Welcome to 2030. Welcome to my city — and yes, it is mine as much as it is everyone else’s. Contrary to the “you’ll own nothing and be happy” prediction propagated via the World Economic Forum, I own things here. I have a stake in cars driving around its streets, electric vehicle chargers, solar panels, a vertical farm. And yes, I do own appliances and clothes.
It might seem odd to you, but to us here, it makes perfect sense. Yes, there was a time when everything was turning into a service, Netflix-style, with a subscription, but we weeded those out of the market one by one. We didn’t ask for things to become free. We just wanted a stake in the world where, back then, everything was owned by a Big Tech company — and consumed on their terms.
And we got that stake.
It started with a car-sharing service that brought 200 Teslas to our streets. I had to get this strange digital wallet to use it — a Web3 wallet — and buy some tokens, but honestly, sitting in one of those things as it was navigating the streets on its own was one of those sci-fi turned sci-fact moments.
Of course, 200 Teslas was not enough for the whole city. So all kinds of dApps (decentralized applications that aren’t run by Big Tech companies) popped up which let you ride and rent everything from e-scooters to regional VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) aircraft. Other dApps made it possible for anyone anywhere in the world to invest in vehicles here and other European cities, and get a cut of the revenues they generate. Now, there are about 2,000 Teslas in the original fleet, and I have a stake in all of them. All of us do.
Sure, public transport is still a thing, but it’s more centered around autonomous trains and trams. Buses have more or less faded out since there are so many street mobility options. VTOLs are great too, our community is thinking of co-purchasing another one and opening more inter-city routes. E-bikes help as well. I own one. When I am not riding it, I rent it out. There’s a dApp for that.
Every now and then, I like to cook for myself. I have a few appliances and borrow what I don’t own via a dApp. You hardly have to move a muscle. You just specify what you need and the robots take care of everything else — picking it up, dropping it off, and taking it back again.
This circularity has done good for the industry. Many things are built to last. The community won’t buy stuff that won’t. Smartphone batteries still have the lifespan of a butterfly, but now, we recycle them efficiently. We have a ton of green in our city, including robot-run vertical farms that everyone has a stake in. That’s where we get our fresh veggies from, delivered daily by co-owned drones, of course.
Shopping? Still a thing. Sure, my smart fridge is better at making shopping lists than I will ever be and my delivery drone follows them to the letter, but sometimes I like to do it myself, in one of the non-automated shops. I like to support human-run businesses. Call me a retrophile, but I believe there are some things robots just can’t do.
It feels as though we’ve found some sort of equilibrium: We have all the accuracy and efficiency we’ll ever need, if and when we want it.
Artificial intelligence has squeezed the job market, big time. Most coders I know lost their jobs to ChatGPT 7 and 8, as did lawyers, accountants and even baristas, replaced by AI-infused robots. Customer service, delivery, taxi and manufacturing jobs are semi-extinct. In our city, though, things didn’t get too rough. We all have a stake in everything, and it pays off to own things now that these things are generating us extra means to get by.
It’s almost as if the more jobs AI and robots take, the more we all earn, and the more time we have to do what makes us happy.
It’s not as neat in some other parts of the world, though. When millions can’t put bread on the table in an economy where assets are concentrated in the hands of a few, things get ugly. Yesterday, I saw videos online, the dirtiest sweatshops, where every bit of decency is squeezed out of the workers to attempt to give the operation an edge on more efficient robot manufacturing lines. So much has changed in America over the last decade. I think the introduction of central bank digital currency was the nail in the coffin.
We all own everything, and we all have our privacy, too. We can check the provenance of anything from text to produce via the blockchain. As for data, I can choose what I reveal and what I sell, without fearing any of that will ever be used against me. Bar some catastrophic regress, my children will never need to protest a Cambridge Analytica scandal. They’ll never have secretive companies peeping in on their most intimate moments, creating digital models that predict their behavior better than they can.
Overall, life is good and there’s plenty to look forward to. It’s certainly far better than what it could have been. There’s still unrest in the world, but I think we’re getting there, one step at a time. I’m just glad we never had to give everything away and leave ourselves at the mercy of the 1%. Mercy makes for a thin line to tread, and as a community of co-owners, we look out for one another the way they would never look out for us.