One of the most worthwhile aspects of the technological and social developments that took place in the 21st century was the increased freedom they brought to human individuals, including the freedom to dispose of one's time as one chooses.
The 20th century saw a steady diminution in the number of hours an average person spent at work, and in the proportion of people who worked at all, at least in developed countries, alongside increases in their purchasing power. The amount of economic benefit obtained by one hour of work increased dramatically. Technology was a major contributor to this process, indeed perhaps the only cause of it, and during the 21st century continued to provide ever more substantial economic benefits to mankind. Robots themselves took over major swathes of the activities we used to call 'work'. Even though new types of job emerged as a result, the overall effect was to reduce still further the amount of time that a normal individual in a developed country had to devote to work.
As 'work', in the sense of obligatory involvement in a revenue-earning activity, lost its importance relative to investment management or leisure activities, people had time on their hands. Many people just wasted this time in various ways, as they always had done, but many individuals came to want to contribute towards the future of society, and society itself came to demand 'contribution' from people. Society already rewarded people who contributed outside their quotidian lives with respect, honours and even in some cases money.
In addition, the emergence of a vast range of new associative possibilities through the interplay of globalization and the Internet, and the opportunities offered by RCCs for groups of individuals to explore new ways of thinking, feeling and creating, greatly expanded the variety and interest of pursuits available to people, useful or otherwise. It would have been impossible in 1890 to imagine the kaleidoscopic universe of human culture that would come to exist by 1990, even if some people such as Jules Verne and H G Wells did succeed in imaging some of the technologies that would be employed to service it. It was equally impossible in 2010 to imagine the ten times greater explosion of cultural diversity and experience that was to take place by 2110.
Already in the first decade of the 21st century entertainment and sport were perceptibly merging into one another. This process continued at a rapid pace during the decades in which elective activities gradually came to replace more and more of what had been known (for only 400 years after all) as 'work'.
One's 'work' came by degrees to mean, for many people, a contribution to the knowledge, variety and evolutionary success of the race. Some people already fitted that definition - writers, painters, academics and philosophers, for instance - and many more people found they could do so if they had received appropriate education. It was argued that only 'clever' people could do such 'work'; but in future everyone would be clever. What parent fails to tick the 'IQ over 150' box when filling out the child specification?
Alongside reductions in obligatory working time, people increasingly benefited from the returns on invested wealth. The accumulated wealth of humanity was already vast, in money terms, even in 2010, and an increasing number (and proportion) of people did not need to 'work' in the sense of earning their livings. Consulting firm McKinsey reported in 2007 that the value of total global financial assets, including equities, government and corporate debt securities, and bank deposits, had expanded to $140 trillion by the end of 2005, representing US$17,500 per head of the world's population. McKinsey's figures recorded a rate of increase of wealth of about 6% per annum over a number of years. World population, on the other hand, had been increasing at approximately 1.5% per year, with this figure tending to fall. Despite some setbacks, global wealth per head reached EUR50,000 by 2055.
It was clear, even in 2020, that given equal distribution of mankind's accumulated wealth, there would come a point towards the end of the 21st century at which there would be enough money for no-one to have to work to earn income. It was recognized as inevitable that the trend towards less and less work would continue, even accelerate, and that the enormous balances of assets that would accumulate would be invested to a certain extent into savings schemes for poorer people. This was be a form of global taxation, or redistribution, achieved through a financial transactions tax ('Tobin Tax') which accompanied the final burying of corporation tax, achieved in the 2020s. The rich countries could not stand by while Africans starved: and through a combination of the munificence of plutocrats such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, and a degree of redistributive taxation, it was seen to be in in the interests of the whole of humanity that poorer people were helped to 'bootstrap' themselves through better education, financial support and developmental aid to a higher level of achievement. This was a major priority of the 2020s and 2030s.
By 2050, despite leaping populations, the range of GDP per head derived from the accumulated wealth of individuals and governments was from EUR20,000 per annum to EUR200,000 per annum. Even at the bottom end of the scale, income-earning work was economically unnecessary, and a person was able to afford RCRs to carry out all unavoidable domestic chores. The desire to pursue economic activity (to trade) is however one of the main driving forces of the human psyche and most people chose to continue to participate (for economic reward) in governance, social development, business or recreational management.
'The poor are always with us', it is said. But genetic improvement has removed most of the impediments to living a productive life. Although in 2060 there were still some family lines who had somehow escaped the compulsory inter-generational savings schemes which supplanted state welfare and pension provision in the 2020s and 2030s, they were sufficiently few in number that they could easily be provided with minimum incomes from global wealth holdings.
The switch from a 'work ethic' to a 'play ethic' took place gradually, between 2030 and 2060, but every carrot has to be backed up by a stick, and for humans the stick after 2051 (the Human Settlement) was the requirement to contribute, with the sanction of isolation and withdrawal of reproductive rights in the event of failure. The definition of 'contribute' was however so wide, and becoming endlessly wider over time, that a person has to actively want to fail in order not to contribute.
It will be easier to understand what has happened in the light of an example. Until 2010, there was a fairly rigid dividing line between professional entertainers and their public. Amateurs might indeed sing at karaoke bars, but only professionals got paid for singing. This distinction broke down during the succeeding 20 years as content became generally available through the Internet. Early examples of universal providers such as YouTube (2005 - 2013) ran into copyright problems, not surprisingly, but by 2020 KISS technology (Kontent Identification and Subscription System) was in universal use, even in China, with the value of any given piece of content, regardless of its origin, calculated in real time based on its audience, and charged in money terms to the (compulsory) account of the user, while the providers received contribution credits based on user ratings as well as the money paid by the consumer.
Content providers (call them musicians, writers, artists, or what you will) were still able to put their own price on a work, and to withhold it unless the price was paid, but hardly anyone did so other than very well established providers, due to the difficulty of marketing what cannot be seen or experienced in advance. Under the KISS system, the cost of experiencing a piece of content is incurred incrementally during the experience, so that if after two seconds you know you hate what you are experiencing, you just switch it off, and it has cost you very little or even nothing.
KISS technology was applied to all forms of entertainment, including music, books, magazines, blogs, news, football, painting, and a range of new art-sport-forms which developed under the stimulus of the new media, such as virtual beach volley-ball, which can be either watched (you pay), or participated in (you get paid). Most people continued to receive money incomes from their primary occupations, but an increasing number of people also took part in other types of activity which could earn 'contribution'.
'Contribution' is measured by lifetime earnings from participation, and the bar is set very low. An evening around the karaoke machine with a group of quite moderate performers will likely earn about CC8 (Contribution Credits) for each participant (20 billion people can choose to experience it, remember, and they all speak the same language); participation in an RCC committee on community design on Altair 9 (colonized in 2070), at the other extreme, will be time-consuming but will earn as much as CC20,000 per annum. Star performers still exist, of course, with astronomical earnings, in fact, more than ever.
Lifetime participation earnings begin to be judged at age 50, after 25 years of adult life, with a required minimum of just CC5,000. Average participation earnings at that point are CC100,000, so that failure is hardly an option unless you are very determined; and even then you have another 50 years of full citizenship before compulsory isolation, lasting 100 years before you get another 50-year chance (or you can choose transportation, to some unpleasant planet 40 light years away).
The 2060 decision to move towards a 10% limitation on physical existence by 2080, along with the free provision of the basics of cyber-living, accentuated the need for a new model of economic governance, and entrenched the 'contribution' ethos even more firmly in society and people's minds. But there is no ban against commercial activity either in the physical world or in cyber-space. When you go to buy new (virtual) clothes to wear at the (paying) disco on Friday night you are paying a real trader with real money, converted from contribution if necessary. But if you spend too much of your contribution balance on such fripperies you will never get a knighthood!
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