Today is the future, and it’s magic.
If you step back and take a look at the world we’re actually living in, things are pretty good if you’re alive right now.
We fly over the oceans in metal rectangles. We have machines that play us music, clean our houses, and build our cities. Pretty much the entire total accumulated knowledge of our species fits on a computer that sits ergonomically in our pockets.
Even the poorest people today have technology that kings would have killed for a century ago.
For a majority of the time humans have existed on earth, we’ve been living on the edge. Teetering between survival and destruction. We started as just another link in the food chain. With the help of technology, we’ve slowly been able to lift ourselves out of the basic survival equation. Now we’re our own worst enemy.
Still, up until a few hundred years ago, a simple crop failure would mean starvation and, even in good times, we would work from morning until night just to make enough food to survive.
Poverty has declined more in the past 50 years than the previous 500. Over the last 50 years, the human population on earth has doubled. At the same time, the average per capita income globally has tripled.
In addition, we’re also a lot healthier. Child mortality has decreased by 99 percent, and the average human lifespan has doubled.
Not only are we healthier, but we’re also a lot safer too – homicide rates are a hundred-fold less than their peak 500 years ago.
There is no reason why we cannot achieve a peaceful, sustainable, global civilization where humans, nature and technology coexist and thrive. Human rights wouldn’t be a set of laws, they would be a way of life.
As our technology increases exponentially, we’ll quickly find ourselves in an era of economic “post-scarcity”, or economic abundance.
Abundance is a form of economy in which goods, services and information are all free, or practically free. Clean water, food, energy, health care, education, and everything else that is necessary for a first world standard of living, are free thanks to technological innovations.
There are two things that are required for an abundant economic system to work. The first is an abundance of fundamental resources (matter, energy, & intelligence).
The second is sophisticated automated systems, like molecular assemblers and nano factories, that are capable of converting raw materials into finished consumer products.
The difference between coal and diamonds, between sand and computers, between good health and bad health, is how the atoms are arranged.
Molecular assemblers would give us the ability to programmatically create objects with atomic precision.
While this technology may seem far off, it actually already exists in nature – in humans. Our ribosomes fit the definition of a molecular assembler, except molecular assemblers usually refer to human made devices, while ribosomes are naturally occurring and part of our evolution.
The way ribosomes work is they receive instructions from messenger RNA and then assemble specific sequences of amino acids to construct protein molecules.
This is exactly how our molecular assemblers would work, except they would use a process called mechanosynthesis. When a chemical reaction occurs and a machine was used to move specific molecules to specific molecular sites with the intentions of causing a specific chemical reaction to occur it is considered mechanosynthesis.
Mechanosynthesis is the last major hurdle in creating a technology similar to ribosomes. Once we have that, we can arrange millions of molecular assemblers and have them construct objects from the molecular level with atomic precision. The only difference between the strongest metal and water, is a few atoms arranged in a different way – and then repeated millions of times.
Something is only scarce until you develop the technology to turn it into something abundant.
The economic problems we face today will fast become irrelevant when our capitalistic system no longer drives the underlying collective behavior.
Imagine it magically started to rain gold. People would freak out – everyone would start collecting & hoarding it – we’re all rich!
But say it kept raining gold for a year straight – you’d throw out all that gold you collected. The rings you bought 20 years ago would be worthless. Gold wouldn’t have value because it would be abundant.
Believe it or not, abundance is not that far away. In fact, we have already mastered a few things to the point of abundance.
By definition, we have achieved both communication and information abundance. Already done.
If you have access to the internet, you can talk to anyone, anywhere in the world, anytime, with voice, text or video, instantly, and for free. This is communication abundance.
All the information recorded in human history exists in the cloud on the internet, accessible through free websites, like Google. You can access google via a computer, or even your mobile phone. These websites are all free to access – and if you can walk into a library, you can access all this information for free. This is information abundance.
If you pull this into context – it is a magical milestone of human achievement.
We started as chimps, in a jungle somewhere. We could make noises, and our communication was limited to as far that sound would travel. Even then, nobody would understand what you were saying. It was just random monkey noises.
Gradually we taught ourselves a standard language, which enabled us to communicate and work together. Individuals could share the knowledge they gained in order to help the group. Language also allowed us to create records which enabled the next generations to learn from the pasts’ mistakes and successes. Evolution is a constant process of iteration, and in order to survive, we needed to invent the technology of language.
Fast forward to the present, we’ve taken that technology and mastered it so throughly that we can send ideas via language to someone on the other side of the earth without even moving our lips. All we have to do is tap our thumbs a few times on a pocket sized screen.
We created this. We lived in jungles and there was grass, and dirt, and us. Then we decided we wanted to create iPhones from the sand and other stuff that was lying around. Today is the future, and it’s magic.
The magic of what we’ve created sneaks up on us because we’re seeing it happen bit by bit, everyday.
When you get a new dog and it starts growing, everyone who sees it says “Oh my god look how big your dog is getting”. To you he looks the same.
This same phenomenon happens with evolving technology, and will happen in our transition to a post-scarcity society. We’re too close to see the change, but if we pull back our perspective we’ll see really how amazing things are.
In a society with abundance, money won’t be the driving force. Money won’t really even matter.
Slowly, you just won’t need to buy more things. Everything you want you can make or get practically for free.
Think about the iPhone. You have gps. A picture & video camera. Speakers, 20 games, an entire library of music & books. All your social networks. A flashlight. The internet. With a single $500 purchase, you no longer need all of these things. 50 years ago all of this stuff would have cost you a million dollars and you would have needed a truck to carry it all around. Today, it all fits in your pocket, and soon everyone else will have one too.
The iPhone in your pocket is 1,000 times smaller, 1,000 times more powerful, and 1 million times cheaper than the biggest supercomputer that existed just 50 years ago – thats a 1 billion fold increase in price / performance. We’re kicking ass.
In the future, the things you purchase will be so extraordinarily useful that the money you have isn’t really all that necessary. It’l be cool to have some money, but you won’t really use it for anything. Slowly, it will be phased out. Not by some huge revolution, but just because everyone kinda stops using it.
There will never be an opportunity to convert people from a monetary based society to a non-monetary based society – not enough people will trust it.
You never change things by fighting the existing reality. It’s a matter of making obsolete the old way of doing things.
By making money irrelevant, a post-scarcity society can thrive.
“We need to get rid of the thinking that everybody has to earn a living.
It’s a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. We keep inventing jobs because of the false idea that everybody has to be employed. So we have inspectors of inspectors, and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors.
The true business of people is to learn & think about whatever it is they were thinking about before people came along and told them they had to earn a living” (-Buckminster Fuller).
There are four necessities in life, or things that every human needs. The first 3 are shelter, food, water, but after the first 3 met, humans need something to do with their time.
In a post-scarcity society it’s likely that you would “work” only enough to harvest the raw materials / energy needed to run the technology that enhances your life. This would take up very little time – almost like a daily chore.
The point of life in a post-scarcity society would likely be to contribute your intellectual creations to the collective conscious. This basically means that intellect, and creations stemming from it, are things that would be valued most by society.
We will transition from a commodity based capital to an intellectual based capital. Things are not valuable, everyone has them. Your unique brain and perspective has value.
Creativity and imagination would be your daily job. You’ll be free to do what you want / love / are passionate about: Dance, Music, Science, Sports – just be the best human you can be – optimize.
Instead of money, recognition would be your reward. By creating things that others enjoy (music, paintings, games, websites, etc.) you can spend your time doing what you want. If you really enjoy creating video games, you can just do that all day every day – create the perfect video game. You’re not doing it for money – you don’t need that. You’re doing it because you want everyone to recognize your contribution.
To take an idea from the brain and turn it into a reality is an amazing process. What’s addictive is seeing someone else use the thing you created from an imaginary idea. This is what life will be about in the future. To create things that solves a problem for a group of people.
Today is the future, and it’s magic – we’re becoming gods and don’t even know it.
Further discussion can be found here: Reddit.com/r/Futurology
Featured Image Credits: Abalakin.de