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James Phillips - A Vision of Post Scarcity - Z-Day London, 2016

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Welcome to ZDay 2016 everyone. My name's James Phillips, general loudmouth for the Movement here in London, and I’d like to start off by thanking you all very very warmly for coming here today. It does mean a lot to us, and you won't be sorry; we've got quite some lineup for you today, I must say. The title of today's event is ... ‘The Path to Post-Scarcity.’ So what is post-scarcity and why is it such an important topic? Well, generally speaking it refers to the idea of universal free - or almost free in certain incantations of it - access to goods and services. This may sound far-fetched, or perhaps even undesirable without a proper appreciation of the underlying structural dynamics, with regards to how our current socioeconomic system operates, or what a potential alternative to this might be. This is what the Movement seeks to address. The term Zeitgeist refers to the cultural or moral climate of an era, and Movement denotes change. Therefore we seek to create a critical mass movement away from the current zeitgeist-dominant values and understandings, towards a new era in which human and environmental well-being are our primary objectives. Therefore the title of this presentation is ‘A Vision of Post Scarcity.’ Part 1: Scarcity by Design. The title of today's event directly implies what our current system is predicated upon. That being that there is not enough resources to go around to meet our collective needs, and we must therefore ration their extraction and use via a price system. Putting aside the lack of a distinction between needs and wants here, the logic that the scarcer a resource becomes the more it costs thus rationing its rate of depletion, might sound reasonable I suppose, were it not for the fact of what is actually happening at a lifeground level with regards to the integrity of our biospherical and ecological conditions. Because we will need two Earths by 2030 to keep on our current rates of consumption, and 27 to meet projected demands by 2050. The last remaining rainforests could be consumed in less than 40 years, species are going extinct at a 1000 times their normal rate due to human activity, over 70% of the world's fish species are disappearing at an alarming rate, and an estimated 99% of the materials used in manufacturing ends up as waste within 6 weeks after being sold. So like so many other commonly held assumptions, the inverse is actually true: where scarcity and waste have become rewarded ventures. Because the scarcer something is more you can charge for it, all of which makes consumption, aka growth, the benchmark of so-called economic "success" rather than conservation… standing in direct conflict with any lofty ideals we may have pertaining to sustainability. Not that you’d think so course according to the positive rhetoric surrounding growth prevalent in popular discourse. Evidence of this phenomenon can be found in the intrinsic and planned obsolescence in the manufacturing of goods, with intrinsic obsolescence referring to when a product is made with inferior methods or materials to cut corners on costs, and planned obsolescence when a product is deliberately made to break down in order to keep up return sales. This infinite growth paradigm is fueled further by a variety of interlocking factors, the two most major being the need for employment, and the use of the monetary market system. There are however, collapse mechanisms built into these structural foundations as well, which are well worth pointing out; the first being the threat of automation on human labor known as technological unemployment, or the contradiction of capitalism. Because the market system needs people to have jobs in order to earn money to purchase goods and services, and maintain cyclical consumption. The old argument that humans have always retrained to keep up with new labor roles created by this technological advancement is starting to crumble rapidly, with one study by Oxford University stating that 47% of jobs in the USA will become under threat in the next 10 to 20 years. The monetary market system needs inefficiency and scarcity to exist in order to perpetuate cyclical consumption and keep up employment. All of this is made worse still by the way in which money comes into circulation, known as fractional reserve banking. Contrary to popular opinion, banks do not go to their vaults to get the money to lend you when you ask for a loan. They create it out of thin air when you ask when you sign the loan contract. As if this were not enough, they then charge interest on these debts, interest that was not created in the initial loan. Meaning that even if we were to pay back the principle to the banks that created it in first place, we would still owe the non-existent interest. This inherent scarcity in the money supply means that we must therefore compete with each other, to make ends meet, incentivizing manipulation through advertising and marketing, in an attempt to conflate needs with wants, and reinforce a collective self-centered vanity and narcissism ideal for the promotion of conspicuous consumption and materialism. As well as contributing to the boom-and-bust cycle, fractional reserve banking is also a major contributor to income inequality and deprivation around the world, with the richest 1% now owning 50% of the world's wealth, whereas a few years ago it was 40. 50% live on less than $3 a day, 80% on less than 10, and a sixth of the human population on less than $1.50 a day. Income inequality also plays a devastating role in our immediate social surroundings as well, as you can literally measure the level of your social health by how equal your country is in terms of wealth distribution. Whether it's life expectancy, math and literacy scores, infant mortality, homicides, imprisonment, teenage births, levels of social trust, obesity, mental illness including addiction, or social mobility, all are worse in more financially unequal countries… showing just how susceptible we humans are to environmental influence. If we live in a competitive, stratified society, we are more likely to endure the stress of feeling looked down upon, and have less of a sense of self-worth, detrimentally affecting our personal and social health. Recent media attention and government funding has been put into improving mental health care in the UK for example. But in all the discussions surrounding this topic, how often is its link to income inequality mentioned? When the issue of austerity comes up, how many people know that 25% of all wealth generated in the UK since the year 2000 has gone to the upper 1 %? How many understand the true scale and scope of technological unemployment, or how money is created? And even if the general public are aware about these issues, what is the alternative being proposed which might address the root cause of them? The Movement is often criticized for its communicative stance as not doing anything. But I've contested widespread public ignorance over the true causality behind such issues, as well as a lack of awareness of any alternative, underscores the dire need for such an approach. So what is the proposed alternative? Well, this brings us to Part 2: A Natural Law resource based economy, or NLRBE for short, which could be defined as the scientific method for social concern. So why use the methods of science in societal decision making? Because science is the best decision-making method we have for predicting future events, and making a more accurate assessment of the physical reality we all share. In its simplest form, it’s just asking a question, doing some research, developing what you consider to be a reasonable answer, devising an experiment to test that hypothesis through empirical observation and measurement, and drawing a conclusion from the results. Others can then repeat your experiment to verify its validity. So with this new decision-making process in play, let's run through a brief thought exercise to get a basic understanding of how an NLRBE might work. If we take a proper scientific account of our planetary systems and resources, we would need to start by doing a global resource survey, which can now be done using existing technologies such as satellites and sensors, taking into account all relevant factors pertaining to optimal global resource management and economic activity, irrespective of borders and nations. Such arbitrary means of separation are of no consequence to the natural laws which govern our holistic biosphere. The most effective tool we have for the management of this intricate system would be via open-source computerization and artificial intelligence. From this dataset and current scientific understandings, we could then extrapolate the best methods of production, distribution, recycling, durability, redundancy and localization protocols. The same goes for every other aspect of our living conditions, from transport and medical care, to food, water, clothing, shelter and energy. And as energy is the cornerstone of any civilization, let's use it as a proxy to demonstrate the awe-inspiring results of what could be achieved by using such a radically different approach to societal and planetary management. First, we would survey where and what energy potentials are available of course, plotting them into a chart, listing all their relevant retro-actions and potential, such as output, renewabilty, pollution and the like, and we would then draw inference as to the most efficient and strategic approach to meet our energy needs from these results. And it's worth noting that a 2005 Stanford University study found that by harnessing just 20% of the potential of wind energy, we could supply half the world's energy needs. With the potential exponential increase in nanotechnology applied to the harnessing of solar radiation, it’s estimated that this medium alone could supply the Earth with all its energy needs 1000 times over in the not-too-distant future. Tidal has been estimated to provide 34% of the UK's energy, with wave- and water-based technologies capable of producing 97% of the world's current energy demand. And geothermal energy is estimated to contain enough potential to power the world for the next 4,000 years, if applied with this systems theory approach to planetary management. Meaning, we have nothing but an abundance of clean, renewable energy on this planet. And the same mind-blowing results can be attributed to every other area of meeting human needs. Now, if I go into schools … armed with this information to talk to kids, and with a very simple question to ask them, which is this: “Us adults say to these kids that we should share, take care of each other and the environment, and yet we have all the tools to do precisely this, and we don't. Why?” And the solutions children come up with are often extremely close to what we advocate. For example, one kid said “Well, let’s just print the money to do these things, and just do them!” Or “Why don’t we give the money to the people who obviously have better ideas?” Let's cut the outer world some slack, shall we? Perhaps if they were also made aware of our actual technological capability to solve human environmental problems, they might start to question the prevailing wisdom that the market always ensures that the best ideas rise to the top via competition. For a more detailed analysis of this glaring contradiction and these technologies are on offer, please see my 2014 ZDay presentation on YouTube. The NLRBE would not have the inefficiency and self-preservation inherent to the price system holding it back from the implementation of such abundance-producing technology. The question should never be “Can we afford to do something positive for ourselves and the planet?” It should only be “Do we have the resources and the know-how to do so?” Whilst money was once a useful tool to manage scarcity, we have simply outgrown the need for it technically, and it now serves as a hindrance to the alleviation of our interconnected and global problems. Which brings us to the proverbial elephant in the room and part 3: The Question of Transition. I know many of you who are familiar with this idea will probably be sick of hearing this, but the real transition is a transition in our current values and understandings towards developing a critical mass movement towards a system that actually works, rather than one that insists it will. Systems are what they produce, not what we wish them to produce. And whilst the NLRBE idea should of course be critiqued, I would encourage you to ask where your criticisms emerged, and whether there is actually any evidential validity to back them up. My thoughts regarding the question of transition have developed of late, and I think it may help to bring into a sharper perspective the importance of events such as today's. Because no culture or civilization makes a quantum leap from one set of circumstances to the next, cultural values and the infrastructure in which they are embedded, evolve over time. Take a city we’re in: London, as an example. It was built next to a river, burned to the ground, and built again with wider streets from stone and brick, rather than wood and straw. Canals then allowed for more efficient transportation of goods which was superseded by trains, then an underground system and airports were added, with roads adapting to accommodate cars... with a little help courtesy of the system-sticking plaster of a congestion charge of course. And on the societal level we've gone from hunter-gatherer tribes, to countries and the ruling structure of the Divine Right of Kings, to the Enlightenment and to modern democracy. Other countries and cultures have and are still going through different transitions, skipping bits along the way of course. However, none of these were or have been made with a true scientific analysis of the sorts being described by the Movement, which poses somewhat of a problem. Should we spend a large amount of time, effort and resources attempting in futility to make cities like London sustainable? or build new ones from the ground up in a country willing to try the NLRBE idea, with the hope that people will gravitate towards the higher standard of living provided? Perhaps a gradualist approach such as monetary or benefit reform may be more worthwhile. My hunch is to do all of the above, and that apathy and inaction are public enemy number 1. The Movement sees itself as a pivot point in this regard to give people a variety of ways in which they might get involved in this next transition in human life. The following list is of important aspects in this transition, and the organizations who will be speaking with us today about their fantastic work in these areas. 1. Scientific literacy and critical thinking. In order for us to use the scientific method for social concern, the public must become better informed as to how scientific consensus is reached, and how to use critical thinking skills to overcome our own bias, and the bias of those around us. Here to talk to us today about these issues is Max Goldman, from Sense about Science. 2. Monetary reform. We live in a monetary system and we must change the way it operates in order to create the sorts of large-scale projects that would start to transform society for the better. Frank Van Lerven from Positive Money is here with us today to address this topic. 3. Disruptive technology and futurism. Technological unemployment is just one of the threats facing our current way of life. Futurism is the study of this, and the wider implications of potentially disruptive technologies on the path to post scarcity. Here to talk to us about all this and more is David Wood from the London Futurists. 4. Social cohesion and income inequality are major obstacles to alleviating many seemingly unrelated social ills. One idea gaining traction around the world to help in this regard is an unconditional basic income. So we welcome Bob Jacobson from Basic Income UK, to talk to us about this idea. 5. Localisation of production and sustainability drives in our surrounding communities are imperative in terms of shifting the values and understanding of these issues on a local level. Here to talk to us about the great work being done in this area is Joe Duggan from Transition Town/Crystal Palace. 6. Community engagement and digital democracy are an essential part of building any local community or organisational platform. Here to talk about their exciting work in this area is Peter Anderson from VocalEyes. (7) Collaboration amongst all seeking such a transition of human life is absolutely vital, so Chris Larkin from Noomap is here to talk to us about their exciting work in developing a program to help like-minded organizations do precisely this. And 8th, and last but certainly not least, with communication being an essential part of our collective endeavour to change the current zeitgeist, Mel Marley from TZM UK will be giving a talk on the psychology of persuasion. A final thought to leave you with, is that just because we may not know how exactly to get from A to B, does not resolve the need to do so. If you want not sure where you fit into this transition yet - and that's fine - but doing nothing and merely complaining... with no alternative to offer, guarantees that nothing will change. Remember, that it is far easier to light a candle than to curse the darkness. Many thanks for your time, and for being here with us today. thezeitgeistmovement.com [Preparation for Q&A] [Q.1] So if you had your wishlist, what would be like 1, 2, or 3 things that you'd really wanted to see happening around the world to show the agenda was being picked up by society, by government or business behind yours - That's a pretty good question. Some of the transitional models being exhibited here today I would like to see being given some serious gravitas. I would like to see really good ideas rise to the surface on social platforms like Facebook, and what have you, rather then some of the things that are currently shared. ... A more obvious understanding- like for instance technological unemployment is now getting some mainstream attention. We were talking about this in 2008, and everybody called us Luddites. And now pretty much the entire academic community concedes that yes, this is definitely... a threat that is facing us; it's real. And that is getting some mainstream media attention and I welcome that. Fractional reserve banking is getting a bit more, but I don't think nearly enough. And I would like to see some of the tides turn in some of our public discussions away from victimizing minorities and things like that. I think there's a bit- there's a whole multitude of things to unpack there they'd start to see the precipice go. I would want to mention one thing very briefly as well, that should engender us to think that this is actually more achievable than we might think. Studies show that if you get 10% of the population you want to passionately move forward with an idea, then the rest of society starts to follow. Now I'm not advocating a sort of herd mentality here, but, if that's how human populations move towards new ideas then I think that should encourage us. And those are just some brief samples of what I would feel would be a positive move in the next direction. [... inaudible ...] - How would you go about measuring... - Can you rehearse the question? How would you go about ... means testing some ideas scientifically in public life that would lend towards this idea? I'm sorry... - Say insights... ... would you test theories and hypotheses, but quite often there are questions... [... inaudible ...] I think there's certain- [... inaudible ...] I think I can have a go, so take something like driverless cars showing some very promising results. We need to thoroughly test things like that, obviously, before we actually implement them. The basic income idea that's going to featured later on today is getting its field test in FInland. Things like this, showing some of our common misconceptions about human incentivization and motivation maybe to be false? So far there's some very positive results from that idea. On a social level, you've got those types of ideas but for instance on the next talk, almost perfectly; I think he's actually going to sum this up probably better than I actually could. Scientific understanding in public life is very important. and so I think that filters very much into what you're saying as well. There's a lot of these interesting ideas that can be carried out, and have been carried out in recent years. These should get more public attention. It's a very complicated question, maybe I could have another swing at it. I think ultimately ... that's what we should be shooting for but I think the NLRBE, there is something important to remember, ultimately it is a big science experiment, and one thing to NOT think in your head is that "Oh, we'll do this tomorrow!" Because if we did it tomorrow people's values wouldn't line up with it. Our values have to shift first, so we are actually adjusted to living in that society. It would be like taking a hunter-gatherer person and just shoving him in London and go "Buy yourself a travel card!" It's literally ... that ridiculous. So we definitely have to evolve our values to suit the system and not-... and hopefully those changes will also... further us ... towards the technological changes. They alleviate certain social conditions from even needing to exist, will hopefully come in over time, and impact our values, and the other way around, if you see what I mean - a sort of two-way street. I think I'm done there on questions because I want to move on, and there will be a Q&A at the end of the day ...

Video Details

Duration: 26 minutes and 22 seconds
Year: 2016
Country: United Kingdom
Language: English
Producer: The Zeitgeist Movement
Director: The Zeitgeist Movement
Views: 53
Posted by: ltiofficial on May 1, 2016

James Phillips outlines the basic tenets of The Zeitgeist Movement.

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