For awhile now I've been envisioning a future where no one will have to work. No one will have to pay for anything. No one will have to do anything so that they are free to do anything. I have been imagining a fully automated future where everything we need is produced by machines, or robots that also make and repair themselves. In this kind of world we would no longer require money since all things would be automated; building of housing, transportation, food planting, cultivation, and processing, healthcare. The essentials of life would be free for everyone without the burden of taxing anyone. There would be no more need for politicians to cause division by class envy and warfare since in essence there would be no more socio-economic classes. There would be no need for wealth redistribution since wealth would be meaningless, not because of some socialist utopia but because of a realized opulence for all.
At first, it would require humans to build and repair these automation devices but eventually even that task would be given over to the machines. We humans would be free to do whatever we want; and therein is a dilemma since many people's existence would be valueless if they didn't have their current identity. Many people live to work. They are tradesmen, construction workers, service workers. Without their task-ids they don't know who or what they are. This happens to a lot of career criminals. They have meaning and purpose of being while incarcerated. They have structure. But once set free, they don't know what to do with themselves and often revert to some crime that once again puts them in prison.
People that are alive at the start of this technological, societal and culture revolution will need to adjust their perspective of who they are and why they are? What are they alive to do and be?
So what would you do if you didn't need to do anything? You could go anywhere and do anything you have the physical ability to do? Would you become bored with life? Would life lose meaning without your task-id?
Without knowing it, what I envision has a name; Post-scarcity economy. This is an economy where everything is produced so abundantly that it becomes either extremely inexpensive or even free. Think of how this is already accomplished through mass production. Now imagine machines, such as 3D printers or RepRaps that not only produce goods but produce the parts to replicate more automation machines and the parts and ability to repair themselves. The machines would plant farms, cultivate and process so that food would be abundant. There would be no more scarcity of raw materials, goods, or services since everything would be automated, freeing humanity up to do things we cannot yet even fathom. Think of it; no more working 45 years of your life just to retire at an age where you are almost too feeble to finally do the things you want to do. Instead, you will spend all your time doing things simply because you want to. Painting, studying history, exploring the world...yes even partying which brings us back to the dilemma.
What if in such a world a person chooses to do nothing? What if they spend literally their entire life listening to music or watching movies or playing video games or partying? Would they have the freedom and right to do so? I mean, if there is no welfare system for them to abuse and they don't need money because everything is provided by this free world then what right does anyone have to judge them for "wasting" their lives away in someone's opinion? What if they literally didn't want to really do anything? How about obesity or addiction? It could exist unfettered and not impact others. What kind of societies would exist?
While many people would spend their free life in productive or at least non-destructive pursuits, other people may not know what to do with themselves. Would we forget basic life skills like how to clean our clothes or cook our food? Would more complex skills like carpentry and masonry cease to exist? What about currency? If everything is provided freely in this new world, what purpose would we have for money? What if you wanted something that was produced pre-new world? An original, not a reproduction? How would you obtain it? You would have nothing of value that couldn't be gained freely.
I'd imagine unique or original things and skills that would still exist in such an automated world would soon become very valuable. But since as mentioned, there would be no need for money, the only way you could pay for these valuable objects and skills by people is to trade or barter. You would have to have something from the old world. Interestingly, in the Amazon exclusive television series, The Man in the High Castle where an alternate timeline is presented where the Japanese and Nazis won World War 2, there are scenes where Japanese collectors seek black market relics from the pre-conquered America. I could see something like this being the case in this future state. However, to counter this, someone could simply flood the market with replicas of the sought after relic making even the original less attractive.
NOTHING CREATED OR DESTROYED
Also a concern is running out of raw materials to produce the goods. Suppose a person wanted 5 tvs in every room or even worse, 5 houses with 5 tvs in every room. While automation may make it possible who and what would restrain people from behaving so extreme? Would we get to the point where regulation would limit this new freedom? Further, if we can have whatever we want, where do the raw materials come from to produce these things? Everything must come from something. Things are made from materials like wood, metals and such that are not limitless. However, nothing is actually ever created or destroyed. We live in a closed system where atomic material is simply converted to another form. We eat bio-matter like plants and animals which converts to our own bio-mass or expelled as waste where it once again is reabsorbed into the atomic circle of life. We too die and dissolve into smaller and smaller particles but are never actually destroyed. This process has been repeating itself over and over. Creatures consuming atomic material and then dying and returning to the soil to feed the future plants and animals that will feed future plants and animals and on and on. There is nothing new. Thus, would be the same in a new world. Everything would be recycled and become new goods and products. The worse case scenario is that without the current conspiracy of planned obsolescence where products are purposely under engineered to fail and break, an object may never need to be recycled and so the limited atomic material in the closed system of earth would eventually be depleted for new objects.
While the planet Earth is technically a closed system, such as a glass snow globe, there is a small transfer of molecular material that escapes our atmosphere into space. However, material such as water is constantly converted through evaporation and condensation as mist, fog, and rain. The amount of water on Earth is merely an amount of all matter on Earth and never actually increases or decreases. It simply changes location. Further, the planet may gain some atomic material from space as meteors and other materials enter our atmosphere and plunge to earth. This exchange so far appears to be minimal.
A MATERIAL WORLD
In this Free Future, there would need to be limitations at least on materials each person could have. Material in this case is the material that makes up all objects owned by an individual person no matter what the material may be. For instance, let's say instead of thinking of different materials such as wood, stone, and metal we classified all material as "atomic allotment". As pointed out in the previous paragraph the closed system of Earth has a limited amount of atomic allotment no matter from what material something is made. You can only make so many automobiles because the materials to make them are limited even if you exchange metal parts for parts made of wood, stone or some synthetic material which in turn is still made from existing atomic allotment.
So each person in this Free Future would be free to have anything they want as long as they do not exceed their personal atomic allotment; whatever that may be. And to be fair, someone smarter than me would need to figure out what that amount will be. One person cannot have a larger portion than another, otherwise it defeats the purpose of this new world.
Now, once the atomic allotment of each person is determined then you can have anything that does not exceed that allotment. This means your dwelling, your furnishing, your clothing, your personal transportation; everything you have would need to be factored in somehow. This atomic allotment is the amount of "material" or matter that exists on Earth divided by the sum of humans on Earth. This is your portion of the atomic allotment to convert into anything you want. Housing, TVs; any tangible, material thing.
Every human in existence is merely a converted atomic allotment. For each person to exist, we have to take up atomic material that would otherwise be something else; dirt, a rock, plants, animals. At some point the amount of atomic material that is being used in the form of humans will exceed the amount of atomic material that not only is non-living objects such as rocks and dirt, but eventually there won't be enough atomic material to sustain the lives of other creatures. Again, at some point we would need to decide just how much of the Earth's total atomic allotment would be used for humanity and how much for other things. I'm not merely talking about ecological sustainability such as running out of some supposed non-renewable resource, since again despite what many environmentalists say, EVERYTHING is renewable, since there is only a finite amount of atomic material on earth that is never ultimately destroyed. For example, what if someday we were able to simply put dirt into a machine and have it converted to oil or coal or any of the supposed non-renewable resources. After all, matter is matter. It merely takes different forms, shapes and properties. Perhaps instead we should be discussing renewable capacity; the point at which our quality of life can be sustained without consuming the atomic matter that is that environment. If and when all waste products can be recycled into any other thing; including the material to produce living material like plants, we would merely need to determine what amount of humans could exist to sustain this balance. That is the point of renewable capacity.
Would such a future world really be a post-capitalistic world? If there is no need to buy or sell, no need to acquire or profit would this be the Marxist utopia often promised by socialists and other leftists? Would we actually be less free in that we would be regulated to a certain amount of atomic allotment when currently we can acquire as much stuff as we desire as long as we have the means to obtain it? If accumulation is no longer the goal of life but rather we are assigned a share or allotment of atomic material based on the proportion of humans that exist, couldn't that have adverse effects, such as the desire of some people to limit the population so as to maintain a high volume of atomic allotment? Or worse yet, who and how would atomic material allotment be enforced? In this kind of world, will we really be "free"?
Perhaps we can overcome the limitations of the closed system of Earth by mining more atomic material off-planet. Asteroids and Mars dirt could conceivable be converted into other atomic material to be used on Earth. That would have unforeseen consequences. Could the Earth be adversely affected by a change in its mass and weight which would ultimately happen from exterior matter being introduced? Whatever becomes, the future is bound to be dramatically altered by the extensive automation. The anti-advancement Luddites of yesteryear will no more stop the future than they stopped the automation of their time. All the petty concerns of who makes $15 an hour or who lives in a bigger house or drives a better car will be long past. We instead will be trying to figure out what to do with our free time.
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