Thursday, January 8, 2009

Postscarcity Spawns from Overwhelming Cognitive Surplus

As mentioned before, a message that Clay Shirky has been refining for years, is finally coming into full 1080p resolution.

Yes, American Industrial Capitalism succeeded beyond it's wildest dreams. So much so, that over half a century ago, we had to start scrambling to find ways to soak up the embarrassing abundance of productive human capacity in the system. This is the very foundation of the postscarcity scenario facing us today. It is our perceptions and our psychologies that are the ironic bottlenecks, even in the face of overwhelming raw cognitive abundance.

Today, western industrial manufacturing psychologies and methods have created such a super saturated surplus of goods, services, and Productive Human Attention and Cognition that we are finally being forced from the trees, so to speak, just as our ancestors were forced to do at that stage of evolution. The prospects set before us are of no less consequence.

On the one hand, this should become comforting, for we need not quibble over "whether or not" the postscarcity scenario "can" or "should" come to pass; it simply is what it is; it's an OUTCOME of eons of accrued prior actions. Of course, we obviously need to make some crucial adaptations to the bygone system which brought us this far.

More importantly, perhaps, we must overcome much of our own psychological and philosophical inertia; our very deep, DNA-programmed Emotional Attachment to Scarcity. For most of our biological evolutionary history, that programming was adaptive, it made sense; but we've recently become the somewhat unwitting victims of our own progressively accelerating success.

As in past human migrations, we as individual monkeys each have a variety of choices available to us as we make our best adaptive bets based upon whatever random slices of perception our environment and DNA lead us to believe are most rational.

Every single one of these bets is hopelessly subjective and imperfect. Nevertheless, every single one of us, every single day, places our full stack of Attention and Energy chips upon the table.

We are All In, All The Time, whether we realize it or not.

The message here is almost embarrassingly simple. There are a number of more and less likely and more and less desirable Postscarcity Scenarios; however, they are all the inevitable byproduct of ever increasing Cognitive and Attentional Surpluses; surpluses which will only continue to accelerate at an increasing rate as we Augment and Extend our cognitive capacities in ways only glancingly imagined by the past century of our best science fiction writers.

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