What’s more, renewable energy, which has been experiencing steep annual falls in cost for half a century, could meet global energy needs and make possible the vital shift away from fossil fuels. More speculatively, asteroid mining — whose technical barriers are presently being surmounted — could provide us with not only more energy than we can ever imagine but also more iron, gold, platinum and nickel. Resource scarcity would be a thing of the past.
The consequences are far-reaching and potentially transformative. For the crises that confront our world today — technological unemployment, global poverty, societal aging, climate change, resource scarcity — we can already glimpse the remedy.
But there’s a catch. It’s called capitalism. It has created the newly emerging abundance, but it is unable to share round the fruits of technological development. A system where things are produced only for profit, capitalism seeks to ration resources to ensure returns. Just like today’s, companies of the future will form monopolies and seek rents. The result will be imposed scarcity — where there’s not enough food, health care or energy to go around.
So we have to go beyond capitalism. Many will find this suggestion unwholesome. To them, the claim that capitalism will or should end is like saying a triangle doesn’t have three sides or that the law of gravity no longer applies while an apple falls from a tree. But for a better world, where everyone has the means to a good life on a habitable planet, it is an imperative.
We can see the contours of something new, a society as distinct from our own as that of the 20th century from feudalism, or urban civilization from the life of the hunter-gatherer. It builds on technologies whose development has been accelerating for decades and that only now are set to undermine the key features of what we had previously taken for granted as the natural order of things.
To grasp it, however, will require a new politics. One where technological change serves people, not profit. Where the pursuit of tangible policies — rapid decarbonization, full automation and socialized care — are preferred to present fantasies. This politics, which is utopian in horizon and everyday in application, has a name: Fully Automated Luxury Communism.
Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Aaron Bastani (@AaronBastani) is a co-founder of Novara Media and the author of the forthcoming “Fully Automated Luxury Communism: A Manifesto,” from which this essay is adapted.
The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: firstname.lastname@example.org.