Covid19 — Fast Forwarding us to Utopia


It’s way too early for any optimism or searching for a silver lining in all this, but I wrote this (Medium Link)  anyway:


(Also as a video on Youtube.)

As a sci-fi author, I always have at least one foot in the future. It’s not a choice, my brain can’t help looking for signs of what is coming next. The day-to-day patterns of the world are my I Ching sticks.

At the moment, I’m thinking a lot about purpose —

For most of human existence, aligning against adversity has given us clear purpose. Once our defining enemies were lions, glaciers, storms, or the monsters in the next village. For much of recent history, we derived purpose from banding together against worshipers of Gods who didn’t see eye to eye with our own [Gods]; but the last century saw a new great battle of good versus evil: Capitalism versus Communism. For two generations, we pitted ourselves against the great enemy. Working in a corporation made you a holy warrior. CEOs were generals; warlords of capitalism. Money was munitions. Going to work, you were not just earning ‘TV tokens’, at a primal level you were strapping on a shield and sword and doing battle.

Suddenly, quite unexpectedly, in the early 90s we found that we had won. The enemy was routed; the foe was vanquished. Our battle-weary hordes did what triumphant conquering armies always do, they sacked the place and helped themselves to all the plunder.

Post-conflict, those trained killers continued the fight. The ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ paladins of Capitalism, knowing only war, became thugs terrorizing their societies, it was all they knew.

The Big Bang of the 90s; Thatcherism, Reaganism, and the self-delusional absurdity of trickle-down economics.

 

Naked greed became the highest purpose. ‘Increasing shareholder value’ an unassailable right that excuses all. It has been used as a justification for screwing the poor out of their health-care, the rainforest out of its trees, and the Millennials out of a chance at ever owning assets.

I chose to start one of my books with this quote by Antonio Gramsci:

“The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”

This image of an interregnum between epochs captures the spirit of these times. We can see a better future; but we are stuck here infested with pathogenic mind virusescucked and emasculated by computational propaganda, and addicted to genosadistic patterns of consumption. We are frozen, led by a generation of battle-scarred warriors so impaired by corporate PTSD that their minds are unable to conceive of another way.

Let’s talk about Corvid 19… (Wait don’t go! Keep reading, it’s time for some optimism!)

I am writing this on day one of the Lockdown. Already both my kids are doing lessons over video conferencing. Who knows how society will have changed in the year and a half it may take for this storm to pass? But there is no chance the status quo of our current interregnum will maintain.

The economy we know is going to fall apart. Governments will have to take extreme measures to avoid a full-on slide into the “Great Contraction” because they know very well what will follow if they don’t.

What measures will they take?

1) No redundancies allowed…
People will be paid to stay home, regardless of whether this makes sense for their jobs. Companies won’t complain because the government will loan them payroll at attractive 0% interest. The optics of this will certainly be politically much less controversial than having starving homeless hordes wandering the streets smashing windows and burning cars or, heaven forbid, the far more terrifying prospect of expanding the social security safety nets.

2) Free Healthcare
Any developed society that is so psychopathically tone-deaf to human suffering that it doesn’t already have universal health care will be adopting it pretty soon. (Yes, I’m looking at you!) Millions of your people who don’t have health insurance are about to need intensive care treatment, and then shortly after they will be voting for their next government. I don’t see how it will be politically expedient to let these people die, go bankrupt, or both. This will necessitate another twist of the magic money taps (MMT).

3) Education for All
Online education is going to be the norm from now on. As I write this, my kids are already getting their lessons at home via zoom. University courses are already freely available online. The only missing piece of the jigsaw is remote accreditation, and that will come. Gen-Z is not going to have to worry about crippling student loans the way their older sibs did. Millennials will kick up a fuss, but they’ll settle down once their student debt is forgiven. …and why not have an amnesty? So much money is going to be printed for the retired boomers, sick poor people, and out-of-work Gen Xers, that we might as well print a bit more for the millennials while we are at it.

Coronavirus will deliver universal basic income, universal healthcare, and universal education; perhaps it’s some massive communist plot in disguise?

Where will the money come from?
Simple, out of nowhere like it always does. Money is not real like Gold or Bitcoin is <troll/>. It is made-up. It is what Yuval Noah Harari calls an intersubjective phenomenon; it only exists because we all agree it does.

I don’t know how this will play out over a decade or more. Will we have—

Modern Monetary Theory?
Fully Automated Luxury Communism?
Hyperinflation?
Fiat collapse?
…all of the above?

I just don’t know, but I suspect that money in its current form is on the way out. Money is made up and ‘negative interest’ is the unmissable nudity that will set off a wave of contagious tittering in a crowd who until very recently was happily admiring the emperor’s new clothes…

What about moral hazard?
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but nobody really works anymore anyway. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but a lot of middle-class jobs feel like fake-work to keep people off the streets where they might cause trouble. Automation is coming; when robots are driving cars, robots are building cars, robots are styling cars, and robots are managing the few human unicorn engineers left still designing cars, there is going to be a lot less demand for non-digital people (aka version 1.0 humans). Too few jobs, too many humans, and free money everywhere — from Universal Basic Income, either backdoor or overt — will change our relationship to work. I see the economy bifurcating into:

1) Zombie organisations paying people to fake-work so governments don’t need to publically implement contentious decisions like helicopter money.

2) Exponential organisations with bold purpose and inspiring vision drawing Gen-Z talent into their orbits because these energetic idealists are bored and disillusioned with the naked orange emperor and want to do fun stuff instead.

In this new world — just a few months away now — there will be purpose again; a species mission statement more inspirational than ‘increasing shareholder value’. In this utopia, billionaires will be ridiculed and reviled, their mega-yachts — once supernormal phallic stimuli — will be nothing more than the silly red-noses on clowns. Robots will do the unpleasant manual work; the talented will build our future out among the stars; and everybody else will complain and whine while supping sweet nectar from the Magic Money Tree.

Survival of the Richest!



Funny, spot-on, and morbidly depressing!
We must take this as a call to arms!!



Forget about socialism vs capitalism. Whatever we choose, let’s make sure our societies provide a safety net for these kinds of negative eventualities beyond the individual’s control.

This is why we pay government taxes. Not, as currently, solely to finance the creation of an environment designed to allow psychopathic, homovourous corporations to predate upon the poor and stupid.

Anyone for Rat Tartare?


The system is crumbling, bifurcating. Money is becoming irrelevant for those with it, and unobtainable for those without. Negative interest rates are the only clue we need to be certain the wheels have come of this jalopy.  Of course, normal people don’t get to borrow at negative rates, that’s only for Ultra High Networth Individuals and Corporations.

The 0.1% (aka the plutocrats, oligarchs, kleptocrats — I wish I could find a word that I like) have eaten most of the pies and are in the process of snaffling down the rest.

The rich have clearly been very bad boys and girls, just look at the charts that show where all the productivity delivered by Manufacturing Automation, Supply Chain Optimization, Fin-Tech, Digital Transformation, etc, has gone:

Productivity has doubled, while wages stayed the same.
…where did all the money go?

 

Oh, there it is. The rich took it all!

When I started writing my Singularity’s Children books, the world had just experienced a major ‘correction‘. The #occupy movement and the whole 1% outrage was catching fire and there was a genuine sense that with recognition of the greed that had caused the economic train-wreck, a new fairer order might rise…

…Yeah, right!

Instead, the fat-lady was propped up, pumped full of amphetamines, and persuaded to sing again; one more time.

So here we are. A decade later and the world is burning:

The top image is a fictitious weather report imagining what the weather would be like in 2050 for a 2014 French TV documentary about climate change. The bottom image is the real weather report from last week.

 

Somehow, we forgot that the Klepts (how about that?) ate our future, and are still busy eating the futures of our grandchildren. We became distracted with a billion memes and outraged by a million unwitting infractions against a constantly shifting baseline of fraught-to-navigate social norms.

The Klepts know it though. They use their newspapers and TV channels to distract us, but they can’t hide the side effects of their gluttony—

—the cheesy crumbs are ground into the carpet; drifts of pie and pasty packaging are building in the corners of their bedrooms. They can hear mummy’s feet on the stairs, she is coming to take the pies away. They hug their disposable convenience-store plastic bags full of junk food, and stuff their faces faster, they know it’s over and soon they will be eating rat, like everybody else.

This system is well and truly broken. We need a new one.

But we must remember that the Klepts will fight tooth and nail to discredit any promising new ideas.  (This tension is the backstory and main arc of my Singularity’s Children books.)

But why should they fight? Surely getting an early start on cleaning up all the pie-scented effluent gumming up the works will make a better world for all of us—including them. Why should they resist?

Because a preemptive managed upgrade to the system won’t help them. Even if things stay civil and they don’t all get guillotined into minced-meat to make Soylent Green, they are probably right in suspecting that the massive wealth disparity they currently enjoy will not survive a reboot. Why should they voluntarily curtail the short amount of gluttony time they have left before a hard unscheduled reboot of society robs them of their wealth and status anyway?

We need to understand that we want different things, us and them. We have different incentives. Most of us will be willing to sacrifice a little to avert a global cataclysm, but they will be asked to give up a LOT.

One thing we do have in common with the Klepts, is that, like us, most of them are not saints, and because only a saint is strong enough to act against their own interests, the leaders of our Kleptocracy will never voluntarily make the tough decisions necessary to save us all.

We are not in the same boat. They have so much more to lose. They won’t be able to put down that delicious slice of poor-person-pie. So we will need to slap it out of their hands, or soon their weakness and greed will have us all diving for bloated carion through the flooded sewers of London and Mumbai…

Rat-tartare might sound grim to you, but to the Klepts, so does the prospect of microwaved Asda vegetable pie.