Re: Dreams of Autarky

From: Chris Hibbert (
Date: Sun Jul 23 2000 - 14:52:10 MDT


I read your paper "Dreams of Autarky", and found the arguments quite
plausible. I've felt similar reactions to some of these proposals and
expectations, but not noticed the common features. 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.

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. Many of the worries (of Bill
Joy, as well as people like Eliezer) are that someone will get far enough
ahead to take over before everyone else catches up.

Your inclusion of "Space Colonies Soon" was a sobering thought, though I have
to admit the argument is sound. I've only recently started to get somewhat
excited by the possibilities of (humanity) starting to get off the planet
soon. I guess I'll refocus on more exploitation of near-space "soon" rather
than expecting extensive trips, or actual colonization. Are there other
development paths that occur to you which could lead to increasing our
commerce with space? Starting from here, even intensive use of zero-g
orbits for manufacturing seems a good ways away, but once that starts, much
more travel to orbit begins to seem plausible, which is at least a base from
which to hope more trade seems plausible.

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) and providing
justification in many sectors (employment; health care; finance, which is
connected to purchasing most large-ticket items) for people to re-use the same
ID. Given current restrictions on further governmental use of the SSN, they've
been pushing for other forms of universal ID like standardized driver's
licenses that could be broadly used throughout the government. 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.


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