Home / Zeitgeist - robots will fix everything  
Image of Zeitgeist - robots will fix everything

The folks at the Venus Project and the larger Zeitgeist movement think society has many problems, and they are concerned. Hard to disagree. When a doctor is trying to cure what ails you, he'll typically treat more than the symptoms. After all, there are fundamental reasons why your body is ill. To cure you, the doctors want to correct the fundamental reasons why you're sick.

The same is true with problems in society. To fix what ails it, you must address the fundamental problems. The Zeitgeist movement has a new video out describing what they see as the problems and proposing their solutions. Yes, there are flaws in the way society is organized and operates now. But does the Zeitgeist movement have the solutions? Is money really the root of all evil? Are markets really bad? Is it wrong to compete for people's resources based on what they value? Don't we have historical evidence that central planning always fails in the long-run, with starvation and death being the primary results? Would supercomputers doing the planning really make a difference?


Hi everybody. It's Stefan Molyneux from Freedomain Radio and this is a quick, brief review of Zeitgeist: Moving Forward, the video that was recently released on the internet. The diagnosis vs. the cure, I'm the host of Freedomain Radio the largest and most popular philosophy show on the web which you can find at freedomainradio.com.

So some stuff that I liked about Zeitgeist. I thought it was really, really good in some ways. I really liked the critical and principled approach to the existing system. A lot of the criticisms I massively share, which doesn't mean they're right, it just means that I happen to share them. The criticism of the bankers and the fiat currency system, the Federal Reserve, the slow enslavement of the tax cattle into endless debt obligation is wonderfully explicated and beautifully done. I've no issues with that as I didn't in the previous Zeitgeist films either.

I liked the idealization and passion, you know you often get criticized for being utopian if you propose improvements in the generalized socioeconomic human condition. They're not afraid to put their shiny forehead idealism front and center and for that I think there should be very much applauded. That's not an easy thing to do.

I liked the beginning of the film where they talked about the effects of child abuse on what is commonly called human nature to help people to understand that humans adapt to their environment, whether that environment is being plundered through banking and fiat currency or being bored and indoctrinated in government schools or being bullied and abused at school or at home. What results is not human nature but an adaptation to a particular environment which I thought was great.

And they had some of the same people that I've had on my show (Hi Gaby). So I thought it was really well done. The ridiculousness of GDP that you count in GDP things like the military industrial complex and health care and so on was very well explained. I thought that was great. This is of course a government measure and government controls so again to me it's just another example of how statism is ridiculous and immoral.

Evils of child abuse and its effects on the brain - fantastic. Couldn't get behind it more. The analysis of statist fiat currency predations... good, good, good. The parasitism of the financial sector in its current incarnation, we're shoveling money around and stealing homes from the poor is beautiful and so I really wanted to start off with the stuff that I thought was really well done and well reasoned and well argued.

Now... I thought could have been a tad improved. Look, this is something that's so common and has been detonated rationally and empirically so many times that it is a little bit wearying to see again and again and again, which is that somehow the voluntaryism of the free market, of people trading goods that they have built or own, voluntarily, without coercion, without fiat currency, without national debts, just trading either in-kind or through the medium of money, that this is a voluntary system. That is a voluntary system. The state control of counterfeiting currency is not voluntary. You try and setup a competing currency, they will throw your ass in jail. And so this conflation of violence with voluntaryism when they say "money is debt;" this is not accurate. This is not accurate.

A gold-based currency that's privately run is not debt. It's just a medium of exchange. Government fiat currency, government violent monopoly over currency is debt, but not money. Not money. Money has both private and public manifestations and the private manifestation of currency is not debt. Government money is debt. This is a big problem. It's like saying rape is sex and, therefore, we should get rid of sex. Saying money is debt; therefore, we should get rid of money is to conflate the violent monopoly of money "enjoyed by the state" with voluntary money systems that can be adopted or discarded at will without violence. So that's a problem.

Some economic problems that, I mean, you know, you know these guys haven't read their opposition and I always feel skeptical about people who make these kinds of claims. So when they say, well, there's one point in the film where they say "well if you were going to build a table, you would build it out of the best, conceivable materials to last the longest amount of time." But it's clearly not true. I mean it's not even close to true. What if you're building a table for a tree house that you know your kids are going to get bored in - bored of in 2 months. You make sure it's not dangerous and that's about it. The best possible materials... would you fly to get some mahogany from, I don't know, wherever mahogany comes from so that you could build the perfect table? No. You build it with the best materials that you can afford with the time and resources that you have available, but there are always compromises. Nothing is built perfectly because nobody lives forever.

So the idea that goods are built in order to be destroyed, that it's some sort of conspiracy - that they're going to build you stuff that's going to break one day after the warranty - economically speaking, that's not true. Consumers decide how long they want things to last. So some consumers want a cheap watch because they don't have a lot of money and they just need to tell the time. Some people want very expensive watches because, I don't know, they're status-driven ass clowns who need to know what time it is on Mars. I don't know. But it's consumers - if consumers want to pay more for things that last longer, which is generally what happens when you want things to last longer (they're more expensive), consumers will drive that. Anyway, we'll get to that next part later.

So, yeah, it's driven by the consumer. The idea that capitalism or the free market, voluntary trade, resists competition or the development of new products, I mean, you know, I was finding... it's really startling to me when people who are embarked upon criticizing an existing economic infrastructure or methodology don't look at what they're actually doing. First thing, if you want to figure out economics, look at what you're doing, first and foremost, and then you can sort of go into the theory after that, but start with the empiricism of you - baby - you.

So, innovation is resisted and you can't develop new things because the existing power structure doesn't want you to. Well, these guys are releasing their movie online. How do movie theaters feel about that? Well, they're bypassing all of that. Look at, do you think bookstores are really happy that the Kindle is out and that other forms of ebooks are out? Of course not. So the idea that innovation is sort of resisted... well, sure it is. I mean nobody likes innovation to come along and take away their economic advantage but it happens all the time. The only place it doesn't happen is where you have the government granting a public or private monopoly - through unions, through patents, through other forms of regulations, by raising the barrier to entry, through taxes and tariffs, and trade restrictions of every kind. But that's not the free market, right? That's the state.

And they have this bit in there where they bring up Mises, as if Mises would somehow be in support - von Mises - would somehow be in support of the existing system of fiat currency. Mises was the virulent, magnificent, moral hero when it came to opposing fiat currency and state control. From the 1920s when he wrote his books against socialism, the man was a titan. He was a hero for this kind of stuff. So to bring him into a film as if he's tacitly supporting the existing system of government fiat currency - I mean - irresponsibility isn't even the word for it. It's simply means that they've not read anything that he's written and this kind of mischaracterization of easily available viewpoints - you know, spend 10 minutes on the phone with an Austrian economist - it's a 1-900 number that's the worst phone sex you'll ever have. But you will learn something about von Mises's theories.

The experts, the experts, the experts. OK, so this is a - I mean - the child abuse stuff was different but as far as the economics go, I mean it's just a dull parade of bookish academics spouting Marxist cliché after Marxist cliché. I mean I spent 15 years as an entrepreneur in the cutting-edge of the free market, as a software entrepreneur. And so I actually have created jobs, I've actually been out there working in the free market. And so when people who have never had a real job - academics with tenure and they can't get fired, competition is incredibly limited through government dictates, when people who have never worked a day in their life as professionals in the free market, who've never created jobs, get on the screen and drone on and on to me about how the free market works, it's - I mean it's just kind of silly.

They've got an entire film about wealth creation and the free market and they don't have anybody who's ever created wealth in the free market on it. I mean to me it's like having a show that's all about the black experience narrated entirely by white guys. It's like - you know, dude, if you're going to do a film about the black experience, invite a few brothers on the panel, that's all I'm saying. If you're going to do a film about what it's like to be gay, maybe have one or two gay people talking about the actual experience of what it's like rather than people who've just read about it. I'm just saying. Get an entrepreneur or two because what entrepreneurs will tell you is that the government inhibits growth... regulations and controls and all of that. So, barriers to creating jobs is regulations and taxation, barriers to expansion, and so on. They'll all tell you about, at least almost all of them will.

So I just see another academic, another academic, the lining books and all that kind of stuff and also planned obsolescence. You know, it's funny you talk about consumer goods are designed to fall apart. That's like, can you turn around? There's a whole bookshelf behind you of books that will last probably 100 years or more. Anyway, this is... I get tired of the theoreticians. I'd really just rather talk to people who've actually been in the free market and learned through experience and reality rather books and theories written by other people, you know, like Marx and Engels - two rich, young white kids who never worked a day in their lives talking all about the experiences of the working class. I mean, it's just silly. Anyway, so we talked about that.

Resource-based economy, I mean, of course, it is Marxism with robots. It's Marxism with robots. Central planning will never, ever work. Central planning will never, ever, ever, ever work and I will take an argument from a central planner if that central planner or those who advocate for it have effectively dealt with a number of very powerful criticisms of central planning. If they ignore them., then I just assume they're full of crap.

Basis of economics - resources are finite but desires are infinite. So how are you going to allocate resources in order to get the greatest efficiency if that's what people want to do? Well, without prices, you can't allocate resources efficiently. I mean, you can say "well, a thousand widgets are better than 500 widgets." But you don't know if a thousand widgets are better than a thousand pieces of paper or a printer or a toupee or a children's toy or anything like that. You simply can't compare different investments in capital, different forms of labor, different allocations of capital, you can't do it without prices because prices signal the true empirical, acted-upon demand of the consumer. Central planning can't push that stuff out. It is a pull economy - that's how you know what is worthwhile, what is valuable, what is the best use of resources to satisfy human needs. So without prices you can't do it. You can't do it.

Money, like if you have - I don't know - $10,000 in the bank and every dollar you spend on something is a dollar you don't spend on everything else. So the fact that resources are scarce must be mirrored by money because money is scarce for people and that mirrors it so you have to make rational decisions knowing that everything you buy is everything else you're not going to buy. That's how we know what people actually want. That's how we know resources are most efficiently allocated.

Yea, there are problems with things like scarcity, of course. Right, I mean there are things - problems like peak oil, there are problems like environmentally-friendly disposal mechanisms. I mean peak oil is all run by the government. The waste disposal is all run by the government. You know, these things are all run by the government so saying that this is a problem inherent in the free market when the government has taken over all of these things... I mean imagine a world where the price of oil wasn't set by OPEC or by wars in the Middle East or by other forms of bribery and threats from the government, or a series of governments. Imagine if it was open to the free market. It would be a whole different kind of world. Imagine a world where roads had been built by the free market rather than by the government. It would be a whole different world.

Anyway, you understand, right? So the calculation problem... if you think about your day and, again, when it comes to big abstracts like economics and world resources, start thinking about your day. Don't go read books and think you've learned anything. Every day you make decisions, hundreds of decisions about resource allocation and what you're going to do with your time, what you're going to do with your money, and whether you're going to invest or whether you're going to save or whether you're going to spend or whether you're going to defer purchases or whether you're going to wait until things get cheaper or whatever, right? You make literally hundreds of decisions every day and each one of your decisions affects hundreds of other decisions of the person next to you, and this multiplication over 6 billion or 7 billion or 8 billion or 10 billion people, or however much we're going to end up with, is individual decisions multiplied hundreds and thousands and trillions and billions of time every single day. And each one of those decisions has ripple effects on everybody else... at least a large number of other people's decisions.

There's no conceivable way that a computer can simulate the unknown choice-preferences of billions of individuals allocating their own scarce resources to maximize their happiness in the long-run. You can't do it. You can't do it. There's no conceivable way that you can do it because no computer can be psychic. So because of this, you're going to end up with someone saying "here's how the resources should be allocated. It's going to be arbitrary. Even if it's programmed into computers, somebody's got to put the parameters in, somebody's got to put the scale of preferences in, and having people fill out forms is not the same because, if you fill out a form, you're not dealing with your own scarce resource called money. Right?

So you fill out a form and take everything, right? People will say "No you have to choose some things." But money already does that. Money and prices, as long as they're not enforced through coercion, as long as there's competition in money, and so on. Fantastic. You can't overcome barter, right? So in these donut cities of paradise, I've got a lawn mower, my neighbor has an iPad... well, let's just say we lean over and say "let's trade them." I mean I don't want to go and send mine back to the store and you have to go and fill out a form and get it from someone hoping that nobody else wants before you. We'll just trade it. And as soon as you have that kind of trade occurring, which is inevitable because it's so efficient, then you're going to have money developing, even if it's orange peels, even if it's bits of salt, even if its - you know - even if it's - I don't know - the eyeballs of your worst enemy. There's going to be something that you're going to use in trade. And that can't be overcome. So what are you going to do when people start doing that? Well... these kinds of questions are never answered.

So let's keep it... let's keep it quick. So there's this bit in the movie where - you know - it's vaguely funny. It's sort of creative where people start saying "Ah, this is Marxism. This is Communism. This is Socialism. My father died to fight this kind of stuff," and so on. And they just make a few jokes like "Oh, the narrator died," and blah blah blah. And then they pretended it doesn't exist. Well, that's not an intellectual rebuttal to central planning, to the elimination of money, to the elimination of class, to the elimination of the stock market, of investment. These are all Marxist ideas. So, if you're not Marxist, tell me how you're different. Don't just say "well, I mean - it's just silly. I don't like Marxism." Well, that's not an answer. You just know... that just tells me you know Marxism is unpopular.

Venus Project criticisms... laborers are exploited. Technology steals jobs. Technology does not steal jobs. I mean if you... you could get full employment, you can get full employment in the world tomorrow just by eliminating farm machinery and have everyone go back to raising... growing all the crops by hand. You know, at the turn of the century in America, last century, 70-80% of the people were involved in farming. Now it's 2 or 3%. You could get back to 70% - just get rid of all of your farm machinery. Do we really think that would be step forward, or would we understand that's a massive step back? Technology doesn't steal jobs. Technology creates wealth. It does shift people... when technology replaces someone's job, that person has to go and retrain and that's a net-negative for them in the short-run, for sure. But if it's allowed in the free market, technology creates jobs. We know that it does that because people invest in it and the technology which succeeds is economically more efficient than either the labor that came before it, or the technology would fail. It's inevitable - if it succeeds, it's been more efficient. So...

Religion is bad. Money and lending and usury are bad. And, you know, most fundamentally, human nature is defined though economics. And violence and dysfunction arises out of class conflict and, as the film talks about, income disparity. Well, you know, that's a testable hypothesis, and they seem to be very keen on science, so fantastic. If you think that it is income disparity that causes problems, then you have the significant problem explaining why mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, eating disorders and disassociation, why they're so prevalent among the rich. If people who are wealthy are mentally healthier, then how is it that the wealthiest people in the world - i.e., the recipients of everybody, like all the recipients of the bailout money and the people who created all of these monstrous soul-sucking, eyeball-sucking financial instruments that pillage the general public, they were all incredibly wealthy and incredibly well-educated, and complete sociopaths. So money does not breed mental health. And there are plenty of studies which show that, as wealth increases in a company - in a country, mental problems increase. Now they'll say it's because of a lack of equality but, even if you look at a particular class which only mingles with itself - it's mostly equal - there... most of them are pretty damn miserable. So it's a bit of a problem and, again, you know, look at the counter-evidence, present the counter-evidence, and then tell us how it's wrong. But don't just pretend it doesn't exist. It's not very honest.

And, of course, the solution is the elimination of the free market, money of any kind, prices, wages, jobs, but with robots as the new proletariat. Well, this is straight out of Marxism.

OK, look - I mean I've got criticisms but, so what? Who cares, right? Well, the only reason it's important is, you know, they're very keen in the movie as saying "well, science is great because you've got competing hypothesis and there's no ego involved and you keep experimenting with things to find the best answer, and so on. Fantastic. Look, if you want to go live in the Zeitgeist floating cloud city of the gods and beg your computerized HAL for your morning bowl of porridge, fantastic. Go for it. I think it's a fantastic experiment. I would love to see what happens. I think, let's have that in the world of the future. Once we get rid of the government, once we get rid of the coercive control and profiting from fiat currency and national debts and all of these other horrible, enslaving mechanisms. Fantastic. You know, if you want to tax your super computer for your new shoes. Great. You want to give up money? Fantastic. You don't want a stock exchange in your city? Beautiful. No problem. According to all that rational laws of economics, it's going to be a complete disaster. But - hey - I'm not a guy to stand between a dreamer and his dreams, or any group of dreamers and their dreams. So - hey - if you, in a free society of the future, you don't want to use money, you want to subject your economic life to a personal computer or a massive supercomputer and whoever programs it, I don't want to - I mean I would never do that in a million years. I'd fight like crazy to avoid that kind of future. But if you want to do it, fantastic. I'm not going to use any force to stop you. If you don't want to use money, no problem. Go for it. I really want to see what happens. I really, really do. I'd love nothing more than to be proven wrong in this area. But I do want to use money. I do want to trade. I do want to barter. And I will never use force against those who wish to abandon money. But I damn-well expect the same civility in return.

Zeitgeist: Moving Forward - The Freedomain Radio Review


Original posting by Braincrave Second Life staff on Feb 10, 2011 at http://www.braincrave.com/viewblog.php?id=463

You need to be logged in to comment.
search only within braincrave

About braincrave


We all admire beauty, but the mind ultimately must be stimulated for maximum arousal. Longevity in relationships cannot occur without a meeting of the minds. And that is what Braincrave is: a dating venue where minds meet. Learn about the thoughts of your potential match on deeper topics... topics that spawn your own insights around what you think, the choices you make, and the actions you take.

We are a community of men and women who seek beauty and stimulation through our minds. We find ideas, education, and self-improvement sexy. We think intelligence is hot. But Braincrave is more than brains and I.Q. alone. We are curious. We have common sense. We value and offer wisdom. We experiment. We have great imaginations. We devour literacy. We are intellectually honest. We support and encourage each other to be better.

You might be lonely but you aren't alone.

Sep, 2017 update: Although Braincrave resulted in two confirmed marriages, the venture didn't meet financial targets. Rather than updating our outdated code base, we've removed all previous dating profiles and retained the articles that continue to generate interest. Moving to valME.io's platform supports dating profiles (which you are welcome to post) but won't allow typical date-matching functionality (e.g., location proximity, attribute similarity).

The Braincrave.com discussion group on Second Life was a twice-daily intellectual group discussions typically held at 12:00 PM SLT (PST) and 7:00 PM SLT. The discussions took place in Second Life group chat but are no longer formally scheduled or managed. The daily articles were used to encourage the discussions.

Latest Activity