What Role for
Assume, for the moment,
that humanity is able to solve the most pressing issues facing it at
the present: the need for clean energy, environmental degradation, and
famine. At first blush, it would seem that such a world would be
paradise, but this ignores the technological necessities this would
First and foremost, for this
to occur, we're going
to have to
manufacture things with greater precision than we do today. That means
humans will have to be removed from the manufacturing process. Humans
do not have the capability to match that of machines today, and the
demands of better technology will hinge on things being built to the
best possible standards.
Even if humans were capable
of matching machines, economics would
necessitate their removal. Humans are an expense that corporations seek
to eliminate. As computer technology improves, more and more tasks will
be done by machines, making it difficult for people to find any sort of
employment, much less meaningful employment.
Nor can one hope that
consumers will insist upon buying goods made by
people. The years of "buy American" campaigns have not stopped the US
from having a massive trade deficit with those nations that have
significantly lower labor costs. People will buy the cheap goods
whenever they're available.
It is doubtful that people
will find work in the service sector.
Those jobs are gradually being taken over by machines as well. We're at
a serious risk of having large numbers of people in a permanent "idle
class": people with no means of employment or the possibility of
gaining employment. What happens to them?
Even if we assume that they
will be able to meet their basic needs
easily, because technology has made it possible for anyone to have
whatever they want for next to nothing, they will need to keep
themselves occupied. How will they do this? Play video games? Watch
movies? Do drugs? Make babies? Not much of a life, really.
Given the current sedentary
nature of modern life, they will no doubt
get fat. To correct this, they'll have to undergo surgery or take
medication, in order to keep from ballooning into huge masses of
blubber. (I doubt that we'll ever be able to come up with a "zero
calorie" food which doesn't have "anal leakage" as a side effect.
There's a vision of humanity for you: the entire race spending their
whole lives wearing diapers while worrying that their sphincter might
give way at an inopportune moment.)
Of course, some people will
claim that society will advance and people
will become artists of one sort or another, researchers, or that we'll
decide to keep jobs for humans to do. For any of that to happen will
require such a fundamental shift in humanity that we might as well be
talking about some other species. Not everyone is a creative type, not
everyone wants to be a scientist, and any board of directors that
agreed to keep humans on the payroll simply so that they would have
"something to do" would be quickly fired by the shareholders.
Under such a scenario, even
space exploration won't be a challenging
task. It'll be little more than what moving cross country is for most
Americans today. You'll simply pack up those things you wish to take
with you, and a short period of time later, you'll move into some place
nearly identical to the one you left. There will be no “noble” struggle
of “man against nature,” because your robotic army will have already
done the hard work. With the lighter gravity of Mars, people will
probably get even fatter.