Summary: The productivity of the next industrial revolution — based on semi-intelligent machines, with sensors and manipulators — will create fantastic abundance. Perhaps on a scale and nature we cannot imagine. The question is choice: how we divide the results. Here are two extreme outcomes, with a thousand points between them.
(1) Feudal dystopia
The rich might prefer a form of feudalism: a very hierarchical society, people in the upper layers linked by personal relationships (networked), with massive inequality and limited social mobility, divided into classes. Marx described a version of this.
- the inner party (the haute bourgeoisie) of upper echelon leaders and the wealthy,
- the outer party of middle managers, small business owners, and professionals (the petite bourgeoisie), and
- the remainder of the working class (the proletariat, proles)
- the underclass (the lumpenproletariat) — criminals, poor workers (many in the grey economy), those subsisting on meager fixed incomes (pension, disability, welfare, and social security — plus social services).
Maintaining this will require sophisticated internal intelligence and security services to prevent and suppress insurgencies, and keep social order (low levels of crime at the top, minimal levels at the bottom). The security services and military would recruit strong intelligent people from the lower class — their only path to advancement — which also deprives the lower classes of their natural leaders.
We’re on our way to this future: