Existential Threat: Plutocracy and Robot Overlords

“The robots came bearing a gift and the name of it was ‘Plenty.’ Plenty is a habit-forming drug. You do not cut the dosage down. You kick it if you can; you stop the dose entirely. But the convulsions that follow may wreck the body entirely.”

Some argue that pragmatic plutocracy with a semi-porous meritocratic perimeter – allowing exceptional individuals in from the lower classes and (occasionally) cutting out the most degraded deadwood from the lineage elite – is the best long-term natural order for the world. Let the winners excel. Reward them. Keep ambition fulfilment competitive. And for the losers?

Que sera sera.

Maybe if we were all living an ideal life, patient meritocracy could one day resolve the inequities of the 21st-century landlord-tenant dynamic, but, like the 20th-century’s misplaced faith in communism, collective or corporate ownership of a nation’s resources simply gives a focus for ambitious authoritarians, ultimately at the expense of public freedom.

Both systems lead to an entrenched ruling elite ring-fencing opportunity, while nations become structured to shepherd vast populations of sheep from cradle to crave.

Fundamentally, these systems squander human potential at an unprecedented scale, and the vast majority of individuals are born into some form of poverty. As a species, we can’t afford to be so short-sighted and profligate. As a humane civilization, we shouldn’t allow this dynamic to continue.


We are medium-sized, ephemeral primates, stranded on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam; sharing the planet with a panoply of formidable virus and bacteria and the rest of nature’s diversity, in an observable universe of 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars. We could be wiped out by an asteroid strike tomorrow. As it is, as a species, we are barely inching forward. Presently only a tiny fraction of us are equipped to contribute and, what’s worse, the rest are disenfranchised, trained by fear and ignorance to resist any movement at all. It makes no sense to be excluding over seven billion brains from their human potential. It’s an incomprehensible waste. Can you imagine the progress that’d be possible, if every human being was free to fulfill that potential? It might even generate enough velocity to escape extinction.

Most of the hot button topics occupying the public conversation are pre-planned wedge issues, broadcast to chum the waters of obsessive-compulsive gossip, to distract consumers of cultural and economic zeitgeist. Whatever.

Not everything is chum. Some things are for real.

Pandemics? Science Nationalism? Climate Change? Technocracy? Bio? AI?


“Responsibility… accrues through privilege. People like you and me have an unbelievable amount of privilege and therefore we have a huge amount of responsibility. We live in free societies where we are not afraid of the police; we have extraordinary wealth available to us by global standards. If you have those things, then you have the kind of responsibility that a person does not have if he or she is slaving seventy hours a week to put food on the table; a responsibility at the very least to inform yourself about power.” – Noam Chomsky