Atoms of English

There’s an idea that just as English is composed of words, thought is composed of essential parts too. Perhaps there is a direct relationship between the most essential words and the most essential thoughts. How could we find out what are the atoms of thought, and what are just the molecules though?

Here’s one (quite unscientific) method. Take a dictionary, throw away all the words that don’t feature in any definitions since they can be described by other words, but aren’t needed to describe any word. Now, rewrite the definitions so that each word is replaced with its definition. Again, throw away any word that doesn’t feature in the new definitions. Continue boiling until you aren’t getting rid of words anymore.

I took Websters dictionary from the project Gutenberg site. I started with 95712 words. After the initial throwing away of words that weren’t in any definitions, I was down to 4489 words. After expanding them, and throwing away words that weren’t in the expanded definitions, I was down to 3601 words. Setting recursive definitions as atoms and continuing got me down to 2565 words, which should be enough to describe every thought you might have…

It turns out that a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, n, o, q, s, t, u, v, w, y, z are the essential letters, leaving m, p, r and x as compound concepts.

I’m not sure how to reduce the number of words further, so here they are:

much, muck, vane, vamp, murk, mule, mull, vain, helve, mump, gland, tilth, musk, must, muss, mute, vase, soothe, souled, vast, glass, glare, scrimp, wrench, cove, cowl, pronged, hence, scurf, lance, scull, smouch, ketch, fy, glaze, ha, go, do, by, twinge, be, frock, itch, boast, cram, lynch, at, as, crab, an, tinge, no, of, realm, on, or, tined, board, pi, crew, me, my, ky, la, is, it, crib, in, slack, frond, front, up, to, frost, crow, crop, froth, so, reach, course, crup, frown, george, sleaved, gleet, club, clot, clog, lipped, inch, screw, scrim, scrip, fetch, screen, screed, billed, wythe, swathe, scrub, frill, clip, kibed, clew, clay, clan, clam, clap, claw, cock, code, large, coal, coat, pledge, quid, quit, quiz, frith, yacht, cope, cool, cook, coop, coot, cone, come, comb, waltz, cost, scribe, cork, corn, core, cord, scrap, colt, cold, coke, coin, tinned, coil, coif, taint, waffle, marked, glint, vive, reign, chit, chum, yeast, chop, corps, view, vice, yield, glide, terse, vine, gliff, char, chap, chat, scythe, fruit, nail, name, couch, spight, slish, waive, drain, waist, draft, slime, sling, slink, hoard, skilled, fierce, slide, plump, rinse, plumb, slice, pluck, drake, drape, right, scroll, slake, vest, slang, slant, vert, keeve, vent, vend, slate, slave, veil, vein, veer, taste, slight, cough, court, count, kedge, juice, warmth, wreath, hitch, glove, gloss, sleek, sleep, gloom, wright, sleid, cell, reeve, ceil, shelve, weight, globe, cent, cede, scaled, tared, slope, sloop, meet, dawk, daze, meek, crouch, brown, broth, rock, robe, scent, mend, scene, roan, roam, roar, melt, brose, mess, mesh, mere, broom, brook, brood, mete, clinch, strength, ridge, wraith, douche, crotch, fault, loose, draught, meat, mean, meal, seethe, vole, void, tierce, bilge, iced, vote, paint, ghost, deed, deep, cracked, deck, dear, deal, dean, dead, deaf, priest, haunch, desk, dent, nappe, made, farce, make, mail, main, scant, midst, beast, mace, scale, scald, scalp, beard, mawk, math, mate, scarp, scarf, scare, scaup, manx, male, malt, mall, mask, beach, mash, mass, mast, tenth, marl, mark, mart, mars, tense, rive, knife, ring, rind, ripe, risk, rise, brunt, rift, squab, oared, conch, brush, ride, brute, rich, squib, squid, nerved, phono, shive, dace, copse, bight, dauk, date, dash, dart, dark, snatch, shift, shine, damp, dame, shirk, shire, shirt, daft, basque, scrape, knell, scrawl, shawl, shave, tease, laugh, sprain, birth, teach, scowl, coarse, scorn, score, scots, scour, birch, scout, scope, scoop, read, coach, rear, reap, rhyme, reed, reef, reek, reel, scold, latch, rein, false, kneed, rent, rest, knead, coast, lurch, bitts, stretch, mood, wretch, mole, sheer, sheet, moll, mohr, move, mown, shears, moss, most, mote, moth, more, scream, sheal, moon, moot, sheaf, shear, prince, praise, shell, shelf, mode, mock, moan, moat, fresh, louse, sherd, rave, watch, rant, rank, hoarse, rapt, rape, faith, rare, rate, rash, spread, rasp, faint, mite, teens, steeve, mill, milk, mild, milt, teeth, mink, mine, mind, minx, mire, miss, mist, search, rhumb, bouffe, curl, curb, cure, calced, curt, cusp, cusk, rage, raft, rake, raid, knight, rail, rain, waste, mince, preach, cube, rack, race, nerve, waved, hunk, hunt, lunge, hulk, hull, slush, huff, huge, beached, hued, looped, husk, hurt, hurl, shade, frank, shaft, trench, frame, shake, shall, frail, shame, launch, launce, shank, shape, share, sharp, shark, brave, brawl, braze, brass, weave, frieze, nautch, throat, press, pshaw, bathe, batch, wait, wail, stanch, wage, boat, wale, walk, wall, barge, wake, preen, throng, throne, wade, bridge, grunt, braid, brain, brail, born, bore, boss, bote, bout, brace, bowl, boil, ward, ware, want, brant, brand, based, bolt, bold, boll, hooked, bomb, wave, hatch, friend, warn, warm, wart, warp, bond, bone, wash, brake, boot, book, boom, boon, bright, nosed, night, norse, haunt, weed, wedge, weep, weak, weal, wear, just, jump, smack, north, junk, sail, sage, safe, notch, sack, small, click, blur, blue, smart, witch, cloak, ninth, blot, quench, blow, hawse, flange, breed, sylph, close, bream, break, bread, prill, prime, clock, print, pride, price, prick, breve, tryst, clout, clove, clown, cloth, cloud, bite, bird, bing, bile, bill, bilk, bind, bitt, winged, drunk, hound, house, hours, suite, berth, flanged, nude, numb, breathe, bide, joke, join, barbed, splint, odds, guards, dredge, death, perch, shrike, shrill, shrimp, ruck, fringe, winch, wince, cheese, shriek, shuck, scheme, shunt, bribe, brick, rust, bride, rush, brief, brine, bring, brink, wine, wind, rude, wing, wink, shrine, shrink, sphere, ruff, wipe, wise, wisp, wire, rule, with, twill, twine, welsh, smile, twist, dunce, halve, best, bend, bell, belt, bent, twice, beef, pitch, bear, beat, thrist, bead, beak, beam, thrive, thrill, stepped, thrips, bench, smith, smite, whelked, dulse, sulks, roll, knock, roil, root, height, rope, roof, room, prawn, rote, ross, rose, broad, rout, prank, knosp, thrall, shield, knout, pounce, well, welt, wend, bruise, webbed, west, sphinx, clump, barn, bark, bare, bard, wide, surge, bath, bate, bass, base, ditch, bane, band, bank, bang, balm, wild, shoot, will, shook, jibe, shore, short, shote, smear, shove, wife, shout, back, tweak, bait, bail, bake, ball, balk, bale, bald, stored, priced, jilt, thread, what, whig, whim, whip, whir, toast, weird, when, shroud, whet, whey, harsh, weigh, shoal, smell, smelt, shock, twang, cage, zone, spar, writ, span, flute, flush, brusque, cheve, chest, fluke, wield, cave, drink, cheat, sour, soul, sort, sore, pinch, soph, soot, carl, carp, care, card, cart, cast, cash, case, cask, breach, drill, soon, cane, jest, camp, drive, sole, sold, cant, some, juggs, jerk, cake, cheep, cheer, cheek, soil, calm, call, calk, calf, check, soft, soak, soap, quitch, fleet, fleer, nine, taunt, snug, stuff, girth, snow, stunt, stump, hutch, flesh, stupe, voice, spoil, singe, spout, spoon, since, sinch, spoor, spool, sport, spore, strew, nice, nide, nick, nigh, strap, straw, stray, piled, strop, badge, strip, hurst, jeer, breath, breast, strum, strut, dried, glance, drift, spot, trine, spur, trill, school, spit, spin, trite, trice, trick, tride, tribe, breech, tried, schist, dress, clothe, chirk, spunk, chine, chink, troupe, child, chill, spurn, spurt, skid, quince, skip, skin, skim, chief, dream, trough, need, smoke, near, neat, neap, neck, style, smock, pique, spurred, wood, woof, flake, next, flail, newt, news, size, spleen, womb, nest, wolf, flash, flask, flare, judge, work, worm, flank, word, flame, float, smut, smug, flock, splent, snap, snag, hunch, flood, smee, smew, slow, slur, slug, dread, breeze, jack, jade, trend, floor, shrewd, sprig, slam, sled, width, flour, slim, flown, sprag, spray, slip, slit, cordate, tread, treat, slot, staves, truck, horse, writhe, branch, trump, trunk, sight, trust, truss, world, spice, noise, fleece, tooth, worth, worse, clang, clank, piece, chilled, clamp, pearl, peart, claim, probe, sphex, clare, clasp, class, sick, drove, side, pouched, sift, sign, deuce, prong, proof, butt, buzz, krems, clack, prose, proud, buoy, siss, prove, sire, bunk, bung, bump, site, bull, bulk, bulb, prowl, bush, burr, burn, buff, silk, silt, sink, toned, sine, sing, tongs, sham, zinc, shad, speck, speed, shed, childe, spell, spend, logged, shun, shut, legged, shin, ship, shop, show, shot, shoe, touch, tough, through, dense, note, nose, none, noon, scar, nonce, chase, charm, chart, chalk, chant, starch, scad, scab, whorled, furze, chair, chain, chafe, twitch, sand, salt, sake, chinch, flick, flirt, buck, trout, save, flint, fling, sash, split, droop, splay, grieve, keyed, clerk, smooth, noose, clear, cleat, clean, depth, seal, seam, cleft, sear, seat, gnash, seck, daunt, seed, seel, seek, troth, thrust, thrush, self, troll, send, brow, scow, flounce, spite, scum, starve, brun, ounce, nones, scye, spire, spike, spile, spill, spine, brag, prune, inched, vogue, bret, brew, brim, whiff, which, whirl, space, spade, whine, while, spalt, spasm, spare, spark, dance, zest, surd, sure, sunn, broach, suit, dough, salve, stern, such, doubt, suck, gneiss, crime, twelve, whisk, white, steak, steal, crisp, stub, bulge, stud, steam, sense, stop, stow, steep, steel, stir, there, stay, star, stab, stag, stew, stet, stem, step, poach, springe, thewed, douse, their, gift, ooze, gill, gild, knob, know, knot, knee, give, knit, bunch, spear, speak, gist, gird, girt, glib, glow, build, built, croak, crock, spright, glum, glue, sluice, glut, stark, start, stave, state, stake, stain, stall, stalk, stale, stamp, stand, flight, stack, stage, staff, serve, glad, blight, ache, eyed, goat, goal, goaf, goad, eyre, swim, swig, swop, croup, gnat, cross, crore, joule, crown, crowd, swab, sway, swan, joist, sized, speech, joint, thirst, stock, myrrh, glimpse, light, sauce, sault, else, crude, whole, crumb, grease, whoop, whore, crump, crust, crush, gaze, clause, gape, gang, gaul, gate, gash, gasp, crowned, garb, stork, store, gaff, storm, gage, stool, stoop, gain, gauze, stone, gall, gale, game, stove, stout, stoup, sarse, grace, grade, coursed, gauge, march, once, stink, sting, stint, still, stilt, stiff, stick, seize, marsh, polled, tail, tang, tamp, tame, tall, talk, take, tart, tare, garth, tape, task, south, sound, match, burst, geld, liege, burke, germ, sheathe, gear, tack, porte, wheeled, foxed, wicked, eight, dodge, fuse, moist, plague, stringed, funk, fund, twaite, full, thou, feud, they, fell, thin, this, fend, felt, quail, quake, fear, that, than, feed, feel, quart, choose, sconce, quash, tend, gripe, cowled, tent, tell, teil, grist, teem, pawl, pawn, grill, teat, tear, pave, quack, team, path, past, pass, parch, paste, vault, sponge, porch, lapsed, scratch, park, pare, faints, part, text, pale, palm, pall, pang, test, apse, page, pair, pain, paid, pack, rogue, term, scorch, fyke, thrack, young, crined, leaved, arched, arch, fish, graze, fist, firm, fire, grave, formed, fitz, five, roast, fizz, queue, graft, fife, fief, yoke, grail, grain, vexed, file, grasp, grass, tailed, querl, peaked, grate, quest, quell, grant, grand, finn, fine, find, fill, time, auld, queer, queen, tilt, till, tile, greed, crunch, tift, great, scotch, greek, green, veined, paned, kail, thus, tier, tide, tick, chord, chops, choke, peak, pear, forked, chock, flex, flea, solve, peck, flay, flaw, flax, flat, flap, flag, peel, peen, peer, perk, pelt, pest, toll, tomb, tone, groom, scouse, tool, tope, sparse, toed, groan, wharf, flow, sparge, whaup, flux, grout, tote, toss, flip, tour, tout, budge, town, gross, group, sexed, chyme, mouthed, clutch, ribbed, bit, foil, bin, big, bob, kern, bog, leech, forge, box, bow, boy, ban, bag, bad, baa, bay, bat, bar, foam, mesne, force, beg, bee, bed, bey, quick, bid, cat, can, cap, quilt, quill, wormed, bug, bud, but, buy, tongue, bye, quite, aim, air, blithe, aid, and, poise, all, quaint, abb, month, age, add, adz, progue, ace, act, choice, keen, keel, keep, fowl, four, foul, forth, are, arc, arm, ark, fork, form, art, ash, ask, ape, fore, apt, point, foot, fool, awe, font, food, awk, awl, ass, fond, fold, auk, whelm, patch, where, lithe, year, yean, mound, mount, horned, mouth, mouse, yelp, yell, quoth, quote, fret, free, fred, chuck, fray, frog, from, found, face, wheel, fade, fact, prompt, scrolled, tube, tuck, sober, crease, fail, fair, tuft, fake, saint, fall, churn, fame, tune, tump, groined, fawn, lived, fate, kiss, fast, fare, farm, kite, tree, trap, trot, troy, leave, least, forced, learn, leash, lease, trip, trim, true, leach, clumps, pounced, kink, king, kind, kill, kiln, jet, sleeve, guise, drop, jar, jam, jag, jaw, twin, twig, purge, job, joy, thought, jog, jig, pray, jib, drum, drug, wrest, prim, prig, ire, draw, haired, prod, drag, prop, dram, drab, purse, kid, kin, kit, black, pussy, key, sprout, league, guide, fight, turn, turf, jug, cranked, tush, tusk, tight, guild, boiled, length, goose, haw, rowed, hay, hew, her, hen, hem, hip, type, his, hit, sledge, doze, god, swipe, down, dorr, swish, gum, backed, switch, fifth, guy, gut, swing, swine, lorn, lord, lore, wreak, lope, doit, loop, loom, loon, look, wreck, lone, long, dock, ice, growth, roust, rouse, paunch, done, frogged, vague, puff, lout, love, inn, ink, loud, lost, loss, dome, ill, dole, lose, how, loan, pure, loam, loaf, hog, purl, hot, load, hop, hoe, field, hug, pull, pulp, round, hub, pump, yaws, yawn, loft, hum, should, rouge, rough, yarn, yard, push, lock, chance, few, fee, fib, guess, guest, change, fay, fat, luck, far, fan, fag, luce, eye, punch, eve, lodge, elf, elm, elk, ell, end, egg, eke, bleak, gin, gib, gig, swamp, get, swage, gem, dung, swath, gag, gas, gar, gap, dupe, squeeze, dusk, dust, sward, smeared, swart, swarm, bleed, lure, duff, fur, faced, duke, lute, dump, fra, dumb, lust, dull, fro, fry, fox, for, fog, foe, lump, duck, fly, fig, fin, fir, fit, fix, horn, hour, hood, hook, dab, hoop, dag, dam, day, hope, blaze, cup, cue, hold, home, hole, hone, cut, leafed, sweal, swear, blade, sweat, cod, cog, con, cot, sweep, sweet, cry, blank, bland, swell, blast, cit, blare, ebb, sterned, ear, eat, wrist, write, squint, eel, wring, squill, edh, dur, squirt, squire, dot, hock, spring, dog, hoar, dun, dup, due, dub, dry, dib, dew, den, dim, din, dip, die, dig, heel, guard, heck, pith, red, rep, dike, verge, heir, raw, ray, heft, dill, rap, rat, dine, ram, help, dint, rot, row, rob, hemp, rod, hell, helm, dirk, dire, dish, disk, disc, dirt, herd, rip, rig, rim, rib, rye, run, rum, rut, pick, rub, charge, sad, sag, pink, pine, ping, say, saw, pile, heat, heap, hear, heal, head, pipe, lynx, six, shy, sit, sip, sin, sew, set, sea, see, sou, sow, church, sol, son, sod, raised, fleeced, sky, limbed, sly, wrong, wroth, sty, sue, sum, sup, sun, blink, blind, tag, tax, taw, tau, tar, tap, tan, dice, snuff, pulse, par, pat, paw, pay, pad, pap, pan, chaste, loath, magged, mease, pew, plea, pen, per, pet, peg, ply, play, pie, pig, plan, pin, pip, pit, poy, pox, pop, pot, pry, curve, aisle, put, pun, pug, pyx, groove, harp, plot, hard, hall, hale, half, verse, hake, hang, hand, hawk, plum, plug, haze, hate, hash, hasp, have, haul, hive, eighth, net, sleave, new, nap, hind, hill, square, hire, grange, hint, gourd, nul, nun, high, nod, spruce, not, nor, now, gouge, chouse, nib, nip, chough, ohm, thyme, oil, poll, pole, strained, poke, odd, pound, grouse, pond, off, oak, own, mulch, owe, our, out, pouch, ground, ore, corked, orb, old, stitch, one, lag, lap, lar, law, lax, lay, lop, loo, log, lot, blotch, low, lug, pour, pout, port, prayer, pose, lex, post, let, leg, lee, nurse, pons, pool, lip, bowse, lin, poor, poop, lid, lie, mad, map, man, may, mat, mew, mob, mop, mow, mud, hewn, gorge, mix, mid, keeled, thump, thumb, stream, snood, snort, streak, skirt, bound, thatch, skill, skiff, jawed, edge, pierce, each, blown, blote, ease, east, bloom, earl, earn, fives, curled, blood, block, plate, trawl, yea, yen, yew, yet, trash, feast, tramp, plant, strain, plank, strait, plane, trail, train, trait, plash, strand, place, shirred, trade, plait, strath, plaid, plain, trace, track, tract, gyte, though, leet, leer, feign, hinge, lead, leaf, lean, leak, leap, blunt, strike, stride, strict, feint, blush, wry, thrid, wet, web, who, throw, wis, win, why, smudge, bluff, thrum, wan, wax, way, war, was, wag, wad, haft, hair, hail, hack, three, vow, vat, sniff, use, urn, snide, laze, stress, straight, brooch, lard, last, phrase, lash, tun, late, tub, tug, lave, two, try, lake, toe, land, lane, lank, toy, tow, ton, too, top, lamb, lame, lamp, tie, tin, tip, tic, tid, boots, ten, lade, tea, lace, lack, spired, the, bronze, gree, dyke, gray, boned, health, grit, grip, lick, lieu, life, lief, blanch, like, link, line, limp, lime, plight, lift, eared, wooled, cause, grub, swoop, gros, grow, sword, urge, sneer, crack, sneak, crane, crank, gold, thorn, crape, good, crass, gong, freight, crate, craft, gorm, gore, crake, gown, cramp, raise, left, lend, lere, craze, fanged, earth, less, stripe, chinned, string, lewd, strive, necked, range, plead, thick, snare, snarl, think, sleeved, heath, heart, third, heave, snail, snake, creak, cream, stroke, creep, carte, carve, strong, hearse, crest, creux, bogue, slough, plunge, first, gust, gush, browed, lint, gulf, live, list, lisp, catch, fence, hedge

The Pinnacle of Human Civilisation

If you’ve been wondering, I’m afraid we don’t make it to the stars. Sorry. We never solve the problems of poverty, environment and food supply that keep our species to such a meager proportion of the earths surface and with a population dwarfed by more successful species such as cockroaches.

In fact, you and I (assuming you’re reading this in the near future, before the cataclysm, since I don’t suppose my blog postings will be among the rare pieces of knowledge passed down) are it. We’re there, at the top. The human race has struggled and achieved remarkable things, amazing expansions in technology, and population, but it will all soon fade away.

The statistical evidence is strong (and adapted from an argument I read recently in a New Scientist). If you imagine everyone who has ever lived – a huge mass of people, and select one at random for you to be, what are the chances that you’d end up living now? Fairly good, since we have a massive population now compared to the past.

Unfortunately, that argument also tells us about the shape of likely futures. Imagine a future where the human race colonizes other worlds and out-lives the burning out of the sun in 5 billion years time. Now, assuming the future turns out that way, imagine all the people who ever exist. It’s a lot. In fact, it’s massive, and the population at the height of humanities spread will dwarf our current population into insignificance. Select a person at random to be out of that huge mass of humans for all time. What is the probability that you’re someone alive now? Tiny. In fact, you’re much more likely to be alive when the human population is at its greatest than now.

So, either we are astonishingly unlikely freaks of statistics, or there is no such future.

By far the most likely scenario is that the population stabilizes for a bit and then declines, making now, of all the times available, one of the more likely times to be alive.

The Golden Age is now. Make the most of it while you can.

Workers Utopia

Warning: this article is a work of wild speculation. The existence of this article does not mean that I condone the extrapolating of a single figure for 500 years under normal circumstances. I am not an economist, so I actually have no clue what I’m talking about. My research tool for this was Google, so my figures are to be trusted :-). However, I am prepared to take instruction. If you can improve this wild speculation in any way, then please contact me: kyb at


The tendancy of people to redefine luxuries as necessities has been the fuel to capitalism, to the benefit of the total wealth of the world. Given that capitalism doesn’t work too well without inequality, it has also ensured that many hard working people are wage slaves or in poverty. A utopian future, as Marx might have imagined, or as you may have seen discussed in Star Trek, or the Culture novels by Iain M Banks could not possibly come into existence without a massive labour surplus.

If everyone was happy with the bare essentials, the world already does have enough to provide acceptably for everyone. The surplus is not enough however for people just to do whatever they want. When I say acceptably, looking at the figures, we are talking a very basic lifestyle. Everyone would have to work approximately as hard as they work at the moment (less if the labour is divided evenly), and people just wouldn’t do it. People can’t maintain a high level of productivity if there is no personal benefit to it over being entirely unproductive, except for the nebulous feeling of satisfaction you might get. This is particularly true when you realise that the majority of people probably don’t have jobs they particularly enjoy.

But people are never happy with the bare essentials.

If there is anyone with the desire for more wealth than they have, the whole system breaks down, because inequality is self-reinforcing. In Utopia, everyone must have what they want or they will devise ways to take it from others.

How much surplus do we need?

I’ve often heard it argued that no matter how much money you have, you always want more. After reading quotes and interviews with extremely wealthy people, I’m pretty sure that simply isn’t true. No one contends that great wealth brings happiness, but the quote from Arnold Schwarzenegger is typical:

I now have $50 million but I was just as happy when I had $48 million.

But maybe Arnie is being too conservative. How much could anyone ever want to spend, as a rough maximum? This is a fairly difficult figure to estimate. The average person in the UK spends roughly 1.5 million pounds (2.7 million dollars) over their whole lifetime, but I’m pretty sure that every one of them would like to spend more if they could. It’s not until you get to the very wealthy, where they give large portions of their money away, and still die with millions unspent that we could get an estimate for the most you’d want to spend. The wealthiest people in the world really can buy anything they want, yet even the most profligate rarely spend more than 0.5% of their wealth in a year on luxuries.

According to Forbes, Mr Over-The-Top Spender would be Roman Abramovich, who by quite a long way overspends his nearest rival with 700 million dollars over the last two years spent on play things. (Chelsea FC, a yacht with helipad, another yacht, a boeing 767 fitted with a kitchen with goldplated sinks). This amount spent is unusual even for very rich people, but if we say that the most anyone has spent on toys over a single year averages out to 350 million and multiply that up by 80 years, I think we can get a generous estimate as to how much money would be enough for even a big spender over their whole lifetime. I think that at this level, we can ignore other living costs as being negligible.

The lifetime amount is 28 billion dollars. Two people alive have a good bit more than that according to Forbes. Bill Gates (48 billion) and Warren Buffet (41 billion). To spend 28 billion dollars over your entire lifetime you’d need to be spending 40,000 dollars every hour of your life, quite a challenge. If you want to see if its possible you need to see if Bill or Warren are interested enough to try the experiment. It’d still leave either of them in the wealthiest top 10.

If we relied on peoples personal motivation to do work that they wanted to do, rather than work that they had to do, I estimate a drop in productivity to 33% of its current value. This is a complete guess, based on the number of retirees who still do productive work if they are able, plus anecdotal evidence, plus the fact that even if I didn’t need to work, I think I’d still work 2 days a week. If you’ve got any ideas for a better way to estimate this figure, then let me know. The actual figure may be much higher than this particularly if people live in a culture where productive work is highly respected, and if the majority of people aren’t so creative and need suggestions about what to do with all their free time.

If this estimate is correct, then to allow everyone to do whatever they wanted, we’d need a society that produced approximately 3 times whatever level it needs to sustain people. For the truly utopian society where even Roman Abramovich doesn’t feel like he needs more wealth, we would be looking for a GDP per capita of 3x 350 million or 1.5 billion dollars.

How much longer

Is a per capita GDP of 1.5 billion even possible? There are a wide variety of opinions on whether there is an upper limit to possible wealth or not. The Culture of Iain M Banks does it by using the resources of space and having many artifical intelligences of various levels to do all the needed work. Luxembourg is the closest so far with a tiny 58.9 thousand dollars GDP per capita. So they’re 0.004% of the way there.

In the US, GDP per capita annual growth rate has been around 2% since 1975 and has even picked up of late. Extrapolating from 2004 figures of 40100 at a rate of 2%, the US reaches that goal in 2536. The world of course reaches the goal a little later (8800 in 2004, a growth rate of 2.2% estimated from figures since 1820) in 2558. Only 553 years to go!

Cancel the Revolution!

Or at least postpone it until 2558

My best guess is that utopia (also communism) doesn’t work until 2558. All you Marxists should get your nose to the grindstone and work on increasing productivity until then. But those who are alive then will see the demise of money, and a vast flourishing of individual freedom. When people are completely free economically, they’ll have a lifetime to contemplate all they other ways they feel constrained. And we’ll finally be able to test my theory that without limits there is no creativity.

Originally posted at