A New Purpose
The next thirty years is make or break for Planet Earth. Since the population – dread diseases and major disasters apart – will be 10bn by 2050, the exigencies of food, water and air will take precedence, even over exploring Mars and the rest of the (AI) firmament. Longevity will still be a goal and the right to die may well coincide with the opportunity not to – if we decide to survive. Pre-death Funerals will become as commonplace as Revival Parties.
Science will play the biggest part in providing the environment in which humans can survive, although common sense and decent behaviour will still make a significant contribution – if we can be persuaded to think longer-term. Housing the world’s population in anything like acceptable accommodation will require big leaps forward in urban planning and construction techniques. Prefabricated will become desirable – it already is for many dwellings. Brick on brick is lovely but it doesn’t have to be done in the rain or with gnarled hands.
Harnessing solar power will provide cheap, efficient and clean energy, the source of the New World in which we will live. Political power will continue to be – and even become more concentrated – in the hands of the Technological Giants. No doubt some forms of control will be tried and a few may work. But the money will be made by the Giants. They will also dispense it.
That is why business behaviour and money morality will be so important.
For the first time in human history we will be able to decide what kind of a world we want – and get it. Just as everything is known about us so we shall know everything about Them – those with the money and the power. Well, perhaps not absolutely everything. Enough will be available for us to make up our minds who we want to keep in positions of whatever authority still exists and who we want to reject. Elections will still be conducted but will prove an unnecessary and quaint device since hourly polls will determine who approves of what. Hopefully we shall have enough sense not to make hourly adjustments to our strategies or political rulers.
There is only one thing needed to make such a scenario work and that is Purpose. Not the little day to day purposes of ‘better butter’ but the overall, visionary purpose of humankind’s existence. If you are uncertain about heavens above you must aim for heavens below – here and now. The price of that is living peacefully together, especially when there are so many of us. A clearer purpose than that of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is needed. A purpose that sets a time for its achievement, that specifies what its grand rhetoric means.
That purpose must be contributed by everyone. The only successful form of democracy is when we all decide where we should be heading rather than what we should be doing. A consensus of objective is better than a thousand instructions on how to get there or a million forecasts of what will prevent us doing so. Few politicians see this as their job, more’s the pity. Individual moral responsibility remains at the heart of all public choices.
Given the shift of power away from politicians and towards technological business is it possible that the medium- to long-term, upon which so much business investment depends, may become of more interest to those who will by then be investors? But only if we use the right techniques to encourage everyone to become an investor. Capitalism will only work if most people are capitalists, learning to handle their own finances and building their own shield against future storms.
Orwellian? Unacceptable? Not really. Nineteen Eighty-Four came and went with little more than a nostalgic mention, even though far ‘worse’ things had happened by then than had been predicted by the author. The benefits outweighed the deprivations.
None of these next stages would be easy, even if we didn’t have an existing pandemic – and more potential ones in the offing. Additionally, our false news infodemic as The Atlantic Magazine calls it is already creating a mythical world of competing lies and infectious emotions.
A Messiah to re-convince us of the virtues of truth and justice seems unlikely but a Leader to set us a Purpose is well within our capability.
Let us hope she or he is not long coming.