The historical trend is that people are busier and richer now than they were in the past. People have become busier in most everything except how much they farm, walk or have hard manual labor. The trends mean that the major things people own increase faster than the number of people. People or households reach a place where everyone owns a car or where people own more than one car. People can own multiple smartphones and watches. People take more trips.
Faster Growth in Things and Usage Than Others Expect
This can be seen with the growth in people compared the growth in cars. The world population of people has doubled since 1975 but the number of cars has increased 5 times. The number of miles driven is up seen times. This is with the cost per mile for vehicle ownership and operation staying flat after adjusting for inflation. This kind of growth would be underestimate the situation if the costs radically dropped. Ownership of computers rapidly exploded because the prices of computers dropped one thousand times from 1965 to 2000. The cost per mile for vehicles could be cut four times with self-driving electric cars. Full self-driving also means that people would not have to put effort and attention into driving while taking a trip. Taking a trip in self-driving vehicles becomes nearly frictionless. The usage would greatly increase beyond the trends of the past fifty years.
The number of car rides and the number of plane rides grows much faster than the number of cars and the number of planes. There were 200,000 airplanes used in World War 1 but almost all were single-seat fighter planes. The world now has 35,000 commercial passenger planes. The start of the 1930s had 1 million commercial passenger trips but today we have over 4 billion commercial passenger trips. The Aviation industry had projected that there would be 21 billion passenger flights by 2040 based on a business as usual economic and incremental technology forecast.
The world now has 7.85 billion people (2021) and will hit 8 billion in 2023 and 10 billion around 2050. The number of cars could hit 4 billion around 2050-2060.
About 900 million people live in countries with a per capita PPP GDP over $40000 and 600 million people live in countries with a per capita GDP between $20,000 and $40,000. There are 1.5 billion people living in countries with per capita GDP PPP between $18,000 and $20,000. The large number between $18,000 and $20,000 is because China and Mexico are on the brink of reaching $20,000 per capita GDP. World per capita GDP PPP is $18000.
The rest of Asia is catching up as well with 5-8% annual GDP growth in normal years. The population in Asia that could catch up in development by the 2040-2070 time frame will be over 5 billion. There could be 7 times the population living in countries with over $40,000 per capita GDP PPP by 2050.
Everyone Becoming Independently Wealthy and the End of Salary
Technology like self-driving cars could provide a massive global economic boost. The cost per trip could be four times lower. Demand for car rides and air trips should massively increase with greatly lowered costs. Halving the cost could increase the volume of usage by four times. Four times lower cost could increase the volume of usage by ten to twenty times. New technology could make things cheaper or usage of things cheaper and easier and make people much richer at the same time. This would further increase consumption.
If people get massively extended lifespans where they live 120-500 years then projections and everyone had at least american middle class wealth by 2100 then what would this mean? This means everyone should gain at least basic and possibly advanced understanding of budgeting, investing and wealth management. This means everyone should be able to accumulate wealth. This means that everyone should have sufficient wealth and be able to live off the returns of that wealth. Everyone would be like the current independently wealthy people who only join startups or businesses because they want to change the world. Having to work for a salary would be a thing of the past. Work would be optional.
UPDATE – Nextbigfuture has added a simplified article looking at retirement, early retirement and trends in financial management, savings, investments and other factors around mass early retirement.
This would not be a Technological Singularity forecast where everything becomes exponential. The world is already making people much richer and have been doing this for the past 200 years. The last one hundred years have seen a doubling of per capita GDP every 25 years or better. The Asian countries started the growth in income later but have a pretty good track record the last fifty years. There was a twenty-eight-year boom from 1946 to 1973 where growth was 50% faster versus doubling every 25 years.
An evenly distributed global doubling in GDP growth (2025-2050) could see 8 billion living in countries with per capita PPP GDP over $40,000 by 2050.
Energy, space access, ground and air transportation, satellites and automated systems will massively lower costs and increase usage over the next few decades. It is reasonable and a high percentage likelihood that a technology-driven boom will sustainably increase the GDP growth rate on a global basis. If most of the world’s population is at least at global middle-class levels of $15,000 per person and have a technological and education foundation, then everyone will be able to adopt the newest technologies and leapfrog in their development.
Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.
57 thoughts on “The Future With Richer People and Optional Work”
The world economy is much more integrated, complex and co-dependent than this. This rich nordic countries are the ones who "relative to their size" put more money/investment and brains inside this top "innovation/industrial centers of the world".
In 101 economy, you can learn about "The law of comparative advantage" and "Business Clusters/competitive clusters". No nano state can compete which USA or CHINA in terms os innovation and industrialization, they cant and they dont need. This is a principle of 101 economy and globalization.
This countries can do much better directly investing and working for the biggest innovation and industrial clusters of the world. You realy need to change this simplistic vision that you have about the world economy, its at least 3 decades outdated. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Government_Pension_Fund_of_Norway
It's supposed to level off around 2050-60 and then take another 60 years to drop back where to where we are now, that means no improvement or reduction for close to a century. I hardly call that solving the problem when it takes a century just to get back where you were, which is also too high. And all this assumes people are going to stay at their current fertility rate. In the interim how many species of plant and animal are we going to burn out in our consumptive orgy?
Which was abandoned about 2 generations ago. SO that problem's solved.
It's worse than that.
Even those places that do have a dole available still have people who are going to be unable to translate a regular (if low) income into food, clothing, home etc. Instead it becomes drugs/alcohol/gambling/prostitution.
The solution at that point seems to be that certain people need to be taken into paternalistic care, by force if necessary.
But as a society we also don't seem to know how to have force based care that doesn't (at least sometimes) turn into corrupt abuse. At which point society reacted in horror and closed down the care facilities in favour of giving people a dole. Which also isn't working. Hmmm….
I didn't interpret him as being in favor of it. I was reacting to his declaration that it was a likelihood. It speaks to a deeply disturbing and callous worldview. I also was reacting to the idea that the poor are poor by their own fault and are to be thus judged. That I misread 'developed' as 'developing' is a non-sequitur. Its a point of view which is entitled, lacking in empathy and fundamentally ignorant of the societal inequities underlying poverty.
Very few want it, anyway. A rather larger number just don't have the traits necessary to stay out of it.
My point is just that you can't raise everybody out of poverty without a dole, and as the percentage of the population on that dole increases, things will start to get politically unstable.
forget not the famous quotes:
"…a rising tide lifts all boats…"
"…investment creates a bigger pie for all…"
"…give one a fish…. teach One to fish…"
nothing about idolizing the poor or embracing the noble existence of need-based living — Gandhi, very discredited.
Absolutely. A downvote on it's own won't change my mind. An explanation might. Give it a try 🙂
Is there a difference between "poor" (having relatively less wealth than the median) and "impoverished" (not having enough wealth to consistently provide the basic necessities of a self-actualized life?).
I'd say there will always be "poor". Somebody is always going to be below the median, just as some will always be above it.
But I reject the notion that developed nations should ever have "impoverished". Nobody CHOOSES to be chronically hungry, or chronically ill. They may not see way OUT of their poverty, and may not have access to the means and opportunities to rise above it, but nobody wants to STAY in poverty.
Better to be too simple on the right path than detailed and comprehensive on a path of deceptive fantasy.
"…They have superior indicators in almost all other economic and social aspects…" Not important, if possibly true. These places would never have a NASA or Silicon Valley or DisneyWorld or Elon Musk or a DARPA. Being a less poor person in such a country is not something to be proud of if one does little to earn it, cares not what One does with it, cares not if it advances medicine, transportation or energy. These are the places One goes if they want to retire, not live.
Bleeding-Heart Liberal Nonsense.
Creativity, ambition, drive, productivity, and ultimate 'public release' are disproportionately planned, built, and executed by top % of society – who, whether they started that way or accumulated it, will continue to advance the useful tech in smaller quantities, which if useful, will then trickle-down and become widely available through cost reduction and practical scaling. Spare us the Poor Worship; they are neither heroes nor role models nor to be pitied. We help them to be a better version of themselves because, for better or worse, our society created the opportunity (or lack of its execution) and All will most benefit when they embarce productivity and ambition, as displayed by their Betters.
Increasing use of autonomous vehicles and population growth will simply overload the system once again. What good is it to not have to drive if you still have to spend enormous amounts of time sitting in the car? You need need to live in Seattle for a while. Mankind will never have a net gain as long as it pursues massive population growth. Economic growth is not being shared equally as anyone in the real world knows. The goal of every major company is to automate and fire their staff as soon as possible so that they can gain an advantage over the companies that are also trying to do the same thing. They are still importing cheap labor even though we are in an economic dust bowl. I don't see how you get wealth for everyone from that.
I don't have a TV. The purpose of freeing up time is to spend more time doing things you enjoy and less time doing menial nonsense; though some people do enjoy menial nonsense.
Compare the number of operations per second required to automate washing clothes compared to automating a car. It's a factor of billions ; hell washing machines date back to pre-computing era where simple mechanical wind up springs and similar regulated their function.
It's a lot harder to unlock a few hours per week from driving than it is from washing clothes.
So some sort of machine that would watch TV for you? That should free up a lot of time for most people.
More seriously, that's the big deal about self-driving cars. Most people consider driving a commute to be just as tedious as hand washing clothes.
So the problem is that you didn't read Brett's post properly?
He very clearly specified that he was talking about rich countries, not poor countries.
And he described genocide as "dystopian" which you interpreted as him being in favour of it.
Too simplistic. Those countries when compared to USA are just slightly inferior on absolutely GDP indicators. They have superior indicators in almost all other economic and social aspects.
The only thing trickle down ever did:
It will not help the poors.
Heh, I think you may have misunderstood my post. I was describing Brett's worldview, not positing my own.
I disagree. Not that inflation is good, but that technological development has stagnated due to inflation.
The low hanging fruit has been picked. Having safe, running water coming out of a tap is a fairly primitive set of inventions (pressure piping, valves, pressure pumps, water treatment …) and easily puts 20 years onto your life expectancy. Putting another 20 years onto your life expectancy is vastly harder. It just takes super-exponentially more work to make a real difference. No stupid simple thing like "make water 10x cleaner" would really do much of anything.
A simple washing machine gives you several hours of free time each week that would have gone into washing clothes. The next big thing to give me hours more of free time each week is exponentially harder.
The problem we are not seeing is the depreciation of money's value because of Expropriation Through Inflation "Money Printing". $100 today will not be worth $100 in 10 years time, with the US$ celebrating its 50th Anniversary in September, it has depreciated about 97.2% since going off the Gold Standard.
Completely agree that technology has largely slowed but for the reasons of having unsound money policy and system. This has let to resources being wasted on accumulating low quality cheap products and and and.
Very few new inventions are creates these days, the only thing really happening is that existing products are being improved upon. Example is the worlds first wireless communicating device which occured back in 1890, it just got smaller faster and cheaper except for the iPhone.. .
In this type of case, it would be more like you don't get to meet your accuser.
You are describing all poor people in poor countries as stupid or lazy, and you think the reason I disagree with you is because your view isn't popular?
@DrPat, so only opinions which are popular are valid. Interesting.
Current reality doesn't support your position.
You miss the point. A downvote provides no information other than "no".
WIth a complex comment there could be a dozen different reasons for a downvote:
You'll note that MTCZ isn't calling for silent downvotes to be banned, merely pointing out to said silent downvoters that their downvote is pretty useless.
Given that you are the only person in this thread describing things thus, I'd say that your worldview is the problem here.
Beaver is the optimum choice.
"So poor countries are poor because their people are stupid or lazy"
Did you miss where I limited this analysis to developed nations only?
I'm not talking about why nations are wealthy or poor, but why individuals within nations are wealthy or poor by their local standards. And it's fairly well established, though not PC to discuss, that the poor (Relative to their own society!) tend to have really bad planning skills and impulse control.
Otherwise they wouldn't be the poor, somebody else would.
Very Ayn Rand, but not totally incorrect unfortunately.
All relative. Life in middle quintile now vs lower-second quintile in 2050? Started working early/ late? Mortgage paid? More valuable to quantify minimum acceptable levels, for a given region, and then see how many would be above that -and- by how much? Scarcity of land, energy, food in the future (percentage of income)? If you and your bank knew that the average life span was 120+ years and people were working 70 years+, would we now look to 40- and 60-year mortgages to pay for our houses that are now 25x our annual income rather than the 5 – 10x now? Everything changes when everything changes.
you shouldn't be so sensitive. It could mean – your view is not my view, irrelevant to topic, trollish, unpopular view, annoyed with this commenter, etc. It is a key concept of a modern society that you don't have to 'meet your accuser'.
"…because they can't do anything anybody wants to pay them for…"
In a very incentivized world people will learn, become competent, and seek trade in those skills and services in high demand – which is easily communicated. because scarcity, timing, and service are priced high – many will undertake gigs and some will try to manage and profit from those people. The actual value of 4-year STEM degree jobs is not as high as people believe when One is not willing to re-locate, work long hours, or otherwise 'strive-and-struggle' to make a place for oneself. The dumb-and-driven will often outperform the educated-but-barely-motivated on very little preparation (education/ experience).
Almost sounds like progressive tax systems causes income equality.
Rich and poor currently pay 10% on the first $9,875 in income.
If that was the only tax bracket, what is the mechanism that would alter the fundamentals of capitalism and drive income equality and thus eliminate kickbacks and graft?
high Sheep Content? what would the other ingredients be: wolf, beaver, shark? Agreed that a society cannot be one personality type and that even a mostly-good 'productive-creative' type could not be All.
Though, I have always wondered what a world would be like that was more like a school. You could be any profession you wanted and you would simply receive assignments for that job. The assignments would be projects with value that would contribute to the economy. It would just not be independent companies and offices, each with its own purpose. I suppose WeWork and working from home lately has created that kind of world – more workplace -independent.
It realistically couldn't turn out any other way.
Downvoting comments like this without replying (unless you just don't have time or something) is not useful.
Argued impartially — there is historical precedent for almost exactly this pattern.
the key is having a minimal acceptable level of existence so that 'below G20' cultures aren't devastated by famine and disease — this is a technological fix – lesser money for these supplies/ procedures and ease of use/ distribution (best lately is water filters). Once there is a minimum resilience – a path to lower middle class objectives can be started.
Similar with G20 country slums – technology and its distribution necessarily provides choice and increased likelihood of recovery from poor choices (best lately is less addictive narcotic-equivalents).
The next level is to 'gamefy' working to those that cannot handle 5 days a week and/or 8 hours a day – lower middle class. This somewhat started through Uber, gig working, etc. Tech has enabled the apps, distribution, and exposure of these services. now we are at lower-middle class with increased choice on making the jump to 'smart gig' work – low level design by the hour, smart online education, and easy to digest work schedules. With reduced need to be physically near your work, options for cheaper housing arise. Tech is creating a functional lower middle class – because it is in the interest of hyper/ super/ plain wealthies to maintain a Customer Base – as with Henry Ford in creating products (Model T) his workers could afford – so give them work of a value that enables consumerism. Tech will enable all to 'get what they deserve'
Trickle down will help.
Re-distribution will Fail – otherwise, fish for a day or for a life?
Paul Romer Charter Cities are the Way -> choice, example, and respect for local tradition — if the regional government can swallow its pride like in Honduras (though that has gone off the rails a bit)
Agreed. Accelerated tech and driven-ambitious technocrats create a vast and sprawling web of opportunity and choice. It is the proportion of driven Individuals who take up and reinforce and further those web strands that create a rich and techno-based Utopia. A high Sheep Content in a society may not do much to further such Opportunity or be able to add strands of opportunity. Self-reinforcing circles of create, further, create will push tech and the incentives for pushing tech –and– there will be trickle-down to All Others who were not so lucky as to be so ambitous and skilled enough 'to keep up'. Better parenting? the Key.
So, if we agree that the availability of these (1-4) services, benefits, virtuous community amenities, individual resources, etc., are the most important aspect of a successful technological future, so why are Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Germany and other such Nanny-States not the technological, creative, and productivity Leaders in the World rather than just being middle-of-the-G20 pack?
Is ruthless entrepreneur considered a hyper-civilized Individual?
Very Interesting and Loaded topic, to be sure.
Worthy of discussion and exchange of Ideas.
Though, myself, being the bitter, cynicial misanthrope that I am, believe:
People are, in general, Not Good — that is, they are greedy, lazy, and stupid, but not Evil. This is the Base state.
This is overcome by adding thin veneers of civility to individuals over time, that is work ethic, perseverence, and a desire to complete something with craft and thought. This is best added by being (1)well-raised, further reinforced and thickened through (2)good Community, (3)good Schooling, and the (4)availabilty of Opportunity, over time, which is undertaken successfully. This same veneer can be diminished and damaged by the lack of any of these things or accelerated in deterioration through the negative application/ effect of these things. These hyper-civilized Individuals, in turn: design, develop, test, execute, and consume the Tech. Groups and Communities of these Individuals, through Network Effects, accelerate this tech-based prosperity — with some likely speed bumps of anti-social conflict. Unfortunately, most countries have a scarcity of these Items (1-4) which in turn creates gaps in accomplishment. A very Chicken and Egg thing. The greater the proportion of these 'privileges', the higher likelihood of accelerating forward — with a certain level of low proportion where the community will then stagnate or regress.
This is only the narrow 'Quality of the Person ingredient' aspect.
See above about retirement now being the work optional state that is most common. People can plan their lives with good budgeting and get debt free and reach early retirement in 15-25 years with decent investment knowledge and financial vehicles. "retirement, semi-retirement" work optional state would become the dominant state. I will put this into an article that removes the technology and societal getting super rich article. Those trends and factors enhance these other trends but end up muddying the discussion with multiple factors.
I am going to write another article that will simplify the argument about most people reaching and living at a work optional state. Basically it is that about 20% of people or more in the developed world can reach a comfortable retirement and it takes 25-40 years to reach for most. However, with moderate life extension people could live to 120+ years with healthy and vibrant living up to 100+. this means 80 years of healthy adult life. If most people can consistently reach retirement in 25 years that means 55 years of work optional living. I will need to look at retirement levels where people have different levels of income.
I think he gets that, but about half the audience tunes out when you say, "I think the Singularity will be awesome and give us powers that would make Zeus jealous". So it's worth illustrating thought experiments that go something like, "Even if the robots don't do literally ALL the things, we can use financial vehicles and automation to multiply the output of human labor so much that we can live in luxury no matter how you slice it."
This is in contrast to the people who say, "Oh no, technology designed to exploit us will grow massively but somehow at the same time productivity won't go up enough for us to be compensated and we will be corporate debt slaves forever and ever."
Oh, I see from your post below this one that you have an alternate scenario where people simply aren't worth exploiting. Yes, that one is difficult. I certainly know people who have been complete idiots for decades on end. It is a bit dubious to assert that they will all develop wisdom if they live long enough, and even wisdom probably won't be enough to make them economically useful. I think it would be nice if Brian made a follow up article exploring this a bit more.
Thank you. I think I actually enjoy the background scenery more than the plots most of the time. I'm always pausing and trying to work through the implications of the setting or gadgets they use. Some artist out there gave it a lot of thought, even if it doesn't seem to add up. And it's fun to try to paint a scenario where it actually makes sense.
It wasn't a major plot point, really, just background scenery.
I would like to watch this anime. Do you remember the name or other details I could use to try to find it?
In my opinion there is also a problem of finite resources and strain on the environment. So you get more and more people who can afford more material goods and to get there, to produce them you need a lot of resources and you pollute the environment even more,..
The essential problem is that, in modern developed democracies with progressive tax systems, the government has a strong motive to exacerbate income inequality.
1) Progressive tax systems mean that tax revenues on the same size economy increase the more income inequality there is.
2) Wealthy people are more efficiently taxed and squeezed for graft. (Would you rather milk one cow, or 10,000 mice?)
3) The votes of poor people can be bought cheaply.
4) The middle class are too poor to be efficiently taxed or be good sources of kickbacks, but are too wealthy to cheaply buy their votes.
This all adds up to a strong motive for politicians in such economies to want wealth as concentrated as possible, and to squeeze out the middle class in favor of a few more wealth, and a lot more poor.
I recall watching an anime some years ago, that had megastructures that supported stacked suburban neighborhoods, and a regular web of cable cars descending from them into the flat parkland around them.
So you get a small group of hyper-wealthy, (Planning geniuses. Musk. Bezos.) a larger group of super-wealthy, (Good planners, but not geniuses.) an even larger group of the wealthy, (People who still do something personal that's valued, but that doesn't much scale.) and by far the largest group, the teaming masses: People on the dole, because they can't do anything anybody wants to pay them for, except go away. And they can't even threaten to riot, because the first three groups have good automated security.
Sooner or later the first three groups get tired of supporting the last group. I suppose then your left tail gets truncated.
That's the dystopia I see growing around us, not a world of universal wealth.
That said, a society where everybody COULD BE independently wealthy, is not necessarily a society where everyone IS independently wealthy.
Many poor in developed countries, perhaps most, are not poor because it was unavoidable. They're poor because they have abysmal planning skills and impulse control. A comfortable life is within their reach, but they can't see it or grasp it. Another group simply lack the capacity to do anything anybody else values.
Why does everyone in your suggested world have good planning skills and impulse control? Has the left tail of the bell curve somehow been abolished? Or are they on a high level of welfare, and forbidden to borrow, and not really independently wealthy, just comfortable pets?
Let me suggest the dystopia which I think is more likely, as we can see it developing around us: As technology advances, an ever larger percentage of the population are simply incapable of meaningfully contributing to the economy, and earning an income. Income inequality increases, because "them as have, git"; Good planning skills feed on themselves, producing exponential growth in wealth for those who have them.
"This means that everyone should have sufficient wealth and be able to live off the returns of that wealth. Everyone would be the like the current independently wealthy people who only join startups or businesses because they want to change the world. Having to work for a salary would be a thing of the past. Work would be optional.
This would not be a Technological Singularity forecast where everything becomes exponential."
This does not make sense. Or rather, I can't see it as a stable situation.
Imagine a world where the productivity of machinery has increased to the point where only a small fraction of the population actually needs to be laboring. But the loop has not been closed, production does still grind to a halt if SOMEBODY isn't working. That's the world you're describing, it's that remaining quanta of necessary human labor that prevents this world from going exponential.
Everyone could be wealthy in such a world, because the tiny minority whose labor was needed would likely be very well compensated indeed. Those people wouldn't need to work, if they set aside any of their earnings, they'd work because of the high level of compensation.
But that very high level of compensation is exactly what would focus the efforts of society on making that last quanta of human labor unnecessary. At which point technology would go exponential.
You're not describing a stable situation, you're describing a fuse stably burning towards the bomb.
I think the focus on autonomous cars and trucks misses the point that the cost of roads has been static for a long time. People in most larger cities are already detered from car ownership by queing costs rather than the cost of purchasing and fueling the vehicle.
Level 5 autonomy (defined as highway self drive in all weather conditions) will perhaps allow practical Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) systems to spring up, which are self driving pods that hang from steel beams in the air. The important thing about this set up is that the steel beam in the air is a lot cheaper to build than roads as it can be a 3D rather than 2D system that takes up ground real estate.
We have already established that the rate of innovation has been slowing.
The numbers show that Growth rate has been slowing, See: Annual Growth rate (%) graph in the link below.
The most basic technological advancements such as powered water pumping and locomotion and water cleaning have the biggest impact on growth and they have already reached big parts of the world.
It will take a little more than advanced understanding of budgeting, investing and wealth management to get there. The Next quintile just about kept up with inflation, Middle fell a bit short, the top 2 medians are doing OK as usual.
Quintile Median Net Worth (2000) Change by 2017
Bottom $4,825 -1.9%
Next $24,284 +43.9%
Middle $58,226 +37.6%
Next $113,422 +66.0%
Top $292,646 +89.5%
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