Discussion of Economics. Relevant theories and background


In so many ways, The Machine is really about economics. How do we distribute wealth in our society? Who should own the productive machinery in our world? How should we distribute its output? Who has ultimate authority over what happens? Should anyone?

There are so many people who have weighed in on this. I’d love for this thread to be a starting point to discuss core economic theory. In many ways my work is an attempt to synthesize the best of every economic theory in to one I hope has maximum appeal and validity. I’d love your help!

First off, I recommend the three part series Masters of Money, which is a basic overview of three major schools of thought on modern industrial economics, covering John Maynard Keynes, Friedrich Hayek, and Karl Marx.




Personally I am a big fan of Marx’s insights, but I can’t argue with the idea of freedom of exchange. I feel like then a synthesis of for example Marx and Hayek involves voluntarily sharing ownership in the productive capacity of society. That’s a major reason why I feel like The Machine should be open source.

I’ve found other interesting thinkers.

Juliete Schor presents some interesting ideas about inequality in the following video.

Some people have suggested something like State Socialism - that is socialism supported by a powerful nation state, but I dislike that idea because it requires giving enormous control over the productive capacity of our society to a few self-interested individuals. Gar Alperovitz talks about his 40 year career looking for alternatives to state controlled wealth redistribution in this excellent video.

I am also a big fan of Richard Wolff, especially his book Democracy at Work, which is a book about worker owned businesses and their advantages as compared to traditional socialism. Richard Wolff produces a lecture every month on the state of capitalism as well as a weekly radio address on economics. I dislike that he will at times make seemingly very biased statements without much qualification, but I do believe there is deep insight in to his general theories. He has so many videos I’m unsure where to start, but for example this lecture looks like it would be good.

Branching into political theory, I also want to share some information about anarchism, which, contrary to many popular memes, is a well developed political theory with intentional structures and a rich history. In particular Noam Chomsky has said that anarchism, especially augmented by machines, may be the most just form of political organization.


I think if you seek to make The Machine about improving economics and politics, it will ultimately fail.

Building a machine is way easier than building a society, a culture, a virtuous person, or a government. Machines are predictable, with few flaws. They are vice-less and impartial. Input. Processing. Output. Feedback. Humans on the other hand… Eiish! So framing your challenge appropriately is very important in order to achieve success.

I think one of the reasons Open Source Ecology has done so poorly is that it seeks to create a new economy, rather than focus on the design of the Global Village Construction Set.

Folks will rally around building an open source operating system, but those same folks won’t agree on how to operate an economy or a government.

You can design and give someone The Machine, but how they ultimately use it is up to them.

On an unrelated note, here is one of my favorite concepts related to wealth, capital, and currency: http://www.appleseedpermaculture.com/8-forms-of-capital/


I think I agree with kilt - make the tools available and people will find the best way to use them. There are too many differing ideologies pulling in different directions for either to win I think.


I agree too. I have no desire to rely on political change to make this happen. I think that’s where things like the Venus Project failed. It’s not enough to say “look what we could all do if we just X”. You won’t get everyone to do X. It will not happen.

That’s why I like the machine. And why I like it being open source. It solves human survival. There are a set of things you can do that will objectively achieve that goal and they’re pretty simple. You can test if it worked - are the people surviving? Then you succeeded! There’s a lot of different ways to go about it, none of them require a certain political environment, and anyone can fork the project and try something else if they don’t like the way it is going.

I will say though, politics is important. And I’ve gone through this journey of politics where I’ve looked at it from a lot of different angles. I’ve tried to find ways of making a system that everyone would agree with - something that would have the most appeal. I’ve asked myself - what would a classic American liberal and a classic American conservative agree on? If you can make a system that appeal to everyone in the mainstream political spectrum, you’re going to have a broad base of potential users and customers to draw from.

So in many ways, it is about being apolitical. About making something that does work outside of any politics. But in order to enforce that in development discussions, you’ve got to understand politics. So some people might come in and say “The Machine is Socialism”, and I’d disagree - because the conservatives and free market types will never, ever go for that. And they have every right not to go for that in my view.

And some will say “but you can create a machine that works if you just pass this law that requires X”, and then again I think it’s dead in the water because you’re admitting up front that if you don’t pass that law, your idea is not viable.

But if you’re trying to create something that appeals to everyone, it’s not a bad mental model to target something that would work for anarchists. Anarchists are all about 100% voluntary exchange, which is similar to American libertarianism in that regard.

So you don’t have to focus on anarchism, though I will bring it up from time to time. The model I imagine is one where in a 100% voluntary exchange, this project offers something appealing. We’re going to want to get people to invest in us - time, ideas, money (for those of us who try to sell something to fund development of modules) - and what we’re offering had better be worth the exchange. This project needs to stand and thrive on its own merits.

But I will say, Noam Chomsky says in the above video that an anarchist society where machines do all the mundane work and the humans get to do whatever they find interesting is, in his view, an ideal society. And I tend to agree.

My hope is not to change politics to build the machine. My hope is to build the machine to change politics.


I think the anarchist point of view is good to take, even though I wouldn’t describe myself as an anarchist either. I think that’s one of the great things about open source - if you truly have a project with literally no strings attached, everything laid out on the table - noone will oppose that. I don’t think it’s possible to make an argument against it at least, and I’ve yet to hear one or hear about someone who didn’t like it. People might not think it’ll change anything, but I doubt anyone will ever oppose open source either. There’s not really any way it can’t be voluntary this way.


This is how The Machine will succeed. We need to create it (or at least the first version of it), and show how powerful it can be. People will flock to the idea once they see how useful and important it is. And that it is producing things of value (read money).

Taylor - what you need to make to make The Machine a success (and by the way, I love the idea: I agree that it’s what we need as a society) is Elon Musk’s Company Formula (stolen shamelessly from WaitButWhy) Elon Musk's Company Formula

It’s a necessary evil, but you’ll need to “play the game” of capitalism at first to make The Machine succeed. Once it is a viable business model, you can start to change the nature of the game (and by game, I mean modern capitalism).