In the mid 2020’s, the development of AI reached an event horizon. It wasn’t the singularity, but productivity exploded from that point. What followed was a tumultuous economic period known as The Great Automation.
Almost thirty years into The Great Automation, nearly half of able-bodied adults were completely removed from the workforce. Each country handled unemployment policies with mixed results. Some countries’ entire economies were decimated.
In a last ditch, Fight-Club-esque effort, masses of people united across borders to sabotage the machines that stole their jobs. But it was too late. The machines could repair themselves faster than humans could destroy them, and networks were infinitely redundant.
This brief and ineffectual effort was labeled the Luddite Uprising of 2051. There were actually very few human casualties. It was almost as if there was no uprising at all, except for the fact that it led to several key milestones.
Formation of the Aristocracy
At the time of the uprising, there were two classes of people towering above the rest of the population. Those who had some form of ownership in the robots that spurred The Great Automation, and leaders of the remaining global superpowers. In 2052, a subset of these two groups volunteered to work together to form a cadre that came to be known as the Aristocracy. There weren’t more than a hundred of them, but they had the wealth and power to control the world, and their goal was to work towards the betterment of mankind.
Global Austerity Period
Recognizing the cause of the strife that led to the Luddite Uprising, the Aristocracy passed an unprecedented measure: The Global Austerity Act of 2053.
The Aristocracy owned 98% of the global wealth, and they planned to redistribute most of it. But first, it required that the populace buy into the idea of a two-class society.
Those who accepted the proposal would become Civilians, and were guaranteed basic human necessities: Food, Shelter, Clothes, and Universal Basic Income, with the promise of more benefits over time. The Aristocracy produced most of the consumable goods and services, and they also provided the money to Civilians to buy them. They offered a simple, yet stable life in exchange for acceptance of the Aristocracy as the governing body of mankind.
It was a no-brainer for the unemployed and elderly. What other option did they have? More than half the population immediately bought in. The offer was a step backwards for those who were employed or firmly entrenched in the upper-middle class. But they were in the minority, and many understood by that point that job stability no longer existed.Accepting their fate, most of the human population became Civilians within a decade. By 2065, The Aristocracy had established a global baseline of human entitlements for Civilians.
Concurrent with the buy-in, the rate of automation accelerated. Humanity shifted to a 99% unemployment rate and totally eradicated the middle class as the entitlements got better.
By 2090, humanity reached a tenuous balance between the The Aristocracy and the Civilians. Civilians of the time were experiencing the highest quality of life in the history of mankind:
- They were healthy, with projected life spans well over 100 years. Nutrient intake was automatically scheduled and optimized to their DNA. Nanomachines in their blood stream diagnosed and cured most of their ailments.
- They were highly educated– people could learn by swallowing pills.
- They were highly skilled, thanks to a number of robotic enhancements to their bodies.
- Travel was fast and free, since Aristocracy-owned vehicles were all self maintaining, unmanned, and powered by renewables. And they were mostly designed by AI.
- Everyone was entitled to 400 sf of on-demand ‘personal space’ their entire life, wherever they were. Families could combine their space. Housing ownership didn’t exist anymore because houses didn’t quite exist anymore. People didn’t choose to settle down because they weren’t bound to real estate. Most traditional buildings with the exception of historical landmarks were replaced by highly flexible automated spaces. Wherever Civilians traveled around the world, they could choose to stay at designated residential areas containing towers of ‘white boxes’. These boxes could be customized to their personal space settings on the fly. Like vehicles, buildings were self maintaining, powered by renewables, and mostly designed by AI.
Despite all this, Civilians remained mostly incapable of making any meaningful contributions to the economy. There was simply not enough work to go around.
Civilians had the option to sit back and go through life without any real sense of purpose. They mostly occupied themselves with creative pursuits or sports. Some were constantly drugged up on soma to escape the invisible cage that was their reality. The alternative was to compete to join the Aristocracy, but very few made it. It was this option that placated the masses and kept the two-class system running smoothly.
A select few Civilians were routinely chosen (based on data collected since birth) to join the ranks of the Aristocracy by contributing to the advancement of mankind. They were placed in advanced research roles or chosen for the Mars colonization team. Some were sent on one way trips to deep space to explore further. They could be easily distinguished from Civilians by their red shirts.
With such comprehensive basic entitlements for Civilians, the Aristocracy began phasing out money and traditional economics. Money was only to be used by developing colonies in space until they reached a specified level of autonomy.
In 2151, one hundred years after the Luddite Uprising, space officially became the final frontier. Having successfully colonized several planets, the Aristocracy renamed themselves The United Federation of Planets. Thus began the stories of the Starship Enterprise….
Yes, I totally did just write a prequel to all of Star Trek based on this one quote.