Many aspects of a Resource Based Economy are appealling. But we have to look at all ideas objectively, and critically, and ensure that we fully understand them. Only then can we be well placed to make a judgement on them.
The mechanism of a Resource Based Economy falls down on a critical detail.
The problem is how we allocate resources.
While those “versed” in the concepts of a Resource Based Economy will be quick to answer this with a quote direct from Jacque Fresco’s mouth, something along the lines of “they will be allocated in the most efficient and sustainable way according to the peak of current scientific and technical knowledge” – when analysing real life situations it quickly becomes evident that this argument is missing a vital element.
Let me explain with an example.
Imagine we live in a “Resource Based Economy”, where there is no money and everyone gets the essentials of survival without having to submit to a life of seritude to get it, etc etc. We have abundance of many things, because we are more efficient and innovative with our resources. However, it will not take long for the following situation to arise; a limited quantity of a specific resource will force us into having to make a decision on the allocation of these resources.
It could be anything. One patient has breast cancer, another has lung cancer. There is only enough energy/materials/skills to cure one of them. Let’s make it clear that this is an example, while it’s possible that we will have an abundance of many things – this kind of dilemna is bound to arise at some point when any resource becomes scarce.
As a different example, let’s say that there is some land with a beautiful view, on which one group wants to build a research lab, and another group wants to use for housing. Let’s assume for the purpose of this example that both would “cost” the same quantity of resources to build. The difference is the effect they have on the society. You suddenly have an argument between people who want this view from their homes, and people who want it for their workplace.
All the other parameters are equal – both projects have the same potential, the same efficiency, the same sustainability, and the same resources. The decision must be made on which group of people should get what they want. All it comes down to in the end is simple preferences of different people. This is a social dilemna. There will be lots of them.
Let’s stress again that this is just an example! The point is to illustrate that limited resources will force decisions that are not straight forward. Solving these decisions is not simply a matter of efficiency or sustainability, which are easy things to define. Some decisions would have to be made based on morality, emotion, social will, or something else.
An all powerful, environmentally integrated, resource-aware computer might be capable of making these kinds of decisions. But to do so, in programming this computer, we would have to come to agreements on morality which would need to be programmed into it. We would actually have to prioritise human needs and use this prioritisation as an “index” for the decision engine to reference.
Programming this computer’s decision making algorithm is theoretically possible, although highly complex and extremely ambitious. However, the issue is the doubt on whether or not we could come to a consensus on these decisions which would drive the computer.
Frighteningly, we would have to put a value on individual human lives. The patients with two different kinds of cancer – which do we save? The one who stands to benefit society the most? Or the one whose family will be more upset?
You see, for these difficult dilemnas, and the infinite number of smaller ones, we will have to decide on which criteria we use to prioritise. Do we value water over shelter? Probably. But the prioritisation over our physical resource needs is one thing. Prioritising over moral values and social issues is quite another.
It’s possible that we can come to some agreements. However, it’s clear that in a world where value is not abstracted into money, then we would need to.
What are your thoughts? One commonly used rebuttal to this argument is the point that abundance will solve all these problems. But this argument is inadequate because:
- There will always be something that is scarce.
- There will always be disagreements for social and other reasons.
- There will always be choices that will have to be made that can’t be decided based on resource usage.
What we have to do is be very clear about how decisions are “arrived at”. What parameters go into the decision, and how do we prioritise them?