The Rise of Technosocialism
I was looking forward to his new book “The Rise of Technosocialism: How Inequality, AI and Climate will Usher in a New World”. It is another version of “The exponential age” with a more optimistic message. Or a version of “Utopia for Realists” (for example, they both agree on the positive impact of immigrants on economies).
Disruption on steroids
The 21st century is going to be the most disruptive, contentious period humanity has ever lived through. Economically, we are entering an era of explosive uncertainty. COVID-19 illustrates the potential for failures in our political, social and economic systems. The crisis that has unfolded worldwide over the past couple of years gives us an important opportunity for self-examination and for the rethinking of systems that have failed us and will likely do so again.
When looking at social cohesion on a global scale, the potential for climate change to wreak havoc, accentuate uncertainty and to introduce increasing risk is unparalleled. In the final year of World War II, about 40% of the world’s GDP was spent on the war effort. For climate change, that could be as much as 60% of global GDP by 2050 alone. Whenever you talk about climate mitigation, we are immediately talking about quadrillions of dollars of capital being deployed over the next 50–100 years.
Over the next 30 years, humanity will face numerous crises that will accentuate the division between rich and poor and expose the increasing failures of the free market to address the biggest problems that our planet has ever faced.
The technology trends
The book lists the usual trends such as quantum computing, robotics, AI, health, lifespan, bio-sensors, genetics, material science, space, augmentation, nanotechnology, blockchain, NFTs, crypto coins, digital currency, smart contracts, ed-tech, VR, 3D and bio-printing, batteries, dynamic IP, near science, smart cities, renewable, digital resurrection and digital consciousness upload, transhumanism, etc.
Making money in the future
The billionaires of tomorrow will fit broadly into three categories: humanists, innovators and disruptors. In growth sectors such as:
- Carbon sequestration
- Seawall defences
- Climate resistant infrastructure
- Green industrial reform
- Relocation of settlements and industry
- Sustainable consumption
The optimistic messages
There is cause for incredible, unbounded optimism:
- Sometime between now and 2040, for the first time, we will likely see a major political shift around the central purpose of the economy,
- Housing, food, medicine, energy, education, and transportation will be of high quality and will be nearly free.
- We will soon have the technology to extend our lifespan, to make humanity a multi-planetary species, and to provide for the basic needs of every man, woman and child on the planet.
- Imagine a million robots working to clean up every river and the ocean of all the waste humankind has dumped in it.
- Within a decade or two, we will have retooled most of the world’s energy systems to be completely renewable, and we are starting a journey to reimagine education, healthcare, housing, consumption, food and agriculture with economies built for the 21st century.
- Effective government mechanisms will become economically viable because automation and AI will dramatically shrink government footprints and bureaucracy.
- We can now see a time when the use of coal and oil will be eliminated across the planet.
- By 2050, climate mitigation programs will be one of the biggest net employment growth areas.
- Surpluses and deficits are replaced by carbon neutrality, helping reverse inequality and climate damage.
- Sustainable production, recycling technology development, carbon-neutral smart energy management, removal of plastics from water sources, and improvements in air and water quality will all be areas where nations will be measured and held accountable by the global community.
- We will hone geo-engineering skills to a fine art.
- We will make our cities and homes resilient and sustainable.
- We will use technology to extract CO2 from the air.
- We will build sea wall defences and modernise infrastructure.
- We will work methodically to extract pollutants from the sea, moving away from massive fishing industries to sustainable fish populations and lab-grown alternatives.
- We will automate farming and re-engineer the food supply chain,
- We will use vertical hydroponic farms in our cities that use fractional amounts of water used by the old methods.
- Over the next decade, we will evolve to a global, clean, extremely low-cost energy infrastructure.
- We will have intelligent healthcare, transport, governance, emergency services, recycling, and much, much more.
- Artificial Intelligence will release us from the burdens of day-to-day economic servitude,
- By the mid-2030s, regulations will be encoded so that AI can decide on whether or not you or an organisation is in infringement of the law.
- AI will eliminate political, racial, gender, or religiously biased sentencing.
All the solutions are here
Many of the key problems facing humanity can be entirely resolved by applying new, emerging technologies. We have the resources and technical ability to solve the toughest problems facing us today. The reality is that humanity already has enough resources to ensure every individual on the planet is clothed, housed, fed, educated and live healthy lives above the poverty line—it is simply a question of resource allocation.
Technosocialism as a movement
It is a passionate plea for Technosocialism. What is technosocialism? It isn’t a political movement. It’s a social outcome. A combination of technology and letting millennials and younger generations get on with it. A generation of people who reject conventional wisdom, who are ideologically geared toward more inclusive thinking, who possess greater social consciousness, and who believe that technology can be leveraged to fix the world’s stickiest problems.
Expect that, from the 2030s through to the later part of the century, humankind will have a collective epiphany that working to protect the planet, to reinvigorate the environment, to save or even resurrect extinct species, to bring some sort of balance between humanity and the natural world, won’t be just a nice thing to have—it will become a core philosophy of humanity borne out of necessity because of the destruction we have already wrought on the planet. It’s not adapt or die. It’s adapt or go extinct as a species. That’s hardly a choice.
Our Gen-Y and Gen-Z citizens are increasingly less concerned with asset ownership and accumulation, and they are much more experience-driven. As they enter the era of broad climate disruption and AI-based changes to humanity, the post-coronavirus generations will seek to slow down asset and wealth accumulation while searching for some stability over their future.
This is a core shift in economic behaviour, one that this generation will lead. Naturally, it also leads to a much greater global coherence, as many more people embrace multiculturalism, the rich culture of differences, and the truly connected existence we share.
The hope for a system reset. No more shortism. Purpose-driven. Prioritising happiness. Focussed on humanity. Ethical. Changing our economic systems (capitalism does not work), changing our governance systems (too slow and inept), changing our metrics, reducing inequality, improved infrastructure, a better education and re-skilling system, a weightless economy, global regulation and maybe the introduction of a universal basic income.
Combined with globalisation. Fake news. The collapse of the insurance industry. Changes in work due to automation. The increasing influence of China, India and the East in general. The possibility of an increase in inflation, supply line bottlenecks, growing protectionism, exclusionary trade blocs, and a simmering trade war between the world’s two largest economies and debt overhang from the last economic crisis.
Combine that with the impact of climate change:
- Loss of almost 600 major coastal cities due to sea rise by 2050
- Rice, wheat, potato and maise production could retract 12–25% by 2050
- Sea-rise levels and agricultural failures could create 360 million to 1 billion climate eco-refugees by mid-century
- The complete collapse of the $6 trillion-a-year global insurance market as rolling climate disasters makes insurance coverage untenable.
- Heat-related deaths will increase 250–300% by 2050
- More than 50% of plastics that are polluting the world’s oceans come from commercial fishing vessels and not from single-use plastic straws or bags.
- Freshwater fish have declined by 76% in less than 50 years.
- Seafood may have disappeared entirely by 2048 at current commercial fishing rates.
- The US military is one of the largest polluters in history. The Army, Navy and Marines collectively consume more fuel and emit more climate-changing gases than most medium-sized countries.
- The global cost of air pollution caused by fossil fuels is estimated to be $8 billion a day, or roughly $2.9 trillion per year or equivalent to 3.3% of the entire world’s economic output.
- By 2050 every major policy in government will be shaped by climate considerations.
If looked at in the aggregate, it appears to be absolute insanity that humanity is not completely repurposing the entire global economy to fix this as we write. Ironically, unsubsidised fossil fuel pricing in 2015 would have lowered global carbon emissions by 28% and fossil fuel air pollution deaths by 46% while increasing government revenue by 3.8% of GDP. From 2000–2016 in the US alone, the fossil fuel industry spent nearly $2 billion lobbying to prevent climate action.
We have to change
We must absolutely do this for future generations, but instead, we are arguing what level of carbon output is politically tenable. Giving our grandchildren a future where their lives are not defined by our poor policies and planning is the only responsible path in an ethical and inclusive society. To get from our present economic systems to the future economy, we will need to control inflation, reduce debt, increase productivity, adapt to a fast-moving digital economy, leverage advances in many new technologies, and adapt to more intelligent regulation.
We would argue that humanity must commit to giving our children the best chance of solving these problems, but only if we see our children’s future happiness and needs as being equivalent to our self-actualisation and needs in the present.
The alternative is revolution
Revolutions historically have shared the following broad criteria
- Extreme economic inequality or economic strain
- 2. Dissatisfaction aimed at the wealthy and disagreement between the elites
- 3. Rising populist anger, particularly at injustice
- Growing resistance to the status quo
- International connectedness and cooperation
We are at humanity’s tipping point
Where do you stand?
- At what point do we accept that the annual cost of these “acts of God” outweigh long-term resilience and mitigation action?
- Can we agree on collective strategies to mitigate said risks, or are we set to debate the merits of action until the worst happens?
- Can we act collectively for the good of humanity, or will we try to gain some advantage for our tribe that makes consensus improbable?
- What sort of species would want anything but an optimal future for our offspring decades and centuries from now?
- Can we all agree that a renewable future is necessary, regardless of capital considerations?
Can we battle the resistance: the vested interests
- Military-Industrial Complex (MIC): $1.7–1.8 trillion annually is spent on so-called “defence” spending.
- Big Oil, Coal, Gas and Energy: recent investigations have shown that companies like Exxon, Royal Dutch Shell and BP knew about climate change in the 1970s and worked continuously to frustrate climate research and spent billions on funding climate misinformation.
- Big Tech: in 2018, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple and Google spent almost $70 million on lobbying politicians in Washington.
- General Politics and Lobbying Spend: the US spent $14 billion on advertising and media buy alone for the 2020 presidential elections, more than twice that of the 2016 elections17.
- We could include planned obsolescence in consumer products, the war on drugs, charity and NGO fraud, the Illuminati…
Some suggested solutions from the book
- Cut defence spending in half, and we can eliminate student debt in the US within two years.
- Redirect fossil fuel lobbying efforts back into renewable jobs, and we could create tens of thousands of new jobs annually.
- Reduce the $1.3–2.6 billion it takes to get a new drug to market, and we could make prescription medicine a fraction of current costs.
- Create a global corporate tax
- Tax AI and robots
- Develop a two-tier tax system and debt forgiveness for climate action
- Advanced nations should implement UBI.
We are in this together
Together we will fix the world, and together we will experience the world. That is our mission. With a focus on a reusable, sustainable economy. The 21st-century economy will be one that attempts to prioritise the basic needs of citizens over the simple creation of wealth. We either collaborate, or we fall apart at the seams. For the future economy to work socially harmoniously, it cannot be zero-sum. The economies of the 21st century will serve their citizens first and foremost as our children and their children become actively involved in setting policy, unconvinced by the economics of the 20th century.
Going to Mars
The book uses going to Mars as an example. The first thing to realise is that capitalism just wouldn’t be important, wouldn’t be helpful or constructive once humans are on the ground. If we’re going to go to Mars, and we’re going to get the Martian colonies to self-sustainability, we’re going to need a new doctrine. A doctrine of Sustainable Prosperity, not simply profits and returns. Making a profit, raping the Martian environment of its natural resources, dividing up the spoils for earthly shareholders will not be a priority in any way, shape or form. With this framing, we might create a Martian “central bank” currency that embodies these values. One where your currency holdings rise or decline based on how you interact with the economy. If you are putting more resources back into the economy than you take out, you accumulate wealth.
We can do it on Earth too
This is the ultimate in Technosocialism. A system that encourages us to all do well pushes our economy to advance for the betterment of the species, not just for markets and shareholders. The thing is, if we could conceivably do this on Mars, we should be able to do this also on Earth. That is capitalism’s greatest flaw because it creates competition that sets us at each other’s throats rather than incentivising us to cooperate for the good of all.
It is absolutely the time we got our priorities straight—GDP growth and stock market gains are not the equivalent of the future health and happiness of our citizens and the survivability of all the species that live on our planet. We had the technology to be carbon neutral 50 years ago, but we chose short-term profits and returns over the health of our planet. Read “Buddhist economics”.
The 21st century will bring us events that reshape humanity for the next one hundred generations, technologies and advances that give us the tools and allow us the vision to do extraordinary things. It is an inflexion point in the history of the species. Technosocialism is the inevitability of those two ancient worlds colliding.
It is our future to choose, but only if we abandon the thinking and philosophy that got us here.