Building new worlds  

Earlier this summer, the New York Times published an opinion piece titled The World Is a Mess. We Need Fully Automated Luxury Communism, by Aaron Bastani:

To say the present era is one of crisis borders on cliché. We inhabit a world of low growth, low productivity and low wages, of climate breakdown and the collapse of democratic politics. A world where billions, mostly in the global south, live in poverty. A world defined by inequality.

But the most pressing crisis of all, arguably, is an absence of collective imagination. It is as if humanity has been afflicted by a psychological complex, in which we believe the present world is stronger than our capacity to remake it – as if it were not our ancestors who created what stands before us now. As if the very essence of humanity, if there is such a thing, is not to constantly build new worlds.

If we can move beyond such a failure, we will be able to see something wonderful. The plummeting cost of information and advances in technology are providing the ground for a collective future of freedom and luxury for all.

I am certainly a capitalist. But it’s hard to ignore the signs that we are entering an uncertain age, one where human labor and intellect may no longer be the ultimate raw materials that drive the global economy. If people are out of jobs – replaced by automated machines and algorithms – there will be massive human suffering.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. If we collectively think ahead, and work on political policy that provides not just basic assistance to the vast majority of humanity but luxury lifestyles to those people, perhaps the coming catastrophe can be avoided. As Bastani points out, though, we need to believe it’s possible – that we can build new worlds.


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