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Sunday, 29 June 2014

Building a ”Star Trek” Economy – Definition

I thought I would write a bit about how we go from A to B with a Resource Based Economy (RBE), or more colloquially know as a “Star Trek” Economy. But before that, I thought I would need to define a “Star Trek” economy and how it exemplifies an RBE. However, I found Rick Webb has already given a good definition and overview of “Star Trek” economics, although I don’t agree with all the point he mentions. So, for this definition I will take Rick’s article and add a few comments of my own as well and compare it to the Energy Accounting (EA) system that we, in EOS, propose.

Pre-planned and Capitalist Economics.

Rick begins his article talking about “Star Trek” economics a little way down with pointing out that “The Federation is clearly not a centrallyplanned economy” andPrivate ownership stillexists” (Although some sources describe the system as post-capitalist). This matches with the EA system we propose. EA has a distributed, demand driven nature. The system makes available what it can but it adapts to the demands of the people. It does this through self-organisation and through expert management and computer control. The system can predict demand to a degree (using AI and data mining, for example) but also runs at about 80% capacity to allow for unforeseen demand or problems. 

As for having a capitalistic nature, ownership has no relevance in EA. You can still have private property, especially personal possessions and pre-EA property, but the production resources come under expert management and get used as needed in the system, regardless of who owns it. The system, however, will also constructed new facilities and these will most likely have no owner or someone will own the property for life or till they relinquish ownership (such as a house, for example).

Post-Scarcity or Proto-Post-Scarcity?


You can find some references giving a “Star Trek” Economy as an example of a post-scarcity economy. However, Rick argues that we should consider it an example of a proto-post-scarcity economy. Rick gives an example that famines still occur. 

As well as pointing out :

However, I would argue that neither example goes against the idea that a “Star Trek” Economy exemplifies a type of post-scarcity economy.  I would argue that “post-scarcity” does not mean perfect nor limitless. If you ordered an infinite supply of star ship you would break any real system.  I would argue that we should define a post-scarcity economy as one that can met demand “within reason”. So, if a citizen orders 10 million star ships and the system fails to produce I would argue that such as order does not come within the bounds of “within reason”. But what defines “within reason”? Firstly, I think the culture of such a society would define “within reason”; as Picard points out “we work to better ourselves and humanity” and ordering more than you could possibly use and breaking the system does not “work to better yourself nor humanity” and may even work in the opposite direction That then brings me to the other things that defines “within reason”; the finite capacity to consume. People can only consume so much and many items they don’t need all the time so the limits of human beings and the ability to share parts of the system (such as transport) will limit the demand. So, someone would not order 10 million star ships as they could not use 10 million star ship nor would they want to do so. 

As for famines, even if a post-scarcity system has the capacity to meet demand in general it can still fail on a local level. The system could experience occasional failures and local spikes in demands. This results for its distributed and demand nature; we don’t all live in the same place nor produce everything where we live. As the system develops over time it should get better at handling such failures and in doing so, famines will occur less and less. 

So, to my mind, so long a “Star Trek” Economy can met demand within reason then it forms an example of a post-scarcity economy. 

Work in a “Star Trek” Economy

And I almost agree and we, in EOS, see things in a similar way. People would get intensely board if they did nothing. Work in a “Star Trek” Economy gives people the opportunity to do something they want to do, to develop themselves. We would have automation to do much of the dull work as well. But if some people don’t want to work? In EOS we do talk about the idea of having a minimum amount of work like 16 hours a week for a few years. People tend to treat things better if they see it has a “cost”. If they do the minimum service and then don’t want to work after that then OK but they can, of cause, continue to work if they want to.

Accountancy in a “Star Trek” Economy

And that basically sums up the Energy Accounting system we propose in EOS. Using energy allows us to measure our production capacity. People then have an equal allocation of production capacity that they allocate as they will. This makes the system demand driven and connected to the actual physical resources we have in the system.  

Actually, we propose the use of exergy, which means the usable energy in the system. Exergy also allows us to account for materials and information so we have a common accountancy unit.

At this point I would disagree. In our Energy Accounting system we allocate production capacity as measured in energy terms to the people so everyone gets an equal share of the production capacity. That measure of production capacity we refer to as energy credits and I would argue that “federation credits” equals the same thing; a measure of production capacity.

In such a system you, as a citizen, allocate production capacity to produce an item you would like though allocating energy credits. This does not equate to money. Money you can save, energy credits you cannot. If we had the capacity to produce 100 units a year but only produced 80 in one year then we cannot produce 120 next year. We still only have the capacity to produce 100 units.


We can define a “Star Trek” Economy as a post-scarcity, demand driven system that uses energy as an accounting unit. I would also add that as the Federation has an enlightened nature it would also have a sustainable system as well that doesn’t destroy the planet’s environment.  System a system presents o vision for the type of system that EOS aims to build.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Will it work

A possible future sustainable moneyless network of communities
Ok, so, EOS proposes a socioeconomic system for a sustainable world. A moneyless, “Star Trek like”, system that builds upon communities that act like building blocks. Each community rules itself, manages its own waste and produces its own food and power. These communities then network together to handle projects that one community alone cannot. Experts manage the technical resources of the communities. All this works with in bounds such as basic human rights. This means we present a goal orientated system where power becomes distributed among the people and localised within communities with no centralised form of government. A sort of bottom up form of governance.

But I have a question:

Will it work?

Ultimately, building it represents the best way to see if such a system would work. Obviously, we cant expect to change over to such a system planet wide over night just to see if it worked. If it went wrong we could end up creating a worse disaster than we have now. However, we can build small parts and test them out. As things work we can then start adding to the system. That summarises the basic idea behind stepping tones as a plan to go from our current unsustainable system to a future sustainable system. We have started working on that with the bio-dome project but we have lots more to do.

Another way we could see if the ideas work involves looking at other societies in time and space and see if they have had something similar. I actually stumbled upon an article that Prof. Francis Pryor, the archaeologist, wrote that caught my eye as it talked about a similar bottom up form of governance:

“I’m fascinated by the extent to which we ordinary folk can govern ourselves without the top-down
A reconstruction of an Iron Age Celtic village in Britain
help of Big Men and leaders ‘up there’. And as a prehistorian, I have been given a unique handle on all this. Because before the Romans arrived (in AD 43) and gave us writing, we had to live our lives without written records. There were no bureaucrats, no civil servants and no politicians. Government was local and was firmly embedded within the community and its families. If you’re a chief or leader and you get big-headed, the family and the rest of the tribe would soon sort you out. It was an effective system and it gave us stunning monuments, like Stonhenge. It also oversaw the creation of the British landscape, our first road system, together with the foundation of many villages and towns, even if some of these were not fully urban, in the modern sense.

Put another way, bottom-up, family-based, political systems worked for tens of thousands of years and the proof is out there in the landscape. I’m not suggesting we should turn back the clock, but why have we thrown the baby out with the bathwater? Why have we abandoned localism entirely?” [Prof. Francis Pryor]

I'm not suggesting that we turn the clock back either but we in EOS do suggest a form of localism and the idea that early pre-Roman Britain worked with such a system does provide some evidence, although far from conclusive, that such a system could work. 

The Inca empire forms another example that shows something of our proposal could work. The Incas
Atahualpa, Inca Emperor
ran a moneyless empire in central America. They guaranteed a basic level of living with free clothes and food. Although they did expand through conquest to some degree they also persuaded other tribes to join their empire, which those tribes often did willingly. We have two aspects of our design here; moneyless socioeconomics and the idea of persuaded people through showing them something better.

Finding examples of communities could present a problem as the design allows for a variety of communities with their own culture and way of doing things; from religious to atheists or primitive to transhuman and much in between. However, we can find examples of communities that could fit in. Twin Oaks in the US could form one example. Set up in the 1960 and not only still around today but has sprouted a number of other communities to form a sort of network. Although not using energy accounting nor having experts managing the technology it does show some aspects of how a community could work and the idea of networking.

Although we don’t have anything conclusive, we do find bits and pieces here and there that suggest at least some of ideas could work. Enough to suggest that we present ideas worth investigating. It might work!