Must-Read: As I always say, the key to making it an an economy--pretty much any economy--is to find something (a) that you can do, that is also (b) scarce and hard to copy, and (c) for which rich people have a Jones. It doesn't matter how useful the stuff you do or make is. You have a place in the economy only if you satisfy (a), (b), and (c) or control resources that satisfy (a), (b), and (c). It's what the seventeenth-century proto-economists called the diamonds-and-water paradox: how can carrying the most useful stuff on earth to where it is needed be so poorly paid, while selling useless flashy gewgaws is so richly paid? Scarcity and a rich people's Jones--or, as we say now as if it were an obvious and inescapable law of nature: supply and demand.

And as I have started saying more recently:

  1. Human thighs and backs as sources of value started going out in the fourth millennium BC with the horse, and then in the eighteenth century with the steam engine.

  2. Human hands and fingers as sources of value started going out in the eighteenth century with automatic machinery.

  3. But human brains as cybernetic control mechanisms for sources of power and manipulation retained their value--nay, increased their value, as every domesticated animal and machine required a human-level controller. (Although very few of the jobs that added value actually required a Turing-class cybernetic control mechanism.)

    • But now, increasingly, we have robots--and the demand for human brains as cybernetic control mechanisms for sources of power and manipulation is dropping fast.
  4. And human brains as information assembly and transmission mechanisms--cashiers, accountants, form-fillers, form-approvers, gatekeepers, database-enterers and so forth--gained enormously in value. (Although very few of the jobs that added value actually required a Turing-class cybernetic control mechanism.)

    • But now, increasingly, we have 'bots--and the demand for human brains as information assembly and transmission mechanisms is dropping fast.
  5. That leaves smiles--direct personal services, plus human eyes, mouths, and voices as sources of motivation and persuasion.

  6. That leaves genuine creative thought, which is, you know, rather difficult...

Charlie Stross: Two Thoughts:

The effects [of] universal functional telepathy (lies and all)... on how we handle business...

The internet disintermediates supply chains, but... you have to be able to find your customers, or your root supplier.... Currently we're seeing a land-rush by new middle-men trying to stake out their position as the Sultans of Search: Amazon... eBay... Uber... AirBNB.... To identify a new Silicon Valley start-up opportunity you just have to figure out what your mom no longer does for you now you've moved out of her basement and productize it.

But that's not going to last forever.... It's a race to the bottom and it ends when search becomes free at the point of delivery.... Ultimately most of those middle-men are doomed: they simply can't add enough value to stay viable as information arbitrage brokers in a telepathic world. So where do we go from there?

Comments