[FoRK] Infoconomy, was: Re: Making robotics a priority

Stephen Williams sdw at lig.net
Thu Jul 14 00:29:53 PDT 2011

On 7/13/11 8:04 PM, Ken Ganshirt @ Yahoo wrote:
> --- On Wed, 7/13/11, Stephen Williams<sdw at lig.net>  wrote:
>> Of (info) bits.  And electrons.  And, indirectly
>> through food, sunlight.  Mostly, and more and more.
>> An economy based mainly on consumption of information would
>> be ideal from a planetary carrying capacity point of view,
>> don't you think?
>> ...
>>>     ...   And I see
>>> nothing in technology that will change the fact that a
>>> consumption-based economy has a distinct endpoint when it is
>>> faced with a finite quantity of things to consume.
>> Information consumption can easily approach infinite
>> bandwidth in human terms.  We're unlikely to run out
>> soon.
> Say it often enough and eventually someone who hears you will believe that we are in some sort of "information consuming economy". Or, at least, that we're headed for one.

After a place to live, energy to run it, and food, what do people spend money on?
Transportation is still big, but the first thing to go in an infoconomy (IC).  Already we do a lot remotely in various senses.
Cell phone service? IC.  Internet? IC.  Music? IC.  Books, movies, games, TV?  IC.  Financial (banking, trading)? IC.  Insurance, 
education (more and more)? IC.

Health?  Not IC enough, but significantly.

Besides a place to live w/ furnishings and transportation, plenty still spend a lot on clothes, travel, eating/drinking out.
What will or would change that would look more IC?
Seems like: Key goods would continue to drop drastically in price: clothes themselves (already happened a lot), but maybe not 
design/customization; furnishings (furniture, kitchen/etc. gadgets, but not design), electronic gadgets (but not all design, 
software, media), etc.  Robotics will build, deliver, pick up, and recycle the physical bits and be essentially at the noise cost 
level.  It will be the design, innovation, and customization infoconomy that will cost significantly.

Most physical bits will likely become commodities, which means the minimum cost to survive will drop significantly.
Even things with significant material could effectively have near zero costs if recycling / reuse was optimized.  For instance, 
upgrading your iPhone or MacBook could be far less expensive if the chassis, screen, etc. were reused and only the guts were 
upgraded as needed, and recycled.  Perhaps reused by long-life embedded control or sensor use.  Same thing with vehicles, ships, etc.

> The former is so far from the current reality that it's laughable.  The latter might happen but not in a timeframe that I'm interested in (my timeframe of primary interest extends at least to the lifetimes of my grandchildren who are 7 and 2).
> By the way, your contention that information consumption can easily approach infinite bandwidth is a crock.  In order for it to be true it must make the assumption that it can occur without the consumption of real resources and real energy.

"infinite bandwidth in human terms", which is not all that much bandwidth, per person.

> In rebutting someone else's similar comment, an IT pundit recently did a guesstimate of the resource and energy costs to run Google to illustrate the absurdity of the comment.  Regardless of the efficiencies Google has managed to achieve, the consumption rate of all the materials and energy required just to build, operate and maintain the information services of a single Google Corp is quite significant.

And yet, to nearly all users, it's free or close enough to it.

> Your "information consuming economy" is still totally dependent upon significant consumption of Real Stuff.

Significant, but not dominating.  Not rent money.  Not clothing, transportation, food, or even entertainment.  In terms of cost of 
delivery.  An "information consuming economy" is paying for some of that information in some way.  People will pay for people to do 
stuff, but less stupid/keep-busy/ai-robot-coulda-done-that stuff and more make-yourself-useful stuff.

> If you have envisioned some way to gather, store, share and consume bits at low or no resource and energy cost, I'm sure that would make for a very interesting thread.  But be sure to classify it appropriately: Speculative Fiction.  ;-)

Bits are already cheap and plentiful enough to get us there.  Need better wireless, but it's not far and the funding block has 
dissolved.  But you don't need that many to have an infoconomy.  Already we deliver HD movies via typical Internet connections.  
There are free videos to teach plenty.  Free video conferencing.  Etc.  Bandwidth is not holding back the infoconomy too much now.

Here's another part of my WH Advise the Advisers submission, with elaboration:
Push for better Internet and robotics to enable high-quality bodypresence avatars.  First, go after dangerous situations, disaster 
relief, firefighting, fixing up nuclear reactors.  Then go for physical labor (building, logging) and factory work.  Train people, 
who could be anywhere, then drop a thousand semi-autonomous units at a time in a disaster area any place on the planet.  Use missile 
delivery systems (ICBRs) to use them up perhaps or more leisurely Global Hawk-ish Global Swarm.  Send a zillion mini-scouts, then 
smart-bomb-guide in the heavy lifters to where they're needed to dig people out.

How is this related to an infoconomy vs. "consuming based"?  What does that kind of information flow and AI/robotics do to the 
equation?  You've got to have some cool infrastructure and hardware, but you've just eliminated huge amounts of human 
transportation, living area, security, etc.  it's all unnecessary overhead.  To the humans powering it, it's mostly just information 
flowing in and out of their homes.  Is bodypresence avatar work information or physical labor?  What about when it is more and more 

As a whole, and in some of the details, still science fiction.  But huge, hard chunks are already working.  Filling in the gaps is 
far less daunting than it used to be.

>           ...ken...


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