Saturday, 17 March 2012

Home of the future

I have been catching up with the TV series 'Home of the Future' on 4OD (Channel 4). It is extremely interesting and informative, but I wanted to blog about a couple of ideas that stuck out for those sensitive to the RBE concept.

The family featured in the futurized home run a garage and one project was to upgrade it to deal with electric cars, but this was presented as a way of keeping the garage in business. This was just one way in which the programme series has shown up its preconception that there will be / ought to be paid work in the future (it's a given), even though it shows ways of saving work in the home. One family member who works at the garage opined that their future will involved repairing electric cars. Repairing things is good, but to create work and keep comsumption going, products are currently made so that they need repairing or replacing. In an RBE, transport hardware will be designed and built to optimally provide the service of transport as a way of helping human needs to be met. It will not be designed to keep people in work, or to consume resources unecessarily.

The second idea was a smartphone app that helps you find out where the cheapest supermarket prices are. Setting aside the absence of the need for money in an RBE, we can still see the absurdity of using the processing power of a smartphone to mine for price data that is essentially already available, but kept separate for the purposes of competition. The bewildering price structures in supermarkets make it necessary either to have this secondary tech to help you, to use considerable brain power to achieve the same end, or simply to ignore the "shopping around" element altogether.

A supermarket has to create enough of an impression that is the 'cheapest' to get you to choose it over the others, but also to get you to spend more money there once you have chosen it. One of the tenets of the free market is supposed to be clear price information with no subsidies or lags and no externalities. The supermarket price wars give a complete lie to this.

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