RE: Property Rights

O'Regan, Emlyn (
Wed, 12 May 1999 19:01:48 +1000

>O'Regan, Emlyn [] wrote:
>>Surely an increase in
>>technological/sociological/xxxxological state implied by the Singularity
>>must leave in tatters our ideas of property/free market, just as it
>>leaves in tatters most other concepts of current western culture,
Mark wrote:
>It's worked well for four and a half billion years, so I think perhaps it
>can work for a little while longer.
This depends on your definition of something working. If you mean by "worked well" that a system of fundamental competition has *existed* since time immemorial, then fair enough. But does the existence of a phenomenon, and its stability in self continuation, necessarily mean it is the right approach? By this logic we should be throwing all our transhuman goals away, and sticking with tried-and-true, self perpetuating evolution. After all, its worked well for four and a half billion years.

>>Rugged individualism indeed. But are there alternatives?
>Yes, but how are you going to stop the rugged individualists? You are free
>not to use more resources than you choose, but then you're just fodder for
>the first expansionist entity which comes your way looking for more resources
>for itself. You seem to be another borganist who believes that they can --
>and should -- force everyone else in the universe to think their way. Well,
>it ain't gonna happen.

Do you steal books from your local library?

>>If there were some viable system of managing it (anyone?), then why not
>>have resources available to all who need them.
>Um, because that's been tried, ooh, about half a bazillion times already,
>and it always fails when tried on a large scale. Always. Otherwise the
>world would be full of wonderful happy communist utopias and there would
>be no argument as to whether they're better. On a small scale they are,
>on a large scale they've always failed.

The difference is that there are more possibilities now. I do not suggest socialism; I think that the idea of monolithic governments is relatively discredited - although that being said, there are some relatively large (high-taxing) governments in some western countries which appear to work quite well.

With the excellent global communication systems which we are just coming to have now, I think that we could manage a highly decentralised form of "government", very much more like an anarchy arrangement.

>>What about some form of techno-anarchy, where we use the excellent
>>communications which are now just developing across the world, and are
>>going to advance wildly in the next couple of decades, to allocate
>>resources to anyone who asks for them, on some kind of loan system.
>And what do you do when you don't have enough resources (e.g. I want to
>a Jupiter-sized brain to run universe simulations, and I want it *now*),
>or someone refuses to give it back after you've loaned it to them? And
>who's going to do the shitwork of digging up all these resources that
>you're giving out? Capitalism has answers to all these problems, these
>kind of utopias never do.

When you don't have enough resources, you don't have enough resources. If a cooperative group cannot provide a Jupiter-sized brain to some subset of its members, why could an equivalent capitalist group do any better?

Only because someone takes more than his/her fair share, and damn everyone else. And under capitalism, that person usually gets to keep what he/she has taken, meaning that shafting the others becomes permanent.

Who's going to do the shitwork? Well, yes capitalism has an answer to this too, as you say. The answer is that some poor bugger (or most of the poor buggers) is going to be given no other option than to do the crap work.

So capitalism does indeed have the answers to these problems - they are solved by somebody forcing their will upon somebody else, someone taking something and someone else going without. Sounds like socialism. Except the insidious nature of a capitalist system is that the blame for this is internalised. Instead of "The system took my stuff away and gave it to someone else", a person ends up thinking "Well, I couldn't compete and lost my stuff". Or instead of thinking "I have to do this shitwork because the system made me", we end up with "I have to do this shitwork to eat because I am a loser".

>>This is pretty basic, re-inventing the wheel kind of stuff, but I think
>>it's important to realise that capitalism (or owning things) is not the
>>only possible social system
>Capitalism is not a social system, it's just what entities do when there's
>no-one to forcefully interfere with their interactions. It's not perfect,
>but it's a lot better than anything else we've ever tried.

When we live in groups for our (invidual) greater good, as we do, sometimes we're going to have to make concessions. Get over it. If everyone tries to look at everything from an entirely individualistic viewpoint (I want what I want and that's tough), we have to compete (fight), and we get winners and losers. If we have to keep doing this all the time, we all must lose eventually. The idea of civilisation arose to guard against this I think.

We have a world where entire nations (nations!) are at the mercy of the ebb and flow of the world market, where the illusion of "freedom = capitalism" is harder and harder to justify. The world market has become an economic environment which is uncontrollable by any single group on the planet. It is chaotic and unpredictable, and it has the power to overturn economies shorter and shorter periods of time (as communications get better). You could have been competing as successfully as you liked in South East Asia before their recent economic crisis hit, and it wouldn't have helped you survive. We are all susceptible in such an environment.

It's interesting to see people arguing on one hand that we should shape our destinies as we see fit, control the universe, relegate nature to the status of interested observer, then on the other hand argue for an economic system whose only defense is that it is "human nature", that it is "natural". Doesn't sound Extropian to me.