Let me state first off that I am not a Trekkie. I am sure there are people with intimate knowledge of every minute aspect of the premise I am about to discuss. Feel free to comment, but I am not interested in a debate. The point is the premise itself, in a general sense.
The premise in question is that money no longer exists. The vast majority of physical labor is performed by machines. Material needs are met via replicators which simply reorganize the molecules around you to provide the thing that you need. This is almost certain to be the future, someday. My lament is that I will not live to see it. The point of this post is to discuss why that is.
I am not rich. I am not “wealthy”. My household income puts me ahead of the average Joe by a comfortable margin, but I still have to look at my bank balance, make the car payment, etc. So, I am somewhere in that great swath of people known as “the middle class”. You know us. The politicians talk about us all the time. We are the people they routinely proclaim publicly to be an important group of people that they want to protect. With the other hand they squeeze the life out of us to pay for the entitlements for those below us and the loopholes for those above us on the economic scale.
I have a decent house, a used pick-up, a late model Harley-Davidson. I live on a couple acres of land outside the city limits. I own a few guns, a few computers, a nice big screen T.V. I’m not hurting. But, I’m not well off. So I must, as do millions of others, get up each morning and report to work at a job I hate, with people I don’t like, doing something meaningless and boring, to pay the bills.
It always has been, and for me it always will be, this way. The question is, “why?”.
If tomorrow there were no money, and all our needs were provided via technology, who would it hurt? If all mankind were freed from the day-to-day and paycheck to paycheck existence, what could we accomplish? Let’s even take accomplishment out of the picture and simply ask how our quality of life might improve.
If I were free to spend time with my kids 7 days a week. If I were able to jump on my PC or my console and hang out with my friends, with no concern for what time it was or where any of us had to be. If I could do absolutely nothing for a little while without the nagging feeling I currently live with that I am wasting precious time. If I could sleep until I wasn’t tired any more. If my wife and I could sit down to eat together at a dining room table. If I could tend the rose garden without thought to the fact that the clock is ticking, Monday is coming, and I have so much more to do… If all these things and more were possible, would the world be a better place?
My life would certainly be “better”. I’d likely smile more. I’d have longer conversations, deeper relationships, less stress….
But none of this will come to be while I am on this planet.
Not because people need money. In the scenario above it is pointless. It has no value. Nothing costs anything, and so no one must earn anything. All are equal. All have access to the same things and may live their lives as they see fit. And there, in those words, is the key to why it will never come to be. At least not until long after I am gone.
Because it is the inequality the imparts power, and power is the commodity man covets most.
It is why politicians work, over time, to essentially enslave the people they purport to represent. Because power covets more power.
The rich man in his Rolls is not harmed if I too have a Rolls. But the value of his Rolls in his eyes is diminished by the fact that I too have one, and so he comes to hate me for it. When he can go where I cannot, and do what I cannot, and own what I cannot, then he has a certain contentment with having “made it”. He has climbed to the top of the ladder. He stands in an exclusive spot, looking around at a select few who belong to the same club, and he is pleased. But if there is no ladder; if the club admits all; if there is no power or prestige to be gained in possessing something because that something is common to all, then he becomes a common man. This, is unacceptable.
I have long aspired to wealth. Not so that I could have things others do not. Not so I could do things or go places that others cannot. I simply wanted to be free to wake up each morning and decide for myself how to spend that 16 or so hours I wanted to be free to experience a life without time constraints. I wanted to be able to “waste” some time doing something of limited importance and tremendous value. Something like pruning my roses or washing my motorcycle; weeding the garden or just walking in the woods. Which is funny because I own some woods, but I have never really walked in them.
But, because those in power cannot bear the loss of that power, it will never happen. Because the man in a high place perceives his position as diminished if those below him are elevated, things will stay the same.
Because people are ignorant, in many cases willfully, nothing changes. Millionaires sit in seats of power and discuss what is in the best interests of the serfs they rule over, and the serfs cheer for this one or that one, having fooled themselves in to believing the lie. Never perceiving the truth that their primary interest is not in helping you to rise up. Rather, it is to maintain their own position, at any cost, by any means necessary.
I have written on this topic before. In the end it all comes back to the notion that this cannot be what life is all about. But my thoughts are being refined in the process of thinking them over and over again.
We have this tendency to look at the job we have and think of how much more we are capable of. I know I have done this. We lament the fact that we will not achieve our potential, our talents are being wasted, or company does not recognize our true value. All of these things I have said in the past. But my thought process is heading in a different direction now.
What if the very fact of having a job at all is a waste of our potential? What if our true value lies in what we could be doing with all that time spent at work, and in our commute? What if our talents have nothing whatsoever to do with producing a product, or shuffling paper, or providing a service? What if we were free to be, and do, whatever we wished to be and do? What if food in our stomach and a roof over our head was enough, and those things were free. In fact, what if everything were free?
As far as I know the replicator technology of which I spoke does not yet exist. But who knows…maybe it does.
I am confident that whether it exists now, or will exist someday in the future, we will never know about it. Or if we do, it will be limited to only the wealthy and the powerful.
Man is a covetous creature. We crave not only that which we need, but that which others have. And no man, sitting atop a mountain, is content for the land to rise around him or the mountain to crumble beneath him until all around him is a level field. Were that to happen he would immediately locate the tallest tree in or near the field and begin to climb it.
So, should the technology ever exist to allow men to live free and explore their potential in a world unrestricted by material needs and the pressure of time constraints, it will likely be hidden from the masses. Because free things generate no profit, and therefore no power.
In a world like that Ted Kennedy is just a drunk. Bill Gates is just a geek. Steve Jobs is just a genius. Tom Brady is just a guy who throws a football.
And who among them wants to live in a world like that?