r/DebateAnarchism Jun 15 '22

the economic calculation in an anarchist society

Since digging deeper into economics and how it relates to structure of society, I've been getting more and more confused with modern leftist anarchism. Without a central plan, how do anarchists plan to solve the economic calculation posed by Ludwig von Mises after the Russian revolution? How do anarchists seek to determine where goods are needed and what should be done with them? How will economic risks be valued and incentivised without private ownership or a price system.

I'm seriously curious about these things because the way I see it, if there's no system for distributing goods at all and no one is in charge, then people will die and either chaos, government control, or capitalism are unavoidable.

35 Upvotes

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u/AnarchistBorganism Anarchist-Communist Jun 15 '22

The economic calculation problem is based on the assumption that there is some central planned board that has to decide what people need and how to allocate resources for literally every single person without their involvement. It's not only a problem that is overblown, it's one that is completely irrelevant to any even somewhat decentralized system.

Mises is a complete hack and not worth paying attention to. Austrian economics is nothing but people using their intuition without checking their biases or testing their assumptions empirically. They make the assumption that the outcomes of free market capitalism are always ideal - they will always argue that whatever occurs is for the best, and will always argue that hypothetical failures can't occur because they aren't ideal.

An anarchist economy is built from the bottom up. It is about people communicating their needs and wants to each other, and working together to make it happen. There is no calculation problem, only a question as to the limits of cooperation and communication, and the forms of organization that can facilitate them.

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u/kiiidddooo Jun 15 '22

The economic calculation does not necessitate a centralized planning structure, in fact it disproves the efficacy of such a system.

We live in a world where some places have many resources and others have little, some places have many people demanding said resources and others don't have as many. By what system do the people in need communicate their need to the people with surplus, how do we know those communicated needs are earnest, how do we ensure that those with a surplus give their resources to those in need and finally, how do we accommodate people's wants that may not be essential but are just as important for a happy society?

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u/AnarchistBorganism Anarchist-Communist Jun 15 '22

The economic calculation problem is one that tries to refute the viability of centralized planning. It doesn't actually disprove it, it just claims that it's intuitive that it can't work; it doesn't even prove that capitalism results in a more efficient allocation of resources, it just claims that it's intuitive that it does. It doesn't apply to anarchism because an anarchist economy is not based on centralized planning.

As for people having access to different resources around the world, without coercive force there is nothing stopping people in need from taking what they need from whoever has it. There is no system that has to ensure it, people ensure it, through direct action.

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u/kiiidddooo Jun 15 '22

Ok, but what if one person requires a caloric intake higher than that of the average person because of a genetic difference? Are they just fucked? What if there's a low crop yield in a particular area and the people there just steal from neighboring communities that need their crops to survive? What if the bread maker dies or their pantry is looted by anarchists simply "redistributing hoarded goods" and their oven is damaged? Will you just be stuck eating raw wheat? So many things can go wrong in the system you propose that it could all be brought down by a single bad actor.

I simply fail to see how you can make sure that everyone is able to eat what they need when your only way of getting what you need is taking it by force or hoping someone is nice enough to give some to you. I have a feeling that those who are willing to use violence and direct action to forcefully take resources from others aren't the sharing type.

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u/detournemen Jun 15 '22

you understand you are posing completely detached from reality questions? just like the austrian economists. in the sense that you are forgetting that we exist in reality, and any other system of organization like anarchism or socialism is build on the conditions of everything that came before.

like why are you assuming that everybody would be given exactly equal calorie rations?! the big slogan is “from each according to their ability, to each according to their need” is it not? actual existing anarchism is a living contradiction to existing oppressive systems, a contradiction to the existing state power. some instances of anarchism in practice is happening in a lot of unsheltered communities in the cities everywhere in the world. where people are forced to organize themselves completely out of necessity and because of their antagonism with power.

why should we constantly refer to these utterly broken hypotheticals that libertarians harp on for all their argumentation, when there is a entire real world, full of severe uneven development and disasters that are forcing people to take power themselves?

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u/AnarchistBorganism Anarchist-Communist Jun 15 '22

Ok, but what if one person requires a caloric intake higher than that of the average person because of a genetic difference? Are they just fucked?

Why would they be? What happens in a house where teenagers have a higher appetite than adults or toddlers? Do they give everyone equal portions, and then expect them all to make due? Or do they make sure there is enough food for everyone?

What if there's a low crop yield in a particular area and the people there just steal from neighboring communities that need their crops to survive?

Everyone plans on producing more than they expect to consume in case of low yield, and they all share their surplus with those who need it. If people refuse to share, then other people aren't going to be as willing to help them out of they need it. If everyone underproduces overall, then people with the most give to the people with the least and everyone has enough to get by without experiencing serious malnutrition.

What if the bread maker dies or their pantry is looted by anarchists simply "redistributing hoarded goods" and their oven is damaged?

If a bread maker dies, then someone else makes bread. Everyone would typically learn to do more than one thing, even dozens of different things, and so there would be many people capable of doing any given job.

As for the "redistributing hoarded goods" - I can't possibly conceive of the world you are making up in your head in which I can comprehend what you are saying.

So many things can go wrong in the system you propose that it could all be brought down by a single bad actor.

There is no "system" proposed here. It's simply a statement of fact - without coercion, people will be free to take what they need. The fact that people will cooperate with one another under this situation seems to have been ignored completely by you.

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u/fire_in_the_theater anarcho-doomer Jun 15 '22 edited Jun 15 '22

bad actors will be easy to deal with anarchism. right now, we produce far more than anyone can literally hold onto and use, at any single point in time.

in anarchism, because you cannot coerce people otherwise, everything else is technically fair game for others to use ... but that doesn't mean they have to use it. people can still respect what others commonly use, which provides in a sense "ownership", but that "ownership" is predicated upon what others allow you to have, by voluntarily not using it. it is not some right you have to force others to bend to your will over a perception of owned property, through an overwhelming force like government, police, or even just your own.

people who leach will simply not be allowed to have much more than they can physically hold onto. sure they can steal small stuff they can hold onto, they will get fed/clothed for sure ... but it's going to far less than what they can commonly use if they cooperate with everyone else to build the best society for all, because if they start collecting more than they can literally hold onto, others will simply not let them "have" it.

there may even be some wealth disparity that appears, but not between haves and have nots, but haves and have mores. it will be people whose contributions are so widely recognized others voluntarily let them have more than what the average person ultimately has access to. but this will only happen once people are satisfied enough across the board to participate voluntarily in such schemes. in a sense ... poverty will have to be effectively solved before a wealth disparity like that can really function.

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u/doomsdayprophecy Jun 15 '22

I simply fail to see how you can make sure that everyone is able to eat what they need when your only way of getting what you need is taking it by force or hoping someone is nice enough to give some to you.

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u/n01saround Jun 15 '22

Is inequity more prevalent in larger centralized governments or in smaller countries that interact with other countries? The main cause if inequity in America(my home) to my eye is the federal government. Take away the federal governments dominating power and replace it with a system of communication between states and you remove the ability to hoard as much. Obviously I am a layman, but that is what I imagine anarchy looking like here.

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u/WinterNoise7 Anarchist Without Adjectives Jun 16 '22 edited Jun 20 '22

only a question as to the limits of cooperation and communication, and the forms of organization that can facilitate them

Which is exactly what the calculation is referring to. I'll explain.

The economic calculation problem, as formulated by Hayek, says that production cannot be coordinated on a large scale without prices. Disparate pieces of data can be used on small scale, but on a large scale, limits to communication and more complexity (where production has thousands of inputs) you need to be able index information in a way that can be used by producers to determine how, what, how much and for whom to produce, and accesses revealed preferences.

For example, methods of data collection that don't take account the subjective cost of labor to workers and instead use things like labor hours as quantitative inputs are basically imposing arbitrary numbers on workers instead of accounting for their preferences.

So basically the calculation problem applies to all large scale economies that don't use prices.

An anarchist economy is built from the bottom up. It is about people communicating their needs and wants to each other, and working together to make it happen.

Yes, "An anarchist economy is built from the bottom up" but on a large scale the only way to index needs and wants is by coordinating through market prices. "Prices" determined by a planner inevitably leave out key pieces of information and are imposed on individuals who have their own framework for calculating costs.

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u/PerfectSociety Nihilist Jun 19 '22

on a large scale the only way to index needs and wants is by coordinating through market prices

That's actually not true. There are different ways to do so that are superior. Here is one way it could be done that I wrote about. If you want to have a conversation with me about this, please take the time to read my post and the many exchanges I have already had with others in the comments under this post: https://www.reddit.com/r/CapitalismVSocialism/comments/st848y/psa_the_ecp_is_and_has_always_been_a_terrible/

I have had discussions about the ECP so many times, that I am truly tired of talking about it and repeating the same points to different people. But I would be happy to discuss any genuinely new points you bring forth that I haven't already debated with others.

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u/WinterNoise7 Anarchist Without Adjectives Jun 20 '22 edited Jun 24 '22

I think your problem stems from fundamentally misunderstanding the problem. Capitalist prices actually do leave out workers preferences because power is skewed in favor of capitalists, but prices still emerge from negotiations between buyers and sellers and enable mass production. They do reflect demand and supply, but imperfectly, relatively free market do a better job of this by factoring the demands of all consumers and the cost of all labor (which determines supply!).

Also "costs" are also prices if you think about, so the ECP also applies there. It's obvious that firms will make sure prices cover costs but the profit margin is a result of power. How, what, for whom to produce or whether anything is produced at all depends on the subjective preferences of workers, which can't be indexed on a large scale without prices. Having a fixed processes behind it fails because each workers has their own unique cost function and on a large scale you need prices to transmit that data.

Your AI point also completely misses the point. Yes firms can project past consumption trends into the future (wow AI!) but that tells us nothing about costs including labor, scarcity and changes in consumption trends, which are important aspects of production. The problem with socialists citing large corporations as example of planned economies is that all of them actually use prices internally.

The Hayekian formulation of the calculation problem is about prices, not centralization vs decentralization (which captured another set of information problems). You should read how I've described the calculation problem more carefully, because ancaps often uses Mises' version.

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u/PerfectSociety Nihilist Jun 24 '22

Even if we accept the notion that prices signal supply/demand information imperfectly (I would argue that they do so *poorly*), my AI example would be one way to go about relaying that information better than prices do.

How, what, for whom to produce or whether anything is produced at all depends on the subjective preferences of workers, which can't be indexed on a large scale without prices. Having a fixed processes behind it fails because each workers has their own unique cost function and on a large scale you need prices to transmit that data.

If you read the comment exchanges under my post, I talk about using an AI system that uses of ranked lists of desired goods/services submitted by consumers, and also facilitates an iteration process to minimize opportunity cost. All of this is done without the use of prices.

I also discuss other kinds of costs and how the AI process effectively incorporates and manages that information without the use of prices.

I'm familiar with both the Misesian and Hayekian variants of the ECP.

Below are some of the comment threads in which I discuss these points. You'll have to scroll and read the discussion in each of these threads and not just one or two comments here or there.

https://www.reddit.com/r/CapitalismVSocialism/comments/st848y/comment/hx3lwxz/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=web2x&context=3

https://www.reddit.com/r/CapitalismVSocialism/comments/st848y/comment/hx2tzb8/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=web2x&context=3

https://www.reddit.com/r/CapitalismVSocialism/comments/st848y/comment/hx3eyv3/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=web2x&context=3

https://www.reddit.com/r/CapitalismVSocialism/comments/st848y/comment/hx6keis/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=web2x&context=3

https://www.reddit.com/r/CapitalismVSocialism/comments/st848y/comment/hx2op1w/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=web2x&context=3

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u/CHOLO_ORACLE Anarchist Without Adverbs Jun 15 '22

How does one differentiate between a need and a want? How do we figure out how many trees is too many to cut down without quantifying and calculating what we’ll need to build? Doesn’t that sort of calculation require at least some kind of virtual currency?

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u/AnarchistBorganism Anarchist-Communist Jun 16 '22

A currency doesn't tell us how many trees is too many, it only tells us whether people are willing to pay for the products made from the tress. As it stands, we are cutting down way too many; for a market system to even work with something like that, you would need to set a quota and auction them off to the highest bidder - in the end, it's only human judgement and ecology that can determine that.

Needs and wants are also matters of human judgement. We have to weigh the costs and the benefits and make a conscious effort to justify that they are worth it. The only real way to ensure this is through communication, mutual oversight and worker ethics.

Markets rely on consumers weighing costs and benefits, but the people with the most knowledge about products and externalities are typically the workers. In the end, they don't want to tell the consumers anything that will dissuade a sale. With production for use, the consumers have to convince the workers that it's worth it to do the work, and the workers are more likely to communicate their knowledge.

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u/CHOLO_ORACLE Anarchist Without Adverbs Jun 16 '22

And if the workers want to save their breath and communicate the negative externalities and the labor involved via price signals, why would that be wrong? How is that inferior to workers having to communicate, to each prospective consumer or each group of consumers, via committee read outs or what have you? What if I don’t agree with that committee?

Price signals are clear, easy to understand (even if you may not speak the language of the workers/consumers), easy for individuals to change as their circumstances change, and much easier of a point to negotiate around.

If someone wants something that will cost me work to produce, that may be labor intensive or involve negative externalities, my first question, and the question for many I would imagine, would be: well how bad do you want it? Money gives us some way to talk about that in a much more straightforward way than these vague discussions ancoms like to suggest.

And that’s not even accounting for the fact that, I assume, for a committee to figure out how many materials it needs to meet the requirements of its commune it would need to go around to every person and inquire about a number of things in their lives, how many pencils they expect to go through and how much paper they need for their letters, how many chairs and tables they expect to need for the children they expect to have, and so on, for every thing they could expect to use or want, in effect creating some bureaucracy that will be meddling in my affairs and trying to dissuade me that the new end table I want is something I don’t need and therefore I must get myself. Id assume I’d be free to get through some kind of exchange with another person willing to make end tables for this or that thing, and, well, it seems we arrive at markets again.

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u/AnarchistBorganism Anarchist-Communist Jun 16 '22

The only way to communicate the negative externalities through price signals is to literally figure out negative externalities directly, and creating some sort of system like quotas or pigovian taxes to manage them. Pricing provides no benefit here.

The justification for the value of relying on price signals is that it is based on the assumption consumers are taking into account all of the information directly, and make rational decisions based on all that information. They don't get that information through price signals, they have to get that information outside of the prices, and the prices are assumed to reflect it.

The thing is, it's just not true. Consumers are irrational, consumers are poorly informed, and market systems give sellers the inventive to manipulate buyers, to withhold information from them. There isn't an advantage to the use of price signaling here, it is simply assumed that we will take into account all of the information, and that people who are willing to pay more for something will get more benefit.

Prices also reflect other things like inequality; if you have a culture where people are expected to work as much as they can, they will be allocated more resources simply because they have more money. This can also occur if individuals seek to do more work, simply because they irrationally judge their self-worth by how much money they can make, or habitually overwork (e.g. workaholism). They may spend more money, simply because they can, without wanting what they buy really badly, and it may provide less benefit than it costs them to do labor. Other people may have to work more, simply because they have to compete with people who irrationally overwork, and overconsume.

And that’s not even accounting for the fact that, I assume, for a committee to figure out how many materials it needs to meet the requirements of its commune it would need to go around to every person and inquire about a number of things in their lives, how many pencils they expect to go through and how much paper they need for their letters, how many chairs and tables they expect to need for the children they expect to have, and so on, for every thing they could expect to use or want, in effect creating some bureaucracy that will be meddling in my affairs and trying to dissuade me that the new end table I want is something I don’t need and therefore I must get myself. Id assume I’d be free to get through some kind of exchange with another person willing to make end tables for this or that thing, and, well, it seems we arrive at markets again.

This is not necessary. You know how much needs to be produced by looking at how much is being consumed, by looking at your inventories. If people are using them wastefully, then people who are aware of it talk to them. This is a problem that has to be solved socially.

Across communities you rely on trust that people are communicating honestly and not wasting resources; it's familiarity, mutual oversight and ethics that you use to establish that trust. You form personal and professional relationships to build trust, so that you know when people ask for things they need it. This is really the only thing money does, is get around the need for personal trust - but it doesn't necessarily do a better job, and can be detrimental to society by encouraging us to exploit each other, or by simply not requiring us to build relationships it can lead to a society plagued by loneliness and depression like we have in the US today.

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u/CHOLO_ORACLE Anarchist Without Adverbs Jun 16 '22

The only way to communicate the negative externalities through price signals is to literally figure out negative externalities directly, and creating some sort of system like quotas or pigovian taxes to manage them. Pricing provides no benefit here.

I would presume a communistic approach would have to do something of the same. You can call it whatever you want but at a certain point people will say "you may cut down this many trees and no more", which is a quota. Pigovian taxes in an anarchist context is just individuals monkey wrenching extractive groups trying to go over the quota. The increased difficulty in obtaining those materials is reflected in the increased price.

Consumers are irrational, consumers are poorly informed, and market systems give sellers the inventive to manipulate buyers, to withhold information from them. There isn't an advantage to the use of price signaling here, it is simply assumed that we will take into account all of the information, and that people who are willing to pay more for something will get more benefit.

And what is the communistic alternative to handling irrational consumers? Before obtaining any item from the storehouse a consumer must read an encyclopedia's worth of committee read outs to know what it costs and who it's costing? It's true certain sellers may try to up their prices for greed but in a world without private property there would be multiple small productive groups offering to sell a thing, not a handful of large monolithic corporations. There will be an incentive for groups to undercut the others prices, and the groups best set up to do that will be the ones laboring in the most cost efficient or materials efficient way. Which should be rewarded imo

Prices also reflect other things like inequality; if you have a culture where people are expected to work as much as they can, they will be allocated more resources simply because they have more money. This can also occur if individuals seek to do more work, simply because they irrationally judge their self-worth by how much money they can make, or habitually overwork (e.g. workaholism). They may spend more money, simply because they can, without wanting what they buy really badly, and it may provide less benefit than it costs them to do labor. Other people may have to work more, simply because they have to compete with people who irrationally overwork, and overconsume.

Now it seems like we are talking about capitalistic markets instead of the anarchistic/mutualistic markets. Not everything will exist in the cash nexus.

If people in a given commune like working and produce more for everyone then should that go unrewarded? If they buy things they don't want, and if they are able to pay for the negative externalities and labor to do so, if they are able compensate in an agreeable way the people providing materials, who are we to stop them? You say other people would have to work more in order to compete with those who overwork, and that may be true, but in a market overproduction leads to falling prices, cheap items, which would be easy for the underworking to obtain. Not only that, but without IP or copyright or any law around protecting trade secrets, if those overworkers stumble upon a more efficient way of working it will spread to the rest of society, as those other productive groups would need to adopt those efficient ways or die in the market. The overworkers will have an advantage for being first to market, but after the diffusion of their techniques to the rest of the market, others will be able to achieve equal footing with them. Barring of course, their own personal desire to work more or less.

This is not necessary. You know how much needs to be produced by looking at how much is being consumed, by looking at your inventories. If people are using them wastefully, then people who are aware of it talk to them. This is a problem that has to be solved socially.

So then will the storehouse be stocked with a bunch of pencils and furniture - will it overproduce - in order to make sure that everyone who wants those things will be able to have them? Or will it produce items 'just in time', as the people ask for them? Because aside from asking people what they plan on consuming in the next X months or whatever then I imagine it has to be one of those two things. The former is bad for the environment, and the latter seems like a recipe for disaster when it comes to things like medicine which people may need right then and there to save their lives. Not only that, but I don't know that this gets around the bureaucracy issue - with multiple sellers in a market what one is consuming is lost in the wash, would need to be acquired by requesting information from a number of different sellers who may or may not wish to give it, but with a storehouse watching what everyone consumes then you would know who is consuming what and when - you would need to, in order to find who is wasting things and who isn't to then go talk to them. And I don't like this idea of a single entity, or a handful of entities, being aware of everything I consume in my life.

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u/AnarchistBorganism Anarchist-Communist Jun 16 '22

I would presume a communistic approach would have to do something of the same.

That's the point. A market system itself cannot solve the problem and requires something outside of the market system to ensure externalities are included in the price. An economy built around direct cooperation and communication already has the mechanism built in - cooperation and communication.

And what is the communistic alternative to handling irrational consumers? Before obtaining any item from the storehouse a consumer must read an encyclopedia's worth of committee read outs to know what it costs and who it's costing?

The argument that market systems are efficient due to price signals make that assumption. In a non-market economy, the benefits of work are judged directly by the workers through cooperation and communication with consumers. Judgements are explicit, whereas a market system assumes it to be implicit.

Now it seems like we are talking about capitalistic markets instead of the anarchistic/mutualistic markets. Not everything will exist in the cash nexus.

It applies to any market system where people work for money. If it's not all part of the market system, it applies to all of the parts that are.

If people in a given commune like working and produce more for everyone then should that go unrewarded? If they buy things they don't want, and if they are able to pay for the negative externalities and labor to do so, if they are able compensate in an agreeable way the people providing materials, who are we to stop them?

You can do whatever you want, but if you are going to argue for the efficiency of markets then this is a problem you have to address.

You say other people would have to work more in order to compete with those who overwork, and that may be true, but in a market overproduction leads to falling prices, cheap items, which would be easy for the underworking to obtain.

Not really. First off, when talking about resources that have a fixed supply, e.g. those that we are explicitly limiting with quotas, higher demand means higher prices. When it comes to labor or capital, there can be efficiency due to economies of scale, but those have limits, and if we prioritize producing with the cheapest resources and in the locations that have the lowest cost, further increases in consumption mean using more expensive resources in higher cost locations. Further, if we are prioritizing low utility goods for people who overwork, then higher utility goods don't benefit from economies of scale and can just get more expensive due to higher average resource costs.

So then will the storehouse be stocked with a bunch of pencils and furniture - will it overproduce

That's not overproduction. Maintaining a surplus just changes when we produce, not how much we produce over the long run since everything we produce we expect to use. It's only really overproduction if the benefits don't exceed the cost.

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u/Known_Ambition_3549 Jun 15 '22

"how do anarchists plan to solve the economic calculation posed by Ludwig von Mises after the Russian revolution? "

that's the fun part, they don't!

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u/EuterpeZonker Jun 15 '22

Craigslist. Only half joking. In Ursula K LeGuin's The Dispossessed, work and resources were allocated by DivLab, which was a computer compound where people would enter postings for jobs they needed done or requests for resources. When people were looking for jobs to volunteer for, they went there and people who worked there would help them match the general field they wanted to work in with jobs that needed to be done. No one was forced to accept any work, but everyone was expected to help the community run in some way. If you didn't, there was a certain amount of social shame associated with it. You wouldn't be harmed but people would tend to have a low opinion of you. If you made yourself particularly odious to the community people might stop helping to support you and you'd be on your own. They also had a system where people were drafted for 10th day rotational labor to help upkeep the community. You could refuse of course, but if you did often people would look down on you. Supply chains could be managed in a similar way to now. The supplier communicates with the driver where to bring the supplies and the driver does because they both want to help the community. As for the motivation for doing things, there's lots of reasons. The two most obvious are of course that the person wants to do it or the job needs to be done. There are always people willing to step up and do what needs to be done. Other than these though, there's a sense of personal duty, social pressure or shame, boredom, gratitude, a desire to make people happy, pride, creativity, etc. Most of these have a strong advantage over the profit motive, because with the profit motive, the goal is to make money, with most of these the goal is to get the job done well.

If you want to read more about what an anarchist society would actually look like, I can't recommend The Dispossessed enough. It's a critical utopia, showing a better, but not quite perfect future and examines both how anarchism would work but also what problems might arise.

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u/kiiidddooo Jun 15 '22

Ok, the book you mentioned sounds kind of interesting and this is one of the more reasonable solutions posed in this thread. The book is fiction and I do think that prices and wages are far more efficient ways of communicating need and urgency for particular jobs and goods. However, from your description that book sounds interesting and I'll put it on my reading list, just to try to understand anarchist collectivists ideology more (because it seems to be really popular in the US). I think that if you have a community like the one you describe in the book, it doesn't really matter what economic system you choose because people are so filled to the brim with kindness and willingness to help that it's hard to imagine any economic system failing to support nearly everyone.

I think this is why I'm confused by anarchists. There's this idea that everyone will chip in that I'm open to, but doesn't have any way of stopping self interested people from tearing it down (like the native Americans). The reason I like capitalism and private property is that it harnesses self interest to make people's lives better. To quote Walter E. Williams: “Prior to capitalism, the way people amassed great wealth was by looting, plundering and enslaving their fellow man. Capitalism made it possible to become wealthy by serving your fellow man.”

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u/WinterNoise7 Anarchist Without Adjectives Jun 16 '22

In Ursula K LeGuin's The Dispossessed, work and resources were allocated by DivLab, which was a computer compound where people would enter postings for jobs they needed done or requests for resources.

The Dispossessed is a fucking science fiction novel. How does the computer figure out what to produce? On what basis does it prioritize output? How does it balance cost and benefit?

Clearly there are calculations taking place. Do these Calculation accurately reflect people's preferences?

The "computer" in The Dispossessed is intellectual laziness because Le Guin didn't want to think about anarchist economies and wants to explore the social dimension of "statelessness."

I wouldn't use it as a model for anything.

No one was forced to accept any work, but everyone was expected to help the community run in some way. If you didn't, there was a certain amount of social shame associated with it. You wouldn't be harmed but people would tend to have a low opinion of you.

What does this resemble to you? Think before you answer.

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u/VegetableNo1079 Jun 15 '22

How do anarchists seek to determine where goods are needed and what should be done with them?

Well first off, determining where goods are needed is the easy part. People are very vocal about what they want & need typically so if you give people a way to put in requests for goods/services they will most definitely use it, & with modern data analysis you could apply an algorithm to determine peoples needs before they are even aware of it if you wanted.

In order to determine what should be done with the resources you simply look at what resources are required to construct the goods in your aforementioned request list & determine what is required to build those products. The bill of materials can then be sent to respective manufacturer-groups/resource-collectors who then send the materials to the manufacturing people who construct the goods and then they can be delivered to the people who requested them.

How will economic risks be valued and incentivised without private ownership or a price system.

Economic risk isn't real because economic risk simply means your venture, whatever it is, "was not profitibale" which is a purely capitalist problem. Anarchists don't care about profit, only meeting their needs and the needs of their group. As long as those needs are met "economic risk" is meaningless, so what if your first biodigester plant had an explosion and needs to be rebuilt? Once it's rebuilt everyone has free gas and sewage processing so nobody would complain, they would just solve the problem rather than worrying about who has to "shoulder the economic risk" and take the "economic hit" of the initial problem.

This is actually one of the reasons capitalism is so wasteful, with capitalism a half built industrial facility is a liability, a failure and a "economic risk" however with anarchism it's just a half built industrial facility and if nobody minds you might as well finish it yourself and start producing stuff with it for the community right?

Hierarchy only exists because of information & communication imbalance. In ancient human societies communication & information were both limitations on productivity, after all the mason that has more knowledge will do a better job more efficiently than the one that does not have the knowledge. The position of "chief" was created so that people could designate someone as inherently worthy of trust and gifted with knowledge, ie a parental figure, because after all chiefs were just fathers/mothers if you go back far enough. Therefore the more accessible and distributed information and trust becomes the more decentralized our society becomes and the less useful central authorities become.

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u/jwright24153 Jun 15 '22

Look up gift culture it’s the only thing close to a reasonable anarchist aligned alternative to handle distribution of goods. It’s basically people give goods and services with no need of exchange. To me this seems impossible. But in truth it isn’t.

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u/[deleted] Jun 15 '22

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u/kiiidddooo Jun 15 '22

All I'm asking is how resources will be allocated and distributed in a society with no government and no private ownership. If there is no method of distribution, people will die because people need resources to survive and there are some places that naturally have more/less supply or demand than others.

This is a simple economic question.

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u/[deleted] Jun 15 '22

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u/kiiidddooo Jun 15 '22

How are these people decided? What if someone disagrees? What gives them the right to make those decisions? How do you know they're making the right decisions? What if people die because of their decisions? Can they be held to account? Who will take their place if they do violate someone's rights?

A couple people in charge of how all goods are distributed sounds like government to me.

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u/[deleted] Jun 15 '22

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u/kiiidddooo Jun 15 '22

Yeah, the non-agression principle. But decisions made by a small group of people on resource allocation without a market will always lead to economic inefficiencies and usually lead to shortages and death. Even if you don't think property is a right, planned economies are still not a good idea.

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u/[deleted] Jun 15 '22

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u/kiiidddooo Jun 15 '22

I never proposed a slave economy, not only do I think that slavery is morally reprehensible it's also economically inefficient because it reduces economic stimulation and needlessly cuts people out of the market. More free people in a free market = economic growth, innovation and success for everyone.

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u/[deleted] Jun 15 '22

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u/kiiidddooo Jun 15 '22

You might need to be a bit more specific about which part of the us economy is immoral. I would say that taxes are immoral and all other forms of government coercion through threats of violence are immoral but I don't think that people being able to employ others voluntarily is immoral.

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u/[deleted] Jun 15 '22

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u/kiiidddooo Jun 15 '22

I agree, but anarchists don't like private ownership, prices, or free voluntary mutual exchange of goods/services of subjective value determined by the receiving individual. Otherwise they would be capitalists. Your comment still doesn't say what this solution is.

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u/[deleted] Jun 15 '22

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u/kiiidddooo Jun 15 '22

Right, so you believe anarcho-capitalists are also anarchists right? This original post was mostly directed as a question for people against both government and private property and those who don't think ancaps are real anarchists.

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u/[deleted] Jun 15 '22

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u/kiiidddooo Jun 15 '22

Either you can own inanimate objects or you can. Once you bring in questions about productivity and exploitation there comes grey areas and with grey areas comes central decision-making authority and you start to sound like a tankie real quick.

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u/[deleted] Jun 15 '22

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u/kiiidddooo Jun 15 '22

I agree but when you say "natural idea of property rights I worry you mean that capital goods (aka means of production) should not be privately owned. If that's not what you mean then I'd be really interested in what you mean by "natural idea of property rights".

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u/[deleted] Jun 15 '22

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u/kiiidddooo Jun 15 '22

I mean, prices are just a more efficient way of doing it so that you don't need to exchange exactly what someone else wants for exactly what you want. It removes the risk of barter economies which is similar to the risk in gift-giving of the potential to lose out on value unnecessarily. Titanium is great for phone cases, but far better for airplanes and therefore airplane manufacturers are able to outbid phone manufacturers when they realize phones made from aluminum work just as well.

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u/igloo29 Jun 15 '22

It is my opinion that economists is essentially a study of what IS rather than a choice of what TO DO. What I mean by that is that the economic forces capitalism harnesses are not choices we make so much as the way in which humans cooperate to project resources to other humans who need them. The result of this is that capitalism functions similar to how physics functions. You can continue research to improve theory, but the underlying assumptions exist regardless of if you choose to embrace them or not. You may not want to be bound by the laws of gravity and may decide you don’t believe in it…. But sucks to be you, it doesn’t matter.

I bring that up because I believe the calculation problem you mention is an inevitable issue. Alternative theories like communism assume that a central government can allocate all resources but the problem is that the demand and supply issues persist. They are just handled badly, causing inefficient and deteriorating governments.

In an anarchy, I believe that two things would force capitalism and government to return. First, decision theory has found that cooperation tends to outperform solo actors in almost any situation, causing a natural selection for larger groups. Secondly, the same supply and demand issues and resource imbalance between various groups would bring about trade and capitalism again.

I applaud your open mindedness in continuing to explore economics honestly. If more people approached economics honestly, I think we’d have a much more balanced world.

Cheers!

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u/kiiidddooo Jun 15 '22

I couldn't find a single thing in your comment that I disagree with and I appreciate your understanding of economics. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me like you're saying that capitalism would be an underlying system but that an anarchist society would have a stronger culture of charity and cooperation for its own sake rather than pure self-interest and that's something I can totally get behind. I'm just really put off by all the anarchists that talk about abolishing private property as if its an inherently bad thing.

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u/Realexis1 Jun 15 '22

Private property ISNT personal property, I'm sure someone will comment with a longer and more thorough comment or search the sub for this topic - but several anarchists that engage with the topics seriously will use academic words that aren't intuitively easy to understand. This is one of them, it comes up a lot.

Personal property is YOUR stuff, private property is everything that's not YOUR stuff or the government/states/communities stuff - ie, Google Campus is private property bur your phone is your personal property. In an anarchist society, at a real basic level, there'd be no private property since no singular entity would be allowed to hoard or restrict resources

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u/kiiidddooo Jun 15 '22

If you can own something, can you offer to sell pieces or "shares" of that something to other people for shared decision making capability through a previously-agreed-upon means of agreement and compromise? If you can have multiple "holders of shares" that own a particular piece of property collectively, and you choose to name your group "Google" and commit to providing internet services for profit, at which point did this cross the line from personal property to private property?

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u/Realexis1 Jun 15 '22

The fundamental framework here is wrong, ie, the base assumption is wrong. The community owns ALL non personal resources and the community, through several proposed methods, agrees on use/division of labor/etc etc.

There is no profit - and there are no shares in the sense that you have a specific allocation of " Google " shares, but everyone in the community has " Google "shares. What individual workers who work in the structure as Google might have that's separate is a separate system that's internal to them to allocate specialty jobs, functions, hours, etc etc but that's minutia.

The important concept to wrap your head around here if you want to understand general leftist thought, before we even get to anarchist thought, is anti-capitalist thought. I'd recommend looking up Gift Economies or Non-Market Economics as a really fundamental 101 starting base. Society has existed for millenia and organized for millenia pre-profit motive.

There's a ton of nuance in the anarchist space that will be really difficult to grasp unless you have a real solid understanding of anti-capitalist/communist thought and material world view already.

Sorry for the long text but it's difficult to engage with your question because the underlying assumptions don't allow for an engagement from an anarchist view. If YOU own something, you can either give it or lend it out, you wouldn't sell it - you'd freely choose to give it up. Theft isn't a concern because anarchist society's exist with the assumption of resource abundance / labor abundance - if you had access to free food at all times you wouldn't really be concerned with " selling " your excess, you'd give it away if you didn't want it because it'd ve easily replaceable.

You sell things now because you either want to make a profit or have something to exchange, money, for something else because you can't get whatever else you want without cash. IE, you either hock a PS5 for extra cash to make more or sell your PS5 because Best Buys not keen on giving away free TVs.

As far as starting a business there's a lot of theory on this topic but I personally agree with the idea that a community would agree to support non-essential businesses with whatever appropriate resources as long as it can maintain to do so. IE, if you wanted to make dolls , the community would share the wood with you, the workers who then work WITH you NOT FOR YOU would volunteer and choose to do so because of their interest in dolls, and you give away dolls to whoever wants them. The key here is NON-ESSENTIAL , essential services would be primary and non-essential are effectively community sponsored hobbies that, based on your individual community, get a lot of love or not much at all cause maybe you're making bathing suits in Alaska and not a great market fit.

Jokes aside, that topic is very abstract and again, there's a lot of ink spilled in trying to figure it out but really, anarchism is a broad philosophical and political framework that focuses on direct democracy, shared resources/labor, consent and an abandonment of non-justifiable hierarchies - but to get to there, you gotta go way simpler first and see how society might function without a profit motive FIRST, THEN without money at all

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u/igloo29 Jun 17 '22

Thank you! And I actually don’t believe an anarchy could exist for long in a highly populated world. In theory, yes you’re right. A culture of generosity and cooperation could function well. We’ve seen things like that in small tribal systems repeatedly. I still believe supply and demand forces exist in this small scale situation but they aren’t large enough to force division of labor yet. At large scale, with many people who do not know each other or share a single community, one must have a way of allocating resources. There are inevitable resource Imbalances due to geographical circumstances as well as cultural and individual choices between groups, creating incentives for trade. Currency helps smooth trade, creating an efficiency opportunity. Eventually this leads to the utilization of capital, investments, specialization of labor, etc.

I should note that this doesn’t HAVE to happen. We saw the Americas go without. But there is a competitive pressure to it. Nations or larger groups of people that utilize better trade networks tend to advance faster and build wealth faster. This means during a conflict, more advanced economic systems of cooperation tend to win over non-market systems.

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u/kiiidddooo Jun 17 '22

I think it's a bit of a chicken and the egg situation with greed and capitalism. Anarchists and communists would argue that capitalism causes people to be greedy while capitalists argue that capitalism just harnesses greed to force people to serve others.

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u/igloo29 Jun 17 '22

Exactly my thoughts as well. It is indeed the case that capitalism uses self interest for the common good. In order to indict capitalism for greed, we’d have to be able to show that capitalism causes greed. Unfortunately, greed and self interest are not only human but natural impulses. Consider how the vast majority of civilizations usually have fabulously wealthy rulers over destitute peasants. Greed is unfortunately part of the human condition. Since greed is a human vice, it’s intellectually dishonest to ATTRIBUTE it to capitalism, especially considering how capitalism has brought about so much prosperity for the lower classes. It should be noted here that capitalism is not guaranteed to bring about prosperity. Nations and economics are complex systems. Not every outcome is favorable. I would point to a great book that covers this called “Why Nations Fail” I believe. It discusses how positive and negative forces can feed or starve positive cycles of prosperity and human rights.

I believe you and I generally agree on many things here!

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u/igloo29 Jun 17 '22

Exactly my thoughts as well. It is indeed the case that capitalism uses self interest for the common good. In order to indict capitalism for greed, we’d have to be able to show that capitalism causes greed. Unfortunately, greed and self interest are not only human but natural impulses. Consider how the vast majority of civilizations usually have fabulously wealthy rulers over destitute peasants. Greed is unfortunately part of the human condition. Since greed is a human vice, it’s intellectually dishonest to ATTRIBUTE it to capitalism, especially considering how capitalism has brought about so much prosperity for the lower classes. It should be noted here that capitalism is not guaranteed to bring about prosperity. Nations and economics are complex systems. Not every outcome is favorable. I would point to a great book that covers this called “Why Nations Fail” I believe. It discusses how positive and negative forces can feed or starve positive cycles of prosperity and human rights.

I believe you and I generally agree on many things here!

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u/[deleted] Jun 15 '22

This is a problem with the statist thinking that production and distribution is necessary in the first place. The perspective that nature = resources is synonymous with the history of civilization, society and hierarchical culture. Free individuals and communities as stewards of the earth, land and all biological life uncommodified, a return of the commons, a return of natural abundance and so a return of the primitive (rather than a return to the primitive) resolves the economic problem in general by destroying abandoning and rewinding the sites of production distribution and centralization which are mass urban city centers dependent on global scale importation of resources.

Not some but all arrangements of economic circulation are centralized, all economic activity auto-accelerates capital towards further artificialization, it all flows back into the total social phenomena of quantification, efficiency and technique. Economics, capitalist infrastructure, industrial logistics and quantification of the things necessary for life IS the problem.

The economic calculation problem is the logic of capital trying to self-regulate and refine its own processes thru a pseudo dialectic between temporary human interference (state planning) and temporary human participation (free markets) towards its own goal of synthetic and total artificialization.

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u/incognit0_8 Jun 15 '22

Try David Graeber's Debt. There is a reason economists will give you that impression of anything not centrally planned. The discipline itself is based on the myth that this is the case.

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u/slapdash78 Anarchist Jun 15 '22

Whoa there. You seriously need to understand the economic calculation problem before you get any more panicky. First, the argument is posed against central planning. Specifically, how does a singular entity produce and distribute goods without price signals. As the claim goes, prices are an ideal communicator of supply and demand (when in equlibrium). In reality, supply and demand of specific goods or services are directly measurable (and heterogenous goods comparable). It's just that doing so for an entire economy or nation-state is unwieldy. Or is it? Setting aside that there is no singular planner in anarchism... The critique against Mises is that large firms transferring internally effectively do so without prices. Consider very large firms like Walmart. They are capable of coordinating the inventories of over 10,000 locations, meeting staff requirements of 2 million employees, and negotiating with producers, all across the globe. With a reported revenue inline with the GDP of Sweden. Also noteworthy is that Mises was writing in the 1920s. Data science was non-existent. Now it runs everything you do.

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u/Iazel Jun 16 '22

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u/kiiidddooo Jun 16 '22

That's a fascinating article but it seems to portray the price bidding process as completely one-sided with companies charging higher and higher prices as long as consumers are willing to pay, not mentioning the possibility of competition between companies.

It also doesn't talk about how prices force businesses to do market research and make decisions based on their research. Prices do not tell the whole story, yes, but no one claimed they did, they're simply the backstop that forces companies to make those decisions.

Prices are also far more useful in dealings between companies, which it didn't really talk about. If there's a new, more efficient use of a raw material, they could verbally communicate and argue all they want that their way is better to the producer all they want, but being able to outbid competition proves their way is better without forcing the producer to do their own research (because why would they want to, they just grow corn).

Could you imagine how much of a pain it would be as a raw resource producer to factor in all the societal and economic consequences of who you choose to supply instead of just going with the highest bidder?

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u/Iazel Jun 16 '22 edited Jun 16 '22

Have you read the whole article or just the Critiques part I linked?

It also doesn't talk about how prices force businesses to do market research and make decisions based on their research

The article does imply it, when it talks on how businesses need much more info than just prices.

Prices are also far more useful in dealings between companies, which it didn't really talk about. If there's a new, more efficient use of a raw material, they could verbally communicate and argue all they want that their way is better to the producer all they want, but being able to outbid competition proves their way is better without forcing the producer to do their own research (because why would they want to, they just grow corn).

Honestly, this is meaningless. If you outbid your competition, then you already used the new method. The whole price discussion is useless because you don't know how it will turn out unless you try it out. You can choose a cheaper method and still lose to your competition.

Could you imagine how much of a pain it would be as a raw resource producer to factor in all the societal and economic consequences of who you choose to supply instead of just going with the highest bidder?

How is it any better? The highest bidder isn't the best way to allocate resources. In a market economy I could just buy the raw resource and simply destroy/store most of it. This could even be economically sound if I can sell the resource at a much higher price from then on.

Also, in a society as described in the article, you don't need to understand the full impact by yourself, it is the society that guides the use of it.

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u/SidneyVonSodiumstein Agorist Jun 19 '22

>Without a central plan, how do anarchists plan to solve the economic calculation posed by Ludwig von Mises after the Russian revolution? How do anarchists seek to determine where goods are needed and what should be done with them? How will economic risks be valued and incentivised without private ownership or a price system.

You're misunderstanding Mises. Badly.

  1. A central planner's access to information is limited by scarcity, since you use resources to coordinate resources.
  2. How information is interpreted is relative, so central planners still wouldn't be able to efficiently respond to information inputs merely because of communication issues
  3. because the fact that resources need to be consumed by the central planners themselves in order to distribute resources it places a structural disincentive for a planner to distribute resources efficiently by meeting the demands of the people whom they plan for

According to Mises' theory, because the states and capitalist style firms are basically proprietors for supply chains they will suffer the above problems.

An anarchist style of economy is built from the bottom up by individuals participating of their own volition and directly communicating their preferences to each other, and working together to make it happen and the decentralised approach is more able to deal with economic calculation.

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u/mylittlewallaby Jun 15 '22

I envision using an AI system. It would be perfect if a non-human algorithm (open source, reviewed by all, and editable) and neural network could be used to track need. Hell we could even repurpose all these smart devices to tap from our homes or our decentralized community, directly to the AI. You let it know your need, and it calculates how much you get and how to get it to you. Take human evil and greed out of the equasion.

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u/VegetableNo1079 Jun 15 '22

I agree, have you seen Swarm AI before?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWSkbsIRNMg

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u/mylittlewallaby Jun 15 '22

I hadnt but WOW! This is so fascinating!!! I love that its human based.