Futurology, Opinion, Technology

Post-scarcity

There are many different ways to discuss “post-scarcity”.

The traditional idea is that all material goods are available at no cost, kinda like the replicators in Star Treks TNG and DS9. However, even in the Trek universe, replicators used power, and this allowed replicator rationing to be a plot point in Star Trek Voyager.

Even without a magic Santa Claus machine, you could say post-scarcity happens per-resource and per-location, rather than as a single one-time-covers-everything event. I would argue that Switzerland is post-scarcity for water because it’s available for free in public fountains throughout the country.

By the measure “does it have second-hand value?”, the G7 is post-scarcity for biros and paper, because nobody keeps track of which biro belongs to who or cares if someone steals a pen or a sheet of photocopier paper.

You could even say the G7 is post-scarcity for cups, because you can’t give them away (I’ve tried) — you only pay money for cups because you want that one in particular or you can’t be bothered collecting the free ones other people are throwing out; likewise, the G7 is post-scarcity for hairbands because there are enough clean ones lying on the street you never need to buy them (that observation courtesy of the ridiculous degree of penny-pinching thriftiness which I inherited from my father).

There is at least one more category: things which we have so much of that we harm ourselves by having it. Artificial light — light pollution is a a thing; Food — obesity and conditions associated with it cause 14% of premature deaths in Europe; Communications — spam, personalised propaganda, attention economics.

I wonder what the world would look like if we all had too much of the very things we still strive for precisely because they are not attainable. What could “too much room” in our houses even mean? How could we “travel too much” or “learn too many things”?

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Futurology, history, Personal, Politics

Mistakes

It is important to keep track of one’s mistakes — you can’t learn to be better if you don’t.

Here is one of mine from 2016:

“Trump and Clinton are both equally awful”.

Ye gods, how I wish that was so. I saw each as just two more in the same mould as all other American politicians: a rich narcissist, out of touch with the lived reality of the average person.

Here’s another, also from 2016 — my reply to a blogpost asking various questions about Brexit, with my 2020 annotations as emphasised text:

My expectations:

The UK votes to leave, Cameron resigns. One half of the population hates the other half. Redacted person name very happy. Correct.

France very relieved, they didn’t much like us anyway. Comme ci, comme ça.

France tries to set up a financial centre to attract all the business currently in the City of London; mostly this fails and they go to Zurich, Luxembourg, Geneva and Frankfurt in that order. Eh, close enough.

House prices collapse as Russian oligarchs move to New York, Frankfurt (or Zurich, if they are able to buy property there). Nope!

German citizens regard us as kids who threw our toys out of the pram. Politicians treat us accordingly. Correct.

Politicians, by necessity, have a number of sociopathic traits. Therefore they take a brutal approach to us in order to discourage other nations from leaving. (Our politicians are no better, and would be as obtuse as possible to Scotland if Scotland left the UK!). Greece is terrified, stays where it is. I’d say ‘wrong’, but it is notable that the most vocal Leavers say this is exactly what has happened.

We remain in NATO, Interrail. We probably don’t stay in EUHIC. NATO yes, left Interrail, will leave EUHIC at the end of the transition period, so 2/3 correct.

Businesses campaign to keep our standards in sync with EU standards to keep their costs down. Hard to tell. I keep hearing that Businesses are afraid to rock the boat, but hate everything that’s going on. How true that is, I do not know.

After 2 years, we leave EU. We stop paying into the CAP, receive no rebate. UK food producers upset their goods no longer given “protected region” status (or whatever the name is) in the EU. Two years? Incorrect. CAP/rebate? Correct. Geographical Indications? Looks like the UK is keeping them, despite some news stories saying otherwise. Either that or the UK government is giving incorrect advice, a possibility which I only even mention because of how it is acting throughout the Corona virus pandemic. 1/3.

Welsh economy collapses further as it no longer receives money from EU as a “severely deprived region”. Hard to tell, what with the Corona virus being a much bigger problem for all the economies everywhere.

British Islamic fundamentalist terrorists find it more difficult to reach EU countries, commit acts in UK instead. Again, hard to tell because of the Corona virus.

Britain replaces Human Rights Act with something that doesn’t mention the right to life, the right to privacy, the right to free association, or the right to trade unions. I still think this will happen, but after the transition period is over.

Commonwealth states further away than EU, not as rich. This makes for less effective trade. I still think this is the case, but no way to tell until after the transition period is over.

Fish stocks replenish as Spanish no longer allowed to fish in UK waters. This is enforced with at least one gunboat, leading to Spanish newspapers calling for the Spanish government to kick out all the Brits living in Spain. The Spanish government debates this, to the surprise of nobody except the English (on the one hand they no longer need to allow us, on the other the expats might be the only ones preventing further house price collapse). I am surprised to find I wrote this, so count this as “false” even if it later comes true — nobody deserves points for predicting a coin toss will be “either heads or tails”.

All those “twinned with” signs disappear, from a combination of vandalism and a lack of will to replace them. I think this is plausible, but less than 50% chance that more than a handful will be so affected in the next 12 months.

Meanwhile, rapid automation messes around with every economy at once. This is blamed on Brexit, despite having nothing to do with it. (Alternative: we remain, the economic mess from automation is blamed on the EU by the UK and the UK by France). Corona virus doesn’t count. Check again around 2025.

One of several reasons I no longer talk to the person I was replying to back then, is that their response to this was:

“Given your general stance seems to be that everything is doomed whatever anybody does, it’s hard to take seriously your claim that one course of action will doom us more than any other. :-p”

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Politics

Open borders

There are endless straw-men arguments about borders, at least from the loudest voices on the topic. Those loudest voices are, from my point of view, all on one side: The side of wanting more restrictions imposed.

I am aware that the loudest voices do not represent all, and I don’t want to nut-pick, so here is also a link to YouTuber Lindybeige who also thinks the arguments are straw men but whose position is so different to mine that they think my position is one of the straw men. (TLDW: He’s inviting people to come up with a number between 0 and ∞ as an answer to “how many immigrants should there be?”)

I’m going to write something most of you will consider madness: I think the borders should be open. Totally open. No restrictions.

You may be flabbergasted by this. Possibly even as speechless as I was when someone I had previously respected had gone on an anti-immigration rant — he hated immigration and wanted the UK population to fall (he’s British, voted UKIP and Leave, and I don’t think he ever really grasped that that meant people like me moving out of areas like his, but no matter). One of his arguments was, and this is just paraphrasing despite my best effort to quote him: “Clearly a quadrillion people couldn’t fit in this country, so we shouldn’t accept any immigrants.”

(As an aside: not only are there not a quadrillion people in total, not only is population growth going down so there may never be, but if you extrapolate growth from current annual changes to the point where there are a quadrillion, then a quadrillion people happens about the same time humanity’s energy use is enough to make a new Earth-mass planet in about 6-7 days by matter-antimatter pair production — bonus irony points as the guy had recently become Christian and that’s a nicely biblical timeframe).

Quite a lot of the newspapers think my position is somehow common amongst their political opponents — it isn’t, and I’m sad about that. Most of the politicians seem to be happy to point to a random unimportant group (currently refugees, previously single mothers, before them the disabled, who in turn followed after ethnic groups including Irish and Jewish) and blame all their own failings on that group, so the majority blaming immigrants isn’t going to change until some other conveniently weak scapegoat emerges. (In the UK many Leave politicians seem to want to blame Remainers, but that’s not likely to work with such a narrow margin… at least, I hope it’s not likely to work).

Are these papers nut-picking when they talk about me, or not? (I don’t think I’m mad, just eccentric and independently minded, but who would call themselves mad?) Depends how well I can justify myself.

So, analogy time: Right now, anyone British can move freely across the England-Scotland border, and anyone American can freely move across the California-Nevada border. The laws are different in both these examples. Imagine that Scotland declared independence from the UK and California from the USA: Now the default is nobody with Scottish/Californian citizenship can cross the border to England/Nevada respectively — further arrangements have to be made first, before any crossings are allowed again, and even then at the whims of the governments on the other sides of those borders.

What’s changed? What about the situation means that it is now important to stop people crossing that border? Anything that applies to an existing border applies to that border, and vice-versa.

Military? You can spot an army, and use your own to defend yourself.

Criminals fleeing from you? Extradition is a thing. Even if it wasn’t, the USA already has different state-level and federal-level laws, and Scotland already has a different legal system from England-and-Wales. I don’t know if/how extradition gets involved in a dispute between states, nor between Scotland and England; only that in an extradition beyond the UK border, a Scottish judge doesn’t do exactly the same thing as an English one.

Criminals entering your country? Ditto, and if you’re sharing police records internationally this should be easy to do: use the current A.I.-driven surveillance (already present at UK border controls!) in normal CCTV cameras. Although, for some things, you might explicitly want to let them come without fear of extradition — Gay men fleeing nations where it’s illegal, for example.

Voting dominated by migrants? Same as the EU: tied to citizenship, not residency.

Service-tourism? (E.g. unemployment benefits, NHS)? Same as Germany: Demonstrate you can support yourself (“pay for your own health insurance” seems to be the main one) in order to get the ID card you need for basically all civil functions.

Locals not being able to get things because of all the migrants? (E.g. school places, hospital beds, jobs, houses)? The fear represents a total misunderstanding of economics, as migrants supply both sides of supply and demand equally, just like natives.

Overcrowding? Same as literally every country larger than a city-state: the same (free-market and other) economics that also stops the entire population of countries like the USA or the UK moving internally to “where the jobs are”. Yes, there is some movement, but this leads to the next criticism…

Brain drain in the countries people leave? Yeah, the best and the brightest move, while those who stay behind are those unable or unwilling to move. Generally asked in bad-faith, because those asking show no other interest in the well-being of these places, but that doesn’t mean I can dismiss it without thinking about it.

Actually, I’ll go further: every reason one country* would want immigration is also a reason it would want to prevent emigration. (*This applies to any geographic region, including a city within a country; Detroit, for a famous example.)

Is that your problem, as an immigration nation? I don’t know — but it’s a thing. Perhaps it’s a good thing, because it will force shrinking nations to make themselves more attractive to reduce departures? I can’t predict it, and this is just a thought.

It’s also where I’m going to stop this blog post and get on with updating my CV. I’m busy looking for work in a foreign country.

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