in a large and much more (but not exhaustively) fore-giving environment before we can stick millions into tin cans?
posted by inflatablekiwi at 9:40 AM on May 27, 2019


It's like moving to a new house after shitting the bed instead of washing the sheets. Come to think of it, that is a very billionaire response to bed shitting. Put your rockets away you dipshits and spend some of that near infinite money on fixing the planet you're helping to destroy.
posted by SonInLawOfSam at 9:42 AM on May 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


equipment built by the people I'm blithely abandoning

If you're an engineer, you get to go along for the ride. If you're in IT or specialized maintenance, you also get to go. If you clean the floors you don't get to go, but you *do* at least get to have food and shelter.

...that's how they intend to motivate, and it'll probably work. The vast majority of humanity will remain on Earth. Put differently, if you make ~300K right now, you're the sort of person who might get to go if you play along.

"I dunno Maciej, you've been really slacking off lately. The last two parts you made failed metrology. You need to up your game or I'm afraid we'll need to reconsider your launch slot. I know Karen and the kids were really looking forward to their big day, and it'd be a shame to let them down. Anyway, good talking with you, I'll get out of your way."

(not saying any of this is actually feasible, mind you)
posted by aramaic at 9:44 AM on May 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


Why can't one of these eccentric billionaires fund a Manhattan Project to solve global warming?

We had a post about that.

Eccentric billionaires funding a Manhattan Project to forcibly compel people to reduce carbon emissions might turn out a little more "Manhattan Project" than you want.
posted by allegedly at 9:57 AM on May 27, 2019 [5 favorites]


Eccentric billionaires funding a Manhattan Project to forcibly compel people to reduce carbon emissions might turn out a little more "Manhattan Project" than you want.

Depends strongly on your definition of "people". Figuring out means and incentives to retool unsustainable industries doesn't entail, like, breaking into people's homes and taking their single-use plastics. As far as I understand it, even radical changes in individual usage won't make that much of a dent.
posted by lumensimus at 10:03 AM on May 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


As far as I understand it, even radical changes in individual usage won't make that much of a dent.

I think the implied threat is that the ambitious hyper-rich could decide to try "solving" climate change by exterminating five billion people or thereabouts.
posted by aramaic at 10:12 AM on May 27, 2019 [6 favorites]


I'm just saying that billionaires do not have magical powers to solve collective action problems, and coercion is not a tool available in their toolbox.

So their options are:
- Tesla.
- The Gates Foundation.
- President Howard Schultz.
- Colonizing space / going full prepper on Earth.
- Rogue geoengineering projects.
posted by allegedly at 10:39 AM on May 27, 2019


allegedly: I'm just saying that billionaires do not have magical powers to solve collective action problems, and coercion is not a tool available in their toolbox.

State capture by the wealthy, and the coercion possibility that goes with it, is a distinct possibility. Pick your civilization and you'll probably be able to find an example or a dozen.
posted by clawsoon at 10:59 AM on May 27, 2019 [2 favorites]


I get pretty frustrated with Metafilter on this topic lately so I should probably just disengage from this post, but...idk, I've got some free time while I'm doing laundry so I'll do something that leaves a bad a taste in my mouth and I'll actually defend Jeff Bezos.

The very rich are increasingly obsessed with, leaving Earth, their superweapon in the class war they're waging. Not having to "rely on Earth" for their future means not having to rely on humanity for their future. It means they can leave us to die.

Did you actually read the first linked article before jumping in? This is what Bezos actually says about Earth:

If we build this vision, these O’Neill colonies, where does it take us? What does it mean for Earth?” Bezos asked. “Earth ends up zoned, residential, and light industry. It’ll be a beautiful place to live, it’ll be a beautiful place to visit, it’ll be a beautiful place to go to college, and to do some light industry. But heavy industry, polluting industry, all the things that are damaging our planet, those will be done off Earth. We get to have both. We get to keep this unique gem of a planet, which is completely irreplaceable — there is no Plan B. We have to save this planet." (emphasis mine)

I think Caitlin Johnstone in that article has an unsupportedly rosy view of what human nature is actually like, and an ungrounded confidence that if we just dismantled capitalism we'd also automatically avert any kind of Malthusian catastrophe without needing the "stasis and rationing" that Bezos envisions, but she's at least engaging with what the guy is actually proposing. A number of people in this thread are acting as if Bezos is being ridiculous by ignoring global warming in his quest to go to space and aren't actually understanding that global warming (and the various other ecological/environmental catastrophes that humans have been causing all over the place for centuries now) are what's motivating his notion of putting humans in space.

I agree with the folks who point out that there are a lot of feasibility issues, at present, with building a bunch of O'Neill colonies and shipping a few billion people and all of heavy industry off-world, especially in the kind of time-frame that would matter as far as helping with global warming, and in any case Jeff Bezos is certainly not the trustworthy sort of person I'd want in charge of the future of humanity (any future!), but envisioning a future where capitalism is gone and civilization's continued development is sustainable and resources are still apportioned fairly and not strictly rationed and it all works in some non-dystopian and non-brutally-coercive way has a whole shitload of feasibility issues of its own that go way deeper than you can fix with a handwavy "emulate Scandinavian social democracy". (I am not the only one who thinks "sustainable development" is really an oxymoron.)

But, declaring that "get the bull out of the china shop" is a completely sociopathic idea, while "get the bull to just stop breaking things and live in harmony with the china shop" is the obvious and practical solution...well, that's why I find Metafilter pretty frustrating on this subject.
posted by mstokes650 at 11:54 AM on May 27, 2019 [14 favorites]


This post captures everything that has been on my mind for the past year. Thank you. The crux is power, and in the words of Shoshana Zuboff, the answers to the questions "Who knows? Who decides? Who decides who decides?"
posted by FuturisticDragon at 12:17 PM on May 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


but I always wonder what happens if you are unemployed or a slacker or simply a malcontent in the giant-everything-must-be-managed-or-everyone-aboard-dies space mall. I'm not going until I see a working dystopia version

you might enjoy The Expanse - I've only watched the show but the Belters are somewhat that
posted by kokaku at 12:20 PM on May 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


You might enjoy The Expanse

You will find future seasons of this show on Amazon. It was going to be cancelled but Bezos bought it. In all seriousness, I think Bezos' space mining fantasy world may have come from the show.
posted by xammerboy at 1:30 PM on May 27, 2019 [3 favorites]


So the plan is to make Earth the nice place to go to college, the white collar vacation spot, the Edenistic playground? Ugh, I can’t even afford rent in Bezo’s mini version here in Seattle, not looking forward to commuting off planet.
posted by zinful at 1:48 PM on May 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


Why do some people on Metafilter suggest Bezo's proposal is sociopathic?

Powerful people that believe in future utopias have a history of creating mass misery. My problem with this proposal is that it's probably the bedtime story Bezos tells himself so he can sleep at night. He's a sociopath because of the way his business treats his workers, and his justification of that is this future sky castle. He would be a sociopath regardless. This proposal is just the "he's crazy too!" cherry on top.
posted by xammerboy at 1:55 PM on May 27, 2019 [4 favorites]


Ben Elton wrote Stark more than ten years ago and it's only getting more prophetic over time.
posted by xiw at 2:21 PM on May 27, 2019 [2 favorites]


People like Bezos must have a very narrow range of education; it's easy to believe in Utopias when you haven't seen much of life's diversity. Landscape school deliberately sought to destroy utopian ideas - for me good enough is usually good enough - unfortunately good enough things don't get published, instead perfect visions and shallow (but visually pleasing) things get all the attention.
posted by unearthed at 3:51 PM on May 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


has an unsupportedly rosy view of what human nature is actually like, and an ungrounded confidence that if we just dismantled capitalism we'd also automatically avert any kind of Malthusian catastrophe

Fortunately with the Malthusian stuff we actually don't even need to dismantle capitalism for once, it's nonsense anyway.

As to the human nature, I didn't see any outlandish claims, apart from that we might be happier outside of wage slavery.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 5:02 PM on May 27, 2019


Fortunately with the Malthusian stuff we actually don't even need to dismantle capitalism for once, it's nonsense anyway.

You could wave a magic wand and replace all the world's fossil fuel industries with zero-emissions equivalents and we'd still be using up ground water way too fast. Deforestation, overfishing....the list of ultimately unsustainable human activities is plenty long. It's very reasonable to think that human population will naturally peak around 11 billion people, but unless we are also confident that the Earth can indefinitely sustain all those people, you don't get to declare overpopulation a solved problem. At present we are nowhere close to supporting 7 billion people on an indefinite basis, let alone a few billion more than that. And remember, if you want to prove Bezos wrong, you've gotta sustain those billions of people without strict rationing of resources.

As to the human nature, I didn't see any outlandish claims, apart from that we might be happier outside of wage slavery.

Here's one maybe you missed, then:
We absolutely have the ability to transcend our unhealthy tendencies as a species which, when you really look at them, are merely creations of a mind that feels alone and separate and like it is in a constant fight for its life. If we just put down our mental swords for a hot second and learned to channel our creativity into the thriving of our society and our ecosystem instead of into killing and out-competing one another then we will be okay.

That is....quite the series of statements, both in terms of its assertions about where all of humanities unhealthy tendencies come from and how easy it would be to just not have them any more. All we have to do is just have human race stop competing and stop fighting! Can't believe nobody ever thought of that before. Gotta be way easier than launching some floating space canisters and mining some asteroids, right?
posted by mstokes650 at 10:06 PM on May 27, 2019 [2 favorites]


"The problem you have is not going to be solved at the same level of consciousness at which you created it." --einstein[6]
posted by kliuless at 10:28 PM on May 27, 2019


kliuless, is that first part below the cut yours? It’s fantastic and I would love it if you would break it out as a medium post or something so I could share it around (the whole post is a bit meaty for mortals). It really puts its finger on my thoughts on this matter.
posted by J.R. Hartley at 11:07 PM on May 27, 2019


mstokes650

We most certainly have enough resources for 11 billion people. I've never questioned that or seen it questioned. Definitely enough water. The issue now is that while some need a couple of litres more, others waste a thousand in a day.

I don't think any of its easy to sort out, but my understanding of the numbers involved is that most of this is an issue of even distribution, not overall quantity available.

And then in the context, a claim that we as humans are shaped by capitalism, which has competition at its core, and that the isolation and competition reinforced by a capitalist economy is worsening a problem of unequal distribution which requires collective action.

So yes, I suppose some claims are being made, but again, really nothing outlandish as far as I'm aware.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 11:43 PM on May 27, 2019


We most certainly have enough resources for 11 billion people. I've never questioned that or seen it questioned.

With the greatest respect, I recommend more time spent hanging out with ecologists.
posted by flabdablet at 6:31 AM on May 28, 2019 [4 favorites]


I'm pro the very rich leaving Earth. Go on you knuckle heads, get out of here. I would like the opportunity to miss you when you're gone.
posted by evilDoug at 7:36 AM on May 28, 2019


Galts Gulch in space, lol. I bet some actually believe it too.
posted by aramaic at 8:36 AM on May 28, 2019


MacKenzie Bezos Ex-wife of Jeff Bezos pledges to give half of $36bn fortune to charity.

This is nice to see. She's working with the Gates' Foundation. She's giving around 36 billion. A lot of charities give money to mosquito netting, which is apparently the most cost effective way to save lives. Again, global warming may change that equation. What's the point of saving lives in certain parts of the world if global warming will render them too hot to live in? Yes, people can move, but the displacement itself will probably lead to untold numbers of deaths. Logic seems to dictate that global warming be the problem we solve first and foremost.
posted by xammerboy at 9:20 AM on May 28, 2019


We most certainly have enough resources for 11 billion people. I've never questioned that or seen it questioned.

With the greatest respect, I recommend more time spent hanging out with ecologists.


At what consumption rates? It's not anyone's obligation but I wouldn't mind any links. I've only read political economy stuff which suggested that with different relations of production we could cut a lot of excess use and stabilise what I do understand is currently wildly excessive overuse, not just by individual consumers but particularly by heavy industry.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 9:30 AM on May 28, 2019


At what consumption rates?

This ecological footprint calculator is a pretty good place to start exploring that question.
posted by flabdablet at 4:48 PM on May 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


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