There are some cool technologies and ideas that pop up time and time again in Science Fiction that, sadly, I think are never going to be a reality. This is part one of a five part series about these technologies and ideas. These articles will just be my opinions, you are absolutely welcome to disagree and as always I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Post Scarcity Society/ Technological Utopia
Science Fiction introduces us to many astonishing ideas and technologies. Some of these things may be possible in the future, but many are either downright impossible or extremely unlikely. Somehow I doubt useful lightsabers will ever be a thing (sorry For Tyeth). You would need the Jedi reflexes for them to be any help against people with guns. Although… maybe if you had some kind of trippy cybernetic brain augmentation to track bullet trajectories at lightning speeds? Yeah, okay, then we could have lightsabers! Booyah!
I don’t actually doubt that we would have the resources or technology for this to happen. What I doubt is that human nature will allow this to happen. For this to work would require a profound change in the way first world countries think and operate at every level. We are selfish beings after all.
Imagine if we had artificial intelligence and robots to do all the work and production for us? Imagine if the proceeds of this were distributed so that everyone could live happily ever after? It’s a nice idea. There is one huge, ugly, gnarly thorn that sticks into the bum-cheek of this idea though. The people that invent and make said robots are entitled to keep the proceeds, or sell these incredibly expensive new technologies to companies. Capitalism at work people! These people will amass the wealth and this wealth will end up being concentrated in one small section of society. Robots and artificial intelligence will become the workers for society while the main populace will become largely unemployed. Wealth does not get evenly distributed across populations as the world moves forward and develops. Maybe people will have the heart to spread the joy? I doubt it though. The only thing that could change this is government intervention.
To distribute wealth in such a way would probably require governments to enforce equality, which tends more towards the communism end of the political spectrum. As Iain M. Banks once said when discussing the Culture:
“Let me state here a personal conviction that appears, right now, to be profoundly unfashionable; which is that a planned economy can be more productive – and more morally desirable – than one left to market forces.”
The Culture operates as a galactic spanning post scarcity technological utopia. Each citizen has absolute freedom, there is no crime, you will have access to all of the resources you will ever need, and you will co-exist with artificial intelligence. All of this is a culmination of cultural and technological evolution where the citizens have essentially learned to behave for the greater good of humanity and artificial intelligence.
Other utopias can be found in popular Science Fiction. Think of Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, where an anarchist society is taught from an early age to act for the greater good. People are trained to discuss only matters that interest others to prevent the development of egos and selfish ownership of ideas and and objects. There is also Peter F. Hamilton’s Edenist Culture which appears to rely heavily on genetic modification and highly advanced technologies to form and maintain their utopia. I can’t help but feel people would lose a sense of individuality and that human nature would take over. People will inherently want to express themselves, and inevitably there will be people that want to thwart the system and gain power. I cite all of human history as my evidence.
So maybe I am just pessimist. Perhaps humanity is capable of slowly bettering itself towards a technological utopia. What do you think?
Keep an eye out for part two, where I will discuss possible methods and practicalities of FTL and interstellar travel.