by Roger Bourke White Jr., copyright August 2016
The Total Entitlement State (TES) is something communities around the world and throughout history have aspired to. It is a condition when everyone in the community has the basic necessities of life, all the time, and irregardless of what stresses the community is currently undergoing. It is a form of paradise, and as civilizations advance in their prosperity, they get closer and closer to achieving this paradise. And, throughout history, many have strived to achieve it long before they had the resources to do so. Achieving TES is a chronic human effort.
Thanks to rapidly increasing automation and artificial intelligence, rapidly increasing material progress is going to continue for the next few decades. And thanks to a mix of automated factories and cyber directing which kinds of factories are built and closely controlling what they produce full and sustainable TES nirvanas look achievable within the next twenty to fifty years. (there will be many different styles achieved)
But it hasn't happened yet, and there are likely to be some dark clouds inside in this wonderful silver lining. In particular, there are going to be thinking changes springing out of this environment that are not going to be helpful for human happiness and survivability on earth.
What these dark clouds are is the topic of this essay.
One of the most serious occupational hazards that comes with trying to achieve TES is the disconnect between what people of the community think can happen and what harsh reality will actually permit to happen.
An example of the disconnect I'm talking about is asking a child where his or her food comes from and getting "McDonald's" back as the answer.
Historically, the most common manifestation of this disconnect is installing a populist-oriented government that promises a lot more than it can deliver. This is a leadership style that promises a TES environment, and actually begins to deliver for a while. Because of this partial delivery this government gains popularity among social justice warrior-types who gain a lot of satisfaction in supporting "helping the poor" programs, and among "the poor" themselves -- the poor being those people who are getting subsidies of various sorts from the government just because they are seen as being victims of hard times. These programs at first seem to be viable something-for-nothing programs because they are being financed by lots of lending, or a substitute for lending such as a lot of money coming in to the community from resource extracting.
While these populist-oriented good times are in progress, the people of the community experiencing them are learning. Sadly, what they are learning is to be disconnected from harsh reality. The thinking becomes, "This new system has been working for [some time period] now, why shouldn't it continue working for [some longer time period]?"
But ouch! The result of this populist disconnect from harsh reality leads to the difference between the experience of the Los Angeles region of the 1940's and the experience of Venezuela of the 2000's. Both of these communities experienced an oil boom in the time frame mentioned. The difference is how they exploited it. The Los Angeles region used the wealth to diversity the community's employment activities into many other profitable industries. The workers became skilled in many other tasks besides extracting oil, one example being building aircraft. The result of this spending on building up many other productive industries is that Los Angeles has prospered mightily and steadily, and seventy years later continues to do so. Oil is now one of many contributors to the region's wealth, not the major contributor.
This Los Angeles experience shows the mighty benefit of staying well-grounded in harsh reality.
The Venezuela experience is the converse. During the second half of the 20th century Venezuela had been prospering. Then a populist leader, Hugo Chavez, was voted into power in 1999 and commenced building a populist regime that he named the Bolivarian Revolution. For about ten years it kept a lot of people happy with subsides financed by the oil boom Venezuela was experiencing at the time. But this populist program was disconnecting the community from harsh reality. The Venezuelan community did not use their oil wealth to learn to diversify and become proficient in many other industries the way the Los Angeles community did. The result: the good times ran out in the mid-2010's when the 2000's commodities boom ended and oil prices crashed. Now the Venezuelans are experiencing something quite different from what the Angelenos experienced. The TES isn't working any more, it can't be paid for any longer, and there is a lot of disconnect and denial in the community as it tries to adapt to this new harsh reality. And sadly, this has become yet another TES aspiration gone sour.
The fate of these two regions is an example of why staying grounded in harsh reality stays important when a TES is being implemented.
In a TES community many people are not working in jobs that are increasing the community prosperity. A subset of those are engaged in jobs that are sucking off part of the prosperity without good reason for doing so. These days the pejorative term for such a job is "rent-seeking".
But... just who is a rent-seeker? This is not agreed upon by those who argue about social justice topics, and these topics are the source of heated arguments. I call them arguments rather than debates because the discussions on social media are full of passion rather than cool-headed informing or research. Here are some of the definitions I see:
o For social justice warriors the rent-seekers are fat-cat capitalists who rake in too much profit from businesses they own or invest in.
o For aspiring business owners the rent-seekers are government bureaucrats and regulators who add grief to their projects to grow profitable businesses.
o For taxpayers it is those who are gaming the system by over collecting in various kinds of welfare and subsidy programs.
o For those trying to start and grow small service-oriented businesses it is the regulators promulgating and enforcing overly restrictive licensing requirements.
These multiple definitions make this tough to talk about in cool-headed ways. What makes it even worse is those who are rent-seekers in one set of eyes are protectors or victims in another set. This means opinion determines who is a rent seeker, not some clear definition. Here are some examples of alternative points of view.
o regulators are protecting average citizens from fat cats and unscrupulous wheeler-dealers
o licensers are protecting consumers and established businesses from those who do shoddy workmanship and unfair competition
o beggars and threatened businesses are victims who need succor
And adding lots of teeth to this opinion morass, there are social shamers who consider themselves to be upholding community standards when they make choices about who to shame.
As TES becomes more the norm, things will get even worse. This is because TES means the average human will get quite disconnected from the harsh realities of the real world, such as how manufacturing and service providing really operate. Instead of reality, legends and instinctive thinking will play even stronger roles in deciding who is a rent-seeker and who is a victim needing protection.
The good news is: as cyber does more and more of the heavy lifting in providing manufacturing and services, much of this human arguing about rent-seeking becomes irrelevant to actually producing prosperity. But there are limits on the irrelevance, and ignorant humans can still produce some crazy decision-making that can cause lots of inefficiency, and the shaming retributions will also create for-real victims even if those doing the shaming have no connection with the harsh realities of the producing and servicing real world.
For this reason, and to really advance humanity, it remains important that humans of the TES communities really are taught, accurately taught, about what happens in the real world.
Because it is easy for humanity to disconnect from reality in the TES environment, there is no push for rigorous science to be the kind of science that gets taught in schools, and no push for rigorous science to be the kind that gets cited when humans are arguing about science-oriented topics.
This means the TES disconnect with harsh reality is going to be even larger in magnitude. The kid who learns that his food comes from McDonalds is also going to learn that dinosaurs and unicorns perished in the Great Flood and aliens are routine secret visitors.
And, again, the problem with this transformation is that human decision making is going to become increasingly irrelevant to solving real world problems. Either the problems will get solved in expensive ways, never get solved, or increasingly intelligent cyber will find and implement the efficient solutions.
Humanity's role on earth will more and more become participants in an earth-wide reality show, it will not be that of shapers of human and Earthly destiny.
The upcoming transformations of the many human communities on earth into various styles of Total Entitlement States is going to be the fulfillment of a dream that is as old as humanity. It is a transformation that is coming soon, probably within the next fifty years.
It is a blessing that will cause many profound changes in human thinking, and some of these changes won't be good ones. Those changes that are due to humans becoming more and more disconnected from how harsh reality works will lead to lots of delusion, and the delusions will lead to expensive, instinctive thinking-driven choices in how to face challenges.
The good news that counters this dark side is that as automation of goods and services becomes more pervasive, human choices will become less important to how prosperity is created and distributed.
The bad news that counters this light side that is that most humans will become players in a world-wide reality show, not the movers and shakers who shape the course of humanity -- cyber will steadily become more responsible for that.
In sum, the TES communities that humans will soon be living in are not going to be our grandfather's world in how we humans think and do things. There's a lot more adapting and learning still to be done, and still big challenges to be faced. But the challenges are going to be of a brand new style, so the style of learning is going to have to be a brand new as well.