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Poor economics on front page?

Posted by RussNelson 
Re: Poor economics on front page?
April 30, 2008 10:57AM
I was just reading this article: [www.abcnews.go.com] According to the article, Maurice Bloch [www.lse.ac.uk] says that humans are unique because only our brains are wired to imagine things that don't physically exist. The article talks about this in terms of religion but it could also refer to any intangible concept: justice, rule of law, artistic merit, consumer confidence, monetary value.

I'm not sure I agree that this ability is necessarily unique to humans, though I will concede that we're particularly good at it. It's part of everyday life. I'm one of the most skeptical, grounded people I know and I don't think I could get through a day without believing in something that doesn't exist. What's worse is, I know these things don't exist and still willfully choose to believe in them anyway.

I use money all the time. I believe it has value even though I know it doesn't. I know it's just bits of paper or, more often, electronic representations of bits of paper. I know that it only has value if everyone believes it has value (Say quick that you believe. If you believe, clap your hands!). It takes teams of economists to maintain the illusion. I know all this and I still go to work to earn my paycheck (which only exists electronically now).
Re: Poor economics on front page?
April 30, 2008 11:34AM

This might give you the flavour of the problem


The dynamics are possible not what you might expect. It appears that the percentage loss per transaction is actually declining while the overall loss is climbing as the absolute volume of credit card transactions increases.
Re: Poor economics on front page?
April 30, 2008 02:46PM
I suggest a bit of rework: I suggest 'Redefine' vs. 'Bring-down'?
Re: Poor economics on front page?
May 01, 2008 09:29AM
I guess you have heard about the Ripple monetary system idea?

The basic idea is credit transactions enabled through trust and debts (up to some max amount) between individuals, and moving credit by finding a path of trust between the buyer and seller.

In any case, I think a trust based monetary system is not really directly related to RepRap.

Even if custom item production is approaching zero cost, there is still a lot of things to trade for: services, bulk produced products, raw materials, energy, etc. So I don't see any reason why RepRap would eliminate money.

What it will do though, is place physical object producers in a similar situation that internet and file sharing has placed information and content producers in - a need for a total transformation of the business models. Expect a lot of resistance to RepRap in the following ten years in the form of more repressive patent legislation, in the same style as the music and film industries current fight against illegal file sharing. The existing industry will try to redefine the legal framework to stop technical progress, even if it requires turning countries into repressive police states.

In the long run, technical progress has always won out so far though.
Interesting article from a few years ago on economists teaching monkeys to use money:


Short story, relatively low primates may understand the concept of money once it is taught to them by humans, and they appear to make decisions in ways very similar to their hairless bipedal relatives.

Evolutionarily, money appears to follow the agricultural revolution, and forms of it are found among modern stone-age tribes that had not yet developed a written language. Agriculture is where humankind made its great sharp break from being merely the cleverest monkey in the jungle, and it happened, in evolutionary terms, very late in the game, millions of years after the hominid line branches off from the great apes. So money might be relatively fundamental, but without agriculture, it serves no purpose.

To echo Adrian's comments, money turns labor into a non-perishable good: if you work today, rather than having to barter for what other people have to offer right this minute, you can retain that value to use at a time of your choosing. This, coincidentally, is why inflation is such a big deal--it makes money perishable, and thereby compromises the very purpose for having it in the first place.
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