Monday, September 25, 2017

Hunter-gatherers of money

In ages past, people got their food by being hunter-gatherers.  Ten people picking berries or clubbing a deer could feed, maybe eleven people.  The lone moocher being either a baby or an honored elder in their thirties. 

And then agriculture was invented.  And then fewer and fewer people were needed to feed the tribe.  Instead of having to spend the entire day looking for food, this allowed people to spend their time making better tools, art, or any of the billion components of what goes into what we call civilization.  Along the way someone said this chicken is worth that shiny pebble, and the shiny pebble is also worth that painting of Bob.  This was all to introduce a medium of exchange, in case the painter wanted the chicken, but the farmer didn’t want the painting of Bob.

Now people spend say, forty hours a week (not all day, but still a good chunk) doing things for modern shiny pebbles, which we then spend on food, shelter, internet access, whatever.  In a way, we’ve become hunter-gatherers of money.  We do all this work just so we have the means to survive.  And if you don’t contribute to “The System,” there are many who will call you a moocher and some fringe nutjobs will even say that you should starve.  They long for the days when those who couldn’t contribute to the tribe were left to the jackals.   

Being hunter-gatherers of money, is that it?  Have we reached the pinnacle of civilization?  Just like the agriculture revolution radically changed the world, we’re now entering the automation revolution.  Before a human could make ten widgets an hour, now a machine can make fifteen.  But they can do it 24/7, without even a restroom break.  And they don’t call in sick, and they don’t need healthcare or pensions.  As the farmer took over all the jobs of the hunter-gatherers allowing the people to do other things and still eat, will the machines take over all the various jobs allowing us to move on to other things while still being able to eat and have homes and the internet?  What grander civilization will we build when we are no longer restrained by how many shiny pebbles we have?

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