Mankind is driven by a quest for meaning. In modern times that has usually been expressed by choosing a career that allows the individual to realize feelings of self work through the fruits of their labor. Or, in the more mundane case, make enough money to support themselves and provide food and shelter for their families. That has always been the theory any way.
In recent years increases in productivity have been realized through such disruptive developments as artificial intelligence and robotic work forces. But such increases often overlook an important role in the economic process, that of the consumer. As productivity increases and the cost of production goes down, so does the so called barrier to entry that prevents market glut to supply excess goods. If there are not enough people that want these goods, otherwise called consumers, the the value of these goods will quickly fall to slightly more than the cost of production. Often that means that the price of goods trends toward free, as a limit.
This has been called by some the post-scarcity economy. No one really understands exactly how it is going to work. Some postulate a utopia similar to Star Trek where people pursue higher interests with little or no thought of money or salary. Others suggest a tax on robotic labor that will help fund a Universal Basic Income to provide individuals with money with which to buy goods. This is often dismissed as a mere stop gap measure until we get our minds around how a post-scarcity economy should actually work.
I think we should turn our attention back to the fundamental quest for meaning. This is the core issue from which all others derive. If we can only figure out how to help people to find meaning in their lives, whether through artistic expression, service to humankind, or expansion of the boundaries of human knowledge, we will have solved the fundamental core problem with the post-scarcity economy.
The question that remains is, can we overcome our greed and self centeredness in order to allow such a economy to flourish or are we doomed to rampant poverty in the midst of plenty? I don’t know. I barely passed economics in high school and psychology has never been my strong suit. I am a pragmatic optimist. That is to say, I hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
In this case, preparing for the worst primarily means to keep my eyes open for trends in the operation of society and remembering that we must all hang together or we most certainly will hang apart. We could also do with a little bit more respect for objective truth. Things are the way they are for discoverable reasons. We should believe the evidence of our senses and not the moronic assertions of people that believe that things will be the way they want them to be if only they yell long enough and loud enough. And a little basic kindness would go a long way as well.
Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.