Why Not Utopia?

Why Not Utopia

Some quake in terror as we approach the Terminator scenario, in which clever machines take over the world. After all, it isn’t sci-fi when Stephen Hawking says things like, “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”

But before the robots replace us, we face the challenge of decreasing real wages resulting, among other factors, from automation and outsourcing, which will itself be automated before long. Inequality (you don’t need more statistics on this, do you?) is the biggest social challenge facing us. (Let’s call climate change, which has the potential to be apocalyptic rather than just awful, a scientific challenge.) And since wealthy people don’t spend nearly as high a percentage of their incomes as poor people do, much wealth is sitting around not doing its job.

Read the rest of this column here. Illustration by Kristen Hammerstad.

Posted in Food Politics

2 Comments

  1. Barbara LaTendresse said...

    I recently watched/read this:

    https://edge.org/conversation/yuval_noah_harari-daniel_kahneman-death-is-optional

    It dovetails with your Utopia column.

  2. Dan said...

    ‘And since wealthy people don’t spend nearly as high a percentage of their incomes as poor people do, much wealth is sitting around not doing its job.’

    I am not by the standards of wealthy people a wealthy person (by the standars of 99.999% of the human beings who have ever lived, I am astonishingly wealthy, of course).

    Bill Gates is wealthy – he’s worth some $80 billion.

    Assuming his personal current account expenditure is of the order of a million dollars a year (I’m sure he eats well, holidays well and buys nice gifts for people he’s close to, but I also assume he has no debts to service etc), that leaves $79 billion+ left not being spent.

    I’m sure you’re with me to this point.

    My question is this: when you say that this $79 billion+ is ‘sitting around not doing its job’, *where* is it doing this ‘sitting around’?

    Unless Bill Gates has it in cash in his house (which is possible, though unlikely), I imagine it is invested in banks, stock and funds.

    This means that it is available for other people to make use of it to do ‘stuff’.

    Do you agree that this is the most likely explanation for the whereabouts of Mr Gates’ $79 billion+?

    If so, how is his excess money (for want of a better term) not doing its job?

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