What will life look like in 2027? Are we on the verge of big, socioeconomic change because of new tech like drones, robots, and AI? This predictive sketch was written in 2017 as part of a school project.
According to the notches carved into my bedpost, it’s the morning of March 1st, 2027. I have a package arriving today.
The Roaring Twenties
My life has changed a lot in the past ten years. If I had to pinpoint three important phenomena that turned my life around, they would be Canada’s new FALC Party leadership, the ubiquitous, total level of drone surveillance, and the robosexual NEET uprising. More on those later. Overall, these digital augmentation technologies have made the roaring 20’s much better than the social media age of my youth.
I live in a log cabin in the woods, far from civilization. Together, my commune and I have carved a natural life away from the crowded yet isolated cities. Under the forest canopy, we have some privacy from the surveillance drones, and with our pooled income we can order any supplies we need from Amazon, and it’s delivered hours later by quadcopter.
I quickly hop out of bed and put on my jeans. I grab my phone, which is down to 15% battery. I jam my feet into boots and shrug on my dark jacket. I push open the heavy oak door and scan the sky above our clearing.
After about 20 minutes, a telltale buzz dopples into earshot. The quadcopter beelines in from the east and sets down gently on the snow. As soon as it arrives, my phone vibrates that it’s charging. The drone is bringing us a big box of supplies from Amazon, including things like matches, salt, and new boots.
FALC and Universal Income
I check my Amazon account. Everything I ordered came free of charge. I can’t think of anything I need right now, but if I did, I could order it for free.
The economic system of this country changed forever when the Fully Automated Luxury Communists, or FALC Party of Canada, to come into power. Automation has been putting pressure on the job market since the industrial revolution. However, as Moore’s law dictates, the rate at which robots can viably replace jobs is an exponential function.
Without employment and income, society would have rapidly crumbled, with the richest 1% owning the entire means of production, 99% of the population left with no real way to support themselves. Luckily, the efficiency of the robot workforce led to a “Production Singularity.” That’s a term I just coined based on the popular term referring to the moment when artificial intelligence can make a better version of itself, at which time the processing capacity of AI will vastly multiply in a matter of seconds. The “Production Singularity” describes the time when the AI of the robot workforce could vastly increase the rate of production of all goods, eliminating the fundamental economic concept of scarcity.
Scarcity is the driving force of an economic system. It describes the condition in which one person possesses a commodity that others need. The others must offer an exchange. This fundamental property of all economic systems falls apart when there is no want unsatisfied. If everyone already has everything they need, there is no demand.
First, the robots created massive wealth for the lucky few who owned the corporations. Fortunately, control of marketing, distribution, and pricing had already been handed over to the capable hands of algorithms and AI. The AI, trained to exploit any competitive advantage to boost sales and revenue, started a price war. The profit bubble burst, and prices plummeted to near zero. That’s how scarcity ended, ushering a post-exchange, post-money era. In the ensuing chaos, the Fully Automated Luxury Communists were the only candidate with a plan that made sense.
Do Love Droids Dream of Electric NEETs?
That afternoon, I split and stack firewood and go fishing. The reason I moved to the woods, living a technologically minimal lifestyle, is because of the toxic environment within the cities — and I’m not talking about the Earth’s climate, which is doomed. I’m talking about the social environment.
Throughout human history, social mores and norms have dictated the common law of each culture. Even in nature, we can observe how a wolf who does not obey the Alpha or behaves strangely, is cast out from the pack. Since ancient times, there were punishments for those who did not conform to the subtextual expectations of the group. Consider the practices of stoning and exile of the Biblical Hebrews, the stocks and pillory of medieval Europe, the Salem Witch Trials, or the cyberbullying phenomenon of the social media era.
While these social punishments were not always humane, they were natural. Humans are hard-wired to operate in tribes. As communication technology opened the tribes of the world to each other, allowing us to find common ground as citizens of the world, Humanity was poised to come together as one unified, diverse people.
However, progress failed to account for that key mechanism of all functioning societies: the enforcement of social expectations.
The term NEET comes from a British sociological study, the Social Exclusion Unit. The name stands for ‘Not in Education, Employment or Training.’ In other words, it stands for non-contributor to society. Of course, in a post-scarcity economy, lacking marketable skills is not an issue. However, being a NEET is an indicator of other anti-social tendencies. Without any reason to change their behavior, the number of NEETs skyrocketed after the FALC revolution, and without incentive to correct their behavior, society simply lets them be. Like a wolf pack that failed to cast out the insubordinate wolf, society quickly devolved. Social skills diminished, and the libido, the human body’s natural desire to find a mate, was satiated by Sex Robots. People, like water and electricity, prefer the path of least resistance. It was much easier to stay home with advanced video games, entertainment, and Love Droids than to go out and interact with real, fallible human beings.
I don’t like living in a city where everyone is alone and empty, going home every night to sexual favors from a silicone homunculus. I don’t like the feeling. That’s why I left. While we technically live in a utopia, I think it’s a somber one.
Once drone surveillance became cheap enough, there were more reasons to implement it than reasons not to. The government wanted data about political views, census data, and national security. Corporations wanted endless amounts of data for marketing and purchase prediction. Police wanted surveillance data to predict, witness and prosecute criminals, and for the deterrent effect of the panopticon.
Out here in the woods, the low population density means the drone passes overhead about every hour. In the city, there is always a drone in the sky. Drones can identify you by your face, and they record your movements, activities, and words you speak.
While the drone presence makes us safer, it also undermines the outdated notion of privacy, which I still uphold. Identity theft, as well as all other theft crimes, became obsolete with FALC. Privacy, as Julian Assange said, is outdated. Even though there’s no real reason to need privacy, I still want it. Privacy is an emotional need, akin to the physical need for shelter. We all have secrets. The revealing of personal secrets also contributed to the boom in antisocial NEET behavior.
In the End…
As I stomp through the underbrush of the Canadian boreal forest, tapping out an order on my phone for more rice to go with the fish I caught, I can’t help but reflect on the changes I’ve seen in my lifetime. In 2017, Canada was on the brink of AI and automation technology. Digital augmentation technologies, like smartphones, drones, home automation, and self-driving cars were beginning to flourish. Visionaries like Elon Musk were pushing for a sustainable, tech-friendly tomorrow. I was in university, learning how to communicate to the world the changes that digital technology would bring to our lives.
In the 2020s, automation of labor exploded. This drove the cost of commodities, goods, and services to fractions of a penny on the dollar. I call this ‘The Production Singularity.’ While human executives were content to reap the ballooning profit margins, artificially intelligent business management software initiated a price war that popped the profit bubble and drove prices of consumer goods, food, and commodities into the ground in a matter of seconds. This cataclysmic financial event ended capitalism, with the dawn of a post-scarcity world. Fully Automated Luxury Communism took power, distributing the abundant goods freely among the people.
However, digital augmentation technology also created an environment which allowed social norms and values to deteriorate. With no need to work or go outside, the NEET population exploded, and their anti-social tendencies spread like a disease, inflamed by surveillance data that made their secret lives public. Soon, communities dissolved into collections of sad, lonely people with only sex robots to soothe their aching souls.
Lastly, the boom of ubiquitous surveillance, coupled with the obsolescence of money and wealth, has made privacy obsolete. The drones watch and data-mine us constantly, with the data fed into the black box of artificial intelligence. Who knows what conclusions the machine will ultimately draw about us? When it does, may God have mercy on us all.
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Hutson, M. (2016, November). Even Bugs Will Be Bugged: Exploring the next frontiers in surveillance. Retrieved February 11, 2017, from https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/11/even-bugs-will-be-bugged/501113/
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