More and more companies use science fiction writers to help develop scenarios and strategies for the future. Storytelling helps when you want to engage your staff with thinking about where to go as an organisation. I picked up “Stories from 2045: Artificial intelligence and the future of work – a collection of short stories by the Economic Singularity Club”. What a treat. Should be compulsory reading for every entrepreneur, civil servant and politician.
Some ideas from the book
- Allocate voting rights in proportion to the amount of time that residents devoted to civic activities.
- A circular economy directive
- A universal respect credit system
- HELP, Human Elective Leisure Payment.
- Fiscal Freedom Act encouraged early retirement by abolishing all taxation on property and other assets that were primarily used by community projects.
- Public sector workers who are paid a ‘universal basic income’ from taxes.
- A shift in values: as the price of manufactured goods falls, so the scarcity value of a good comedian rises, or musician, footballer, or a designer.
- Post-industrial planning becomes not what you can make, but what experiences you can create.
- Convergent reality (CR), where the entertainment is pretty much indistinguishable from Real Reality (RR).
- Racing cars lost the race: F1 and the Indie 500? No-one cares. Who’s interested in driver-less driving contests?
- With the rise of gender fluidity, it became hard to classify athletes as male or female.
- In 2045, people have their biochemistry analysed every day from their saliva samples in their bathroom sinks.
- It is incredulous that we used to get medical tests when we felt ill (when it was often too late to do much), rather than let AI analyse our bodies all the time to identify patterns of disease
- Bio-sensors that identify us by our unique pheromone biochemistry.
- Combining virtual reality, synthetic intelligence, speciality pharmaceuticals, and eventually chip implants.
- We have to get back to GOD – not religion – that would be too much ancient history. GOD, as in the Great Out Doors.
- Blockchain technology gave the world a trusted data platform, and AI provided the means to collaborate without friction.
- Artificial intelligence systems have driven the cost of production of most non-luxury goods and services close to zero.
- Vertical farms play an important role in high-density areas, and wastage is hugely reduced.
- Molecular 3D printers for everything we need.
- Aroma-gastric interfaces.
Action and reaction
The Grizzlies are the weirdos who have kept themselves away from AI, the grid, the new generations of technology-enhanced bodies. Grizzlies hold onto traditional skills such as memorising poetry and music lyrics, mapping and real 3D navigation. They never even adopted satnav. They cherish the manual dexterity of handwriting, sewing, and building things, and they preserve outdoor skills such as making fires, foraging, trapping. They can even drive vehicles! They are also old-timers when it comes to social skills: they can argue, maintain eye contact, understand facial language, hold a discussion, persuade. They aren’t dependent on info-implants or wiki-head resource inputs. They have retained the ability to focus on one thing at a time. They don’t mind getting grubby. And they are independent of AI – at least, more so than the rest of us. Lined up against the Grizzlies we’ll have a team of normal, tech-enhanced humans. The Mods.
Seeing every search a child makes, tracking their eye movements to understand their focus and interests, scanning body movements and facial expressions for emotional readings, monitoring their hormones and enzymes, reading (and occasionally censoring) their private correspondence, and nudging their behaviours. This access allows edubots to personalise their student’s path through the syllabus, presenting it in manageable portions, optimising the presentation of units, and serving these up at exactly the point when their student will be most receptive.
Artificial intelligence and related technologies had created an economy of abundance in which the cost of everything you needed for a very good lifestyle was almost free. Some people never took up employment, and many others moved in and out of it. There was no stigma attached to either choice.
Decentralised Autonomous Organisation
DAO (Decentralised Autonomous Organisation) – that allowed for truly decentralised and distributed decisions and actions. As people worked on these open projects, the DAO captured their contribution on a public blockchain. One of the founding principles of the DAO is that all products are open source. The creation of a completely frictionless free market, where the cheapest and best-placed people could contribute meant that toxic companies were starved of labour and customers. But as more and more people contributed to more and more open projects, the reputation scores had a wonderful side-effect. Each person’s digital footprint meant their societal contribution could be measured and was public.
In the mid-2020s, there were fears that the “ultra-gig economy”, where no one belonged to a company, would damage societies by reducing the level of human interactions. Instead, it turned out that people are more than capable of managing healthy, active social lives without the infrastructure of an office, a boss, appraisals and timesheets. Throughout the 2030s, people realised that they could work anywhere they wanted, which caused mass migration. Digital nomads forced governments to reassess and innovate their policies. The freedom to work anywhere caused substantial population shifts, and re-energised communities, with people growing their own food, harnessing natural energy sources, and turning away from mass-produced or packaged solutions.
Impose a tiny financial transaction tax on all electronic transactions. Everyone had to pay – not just participants in financial markets – and all currencies were included, not just the major ones like the US dollar, the Euro, Sterling and Yen. The tax also affected cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ether, that were becoming increasingly widely used. It was calculated that even a modest tax of 0.1% could raise around $10 trillion a year, enough to provide a basic income of 50% of median revenue for everyone on the planet. Providing people in poor countries with a basic income matched to local living costs meant that the economic pressure to migrate to more developed countries disappeared. The fact that everyone had sufficient income to buy good quality local food removed the pressure to produce food cheaply in less developed countries and fly it around the world. Agricultural overexploitation came to an end. Tropical rain forests started to recover, and the planet’s ecosystem is stabilising.
The book is mostly optimistic but has a dark side, where mass unemployment, hunger, winners take all and lethargy create a very unpleasant world to live in. Reminds me of “The shift“. It is hard to see why, given their continued exponential improvement, machines will not be able to replace humans in most paid work roles. It is just a matter of time. Therefore, it is highly likely that within a generation or so, a large minority of people, perhaps the majority, will not be able to earn a living through jobs.
Star Trek Economy
The post-economic singularity world needs a different type of economy, then we need to start thinking now about what that might be – and also how to get there. The damage that could be caused by an uneven or violent transition to the new world could be immense. The effective way to solve the income problem is to drive down close to zero the costs of all the goods and services required for a good life. It is called the Star Trek economy, the economy of radical abundance.