-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Fwd: Re: [ssi_list] Achieving the "Star Trek" society
Date: Fri, 06 Feb 2004 15:23:02 -0500
From: Paul D. Fernhout <pdfernhout@kurtz-fernhout.com>
To: pk@publicknowledge.org

Here is the other essay I referred to, essentially showing how there is
plenty of money to pay for a for free creative works or better education
or a more vibrant non-profit sector if we adopt a post-scarcity world
view. I think the biggest problem with arguing for the public domain is
having such arguments stand alone -- they really are part of a much
larger picture about scarcity vs. post-scarcity worldviews.

I also wrote quite a bit about related topics on Lawrence Lessig's blog
See especially the issue of the cost of imprisoning a million college
kids for copyright violation, a currently laughable idea -- about as
laughable as imprisoning a million non-violent drug users probably was
in the 1960s (a horrible tragedy which has since come true as
politicians talk about being tough on crime). And how the cost of
employing the entire media industry to do free works is comparable to
existing wasteful government policy like the drug war.

And here is a satire I wrote on the topic for the Justic Department when
they requested related comments:
talking about a world where law itself is essentially proprietary --
requiring payments for citing laws or even discussing them.

Anyway, enough of clogging your inbox. All the best.

--Paul Fernhout

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: [ssi_list] Achieving the "Star Trek" society
Date: Fri, 06 Feb 2004 08:37:41 -0500
From: Paul D. Fernhout <pdfernhout@kurtz-fernhout.com>
To: ssi_list@yahoogroups.com
References: <20040206053548.13793.qmail@web40901.mail.yahoo.com>

http://www.nypost.com/news/worldnews/17284.htm ]

Thor Olson wrote:

"[Patrick Stewart] says manned missions are too expensive.
"It would take up so many resources, which I personally feel
should be directed at our own planet," he said."
[Lots of good analysis and suggestions about this snipped].
At least that is what I think tonight. 

Nice ideas, and I agree with the general thrust that there is no way
back. We're witnessing another "phase change" of our society. Previous
ones were population pressure leading to abandoning an at-the-time
superior hunter/gatherer lifestyle for an impoverished agricultural one
(human skeletal remains show the decrease in heath and stature);
then, abandoning a working small scale agricultural and home based
business existence for terrible conditions in factories (from more
population pressures, but also from a phase change in how society
organized itself through ever more militaristic bureaucracies made
possible by a higher density of population and information and
organization -- allowing activities like "The Enclosure Acts");
and now IMHO abandoning an industrial one with various backlashes
starting to become apparent as our industrial base (which is mostly
unexamined and profit driven) grows beyond the Earth's capacity to cope
with pollution (such as you point out with global climate changes and
incidental hormones released from plastics etc.) to make the next phase
change shift to a post-scarcity information and nanotech age. This will
likely bringing us somewhat full circle back to hunter/gatherer values
of "... generosity, egalitarianism, compassion, honesty ..." which are,
in some senses, written by evolution into human nature anyway, as
humanity evolved in small hunter/gatherer groups where those values were
essential for survival, the last few thousand years notwithstanding.

Here's an essay I orignally wrote recently for a non-profit resources
list, on freeing up resouces for education and creative activities. I
think it applies equally well to freeing up resources for human
exploration of space (as well as continuing robotic space exploration)
and beyond those, payign for moving further into the active development
of space resources as well as panspermia type activities directed at
other stars and galaxies which we currently think devoid of life and
intelligence. It's the kind of thing IMHO the boards of groups like the
non-profit Space Studies Institute should think about as they set their
policies for patents and copyrights and cooperation.

"How to Find the Financing for Achieving the Star Trek Society"

==== executive summary ====

This essay shows how a total of $14000 billion up front and at least
another $2085 billion per year can be made available for creative
investment in the USA by adopting a post-scarcity worldview. This money
can help further fund a virtuous cycle of more creative and more cost
saving efforts, as well as better education. It calls for the non-profit
sector to help shape a new mythology of wealth and to take the lead in
getting the average person as well as decision makers to make the shift
in worldview to their own long term benefit.

==== introduction ====

Essentially, considered broadly, the question of how to pay for
education is more like, how do we (peacefully) get to the Star Trek
society of social justice and universal prosperity (maybe someday
complete with the nanotech food replicators and space habitats :-),
and what else can the non-profit sector do to help get us there beyond
its already heroic efforts?

First, as a side note, I could not have written an essay like this
before the World Wide Web -- I just would not have had the time to cover
so many areas in a couple days writing from home, far from a university
library, and relying on Google to make solid ideas that were just wisps
of memory (from years of reading broadly on the web); nor would I before
the wide adoption of the internet and email and the world wide web have
been able to provide immediately accessible links for further
exploration by readers, all at essentially no direct monetary cost. That
is an example of the sort of exponential increase in technological
capacity this essay is referring to. I certainly would not call this
essay a scholarly work as it neither cites enough primary sources or
connects all the dots, and I'm sure it has its share of flaws, but
please consider it as a proof of concept that if even a little of what I
write is true, there is enough to go around and make this Earth a more
fantastic and more free place for every being on it.

This essay will consider some major sectors of the US economy in turn
and what counter-productive subsidies or waste could be easily trimmed,
where the amount freed up is large enough to make an enormous difference
in funding for creative, life affirming pursuits. [All figures are
ballpark estimates.]

First, for reference, the US GDP is about $10 trillion dollars annually.
This is not to imply GDP is in any way a good  indicator of "well-being":

Also for reference, philanthropy in the US is about $240 billion a year,
contributed 76% from Individuals ($184 billion), 11% from Foundations
($27 billion), 7.5% from Bequests ($18 billion), 5.1% from Corporations
($12 billion)
Historically, about a third to a half of these contributions overall go
to local religious organizations, mainly for the upkeep of property and
local staff and some local programs. Note that because non-profits may
bring in fees for services (which may also include government
subsidies), total non-profit revenue is higher than donations -- in the
US for example more like $700 billion or more total.
Worldwide, the non-profit sector expends about a trillion dollars or so
a year. This of course typically does not include direct government
expenditures (unless they flow through a non-profit, making this harder
to analyze). Obviously the impacts of the non-profit sector because of
unpaid volunteers or lower wages is some multiplier of this compared to
the private sector, so the importance to society of the non-profit
sector in the US should not be simply put at $700 billion out of $10000
billion. Activities in non-profits touch just about every aspect of
people lives, especially through non-profit activities in R&D and
education which can have broad effects on society.

Now, let us move on to the question of where could more money for
education and creativity come from -- such as to fund more creation of
free copyrights and free patents? And where could budget cuts be made so
US parents (and everyone else) could work less hours and devote more
time to their families and charitable hobbies -- including informally
educating their children? As we shall see, a hundred billion dollars
here, a hundred billion dollars there, and soon we are talking real
money. :-)

Let us consider ways to free up money for the non-profit sector (or
reducing working hours) by cutting wasteful government and consumer
spending in these areas with (annual estimate of easy savings):
  * Healthcare ($800 billion),
  * Military ($200 billion),
  * Prisons ($125 billion),
  * Agriculture ($40 billion),
  * Transportation ($250+ billion),
  * Housing ($350+ billion),
  * Manufacturing (very variable),
  * Media (very variable),
  * Banking ($14000 billion up front, $320 billion annually), and
  * Education (very variable).

This is a total of $14000 billion up front and at least another $2085
billion per year. And this is even without considering any lifestyle
changes such as from widespread adoption of Voluntary Simplicity:
which will ultimately result in the largest savings in the US and
worldwide (but I discuss no further here).

==== a common denominator ====

A common denominator in just about each of these areas is the domination
by out-of-date ideologies based on scarcity perspectives and/or the
capture of the government regulatory and funding bodies by narrow
interests who are afraid of losing out by progressive post-scarcity
change (which they fear will leave them impoverished). There is also the
issue of some people desiring to continue to have lots of raw power over
other people's lives (like that of a master over slaves); frankly I
can't address that character flaw other than to point at religious and
humanistic traditions of enlarging one's sense of self to include
community and world responsibilities (including finding joy in helping
the growth of others to be independent decision makers), so I restrict
what follows to monetary aspects of the problem. Ultimately though, raw
power lust has to be dealt with -- and dealing with that I freely admit
will be tougher than the economic aspects of making the case for a
post-scarcity worldview.

It's been said the hardest order to get soldiers to follow in wartime is
to abandon a foxhole in the face of oncoming action. Like a soldier in a
foxhole, the US elites in each sector are about to be overrun by the
sweeping changes happening in our society as its technological capacity
expands exponentially; they will feel safer in their elite foxholes
until their positions are completely overrun by changing times, at which
point they will have no choice but to be swept up in the global changes.
The safer thing IMHO is to abandon that foxhole position sooner rather
than later and try to make the system work for everyone now (which of
course includes themselves and their children).

But, as I said, this is the hardest thing to get people to do. Yet,
wealth really is often little protection from much of life (compared,
say, to having good friends). Even when wealth appears to help, it is
often an illusion, for example, living in an exclusive gated community
and driving an expensive SUV may make one feel safer, but statistics
show they are not. This is an example of a worldview failure.
What does bring some more safety is the old standbys like taking what
little or big amount of wealth you do have and knowing what to do with
it (wisdom), knowing how to do it effectively (intelligence), actually
doing it (virtue), and staying the course (persistence), and above all,
considering others in one's plans (compassion) and having mutual
assistance (friends).

In the case of gated communities, Jane Jacobs shows in her books
how it is, among other things, having many eyes on the street and strong
human ties that brings true security to an urban community.

People like Tom and Ray Magliozzi of CarTalk fame
and others:
discuss how it is good maneuverability and structural impact resistance
from proper design among other things which can make a driver safer than
the SUV approach of massive amounts of steel bolted onto a light truck
frame riding high up. Unlike a well built passenger car, the SUV can't
stop quickly, or maneuver easily around road obstacles, and tends to
roll over more often, and so is more likely to result in death and
injury of the occupants of both cars in an accident. While SUVs seem
modern, they are actually dinosaurs. In this sense, the SUV is a very
appropriate symbol of the current mainstream US worldview of security
through domination and standing over others. It seems like a good idea,
but it isn't effective at accomplishing what people think it promises.

In the same way as Jane Jacobs and Tom and Ray Magliozzi, let's help
bring an end to the overvaluing of turning non-profits into gated
intellectual communities with revenues based on proprietary patents and
exclusively licensed copyrights. Then let's help the world in general
use tax and charitable dollars more wisely than putting them into tax
subsidies of failing SUV-style worldviews based on mistaken assumptions
of what brings true safety.

So, to that end, here is a first cut at sector by sector cost-savings

==== healthcare ====

Healthcare -- Compared to other industrialized countries (e.g. Canada),
the US is spending about twice as much as necessary for better universal
healthcare (14% GDP instead of 7% GDP), or about $700 billion too much
per year. Note US life expectancy is only the 17th highest in the world.
Note that the cost to the US society of uninsured people is 18,000
premature deaths a year, losses of  about $65 billion to $130 billion
annually as a result of poor health and early deaths of uninsured
adults, and tax dollars paid for an estimated 85 percent of the roughly
$35 billion in un-reimbursed medical care for uninsured people in 2001,
so about another $100 billion dollars or more of costs to society.

Other things to consider: malpractice insurance is so expensive in part
because of lifetime of healthcare for the injured is so expensive;
universal healthcare would reduce the need for malpractice lawsuits and
large settlements. Doctors education is very expensive; if medical
school was free (and there is enough money saved here to pay for this
many times over) the doctors would not need to earn so much to pay back
$100K to $200K in med school loans (nurses actually are ahead
financially over doctors for the first fifteen or so years).

Ultimately, in a couple of decades, much of what physicians now do will
be replaced by machinery (the "Autodoc" of Larry Niven, or the
"Sarcophagus" of Stargate) collapsing this whole system eventually
unless it is fixed sooner. Even just the World Wide Web and search
engines like Google are having major changes on how people relate to
their physicians, as the become more informed.

==== military ====

Military -- Close to $400 billion a year is now spent by the USA
directly (more spent indirectly, not including some other
unbudgeted costs like the two ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus
various toxic and medical liabilities incurred). This is about 6X the
next country (Russia), and more than the top ten or twenty combined.
This is easily 50-80% too much (or more), or a minimum $200 billion
annual savings. Note that most of the US soldiers getting killed in Iraq
joined the service to get a college education and are college aged.

For just one insight into why the current US defense posture is
ineffective and inefficient -- if the threat of just one nuclear bomb
exploded in a US city is enough to terrorize the whole USA, does the USA
really need 20,000 or so nuclear bombs to terrorize other countries? A
handful should do, at a savings of hundreds of billions over a decade
spent keeping all those other unneeded nuclear bombs ready to kill with.

This level of savings alone can solve a lot of world problems which
otherwise create a climate where the general population of non-western
nations might just as soon look the other way at terrorist operations
and recruitment:

==== prisons ====

Prisons -- US society does have a social safety net, it is called
"prison". :-( About half of all prison and enforcement costs is now
related to drug offenses, at a cost of around $75 billion per year. The
United States has the highest prison population rate in the world, some
686 per 100,000 of the national population. "By comparison, the United
Kingdom's rate of 139 per 100,000 of the national population places it
above the midpoint in the World List; it is now the highest among
countries of the European Union."

Clearly, US incarcerates too many people. If you add in the fact that
many of these people could be producing, say, $50K a year contributing
to society, plus their families would be better off if they had
alternative treatment instead of prison, this is perhaps another $50
billion or so contribution to society ending the drug war could produce,
for a total of about $125 billion per year. Clearly even widespread use
of illegally obtained drugs would not do this level of damage to our
society, and evidence from other countries like the Netherlands shows it
likely persistent drug use would go down if it were not illegal and
treatment stigmatized (such as Rush Limbaugh's inability for years to
admit his addiction and get help) and a clearer distinction was made
between hard and soft drugs in the public eye (like in the Netherlands).

Note: personally I've never used illegal drugs (I typically avoid even
aspirin and caffeine) and I certainly would discourage anyone from using
them even if they are made legal. I'm just trying to suggest reducing
the social costs of a counter-productive drug prohibition, which
are even much higher if you look at police force corruption and privacy
loss, etc.
Even police chiefs are against drug prohibition as it is now:

==== agriculture =====

Agriculture -- The US supports $40 billion a year in agricultural
subsidies, which essentially prop up a conventional fossil fuel
agricultural system -- when the consumer wants small scale, local,
organic. These subsidies also have damaging effects on world
agricultural markets.

Often, unsubsidized small scale organic agriculture has to compete
against these subsidized large scale monocultures. Essentially,
monoculture agriculture is inherently more risky than diversified small
farms. Thus because of certain dynamic economic issues (when all
monocultures have a good year, prices crash, yet they have borrowed much
money to fund off-farm inputs of petrochemical based fertilizers and
fuel, putting them at risk of bankruptcy) that monoculture system needs
more ongoing support than small-scale diversified organic agriculture.

Also, because migrant (often illegal immigrant) laborers provide much of
the farm work, their ongoing exposure to toxic agriculture farm
chemicals is another hidden cost of the current system.
Each of these deaths and injuries represent a long term cost to society
(and worker families) of both lost productivity and a need for ongoing
care -- a huge hidden external cost of a broken agricultural sector
propped up by these subsidies.

Organic agriculture is fundamentally a knowledge intensive business as
it takes more thought than conventional agriculture. There are other
hidden costs to the conventional system as well (soil erosion,
pollution, consumer health, excessive fossil fuel use, etc.) each of
which is a long term cost society has to pay. Ending subsidies will help
US agriculture move to a more sustainable basis. Eventualy, agricultural
robotics will remake the economics of organic agriculture in a decade or

==== transportation ====

Transportation -- The US has built itself into a corner by basing an
entire suburban infrastructure on personal automotive transportation
instead of walking or mass transport. Still, things can be improved
despite an obsolete transportation patterns. One estimate puts the true
cost of using gasoline including external costs is on the order of $500
billion to $1700 billion per year (or a retail price of gasoline per
gallon price of $5.60 to $15.14).
Current fleet efficiency is pretty much at a decade low. Current
technology such as hybrids or fuel cells can double or even triple fleet

Note that reducing energy use also reduces the need for a large US
military to defend oil supplies, and also lowers world energy costs,
which helps developing nations. So, by requiring a doubling of
automotive fuel efficiency, between $250 billion and $850 billion
dollars a year will be saved for the US society. Note though, that
ultimately, a goal of transportation planning shouldn't be to do it
efficiently, but to reduce the need for it, by telecommuting, working
close to home, and producing things locally. It doesn't make sense from
a transportation point of view to truck lettuce into New York from
California (subsidized by cheap water taken from other states) when
there are plenty of New York farmers who would be happy to grow it
locally at likely lower total costs if external costs for water
subsidies and transportation related pollution were taken into account.

Long term, the US infrastructure needs to be entirely rebuilt to be more
mass-transit and pedestrian and bicycle friendly (a good example of a
success is the Netherlands) which also entails increasing housing and
business density in some places and decreasing density in others. This
will be a huge undertaking -- but one made possible if money is freed up
as outlined in this essay.

==== housing ====

Housing -- Most US housing stock is obsolete in terms of energy
efficiency, especially due to poor insulation, but also due to wasteful
appliances. Here is the future:

Using comparable reasoning as in the above study of external
costs for gasoline (a 5-15X multiplier effect on society), doubling the
US housing stocks energy efficiency through insulation, air-to-air
heat exchangers for better air quality, and passive or active solar
designs could save about half of the on the order of $140 billion spent
annually on home energy use, so about $70 billion per year. (In FY 2000,
the average household had expenditures of $1,293, and there are about
105 million households in the USA). With a 5X multiplier for external
costs like pollution cleanup and tax preferences and subsidies, that
would total about $350 billion in avoided total costs.
Some other related interesting stats on the deeper housing problem in
the USA relating to low-income affordability:

Coupled with the transportation improvement issue mentioned above,
essentially the entire US housing and transportation complex is pretty
much ready for a complete overhaul, especially as newer technologies
continue to be developed, but again if money is freed up this can be
done over the course of the next two decades or so even if the total
cost of such a project may be high (tens of trillions of dollars).

==== manufacturing ====

Manufacturing -- Lots of waste here too. But I'm running out of steam.
:-) Energy efficiency in US manufacturing is typically much worse than
in European countries (on the order of 50% - 100% extra energy use per
unit output). Here's one example of what sort of advanced better
manufacturing techniques are promised from Europe (both in terms of what
is produced and how it is produced):
"A major European chip maker said this week it had discovered new ways
to produce solar cells which will generate electricity twenty times
cheaper than today's solar panels. "

Even if this particular announcement turns out to be hype, similar
breakthroughs will eventually be achieved. See some general comments I
make here:

Manufacturing is undergoing a quiet revolution in quality and quantity
as new materials and techniques come into use, especially as these
improvements feed on each other in a synergistic way. As this process
continues to speed up exponentially, the approximately twenty year
lifetime of a patent becomes a bigger and bigger drag on innovation.
Patents and copyrights retard the ability of engineers to use stigmergic
processes by cooperating on design artifacts. So, reducing the use of
patents and copyrights by the non-profit engineering sector would help
reduce a hurdle to fulfilling the promise of manufacturing sector
improvements, given the potentially vast amount of money available to
fund R&D with free results outlined in this post.

==== media ====

Media -- I probably can't add much to Harold Feld's post, referencing
his group,
but, essentially, in a worst case analysis, "the great wasteland" of TV
is fundamentally broken with centralized media ownership. Media failed
the country in allowing the runup to war with Iraq without asking
serious questions. For this, and other reasons, such as here
one can argue these centralized medias like TV, Radio, and Satellite
which are supposed to be responsibly using their chunk of the RF
spectrum have failed repeatedly to act in the public interest. Thus, one
can argue further their licenses should be revoked (along with the
corporate charters of the related organizations),
and that part of the spectrum turned over to wireless internet access.
Total savings to the economy: incalculable, when you consider all the
trillions that won't be spent on needless products based on media
creating desires. In a sense, Harold Feld and Media Access represents
the good cop approach of giving media a chance to change, as opposed to
my bad cop :-) suggestion to take away consolidated media's spectrum and
give it to wireless broadband internet. In this scenario, instead of
HDTV boxes stuck onto conventional TVs, one would have boxes which
interface to wireless broadband connected to the TV -- to allow you to
either browse the web or watch downloaded movies from the couch.

And, while I'm on a roll, RIAA members, the MPAA members etc. like
Disney could be bought out at current stock prices and disbanded too.
But where to get the money for that? See the next point on *banking*.
The rationale for this: the original ruling against Napster coincided
with the beginning of the stock market decline, and some pundits suggest
the two are closely tied, as the average person realized the internet
was not going to be allowed to become a post-scarcity economy, and that
a $100 billion or so media industry was going to be the tail wagging the
dog of the $1000 billion or more consumer electronics industry. That
just does not make any economic sense from a post-scarcity worldview
(although it does reflect a scarcity worldview) and the markets reacted
to that.

As an alternative to a direct buyout of media companies or other major
copyright holders, since the copyright bargain has been broken now that
copyrights are effectively indefinite in duration, copyright holders
could be asked to pay an annual 5% tax on the value of their copyright.
This value could be a self-assessed buyout value which anyone could pay
to place the work into the public domain -- essentially, it is an amount
at which the rightsholder would be happy to accept in exchange for
returning the copyright to the public domain. Presumably copyright
holders would review their portfolio for profitability and future use
and only the most important copyrights to their business would be kept
and paid for annually. Those copyrights which were maintained would have
current contact information for potential licensors available through
the IRS or a delegated copyright contact information management
authority. Assuming the value of all strategic copyrights in the US
would be self-assessed at a trillion dollars (a wild guesstimate) then
this might bring in another $50 billion a year, to help offset the
chilling effects, prison costs, court costs, enforcement costs,
rightholder searches, missed opportunities for derivative works, and so
on that effectively indefinite copyrights impose on society.

=== banking ====

Banking -- If you poke around a web site like:
  http://www.xat.org/xat/moneyhistory.html ]
or even:
or the very bearish but conventional:
you'll see strong opinions that our current economic system is a really
weird fictional beast on its last legs. [Further, we have forgotten things like the true cause of the American Revolution (hint, it was in large part about the right to print money!) -- see the XAT page.]

Essentially, (from the first link), among other things, banks lend out
money they don't have, based on a concept of a fractional reserve, and
this creates most of the money supply from debt. As a young child, I had
been taught banks lend out deposits. This isn't really true. Banks lend
out multiples of deposits. In practice, for every dollar you put in a
bank, ten or more dollars can be lent out. The premise here is that
very few people putting their money into a bank will ever want to take
it out at the same time, and that even if they did, they would just put
it in another bank (which could indirectly loan the money back to the
first bank).

So, for example, the money behind most mortgages doesn't exist except in
bank computers as IOUs to other banks. There are lots of approaches to
ending a debt based money supply, but for a simple one, consider if the
US government were to decree that banks could only lend out what was
deposited in them, and created a government account with the fractional
lent imaginary money at each bank, then the US government could reclaim
the money supply, without directly causing any inflation. Then it could
use the reclaimed money supply slowly to pay back the $7000 billion
national debt entirely,
and still have something like $7000 billion left over and earning interest.

It's possible though that most banks would lose out to an extent,
because they would have to have more deposits, and pay more interest on
them, but ultimately they would pass this cost onto customers. Their
costs of lending would rise (1%-2%, though this is easily a point of
dispute), and so consumer interest rates would go up some (indirectly
creating a $100 billion or so dollar a year tax on debtors). Note this
is not the same as the treasury increasing the money supply by simply
printing money, because there would be no net change to the money supply
in this approach -- only the issue of who effectively owned the money
supply. However, with the US government able to spend this money to pay
off the national debt and saving about $320 billion on interest payments
annually (an amount which will otherwise balloon enormously once
interest rates rise for other reasons, say with the dollars continuing
slide), there would be a lot of money to go around so people would not
have to borrow as much if they had more income from lower taxes and more
government supports. The government could end unemployment with targeted
programs to employ creative people to do creative things (including
teach creativity) similar to in the 1930s with the Civilian Conservation
Corps, perhaps this time by creating free materials for the Internet.

With rising interest rates, the US housing bubble might collapse sooner,
although the positive aspect of which is allowing people to buy houses
for less from income. A housing bubble collapse will (eventually) also
encourage people to properly reevaluate whether older houses (previously
highly valued from land speculation) should be replaced for energy
efficiency reasons (most should, since good new houses only cost around
$100,000 to build from scratch), such as outlined in previous sections
on housing and transportation. Note that the housing bubble will
likely collapse soon enough anyway (as it did two decades ago in Japan a
couple years after the stock market there peaked), so why not get
something good out of the process, a large amount of cash which would
give the US government a way to smooth out the problems?

Alternatively, if nothing is done, the US may well face twenty years of
economic stagnation like in Japan since its real estate bubble burst in
the 1980s. However, economic stagnation is the hopeful case, since,
unlike Japan, the US possesses a vast arsenal of weapons of mass
destruction and a proven inclination to use them, and so the world faces
a much greater danger if the US conventional worldview falls apart
without something better to replace it.

I don't subscribe to any conspiracy theories (though I think it is odd
both likely presidential candidates -- Kerry and Bush -- are "Skull and
Bones" Yalies  -- although this may reflect a disagreement on policy in
that elite :-). Kucinich http://www.kucinich.us/ is the only candidate I
know of with a track record of standing up to bankers (for which he was
pilloried, but years later later found farsighted),
but he's been marginalized by  the mainstream media (despite being the
only candidate to actually vote against the Iraq war, unlike that other
Yalie, Dean). Ultimately, I feel the non-conspiracy of convergent
interests is more an issue of hundreds of thousands of wealthy and
powerful individuals in the US and abroad sharing a common ideology and
common economic mythology, catered to by a media that has become
self-censoring to avoid upsetting anyone in power (especially media
conglomerate owners). My point here is not to say we should be
charitable to our fellow beings (though we should. :-) It is more to
say that it is in our own self interest to help the world transition
to a post-scarcity world view (given the alternatives of stagnation or
chaos as the economy confronts various exponential trends).

Clearly, even economists are starting to admit they have a weird world
view and have been ineffective at producing worldwide prosperity. See:
  "Confessions of a Recovering Economist"
As Jane Jacobs says, physicists get to play with billion dollar toys,
economists get to play with trillion dollar toys and untold numbers of
people's lives. The main issue here is what sort of landing  -- hard or
soft -- the complex economy makes as it struggles with changing
expectations (e.g. the decline of the US dollar) and its own internal
contradictions. A lot of that will be influenced by what sort of
mythology we transition to as essentially an economics based on scarcity
collides with an exponential reality (and a likely technological
singularity). Among many, many others, see for example either Ray
Kurzweil's or my writings on this:
In general, I feel a post-scarcity "there's enough to go around for
everyone on the planet and beyond if we use out imagination" mythology
will serve everyone (including the wealthiest) best over a scarcity
mythology, as the "Sword of Damocles" myth illustrates for those who
choose to live in the one gold hut among ninety-nine mud huts.

==== education =====

Education -- For reference, the US spends about $600 billion a year on
all K-12 and college education.

Note that, also for reference, the average U.S. company spends between
about 2 and 10 percent of total payroll on training, so one can
guesstimate this as at least another $100 billion or so spent on
education in the US.

However, these figure ignore parental involvement, which has been
declining in the US due to increased working hours overall:
"U.S. workers put in an average of 1,815 hours in 2002. In major
European economies, hours worked ranged from about 1,300 to 1,800,
according to the International Labor Organization (ILO). Hours were
about the same in the USA as in Japan."

A lot of social ills in the US are made worse by parents being
unavailable to supervise and instruct children with that ptential extra
500 or so hours per year because they feel they have to work more than
their counterparts in other countries. Yet, we are not as a society
putting a priority on getting those free time hours back to the average
US working parent. For just one example, economic productivity has risen
9.4 percent in the July-to-September 2003 quarter
and in theory this could be accompanied with an equivalent reduction in
working hours across the US by 200 hours or so per year, which could
then be spent with family or charitable hobbies.

A conservative take on this level of spending (with which I partially
agree, though  perhaps not with their proposed solutions) is that much
of the educational funding already in place is wasted:

Bear in mind this comment by the Vice Provost of Caltech on the state
of science etc. jobs today that simply adding more money (like doubling
science budgets) will not fix the collapsing PhD pyramid scheme (for
more than a year or so, given exponential growth -- growth that
essentially can double every time period, and then double the doubling
in the next time period, etc.):
and that the US science educational system based on finding and
polishing a few diamonds and throwing everyone else away is
fundamentally broken. So, we really need to completely rethink the US
educational system for this and other reasons, such as Richard Bolles
makes on Life-Work Planning
  "The Three Boxes of Life and How to Get Out of Them: An Introduction
to Life-Work Planning"
that education, work and recreation should ideally not be lined up as
one phase after another (school, employment, retirement) but should all
be mixed together and cycled over and over again.

I still feel we need to spend more money on education and creativity
regardless of some of it being wasted, as we transition away from the
current failing system,
and even once we have a better one. In general education is an
investment that repays itself enormously in a better society IMHO (if it
is true education, as opposed to simply filtering and sorting). Still,
the overall reduction in family time spent by parents is bothersome, and
as children  learn much of what they will in their early years, so
addressing overly long working hours by parents may have a bigger effect
on US childhood education than anything else, even if that were to mean
cutting money spent on schools so parents can spend more time with their

Still, the biggest issues having to do with poor US education are
political: My thoughts on this are influenced heavily by reading _A
People's history of the United States_ by Howard Zinn
and even more so by _Lies My Teacher Told Me_ by James Loewen
Both indicate that the content of the US educational experience as
well as the form in some sense promote poor citizenship (on both local
and global levels) which allows the resulting graduates to be easily
exploited and misguided by lack of critical thinking skills coupled with
a lack of exposure to a spectrum of historical viewpoints.

For an example of this, consider that two years later a majority of US
citizens think Saddam Hussein had something to so with the 9/11 attacks.
The facts are out there (even GW Bush said they were not related)
so, despite media concentration (e.g. Clear Channel Radio), this serious
misunderstanding by most of the US population about one of the most
significant recent events in US history indicates a failure of the
majority of US citizens to think critically and ask critical questions
-- a very serious problem in troubled political times.

I don't want to blame anyone specifically for this failure -- many
teachers are doing a heroic job against this trend. I just to point out
that overall, the system is not working in this sense. The Bush
presidency and Fox News etc. are not the primary cause of these
problems, they are more a symptom (although once in motion, such groups
can make such problems worse). Adding more money to education budgets
may help to allow reduced class sizes and improve things somewhat, but
will the deeper structural problems of the US education system also be
addressed? And even with more money for education, there would still
remain the issue of too long working hours preventing the majority of US
citizens from educating their own children, getting involved more in
civic affairs, or finding more time to be informed of world events.

Educators like Seymour Papert,
Alan Kay
and John Holt
have for decades championed alternative approaches to education that
promote creativity as well as growth in many other areas like critical

[See also:

Just one example from John Holt on homeschooling: "As for friends –
you're not going to lock your kids in the house. I think the socializing
aspects of school are ten times as likely to be harmful as helpful. The
human virtues - kindness, patience, generosity, etc. are learned by
children in intimate relationships, maybe groups of two or three. By and
large, human beings tend to behave worse in large groups, like you find
in school. There they learn something quite different - popularity,
conformity, bullying, teasing, things like that. They can make friends
after school hours, during vacations, at the library, in church."

Two decades ago, people losing unskilled manufacturing jobs were told to
retrain for high tech jobs. One of the most important things to remember
about education these days is that the old saw that education or
retraining is the key to full employment is often wrong. If jobs don't
exist, retraining for them won't help. Many of the jobs being lost in
the US are highly skilled ones moving to nations with a lower cost of
living and less employee and environmental protections. The bulk of new
jobs in the US are unskilled or low skilled manual service jobs. It has
logn been true than just about anything done in a factory can be done
abroad. Now, anything doable at a desk or with a telephone or from a web
site or through email can also be offshored (even Republican Party fund
By the way, the original story page has been taken down:
but is available here:
This is a structural problem. While this may eventually be
resolved as wages equilibrate across the globe (as a race to the bottom
or not, depending on whether other countries get unions and/or stronger
environmental regulations), clearly for the next decade or two this will
not be resolved. And by then, computers will be between a thousand to a
million times faster than current ones for the same price, making cost
effective many AI techniques -- including ones enabling flexible
perceptive robotics to do many complex tasks.

I do think education of all sorts is a good thing from a humanistic
perspective relating to personal growth. Still, by itself, more of the
sort of education we often have today is no solution to long term
problems of meaningful employment or economic survival. It almost seems
that for a child born in the next decade, there may be only very unusual
career paths compared to today for what life may be like in 2050 [if we
don't blow ourselves up first]. We must always bear this in mind when we
consider the merits of any long term technical education which goes
beyond learning the ever universal liberal arts (learning stories about
what it means to be human) plus any other basics of human self-care and
inter-human communications. Those needs are in some sense defined by the
nature of having a human bodily presences, and as long as that is the
case, those sorts of education are needed, despite the technological

To stretch your mind, consider examples of potential future technical
careers in 2050 which go far beyond "GNU/Linux for Dummies":
* CyberGathering -- knowing how to ask computer systems or robots to
make or procure or deliver fairly common things or common services a
human wants or needs (e.g. "make me me some Merlot wine with a 3% lower
tannin level then an age adjusted 2043 vintage in a diamondoid bottle
for the anniversary party after you change the baby's diaper"),
* CyberDesign -- knowing how to tell a computer system how to make novel
things to meet new needs (e.g. "DesignSystem, use evolutionary
algorithms to find a good vehicle design operating in Jovian gravity up
to twenty atmosphere depth.")
* CyberSecurity -- knowing how to keep the automated slaves from
revolting or from gaining sentience (e.g. "Supercluster 497383 is
getting too big and trend analysis shows a 0.1% chance of going sentient
in the next year; we need to reroute its data feeds to three new
* CyberPresence -- knowing how to mesh with the networks to be an
augmented person and participate in such communities (e.g. "Can you
believe people used to use keyboards and video screens to surf the web
and write textual essays? How could they impersonate or track down rogue
AIs that way?"), and
* CyberPolitics -- knowing how to use either of the previous skills to
compete or cooperate with sentient (or not) artificial life forms
created intentionally or unintentionally as spinoffs of exponential
technology (e.g. "Should we nuke the rogue self-replicating lunar
factory threatening to consume the Clavius Complex or should we try to
reason with it and offer it safe passage to the Oort cloud, and how will
that decision affect our treaty with the Asteroid Confederacy?").

Essentially most any other technical thing you can think of from
plumbing to brain surgery will either be doable by a machine or the
knowledge of how to do it will be highly codified and accessible on
demand by less skilled people than it now takes. This shift is all part
of returning in some sense to a hunter/gatherer lifestyle (although a
high-tech one allowing much greater population densities and low infant
mortality). Perhaps this shift will someday reach the point of the world
envisioned in the 1950s by Theodore Sturgeon in his short story "The
Skills of Xanadu" (where people had no pride in technical skills because
they were all easily shared through a network).

Rather than be in denial or ignorance about this shift, government
policies should embrace it, and help guide it so it develops in a just
and compassionate way, and in the public domain so it benefits everyone.

==== wrapping up ====

First, speaking of mythology underlying economic systems in an
information age involving complex tasks, consider:
  "Studies Find Reward Often No Motivator: Creativity and intrinsic
interest diminish if task is done for gain"

From that page: "The results were clear. Students given the extrinsic
reasons not only wrote less creatively than the others, as judged by 12
independent poets, but the quality of their work dropped significantly.
Rewards, Amabile says, have this destructive effect primarily with
creative tasks, including higher-level problem-solving. "The more
complex the activity, the more it's hurt by extrinsic reward," she said."

So, fundamentally, even the whole notion of rewards in a post-scarcity
information intensive age are completely counterproductive (of course,
everyone does need a baseline access to life-sustaining resources to
have the potential to create). As the post-scarcity worldview takes
hold, we may see more and more research in these areas.

The section on banking and economics is the section I am most unsure of,
as some of those ideas are new to me and I am still exploring them. In
my thinking, economics can be considered abstractly as a material world
(land, ecology, people, tools, products, infrastructure, etc.) which has
decision makers (people, thermostats, computers) some with world models
which in turn produce emergent behaviors (like shared economic models,
inflation, depressions, and so on). I think picking one economic model
and saying this is how things are, given that the model itself
influences behavior, is an exercise fraught with difficulties. (George
Soros http://www.soros.org/ has made a lot of money thinking along
similar lines...) Not being an expert on current economic theories, it
is hard to predict entirely how those who are will react if the fiction
unravels before it can be restructured to something more sustainable. In
any case, even if you disagree with the analysis of the banking
situation (frankly, I think it sounds too good to be true myself), or
find any obvious flaws in that analysis (which is still forming in my
mind), I think the rest of the potential financial savings listed above
for other sectors have much more general agreement on them, and still
indicate there is plenty of wealth available for creative activities --
produced in part in almost all case by actions which are themselves
beneficial (creating universal health care, reducing prison populations,
reducing pollution, minimizing abandoned copyrights, etc.) irrespective
of the cost savings that can be spent on new efforts.

I feel it likely substantially just about all these reforms will be made
in some fashion over the next twenty to thirty years, as the social
pendulum in the USA swings back from individualism to community
(assuming we don't blow ourselves up first, or launch a biological war,
etc.). If you total them up, there are many trillions of cash up front,
and more trillions a year of cash saved per year. That is plenty for
meaningful reform. It is even plenty (if made legal by Congress, like
agricultural subsidies have been) if it is needed to spend trillions
just essentially bribing current powerful people to go along with the

Eventually, through some combination of these reform efforts, we will
finally make the major shift beyond the current conception of work or
status derived from material possessions, such detailed via these links:
At that point, we will have truly transitioned to a "Star Trek" like
society, and a question like "How exactly do we pay for education?" will
not have been answered so much as it will longer be meaningful to ask it
-- it would be like today asking "How exactly do we pay for the air we

I'll point out (to save others the trouble) that making a shift in most
of these sectors involves an investment of time and money to save more
money down the road, and one can quibble about rates of return and such,
as well as the best way to make those investments and in what order. For
example, a general pardon of non-violent drug offenders would need to be
accompanied by programs to reintegrate into the work force a million or
more people who have undergone traumatic experiences and become part of
a negative prison subculture -- as well as offer addiction recovery
programs. But in general, all of these things have such overwhelming
benefits they make sense to do now, to free up resources long term for a
post-scarcity future.

=== conclusion ===

So in short, IMHO there is no lack of money, resources, people,
or anything else to improve the state of education or to free creative
people to be able to create in a very large an vibrant non-profit
sector. So why aren't these changes happening now? In some sense they
are, and in just about every one of these sectors I can point to efforts
outside (and sometimes even inside) the US which are engaging in such
reforms in the small or in the large. For example, this site claims to
be a directory of about 15000 groups in 39 countries worldwide
rethinking credit and banking and actively using alternatives:

Yet, efforts like these, as a laudable and useful as they are, in part
often miss the bigger post-scarcity picture. Despite these successes,
what we lack overall is ultimately a widespread better mythology of what
wealth really means as a society and as individuals; if we had that, the
will would arise to make these other things happen. James P. Hogan makes
that point very eloquently in his sci-fi books, as does Buckminster
Fuller in his writings, such as his famous quote: "Whether it is to be
Utopia or Oblivion will be a touch-and-go relay race right up to the
final moment." Ultimately, the choice is one of worldview, especially by
those in power.

I would now put it at the feet of the powerful non-profit sector to
create and discuss that alternate mythology, as opposed to just buying
into the current one for as long as it lasts. It's time for non-profits
to abandon their copyright and patent foxholes (or tiger dens :-) in the
face of an advancing exponential wave of social and technical change
leading to a post-scarcity society.

It's a tough suggestion to follow, since universities and other
non-profits will feel safer in their patent and copyright foxholes,
getting some revenues, until swept by the vast changes heading their
way. However, like one feels safer driving in an SUV or living in a
gated community but really is less safe, universities and non-profits
need to realize the sense of security they feel stemming from creating
and licensing proprietary knowledge is also false one as far as as
bringing about a post-scarcity future. True security will come from the
age-old virtues of wisdom, friendship, compassion, sharing, and so on
which have always been its source.

Here are some of the non-profit groups that are already leading the way:
  http://www.thinkcycle.org/ (Something free from the MIT Media Lab! :-)

--Paul Fernhout

License: This essay is hereby now released into the Public Domain.
Note: U.S. defamation law prevents a creator from altering these
opinions significantly and then presenting them in such a way to look as
if I wrote the altered versions. Also, morality and good sense would
suggest you do not represent the work in whole or in part as something
you wrote yourself. There are other laws and social forces that do the
jobs most people think they need copyright for.