Building Tomorrow

The last two novels I’ve read dealt with the issue of how to transition from an economy of scarcity to one of abundance. It was enough of a coincidence that I asked God if she was sneaking messages into my unconscious. She said she does that all the time but that the messages have nothing to do with economics.

To be fair, one of the books really only brought up the issue at the end, and didn’t so much address it as point out that it was something that that fictional world was going to have to address in its very near future. I’d tell you what the book is, but since I’ve already given out that spoiler, I probably shouldn’t. And the second, which is called “Manna: Two Visions of Humanity’s Future,” is actually a political monograph presented in sort-of-novel form. I say “sort of” because it doesn’t concern itself with things like character growth, or antagonists and protagonists, just with presenting a possible future.

The problem with learning much of anything from either of these books is that they both bring about the state of abundance through a kind of magic. In one it’s done by invoking “the far future” and assuming that we do an impressive job in developing nanotech. This is a pretty easy bet to make, given a long enough timeframe, but it really doesn’t help address the issue of what can we do now to both bring about an abundant future and to make sure that we transition to it without having to resort to guillotines. And in “Manna,” where the author is expressly trying to show two likely futures that can come from our technological development, what he’s really trying to show is how one path could lead to abundance and another to dystopia, so he’s not so much interested in how we actually deal with the transition to abundance as with that we make the transition happen. So again we resort to magic, there’s some handwaving and some mumbled incantations about products being completely recycled with no waste but he doesn’t really talk about how that is possible.

Still, with enough effort and with incentives and goals other than just profit, it’s a possible future. The trick is just steering it from possible to plausible and then from plausible to probable. And to do all that without any smoke or mirrors.

Well, God says maybe a mirror’s okay.

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