Aristotle’s Frets: The human condition is a function of what machines cannot not do

Throughout human history, economic behavior has been largely defined by the notion of rival goods induced scarcity, which posits that resources are finite and individuals must compete for them. This concept has become so deeply ingrained in our collective mindset that it has become a persistent habit of the mind, creating an intellectual inertia that has proved difficult to overcome.

However, with the advent of non-rival goods, such as information and ideas, this paradigm is being challenged. Unlike rival goods, which are scarce and can only be used by one person at a time, non-rival goods can be shared freely and can be used by many people simultaneously without being diminished in value. This presents a new challenge for the traditional economic model, as it struggles to incorporate non-rival goods into its framework.

As a result, we have resorted to using intellectual property (IP) to create artificial scarcity, in order to fit non-rival goods into the existing model. This approach has its roots in the Industrial Revolution, when the concept of private property became a cornerstone of the economic system. The idea was that individuals should be able to own and control the resources they produce, in order to incentivize innovation and increase productivity.

However, the use of IP to create artificial scarcity for non-rival goods has led to unintended consequences, such as the monopolization of certain industries and the stifling of innovation. This is because IP laws often limit access to information and ideas, preventing individuals and businesses from building upon existing knowledge and creating new ideas.

A new paradigm is needed to fully incorporate non-rival goods into our economic system. This new paradigm must recognize the value of shared knowledge and ideas, and the importance of collaboration and cooperation. It must also be able to accommodate the inherent differences between rival and non-rival goods, and find ways to optimize their use in a way that benefits society as a whole.

Aristotle directly addressed the role of people in a hypothetical high-tech world: If every instrument could accomplish its own work, obeying or anticipating the will of others, without a hand to guide them, chief workmen would not want servants, nor masters slaves.

The human condition was in part a function of what machines could not do.

Throughout history, humans have grappled with the idea of machines and their relationship to the human condition. Aristotle, one of the most influential philosophers of all time, was no exception. In his work, he explored the notion that machines could not do certain things that were essential to the human condition, while also recognizing that there was a possibility that machines could do more. This led him to consider the synthesis of these ideas, and the potential impact it could have on humanity.

On one hand, Aristotle recognized that there were certain aspects of the human condition that were beyond the capabilities of machines. For example, machines could not experience emotions like humans could, nor could they possess the same level of creativity or intuition. Aristotle believed that these qualities were an essential part of what it meant to be human, and that they could not be replicated by machines.

However, Aristotle also recognized that there was a possibility that machines could do more than they currently could. He believed that if humans continued to innovate and develop new technologies, machines could eventually be capable of things that were currently unimaginable. This idea was revolutionary for its time, as it challenged the prevailing belief that machines could only ever be limited by their programming and design.

The synthesis of these two ideas was also a topic of interest for Aristotle. He believed that while there were certain aspects of the human condition that could never be replicated by machines, there was also a potential for machines to enhance certain aspects of human life. For example, machines could be used to automate mundane tasks, freeing up more time for humans to pursue creative endeavors. Additionally, machines could be used to extend the lifespan of humans, or to improve their physical and mental capabilities.

Overall, Aristotle’s exploration of the relationship between machines and the human condition was groundbreaking for its time, and continues to be relevant today. His recognition that machines could not replicate certain aspects of the human experience, while also acknowledging their potential for growth and innovation, laid the groundwork for future discussions on the topic. Ultimately, Aristotle’s synthesis of these ideas suggests that the relationship between machines and the human condition is not one of opposition, but rather one of possibility and potential.


Moore’s Law means that more and more things can be done practically for free, if only it weren’t for those people who want to be paid. People are the flies in Moore’s Law’s ointment. When machines get incredibly cheap to run, people seem correspondingly expensive. It used to be that printing presses were expensive, so paying newspaper reporters seemed like a natural expense to fill the pages.

When the news became free, that anyone would want to be paid at all started to seem unreasonable. Moore’s Law can make salaries – and social safety nets – seem like unjustifiable luxuries.

We’ve learned that the Internet is not like a Walmart. It can’t be locked up at night and therefore controlling the distribution of music has become virtually impossible. As economists know, distribution affects supply and demand, scarcity and finally pricing. When an industry loses its ability to control distribution, its pricing usually drops.

To understand the problem, recall that in previous times in history inventions of new things created high value occupations by automating or eliminating those of lower value. This led to a heuristic that those who fear invention of new things do so because of a failure to appreciate newer opportunities. Software, however is different

Musical recording was a mechanical process until it wasn’t, and became a network service. At one time, a factory stamped out musical discs and trucks delivered them to retail stores where salespeople sold them. While that system has not been entirely destroyed, it is certainly more common to simply receive music instantly over a network. There used to be a substantial middle- class population supported by the recording industry, but no more. The principal beneficiaries of the digital music business are the operators of network services that mostly give away the music in exchange for gathering data to improve those dossiers and software models of each person.


We’ve decided not to pay most people for performing the new roles that are valuable in relation to the latest technologies. Ordinary people “share,” while elite network presences generate unprecedented fortunes. Whether these elite new presences are consumer-facing services like Google, or more hidden operations like high-frequency-trading firms, is mostly a matter of semantics. In either case, the biggest and best-connected computers provide the settings in which information turns into money. Meanwhile, trinkets tossed into the crowd spread illusions and false hopes that the emerging information economy is benefiting the majority of those who provide the information that drives it. If information age accounting were complete and honest, as much information as possible would be valued in economic terms.

Making information free is survivable so long as only limited numbers of people are disenfranchised.

We can survive if we only destroy the middle classes of musicians, journalists, and film makers. What is not survivable is the additional destruction of the middle classes in transportation, manufacturing, energy, office work, education, and health care. And all that destruction will come surely enough if the dominant idea of an information economy isn’t improved.

The illusion that everything is getting so cheap that it is practically free sets up the political and economic conditions for cartels exploiting whatever isn’t quite that way. When music is free, wireless bills get expensive, insanely so. You have to look at the whole system. No matter how petty a flaw might be in a utopia, that flaw is where the full fury of power seeking will be focused.

An economy where we sell each other PDF’s or MP3’s is no more viable that the debt based on we have now. (Banks create money by issuing loans) And while yes, new jobs will be created they won’t be able to make up for the massive efficiency driven job losses.

This means a real good chance of a demand cascad High unemployment and very high underemployment may well result in a non functioning state. This means building new models for the distribution of necessary rival goods and as future persons are likely to have less to spend, new models to leverage smaller amounts will be needed.

It may well mean either the state takes the means of production to sustain itself (i.e seizes say a bitumen plant to keep roads) or simple hollows out in time. Throughout history governments have taken steps to, “counteract the danger that public goods will be underproduced.