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I'm imagining a world where it's possible to travel back in time, but doing so creates an alternate universe rather then changing your past. There is some high, but manageable, cost the first time you go back in time and create a new universe, then it's relatively inexpensive to move between the two universes after they have split. New worlds can only be created by traveling back in time. While people from a 'past' timelines can travel to a the universe they originally diverged from they can't travel to their new universes future.

I'm imagining a sort of post scarcity economy being developed that uses time travel to provide us with required resources. The basic idea is that you open a portal to a 'past' time line that has abundant resources and is willing to pay large quantities of those resources to you in order to get your advanced technology. Each side wins in this trade. Eventually the 'past' universe may run low on raw resources, but by then they would have built up their own tech base and have the ability to use the same trick of using past timelines to provide them with more raw resources.

To combat over population new universes can be created so far back in time that there are few, if any, homo sapiens on the world and constantly be built up as new colonies to spread into as the current world becomes over populated. I imagine at some point a particular world may still have issues with things like global warming and might need abandoned for entirely for a colony universe, but if they can be set up fast enough this is an inconvenience but still allows a high quality of life to people even if they occasionally have to move to a more convenient universe.

My question is rather this works from an economic perspective. Can resource scarcity be solved by the constant creation of new universes in such a way that a modern human has a much higher quality of life? I also want this system to be non-exploitive, the people in the 'past' timelines should be benefiting from trade and not be terrible exploited by the future timelines; which I think is possible so long as you help build up their technological base to the point they can start creating new universes to feed their resource needs before their own resources are fully depleted. Basically it's a pyramid scheme that actually works because you never run out of new universes to continue to perpetuate the scheme.

Is this economically viable? If not where would the economy or system fall apart?

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    $\begingroup$ The Stugatsky brothers used this concept in a novel (sorry can't recall title). There were oil pipelines from the past coming through portals. They were exploitative however. $\endgroup$
    – Allan
    Jun 20 at 16:07
  • $\begingroup$ It's not strictly part of the question, but someone is getting exploited somewhere. Only in the long term are things ok: in the mean time my universe is getting mined out by people who are encouraging me to mine someone else out... someday $\endgroup$
    – PipperChip
    Jun 20 at 16:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Allan Douglas Adams also touched on it in one of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy short stories. It turned out it was one of the few technologies fundamentally dangerous enough that even the notoriously freewheeling galactic authorities in HGTG had to step in to prevent it from proliferating. $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Jun 20 at 16:31
  • $\begingroup$ If, for the relatively small expenditure to operate the time machine the first time, you get a whole new universe to exploit, then sure it's economically viable in the short term. However, the Law of Unintended Consequences applies: Perhaps use of the Time Machine eventually destroys your own universe. Or perhaps Hostile Intelligent Life (or Terrible Diseases) evolves in those other universes. Economic viability is a poor measure of whether an action is wise. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Jun 20 at 17:34

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Will this scheme usher a post-scarcity economy?

No, it won't.

  1. It is not clear what is to be understood by "resources". The question seems to assume that "resources" are commodities traded in bulk, such as gravel and coal and iron ore. Those are dirt cheap anyway. It is not this kind of resources which we don't have enough of.

  2. Some scarce resources are indeed made relatively abundant by this scheme. Macadamia nuts, for example. The way I understand the scheme, it works to make cheaper those resources which are both fungible and transportable.

  3. Unfortunately, many interesting resources are not fungible, or are not transportable. Many scarce resources remain scarce under this scheme, the way I understand it.

    • The price of a New York appartment overlooking Central Park will stay the same, because the scheme cannot create more of them.

    • A ticket at the opening night of a much anticipated ballet at the Moscow Bolshoi won't get any cheaper, because there is only one opening night of the ballet at the Moscow Bolshoi and it is in the future anyway; if you want for it to become in the past and try to travel to it, you will find that all tickets are sold already...

    • The price of a U.S. Treasury Bond won't go down, because you cannot really bring cheap U.S. Treasury Bonds from the past, and even if you could, selling them would only bring you to the attention of the Secret Service as a distributor of false papers of value.

  4. The scheme completely disregards the costs of processing and distribution, which is most incorrect. For many resources, those costs represent the greater part of the price paid by the consumer.

    • Consider, for example, electricity. Electricity produced by hydropower or by wind power or by solar power is essentially free at the point of production; but, sorry, no, you cannot have it for free; you must pay your fair share of the cost of the power plant, the cost of the transmission lines, the cost of the transformers, and of the salaries of the people who maintain them.

    • In the same way, cotton sourced from a past version of Egypt might be cheap in that past version of Egypt, but you must still pay for it to be spun into yarn, for the yarn to be woven into fabric, for the fabric to be cut and for the fabric to sewn into tea shirts.

  5. In general, post-scarcity economies cannot really exist. Some resources will always be scarce, no matter what we do.

    • Consider the world of Star Trek, one of the best-known depictions of a post-scarcity economy in western media. People in Star Trek rarely use money-described-as-money, so we would naively think that they live in a post-scarcity world. But even in their post-scarcity world, there is only one job as commander of the USS Enterprise; that is a scarce resource. There are only some many appartments in the immediate vicinity of the Star Fleet Academy. Said Star Fleet Academy takes only so many new students per year. There are only so many hills in Provence where savvy connoisseurs want to set up vinyard; those are scarce resources.

    • As a trivial example, consider a night out at a fashionable restaurant with a beautiful and refined escort. Is there a way to make such entertainment accessible to all? No, at least not without compromising; maybe instead of a fashionable restaurant we offer to the masses a Big Mac at McDonald's. Maybe instead of a beautiful and refined escort we offer the picture of a beautiful and refined escort -- but then that's something else entirely.

  6. Overpopulation is not a problem. For the past 50 years, the estimation of the maximum level of human population on Earth have been continuously decreasing. At present, the world population is projected to be growing by a measly 0.1% per year in 2100 (median estimation), with many estimations placing 2100 already in negative territory. (In practice this means that human population will never exceed 11 billion, unless something completely unforeseen happens.)

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  • Is this economically viable?

Sure. Spend tiny bit of energy, whatever you have on earth(I assume) to create whole universe - like milky way glaxy and the rest - sure it is economically viable, it over 9000 profit.

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