For the past few thousand years, scarcity has been an slowly shrinking problem for humanity–with the industrial revolution making the biggest dent, and starting a rocket of exponentially increasing gains–But scarcity still exists today, and it’s still one of humanity’s largest problems.
As a species humans have unlimited wants and needs, but live in a world of limited resources. Because of this, in the coming decades, many of the world’s resources will be running out: oil, phosphorus, coal, tin, silver, lead and clean water to name a few. This resource depletion threatens to backtrack humanity’s progress if it is not handled correctly.
But if science continues to develop and humanity plays its cards right, then civilization will make a transfer–perhaps a very bumpy one–from a resource based economy to a sustainable one. It’s important to highlight: only by making extensive use of the latest science and technology will this be possible. We could assume that scientific progress is going to come to a stand still, and that therefore civilized life on this planet is over. But in that case, you can simply kill yourself, then you won’t mind.
There are only solutions
Moaning about doom and gloom not only does nothing to correct the situation, it actively serves to make things worse and increase the odds of a negative outcome. If the scientists, engineers and hard workers who have continued to solve crippling issue after impossible obstacle over the last hundred years had spent their time whining about how doomed we all were instead, then none of us would be here today.
So instead, let’s do our best to correct these problems, and make opportunities out of them. We are moving towards a higher and higher quality of life for every person on earth and have been since the dawn of humanity. There have been plenty of setbacks and bumps along the way, but progress has continued in one form or another through the thick and thin of it. As long as fanatics don’t mess everything up (which even with massive numbers is not probable ), it likely will continue to.
In developed countries today, the average person lives magnitudes more luxuriously than the richest king of yesteryear. (Which isn’t always a good thing, looking at the vast number of obese creatures walking the streets, it’s clear living like a king isn’t the best thing for everybody.) Even in developing countries, the situation for the average citizen is incredibly comfy compared to the lives of the average citizen of the richest nations on earth a few hundred years ago.
Currently, if all the world’s resources were split evenly, if we eliminated concentration of wealth and implemented socialist systems all over the world, there would be more than enough food and services for everyone. Of course, this would slow scientific progress to a snail’s pace, and would not be sustainable; the system would be corrupted, chaos would eventually break out, and inequality would rise once again. We have come a long way, but our technology is still far too primitive and our resources far too scarce for people to have luxury handed to them.
As scientific progress continues, we come closer by the day to reaching the holy grail: post-scarcity. This is a hotly debated subject, and it means different things to different people. There is no particular end point for post-scarcity, and it has a very blurry start line. But the basic concept is that scarcity will eventually be eliminated in almost every form.
Now there’s a lot that could stop this from happening. From enforced artificial scarcity, as we see today with digital products and corruptly controlled resources like diamond. To those with power refusing to accept the system, as we see today with those who can afford it resisting free health care in the United States. To it only being allowed for specific purposes, such as a religious government prohibiting life extension technologies.
But as long as freedom continues along its current path and becomes less scarce rather than more, and so does science, then there is a high chance that scarcity will continue to decrease and be replaced with abundance. One day, we may be able to reasonably state that humanity has reached “post-scarcity.”
Until then, let’s keep pushing forward with science and annihilating the forces of idiocy that get in our way. With enough time and persistence, we will achieve anything that we desire. Post-scarcity is just the beginning, in addition to immortality, increased mind power and the many other benefits of advanced technology–it’s all just one more step on the ever rising staircase to infinity.
For a more detail look at post-scarcity and factors getting in its way, read Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think by Peter Diamandis.