Chapter Fourteen: The 21st Century - Narrative

X. Sport And Entertainment

Already in the first decade of the 21st century entertainment and sport were perceptibly merging into one another. This process continued at a rapid pace during the decades in which elective activities gradually came to replace more and more of what had been known (for only 400 years after all) as 'work'.

By 2080, despite leaping populations, the range of GDP per head derived from the accumulated wealth of individuals and governments was from EUR20,000 per annum to EUR200,000 per annum (yes, the humble Euro became the global currency, in 2041), varying according to country of residence. Even at the bottom end of the scale, income-earning work was economically unnecessary, and a person would be able to afford RCRs to carry out all unavoidable domestic chores. The desire to pursue economic activity (to trade) is however one of the main driving forces of the human psyche (see the Introduction and Chapter One), and most people choose to participate (for economic reward) in governance, social development, business or recreational management, almost always of course through the groupish form of the RCC. Given the intellectual power of an RCC, an individual trying to participate on her own is at a hopeless disadvantage. There still are outsiders who pursue independent roles, particularly in the arts, but they are more than ever exceptions to the general rule.

'The poor are always with us', it is said. But genetic improvement has removed most of the impediments to living a productive life. Although in 2060 there were still some family lines who had somehow escaped the compulsory inter-generational savings schemes which supplanted state welfare and pension provision in the 2020s and 2030s, they were sufficiently few in number that they could easily be provided with minimum incomes from global wealth holdings.

The switch from a 'work ethic' to a 'play ethic' took place gradually, between 2030 and 2060, as it became clear that increasing proportions of mankind were going to become rich enough not to have to 'work'; but every carrot has to be backed up by a stick, and for humans the stick after 2051 (the Human Settlement) was the requirement to contribute, with the sanction of isolation and withdrawal of reproductive rights in the event of failure. The definition of 'contribute' was however so wide, and becoming endlessly wider over time, that a person has to actively want to fail in order not to contribute.

It will be easier to understand this in the light of an example. Until 2010, there was a fairly rigid dividing line between professional entertainers and their public. Amateurs might indeed sing at karaoke bars, but only professionals got paid for singing. This distinction broke down during the succeeding 20 years as content became universally available through the Internet. Early examples of universal providers such as YouTube and Spotify ran into copyright problems, not surprisingly, but by 2020 KISS technology (Kontent Identification and Subscription System) was in universal use, even in China, with the value of any given piece of content, regardless of its origin, calculated in real time based on its audience, and charged to the (compulsory) account of the user.

Content providers (call them musicians, writers, artists, or what you will) were still able to put their own price on a work, and to withhold it unless the price was paid, but hardly anyone did so, due to the difficulty of marketing what cannot be seen or experienced in advance. Under the KISS system, the cost of experiencing a piece of content is incurred incrementally during the experience, so that if after two seconds you know you hate what you are experiencing, you just switch it off, and it has cost you very little or even nothing.

KISS technology was applied to all forms of entertainment, including music, books, magazines, blogs, news, football, painting, and a range of new art-sport-forms which developed under the stimulus of the new media, such as virtual beach volley-ball, which can be either watched (you pay), or participated in (you get paid).

'Contribution' is measured by lifetime earnings from participation, and the bar is set very low. An evening around the karaoke machine with a group of quite moderate performers will likely earn about 8 Euros for each participant (20 billion people can choose to experience it, remember, and they all speak the same language); participation in an RCC committee on community design on Altair 9 (colonized in 2070), at the other extreme, will be time-consuming but will earn as much as EUR20,000 per annum. Stars still exist, of course, with astronomical earnings, in fact, more than ever. Lifetime participation earnings begin to be judged after 50 years of adult life, with a required minimum of just EUR5,000. Average participation earnings at that point are EUR100,000, so that failure is hardly an option unless you are very determined; and even then you have another 50 years of full citizenship before compulsory isolation, lasting 100 years before you get another 50-year chance (or you can choose transportation, to some unpleasant planet 40 light years away).