Long ago, during one of long flights on a business trip, do not remeber if it was Mauritius, India or Australia, I watched a documentary on Star Trek and its creator – Gene Roddenberry. What struck me was his vision, clearly showing that humanity somehow overcame the struggles between nations and came out united to face challenges of intergalactic politics and war. That somehow we managed to come together as Planet Earth not a bunch of countries in a struggle for space and resources. This was a very optimistic vision for our future.
Travelling the world for the last 10 months gave me an insight into many issues many of us only read in newspapers. The extinction of species (while diving bleached and empty coral reefs), smog and pollution (Vietnam, Thailand, US covered by gray haze, where the sky is never blue), global warming (forest fires in California or disappearling glaciers in mountains of north-west States) and many more. Now the question is how to move from here now to the vision of Gene Roddenberry. How to overcome these issues and come out with a winning hand. It is quite obvious capitalism fueled by consumption is not the best way. Not that I am a fan of socialism or anything else. It is just that global, interconnected world created problems that cannot be overcome by any for profit enterprise. The drive for quarterly results or shareholder value seems to leave too many casualities behind. It is especially visible in the US where politics and big capital are on a fight with local communities. Lecture of local newspapers to morning coffee brings a daily stream of these small and big wars. More national parks or land for logging, oil or food industry. More tech jobs driving demand for housing and thus inflating rent prices or less homeless people, who now cannot afford rent.
Los Angeles, San Francisco or Seattle share one thing in common – large hubs of thriving global businesses (film, tech) and many people living on the streets. Not that they do not have jobs. It is just that their jobs cannot afford a roof above their heads – homeless people bent over their laptops on the streets are not uncommon. And it will get even worse as the pressure to reduce the cost of labor will only grow thanks to advances in automation, robotics and artificial intelligence.
As a result poiticians and all of us will need to figure out what to do with a growing part of society excluded from the job market and left behind with income too small to provide for minimum living conditions. And no for-profit enterprise will have motivation to solve this. This rise in poverty and growing disproportion between the rich and the poor will inevitably lead to rise of nationalism or extremist ideas. It will also create election opportunities for leaders promising to fix problems in a narrative of „us versus them” rather than „us with them”.
It only just started in developed countries. India, Indonesia, Philippines or Brazil are following while they already have their fair share of voters living in true poverty. This growth of inequality takes us further away from the vision of united Planet Earth. Unfortunately Gene Roddenberry will not tell us how to fix this, we have to figure out ourselves.