March 9, 2017: We'll never have our "Star Trek" utopia
Science fiction, and specifically Star Trek, has proposed a future "free from want", where technology has given us free energy, and replicators and synthesizers that can create any material, including food, from energy (or magic). As a result, man does not need to work; the struggle for survival is ended, and man can concentrate on exploring space.
Sadly, we will never see this utopia.
We will see unlimited free energy, of course; that's nearly here. Between solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, and hydro electricity, we're on steady course to have as much energy as we want. Sure, it'll take time and money to build all the infrastructure, but that's happening.
Coal as an energy source in the US is just about dead, and I think oil will be right behind it. Natural gas will take longer to replace, as it's cheap and burns "relatively" cleanly. On the other hand, once (or if) people wake up to the danger of fracking, natural gas may suddenly find itself with coal, relegated to museums. (Yes, oil and gasoline will continue to be fuel for autos for a while longer, but battery breakthroughs will eventually fix that, as well.)
With unlimited energy, you can grow as much food as you want, if you're willing to stop eating beef (except lab-grown beef) and grow your vegetables and chicken feed in hydroponic farms. Machines can certainly handle most farming tasks if you're growing things in tanks indoors. So farm labor will become "program the robots" instead of "plow the field".
So why won't we have our utopia?
Because everything will be owned by 6 guys, and they will continue to insist that we all have "jobs" so we can make money to pay for food and energy. Of course, as now, there will not be enough jobs. Hell, there may not be ANY jobs, once the the solar cells are installed and robots are all programmed.
We are already well on our way to being an oligarchy, and there is no sign that the trend will change. As long as the super rich can get people to vote against their own interests by getting them excited about trans people using the "wrong" bathroom, we are only going to see an increase in income inequality, until everything is owned by a handful of people.
Bill Dudley New Jersey
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