Smári McCarthy

Building social, political and technical infrastucture

The End of (Artificial) Scarcity

Back in early 2009 I wrote the essay The End of (Artificial) Scarcity for a book project called Free Beer. At the time it captured quite a lot of my feelings about the state of the world and the driving forces behind this state. If I were to write this now, I’d do it differently, in terms of structure and content, but yet I feel it is a valid analysis nevertheless – albeit somewhat dated.

In the almost three years since I wrote this, the world has been through all kinds of turmoil. The lay of the land has changed, but the root causes have not changed. The formative mythologies of our time are as strong as ever, and the long sequence of bank and country bailouts in Iceland, Ireland, Greece, the United States of America and elsewhere have shown little other than the callous disregard of the ruling elites for the wellbeing of the rest of humanity. This is a sad fact, but it is one that we must accept, and act on.

The protests going on all over the world today, the 15th of October 2011, may turn out to mark the beginning of a new age of mankind. More likely it will not, it will be a minor blip in history, probably not even widely chronicled. Both possibilities are realistic though, given the situation we are in, and the scales can be tipped in favor of the 99% – justice is a distinct possibility.

For that to happen though, we must understand a few things.

First, we are not the 99%. We are the 99.999%. We have been controlled and manipulated, fed misinformation and forced into terrible situations by a very, very small part of humanity. Despite this, all of the seven billion people on this planet have a lot to answer for. We, the 99.999%, are guilty of having not acted together in unison before. We are guilty of having allowed ourselves to be divided. Our penance will remain to be seen.

Secondly, this inequality will not be stopped without a plan. As much as I admire the protests and the protesters, they are confusing to the people in power (I have written an article about this which will be published in a few days), and they do not contain real, concrete results. Protest while you can, but then go forth and find solutions. Nothing is to be gained from overturning the current system if we do not have anything to replace it with.

As I am geographically impaired today, being in Vestmannaeyjar, far away from the protests of the October 15th around the world, I thought I’d post the full essay for the first time separately from the book Free Beer. It’s not been changed, updated or modified apart from that. I do suggest checking out the rest of the book, which contains great essays by awesome people such as Dennis Jaromil Rojo, Mike Linksvayer, Rasmus Fleischer  and Johan Söderberg, to name a few, but for now, enjoy:

The modern materials economy has been marked by an unwillingness to face the subtle repercussions of the industrial revolution. In this essay I intend to play out this future drama of mankind in three parts. First, I will set the stage by showing that we have perhaps unknowingly built several political assumptions into our society in such a way that we cannot see these foundations, let alone replace them when they are sinking into the mire. Second, I will show that the failure of these foundations is not merely inevitable, but that it has already happened. Finally I intend to try to describe a couple of methods we can use to build new egalitarian foundations for our societies.

Read full essay (PDF) »

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