Informal Reflections And Speculations III: The Future

Informal Reflections And Speculations III: The Future June 17, 2024

Microbiz Mag: Man Writing  / Wikimedia Commons

I try to read at least an hour every day; sometimes, I am unable to do so, and of course, sometimes I read much more than that. I like to read a variety of material from theology, philosophy, history, and science to genre fiction, including and especially science fiction. My love of reading was given to me by both of my parents, though especially my father, who introduced me at a young age to science fiction and fantasy, as it was something he read throughout his life.  Science fiction can be considered soft or hard, depending upon the scientific content and realism associated with the book; I mostly enjoy what is considered soft science fiction, but in all forms, it allows us to consider the future, and the ways humanity will have to change to deal with the changes the future will bring with it. Some of the best science fiction allows us to consider not only potential futures, but the human condition, using scientific speculation or “what if” situations to create the landscape for humanity to reveal something of itself based upon how the author thinks humanity will deal with the situation they created for us. This has only encouraged me to do likewise; not, that is, to write my own fiction, but to consider the possibilities which lie before us and how we should not only meet them, but prepare for them as well. Sadly, neither is something many want to do, for all kinds of reasons, many of which are selfish, as, for example, can be seen in the way many do not want to accept the reality of climate change because they do not like what is expected of them to deal with the problems climate change brings with it.

Climate change is serious because it poses an existential threat for humanity and the world we live in.  If we somehow manage to heal the environment and turn back climate change, we will find ourselves having to deal with many other radical changes affecting the human condition, changes which, like climate change, are already affecting us today. Among them, one of the most important is the changes technology brings to human society. We are going to have to create an entirely new economic program,  one which is not entirely connected with human labor, as technology is leading to the need for less and less human labor to deal with the needs of humanity. As technological advances replace workers in the work force, we will need to deal with the growing number of people who have no jobs and yet need to receive the basic necessities of life (food, shelter, clothing, et. al.). We will also have to find out what kind of life people can and will have when work is not a part of the equation. Most likely, we will have to establish some form of universal basic income which can be and will be given to everyone. Indeed, this is something which is becoming more and more necessary already, as we find more and more people are being taken out of the labor pool due to the way they are being replaced by machines and they find themselves either too old for people to consider hiring them or that they have no skillset which employers want or need anymore.

We must, I think, recognize that the connection we have made between wealth generation and work will have to change, and to do that, we will have to create new economic theories, ones which will look far different from what humanity as ever seen before (though science fiction has often speculated on this, giving us, as a result, utopian visions, as seen in Star Trek, but also, dystopian landscapes, such as seen in the writings of Philip K. Dick, showing that the issue is already filtering through the collective human consciousness).

We have to start doing what we can now. We will have to reject many of the economic theories which have come from 19th and 20th century forms of capitalism for those theories do not take into account all the changes technology brings to the human condition (similar to the way Sergius Bulgakov saw Marxism was unable to account for the technology developed in the late 19th and early 20th century). We are going to have to stop making the association between work and wealth, because much which generates the wealth, and all the goods and services we need, will be out of our hands. If, for any reason, we question this, all we have to do is look at those who are wealthy and see how their wealth generates more wealth without them needing to work; this is just a preview of what is to happen for the whole of humanity, where technology will be working to multiply the wealth generated by humanity. And, as this means, there will be little to no need for actual human labor, there will not be the need for the population to be the same size or greater in the future to deal with the ageing population, which is why I am not concerned that if, in the near future, there is a decline in the human population, as there will not be the same need for the next generation to serve as “replacement workers” for those who came before them. Indeed, such a decline, if it is not forced through bad social  policies, but rather, if it comes about naturally, can do the world some good, as it mean, we not have to face all the problems associated with overpopulation, which would happen if every generation of humanity was larger than the one which came before it.

I think that if humanity is not only going to survive, but flourish, in the future where there will be far less need for actual human labor, we are going to have to find a way to use the time given to us wisely, that is, to use the time we have been given to develop who we are as persons in a variety of ways (i.e., spiritually, intellectually, and artistically).  While the situation will be quite different, we still can learn from the example of those who have embraced the religious way of life, that is, monks and nuns, and indeed, hermits, for, though they have not entirely cut themselves off from the ways of the world, they still exist, in a way, which counters the norm suggested by the capitalistic enterprise (which is why many who promoted capitalism and its so-called work ethic often wrote harsh criticisms against the ascetic vocation, often calling them lazy).

Science fiction, at its best, entertains us while making us consider the future of the world. But, the truth is, even without such entertainment, we need to contemplate the future now, and not put off the problems of the future for the future. We need to prepare for them now. We must accept the ways of the past will not be the way things are in the future. Technology has changed much. It will change much more. Will we change to meet its challenges?

 

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N.B.:  While I read comments to moderate them, I rarely respond to them. If I don’t respond to your comment directly, don’t assume I am unthankful for it. I appreciate it. But I want readers to feel free to ask questions, and hopefully, dialogue with each other. I have shared what I wanted to say, though some responses will get a brief reply by me, or, if I find it interesting and something I can engage fully, as the foundation for another post. I have had many posts inspired or improved upon thanks to my readers.

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