Future Worlds

First published: 19 May 2017
Updated: 27 Sep 2023
World 1:
Scientists, Artists, and Philosophers
In this future civilization, the majority of people would be relieved from work by advanced AI systems and robots. As a result, individuals would have ample time to pursue research, create art, or contemplate philosophical and ethical problems. Specialized service robots and AI systems would provide food, housing, safety, and entertainment so completely that people would cease to be interested in economic entrepreneurship. Money would no longer play a role, and everyone would be provided with all the goods and services they desire.

Visualize this civilization as a blend of cutting-edge research centers like CERN, Stanford, or MIT; an artist village or Hollywood-type environment; and an Indian Ashram or Christian monastery. Most people would be relaxed and self-motivated, peacefully following their own ambitions, desires, ideas, or higher calling. Some would work diligently to explore new scientific frontiers or create innovative works of art, while others would simply contemplate life or enjoy beauty. However, all individuals would dislike physical violence, meaningless conflicts, or uncontrollable addictions. It would be a peaceful, rather secular civilization where creativity and uniqueness would be highly valued. Most people would be tolerant individualists, and their most significant challenge would be how to develop their analytical or artistic skills.

At its core, this civilization would be a learning society. People would study and train their entire lives, privileged by the enormous productivity of their digitized and automated economy. They could afford to do research or follow exotic interests. The biggest problem in this civilization would be people who lack the ability to motivate themselves. They would occupy the lowest social classes and might descend into lifelong boredom, or they might invent some kind of idle unchallenging activity, such as making and sharing photos of kittens or puppies. The keen observer of internet trends in the early 21st century might be familiar with this kind of harmless preoccupation.

Life in this civilization would be slower, more deliberate, and analytical - similar to the system 2 mode of thinking described by Daniel Kahnemann in his famous book "Thinking, Fast and Slow" (1). It would be more like Plato's "Republic" (2) than Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" (3) - but mainly it would be a civilization permeated by science, creativity and technology (4).

Creative Civilization.
Research Center
Photo by CERN, CMS Detektor
Biology: In a future civilization dominated by scientists, artists, and philosophers, we can expect that parents will use talent-enhancing gene therapy or gene modification. There might also be drugs available to enhance brain function. Perhaps scientists will have brain-computer interfaces that allow them to access and analyze vast amounts of data while simultaneously thinking about a particular problem (similar to how we search the internet or specialized databases when we need background information for a particular problem). Brain-computer interfaces might also give ordinary people access to highly specialized talents and capabilities, such as advanced math calculations. For instance, people might listen to certain sounds in a particular experiment while their brain-computer interface immediately performs a Fourier transformation to calculate the frequencies. This would be similar to how we in the 21st century use a calculator to draw the 9th root of the number 7798.

Richard Feynman: Physicist.
By CC BY 3.0, https://it.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4508947
Technology: A scientific civilization will undoubtedly utilize advanced technology to take care of mundane necessities such as food, shelter, and consumer goods. However, they will also utilize the most advanced technology to push the boundaries of scientific discovery, similar to the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Engineering will flourish in such a civilization because both researchers and artists will seek to utilize the most advanced technology available. It is certain that in the next 1000 years, humans will have solved the problems surrounding renewable energy, otherwise we may have faced extinction or serious decimation due to climate change and food shortages. The depletion of oil and potentially natural gas will have forced us to invent and employ numerous new technologies for transportation, food production (fertilizers), and construction. It is possible that we will begin to grow food on top of and within the oceans, print houses using 3D technology, and potentially have electric or hydrogen-powered airplanes. Certainly, we will have much more efficient storage for electrons (such as batteries, capacitators, or completely new devices), without which humanoid robots and autonomous electric cars would be impossible.

Enjoy nature.
By Sui Wai, Pixabay CC0 Public Domain
Natural Environment & Resources: In a future civilization dominated by scientists, artists and philosophers, large parts of the natural environment could be preserved and protected, as many individuals would understand and appreciate the significant value of nature for learning and (artistic) inspiration. The appreciation for (semi-)natural environments would extend beyond recreation, offering opportunities for artistic expression as well.
Resource demand in a civilization of researchers, artists and philosophers would certainly be less than in a society of pioneers or explorers. They would not require massive amounts of resources to build space stations or maintain extra-terrestrial colonies. Consequently, this civilization might have a much smaller population than we currently do or will have by the end of the 21st century. There might be only one or two billion scientists, artists, and philosophers, while the population of humanoid robots could be 5 or 10 billion.
It is possible that this civilization would consist of a small elite of human "masters" with a mass-population of humanoid robot "slaves." The "real humans" would live comfortably in luxurious semi-natural environments, while the majority of production robots would be restricted to specialized industrial sites. Only service and pleasure robots would enter the human sphere of this future civilization.

Economic structure: In a future scientist civilization most economic activities will be carried out by smart robots and AI systems - from food pro­duction and delivery to production of consumer goods. Productivity will be much higher than today, so that very few human workers and managers will be needed to run the economy. Financial services and banks will be fully automated. Cash money will no longer exist and food, housing and most consumer products will be much cheaper than today, since they will be produced extremely efficiently by machines. People would get a basic income (credit points) without work - so that they can spend their time with whatever they want to do.

Peter Singer: Philosopher.
By Bbsrock, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19520242
Social relations: The social fabric in a civilization of scientists, artists and philosophers would be mostly peaceful and collegial. While people might be rather individualistic, they would probably be quite tolerant. The relationship between men and women would likely be based on the principles of equality, mutual respect, and collaboration. The society would recognize that both men and women have valuable contributions to make in all fields of endeavor, and would strive to ensure that all individuals are afforded equal opportunities to pursue their interests and achieve their potential. The society would likely have policies and practices in place to ensure that gender biases do not influence hiring, promotion, or educational opportunities. The society will certainly be segregated to some extent - depending on talent and interests, but it would be far less hierarchical than, for instance, a civilization of warriors.

Political conditions: The political system in a civilization of scientists, artists, and philosophers would likely be based on democratic principles that prioritize the common good and the protection of individual rights and freedoms. There might be a direct democracy (like in Switzerland today), where individuals have a direct say in the decision-making processes. Or the civilization might have adopted some form of representative democracy, where individuals elect representatives to make decisions on their behalf. Regardless of the political system people would focus primarily on their own interests, ideas or artistic projects - avoiding lengthy political debates, as long as all members of the society have a voice and a stake in shaping its future.

Modern Art Museum.
Contemporary Art Museum
By Rodrigo Soldon - Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5900351
Spiritual & Religious Orientation: A large segment of the population in this enlightened civilization would probably be secular - either atheist or agnostic. Particularly the scientists might have given up all kinds of religious or spiritual systems. However, many artists and some philosophers (which includes people with all kinds of non-scientific attitudes) might explore rather esotheric belief systems as well as ancient or newly invented spiritual, mystic and religious practices.
(1) Daniel Kahneman (2011): Thinking Fast and Slow. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. -- Order from Amazon
(2) Matthew J. Franck, "Brave New World, Plato's Republic, and Our Scientific Regime," The New Atlantis, Number 40, Fall 2013, pp. 73-88. -- Online Source
(3) Aldous Huxley (1931): Brave New World. Harper Perennial -- Order from Amazon
(4) Michio Kaku (1997): Visions: How Science Will Revolutionize the 21st Century. Doubleday -- Order from Amazon

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