The Singularity Will Not Eliminate Money

Bill Hibbard     17 March 2012


This is a response to Ben Goertzel's interesting article Will corporations prevent the Singularity?


Ben writes that money will become obsolete in the post-Singularity world because of abundance created by technology that can manufacture huge quantities of everything. With the usual disclaimer that it is hard for us to predict a world populated by minds far superior to ours, I can think of at least three things that are likely to retain economic value after the Singularity:


1. Intelligent matter. Currently, the only known intelligent matter is human brains. It is the most precious thing on Earth and post-Singularity it will still be the most precious thing on Earth. Even though it should be possible to create huge amounts of intelligence matter, the quantity will be finite. Assuming people will be able to increase their intelligence by adding more intelligent matter, there will be no limit to the amount that at least some people want. So no matter how large the finite supply, it will be scarce relative to demand.


2. Public policy decisions. Sometimes people can simply buy influence over laws and sometimes they have to use their money in more subtle and less certain ways. But in any case, money does increase a person's influence over public policy decisions. There may still be interesting policy decisions in a post-Singularity world, such as whether and how motivations/utility functions of super-AIs and enhanced humans are regulated.


3. Land on the planet Earth. Perhaps more of this can be created as in Larry Niven's novel Ringworld, but such a project is likely to require quantities of usable energy that will challenge even a post-Singularity world. And even if a Ringworld can be built, it will not create an infinite amount of land.


And there may be other things whose supply is limited relative to their demand, including usable energy, certain chemical elements and historical artifacts such as paintings by Vermeer. Money and economics are likely to survive the Singularity as a way to allocate intelligent matter, influence over public policy, land on Earth and possibly other things.