Are there limits to growth?
What does the end of economic growth look like? What is the ultimate goal of economic growth? The ultimate end point. This is only a theoretical question, by the way, as we know that physical limitations are the ultimate constraint to growth. The empirical end will look quite different. But I believe that it will asymptote to what the theory predicts.
One way to think about this is the following:
Go back to ECON 101, first lesson. What do you find? Scarcity – limited resources, unlimited wants. Aha, so the ultimate end of economic growth is simply the elimination of scarcity! Of course physically this is impossible. But is it? Well two ways it might not be:
- We all get assimilated by The Borg, which psychologically limits our wants to a finite manageable list.
- We might be able to trace psychological-to-physical mappings using Virtual Reality.
As Robin Hanson has shown, even virtual reality depends on physical matter for its production – computational power, etc. Assuming this is the final word on this matter, we can find our way out of this problem by assuming a stabilized human population. Now, what does the empirical elimination of scarcity do for you? Well, it could reasonably mean that the modern necessities of life – food, shelter, clothing, transportation would be almost completely free (say, produced by solar-power consuming robots?). Virtual reality could get you all the sexual pleasure that you’d want? [Fill in your own scenario for futuristic sexual fulfillment.] My presently infertile imagination refuses to furnish further possibilities right now.
That empirical reality is, I think, asymptotic to the elimination of scarcity.
Can you imagine?