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The Millennial Project 2.0

Economics, Justice, and Government in TMP

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The Millennial Project, as a basic idea, was born of Humanistic ideals and the culture we anticipate cultivating in its communities is a Humanist culture. A culture rooted in reason, mediated by the scientific method, and essentially focused on human rights, needs, and freedoms in a rational—testable—balance between the personal, the social, and the environmental good. A culture largely free of the overt influence of superstition, racism, xenophobia, and classism, and their dangerous compulsion toward moral absolutism. A culture free of the sociopathic behavior and institutional violence that money, finance, and objectivist logic have imposed on contemporary society. A culture striving for real human progress and the realization of the optimal potential of every one of its individuals. That is the essential purpose of a civilization. What else matters? 

The culture in the communities planned for The Millennial Project is also anticipated to become, at some point, a Post-Industrial culture; one built on a different set of basic economic and industrial paradigms that relate to its Humanist ideals but, more importantly, reflect the impact of the kinds of world-changing technologies it’s people cultivate in their planned community setting. Put simply, a Post-Industrial culture is that which comes after the Industrial Age culture which has dominated western civilization for the past several hundred years. The essential story of human civilization is the story of how we make things and our way of life is largely defined by the logistics of that. As particular production technology has imposed particular production methodologies, these have shaped the character of culture at particular times. For the past several hundred years we have transitioned from a long-persistent Agrarian Age—where the methods of farm production dominated the patterns of life, the nature of economics, and the power structures we instituted—to an Industrial Age where the methods and logistics of centralized mass industrial production have come to control the order of life and the architecture of social, economic, and political systems. Across the 20th century and on to the present, advancing automation, computing, and communications technology have been slowly re-writing the conventions for how production works by imposing a new set of logistic, and thus have, again, slowly been re-working the architecture of our civilization from the bottom-up. There is, of course, top-down resistance to this change, and it has proven as futile as it was in the Agrarian Age. It’s a package deal. You cannot have the benefits of advancing technology without accepting the logistical conditions imposed by it, though in terms of social structure there may be many approaches to accommodating them. 

The details of such a future culture and civilization are not clearly defined—we are, after all, speculating about a future eventually we can never see particularly clearly from our present perspective. And there is always a hazard of over-estimation of the near-term and under-estimation of the long-term. But many futurists have anticipated and pondered this evolution across the 20th century and a number of prominent features are regarded as more-or-less likely. These include;

-Total Automation: the elimination of most human labor in both industrial production as well as most service industry. 

-Mass Customization and Production On Demand: the overturning, by new production technology, of the Industrial Age convention that things must be produced in large volumes with systems of large scale in order to be cost-effective. 

-Total Environmental Awareness: the spread of remote viewing and digital sensing networks toward a total real-time digital awareness of global natural environment, human habitat, demographics, and human condition. 

-Industrial, Cultural, Economic, and Political ‘De-massification’: the progressive de-centralization of social, economic, and political power structures resulting from the progressive de-centralization of our production and energy infrastructures.  

-Statelessness: the redefinition or outright obsolescence of the Westfalian nation-state as largely a convention of likewise obsolete concentrated economic interests disguised by nationalistic identity. 

-Adhocracies, Peer Networks, and Monkey Spheres: the new predominate socio-political units of no formally fixed social structure defined by personal and career interests and by personal social connections/dependencies.

-Resource-Based Economics: the transition of global trade to a predominately digitally mediated and fully automated exchange of commodities in open reciprocal production networks as goods production is fully localized and scientifically and digitally quantified demand and relative value eliminates the contrivance of currencies, markets, and profit.

-Social Credit Systems: digitally mediated meritocratic systems for mediating exceptional personal access to goods and resources based on a quantification of individual social/cultural value/importance. A basic alternative to the crude accumulation of economic wealth in the absence of classical monetary systems.  

-Transhuman Society: the introduction of artificial intelligences, augmented human beings, and people with increasingly indefinite life-spans as common members of society, bringing with them different perspectives and important impacts on culture. 

This is what we have to look forward to over the next couple of centuries as we enter a Post-Industrial Age. Are we talking about utopia? Hardly. That is probably a practical impossibility—and thankfully so. Yet a society that does not actively pursue utopian ideals and its own evolutionary improvement, choosing to rest on the crutch of tradition or act out in abject fear of new and disruptive ideas, is a society that has abandoned the future and doomed itself in a reality of increasing change. As has been noted many times in this work, we go to space to live, and live well. To not just explore the frontiers of the universe but to explore the frontiers of the human experience. This is the essential aspiration of The Millennial Project. It’s not about planting flags. It’s about a way of life. Simple as that sounds, this is perhaps the single-most radical and disruptive proposition of TMP and this section of TMP2 is most-likely to be the most controversial in its exploration of its ramifications. 

There is a compulsion to assume significant social and cultural changes require some kind of violent revolution because of the fundamentally intractable, self-serving, nature of our contemporary governments and bureaucracies. That we are compelled toward this presumption is a sign of our inherent fear of this state power. But did some civil war bring us the Internet? Is the power we fear that of some malevolent omniscient intelligence or rather the hazard of a steam roller driven by drunks? 

In practice, we cannot realistically impose a new culture on the world. We can only cultivate it by encouraging certain trends and setting examples in modest scale settings—in the modest sized planned communities that TMP intends to create first on Earth and then in space. Yet, as has been pointed out in many of the articles of TMP2, the elements of a very different Post-Industrial culture have been emergent all around us for quite some time. Many futurists have written on this fact. We are already being culturally transformed by our own technology and its impact on our economic and political power structures. The very concept of the Westfalian state is being challenged daily by our burgeoning means of digital communication and increasingly globally networked interdependent economics. Governments and corporations have become obsessed with the control of the increasingly uncontrollable. The hand squeezes tighter as it feels its grip starting to slip. The market races ever faster chasing ever smaller margins and bargains. We think of the daily global electronic transfer of increasing billions of dollars as remarkable, yet do we ask why the market needs to do that? New fundamental units of human organization and activity, increasingly stateless and supranational in nature, are emerging in our wired world. New, alternative, economic infrastructures are spontaneously popping-up in overlooked corners, much to the puzzlement and annoyance of the establishment. The Industrial Age may have systematically destroyed the traditional community. We are re-inventing it in myriad ways—for we are social creatures and we need our ‘monkey spheres’. An essential cultural and economic de-massification is underway across the world, even as it seems as though we have re-created, and far surpassed, the excesses of the era of western imperialism and the Gilded Age. It is not growth. It is a circling of the wagons. 

Ultimately, we need not lift a finger toward deliberate, revolutionary, change. We need only anticipate, identify, and take advantage of what’s happening right now.

Many futurists today anticipate a ‘stateless’ and ‘moneyless’ future, implausible as this suggestion might seem to most people today on the face of it. But the reality is that our borders are defined more by competitive economic interests than anything else and, fundamentally, our governments are economic entities warring for the benefit of those economic interests, rather than our ‘protection’. Though it’s deliberately shrouded in the quasi-religious trappings of nationalism, our governments exist only to provide, though a collectivization of some portion of a society’s productivity, a package of services that define that scope of needs that cannot be (or are not better) fulfilled by individual effort or the ‘free-market’. National defense, infrastructure, police, justice, welfare, healthcare, education, science research, space programs, etc. It’s all just services we collectively pay for—and by extension are _investing_ in with an expectation of some sort of return on investment. Look beyond the flags, the anthems, the church-like state rituals, the neo-classical architecture, and that’s all there is to it. A system of collectivization providing a set of services. And, increasingly, a combination of advancing technology, cultural disillusion and de-massification, and increasingly blatant and pervasive corruption is whittling away at the need for and value of those services. 

Ultimately, an Industrial Age nation-state paired to a Capitalist economic system can only extract productivity from a society of highly specialized workers in the form of cash. That is the only common-denominator. A modern government has no use for raw materials or conscripted labor. It doesn’t generally own facilities for production of any kind and its primary activity is simply to administer the spending of tax money on the (presumably) open market. But, as those same futurists often point out, money itself (or more accurately, money as we have known and defined it to date) may be on the way out as the progressive automation, de-massification, and localization of industrial production decentralizes our infrastructures and economics, pushes toward a global exchange in primarily commodities, makes the ‘closing of the loop’ of worker/consumer impossible by destroying jobs, and basically makes the cash-economy redundant. 

There is a critical bug in Industrial Age economics in that its foundation is human labor of highly subjective value. In contemporary economics, money is debt secured on the promise of future human labor—which unlike every other commodity in existence we have conveniently avoided any scientific quantification of. (because if we ever did, it would mean the end of an executive class and the end of profit…) But one unavoidable fact is that its value must decline in the long-term. Today, human labor is being factored out of all kinds of production and service. We can no longer invent jobs faster than technology destroys them. How then can labor still be the basis of our economics? If economics dies, the contemporary nation-state dies. It’s that simple. It cannot exist without cash. It has no independent means of production and no other mechanism of collectivization. Society is compelled to find new and different ways to doing a progressively shrinking number of things it needs to do as a collective. The borders all slowly become abstract lines on old maps. This is a possible future we anticipate when we suggest that TMP will cultivate a Post-Industrial culture. 

How will/can a stateless moneyless Post-Industrial culture function? To many, with so little practical understanding of how the world works even now, this is an absurd suggestion on the face of it. And yet our current system is hardly the product of some natural law or ancient wisdom. It is an ad-hoc kluge of convention a couple of centuries old—a small blip in the course of history. So there is nothing special about it despite the, again, quasi-religious trappings often decorating it. It is a contrivance born of convenience. It’s no longer so convenient. Our culture is driven by a pursuit of convenience and a need to accommodate the evolving logistics of the evolving technology we rely on. Many futurists, economists, and even science fiction writers have explored this notion of a stateless moneyless future. Even the most popular science fiction TV series of all time, Star Trek, has, as a core element, this very idea. We have actually been anticipating this a long time but are afraid to entertain the possibility in a serious context because we fear the disruption—the imagined violent revolution—we presume must accompany such change. And yet it’s happening right under our noses. We just don’t grasp it because, as far as most of us are concerned, the supermarket might as well be restocked by Santa Claus and his Chinese elves every night. 

In this final section of TMP2 we will explore this question and seek some coherent picture of the economics and social structure of a Post-Industrial culture, using our  anticipated planned communities as the showcase models of this culture. Ultimately, it will be up to the local inhabitants of every community as to how they will conduct their lives. And, for a long time to come, we will most certainly have to live within the constraints established governments and their laws or risk their compulsively violent response. But we can, at least, visualize a likely model future way of life that may develop when all is said and done.  

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