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About the future of the economy.

The other day, two things came together in my mind: 1. The fact that IKEA came to America from Holland or wherever they're from because they can sell cheap crap to us and hire American workers for cheaper than they can hire workers in their own country.
2. That the US has been doing something similar for years.

These two combined and led me to this prediction of the future: That all the companies from some foreign countries are going to be taking root in the US for cheap labor while the US companies are all in other countries for *their* cheap labor, and the companies taking root here are going to leave their home countries' citizens in a situation where they're out of jobs, so then who's gonna be able to afford to buy their cheap crap? It's a different form of Mutually Assured Destruction.

Whether things get that bad or not, there's gonna come a point where the developing nations are gonna get sick of being taken advantage of, they're gonna rebel and have worker's rights rallies and laws passed, then the US companies are gonna come crawling back home on their knees.

Of course, that's all assuming that 3D printers don't evolve into something like a Star Trek replicator before that can happen. Which, if technology continues going the way it is, it WILL produce fabricator machines eventually, and then the smart thing to do would be to replace Capitalism with something different and new. But since people rarely do the smart thing, there's gonna be all kinds of chaos and probably some government oppression like never before while the corporations hang on desperately to the dying carcass of Capitalism. Which they have to do, from their point of view, because whatever new economic system comes in the wake of fabricator machines, it will render money useless. There's no doubt about that; how could money possibly keep its value when anything can be scanned and copied with the same ease as we now scan and reprint photos? BTW, copyright will be effectively pointless in the fabricator-machine future. It's hard enough finding a way to prevent piracy without pissing off legit customers NOW, and it's just gonna get worse.

Hell, I don't even know what we'd base our economy on in that world. We may have to abandon the idea of economics altogether. For instance... on Traipah, there is no scarcity of anything, and everyone knows it. Their money is so easy to counterfeit that it might as well be Monopoly money. And they just don't give a shit. It's all an amusing game to them. Communities grow their food locally, and there's a network of sharing for extra stuff. Even before they got fabricator technology, they wanted for nothing. Now they don't even have to worry about famines; if they have a shortage, they can fire up the food fabricators. About the closest the Traipahni people get to a real economy is on the local scale, where they use a barter system trading products like fresh produce and hand-made items.

But yeah, the corporations are gonna use every ounce of power to prevent the fabricator revolution, because it's gonna mean the end of money, and possibly the end of any kind of serious economy. When the fabricator revolution comes, our best bet will be to do like the people of Traipah did and treat the economy like an amusing game. Or not even bother with that much.

Crossposted from http://fayanora.dreamwidth.org


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 12th, 2012 10:12 am (UTC)
IKEA was started in Sweden, and identifies strongly with Swedish culture, although it appears to be owned on paper by a Dutch-based holding company. The only people it employs in the US are those who work in the stores; most IKEA products are made in developing countries, utilizing fair-market standards, so that while the products cost less to manufacture in those countries, the workers are paid better than most other workers there. The working conditions are also kept to high standards, and most of the factories are as "green" as possible.

It's going to take a very long time before 3D printers evolve into Star Trek-style replicators. And, at least for now, they're not capable of copying wood, which is what most IKEA furniture is made from (from renewable sources wherever possible).

Jan. 12th, 2012 10:13 am (UTC)
Figures Europeans would be awesome enough to take an American practice and improve upon it. :-)
Jan. 12th, 2012 04:03 pm (UTC)
And ethically, even :-)

Jan. 12th, 2012 10:43 am (UTC)
This is just imperialism. Europeans have been doing it for centuries - get people to make stuff for you for cheap in foreign places, then sell it back home. If you manage the situation really well you can even get your foreign workers to spend the money you pay them on buying things from you...

Of course the Europeans meddled too much politically as well as economically. That got people annoyed and led to Opium Wars, Boston Tea Parties, Gandhi, that sort of thing.

So these days Europeans (& Americans) do economic imperialism instead. Which just means that their companies do the imperialism rather than their governments.

But I agree that in the long-term it's probably unsubstainable. As the conditions in the developing world countries improve, wages rise. Then the Europeans/Americans will pull out, and the developing economies will collapse.
Jan. 12th, 2012 03:30 pm (UTC)
Don't give up on copyright yet. Heck, with fabers/replicators the "patterns" are worth something. And encrypting them isn't that hard.

Also, if you need to replicate a new PADD, those few grams of rare earth elements are worth something to you, and you'd have to process a *lot* of rocks to get them.

And just *try* to get your replicator to give you a decent massage. Or produce a poem or make an *original* design. "Service" industries will still exist.

Money won't go away. But what you need it for will change.
Jan. 12th, 2012 03:32 pm (UTC)
How does one do money if it can be so easily scanned and replicated? Perhaps BitCoin?
Jan. 12th, 2012 04:02 pm (UTC)
"Gold-pressed latinum" (a form of handwavium, of course) :-)

Jan. 13th, 2012 12:06 am (UTC)
See my reply below. Money is not the same as currency.
Jan. 13th, 2012 12:05 am (UTC)
You (like most people) confuse money with its physical representations. Currency (bills and coins) is not money. It is the *physical representation* of money.

Money is an abstract concept. What you are confusing it with are just a sort of standardized IOU.

Money is bookkeeping. It's a way of moving beyond barter. So you can (in effect) trade a fraction of a workday for a fraction of various other folks workdays, and fractions of machine time at factories (or fabber time) and fractions of various resource shipments. IE use your salary to buy a gizmo.

And this, btw, is why the folks who want to go back to the gold standard or otherwise "back" currency" are so misguided.

Currency is just fancy IOUs. As such, it has no inherent value. If I gave you an IOU, it'd be worth what it said it was worth as long as you trusted me to pay. And worth nothing if you didn't trust me.

Likewise, it's worth would depend on my *ability* to pay (and on how many other IOUs I had out there). In essence, most inflation/deflation comes from that sort of thing. And "backing" a currency just changes things to bounce around based on the supply of the backing materials.

Spain's economy was *ruined* by the influx of gold and silver from the New World. And took *centuries* to recover.

The value of a currency depends on the confidence folks have in it, and on the *actual* resources and productivity of the issuer.

Jan. 13th, 2012 12:51 am (UTC)
With the current uncertain state of the economy, some people are attracted to the idea of owning gold bullion. And it's true that most forms of currency were once "backed" by gold within living memory. People have the notion that gold has some special quality that gives it an absolute value. But it has no more absolute value than does helium, or light sweet crude oil, or warm socks. Everything is worth exactly as much as a person is willing to trade for it. I'm much more comfortable with honest barter - I'll give you two chickens for a goat (or a wheel of cheese for five loaves of bread, or I'll fix your computer if you'll knit me a sweater). The only reason we even use money is because it's hard to make change in chickens and goats ("some idiot tried to put two chickens into the goat slot again...").

Jan. 13th, 2012 02:48 am (UTC)
Oh duh. :B
Jan. 13th, 2012 09:26 pm (UTC)
Actually, we've entered the "Age of Decline" because we've passed Peak Oil. There will some very short, lucky, bursts of growth, followed by more steady Decline and the occasional local Collapse due to weather-related or resource-war disasters.

As oil (and all related fossil fuels) become more expensive, we'll HAVE to start making things more locally to even survive, and the whole overseas wage-slave mentality will die a slow, whimpering death. (Not to mention all plastics come from fossil fuel-- see the problem there anywhere?)

We simply don't have the energy to spare to go to some all-replicator technology. At first, anything like that would be wicked expensive, but eventually it would be so cumbersome to maintain that it'll fall away. And if the plebes have a revolution or two, that might make it a bit hard, too.

As John Michael Greer says, "There is no brighter future." Except that someday we'll only have very conservative renewables and wind-up/manual/animal energy sources once more and this crazy over-population will reduce and we'll stop being so damned crazy all the time. Makes me sad to think we'll never go to the stars. But yeah, that dream is dead now.

Edited at 2012-01-13 09:28 pm (UTC)
Jan. 13th, 2012 10:06 pm (UTC)
That makes the huge and erroneous assumption that fabricator devices would require more energy than we could produce, save for petroleum energy. Don't forget that biofuels exist and can be made from any kind of plant matter.
Jan. 14th, 2012 11:44 pm (UTC)
replicators and biofuels
It is a very logical assumption that fabricator devices would indeed require more energy than we could produce cheaply enough to be worth using. For a short while, they may come online (a handful of years maybe?) and then kept for certain critical functions. For how long would be the question.

It takes MORE energy, as of yet, to convert most biofuels into energy than is extracted (seriously, just look into ethanol made from corn!)-- so its not as easy as all that. Its far more expensive, and cannot possibly replace cheap fossil fuel. I'm sure there will be certain functions deemed worthy of expensive biofuel replacement (and plenty of people working to make the most of it, etc.) but chances are very high that we will all be forced to conserve energy quite drastically in the future, simply because its too expensive to use much. Of course, people can live high quality lives without so many automatic gadgets, but it will mean a great change in lifestyle for sure.

But don't just take my word for it. Look into it yourself. We're all in for a very different world in the not-too-distant future. Propaganda is trying to convince us differently to keep "extending and pretending" as long as possible, but I'm afraid the consequences of over-use and over-population are already coming home to roost.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )


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