One of the most worthwhile aspects of the technological and social developments surveyed in this book will be the increased freedom they will bring to human individuals, including the freedom to dispose of one's time as one chooses.
The last 100 years has seen a steady diminution in the number of hours an average person spends at work, and in the proportion of people who work at all, at least in developed countries, alongside increases in their purchasing power. The amount of economic benefit obtained by one hour of work has increased dramatically. Technology has been a major contributor to this process, indeed perhaps the only cause of it, and is going to continue to provide ever more substantial economic benefits to mankind. Robots themselves will clearly take over major swathes of the activities we currently call work. Even though new types of job will emerge as a result, the overall effect will be to reduce still further the amount of time that a normal individual in a developed country has to devote to work.
Alongside reductions in obligatory working time, people will increasingly benefit from the returns on invested wealth. The accumulated wealth of humanity is already vast, in money terms, even in 2015, and an increasing number (and proportion) of people do not need to 'work' in the sense of earning their livings. Consulting firm McKinsey reported in 2007 that the value of total global financial assets, including equities, government and corporate debt securities, and bank deposits, expanded to $140 trillion by the end of 2005, representing US$17,500 per head of the world's population. McKinsey's figures recorded a rate of increase of wealth of about 6% per annum over a number of years. World population, on the other hand, has been increasing at approximately 1.5% per year, with this figure tending to fall in recent years. After allowing for inflation, the differential of 3% per year, if it is maintained, represents growth in wealth per head of about 35% every ten years. By 2045, wealth per head of the population would be US$60,000; and by 2095, nearly US$300,000. And this is not to consider income (investment returns) from the wealth.
It is clear, especially if population growth is brought under even tighter control, that given equal distribution of mankind's accumulated wealth, there will come a point towards the end of the 21st century at which there would be enough money for no-one to have to work to earn income. Of course, no such socialistic scenario is likely. However, it can be expected that the trend towards less and less work will continue, even accelerate, and that the enormous balances of assets that will accumulate will be invested to a certain extent into savings schemes for poorer people. This would be a form of global taxation, or redistribution, which might accompany the final burying of corporation tax, to be expected in the 2020s. The rich countries cannot stand by while Africans starve: whether it is achieved through the munificence of plutocrats such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, or through redistributive taxation, it is in the interests of the whole of humanity that poorer people are helped to 'bootstrap' themselves through better education, financial support and developmental aid to a higher level of achievement. Surely this will be a major priority of the 2020s and 2030s.
As 'work', in the sense of obligatory involvement in a revenue-earning activity, loses its importance relative to investment management or leisure activities, people will have time on their hands. It's possible that many people will just waste this time in various ways, as they do now, but more likely that individuals will come to want to contribute towards the future of society, and quite probable that society itself will come to demand 'contribution' from people. Society already rewards people who contribute outside their quotidian lives with respect, honours and even in some cases money.
One's 'work' may come to mean, a contribution to the knowledge, variety and evolutionary success of the race. Many people already fit that definition – writers, painters, academics and philosophers, for instance – and many more people could do so if they had received appropriate education. It will be argued that only 'clever' people can do such 'work'; but in future everyone will be clever. What parent will fail to tick the 'IQ over 150' box when filling out the child specification?
In addition, the emergence of a vast range of new associative possibilities through the interplay of globalization and the Internet, and the opportunities offered by RCCs for groups of individuals to explore new ways of thinking, feeling and creating, will greatly expand the variety and interest of pursuits available to people, useful or otherwise. It would have been impossible in 1890 to imagine the kaleidoscopic universe of human culture that would come to exist by 1990, even if some people such as Jules Verne and H G Wells did succeed in imaging some of the technologies that would be employed to service it. It is equally impossible in 2015 to imagine the ten times greater explosion of cultural diversity and experience that will have taken place by 2115. It is possible however to be sure that it will happen.
Book One proposed that globalization will dominate the polity of the future; Book Two has indulged in some speculation around the societal and technological forces which may change humanity in the 21st century. In Book Three, an attempt is made to create a synthesis of these forces and trends and to describe a number of aspects of the next 100 years in quite concrete terms. Of course the future will probably not be as Book Three describes it; but then again, maybe it will be!