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How Science Fiction Helps Us Understand the Economy

Fantasy and economics

Fantasy and economics

Underlying our fears of robots stealing our jobs are more basic anxieties about money. We're using fantasy to confront fears

Sci-Fi has become a measure to assess what's happening in the real world to see if we should be concerned. It doesn't take us away from our problems but allows us to identify what's wrong.

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IDEA EXTRACTED FROM:

How Science Fiction Helps Us Understand the Economy

How Science Fiction Helps Us Understand the Economy

https://slate.com/technology/2018/03/how-science-fiction-helps-us-understand-our-economic-system.html

slate.com

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Key Ideas

Fantasy and economics

Underlying our fears of robots stealing our jobs are more basic anxieties about money. We're using fantasy to confront fears

Sci-Fi has become a measure to assess what's happening in the real world to see if we should be concerned. It doesn't take us away from our problems but allows us to identify what's wrong.

Economic metaphors

  • The Hunger Games gave us a neo-Depression dystopia where media-obsessed elites torment the starving lower classes.
  • The Expanse is about class warfare.
  • The 1950 Foundation series was partly about saving the galaxy with sound economic programs.
  • The 2012 novel Three Parts Dead, was a mythical reimagining of the 2008 financial crisis. The author, Max Gladstone, said you couldn't tell a story like the financial crisis with realism. You need fantasy to explain it.

The dark side of science fiction

The “dark” kind of science fiction deals with the foundation of economics, which is scarcity. There is a fear that poverty will come faster as automation continues to devalue human labor.

People are experiencing scarcity or are afraid of it on a regular basis. Writers are turning to economists to make their financial worlds more plausible.

Exploring a future of automation

By incorporating ideas of economists, science fiction can explore a future of automation.

For example, how easy it would be to slide backward into the savagery of a slave economy. By incorporating ideas of a working economist, readers can be offered a believable thought experiment about real-life dangers.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Babylon 5

It's a cold-war set in space, with politics aligning towards left of center. It showcases the dangers of nationalism, with great leaders ending up causing enormous damage and harm because of th...

Battlestar Galactica

It's focuses on the survivors of humans in devastated colony worlds. The politics of this series reflect the left-wing reaction to the war on terror, stressing on the significance of democracy and civilian leadership.

The old ‘70s series, and it’s newer remake have, surprisingly different political ideologies, with the same basic story line.

Game Of Thrones

... which is based on George R.R. Martin’s book series "A Song Of Ice And Fire", addresses a range of diverse political issues.

Most of the people hungry for power are showcased as maniacs and reflect on the wrongdoings of global political elites and career politicians.

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The Automation Myth

For decades, we have believed that automation and huge leaps in technology will take away most of our jobs and there will be widespread unemployment.

A new study shows that this belief is inc...

Hours worked vs Income

The average working hours have declined only 6 percent, while income has increased at a decent rate per year.

The economy has actually grown even after automation, due to the addition of workers.

The Solow Paradox

The Solow Paradox suggests that automation and computerization aren't taking our jobs, but are adding to our overall workload, taking away our leisure time.

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The Influence Of Sci-Fi On Real Technology

Some of the tech appearing in movies wasn’t the fruit of random predictions but of consultations with industrial designers, futurists and advertising specialists.

Liquid-fuelled rocket...

Design Fiction

Is a new method for designing technology that explores the futures that ordinary people would prefer. Design fictions are provocative and engage people, encouraging them to envision, explain and raise questions about the direction of future technology and society.

Design fictions are now being used in sectors ranging from health to defence tech forecasting, and even policy making. In this way, science fiction can be used as a tool to help design future societies and technologies, giving the public a say on it too.

Understanding recessions are vital
Understanding recessions are vital

Recessions are part of the fabric of a dynamic economy. The average investor fears recessions because they mean lower home prices, lower stock prices, and less or no work.

Several things ca...

Naming a recession

Recessions are really "depressions," but the term "depression" seems too terrifying. After the Great Depression, economists began to use the word "recession" instead.

The 2007-09 recession involved a financial crisis, high unemployment, and falling prices, and was named the Great Recession. Our current recession is still without a name.

An official recession

A standard measurement for a recession is two-quarters of consecutive GDP contraction. But the official arbiter of recessions and recoveries, the Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), prefers domestic production and employment indicators instead. Other signs of the recession include:

  • Declines in real (inflation adjusted) manufacturing, wholesale-retail trade sales, and industrial production.
  • Extended declines in production, employment, real income, and other indicators.

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Recessions come and go
Recessions come and go
  • A recession is "good" or "bad," depending on who it impacts and how badly it affects them.
  • In the last thirty years, a recession has come and gone somewhere in ...
Recessions are far from equal
  • Banks are better able to handle a financial crisis than a decade ago. The 2008 recession was about the housing market and shares, which affected higher income groups.
  • The present crisis seems to be hitting the lower-income groups, the vulnerable workers, young, and less skilled. It is similar to the late 70s, early 80s recession, which affected young and unskilled workers.
  • Another lesson from 2008 is that recessions don't always lead to significant numbers of job losses. Layoffs were concentrated among a small number of people, and they stayed unemployed for a long time.
  • In this recession, far more workers will be at risk if social-distancing rules remain in place over a long period.
GDP during a crisis
  • A drop in GDP was expected during the 2020 lockdown. Shops and businesses were closed, and the total value produced by goods and services decreased. In turn, this affected the staff of those businesses earning less money.
  • Furloughs. At its peak, about nine million people in the UK were paid a furlough - the government paid 80% of their salaries, and the employer could choose to top up the rest. Other countries have similar state-backed furlough schemes. These schemes will be coming to an end, and employers will have to decide if they have to lay off employees permanently.
  • The losses are not yet crystalising. People are taking mortgage and credit holidays. It means the losses are pushed further down the road. The financial sector bubble will burst, and we will see real turmoil again.

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Fantasy World

Science Fiction’s constant migration to other worlds is ‘adaptive’ and can be configured to suit the geek crowd, whose interests and tastes are used to provide the kind of fantasy that they would c...

Kirk Allen

.. was a pseudonymous patient of psychoanalyst Robert Lindner, in his 1954 case studies, in which the patient had a dual life, which he could switch by mental time-travel and travel in an instant to the far off future, in which a life of power, respect and conquest was lived by him. This premise was a form of ‘escape hatch’, making science fiction literature a kind of evasion from reality.

The Iron Dream

.. published in 1972 was an alternate fantasy timeline of Adolf Hitler, in which he lives another kind of life as a science fiction author and illustrator(yes it is far fetched!)

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A shift in measuring well-being
A shift in measuring well-being

People in societies such as ancient Greece, imperial China, Medieval Europe, and colonial America did not measure people's well-being in terms of monetary earnings or economic output.

Measuring well-being: people vs money

The turn toward financial statistics means that instead of considering how economic developments could meet our needs, it instead is to determine whether individuals are meeting the demand of the economy.

Until the 1850s, social measurement in 19th-century America was a collection of social indicators known as "moral statistics," which focused on the physical, social, spiritual, and mental conditions of the people. Human beings were at the center, not dollars and cents.

Measuring progress and prosperity

What led to the pricing of progress in the mid-19th century was capitalism.

Capitalism is not just the existence of markets. It is also capitalised investment, where elements of society and life - including natural resources, technological discoveries, works of art, urban spaces, educational institutions, and people - are changed or "capitalised" into income-generating assets that are valued by their ability to make money and yield future returns.

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Metaphors
Metaphors

Metaphors use familiar objects and phenomena to help think through and talk about abstract ideas.

Although metaphors can illustrate ideas and provide insight, they can also...

Metaphors shape our actions

Some studies suggest that one in every 25 words we use is a metaphor. The choice of metaphor can form the way we see the world and act upon it.

In a series of experiments, participants were given two identical reports about crime, except that one report described the crime as "a wild beast preying on the city" and the other "a virus infecting the city." When asked for solutions, those who read the first report suggested stricter law enforcement, while those who read the second proposed social reforms.

The role of metaphors

Metaphors, like “trickle-down economics” and “red wall,” help frame the issues and also our responses to social and political discussions.

When politicians compare the national economy to a household budget, they want us to think in specific ways about national debt or policies of austerity.

Metaphors also play a role in science. Science accepts that metaphors can be limiting, but admit that they are an essential tool for thinking.

Sci-Fi’s Influence On Technology

Science fiction, by definition, is science that isn’t real. But looking beyond the fantastical elements there are some very innovative ideas, a lot of which have had a real influence on m...