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I was reading something scary the other day. Obviously it was from an economist. He said the real problems haven't started yet. Wait until the Baby Boomers start retiring. Their nest eggs are tiny and there won't be enough Social Security and health care money in the universe to keep everyone in cat food and diapers.

I'm an optimist so I think society will find a way to adapt. But I wonder what that will look like? It might be an improvement.

For one thing, I think you'll see more sharing. The Internet can make it easy to know where you can find resources to borrow. The most obvious example is carpooling. But it could get down to who has food in the fridge that will go bad because someone will be out of town for a week. Or maybe it becomes easy to find a reliable grandma who will babysit for free if you agree to feed her cat next Tuesday. The market for sharing is totally untapped.

I just bought two tickets to a show, for an upcoming trip. I'm sure I will like the show. But I won't like it more than watching a good TV show with family or friends while eating popcorn and sitting on the couch. It's just different. Most luxury expenses are entirely unnecessary in terms of happiness.

I eat a lot of meals out, but it's mostly for convenience. After most restaurants go out of business, which should happen in the next five years, people might start cooking group meals. It makes a lot more sense for your family to make a big pot of mashed potatoes and meet the neighbors for a group buffet. That's relatively little work for each family, and relatively cheap. Again all you need is the Internet to help you organize that sort of thing. Plus you need a good dose of poverty to eliminate the alternatives.

The new poverty is likely to be different from anything that came before. Imagine a world where even the poor have good Internet access and universal healthcare. If you were healthy and could use the Internet to find everything else you needed, from borrowing a tool to organizing a Scrabble game, you'd be pretty much set.

The other way the future could go is that out of economic necessity the government will approve some sort of feel-good pill that makes your external situation less important. You won't mind sharing a one-room apartment with 20 people if they are all on the same pill. And you won't require much in terms of entertainment. So long as the pill is cheap, which it could be if the government declares it so, then people won't need much to be happily retired. The pill could be outlawed for anyone under 65, just so the wheels don't completely fall off the economic engine.

It would be impossible for the government to approve a pill that simply made you feel good. Society frowns on that sort of thing. But imagine the inventors of the pill being smart about how they describe the pill's impact. Instead of saying it makes you happy they could say it makes you less fussy. You won't mind eating that cat food instead of steak because you're suddenly less fussy when medicated. Even the most religious person would agree that living like a monk can be a good thing. Fussiness is the influence of the devil. The government would surely approve an anti-Satan pill.

Which way do you think it will go: more sharing or more medication?
 
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Dec 11, 2008
More sharing of more medication.
This is America, where we have to HAVE IT ALL!
 
 
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Dec 11, 2008
You're right about necessity being the motivator. During the Ice Storm (yes, it was so bad it has capitals!) there were many homes without power for two-three weeks and more. In the country, that means no water either, since we're on wells that rely on electricity to run the pump.
Neighbours responded selflessly, for the most part--the guy who runs the mobile wash business (bless his soul) used his gas-powered water pump to pump out flooded basements, and never charged a dime. Those of us who had transportation (no power at the gas pumps or ATMs, no phone lines up for credit authorizations either!) picked up candles and fondue fuel for others. People with freezers full of food shared rather than watch it go bad. Quite heart-warming, really.
Maybe the economic crisis has an upside after all.
 
 
Dec 11, 2008
I concur with bobman1235: Your basic premise echoes Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" - which was written in the early 1930's and set in the 2500's. I don't think the baby boomers will make it til then, but the underlying idea still holds. As for the sharing idea, the earlier comments about Craigslist were right on. The future is here!
 
 
Dec 10, 2008
This is ridiculous (as perhaps the point). It's not as if people haven't been poor in the past (the Depression) or in other countries. I don't think you need to look far to see how they lived/live. Looking outside the ivory tower now and again is a good thing...
 
 
Dec 10, 2008
I read todays post and immediatly thought I had a unique view. I was thinking "Gee but wouldn't a pill that makes you less fussy, also make you more willing to share?"

Then I conluded I must share my Genius with world, and went through the trouble of making an actual account, logging in and reading previous post. Then I saw I was the number 10 "inDUHvidual" who made the same conclusion.
Now I am very much depressed becc
 
 
Dec 10, 2008
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Futurological_congress
 
 
Dec 10, 2008
What scares me is how many people view Social Security as their retirement plan. It was never meant for that, it has never been able to be that, and yet so many people count on it to support them.

As for the happy pill....I am an overseas American businessman who runs four companies in the Middle East (yikes, is that a missile flying overhead? Just Kidding :)). Time and time again I meet with my staff and find that they are living 6, 8, even 14 to a small apartment....and they are happy, they are content, they are pleased. Why? Because they have accepted their current status. Oh, sure, they want more (and I aim to give them more) but they are willing to sacrifice today for their future. They don't try to keep up with the Jones', they just try to live within their means, and this usually means sending 80 or 90% of their salary home very month.

I'd love to go back to simpler days but I know my "over the top" Type A personality wouldn't allow anything to be simple. But I know that is where we should all be, in a much simpler place. If we didn't all need the latest gadgets (guilty) or the latest car (not guilty) or even the latest clothes (not guilty!) then we wouldn't have this horrific debt hanging over us. Here's a simple test...ask your friends how many credit cards they have. This easy credit and the drive to have it all (Gen X?) have put us where we are today.

I need to find a solution.....Damn! What was the name of that island Robinsoe Crusoe was on?

SJ
Taming the Sands of Time
 
 
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Dec 10, 2008
Hey RavenBlack have you tried www.isc.ro for your online scrabbling?

Scott, you mention everyone having access to healthcare...... who's paying for it? perhaps you need to extend sharing to body parts and organs as well!!!!
 
 
Dec 10, 2008
Ahh, I wondered how the censorship thingy worked on the site - it merely checks for the presence of text from a list irrespective of that text being part of another word. Hence e.n.t.i.t.i.e.s. being a banned word (test !$%*!$%*! t-i-t presumably being 'on the list'.

Shouldn't you get your web guys to introduce a bit more subtlety to their algorithm Scott? Or how will I ever tell you about my day trip to S.c.u.n.t.h.o.r.p.e.? (test !$%*!$%*!$%
 
 
Dec 10, 2008
what about more sharing of medication !!!
 
 
Dec 10, 2008
How about regaining perfect sight without glasses? Google "Bates method" and let us know your stand in a separate blog post.

[P.S.This was intended as a comment to Google is my doctor post, but the links for viewing comments and posting comments don't work]
 
 
Dec 9, 2008
Some of the scenarios described in this post brought to mind the sci-fi classic 'The THree Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch' by Philip K DIck
 
 
Dec 9, 2008
<i>all you need is the Internet to help you organize that sort of thing. </i>

Uh Scott. Cultural awareness time: many cultures have done this in the past, long before the internet was a gleam in some geek's eye. Even subcultures in the US. You don't need the internet, you just need motivation.
 
 
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Dec 9, 2008
I vote that actually the government will turn boomers into Soylent Green, and as one whose job was just outsourced to the People's Imperial Glorious Republic Of Elbonia (aka PIGROE), I hope that I am tasty and your dining experience is as pleasant as the fluttering of cherry blossoms on a spring day.
 
 
Dec 9, 2008
hey, go to iTunes and select best of 2008, look at podcast, there is dilbert ^ ^
 
 
Dec 9, 2008
hey, go to iTunes and select best of 2008, look at podcast, there is dilbert ^ ^
 
 
Dec 9, 2008
Mexico, China and India will outsource their jobs here.
 
 
Dec 9, 2008
Since when was "more sharing" and "more medication" mutually exclusive? Both are in the future. The trends that some posters are reporting ("freecycle.com; Craiglist) are proof that Scott is correctly spotting the trend. Eventually you'll get StoneSoupParty.com.

As for the Boomers effect on the economy, it's worse than you think. If you look at say the DOW from 1950 on, you'll note that it was chugging along with small-ish growth, until about 1982, when it suddenly starts performing at about 20% each year (compounded). Why? The 401(k). More money injected into the market, chasing the same limited number of stocks. So now that the boomers are getting ready to retire? They pull that money out, stock prices collapse, and the market will, over the next decade, go back to where it "should" have been.

Doom and gloom, doom and gloom.

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The "bad language" editor is fun. Words that you can't say on !$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%* - a Manhattan; also a Tom Cruise movie about a Manhattan bartender. !$%*!$%*!$ - beings or organizations that exist. !$%*!$%*! - A Japanese mushroom

It seems that if part of a word is !$%*!$% the entire word gets banned.
And yet, we are free to say
- turd
- feces
- spoor
- stool
- scat
- merde
- excrement
- poop
- dung
- manure

Is there any other word that has so many synonyms, and yet, only one of them is "obscene"?
 
 
Dec 9, 2008
Hmmm, 2012 continues to look bleaker and bleaker. I'm considering foregoing college for a bit and simply watch the world rapidly change before my eyes. It's just too damn interesting.
 
 
Dec 9, 2008
Does this make anyone think of soma and A Brave New World...

"the warm, the richly coloured, the infinitely friendly world of soma-holiday. How kind, how good-looking, how delightfully amusing every one was! "
 
 
 
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