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inspired by the Venus project

The end goal

The economy in the world works like this:

  • There is no money
  • edit: This was implied but needed to be stated there are no countries, borders or any form of citizenship that doesn't apply to everyone
  • All government decisions are made using the scientific method
  • Jobs are assigned to people according to need and skills
  • Everything is free and shared equally between the people
  • Since jobs are considered a burden, they are constantly being automatized and there is no repetition: only one company would make every product and make it as durable as humanly possible. As a result the working week rapidly shrinks to several hours at most.
  • There is a very high quality of life for everyone

The question: how to get there?

Assuming the starting point is our world, how would a transition to this world work?

My assumptions is (and feel free to criticize it) that the only thing that needs to happen is a political / social change. I.e. no great leaps in technology are needed. It's just a matter or priority and discipline: everyone continue working without pay, and just do what is actually needed (farming - yes, marketing - less so) and you get a wealthy society with minimum effort.

Challenges

  • The very wealthy would have a lot to lose and would fight against such a thing
  • This stands in contrast with various concepts of tribes: nationality, race, etc.
  • Would people actually work when everything is free? would they innovate?
  • Making decisions according to science may disregards many special interests of groups, such as religious groups or ethnic groups.

Edit

This question seemed to anger some people so I want to comment on this: The world I described is one in which everything is orchestrated with machines, algorithms etc to benefit all. As opposed to the current economical system which has no answer to many problems the world is facing.

The question of cooperation is a very big one in many fields of research (game theory, biology, economics, psychology..) and cooperation on a global scale is, to me, a fascinating question and one of dramatic consequences.

Does it have things in common with communism? sure. Communism is a vast school of thought that includes many ideas and concepts.

I don't think a "scent" of communism is a reason to throw an idea away and avoid the conversation. Almost all comment disregarded the question saying that communism doesn't work. That wasn't even the question.

To repeat, my question was under what circumstances do you think the world could develop a shared economy. Not "would it work". So "communism doesn't work" misses the question on two levels.

It seems to me like the question is tabooed because it reminds people of communism. I actually think this is one of the things that make it interesting. Communism is considered almost synonymous with evil, and here was a live example that this applies to anything associated with it, like sharing and money-less economies.

If the question is not interesting or doesn't comply with site standards, do down-vote. But don't do so because it doesn't fit your ideology.

by the way

A relevant answer could also be "It would never happen, here's why", or "An amnesia epidemic made everyone forget communism" etc. I just don't see why the mere discussion has to be censured.

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closed as off-topic by kingledion, Mołot, Hohmannfan, SRM, Zxyrra Dec 7 '16 at 5:31

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question does not appear to be about worldbuilding, within the scope defined in the help center." – kingledion, Hohmannfan, Zxyrra
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Dec 7 '16 at 21:57
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The first place we have to start here is the tried and tested examples. We're going to pick three; Soviet, Cuban, Kibbutz. Then we'll look at some of the European models.

The Soviet revolution is the biggest, the most brutal. This is the one people think of first when you say "Communism" which is why it's generally a good idea to avoid the word, it's been contaminated by thoughts of Stalinism and Maoism. In practice Soviet Russia ended up so far from actual communism that it becomes irrelevant as an example. It's simply the one people think of, so I'd be remiss not to mention it.

So we move on to the Cuban revolution. Again a dictatorial revolution, but one that removed a much nastier one who'd been backed by the US. Again the purges of people who opposed the new dictator, the usual story just a bit less brutal. In this case communism and the planned economy was better operated but an embargo by the powerful nearby USA, and the power plays of the cold war meant that it was hard to see what potential it could have had. Again communism was imposed on the population.

The kibbutz model on the other hand, was surprisingly successful and many are still running in the original spirit over 100 years after the first was founded. The key differences from the others were: 1) Small scale units interacting, there was no central control. 2) It was entirely an opt in model.

The European model or socialism light, the social democracy. The needs of the populations are usually met, healthcare is free, benefits pay rent+expenses (barely) when work is unavailable/impossible. Following on from this is the consideration of the basic income, another potential step towards a mostly automated economy where working is optional. The (possibly) logical conclusion of this model does not make a world without money, but a world where money is largely meaningless. Rich people buy gold from rich people and craftsmen sell bling to rich people, but the poor don't need money because everything needed is provided by the state. Anything beyond that, luxury goods, cars, holidays etc. is about whether you choose to work or not.

The European baby steps and the kibbutz opt in models are the way to progress with this. The violent revolution models tend to lead to further violence, you can't impose your will on people that way, you need to show them a way to a better world and let them opt in, or opt out. Also centrally planned economies have never been successful, no matter how brilliant the people planning them.

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  • $\begingroup$ You hit the nail on the head when you said entirely an opt-in model. The fundamental problem with Marx is that he never concieved of his Communism as voluntary. His work inspired revolutionaries to use violence to overthrow governments to force communism upon people. Once you realize that you can take things from people at will, there is no turning back. 'Communism' or something like it will only work if people voluntarily give up everything they have. That is why the only real world examples are spiritual communities: kibbutz or the Rule of St. Benedict. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Dec 7 '16 at 3:29
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    $\begingroup$ A voice of sanity which makes a nice change from all the sabre-rattling cold warriors braying against the 'C' word. The Soviet Union was State Capitalism at best. China slightly better, but not much. The trouble with revolutions is you usually need up with dictatorships. The Social Democracies do better at being sharing societies, but the global trend towards increasing inequality is a worry. $\endgroup$ – a4android Dec 7 '16 at 6:02
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the interesting reply. I'm missing a bottom line, though. What could happen to make this a global phenomena? Because Scandinavian countries have been flourishing for decades with these kind of policies but It's hardly a global trend $\endgroup$ – Dotan Dec 7 '16 at 17:19
  • $\begingroup$ @DotanReis, that is a question nobody could answer, the European powers have always been very similar and followed similar paths, but those paths are far from what the Arab nations have taken. Each country would need to be analysed in its own right to give the answer. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Dec 7 '16 at 17:39
  • $\begingroup$ The Kibbutz model is NOT a success! Kibbutzim have been massively subsidized by the Israeli government since the inception of the state in 1948. They cannot economically sustain themselves at all. Also, they were NOT voluntary originally. Children would be forcibly taken from parents and put into "children houses" for communal care and refugees would be forcibly indoctrinated. The European socialist model ALSO relies on continual subsidy from the USA. Without US tax dollars paying the bill for European national security, they would not be able to experiment with socialism. $\endgroup$ – JBiggs Dec 7 '16 at 21:02
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Karl Marx had a very similar idea concerning ultimate goals. In his terminology that what you describe as "inspired by Venus project" was called by him "communism". (according to official ideology of countries called in the West as "communist", actually haven't reached communism phase yet, but merely "highly developed socialism"). As far as I remember the only major difference that I could find between ultimate aims of Marx and of Venus project, was that Marx haven't mentioned anything about ecology. The rest seems to be reused up to being quite close to plagiarism. (and Marx deserves here some respect for at least suggesting this idea roughly counting 150 years earlier)

Nevertheless - how to implement that? So far the only tested way includes properly organized revolution, conquest of nearby countries in which revolutionary spirit was too low, mass exterminations of real and imagined political opponents, all powerful secret services, cult of individual, proper gulags, total control of media, mass censorship and slashing consumption of average people to direct assets towards industrialization and military spending.

When you achieve that, it seems that actually the hard part starts. Central planning tends to be inflexible, ideology based and not specially effective. The incentive system tend to disregard any cost, efficiency or quality, but what matters is meeting production goals. In this case there were some very innovative people, but their idea tended to be wasted by risk and innovation averse civil servants / party members.

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  • $\begingroup$ Since when answers in this site contain "the only tested way" and nothing else? $\endgroup$ – Dotan Dec 6 '16 at 21:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Dotan Reis I'd say that well tested ideas of Marxism-Leninism, provide a working solution for dealing with challenges listed by author of this question. Actually I'm afraid that the only one, as without any proper and efficient apparatus of mass repression people would tend to rebel quite quickly, as shown in multiple quickly failed communes in free countries. The fact that teams of experts (sometimes even actual experts) hired in to create and implement central plan failed terribly from at least '70s to catch up with capitalist countries let may some underlying flaw in whole plan. $\endgroup$ – Shadow1024 Dec 6 '16 at 21:41
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Communism is such a great idea, except that when put into practice it degenerates instantly in tyranny and serfdom. Oh yes, something similar works for small groups of people in kibbutzes, provided their members are stronly ideologically motivated and have no great ambitions. At the scale of an entire country it has always failed miserably.

Since the rest of this post is rather negative, I want to put out some positive thoughts first.

Those were the positive thoughts. Here come the objections, partly motivated by actual practical experience; that is to say, in Marxist terms, they are "historically determined".

The end goal

  • "There is no money."

    That is easy, and historically true. In the communist societies of the 20th century there was essentially no functional money. Just nationalize everything. Houses, land, factories, jewelry, everything. The miserable retrograde negative elements who don't want their stuff nationalized will be re-educated.

    (By "no functional money" I mean to say that in practice cars, houses, books, services and so on could not be simply bought with money; actually, their prices were very low, but one had first to be allocated a car, or a house, or a color TV, and only then pay it; or one had first to use influence to obatain the book or the service, and paying for it was trivially easy.)

  • "Everything is free and shared equally between the people."

    In practice this means that nothing is available, or, to be less negative, the availability of anything is unpredictable.

    The easiest thing to note is that "everything" is a big word. It includes mink coats, Ferrari cars, silver tableware, solid wood furniture, XO cognac, and other such items. The second observation is that "shared freely" cannot be actually implemented unless it is made synonymous with "taken by force". Then, after some historical practice, one can observe that in order to make everything free is to have a state of divine superabundance in order to overcome the intrinsic inefficacity of a distribution system where there is no correlation between the perceived utility of a thing and the effort required to obtain it.

    This is the main problem of communism: it cannot possibly work unless we create a world of super-abundance. Free energy. Replicators. Unlimited space. We don't live in a world of superabundance. Since resources are not superabundant they need to be allocated. Resource allocation in the absence of a competitive market is a notoriously hard problem, and as far I know there is no generally accepted solution.

    "Everything is free" means that there is no basis for resource allocation; what happens is that resources are misallocated, and you get the usual joys of communism -- there is a glut of XS tee-shirts but you cannot find XL tee-shirts; there is overproduction of steel, but you cannot find trousers...

  • "There is a very high quality of life for everyone."

    This is nice. Except, of course, that "jobs are assigned to people", so if you are unhappy with your job, tough luck, be happy with your high quality of life. Except, of course, that "everything is shared", so if you want to enjoy your own quiet corner, tough luck, be happy with your high quality of life. Except that "government decisions are made using the scientific method", so if you think that people should have a say in the running of their lives, tough luck, be happy with your high quality of life.

    Oh, you are not happy with your high quality of life? Miserable retrograde negative element, we have means to re-educate you!

    Lenin, he of the immortal fame: "we do not promise any democracy or any freedom".

  • "All government decisions are made using the scientific method."

    The government will scientifically decide whether the textile factories will produce pink or turquoise shirts. The government will scientifically decide how many teams should compete in the first football league. The government will scientifically decide whether to sign a free-trade agreement with Canada or not. The government will scientifically decide whether to support the farmers who grow barley or those who grow rye. The government will scientifically decide how many ice-cream factories to make -- everything is free, so ice-cream is free, we just have to determine scientifically how much ice-cream the people will want to eat and provide it. People want more ice-cream that what we have planned? Miserable retrograde negative elements, we have means to re-educate them!

  • "Jobs are assigned to people according to need and skills."

    Comrade, we have scientifically determined that your job will be cleaning sewers. What, you don't like cleaning the sewers? Sewers are essential for the well-being of our great luminous city! Miserable retrograde negative element, we have means to re-educate you!

The question: how to get there?

There are two tried-and-true methods: the Soviet/Chinese style, and the Eastern European style.

  • The Soviet/Chinese way of getting there:

    Just have a bloody civil war, kill a few million people, and put a few tens of millions of people into re-education camps. Easy.

  • The Eastern European style:

    Just have your country occupied by the Soviet Union. They will kill a scientifically determined number of people, put another scientifically determined number of people into re-education camps, and make your country into a communist paradise. They have the know-how, it has worked so well for them.

Challenges

"The very wealthy would have a lot to lose and would fight against such a thing." Everybody will have a lot to lose, for example small things such as freedom, and would fight against such a thing. But this is not serious. Just kill a scientifically determined number of them and put another scientifically determined number of them into re-education camps.

Oh, and of course the society will need a sword and shield to fight against the miserable retrograde negative elements who do not feel happy with their high quality of life, apprehend them, and employ scientific means to re-educated them. It could be named, I don't know, the Department of State Security, or the Secret State Police.

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    $\begingroup$ Nearly perfect answer. The question is a paradox. "I want everyone to be happy" + "I will tell everyone what job they have to do" + "I will dictate (through "scientific method") all choices for society like Plato's Philosopher King" = Everyone is INCREDIBLY miserable and they will literally climb a barbed wire topped concrete wall with machine gun nests to ESCAPE said "utopia". $\endgroup$ – JBiggs Dec 7 '16 at 20:57
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We know communism doesn't work. Morally it's a great idea but practically it doesn't work. So how do we achieve your idea without it?

You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is about the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.

-Adrian Rogers

But what if there was mass excess? What if you had a state in which everyone can have whatever they want?

The easiest way to get this is via a technological singularity or some such event. Most leaders in fields of computing science agree that within a hundred years we will hit such an event. The research I have done in the field suggest to me it would hit around 2035 +/- 5 years. The earliest estimate I have seen that offers reasonable proof give 2029 as their estimate.

The end of result of this (given enough time) may look something like The Culture.

I hope this helps if you have any further questions shoot!

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  • $\begingroup$ My problem with this idea is that it never really worked out in the past. In the past 200 years production of pretty much everything has been made easier by magnitudes. But do you see people working less and sharing more? quite the opposite: the rich are getting richer on the backs of machines working far more efficiently then human workers, and the average working week only grows and grows, while consumption tries and barely manages to keep up. So what would be different? $\endgroup$ – Dotan Dec 7 '16 at 17:04
  • $\begingroup$ @Dotan Reis: If you believe that the average working week is now longer than 200 years ago then you are seriously misinformed. As in, you have no idea whatsoever of how people lived in the early 19th century. If I may suggest, a good starting point would be The Condition of the Working Class in England by Friedrich Engels, 1845; the book illuminates the environment in which the communist movement was born. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Dec 7 '16 at 22:30
  • $\begingroup$ @DotanReis I have to disagree. You really think the difference between the monarchs of European and the serfs were LESS than the .1% and working class now? In technologically advanced countries people have only gotten more freedoms, live longer, and have far more time for self-actualization. In very recent history, as in the last decade, the gap has widened. But, this always occurs after a recession and the gap narrows when the economy bounces back. $\endgroup$ – Parker Wieck Dec 7 '16 at 23:33
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP I guess I was misinformed about that. Thanks for correcting $\endgroup$ – Dotan Dec 8 '16 at 6:44
  • $\begingroup$ @ParkerWieck I didn't compare it to monarchs, I was talking about the trend, and the trend is that advancements in technology usually serve (financially) the very rich. This isn’t because of recessions, but is an inevitable consequence of the way things work in a capitalist society $\endgroup$ – Dotan Dec 8 '16 at 6:54
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Your biggest adversary is human nature. The best of us are selfish brutes, motivated by base vices and greed, and we won't go into what the worst of us are like. Our current society rewards actions taken for others. Why does a farmer grow food he's not going to eat? He does it so that he can get other things he wants.

There are, as I see it, four ways forward. First, foment an insurrection/revolution in a nation. This is bloody, expensive, dangerous, and very hard to control. Forget about the idea espoused by Marx that the masses will by nature turn to your new collectivist system. They are sheep which need lead. Assume that a useful society will require 51% of the people to buy in. That means you have to eliminate, coerce, or convince at least that many people to see things forward. China did something like that in its Great Leap forward. It wasn't pretty.

Two, take the long view. Create a secret society with these goals. The society infiltrates all schools and universities. They press for state-control of child-rearing so the older ideas are not taught by the backward parents. They influence language so that old-thought is impossible to articulate (it's hard to talk about snow if you don't have a word for it.) They set about to make small, incremental changes to major social institutions that will make the transition easier. Eventually, the society will be ripe, and the society will stage a revollution, take power, and force the remaining changes. This plan will take two or three generations at a minimum. During this time, it would be hard to keep the society from splintering into factions.

Third, a group of like-minded individuals could pool resources and buy some land somewhere remote. They could then set about building the society, populating it, initially at least, with clones trained to think cooperatively/collectively. If the society is as successful as you think they will be, they will become an economic powerhouse that would then grow. I think, however, the ugly specter of human nature will rear its ugly head, and you'll be plagued by listless, lazy people, punctuated by a few charismatic, ambitious folks who will exploit any flaws in the system for personal gain. I think it would be hard to avoid Tragedy of the commons.

Lastly, a cabal of elites works to create a massive AI with the goals you outlined secretly embedded in its core programming. This they install in, say, the Pentagon. Over time, the AI gains control over more and more functions.
At some point, the AI will have enough control to start making small, incremental changes to accomplish its secret programming. See Person of Interest TV Series for speculation of such an AI's abilities.

Edit added the AI option.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the thought out reply. I'm not sure the first and third ideas you had are possible: can such a thing really start from a small group? It's impossible today to maintain a quality of life without global cooperation. You use resources and products from all over the world on a daily basis, and indeed one of the problems china and the soviet union had was that they couldn't use these resources. The kibbutz example tells us this can work to an extent, but it still very much differs from what I had in mind (for example they need to make money) $\endgroup$ – Dotan Dec 7 '16 at 17:11
  • $\begingroup$ Economies are about allocation of resources. The scarcity of the resource determines its value. Every culture has some form of valuation. Barter economies may say that a sheep is worth five chickens, for example. Money is nothing but a measure of value. While non-scarcity would dramatically affect society, humans wouldn't change our base nature. Monopolies result in poor service and complacency. Work gives life more meaning. $\endgroup$ – Andrew Neely Dec 7 '16 at 17:41

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