How Technology Will Change Our Entire Concept of Value

Technology has a scarcity-liberating capability.  It takes that which is scarce and can make it abundant.

How Technology Will Change Our Entire Concept of Value

Well so if technology were to get rid of scarcity different things become valuable.  To use an example, my book Abundance is wrapped in aluminum and it’s wrapped in aluminum because I open the story of the book with the story of aluminum and it turned out in the 1840s there was this tale of the king of Siam coming to dinner at Napoleon’s palace and during this state dinner all of the troops that were working the dinner were fed with silver utensils and Napoleon and his court were fed with gold utensils, but the king of Siam, the visiting dignitary was fed with aluminum utensils because aluminum back then was the most rare of metals.  You don’t find pure aluminum occurring in the earth.  It’s all bound by oxygen and silicates and it’s called bauxite and it’s so difficult to extract the aluminum out of bauxite that it took a huge amount of effort and energy and it was extraordinarily rare.


So that’s why back in the 1840s aluminum was worth more than gold or platinum and then a technology electrolysis came along invented by both an American and a Frenchman around the same time that allowed you to use electricity to extract the aluminum and now aluminum is so cheap we literally think of it with throwaway mentality, right, aluminum cans, aluminum foil.  You don’t care about it.  And so technology has a scarcity liberating capability.  It takes that which is scarce and can make it abundant.  There are a multitude of examples.  One example I love using is that energy on earth we use 16 terawatts as a species and people think about energy scarcity.  Well there is plenty of energy.  In fact on the earth’s surface we have 6,000 times more solar energy that hits us in a year than we consume.  It’s just not available for us to be able to utilize it.  The 16 terawatts that the human race uses falls on earth in 88 minutes.

Now if we have more efficient solar and more solar we’ll be able to actually convert that to electricity and really give us energy abundance.  So that’s just one example.  The same holds true with water and metals and minerals and many of these things.  So yes, if we go from an economy that is scarcity based to one that’s abundance based we’re going to have to change our mindset somewhat.  It may be that ideas become more important than material things.  It may become that art becomes more important or the adventure of finding new information.  You know if you think about what Gene Rodenberry created in the Star Trek universe when you had literally the ability to synthesize anything you wanted in the replicator material things had little value at the end and I think we are heading in that direction.

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Why the number 137 is one of the greatest mysteries in physics

Famous physicists like Richard Feynman think 137 holds the answers to the Universe.

Pixabay
Surprising Science
  • The fine structure constant has mystified scientists since the 1800s.
  • The number 1/137 might hold the clues to the Grand Unified Theory.
  • Relativity, electromagnetism and quantum mechanics are unified by the number.
Keep reading Show less

Americans under 40 want major reforms, expanded Supreme Court

Younger Americans support expanding the Supreme Court and serious political reforms, says new poll.

Demonstrators In Louisville calling for justice for Breonna Taylor.

Credit: Jon Cherry/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Americans under 40 largely favor major political reforms, finds a new survey.
  • The poll revealed that most would want to expand the Supreme Court, impose terms limits, and make it easier to vote.
  • Millennials are more liberal and reform-centered than Generation Z.
Keep reading Show less

Can fake news help you remember real facts better?

A 2020 study published in the journal of Psychological Science explores the idea that fake news can actually help you remember real facts better.

Credit: Rawpixel.com on Shutterstock
Mind & Brain
  • In 2019, researchers at Stanford Engineering analyzed the spread of fake news as if it were a strain of Ebola. They adapted a model for understanding diseases that can infect a person more than once to better understand how fake news spreads and gains traction.
  • A new study published in 2020 explores the idea that fake news can actually help you remember real facts better.
  • "These findings demonstrate one situation in which misinformation reminders can diminish the negative effects of fake-news exposure in the short term," researchers on the project explained.
Keep reading Show less
Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast