On New Year’s eve our conversation centered on this question: what will life be like a hundred years from now?
In my wettest dreams, the world a century from today is the kind of anarchist utopia I know it can be. Society is organized into self-governing communities. Everyone gets an equal say in the decisions that affect them. Resources are controlled collectively. Everyone works as much as they can, and gets as much they need. Prisons are reduced to rubble, a legend of a dark past. Gender and sexuality are diverse and carry no moral value. Rape is barely heard of, and viewed as the horrific violation that it is. There are no rape apologists. Ethnic and linguistic diversity is respected and celebrated. Formerly colonized lands have been freed. The children of colonizers live at peace with the indigenous peoples of those lands after forging a relationship based on respect, not domination. National borders are irrelevant. Everyone has complete freedom of movement. People spend most of their time making music, telling stories, having sex, inventing new flavours of ice cream, dancing, getting stoned and playing with kittens. Nobody is wasting their life away making someone else rich.
In my cynicism fueled waking life, I imagine that a century from now the world will look nothing like that. I see things continuing in the direction they’re headed now.
I imagine that the natural resources of this planet will be so depleted, and controlled by such a small minority of people, that most of us won’t have the money to access them. Most people’s physical bodies will be stored in coffin like boxes, and fed intravenously, while their brains are hooked up to the internet. All the menial jobs that low waged workers perform in the current economy will have been mechanized. The shitty McJobs of the future will be on-line, and that’s where the proletariat will spend most of their time. Workers will save up their wages for years so that they can go on holiday to the physical world — to a forest or a mountain or a desert.
Life in the physical world will be an expensive luxury only the bourgeoisie can afford. Resources like oxygen, fresh water, vegetables, furniture, physical space — these will be scarce, and heavily taxed too. The state will justify taxing resource on the grounds that people need to be discouraged from using up already depleted resources. But in reality these measures will only exacerbate class disparity and turn the physical world into an exclusive space inhabited only by the rich.
My friend Scarlette thinks things will work the other way round — that the physical world will be so polluted that no one will want to live there. The bourgeoisie will spend most of their time in cyberspace, living in whatever virtual setting suits them. The proletariat won’t be able to afford life in cyber space so they’ll be forced to live in the crowded and polluted physical world. At the end of a long day, workers will head to the nearest internet café for some much needed escape from the real world. It will be like going to the pub today.
Scarlette’s got a good point actually. Mechanising menial labour might not be cheaper then hiring humans to do it. For one thing, robots need to be built and maintained, whereas human workers do their own reproductive labour (or better yet, have mums and wives to do it for them). It’s one thing to use machines to make human jobs less skilled, so that the human work force becomes more replaceable, but maybe it’s not cost effective to completely replace human workers with machines.
Either way it’s a depressing thought. Every battle we’re fighting against capitalist economic relations today has been fought in the past, and I hate to think that one hundred years from now our descendants will be fighting the same battles over again.