Extra Terrestiral Economics

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Midnight_Carnival
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Extra Terrestiral Economics

Post by Midnight_Carnival »

I read a science fiction story lately in which there was a major, catastrophic global economic crash because humans encountered another intelligent spieces.

Sounds far fetched?

Consider who our economy works:
We create demand, control supply and 'fix prices' to create value (this is not always a totally 'evil' thing, art and antiques could be examples in which nobody needs to starve to death) - the main factor which must be considered is that it is designed so that it makes sense and can be controlled (by humans). What if extra-terrestirals didn't want to play by our rules? What if they decided that they would for example trade with individuals and make exchanges they regared as 'fair' for 1kg earth sand you could get a matter-antimatter reactor which was small and safe enough to use in the kitchen, only it could produce more energy than the sun!

Imagine everyone buying tins of beans and hoarding them, imaging them selling all their stocks and shares to buy more beans... chaos.
...apparenly we can't go with it or something.
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Dixie
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Re: Extra Terrestiral Economics

Post by Dixie »

Sure, a lot of big industries would crash, but I guess it could be for the better. And the aliens wouldn't keep it up indefinetely. I mean, how many tons of earth sand could they need for study? And that is IF they decided to trade for it and don't just lift it unseen from some desert or something...
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tekelili
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Re: Extra Terrestiral Economics

Post by tekelili »

in your hypothetical scenario my only conclusion is that energy would become and ultra cheap resource... and dont see why that should sink economic structure. Energy becomed suddenly cheaper in lot of human history moments and it more like "pushed" economic rather than sink it. Only industries in danger would be energy providers.
Be aware English is not my first language and I could have explained bad myself using wrong or just invented words.
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Telchin
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Re: Extra Terrestiral Economics

Post by Telchin »

Well, if the aliens are more advanced than humans (e.g. they have FTL travel and we don't), than I'm afraid that the more probable (or at least more common in sci-fi stories ;) ) problem would be that they might try to conquer/enslave/plunder us rather than just destabilizing our economy. (See what various human nations did to less advanced natives in newly dicovered areas through history.)
Conversely, if the aliens are less advanced than humans and don't want to play by our rules, then humans (or at least human goverments threatened by the economical crisis) might try to conquer/enslave/plunder the aliens. :twisted: (Let's say that I didn't root for the blue elves in James Cameron's Avatar :P )
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johndh
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Re: Extra Terrestiral Economics

Post by johndh »

If that happened, I'd trade until I had a lifetime supply of everything I need, and then I'd spend the rest of my life playing video games, riding bikes, and writing.

It sounds like what you're talking about would bring about a post-scarcity economy, where everybody has basically unlimited access to resources. This is basically the premise of Star Trek, incidentally. There are a lot of people who freak out at the thought of everyone having what they need because then they wouldn't work for it and human progress would cease. My response to that is, so what? If/when we hit post-scarcity, we've officially won. All of our so-called progress as a species has been in the name of eliminating scarcity. We are Ahab and scarcity is our white whale. When we no longer lack anything, that's the victory condition for human existence. If it happens because of benevolent or naive aliens, so be it. If we have everything we need, then we don't have to waste our time working in jobs that we hate to buy things that don't make us happy. We don't have to wage war over resources anymore. Instead, do you want to write a book? Do you want to learn to play an instrument? Do you want to be a park ranger? Without the need to spend all your time just surviving, everyone can pursue whatever passion strikes their fancy. You could devote your entire life to your own happiness and/or the happiness of others. Some folks like to argue that this will just result in almost everybody slacking off and spending all day looking at porn, but so what if it does? In a post-scarcity society, it doesn't hurt for someone to not contribute because they're no longer a drain on society. Everyone can do what makes them happy and they never have to do what doesn't make them happy, which sounds the like ideal situation according to Utilitarianism.
It's spelled "definitely", not "definately". "Defiantly" is a different word entirely.
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Dugi
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Re: Extra Terrestiral Economics

Post by Dugi »

Telchin wrote:they might try to conquer/enslave/plunder us rather than just destabilizing our economy. (See what various human nations did to less advanced natives in newly dicovered areas through history.)
That would humans do. As you said, there were a lot of places where men with guns settled and killed the men without guns who lived there. We may tell to ourselves that we won't be like that, but it almost always was like that. Even if they wanted to arrive in peace. They came, took some land, lived in peace, then more came, took too much land pushing the natives away, mutual distrust and arguments started, a few arguments resulted in murders, each side protected the murderers and the war begun.

The question is, would these much more technologically advanced aliens behave like that too? Why are humans so warlike? Because of evolution. If you are too peaceful, the war-lovers will conquer you. Your country may be an utopia, an apex of civilisation and progress, but if you don't have soldiers (today it needs also tanks, fighter jets and nukes), a load of half-wit savages (today with AK-47s) attack you and destroy your peaceful home. There was a lot of cities and/or states with highly advanced society in the past, but most of them were pillaged and conquered by the less advanced ones (Athens conquered by Sparta, Nabataea conquered by some desert tribes, Romans conquered by Germanic tribes, etc, sorry if your ancestors weren't mentioned). And humans evolved only a very little during the few dozens of generations since medieval times (and much of the peace we have is because of money). Without artificial modifications of our genome, we'll hardly ever get peaceful.

Aliens would be most likely coming from a similar evolution than we come from, so I assume that they would be the same as humans in this. Even if they were horned octopuses with pink stripes. It's unlikely that the aliens would be aggressive as Silastic Armourfiends of Striterax, because if you have too many soldiers, you'll have nobody to invent things (there were silly meaningless wars all over Europe for ages before a relative peace came and first inventions came).

So, they might actually come in peace... until some crap happens, one side does something bad, the other side demands some retribution, the first side disagrees, arguments arise about all kinds of crap, humans send them away from Earth, they disagree because they've paid for some land and all that's needed for a cosmic war is a single warmonger's tantrum. The aliens may leave our planet be, trying to avoid the huge cost of war where supply lines are far too long, they may just nuke us, wait until the fallout disperses and take the dead men's land, or they may enslave us.

But well, let's focus on the time while the frail peace lasts. The aliens come. What will they need from us? They may be biologically incompatible with us, unable to eat our food, maybe due to chirality (it's a known fact that if you mirrored all molecules in a human, he would be perfectly fine, but he would be able to consume only food that was mirrored too), different nucleic acid, different amino acids (biologists already managed to create life from alternative, but similar molecules) or just being made of completely different chemicals (though nucleic acid is currently the only known material that can assemble its identical copies). They will hardly need our technologies or precious metals (asteroids contain a lot of very rare metals like iridium, diamonds can be synthetised,...). What they may need may be workforce to help them build more spaceships and explore the space further beyond Earth. Fine, we have some exchange and may buy technologies for something. What will they give us now? Then can't give us a lot of stuff, the journey to Earth is most likely expensive because they don't visit very often. So they'll hardly sell us that matter-antimatter reactor, not only because that technology would most likely be available today if there was a way to create antimatter without using far more energy than the reactor would produce, but also because they would need that thing.

They would hardly sell us something. They would just teach us stuff. Like biological immortality (that is, life until you are killed), permanent immunity to bacteria, viruses, prions and larger parasites, reliable cancer cure... Like some deeper understanding of physics, fusion reactor, decent batteries, quantum computing, artificial intelligence... It would take us some time to understand these and fabricate machines to use them, so this would not be a dramatic effect on our economy... I think.

Think of past inventions and how did they ruin our society:
Firearms -> took centuries until they completely replaced swords and arrows
Telephone -> Letters still exist
TV -> Theatres still exist
Planes -> Ships still carry most cargo
Sarin -> firearms are still used
Nukes -> firearms are still used
Cure for leprosy and tuberculosis -> doctors just have more time to care about less severe problems
Computers -> computations are no longer done on papers, people working on calculating just became computer operators
Internet -> People still telephone and watch crappy reality shows in TV
Wolfram Alpha -> mathematicians still exist
Lightning guns -> firearms are still used
Videophone -> never ever used this feature, never seen anybody using this telephone of the future
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johndh
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Re: Extra Terrestiral Economics

Post by johndh »

Dugi wrote: The question is, would these much more technologically advanced aliens behave like that too? Why are humans so warlike? Because of evolution. If you are too peaceful, the war-lovers will conquer you.
In case this is something that interests you, here's a handy sci-fi reference for reasons for/against obliterating alien civilizations: http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/r ... lling_Star

Of particular interest are the following sections: The Killing Star, Blindsight, The Prisoner's Dilemma, Apes or Angels, and Technology Level.
It's spelled "definitely", not "definately". "Defiantly" is a different word entirely.
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Dugi
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Re: Extra Terrestiral Economics

Post by Dugi »

@johndh
Interesting.

Forces of destruction seen in the universe are terrible, the ability of planets to sustain life is diminutive compared to the destruction a cosmic impact can cause.If two sides on a similar technological level meet, they would most likely destroy each other if they wanted. It certainly isn't impossible with today's technological level to make a nuke that would kill everybody on a planet, hydrogen bombs just have to be large enough. Or to simply redirect an asteroid. But what would anybody gain from destroying a planet? Nothing, the planet after being destroyed like that is as useful as Mercury. They might just try to take over the planet instead of destroying it. If you send your nukes on their planet to stop them, they would reach the target in several years, that is too late to prevent them from taking your planet instead of the planet of yours they destroyed.

However, we're speaking here about an encounter where one race that is far more technologically advanced. If some aliens come to us in this century, we certainly won't be on the same technological level. They won't see the us, the weaker ones, as a potential threat, but rather like somebody who will gladly accept their protection (like mafia does). They won't give the weaker race any weapons, but they'll supply technologies they need for doing the stuff they're needed for (something like the time when USA built so many factories in China to get cheap working force).
Maybe they might not be able to protect themselves from the destructive force of our missiles, but they surely would be able to prevent the missiles from hitting their planet, like using some laser to destroy it or shooting some projectiles to change its direction. Or maybe create some plasma shield around their planet, these can deviate particles or even reflect radiation (Earth has such a shield naturally, btw, it protects us from most cosmic rays).

The Apes and Angels story brings a question how far can technology go. Can we really become some superior beings beyond the limitations of chemistry-based life? I don't think so. I think that the maximum that is reachable is some kind of bio-engineered cyborg whose mind is synced with some cloud server that will restore a backup when he is destroyed (or taking it to the extreme, the human being the cloud server giving hive mind to a group of cyborgs).
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Re: Extra Terrestiral Economics

Post by Midnight_Carnival »

tekelili wrote:in your hypothetical scenario my only conclusion is that energy would become and ultra cheap resource... and dont see why that should sink economic structure. Energy becomed suddenly cheaper in lot of human history moments and it more like "pushed" economic rather than sink it. Only industries in danger would be energy providers.
:lol: :lol: :lol:
I was using the matter-antimatter reactor for sand trade as an example of what an alien might think of as 'a fair deal' not as what I thought would be likely or even probable. The point I was trying to make was that our economy is based on a few people controlling things for us and deciding on the value of comodities. ET may not respect this, nor see the 'neccessity' of it (indeed many humans do not) -
also, they don't enve need to actively engage in trade with us to <comprimise> our whole system. Just meeting them and knowing that they might want to trade could do that. Think about it.
I have yet to read many writers (even respected published authors) consider how meeting extra-terrestrials would effect our global economy. As it is, we have three important things which drive our global economy: the false sense of limitless growth/limitless possibility, the idea of limited commodities and 'creating value' but controlling supply and demand and finally, that it is humans (as opposed to the seasons, God or aliens) controlling our economy, that it can be predictable, rational and controllable. While the existence of extra-terrestrials could provide a great deal more potential for growth, especially if the aliens we meet are connected to a pre-existing economic structure which encompasses many star-systems... but the reality of this is that it would directly challenge the other two principles on which our economy is founded: extra-terrestrials who agree to trade with us might not want to accept our 'price-fixing for the greater good' ideas; they are unlikely to have a system in place which is predictable, rational and controllable (to and by us) and may even be quite hostile towards out attempts to 'reform' their economy to make it more 'accessible' to humans. I see that in the event of any real, potential or imagined crisis, humans revert to their human 'self-interest' and try to turn many of their investments into physical security � concrete wealth, physical good instead of commodities which frequently do not exist, actual money. The problem being that there is more money in existence than printed and more property owned than actually available, this seems like a clever idea from the perspective of creating �limitless growth/limitless possibility�, but it is a fraudulent scam nonetheless. For this reason I can feel that an encounter, with an intelligent extra-terrestrial civilisation who engages in any form of trade, or is even open to the notion, would have one inevitable effect: the complete collapse of our global economy.
...apparenly we can't go with it or something.
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