Visions of utopia date back to the year 1516, when Thomas More literally wrote the book about it – but is it an outdated idea to envision a world where today’s biggest problems are solved?
Michael Rogers, who presents himself as a “practical futurist”, doesn’t think so. His day job is to present visions of the future to audiences ranging from startups to Boeing, Microsoft, and other Fortune 500 companies. In a new book called “Email From the Future,” he describes a future world of 2084 where ideas that may seem unworkable today end up dealing with climate change, wealth inequality, culture wars and other ills plaguing society today.
“Going into the future is kind of like sailing upwind,” says Rogers on the latest episode of Fiction Science, a podcast that focuses on the intersection of science and fiction. “You have to go back and forth around the obstacles, but every once in a while you have to lift your head and look, and make sure you’re still going in the right direction.”
If Rogers’ vision comes to fruition, we’re about to change course: Its history includes measures to limit executive compensation, institute a tax on robots (first suggested by Bill Gates in 2017), reduce zero carbon emissions by 2040 and create a climate repair fund. Along the way, the ultra-rich tech titans disappear like the titanosaurs.
“In my book, there’s an awareness specifically around climate change and the fact that it’s going to cost billions of dollars to fix the planet,” Rogers told me. “So there is again a great social change in which the ultra-rich no longer look like heroes. They actually look like people withholding resources that could save lives. »
“Email From the Future” doesn’t focus on the lifestyles of the rich and famous. The book is presented as a series of emails sent back from 2084 by a middle-class roboticist who enjoys a sci-fi time travel twist.
In classic utopian novels, the narrators encounter their Shangri-Las because their ship has derailed, or they have become lost in the jungle, or their plane has crashed in the Himalayas. “It was easy until we had a full globe, at which point you couldn’t do that anymore,” Rogers said. “We did time travel from the 19th century, so I needed that as a plot device.”
The novel’s narrator, named Aldus, discovers how to use quantum physics to deliver messages to Rogers’ email account. “Note that this is only at the quantum level,” Rogers said. “It only involves electrons, so I’m not asking too much here.”
In a series of emails, Alde tells his life story, beginning with his birth in 2010 and documenting the dramatic changes wrought by the climate challenge. In 2029, floods, windstorms and wildfires become so severe that the younger generation is staging a Greta Thunberg-style general strike – forcing world leaders to see the light.
Rogers does not consider this scenario to be mere science fiction.
“I think it will take a fundamental shift in humanity to deal with this threat, because it is a global threat,” he said. “And I suggest in the book that as the internet gets stronger and better at translating languages, we start to create more of a global mind. There will be a time when humans take a major spiritual shift and say, we we have to fix this planet. And I believe it will be the younger ones. I think Gen Z and their younger siblings are the heroes of my book.
Rogers manages to incorporate a wide range of futuristic technologies into its story. You’ll have to listen to the podcast for the full recap, but here’s a sample:
- Digital twins: Scientists will discover how to combine genetic profiling and sensor data to develop a computer model for each person’s health. Your digital twin will be detailed enough to give you advance warning of future medical issues, in time for healthcare providers to avoid them. “If, in 30 or 40 years, medical science doesn’t create digital twins for every patient, it will be a huge loss,” Rogers said.
- Digital Tutors: Children will systematically receive personalized AI agents who will guide them through the educational process and advise them throughout their training and career.
- Tru ID: Each person will be given an unhackable ID profile, and while it’s always possible to be anonymous, people will need to reveal their TruID in most digital interactions. “People will say in the future, ‘Why would you trust information from someone who hides their identity? ‘” Rogers said.
- Genetic modification: Rogers’ book speculates that recombinant DNA technologies will eliminate deadly sins like greed: “What makes this possible is the discovery that greed is actually a disease…much like alcoholism, or earlier, it was epilepsy which was believed to be a disease. moral failure. Now we know it’s the result of certain genes going bad. It will turn out that greed is the same thing.
Rogers’ vision for the future incorporates some controversial social policies. For example, universal basic income is a given. “If we don’t, we won’t have the kind of flexible workforce that we really need,” he said. “I think it also ties into the issue of automation and the fact that if we really automate a lot of society, we kind of become a lot richer as a society.”
A tax on robots would share this wealth.
“We may be running into a situation where the owners of the robots and the owners of the software — in other words, those who own the capital — actually get all the gains,” Rogers said. “And where does that leave the workers?”
Rogers took up Bill Gates’ suggestion that a tax could be levied on companies that manufacture and install robots, to replace the income tax that would have been paid by human workers.
“He meant this figuratively, but there had to be a way for the riches of total automation to be recycled back into society rather than into the pockets of the ultra-rich,” Rogers said.
Another way to rein in the ultra-rich would be to limit executive pay. In Rogers’ book, total compensation for management types cannot exceed 20 times an employee’s average salary. (By comparison, Equilar says the median CEO pay ratio for the 500 largest U.S. public companies was 245 to 1 in 2021.)
Not everyone would consider the fictional world of Rogers a utopia. The ultra-rich and those aspiring to become ultra-rich may feel particularly threatened. But Rogers sees his world as the one he would like to live in.
“Just the notion of a more equal society where technology works not to create winners and losers, but to make everyone their best self – that, to me, is very appealing,” he said. .
Check out the original version of this Cosmic Log article for Michael Rogers’ vision for the spirituality of the future, plus a bonus book recommendation from the Cosmic Log Used Book Club. Stay tuned for upcoming episodes of the Fiction Science podcast via Anchor, Apple, Google, Overcast, Spotify, Breaker, Pocket Casts, Radio Public and Reason. If you like Fiction Science, please rate the podcast and subscribe to receive alerts for upcoming episodes.