Three speculative economies: which would you pick?

bank notesJamais Cascio is stirring things up at Fast Company again, this time with a multi-part article on speculative future economies. In this second part thereof, he lays out three possible economic scenarios, one each for the United States, Japan and the European Union – the other major powers have been left blank deliberately.

The three scenarios are:

  • Resilience Economics (US)
  • Just-in-Time Socialism (Japan)
  • Robonomics (EU)

They’re all optimistic – in that surviving the current downturn and the inevitable next one is a given – but they each have their downsides, also. Here’s a snippet from Robonomics:

The U.S. slowed down, Japan took control, and Europe… well, Europe got wired. Or got weird, depending on your perspective.

On the surface, you still have the same kinds of big companies, same kinds of consumption patterns, same kinds of advertising that you did a few decades earlier. But the twist is that almost nobody works–maybe about 25% of the population engages in income-generating employment, and at least half of that consists of educators, bureaucrats, and the self-employed. Manufacturing, transportation, and most basic services are done with robots, semi-autonomous systems that nobody even pretends have real intelligence, but work well enough to keep the economy humming. Personal service jobs remain in human hands, but those are often performed by recent immigrants, trying to earn the right to a BIG Card.

Go read all three, then pop back and leave a comment saying which one you’d choose. Personally, I’m kinda torn between Just-in-Time Socialism and Robonomics, though I rather expect the UK would end up with Resilience thanks to the fear of European amalgamation – a politcial bugbear almost as entirely predicated on disinformation and lies as the current healthcare debate in the US. [image by Unhindered by Talent]

Oh, and if you’re wondering which of them is dependent on sustainability…

… they all are–that is, environmental sustainability is intrinsic to all three of these models, as it will be intrinsic to whatever economic structures function successfully this century. As the next few decades unfold, any economic behavior that doesn’t take sustainability into account will fail.

So, where do you want to live?

3 thoughts on “Three speculative economies: which would you pick?”

  1. Decent scenarios, all, with both the Japanese and European models being anticipated in some degrees by Stross in the Accelerando series.

    As for where I’d want to live, I’d take the RE model. It seems to address the biggest problems with the current system, including its tendency towards gigantic, unsustainable, growth-for-growth’s-sake, business-only or business-government monopolies–while still allowing for personal reward that will drive innovation.

    But I suspect the US (or parts of what used to be the US) will end up with a hybrid of all three models, or at least the JIT socialism and RE models. Predictive algorithms and point-of-use manufacturing, combined with a patchwork of small, entrepreneurial entities, could make a very, very interesting economic model.

  2. An interesting view. It reminds me of something a character mentions in “3001: A Space Odyssey” – socialism needed microchips and advanced information technology to work.

    That said, the Japanese scenario seems to rely too much on magic-wand style AI technology. I suspect that the European model is probably the one that we’ll end up with. A citizens basic income to cope with structurally high unemployment and most of the grunt work done by highly-automated machinery.

    I think I’d prefer to live within the Europe in this hypothetical future.

  3. Remarkable, it’s almost the same scenario set as in GURPS THS, which is a testament to the power of those books (written what, ten years ago?)

    The core of this struggle is and will continu being consolidating societal wealth. As in – high tech progress has a strong socialist bias. In the above scenarios the US clings to its libertarian (and social darwinist) delusions, the EU becomes decadent, DECADENT I SAY, and Japan, well japan does weird stuff westerners really don’t get but explain with diffuse allusions to animism.

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