the cosmic calculation problem

this is a great primer on the (economic) calculation problem, in its lineage from Mises to Carson, via Hayek and Rothbard.

the calculation problem revolves around the problem of how to distribute scarce resources between different productive endeavors (consumption can be bracketed as per Say’s law). if there wasn’t any scarcity, communism would be perfectly doable: waste wouldn’t be a problem, so poor distribution wouldn’t matter at all.

scarcity, of course, can never be abolished. not by fiat, but also not by mega-production (even if it’s perfectly balanced). scarcity will be here with us because time is always already running out.

there is the second law of thermodynamics. in this closed system we call the universe, entropy always goes up. which means anything of value – air, water, planetary surface, metals, life, concentrated solar energy, solar energy itself, etc – will eventually be dissipated into a heat death.

unless you manage to send energy – without any loss – back in time (closing a loop of infinite wealth), efficiency will always be a problem to be solved. the calculation problem will keep haunting even the most shining programs of “post-scarcity commune”.

of course, entropy is the one problem of the universe. if it isn’t solved, it dies. the palliative solution so far has been indefinitely postponing. which is achieved through entropy dissipation, the bright name for “letting the unfit die off”. thus value is created, ever more locally.

but at some point, if something else isn’t found, heat death will reach even the highest of extropy towers.

need. more. time.


3 thoughts on “the cosmic calculation problem

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