It’s always a delight to indulge in the kind of entertainment that has some beneficial side-effects in terms of self-development (although someone could argue that all entertainment passes this criterion). For instance, I have been recently enjoying this Android app called “Cryptogram”. The name is fairly self-explanatory to those familiar with the word: it’s a letter substitution puzzle (think Holmes’ “Adventure of the dancing men”). Over the last few weeks, I’ve solved about a hundred of them (and to my credit, didn’t require a single hint :D Although a handful of tough ones did require nearly an hour to crack)
The beneficial side-effect, in this case, is that the sentences are thought-provoking quotes by various famous personalities across the ages. For instance, Mark Twain’s classic: “I’ve never let my schooling interfere with my education.” and many more. And a nice thing about this is the way it gets presented: Each puzzle, by the very nature of cryptograms, starts off as a jumble of random letters. Then as the letters fall in place, and words becomes clearer.. the wisdom of the message slowly dawns upon you.
Today I came across one such quote:
Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known. – Oscar Wilde
And sure enough, after I’d completed the puzzle, staring at that sentence for a while did set some mental wheels in motion. For one, my thoughts turned to a common argument used by people against the post-scarcity world imagined by The Zeitgeist Movement and others: that it is a model of communism, and there is a fear of losing one’s individuality; the freedom to take personal decisions, and so on.
Well, in a way, that above quote suggested to me the exact opposite possibility: that a post-scarcity world could present each of us with the opportunity to be truly ourselves, more than ever before. Not only would it mean the freedom to express ourselves freely, without the censorship of media and social taboos; but also on the technology side, advances in manufacturing such as 3D printing would allow one to customize our “personal belongings” (whatever that means in a post-scarcity world) to a very great detail, instead of just choosing one from whatever spectrum that other designers have created (although, that option does not necessarily become obsolete, either.. think Steam Workshop)
And regarding the freedom of one’s choices? Some people say that if it is their choice to travel by a polluting vehicle, the current system allows them that choice; whereas in a post-scarcity world, such decisions would be centrally taken and uniformly enforced upon everyone. To which, here’s one possible response: A post-scarcity world, at its core, would only facilitate the genesis and propagation of good, accurate knowledge, which we have to interprete for making sensible personal decisions. The policies would be no more enforced, than is the knowledge of gravity currently considered an enforced deterrent to us jumping off a cliff.
And despite all the good knowledge, if some people do like to jump off cliffs, and produce energy via polluting means.. well, I would like to let them have that option, but admittedly, this requires some further deliberation.
In short, collectivism may appear like a hard one to decipher. But as Holmes would say: we have to eliminate the impossible; and let whatever remains, however improbable, lead us to the truth.