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I'm writing a futuristic sci-fi story that takes place in a mostly post-scarcity economy. Resources are abundant, and no one needs to work for basic necessities or luxuries. Robots do all manual labor, and humans are free to spend their time on whatever they find interesting, whether it be scientific research, creating art, or just lounging around like a bum.

That being said, the one scarcity in my world is life force. The population is capped, and the only way for a new human to come into the world is for someone else to die. There is a waiting list for people to inherit the life force of the next person who dies, so that they can become parents (or hoard the life force for their future use). Some people are more desperate to have children than others, but the waiting list has become an unofficial monetary system for society, since it is the only scarcity.

I'm having trouble determining how this would work, though. My first thought was that people could trade positions on the waiting list for specialized goods and services, but that adds a bit of complexity, because what if the person who wants something is lower on the waiting list than the person providing the service? Could they just not "buy" anything from anyone above them?

My next thought was a point system where people would trade points for goods and services, and move up and down the list based on how many points they have. My issue with this though, is what happens once someone dies, and the top person receives their "payout". They would receive their "life force" and immediately go from being the richest person in the world to the poorest.

As I keep trying to figure out how this system would work, I keep running into new walls, and I need help understanding if this system is even possible and how.

So, can a waiting list be used as a monetary system? If not, what are the reasons? If so, what would be the best way to enforce it?

Side note: The humans in my story are pretty much immortal, and only die in freak accidents or by request. Death is uncommon, but does happen from time to time as people decide they are ready to move on (once every few years). I only say this, because it will probably impact the way people think about this system.

Edit 1: There are still services and specialized goods (i.e. art), that cannot be created by robots. For example, robots could build any house you want from the ground up, but you may want someone who's really good at designing houses to help you design it. People aren't inherently altruistic in this society, so they would seek some sort of payment in order to provide this service.

Edit 2: There is a council of "elders" who oversee most legal affairs. They would likely be the ones to oversee the list and resolve any disputes related to it.

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    $\begingroup$ If the only scarcity is the ability to have children, what would people with shorter waiting times trade for? Perhaps they would gift their positions if they didn't want children, but currency implies trade, and trade implies scarcity. $\endgroup$ – Ghedipunk Dec 31 '19 at 23:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Ghedipunk I suppose I wasn't clear on what could be traded. There are still services and specialized goods (i.e. art), that cannot be created by robots. For example, robots could build any house you want from the ground up, but you may want someone who's really good at designing houses to help you design it. People aren't inherently altruistic in this society, so they would seek some sort of payment in order to provide this service. $\endgroup$ – Faulkner Dec 31 '19 at 23:30
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    $\begingroup$ "People would trade goods and services": that's not a post-scarcity economy. In a post-scarcity economy there is no trade, because everything that has a utility value is available to satisfy the needs. (You even say that the life force is the only scarcity; if this is the case, why do people trade goods and services?) Otherwise, if a trading system is in place, it means that at least some goods or services are still scarce; and therefore a regular monetary system ought to be in place. (And anyway, the way you describe it, the monetary units are the points, not the list itself.) $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jan 1 at 2:55
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    $\begingroup$ Downvoted because this is not a post-scarcity society. In fact, you're defining it not to be one. It's just that you've made certain things that are "scarce" in the current world to be non-scarce in yours, and vice versa. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jan 1 at 5:09
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    $\begingroup$ @jamesqf I did state in my question that it was a mostly post-scarcity society. I think it would be extremely difficult to have a complete post-scarcity economy $\endgroup$ – Faulkner Jan 1 at 16:04
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Not exactly

The list and positions on the list itself can't be used as currency for a simple reason - they aren't universal, which is something money needs to be. A five dollar bill can be spent at any place to buy any good - food, rent, clothing, furniture, etc. But a list position is only useful if you're giving it to someone below you - and even then you run into problems.

Let's say you want to buy an rare item worth 5 list positions, but the person you're buying it from is 1,000 positions below you. Are you supposed to swap with him? But that wouldn't work, because he has no 'change' to give you, as he can't access the position 5 people below you. Or let's say that you want to buy something from someone in a position ahead of you. How are you supposed to pay him? You can drop 20 positions, but that gives 1 position to 20 people, and you need to somehow turn that into a single +20 for the person you're paying.

Now, what can work is a currency based on line position, in other words a currency backed by line positions. You can call them 'skips'. In other words, when you buy things or sell things, you pay for them with 'skips', and you use the 'skips' to pay people ahead of you. In the event that you want to swap with someone at too far of a distance away, you use these 'skips' to make up the difference. And, should you want to get ahead in line than you use your 'skips' to pay people.

Will this introduce a very special and unique brand of economics? Almost certainly. For instance, similar to bitcoin, there's not really any way to enforce this kind of currency aside from everyone agreeing to it. But this is a resource, and if capitalism has taught us anything, it's that resources can be exploited.

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  • $\begingroup$ Most currency works primarily because everyone agrees to it. $\endgroup$ – Jonathan Jan 5 at 19:48
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If the lack of scarcity is driven by the population limits then trading relative positions on the life list could very well be used as a bartering tool. It could even be systemized.

The planet has electricity, water and food provided for by robots for 10B people. You get a house, wifi and you can haz cheezbrgrs. The robots are sure that they can provide for this many people.

When you are born you get put on a list to reproduce. When someone dies, people at the front of the list have a child, then they go back to the end of the line with their child. The list is 10B people long and in theory you will reach the end of the list before you die.

Since you have food shelter and lolcats there isn't much you could really want. But what if Bustin Jeeber is putting on a concert for 300 of his closest fans and you just have to see it. Trade positions in the life list with someone behind you who has a ticket. Sure, it puts off procreation for a couple of years, but Bustin is just sooo cute, and you are going to live forever.

Things like this will eventually become normal. The list is 10B people long. Slide back 100 spots, that's 15 minutes later to have a kid. Bustin slides up 100 spots, everyone 100 spots behind you slides up 1, everyone in the 100 spots ahead of Bustin slides back 1.

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  • $\begingroup$ "Since you have food shelter and lolcats there isn't much you could really want." That seems a very questionable assumption, even considering that I'd probably pay to get out of having to attend a Bustin Jeeber concert :-) Even in today's "scarcity" economy, most of my income goes for things other than food & shelter (and dogs - I'm not really a cat person). $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jan 1 at 18:56
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Your system seems ignoring the empirical evidence that we see in our societies: on average the more economically well off is a country, the lower the birth rate is.

Extrapolating this to post scarcity would lead to the conclusion that having babies would be seen as something not exactly wanted, thus more of a burden than a reward.

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  • $\begingroup$ This isn't an answer to my question, and I feel like you missed the point. There is NO birthrate. People can only be born if other people die. And even in societies that are well off, there are still people that have children even in economically well off countries just for the sake of having children. In my society, people live forever, so they may want to try out having an offspring simply for the chance to try something new (and as a status symbol). $\endgroup$ – Faulkner Jan 1 at 16:00
  • $\begingroup$ If A causes B it doesn't imply that B causes A. $\endgroup$ – Bloke Down The Pub Jan 1 at 16:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Faulkner : "There is NO birthrate." means that no one can be born, even if other people die. The scenario you describe has a small positive birthrate. $\endgroup$ – Eric Towers Jan 1 at 22:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Faulkner If people live forever, how does one die so that another child can be born? $\endgroup$ – Selcuk Jan 1 at 23:09
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    $\begingroup$ @selcuk in my story, people die when they ask to die or in freak accidents. So they can live forever, but they are not technically immortal $\endgroup$ – Faulkner Jan 2 at 0:38

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