Last night I was walking to the 24-hour supermarket when I saw yet another homeless man sleeping on a playground bench. Young man, looked like a migrant Indian worker (like the difference between local ethnic Chinese and mainland Chinese, you instinctively recognise the subtleties after a while), yellow construction boots, tattered knapsack as a pillow. He didn't smell of alcohol nor of any suspicious substances, and his position was too regular for it to be likely that he had collapsed there intoxicated.
It's a little interesting, because employers of foreign workers are required to provide housing to workers, but that's another story for another time.
Imagine, now, that we have hit the technological singularity, and have achieved post-scarcity. This homeless fellow would never need to work, or indeed, leave his home country. For ten cents' worth of uni-gel, which costs virtually nothing to produce, he can make his 3D printer print him anything he needs, from a hot meal to a roof over his head. Fusion energy sourced with raw materials from asteroid resources supplies all his energy needs. Health care is taken care of by mass-produced nanites. Whatever he desires, he can create. Surely this is the superlatively sexy scientopia we are all promised, and our homeless man is happy in it, yes?
Perhaps, for a short while. Then our homeless fellow gets bored, and idle hands are the devil's playground. Well, that's easily solved, isn't it? We simply offer people holodecks with their favourite midget gimp porn simulation all day, and they'll lock themselves up in there and be quiet.
I don't think so. The current welfare system of bribing the underclass to stay out of trouble simply doesn't work. The endless stream of TVs and obamaphones still doesn't quell the masses, and a holodeck is merely a very advanced TV. It doesn't account for the psychopathic portion of the populace which gets off on screwing with other peoples' lives.
The hedonic treadmill is pretty much exhausted now.
Whether you want to call it the Curse of Adam or putting off the destruction of the human spirit, the end result is the same thing: people need to be productive in their own ways, lest they degenerate into a cesspit of underclass behaviours. Various estimates on the exact percentage of humanity which can be safely considered as the natural aristocracy quibble over the exact number (which fluctuates around 10%), but the consensus is that it is too small for civilisation as we know it to persist.
People are like dogs. If they aren't productive, they're destructive. Get enough of them together, and eventually they're going to outpace the productive capacity of technological advancements. So your super-advanced 3D printer breaks down, and no one is willing to come out and fix it because the streets aren't safe. Or maybe someone smashes yours for shits and giggles. Or someone uses his printer to print out a new viral infection the same way a bored nerd writes a computer virus for shits and giggles nowadays.
I have other concerns about over-reliance on technology; it doesn't have to get to the point of The Machine Stops before one has reason to get worried. But again, another story, another time.
Civilization produces technology, not the other way around. When civilization falls, technology is not the first but the last thing to fall. Yes, technology does decline in the fall of Rome. No, it has not declined in our era - though its advance has certainly slowed a great deal. But the centuries of European technology decline are 400-700 AD, a point at which surely any historian would admit that the Roman polity has already been going to the dogs for two centuries minimum.I've mentioned this simple litmus test on my blog before, but it bears repeating: go out and ask someone if Kim Kardashian is or was pregnant (or whatever stupidity our professional entertainers are up to nowadays). Then, ask the same person if antibiotics kill viruses, and tally up the percentage of people who can answer the former question, but not the latter.
My wager is that 90 years ago, 90% of the people could describe how 90% of the things around them worked. Today, 90% of the people can't describe how 90% of the things around them work - magical gremlins do it all, and what used to be common knowledge has been outsourced to professional repairmen who cast spells to make things work again. What people think they know about science has largely been filtered down to them in a heavily simplified sound-bite version, if it is accurate in the first place and not some inane agenda.
Knowledge has been lost before, and it will be lost again; our current dysgenic idiocracy isn't helping much, either. For all our technology, we still can't replicate how the pyramids were built. We can't recall how to make Greek fire or Damascus steel, the latter of which is still stronger than most of what we can achieve with modern methods. To suggest that antibiotics, the internal combustion engine, computing, or any other modern-day advance since the industrial revolution cannot be lost is quite silly and counter to historical evidence, and yet it is anathema to the progressive's linear view of history.
Taken from a comment on one of Vox's posts:
It is not surprising that you are "becoming a liberal" when you talk as if technological advances are just "winning the lottery".Perhaps the fellow this commenter is replying to believes that technological progress comes like something out of a Civilisation game: pour enough resources into it and a box pops up notifying you that your people have discovered so-and-so technology.
As if it does not take civilization and hard work and infrastructure to make those technological advances possible?
You are not factoring in that as progressive policies make society less and less efficient, we are less able to invent or even take advantage of new technological advances. See Exhibit A: the left wing in our government is trying desperately to stop us from using the technological advance of fracking to improve our energy reserves, or even to build a pipeline from Canada to increase our energy supply that way.
Stop taking technology and intellectual advancement for granted. You are going to destroy our society with your naïveté.
The Romans probably believed in the inevitability of their continual advancement, too.
In order for your nonsensical belief to have any validity, you need to explain to us why the Roman Empire failed, collapsed, and regressed substantially and technology.
Or, you could at least provide some substantive reasoning for why you believe that technological advancement somehow just falls out of the aether into our laps, instead of being worked for.
It doesn't work that way. Technological advancement and maintenance not only requires physical resources and grants, it also requires social infrastructure in the form of, I don't know, let's say a scientific community that is actually pursuing what is and doesn't go all rabbity-hop over the idea that some groups of people might have the potential to be smarter than another and attempt to ban all such inquiry altogether. Ann Barnhardt remarked in a recent post: "we are the gold". She was referring to the financial world in that no matter how solid a financial system's backing is, even a gold standard won't solve anything if the populace is debased and corrupt. Similarly, if we have a scientific community that actively pursues Cathedral dogma instead of truth and a populace that dreams of iDon'tgiveashits instead of going to the moon, why should we be surprised at our current slowing rate of technological progress? How long will it be before things slip into the negative?
If this is what our modern-day scientific community gives us, then dare I say the old system of monks seeking to know the creator by studying the creation, noblemen for whom science is a gentleman's hobby and lone inventors driven by their desire are much more scientific and less dogmatic than what we have today.
Technological progress masks societal decline; it does not reverse it and is a time-delayed function of civilisation to boot. Post-scarcity will merely reduce the amount of civilisational capital required to keep things running under a veneer of civility, but will not solve the problem of exponential growth of negative-capital individuals biting holes all over the place. Indeed, the way techno-futurists amongst the reaction primarily reconcile technological progress with traditional and reactionary thought is that without reaction, technological progress is not just unsustainable, but can just as easily be destructive. Let's say that transhumanist technology progresses to the point where furries, otherkin and other weird followings can modify their bodies to their liking. Banning or restricting technologies has historically never been proven effective at controlling use - only social mores can effect such control.
In AH is going to build himself a virus!, Angry Harry posits that the technology for a lone malcontent to build himself something extremely dangerous - a suitcase nuke or a vial of virus - will become available to everyone in the near future, and it will become impossible for any government to stop its spread. Have they had any luck with the Liberator? I doubt so.
And that's something to think about.
In short, my positions on the matter -
1. Technological progress cannot fulfill human spiritual and social needs for tribe, etc. It can only fulfill material needs and attempt to fulfill such needs with weak imitations: see social networking and the televitz.
2. In a post-scarcity world, bored people become destructive. Everyone at best is a zero utility worker, more often than not, a negative utility worker due to the removal of material consequences for destructive behaviour. Unless Moldbug's solution D (make-work), or some other solution is implemented,
3. Even if the majority of the population is quelled with make-work jobs, this still does not account for psychopathic individuals who will turn technology from a positive into a negative. Reactionary thought and societal infrastructure is required to effectively deal with these worms instead of letting them into positions of power like we do today.
4. Civilisation is not a function of technology; it is the other way around.
5. Even if post-scarcity technological singularity is achieved, if left unaddressed, the negative utilities accumulated from bored and psychopathic individuals will eventually overwhelm any positives from technology. As civilisation fails, so does technology, and post-scarcity is lost.
6. Hence, post-scarcity alone will be insufficient to save us.