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Moved from the personal finance & money SE:

The following question is somewhat of an existential nature and may not necessarily be related to finance or economics in the strict sense.

Reading various articles about professions, or things in general, that are progressively being automated (and it's not just about work in factories but doctors, brokers, lawyers, artists (sic!) and heck! even programmers themselves...), the development of medicine and biology (let's just grab CRISPR for example) I often imagine a world in which literally everything is automated: from agricultural production through everyday things (maybe even maid robots) to high-end jobs. Since in such a world literally everything is done for people, what is the meaning of work and money? When there is no work that people can do, I imagine that there are no costs associated with it, and consequently, everything is free for everyone. We live in times when people could completely give up using physical money (and some countries have already done so, I guess Sweden have forbidden using physical money and left only cards). Hence I can not fight the feeling that in today's world money is such a virtual thing, something that has no "real" value: it's just printed pieces of paper or stamped metal pieces, and people have agreed on how much they are worth, and that whole economy has been built on top of these ephemeral, imaginary things, and the finances basically come down to the database entry and the fact that someone could just type in the UPDATE TABLE query with the new amount of money that is in the account (of course, I know that it is impossible that there is inflation, etc.).

Summing up: there is certainly a lot of mistakes or misunderstandings in my thinking, but I wonder what role the money will have (or any other means of payment) in the world at the moment when there will be no more jobs for humans on the planet? Is it possible that the money will still exist at all? I know that there is a fairly fierce debate on this subject and that different approaches to the topic, such as universal basic income, are invented, but again I have the impression that it comes down to the thing above, that is subtracting the amount in one cell and adding in the other.

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  • $\begingroup$ If I have some sort of control over the very last non-automated thing in the world and I want to automate it, how will I negotiate the purchase of the needed robot if I don't have any money? $\endgroup$ – Hot Licks Nov 7 '17 at 2:37
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    $\begingroup$ "I can not fight the feeling that in today's world money is such a virtual thing, something that has no 'real' value" -- do you seriously think that? Thousands of people die everyday who could be saved by money. Or is death not real enough? $\endgroup$ – M3RS Nov 9 '17 at 17:46
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Your argument is built on this assumption:

When there is no work that people can do, I imagine that there are no costs associated with it, and consequently, everything is free for everyone

That assumption is not true, and so your conclusion does not stand.

We usually classify production factors into labour, land, capital, enterprise. As you can see, labour is only one of the four factors. But all four factors incur costs: land still needs rent, enterprise still needs profit, capital still needs investment.

Another way of looking at it, is that even if the supply of labour is effectively unlimited (because so little of it is needed to produce anything), the supply of other things is still limited, i.e. there is still some scarcity. There is still a limited amount of iron in the world, or copper, or cabbages. And money is part of markets, which are the main mechanism for managing those limited supplies.

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    $\begingroup$ As one of my favorite professors once pointed out, even if we had unlimited resources we still have limited time... people will be only spending their time on activities they think are 'worth' it $\endgroup$ – serakfalcon Nov 7 '17 at 16:45
  • $\begingroup$ I see and understand your point, but just for the sake of argument I'd like to hear more: I already assumed that there is no work on the planet and this means that labour factor is eliminated. Doesn't that eliminate the enterprise factor too? Enterprise run by who (or should I rather ask by what) and at what cost, since everything is automated? $\endgroup$ – user15109 Nov 9 '17 at 23:22
  • $\begingroup$ And since the labour factor is eliminated, but land is not, then how people are supposed to pay for the land they want to buy or that they are living (like nowadays land taxes)? Are they supposed to get some income based on the area that they already have? From what you're saying I can understand that the land is supposed to stay as a trade item. Isn't it impossible that there will be no more land to trade when everybody would have some and nobody will be willing to sell his/hers? $\endgroup$ – user15109 Nov 9 '17 at 23:33
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Money fulfill three main function. They are: -medium of exchange -unit of account -store of value. Money are the most liquid asset one can own, as a medium of exchange they help us avoid the "coincidence of wants" that should be given in a barter system. The purchasing power of money depends on the supply and demand of them. The value of the money depends on their purchasing power, on their expected future purchasing power (are they good as a storage of value), and from their wider acceptance as a medium of exchange.

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