Post-Scarcity Society & the Post-Labor Economy

Ryan Gosha
6 min readMar 26, 2024

By now, it is widely agreed that AI and automation will take away a lot of jobs, way more than the new jobs that will be created. Even those new jobs will eventually be automated away until the last function of a human being is to simply speak things into existence (no work involved at all). That's the end goal.

Let’s be clear: AI and automation are not here to create jobs; they are here to revolutionize our relationship with work. The notion of traditional employment will become obsolete as machines take on tasks once reserved for human hands and minds. But far from being a harbinger of doom, this shift heralds a new age of abundance — a post-labor society where the barriers of scarcity are shattered.

In our current economic landscape, labor has long been the currency of value, determining who gets what and why. But as AI renders human labor increasingly redundant, we are faced with a fundamental question: how do we distribute value in a world without jobs? The answers are not easy, but they are essential.

AI will bring us to the end of work by humans. The end of jobs. That won't be the end of aspirations, desires, hopes, dreams, projects, etc. What scares the shit out of people when it comes to jobs is the underlying labor economics that governs society? For the entirety of our existence as a species, work has been the most defining attribute.

Our economic systems have always been labor-based, up to capitalism where Labor (L) and Capital (K) are the two building pillars. We have used labor (physical or intellectual) and capital as the main determinants of who gets what. Labour has been the main criterion for distributing value, via money. When we take labor out of the equation, we are only left with capital on that side of the equation. This takes out those who have little capital and a lot of labor from the equation. Many will be left out, eventually, until the economic system is redesigned. Some capital might probably have to be collectively owned, probably land, agricultural robots, some data, and probably some state-level AGI, etc. Some capital will probably remain privately owned. UBI or some variation will take care of the “how to distribute value” problem.

But before we get to that stage, a lot will happen first. Unemployment will have to rise to the point where state intervention becomes necessary, or the economy breaks down as demand collapses due to the displacement of a chunk of people from active economic participation.

The Final Mexican Stand-off

Scarcity will be defeated, but it will be defeated by capital. There is no good reason why those with capital should share their success with those who don't.

Something’s gotta give.

The Great Grand Mexican Standoff

Who will win, and how will the balance be created? Nobody knows. We can only speculate.

The Government

  • Faced with a bifurcated society (the rich and the poor, no middle class), the government might increasingly shoulder the poor and do so via increased taxes on the rich.
  • The government faces the threat of capture by big business and the rich, and at the same time, faces the threat of being overthrown by the masses.
  • Government overthrow will create a vacuum that will be subsequently occupied by Supercorporations and their private armies or warlords policing poor areas.

Big Business and the Rich

  • they might refuse to be taxed heavily, just to support a broad population base that doesn't contribute anything economically besides consumption. Business models will move away from mass-market consumption as the masses’ share of spending declines precipitously.
  • they will at first own the capital (the means of production) which includes the algorithms, the data, the robot armies, and the AGI.
  • they could continue to own it forever, if uncontested, or if contested unsuccessfully.
  • the trillionaires (we will have a trillionaire or two by then) could take direct control of the state and establish a monarchy government
  • The Supercorporations (we will have one or two by then) could indirectly take control of the government, put the masses on subsistence-level stipends, and administer human affairs under a company with a Global CEO of Earth.

The People, The Masses

  • with not-so-valuable labor and not so much capital, the masses will be beholden to a benevolent state, until or unless they change the ownership of capital.
  • they could unite before it is too late, and overthrow current governments, the deep state, and current governance structures for new communal direct representation structures with communal ownership of capital.
  • they might fail to unite but still get UBI from existing governmental structures.

If Scarcity is Defeated, what do we fight for?

Great question! We can all have as much as we want. Right! Well, sort of, but not really. You see, our lives are wired with a scarcity mentality. Scarcity creates opportunities, structures society according to winners and losers, and ranks us in order of importance.

Defeating scarcity is a threat to the current order of things.

It is a big threat to the importance coefficients. Imagine a world where no one is extremely rich and no one is extremely poor, we all have our needs and wants satisfied. Clean air and water for everyone, free housing for everyone, free healthcare for all, free food for all. It’s paradise, right? Wrong!

Whilst that world is good for the middle class and the poor, it is not something to look forward to for the rich.

As such, scarcity will have to be artificially created.

This is not new. Our entire economy is now built around planned obsolescence, which is basically perpetuating scarcity where it could have been defeated.

The greatest threat to the rich, and corporations is the defeat of scarcity. If scarcity is defeated, many companies will cease to exist as the profit motive is washed away. Some think society will stagnate because innovation can only happen under a profit motive. They are wrong. Technological advancement doesn’t stagnate. Many will pursue advancement for the sake of it, without being driven by the profit motive.

If you defeat scarcity, you drive yourself out of business, quickly. Imagine creating a light bulb that lasts forever. Well, you only sell it once t each buyer, as soon as everybody has bought it from you, you are out of business.

So, the post-scarcity society will not be marked by the fight over scarce resources. It would rather be marked by the fight over the control of the code that determines the extent to which scarcity is artificially created.

Those in control of capital (with a letter K in economics) will highly likely not willingly allow scarcity to be defeated. They will resist this.

Economics will be consolidated into Politics

Also, economics, as a discipline will fade away and be gradually consolidated into politics. Henceforth, there will be only politics, fully representing what we currently know as the Political Economy.

Economics, is, after all, a study of scarcity, labor, and capital. If scarcity is defeated and labor is out of the equation, then economics is 67% dead. Depending on the outcome of the Final Mexican Standoff, the government could take custody of capital, or those with capital could take over governance in the political realm. Either way, capital and government could become one, thus economics as a discipline will be gone 100%.

Thus, any talk of a post-labor economy should not be separated from politics and governance.

There is no time for adjustment

Change is underway, and things will never be the same again.

If you are under 30, these massive changes will happen in your lifetime. Changes that will take place in the two decades between 2030 and 2050 will make all the changes we witnessed between 2000 and 2020 look like a little dog fart. By 2050 (26 years from now, we will be looking at the end of work). Twenty-six years might seem like a long time but remember this means a person entering the workforce now will not be able to work till retirement.

In one lifetime, society will have changed dramatically, for better or for worse.

Scarcity will be defeated in this millennium, but as I have explained, it might not be all who will enjoy the benefits of this.

That is it!

Ciao!

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