So over the last few blogs I have agonised over the affect of increasing mechanisation, robots and computers taking over much of what we currently call ‘work’. The bottom line as I see it is that there won’t be sufficient employment to go round, or at least not as we see it today. So the current emphasis on working longer (because we are all living longer and society can’t afford the pensions) has got to change. Also the current situation of more and more wealth being concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer people can’t be sustained. I’m not trying to push any particular politics here, it just seems obvious to me. The world relies on trade and people buying things and services and the only way that keeps going is if the majority of people have some money to do that with.
So as I see it we will still be generating the wealth, but with less human involvement. So surely we have to find a new way of spreading that around? Perhaps people will simply work fewer hours? Or we will value more those service sector jobs where some human involvement is still needed. Perhaps the businesses that are making all that money, all those profits will spend an increasing proportion of it on sponsoring community projects, paying people to do all those things we rely on to make life better, more enjoyable, or improving the lives of those worse off than ourselves. If we all have more of that spare time, then perhaps we will be ‘paid’ to use some of it for the good of society. At least that way the money still get spread around and society, as we know it, keeps working.
I know this all sounds a bit Utopian and I’m not pretending it’s simple, but I just don’t see how we can sustain the current trends. Also, perhaps it is already starting? Bill and Melinda Gates have put tens of billions of dollars into their foundation aimed at finding new cures for and treating some of the worlds ‘neglected’ diseases that affect the poorest populations such as Malaria and TB. They have taken the view that they have to do something ’good’ with all that wealth Microsoft has created. Now I know this is an extreme situation and its starting at the top, but maybe that’s where it has to start. Perhaps that sets an example that others will follow. As well as the health care objectives the foundation has set they are of course paying for people all over the world to work on those ‘not for profit’ projects.
As a Science Fiction writer I would also like to see some of that ‘not for profit’ effort go into science and space exploration. I believe the human race is at its best when set those stretch goals, those seemingly impossible tasks. It also doesn’t take much imagination to see commercial opportunities in doing that either, once the initial, not insubstantial investment s have been made. That then opens up the opportunities for living on other worlds that as a writer I dream about.
Perhaps with those worlds the range of lives / societies that are available to us will expand. If you want to live a simple life working the land, live in an artists commune or whatever you and a group of others see as the ideal way to live, will be a possibility. If we find a way to visit all those other worlds out there, there will be room for everyone.
Finally, here’s a seasonal hope for the all those new worlds and societies I dream about when I write. Perhaps, with room for everyone, we will learn to be a bit more tolerant of the beliefs of others and let people live the lives they want to live. I know there will always have to be caveats to that, but here’s hoping.
All the best for the festive season. Next week I’ll publish some form of round up of the year