Interesting thoughts, thanks. It's hard to know how it will all play out. I agree with you on looking at first principles like energy flows -- that is why so much of mainstream economics is bunk. I mention that here:
"Here is a sample meta-theoretical framework PU economists no doubt could vastly improve on if they turned their minds to it. Consider three levels of nested perspectives on the same economic reality -- physical items, decision makers, and emergent properties of decision maker interactions. (Three levels of being or consciousness is a common theme in philosophical writings, usually rock, plant, and animal, or plant, animal, and human.)
At a first level of perspective, the world we live in at any point in time can be considered to have physical content like land or tools or fusion reactors like the sun, energy flows like photons from the sun or electrons from lightning or in circuits, informational patterns like web page content or distributed language knowledge, and active regulating processes (including triggers, amplifiers, and feedback loops) built on the previous three types of things (physicality, energy flow, and informational patterns) embodied in living creatures, bi-metallic strip thermostats, or computer programs running on computer hardware.
One can think of a second perspective on the first comprehensive one by picking out only the decision makers like bi-metallic strips in thermostats, computer programs running on computers, and personalities embodied in people and maybe someday robots or supercomputers, and looking at their characteristics as individual decision makers.
One can then think of a third level of perspective on the second where decision makers may invent theories about how to control each other using various approaches like internet communication standards, ration unit tokens like fiat dollars, physical kanban tokens, narratives in emails, and so on. What the most useful theories are for controlling groups of decision makers is an interesting question, but I will not explore it in depth. But I will pointing out that complex system dynamics at this third level of perspective can emerge whether control involves fiat dollars, "kanban" tokens, centralized or distributed optimization based on perceived or predicted demand patterns, human-to-human discussions, something else entirely, or a diverse collection of all these things. And I will also point out that one should never confuse the reality of the physical system being controlled for the control signals (money, spoken words, kanban cards, internet packet contents, etc.) being passed around in the control system.
The above is somewhat inspired by "cybernetics". "
Elites can also come and go for various reasons. In the book of the oral history of some Native Americans, "The Walking People", the elite of that group 1000s of years ago lived by the beach while the rest lived up higher, but they got wiped out by a tidal wave, and the rest started walking...
Maybe a deeper issue is, as Charles Dickens worried about like in "A Tale of Two Cities", that society can so fast become an angry mob tearing everything apart... But the angry mob of the French Revolution mostly could lust use blades like the guillotine to vent their wrath. Individuals in today's angry mobs will have access to bioweapons including designer plagues, stolen nukes, chemical weapons, drones, cell-phone-based IEDs, computer viruses, airplanes to crash into things, and so on. That could all spiral into something very awful, especially when governments fight back and it all escalates... It's been suggested one answer to the Fermi Paradox is that all civilizations with advanced tech wipe themselves out.
I feel it is best to avoid the risk of ending up there, and things like a basic income, a gift economy, better democratic planning, and even improvised subsistence help us avoid that by making our society work more equitably. They also provide the life support would-be inventors and creators need to have time to be inventive and creative. However, we need to do more than that too -- for example, the US house of representatives could have thousands of members to make each one more approachable and it harder to bribe key members...
Yet, for all that, it is true that nature shows us both cooperation and competition. A tiger is a miracle of cooperation in all its cells. Yet it then hunts down other creatures to eat. There is some deep metaphysical issue there... And aspects shade into left/right politics of inclusion/compassion vs. exclusion/punishment. Evolutionary Biologist EO Wilson writes about how our "noblest" aspirations like for cooperation and self-sacrifice and peace arise from selection of surviving groups, and yet our basest motivations for greed and backstabbing and war arise from selection for competitive behaviors within groups and between groups. One might also ask, how do we define who is in the "group", and how does that change over time (like in the USA with civil rights movements)? And there is also a sense in evolutionary writings that every generation with its mating dance and focus on "beauty" as seen by common standards is selecting conservatively to filter our mutations and deviances -- even though sometimes specific adaptive mutations and related specific adaptive deviations are what a species might need to survive. And then the definition of "beauty" would eventually change in the eye of the mutated beholder. Human examples are probably like when blond hair and blue eyes became exciting to some in Northern Europe, or when sexual selection might have driven increased verbal ability, or suggestions about how avoiding individual violence might have been selected for by agrarian/industrial economic systems requiring more planning and persistence and cooperation and passing on inherited wealth. Anyway, its a complex mess of tangled interactions, and it is hard to know what viable politics will arise from trying to make sense of that all. As you insightfully say, history can be a guide, yet new conditions (like from modern technology, including cheap cell phones) may require new routes into unmapped terrain.
Also, there is often a law of diminishing (or even negative) returns on more stuff, like studies by Suniya S. Luthar:
"Children of affluence are generally presumed to be at low risk. However, recent studies have suggested problems in several domainsâ"notably, substance use, anxiety, and depressionâ"and 2 sets of potential causes: pressures to achieve and isolation from parents. Recognizing the limited awareness of these issues, the objectives in this paper are to collate evidence on the nature of problems among the wealthy and their likely causes. The first half of the paper is focused on disturbances among affluent children and the second half is focused on characteristics of their families and neighborhoods. Widespread negative sentiments toward the rich are then discussed, and the paper concludes with suggestions for future work with families at the upper end of the socioeconomic spectrum."
Don't know what all that means when robots can both produce essentially infinite wealth for all and also replace most humans in most social roles... There become a whole new set of risks to survival like addiction, pleasure traps, and supernormal stimuli..
For related ironic humor:
""The Midas Plague" (originally published in Galaxy in 1954). In a world of cheap energy, robots are overproducing the commodities enjoyed by mankind. The lower-class "poor" must spend their lives in frantic consumption, trying to keep up with the robots' extravagant production, while the upper-class "rich" can live lives of simplicity. Property crime is nonexistent, and the government Ration Board enforces the use of ration stamps to ensure that everyone consumes their quotas. The story deals with Morey Fry, who marries a woman from a higher-class family. Raised in a home with only five rooms she is unused to a life of forced consumption in their mansion of 26 rooms, nine automobiles, and five robots, causing arguments.