Standards of living are rising all over the world. Some statistics may show a widening gap between the rich and poor, but the truth is the cost of the goods and services that make up a first-world lifestyle possible are shrinking. Now, I’m not envisioning some Communist, Money-free utopia. I think that there will come a day when life is simply too cheap to meter. Goods and services will become so inexpensive that money can no longer provide the kind of class distinction that it once used to.
We’re starting to see a foreshadow of this kind of thing in the proliferation of millionaires and billionaires in the past 20 years or so. Standard of living doesn’t really change once you move past the several hundred-thousand a year mark. Tim Ferris wrote an entire book on the subject called the “Four-Hour Work Week”. He argued that a lot of money didn’t really do you much good unless you had the time to spend it. Richard Branson mentioned in a recent Digg.com Interview that it was friends, not money that was really valuable to him (although not having to worry about money helps). Another portal into the Age of Ultimate Wealth is the Internet. Music and movies used to be something that came on plastic discs. Now, if you’re an independent filmmaker, BitTorrent can bring your movie to more screens than Cineplex ever could.
How would we live in this new mode of civilization? What will we do with ourselves once we don’t have to work for a living? Chances are we’ll probably do some form of work anyway, just none of the kind that we hate. There are a lot of weekend activities that people do for fun that could be considered work, like fishing, gardening, wine-making, and carpentry just to name a few. So the signs are there that we are headed towards a Gene Roddenberry-Style Utopia, failing global warming, errant asteroids, nuclear war or influenza. It’s worth mentioning that all of those dangers did a pretty poor job of wiping out civilization so far.