Re: true abundance?

From: Emlyn (
Date: Sun Feb 18 2001 - 21:03:33 MST

Greg Burch wrote:
> All of which is very appealing, I have to admit. I can even squint and
> suspend a principled objection to the redistributive nature of the scheme
> the sake of argument. But one issue keeps coming back to subvert this
> in my mind: So long as people have reproductive freedom, there is no check
> a couple's ability to impose costs on "society at large". There is no
> feedback between the decision to have an additional child and cost to the
> parents, since those costs are a highly "diluted" externality.

I wouldn't worry too much about this. There is another major cost in raising
a child beside money, and that is in time (yes, I know it's naughty to
equate time with money, but I do feel that it is a limited resource!). I
don't see an income floor increasing the amount of time available to people.

As a tradeoff to the possible problems, it'd be pretty nice to live in a
society where the impetus for petty crime had been removed. And for begging,
and for all other kinds of poverty-related social problems. It may very well
stimulate inovation if handled carefully, too; it's easier to consider
trying the trapese when you have a safety net. I think societies without
income safety nets of some kind may often lead to a lot of risk-averse
behaviour; that is, extreme conservatism.

Also, I think the trends are that as people become more educated and
wealthier, they have less kids. An income floor might just free some people
up to become more educated, and will make the ones you are worrying about
wealthier. This doesn't seem to lead logically to increase in birth rates.

I think education is a key issue, if you are worried about birth rates. Not
education about birth control, mind you; general education. If we can use
the newfound wealth of our higher-tech society of the future to increase
average educational levels, the problem of overpopulation will likely be
reduced. Plus, there might be more interesting people to talk to! Like
Windows 95: you'll be able to do more, and it'll be more fun. (sorry, just
installed 95 on an old machine, it says that during the install; I couldn't

I have a feeling that the overpopulation problem might usefully have the
skyscraper analogy applied, as presented by Damien with respect to arguments
against life extension:

"True in a way. But this entire argument is wrong-headed. It's like the case
that could have been made during most of human history against the
possibility of skyscrapers. You just can't build that tall - the mud will
crumble under compressive forces, no matter how much straw you mix with it.
And even if you could find a miracle building material, all the upper
floors would be taken up by staircases, and anyway nobody is fit enough to
climb to the 80th floor and down again every day. Then along comes steel
and electricity and the elevator. "

What's coming along to turn overpopulation into plain old population?
Filtering seawater into drinkable water? Cheap earth to orbit transport, and
space bubble habitats made out of a dissassembled Mars (credit to Robert for
that one, of course)? Maybe mass uploading, with a couple of trillion people
fitting in a box the size of a PDA? Or something (or a combination of
things) even weirder?

I'm sure there'll be some combination of insights, advances, and truly
lateral thinking, which circumvents the bulk of this problem before it hits.
Could be a rough ride between then and now, of course, but that would be


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