In response to the invitation posed on Reddit I formulate a typical illustrative four scenario matrix range. I also take in to account the speculative philosophical concepts of “Singularity”, “Transhumanism”, “Existential freedom”, and “Abolitionism” .
Clearly the idea is growing – futurist Robert Theobald in Free Men and Free Markets back in the 1960s made a case. The way to make it considered more seriously is to write plausible scenarios: 1) showing how it goes well; 2) showing how it goes badly; 3) showing how things go well with out it; and 4) showing how things go badly with out it. NOW I do not mean a discussion about these four, I mean real scenarios – stories that connect a future condition with the present with plausable cause and effect links that illustrate decisions. The majority of what people call scenarios – are not scenarios, they are discussions about assumptions. It is like confusing the text of a play newspaper theater review of the play. It is easy to discuss a play, much harder to write a play, BUT in writing real scenarios, you get to a point where you have no idea what happens next – you discover what you did not know, that you should know, to find out the unknown unknows. Guaranteed income systems have unknown unknows, but they can become known by writing real scenarios. So, if someone wanted to make such systems taken seriously, they should write four kinds of scenarios above.
The following scenarios are selected per region, emphasizing a future 35 years from now. In all four scenarios technology is accelerating and causing clear societal dislocation. In each future scenario I emphasize how a sizable percentage of people in these regions are offered new consumer choices that change the very fundamental nature of what it means to be human, for good or for bad.
Scenario 1 – What If Basic Income Goes Well
It is the year 2040. We are in Europe. It is an incomparably different continent than the one 35 years ago, and Europe had a painful transition to a new state. It is a continent with strict protections for its citizenry and very protective laws, placing the continent under a blanket welfare state ideology. Europe is doing quite well and has become the most prosperous and least unequal society in the world after the implementation of a universal basic income in the early to late 2020s. This was not a conscious deliberated set of policies enacted by politicians – in Europe the emergence of Basic Income was haphazard, and more out of panicked response than anything else. In the mid 2010s the continent was wracked by protests. New social media technologies and mobile device apps were urging people from their self-imposed passivity. Political activism and protest was being gamified by a generation of serious game design activists. This was a directly attributable result of people becoming bored with the typical generation of games, rampant unemployment, massive inflation, sharply diminishing resources and mountainous debt. In the teens Europe was doing badly, and in Europe in particular the periphery was doing worst. When the big one struck most Europeans were dead-tired with crisis and imposed austerity, and it was no longer difficult to edge people on to not care about alleged economic consequences when organizing politically. People in Europe in the mid 2010s were increasingly feeling that the good days were over and they might as well make life somewhat bearable. Politicians found themselves under constant siege – activists were exposing lobbyists and crony capitalism in Europe, and since the continent collectively was unable to stop activists pooling resources across regional borders and jurisdictions, local law proved effectively impotent. It was a re-enactment of years of violent student protests in the 1960s, but this time considerably better organized, mixing legal and illegal strategies, crowd-sourcing, volunteering and name & shame tactics. As a result investors and rich elite were fleeing Europe in droves and the economy in particularly sensitive areas was becoming untenable. In the 2010s people starting sueing the European parliament to intervene by any and all means possible, and law enforcement had no means and resources to strike back. The collective protest was charismatic, sexy, artistic and quickly garnered political momentum.
But like with the earlier Occupy movement, protesters in Europe had a massive and unmanageable list of demand and very little cohesion. Even worse, protesters often ended up bickering over what the solutions should be – and in some cases ended up in quite violent street battles. When in clashes between radically different radical leftist groups in Paris a few thousand young students were left dead in the streets, Europe entered the slow and gradual process of seeing collective solutions. Then a major EU economy collapsed in to systemic insolvency and the situation became even more unbearable as pension funds, whole industries, the real estate sector and half the continents banks defaulted. The early 2020s were catastrophic world wide, and there was a nuclear conflict in the middle east. During the conflict one side decisively used robotics in a way that was never seen before on the battlefield and despite suffering heavy losses in three direct nuclear attacks on major cities the technologically most “adventurous” side came out victorious. The world, in particular Europe, realizes that classical NBC warfare models, as well as the new post cost war lateral warfare model was dead. Military supremacy was based on the side capable of fielding absurd numbers of self-directed drones that were capable of functioning uninterrupted for months, without breaking down and ascertaining their own energy supplies through pockets of carefully secured photovoltaics.
Europe changed its defense policies and industrial policies to reflect this new geopolitical insight first, and became a superpower in little more than a few years. But with the advent of massproduced 3D printed cellphase part autonomous ultra-cheap robotics littering every part of the landscape and cities employment dwindled. Corporations tried to shift the responsibility to the unemployed and introduce more austerity and ghettofication, but they were found a very dangerous enemy – Europeans had armed themselves privately with drones and automated systems and were striking back – on some cases lethally – against moneyed interests.
The banking sectors in Europe were the first to throw in the towel. They were terrified of the extremist neocommunist sentiments in the population and they wanted a way out of things escalating (and they ending up nationalized). In 2024 the European parliament held a transcontinental policy study for a basic income. The decission had been made years ago, and the public hears and referndum were just for show. Europe implemented a two tier system of basic income.
The first tier of money would be received by all citizens of the Union and would be generated by a mix of Land Value Tax, Tax on the use of natural resources (incidentally inside and outside the EU!), financial transactions and a rather firm Carbon tax (for anyone doing business with the EU, but relevant to all burning of fossil fuels inside and outside the EU). Every man, woman and child would receive the basic income, which was considerably less than welfare in the richest countries. Every country would then be forced to made additional payments for desirable behavior – i.e., following desirable study courses. Volunteer work. Eating healthy. A vegetarian lifestyle. Learning practical skills (plumbing, woodworking, 3D printing) and practicing them for free in your neighborhood. Organizing and taking part in children daycare and senior care volunteer groups. Not smoking. Having regular exercise. Promising not to use certain narcotic substances. Wearing and actively engaging with an AI personal assistant and lifestyle coach. Blogging. Taking part in the political process and having an educated opinion on policy matters. Following certain verifiable parental standards. (In several eastern european countries -) being a practicing conservative christian. Not engaging in dangerous sexual practices and avoiding sexually communicable disease. (In several countries) – actively swearing loyalty to certain moral edicts and ideologies.
This created a sense of shared pan-European political identity. While the system was denounced by many other countries as “nanny state paternalism run amok”, the system worked. By maximizing behavioral incentives, a typical citizen of the EU would be able to 2040 to offer about twice the equivalent living standard of someone living on welfare in the year 2010. Of course consumption of a lot of goods had become prohibitively expensive, but the gains for Europe were a very sharp decline in automobile traffic, fossil fuel consumption, the previous senseless consumerist consumption and (in particular) the consumption of meat. Europe was in a war economy while all this happened, hastening to transition to a post-carbon society, and there was a lot of work to be done in the semi-public sector – by 2035 3D printed “forests” of solar collection infrastructure were literally displacing natural forests. A lot of people were involved in “gamified” competitive sports to keep these infrastructures in good operation.
In particular the development of the functional equivalent of life extension and rejuvenative analogue therapies played a large part in forcing people towards socially very proactively dedicated behavior. In the late 2020s the first treatments that more or less did things to the human body we might label rejuvenative became affordable and more or less easily applied. These treatments were still scarce, and the public sentiment was bitterly opposed that these treatments would become subject to market supply & demand forces. Even though the benefits were still modest, many people in Europe were getting old, and most wanted a few years extra in what was quickly becoming a decidedly pleasant continent to live. People were competing not to consume and be self-interested; the new ‘Euconomy’ was directed at rewarded people with digital currency micropayment system rewards for socially desirable behavior and this worked quite well. Life Extension became an extra reward. In the years between 2028 and 2040 “the few statistical months” became “many statistical years”, in terms of reasonable plausible life expectancy gains, and since people were able to express votes to what kind of people these benefits should accrue, Life Extension became a critical component of the core Basic Income philosophy that ascertained continental prosperity and social cohesion.
While many critics argue this 2040 Europe is a Dystopian surveillance state where people where nobody is truly free, and everyone’s wearing a Jim Jones cult mask of pretense for monetary gain, many critics would also agree this works in practice. And maybe 2040s Europa is not always as economically competitive as it might have been, it certainly has become a continental display case for equality, harmony and the pleasant life.