I am writing this post in response to a question posed by Tyler Suard (an economics major) in my Facebook thread about a RBE where I posted a link to my blog post The Cancer of Capitalism and Its Antidote. I am writing this post to help solidify my thoughts and understanding on this issue which also, conveniently, helps to answer his question about productivity and motivation in a Resource Based Economy (RBE).
Most conversations about a Resource Based Economy (RBE), assuming you get anywhere with someone, will usually end up at the following place: the old productivity vs reward question. I struggle to answer this question too when talking with people about this. As a matter-of-fact, when talking to my dad about RBE, this is where we ended up too. The statement will be: “If people do not have monetary reward or a way to get more than someone else then there will be no drive to do anything and nothing will get done.“. Then they completely write off RBE. Conversation done. Being so steeped in and used to our massively failing capitalist systems it can be hard to consider anything else, because this is all we know.
There are many parts to this answer and it may be difficult to comprehend because it will be present in a world and social structure that is very different from anything that exists today. We need a different way of thinking, understanding, living, and valuing life and our place in existence. We need a different way of thinking to create a different world . The same thoughts and values that brought you the horrors of this world (poverty, war, pollution, etc) cannot be used to create a world without those horrors, so we must really stretch ourselves and to reach beyond and truly try to envision a world that is much different than our own. I am hoping that I can help you with that today with this, not so small, writing.
If you have not read my previous post mentioned above (The Cancer of Capitalism and Its Antidote) then you may want to do that as preparatory reading for this explanation. Perhaps, more importantly, you will want to have watched both sets of documentaries (The Venus Project and The Zeitgeist Movement) as mentioned in that post as preparatory materials for this if you do not have a basic understanding of what a Resource Based Economy is, why we need it, or what it may look like, otherwise this post may be very difficult to understand or even have a frame of reference to even try to understand. You have been warned! =)
Productivity and Motivation in a Resource Based Economy
So, below is the summary of my thoughts on this very complex and powerful RBE issue and question. I will state that I do not have all of the answers, since I am really just starting to research this specific RBE issue, but this should be a good start to helping you to understand how productivity and motivation may look. This is also very theoretical thinking since no one has tried to create an RBE in the real world.
Social Values Change
A powerful result of embracing a RBE is a required evolution in social values – a metamorphosis from a war torn, exploitive, and cannibalistic Darth Vader’esque caterpillar into a global, sustainable, and interdependence seeking bucolic butterfly. In order to accomplish this there will be a considerable level of social engineering required – to educate people in new values and a new way to thinking.
A RBE based society will evolve to embrace new values such as:
- global cooperation
… all of which I talk about in my post: The 7 Philosophical Pillars Peace Humanity
As with all powerful major social changes in global social values we will see a different set of motivational drivers evolve. Things such as:
- increasing product and life cycle lifetime
- reuse and recycling
- ecological preservation and remediation
- improving life for all
- making another large step towards that next scientific or social goal that seems just out of reach.
Currently, under the tyranny of capitalism, here is a small list of the social values and drivers for getting things done:
- undermining your competitors
- crime, poverty, and exploitation
- planned obsolescence
- profit not matter the cost in environmental or human damage
… and so on. This is a fairly ugly list with very harmful end results. You get out of a system what you put into it – bad in, bad out.
When your resource needs (food, housing, education, health care, technology, transportation) are all met then those problematic social drivers for getting things done and the inevitable social problems created by it (war, crime, exploitation, etc) go away and then you are able to concentrate on more important issues beyond survival. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs sort of speaks to this too: when your basic (lower order needs) are met then higher order needs and desires are able to be fully pursued, not only for yourself, but for all of humanity too.
Universal Free Education Systems Create a Highly Educated Populace
A heavy part of RBE is universal access to free education and this will carry much of the burden of social engineering and solving the productivity problem. Although, to make that happen, our education systems will also need to evolve to focus on fostering problem solving, critical thinking, compassion, communication, and creativity as well as sustainability, and the interdependence of all things (and many other things); much of which is being stamped out by our current school systems (at least here in the US).
Having access to a lifetime of free education alone may ensure that people will be doing things (especially if we require 5 years of university or apprenticeship for all – not just high school). It is hard for a highly educated person to just sit there when their mind is crunching through their ever-expanding understanding of the world, because the more about the world that people understand then more they can see problems and the solutions to them.
Being highly educated is both a boon and burden to the individual. Because of this, however, when they can see both (the problem and a potential solution) it will be hard to not do something about it or to tell someone their idea for the solution which could be vetted by those who are working on that or a similar problems or solutions, or they could start their own collaborative project to gather with other like minded individuals to work on the viability of that solution.
A RBE creates a ‘problem‘ with loads of highly educated people and then also gives them the method and unlimited opportunity of solving or sharing the solution to that burden by allowing them to collectively solve that problem.
Universal Resource Access and Automation Enables of Exploration of Solutions to Problems that Matter
With high levels of automation and connectivity resulting in the elimination of menial work for humans, collectively we will be able to concentrate on solving problems that matter instead of just grinding through the week trying to get the bills paid, which is really a complete waste of human potential.
Universal access to resources to work on solutions – work rooms, remote collaborative tools, mechanical tools, computing power, software, high levels of automation, AI, 3D Printing, etc – will enable our highly educated and problem seeing populace to understand and analyze vast technical problems like that interest them (like long term space travel, terraforming, and sustainable planet ecosystems, drone swarm path efficiency, increasing carrot yields in less arable soil) and to be able to have the resources to create project cooperatives to be able to solve whatever problem springs into their mind.
For the solution to many smaller scale problems all it may take to get many things done is to have someone design a robot or sensor and have it manufactured through an automated process, or create and AI to do the work and then it gets done. (Keep in mind that this this is highly simplified and we are talking about a very futuristic world here.) Having access to the resources and technology makes solving problems so much easier. Now, however, we are incredibly limited to what our resources can give us access to since we are not more than wage slaves and higher education cannot be achieve by everyone.
Problem Solving Is Its Own Creative Reward
As mentioned above, a highly educated populace with such very holistic values can see problems and potential solutions. A problem or solution can sit in someone’s mind like a splinter that they cannot get out or itch. Our innate drive, creativity, and problem solving will drive things forward. Solving a problem – getting out the splinter or itching that itch – is its own creative reward. Being able to say that I saw this problem and created or fostered a solution is rewarding in and of itself. People look upon their creations and solutions like children, something they take great pride it. When they see it in action they can say I did that.
I can say this myself that because I have a degree in computer programming. I did not get into programming because of the money. I got into programming because I could do things with it and the fact that, currently, I do not get paid for this does not mean I will stop writing programs, because programming is my passion. I can’t tell you how many projects I have been working on in my personal time to try to solve this issue or that and how many are not finished because I did not have the assistance or time I needed to keep moving forward. People will not stop being passionate about the things they are passionate about. They will be enabled to pursue those things to their fullest extent and humanity can reap the rewards for that.
Let us take a look at a great example of open source software or Wikipedia. Many, many people work on these projects without pay because they are passionate about this or just want to solve a problem with it/by it.
Many of the greatest inventions throughout history happened not because of their desire for a money reward, but because they wanted to solve a problem: Da Vinci, the Wright Brothers, and so many, many more. Whether or not there is a monetary reward will not change that drive in humans. As a matter of fact, a RBE will enable that desire to solve problems and increase it many times, due to resource access and having their basic needs met.
Public Recognition and Leadership Responsibility
Cultural Emphasis on Science and technology:
This will also be a byproduct of the needed social changes. Instead of socially venerating soldiers, football players, and other sports people and having them on TV, with Nobel Prizes only being granted once each year, this would change to be the opposite situation. Social awareness and celebrating of brilliance, conservation of the environment, and making life better for all is what will matter in this new world and not violence, aggression, competitiveness, and destruction. Perhaps sports will have smaller events and have their big event be the Olympic games every 4 years and we will have many yearly awards ceremonies and celebrations of the various technical professions – like the Academy Awards for Horticulture.
Weekly announcements about identified problems, different solutions, and the people that made them, and how they made them. That person which came up with an algorithm which increases swarm drone path efficiency would be on the news and not the most recent football touchdown. Statues will be made of scientists, engineers, conservationists, and peacemakers and they will have a hall of fame. Serial dramas may be made of them and their path to innovation.
Stats of how much energy they saved those swarm drones, how much someone increased asparagus yield, or how they increased nano-tube antenna resilience in space conditions during solar flare events will be on the news and on TV and ring through their profession or technical networks.
Or maybe they will even go on a world lecture tour so that all may gaze upon them or talk with them, and so they can share their thoughts and experience so that others in their field may benefit. You honestly think that Neil de Grasse Tyson, Bill Nye or the late Stephen Hawking didn’t have ‘groupies‘ come up to them where ever they go? I know I would be starting a conversation if I ever saw them!! ‘Look!! the Notorious NdT! Squeee!!” Faint. =)
Leadership and Responsibility
Those people who make large discoveries or creations would most likely be granted their own research or manufacturing center with people who would want to work with and learn from them so all of the world can benefit from their brilliance. Perhaps they will be asked to join an ongoing research project to provide their expertise or a be asked to come on and breathe life into an important and related but slowing project.
Let us just take a quick look at poverty in the world today and in many minority communities. Those who suffer from poverty, lack of resources, poor education and so on find it very, very difficult to even come close to reaching their potential, which is a huge loss to all of humanity and ends up with unnecessary human suffering. A recent study showed that, in order to get out of poverty, almost nothing can go wrong for like 20 years. That is 20 years of wasted human potential and needless suffering when they could be doing something good for themselves and others.
Creating a social structure where people are given the opportunity to reach as close as they can to their greatest potential will be a reward in and of itself, should be celebrated, and will be something that all of humanity will benefit from.
I cannot give you a 100% accurate representation of what it WILL be like because there are no RBE‘s in existence, but this should give you a great feel for how productivity and motivation may look if we should strive to get there.