Re: Re: Technology evolves, etc

Robin Hanson (
Mon, 09 Nov 1998 09:55:57 -0800

Jeff Davis responds to my comments:
>>>Conventional market economics, and the related cost factors,
>>>go the way of the buggy whip when automation reaches the
>>>level of exponential machine self-replication. ...
>>Conventional economic *theory* seems more than adequate to
>>analyse these sort of situations. Thus one should be able
>>to understand what does or does not radically change "market
>>economics" by more carefully applying that theory to the
>>novel assumptions you are interested in. I challenge those
>>who believe in such radical change to do this.
>I don't care a fig for conventional economic theory. ...
>Sycophancy has been the central feature of economics (and
>history, and theology--"Render unto Ceaser...") since Ur.
>That is why Soviet economists were Marxist, why western
>economists are proponents of whatever flavor of capitalism
>is currently in favor, why it is called the dismal science,
>and why it is utterly disreputable. "Garbage in" can make
>you stupid, or, if you're good at it, rich.

Does your confidence in cryonics come from similarly dismissing conventional biology? Are you interested in colonizing the universe because you similarly dismiss conventional physics? After all, aren't biologists and physicists just as much or more in the hip pocket of the great oppressive militaryindustrial complex?

Is there some unconventional economic theory that does support your conclusions? Or does dismissing conventional theory then entitle you to ignore economics all together and then make whatever claims occur to you?

>Robin, fellow extropian, I trust you will not take any of this

I am a person who has carefully considered the options and on reflection found much of value in conventional economic theory. Because some (but hardly most) people in power agree with me, you have concluded I have been duped. And I am wondering just how carefully you have considered the options. Have you ever even browsed a current economics journal, conventional or not?

>>1) It is not clear that demand can ever be "saturated."
> You sit down in an Italian restaurant, a big plate of
>pasta in front of you. You eat, and eat, and eat, and eat.
>When you can eat no more, your demand is saturated.
>Multiply by five billion.
> Every human on the planet--a finite number--is home,
>in a very big house, wandering around thinking,"I should
>close down this wing of the house, I never use it."
>Demand is saturated.

I don't think you appreciate the vast number of dimensions along which demand can increase. Yes, researaunt meal pounds of food has long ago saturated, and yet such meals cost more as people get richer. Why? Because demand has increased along quality and diversity of ingredients, care and technology of preperation, rapidity of retooling to follow food fashions, quality of decor, convenience of location, etc. Total demand for restaraunt food doesn't saturate until *all* dimensions saturate. And total economic demand doesn't saturate until demand for *all* kinds of products and services saturates. Leave one service with one unsaturated dimension, and you aren't there.

Robin Hanson   
RWJF Health Policy Scholar             FAX: 510-643-8614 
140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 510-643-1884