|Questions and Observations|
Sci-fi author James Hogan explored this question in Voyage From Yesteryear (I think it was).
His answer? Competence.
In the story, he postulated an alternate civilization seeded from Earth via ship onto another world, developed in vitro from DNA and raised/taught by robots. The idea was to raise a population free from "contamination" by the values of Earth.
Like STNG, all physical wants were provided for by replicators. But, beyond food, clothing and shelter, someone had to design and build each and every thing else. What was good and wanted was chosen to be replicated according to how good and wanted it was. It then became free for the taking. Very "capitalistic" as it was driven by the same attributes of human action which, more or less, drive quality products to the top in any free society.
People in this population were not at all free loaders, as they were raised to value competence above all. Accordingly, they largely took from the system according to the value of what they felt they had to contribute. They felt guilt otherwise. The very opposite of Marxism, of course.
The conflict of the story is what happens when "regular" Earth people arrive. Good reading.
Posted by: Stephen at February 8, 2004 02:38 AM
But that's still very similar to Marxism, in that is presupposes that people would react according to plan, despite the reduction - even elimination - of incentives.
Why, after all, would this replicator be limited to a few items? The author supposes "competence" would be valued...but competence at what? Why would people value competence that wasn't necessary?
In other words, we're reducing incentive to zero, but assuming people would still act as if there were great incentive. It does not follow.
Posted by: Jon Henke at February 8, 2004 09:07 PM
Ah...but incentives weren't eliminated. That's why the replicators were limited. The system assumed people would behave exactly as they always have...the inner need to be the one, or 'a' one think of and produce better clothing, food, art, equipment for defense, etc. etc. It wasn't all done for them--they had to think it out for themselves. Competence was very necessary (the respect for competence was ingrained deeply enough so as to win out over professional jealousies, for one thing). It was merely the means of production which were simplified. Rather like the Blogosphere in that respect.
In fact, as I think further on that analogy, the writers and readers of the Blogosphere are behaving exactly as did the population of that planet. Sooner or later, the best sites (however you define that) garner the heaviest traffic, and the readers tribute them through increased linkage--if they are reader/writers--and by hitting tip jars. Perfect? No, of course not, but most definitely not Marxist. IMO, for example, by the very act of setting a site in motion, each Blog writer is getting 'paid' in terms of visibility--both physical and psychological. Thus, 'ability' is arriving from each writer because of this 'payment', not because it's expected from a system by the 'needy' reader. The needy reader, in turn, can read free forever, but many do not. But, IMO, the payment I mention above is crucial and I believe Blog writing would go on even with no tipjars.
To get back, incentive was not reduced to zero but rather, enhanced. The results of this, as I said, made for an absorbing story when the folks from Earth came to collect on their "investment"--and attempted to use the usual methods.
Almost anything by Hogan is worth reading.
Posted by: Stephen at February 9, 2004 01:35 AM
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