We are woken at 7:00 am by Optimus bringing us our coffee in the year 2035. He has already disconnected our old Tesla Model 3 SR (yes, I know, very retro) from the solar array and plugged in the pool pump. He has also fed the dog and given her the requisite number of pats. Since I hit 80 (it is 2035), it is getting harder and harder to get out of bed in the morning. Not to worry, Optimus will be back after doing the washing and he will help me into my exoskeleton. So, I’m glad I kept my Tesla shares, or we would be doing all of this the old-fashioned way.
Most of our neighbours have solar panels and batteries. Those who don’t are constantly complaining about the price of power. It seems like no matter how cheap generation becomes from solar and wind, the power companies keep putting the prices up. Of course, the government supports them. “It’s an essential service!” The divide between the energy rich and energy poor grows wider. Down in the poorer end of town, they are collecting discarded panels and building their own energy systems.
Unlike many of our neighbours, we have opted to keep our own car, as it is much more expensive to use the Tesla TaaS option. We make a little money on weekends renting her out, and Optimus has become adept at cleaning the vomit out when we get the occasional drunk with a technicoloured yawn on a Saturday night. Tess may be due for a battery replacement soon; the battery degradation is now at 20%.
The synthetic milk from our precision fermenter goes well in the coffee and with the Weetabix for breakfast. The sachets of designer yeast have arrived and we are looking forward to trying out the probiotic kefir and the “NuBeef” range. Competition in the sector has led to a lowering of prices for PF protein — but it will improve as patents run out. Big Farmer is almost as bad as the old BigPharma. That reminds me, I must order more sugar, those yeast bacteria are hungry little fellas.
In 2035, the smog is clearing and the temperatures seem to have stabilized. The government, after many political brawls with lobbyists and interest groups, has finally managed to get its “Trees for farmers program” up and running. Instead of using millions of acres for cows, they are now being paid to plant and tend to trees. There is hope that the koala can come back from near extinction.
There is less and less on the news about catastrophic weather events. “Why do they call them a once in a generation event when they happen every year?” Insurance premiums are coming down — perhaps we will be able to afford to insure the house this year?
Inner Brisbane is looking good — the council project to convert undercover car parks into accommodation is proceeding well. Soon, the homeless will be out sight and we can feel less guilty. Of course, many of us got a shock when the price of real estate went down due to the availability of multi-story car parks for conversion. You just don’t need so much parking space in the city when a car can return to its base autonomously.
Yes, Tony Seba was right — the age of superabundance has arrived.
Watching Tony Seba’s recent conference presentation to the Saudis provoked the vision of a future as hypothesized above. However, there is an alternative view. Can capitalism save capitalism from ecological collapse (through catastrophic climate change or techno Armageddon)? Will Starlink become self-aware? Will superabundance be hijacked by the corporations of the rich, keeping developing nations “in their place” at the bottom of the economic pile? We are independent with power already (in 2024), but will that be taken away from us? Is superabundance for everyone? What will the big companies use tie people up and lock them out? Can we brew our beef and chicken the way we brew our own beer and kefir? Will governments take over our rooftop solar and tax our autonomous electric cars off the road? Will we still spend ludicrous amounts of money on bottled water?
I asked my good friend and futurist Paul Wildman for his thoughts on what life may be like by 2035. I am paraphrasing his answer below.
In my opinion, Tony Seba is an apologist for the neoliberal capitalists. Remember, the capitalist system destroys more than it creates, compared with the Confucian Socialism of China. Perhaps Tony could be described as a high priest, promising heaven through super abundance provided by the capitalist system.
Will techno Armageddon or ecological collapse come first? Will one reinforce the other? Or will it be superabundance nirvana?
In the Terminator movie trilogy, the ecological collapse comes first and techno-armageddon “saved” the day. In war techno, Armageddon comes first and then ecological collapse (as all the ecology has been blown up). We are already in a state of global warming and global warring. Tipping points are reached every day as new wars break out quicker than old wars end. The rise of CO2 levels, the changes in the North Sea currents, and the sea level rises point to an ecological collapse.
So, I asked Paul: “Can capitalism save capitalism?” It appears that Elon Musk and Tony Seba think that it is possible. He responded: “Capitalism can save us from capitalism in my opinion. But not from all types of capitalism. Social democrat capitalism (where social relationships are prime), eco capitalism (where green is go!), yes, but neoliberal capitalism (where the market only is prime), no, again in my opinion.”
Neoliberal capitalism has a tendency to commodify and monetize everything, including superabundance. Is the only other option to let the system burn itself down and start again? Paul says his money is on the system burning itself down and having to be rebuilt.
For my own sake, and that of my children and grandchildren, I really hope that the hypothetical 2035 I started with becomes my future. If Optimus can handle an egg with care, then it would be able to give me a sponge bath. Paul sees Tony and Elon simultaneously as techno-optimists and techno-capitalist apologists. I hope that they are right and we don’t end up in a combination of climate change induced ecological collapse ruled by Terminators, or inflation induced economic collapse ruled by the corporate NeoCons. … Now, where is Optimus with my second coffee…??
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