Get sick for a couple of days and you miss all the fun.
I will say that in the main, I agree with that critique but it doesn’t constitute a counter-argument to my view on stellar autarky. I agree that very fine scale (i.e. individual family) autarky is unstable. The real question is, at what scale is autarky possible? As one of Natalie’s correspondents noted, we currenty have planetary scale autarky. I expect that as nanotech and robotics mature, the scale at which autarky is possible will shrink, not grow, and all my thesis requires is for the scale to not grow. Regardless of how one feels the possibility of a Drexlerian nanotech utopia, it is difficult to see how such technology will make autarky more difficult2.
My ulterior complaint was with science fiction authors who vastly underestimated the level of diversity possible in a technologically advanced planetary society. They treat entire planets as, effectively, small nations writ large and that just seems terribly unrealistic to me.
1 The rebuttal has some flaws, however. The main one is that it fails to account for the increasing “meta-ness” of the interfaces. One need only look at the evolution of weblog technology to see how increasing complex things can be expressed with the same level of effort. It does not strike me as inconceivable that at some point, one could (for instance) design your own car via a “wizard” interface where various parameters are provided by the end user. It will not be that we can dispense with design, but that only the first instance of a new device will take significant design effort. Variants will be cheap and easy for everyone else to design.
2 In fact, one of the real concerns for international relations is the increasing ability for sub-planetary autarky, where large chunks of the planet (such as Africa) are “written off” because they are no longer economically necessary to the rest of the planet. To relate back to Natalie’s posts, one reason the genocide in Darfur attracts such little attention is that, should Darfur disappear tomorrow, it would not matter a bit to the economies and lives of the West. Such things should matter anyway, but that’s frequently not how the world works.