I don’t think we’re that far away from the kind of Utopia vs Dystopia you see in movies these days.
You know the ones… where there’s a planet or area where all the “haves” live and there’s a planet or area where all the “have nots” live.
And the “haves” really have it all. The cure to cancer, fancy communication devices (that may or may not be built in to their heads), pretty houses, gorgeous public areas to enjoy with their families, cars that drive themselves, or no need for cars at all, etc.
And, in these movies, the “have nots” have none of that and less. They normally live in very cramped, dirty, run-down areas. They don’t have the cure to cancer or any other disease and have to watch their loved ones die. They have to do physically intense work so that they don’t starve and normally work what you and I might consider “crazy” hours for sheer—and bare—survival.
I subscribe to Peter Diamandis’ “Abundance Insider” newsletter and every week I learn about some amazing new technologies that will supposedly bring us to a state of abundance. And I certainly see the potential for that abundance we all dream of.
I don’t think we’re too far from that at all. But…
But I think that, first, the technologies will benefit only those we can afford them.
And, in reality, the “rich” are the normal middle class (and everyone in a “higher” class) and the “poor” are the normal blue collar working class.
In my generous (guessed) estimate, I’d say that we have 5-10 years—maximum—before we’ll see something like this. And that’s because I think it’s pretty much already here. Save for the cure for cancer. For now.
The proof is right here in Panama.
When you compare an area like Punta Pacifica with an area like El Chorillo. One has skyscrapers, fancy malls, clean streets, fancy cars and a general sense of safety as you walk the streets while the other has dirt strewn everywhere, bars on every window and door, people living in buildings that should probably be condemned and an almost certainty that you would be in danger if you stepped out of your Uber to walk those streets.
There’s nothing intrinsically “wrong” with the technologies benefitting only those we can afford them. It’s how we’ve organized ourselves as a society or race. But it doesn’t benefit the poor in any way. Far from it. Bit by bit, it keeps them further away from achieving a similar status to those who have earned—through hard work or inheritance—their right to their place in the new Utopia.
I say “earned” because I don’t think it’s fair to blame hard-working people for being better off. Nor is it fair to blame their children for being better off.
If someone got to where he is through (knowingly) hurting others, then yeah fuck ‘em. But if he was simply doing his best to make a living and did better than anyone else who attempted the same feat, I applaud that.
And I don’t think it’s fair, either, for the inventors of these awesome technologies to be forced to give their creations away. That will just foster an attitude of, “Why bother?”
Why would I spend 20-50 years of my life working on a cure for cancer if I couldn’t enjoy the fruits of my labour myself or pass on those fruits to my children and their children? I wouldn’t. And not because I’m selfish but because I must eat and have a roof over my head. So I’d rather spend my time doing something else than curing cancer.
So, no, the answer is not in punishing inventors by forcing them to give their ideas away.
And no, the answer is not in punishing the “haves” for working (or inheriting, through no fault of their own) their wealth.
But it’s still sad. It’s still shitty that we may be on the brink of fixing every issue mankind has ever had and, yet, it won’t be something all people will be able to experience. At least not initially.
Maybe some of the advances will even out the playing field a bit. I believe that. And I hold hope for that.
Things like free internet for everyone. (Google, Facebook and—I think—Microsoft are working on this.) And affordable food that costs almost nothing. (Food printing is a thing and while I’d rather eat grass-fed beef than home-printed steak, I’d also rather eat than starve.)
So yes, there’s hope but I fear that, first, there will be an even wider chasm between the “haves” and “have nots” than there has ever been in the history of mankind. And it sucks.