Podcast

114 – Depicting Post-Scarcity Societies

The Mythcreant Podcast

This week we address a listener question: How do you depict post-scarcity societies? This is hard since there haven’t ever been any post-scarcity societies to use as examples, but we’ve never let that stop us. Chris raises deep questions about what government and private property would look like in such a society. Wes dissects the implications of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Oren can’t stop saying “post-apocalyptic” when he means “post-scarcity.”

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Opening and closing theme: The Princess Who Saved Herself by Jonathan Coulton. Used with permission.

Show Notes:

Star Trek and Replicators

Brave New World

The implications of house elves in Harry Potter

Find out about the iEverything in Robert Reich’s Saving Capitalism

The Giver

Jupiter Ascending

The Player of Games

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Fallout Bottlecaps and why they make no sense

The origins of Justice Bot 5000

Dinotopia

Oren was totally wrong, corporations are not legally required to maximize profits, though they often act that way. That’s why it’s important to check your sources!

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Comments

  1. Bryony

    I think a slice of life story in post scarcity would be fun, things like friendships would have a new dynamic. Things like not meeting your friends because you have work would be really offensive because it’s hrder to explain to them.

    I like the idea of someone really wanting a job to make them feel useful, not being intelligent enough to start their own business and people just not needing them so never getting employed.

  2. C. R. Rowenson

    I’m really glad that Wes mentioned the Hierarchy of Needs; certain aspects (especially the top two tiers) won’t ever be truly solved for everyone. You could even use the desire to find love, acceptance, or fulfillment to create more traditional story arcs. Crimes of passion, for example, will still exist and external forces in the universe can always act to threaten safety.

    What do you guys think? Could you make the need to be accepted a strong enough motive for a novel?

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      Yeah, it can certainly be done, although there’s a bit of catch 22 that’s difficult to navigate. Basically, if the protag’s lack of acceptance isn’t strong enough, it wouldn’t carry the story. Like, if they haven’t been allowed into the Chess Club, that won’t work as the central conflict.

      On the other hand, if the lack of acceptance is too strong, the audience won’t have any investment in them being accepted by such jerks. Like if the protag is rejected from their highschool social groups because the other students are racist. Readers will rightly think those other students are jerks and not want the protag to spend time trying to impress them.

      • Chris Winkle

        Yeah, I think a quest to find companions that will accept the protagonist would be easier to implement.

      • C. R. Rowenson

        That’s a really good point. I was thinking along the lines of the Divergent series, but Post-Scarcity rather than Post-apocalyptic. Different groups of people trying to get different things out of life and the character must find where they want to belong.

        It also seems to me that emotion would become a major driver. So, in theory, couldn’t a romance plot exist in a post-scarcity scenario without much effect on the plot? Or am I missing something?

        • Oren Ashkenazi

          The trick with romances is that most good romance stories have some other conflict that drives the plot, because the romance itself isn’t enough. This is one of many reasons 50 Shades of Gray is bad, because it has no conflict other than the romance, and that’s just not enough to keep the story interesting for a lot of people.

          Compare that to, say, Legend by Maire Lu, which has a romance against the backdrop of a rebelling against an oppressive government. That romance is much more interesting because it’s not trying to carry the story alone.

          In a post scarcity, it’s just harder to find a compelling secondary conflict to back up your romance.

  3. John

    Have you come across the (rare and Out of print) RPG Freemarket? It’s a fascinating game in which players try to thrive in a post scarcity society in which a reputation-based economy awards players with power to get things done in the form of Smilies or punishes players with Frownies.

    Hilarious and well-written game with some unique mechanics. Get a copy if you can.

    Also, Michael Moorcock’s ‘Dancers at the end of Time’ books depict a society battling boredom at the end of time, when any citizen can create whatever they can imagine at will, passing the time by inventing adventures and entertainments for each other. Worth checking out.

    Thanks for the podcast, fascinating stuff.

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