Eric Hunting on post-industrial resource-based economic systems with social credit

From Eric Hunting, you MUST read this:

The post-industrial wave is characterized by information technologies and global networking, flexible automation through machine intelligence, miniaturization and ephemerization of technology, and a return to renewable energy in more advanced forms. It’s dominant meme is demassification (reclamation of freedom, identity, self-expression, time, and quality of life through deconstruction of massified systems and the flattening of hierarchies) resulting in such ideas and trends as decentralization and personalization of production, global social networking and multinational peer-to-peer activity, deconstruction of nation-states and their financial systems, obsolescence of currency in favor of automated demand-driven resource economics based on global commons, reinvention of the family in non-traditional forms (gay marriage, multi-party marriage, non-related non-married family units, new tribes), reinvention of functional community and the reestablishment of community-based social support/service systems, etc.

Agrarian wave economics were indeed initially resource based economics. But when futurists refer to ‘resource based economics’ today, in a post-industrial context, they’re usually talking about systems where global resources are managed rather like municipal utilities and as a result currencies become redundant. No one ‘owns’ water. Communities create facilities for its collection and distribution as a public utility. Imagine that all resources and many commodities were treated this same way and you have part of the picture of what a resource based economy means. Such systems are anticipated to evolve from global digital networked market systems that become ‘commoditized’ by the trends in decentralization of production. In other words, because production is local, markets stop trading in finished products and labor and start dealing in a broad spectrum of commodities in increasingly fractionalized unit volumes evolving toward just the Periodic Table plus energy. Soon they become so efficient -as commodities markets tend to if left to their own devices- that they come to ‘know’ in an algorithmic sense the full extent of world resources and demand and their respective cycles and ‘bandwidth’, eliminate currency as a metric of market values by allowing resource values to be indexed relative to each other, and eliminate profit and speculation by compelling capitulation (the tendency of participants in a market to conform collectively to its trends) and driving the market toward equilibrium. At this point the system stops being a market for resources and commodities and becomes an Internet (an open-Internet) for them instead, compelling the relinquishing of individual control of resources and the management of their exploitation to the system itself as a world utility driven by demand. The result is a money-less society where all resources are free, within reason, and distributed automatically in response to demand. This is what futurist Jacque Fresco has dubbed Cybernation; world resources managed as a global societal commons by a demand-driven computer-based world utility.

The idea of a social credit system may derive from this resource Internet in the context of how it would deal with the human component of its creation and maintenance. In essence, the idea of a social credit economic system is based on people being allowed more bandwidth of resources relative to the reputation they build in the society as whole, this reputation digitally tracked life-long, and the public opinion of a particular activity they are engaged in. It’s sort of like having a system that Googles your name regularly to see how many people know you on-line and how positive their opinions of you and then assigns you a credit rating based on that on the premise that what you do has a certain greater than average value to the society. I sometimes call this Star Trek Economics because the concept was first presented in the popular culture in the Star Trek TV series.

In Ray Bradbury’s vision of the future we arrive at a moneyless resource-based economy founded on ‘replicator’ use; a replicator being a machine that synthesizes anything it has a computer model for from pure energy and can recycle it back into energy, with some net loss. Thus the global resource budget is simplified to an energy budget. Everyone who lives in the Federation of Planets can use replicators to make whatever they want when they want it -within reason. You can’t have everyone going Imelda Marcos on this and luckily most people won’t because irrational overconsumption is a product of mental illness and the culture will treat it as such. (unlike today where we casually tolerate public displays of insanity by anyone who is rich enough) The system tracks everyone’s replicator use just like Internet service providers track your personal bandwidth use and if it sees that it has become aberrant it raises the WTF flag and a psychiatric ‘counselor’ calls you on your lapel communicator and asks you if you really did need those five thousand Swarovski crystal-studded pokemon figurines. But, in fact, sometimes people have rational reasons for needing more than the usual amount of resources, usually because of a specific project associated with a vocation; the artist who wants to build a large public sculpture, the scientist who wants to build a supercollider, the engineer who want to build a spacecraft, the night club operator who wants to make a new public party venue. This is where ‘social credit’ comes into play. In Star Trek, if you have distinguished yourself ‘professionally’ and socially as a member of the Federation or if the community of your professional peers thinks your work is worthy then you get assigned a higher personal energy budget based on the assumption that, by the measure of your reputation, what you do with this is likely to have value to the whole society. You may be assigned this higher budget based on reputation in general or it may be temporary, leant from the budgets of your personal advocates/supporters, or limited to a specific project. Now, this doesn’t preclude you going out into deep uninhabited space and setting up your own infrastructure so you can make all the pokemon figures you want without justifying it to someone else but most people won’t abandon society to do that -which is probably why, in Star Trek, space -like the Earth’s near-wildernesses- tends to be inhabited by a lot of strange people.

A resource based economic system -a resource Internet- is likely to produce a social credit system like this by its own need for altruistic human intervention to build and maintain its infrastructure. This system would just be a mass of software; an on-line trading system that evolved into an expert system. It’s not like HAL9000 or Colossus. It can’t make people do anything by threat of punishment or the like. It relies on people ‘getting it’ and voluntarily following its requests for facilities here or there on the premise that they’re doing good for the society. In reward for this aid, it can assign people a slightly higher resource bandwidth than average. It’s not payment. Everyone who links up to this system will get full access to as much as they could -on average- want with the system seeking to raise the bar as high as possible to keep it above the average of people’s desires for personal comfort yet within the limits of environmental sustainability -which is pretty high when you factor-out all of today’s waste and greed. So this bonus is offered on the assumption that because these people altruistically helped this system they will likely use whatever extra bandwidth for a similarly altruistic purpose. From this would come the notion of digitally tracking reputation and socially beneficial activity as a way of anticipating the demand for the similar activities such people are likely to need such extra resources for in the future and assigning resource credit accordingly. In effect, the system -just like when it was a commodities exchange market- automatically economically speculates on your socially progressive behavior! And so we arrive at a system of social credit economics. This might sound like a kind of communism but there are no political parties or bureaucratic institutions or nation-states here. There’s just this distributed networked machine that scientifically knows the planet Earth extremely well, tries to anticipate and give you everything you ask it for, asks you for help in doing that from time to time, lets you have extra when it knows you’ll do good things with it, and occasionally may alert your neighbors to come and question your goofy behavior. Would this be something open to abuse?

Of course! That’s what culture and community exist to control. It’s not the Internet’s job to anticipate and factor out every possible kind of rudeness, stupidity, or insanity that humans may perpetrate with it. That’s our job. Besides, we still need something to craft SciFi plot devices out of.”

4 Comments Eric Hunting on post-industrial resource-based economic systems with social credit

  1. AvatarMichel Bauwens

    From Franz Nahrada, via email:


    great piece. I suppose I may forward this to the Oekonux list because it is really an eye – opener in respect to the limited imaginations when it comes to our societal future.

    The only thing we should consider is we are not working towards the replicator on which Bradbury or Star Trek is based. The replicator indeed would put an end to human progress. Rather than that, we are finding the true generic algorithms that form what we call “life” in its broadest sense. Christopher Alexander gives an account of this in his book on the “Nature of Order” – Patterns are materialized algorithms in a way, structures that reinforce and complement
    each other. It is not one universal machine we are looking for but the multitude of real life transformers according to the processes that are needed.

    The energies and patterns that we discover and co-develop are intelligent living algorithms and thus they are active producing agents of material processes. Their discovery and realization means wealth for ever, in the frameworks that you so aptly described.

    That is the main axis of societal change. It can only be reached by research. Research is the most political and meaningful activity today. We must learn to devote our lives to this research and understand the vast dimensions necessary. Probably we must top the research needed to produce the industrial society by a factor of ten or hundred! We need Millions of researchers, independent and creative minds, and my suggestion is that
    they group around basic ideas like Global Villages as human habitat embedded in a self maintaining cycle with natural energies and agents. But of course also others. Global Villages is one of the patterns I hold valid, and it is the pattern around which I want to build a research community.

  2. Avatarsteve ward

    nice work the only problem i see with that system is that i have yet too see it coming togather i see the compontest of that system.

    a. print phyical items
    b. p2p money that is based on what you do

    so maybe by 2010 you will see a more soild system

  3. AvatarManny

    Fascinating! Hopefully the world will survive Capitalism so we can have a chance at a resource-based economy.

  4. AvatarLamely_Named

    Great proposal, very similar to what I had in mind, social credit I mean.

    But the power that be (stupid pseudo intellectual government, corporation and rich elites) will do their “worst” to make sure people dont get this, or get it soon enough.

    They are already expert master at dumbing down the public and manipulating information. Its going to be hard (but not impossible) to ninja through their defences to get into the thick dumbed down lobotomised brain of the people.

    But great concept, star trek economics and RBE is the way of the future, less uncontrolled capitalism monetary consumption and profiteering end the species first.

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