Last night I saw Doug Applegate, the Democratic frontrunner challenging Darrell Issa’s seat in the 49th Congressional District, speak. The most frustrating moment for me came when he revealed that he is very aware of the real impending apocalypse, and he immediately backed off talking about it. And I understand why he did. No politician who wants to get elected, much less one who wants to do so in a Republican district, can say certain words aloud. Hell, Bernie couldn’t even say these words aloud. But there’s a terrifying truth no one is talking about.
We are at the end of the Industrial Age, folks. What comes next is the Age of Automation. In 20 years, MILLIONS of people will be put out of work by driverless cars. Self check-out at grocery stores. Ordering your food at kiosks at your table will mean fewer waiters to serve the same number of diners. Artificial intelligence will mean even those problem-solving jobs us educated elites think make us so special will be thin on the ground.
People like to talk about how unrealistic socialism is, but let me tell you something. Capitalism is based on the notion that human labor can be traded for goods and services. That everyone needs to do 40+ hours of work each week in order for society to function, and that they will be compensated for that work. It’s built on the fundamental truth from back when we were all small clans trying to beat back the wilderness to build shelter, to find food, to survive, that everyone has to do his fair share or we will die. Its millennia old.
But what happens when human labor is no longer necessary to build the shelters and grow the food for society? Socialism might sound unrealistic, but capitalism is already dying, because our technology has made the basic concepts on which it was built – human labor is necessary and resources are scare – untrue. Like De Beers with diamond prices, we have been artificially propping up these precepts for years now. But we can’t do that forever, and we damn well better have something to replace it with. Soon.
We are at the brink of a world where unemployment will rise above 50% and stay there. It will be catastrophic unless we very quickly re-evaluate bedrock notions of labor, value, purpose, and what money even is. And we all better get used to saying aloud the phrase ‘Universal Wage.’