Re: Dreams of Autarky

From: Robin Hanson (
Date: Mon Jul 24 2000 - 07:01:50 MDT

Chris Hibbert [responding I think to posts from 10 months ago
on] wrote:

>I read your paper "Dreams of Autarky", and found the arguments quite
>plausible. ... I think I'm agreeing with you when I say that it seems
>to be due to an unfamiliarity with the economic point of view in many
>otherwise farsighted people.

Well you're not disagreeing :-).

>One point you've made before that I thought was underemphasized as a part of
>this constellation of effects is the expectation among the proponents of these
>autarkies that someone will achieve the breakthrough far in advance on one of
>these fronts. Not only are we interdependent for our economy, we're also
>interdependent for inventions and discovery.

I guess I didn't emphasize it as much because the case isn't quite as strong
here, though it is reasonably strong.

>... Are there other development paths that occur to you which could lead
>to increasing our commerce with space?

Not really. Space basically offers volume, matter, and energy, which we have
plenty of down here to last us quite a while. A little more would be nice,
but not nice enough I think to be worth the huge costs of dealing with space.

>I also had a reaction to your discussion of Crypto Credentials, though this is
>probably more of a tangent. I haven't ever believed that Chaumian blind
>credentials were plausible in any near future. I have hoped we could find
>more conventional ways to separate information about different facets of our
>lives. Right now, the US government promotes tighter integration of all these
>facets by ensuring everyone has a common identifier (SSN) ... If different
>facets of our lives weren't artificially made more accessible behind
>consumer's backs, they could do a better job of preventing employers from
>finding out irrelevant facts, or at least know when it's happening so social
>pressure could effect the outcomes.

I agree that as usual the government is pushing in the wrong direction, but
even if they were out of the picture I still wouldn't be optimistic.

Robin Hanson
Asst. Prof. Economics, George Mason University
MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030
703-993-2326 FAX: 703-993-2323

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