February 16, 2016

The Theory of Interstellar Trade

Paul Krugman, a nobel prize winning economist, took it upon himself to figure out how interstellar trade might work in practice. Scientific American wrote a short summary on some of the peculiar finds to come out of his thought experiment. Krugman argues that it's highly unlikely that in a thriving interstellar economy a market for physical goods would ever exist. Since Physicalities are pretty much universal so it wouldn't make a whole lot of sense to ship matter from one solar system to another considering they would already have the same matter at the receiving end. Why would they invest all that time and energy when it would be so much easier to just transmit the blueprints of their goods as electromagnetic radiation? With this in mind Krugman estimates that the backbone of interstellar trade will be made up of markets dealing in ideas, software, math, scientific theories, literature, music, biological and mechanical designs, ...


He concludes that we might have been unwittingly giving away our most valuable assets for free during the past century! Radio shows, TV shows, all manner of communications have been spewing outwards into interstellar space – at least for a few decades, before we started adopting low-power digital transmissions and dimmed the signal. Have we messed up our cosmic economic future? Perhaps not. We may have unwittingly invented the freemium sales model long before we used the term. There could be billions of sentient beings out there hanging on our every word, every second of Happy Days re-runs and knife-set infomercials. Now we just have to figure out how to get them to pay for upgraded service."

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