rediff.com
Skip to content


The Age Of Imagination (part one)

In 2005, Thomas Friedman wrote in his book The World Is Flat President Bush is indulging in the shameful tactics of pushing America into the business of exporting fear instead of dreams. Friedman criticizes Bush for his fixation with oil and calls for new sources of energy. 

 

Zoom to 2006, Bush in his state of the union speech endorses almost every view of Friedman from the need to get more American children to study math and science to not erecting protectionist barriers, to make America a walled garden as a knee jerk reaction to the threats of terror and outsourcing; to calling for minimizing the dependence on oil by 2025.

 

What made Bush change so soon? Not even Friedman may have known that the field will be leveled in so short a time! But that is the way the world moves these days. Toffler had predicted in his Third Wave that the Third wave The Information Age will proceed in a speed that the combined output of the Agricultural and the Industrial Age will be surpassed by this new wave in a maximum 25 years. If we go by Friedman’s belief that the Information Age started in the Millennium year then that takes us to 2025. Bush is absolutely on the ball.

 

So what is happening in this Information Age and what can we expect? Well a lot is happening and the scope for those answers is vast. But we will first deal with the implications for economy.

 

Each new Age in human civilization brings its own mode of production and its own barometer of wealth as also its own system of trade. The means of production in the Agricultural age was human labor and a piece of land, wealth was basically how much land you possessed and how much that land yielded in terms of crop. Money was around but barter was fine. Wealth was not measured in terms of money yet. Trade was an informal system of barter.

 

The Industrial Age changed all that. The means of production was machine and man’s labor. Capital and labor. Wealth was money itself. Money was no longer only currency – it was capital itself. You could buy and sell money. Trade was not possible without money. If you had land and couldn’t get rent or sell it for money, you were as poor as if you never owned anything. You might have owned a million shares but if you couldn’t monetize them, you were hoarding junk. Your labor was useless unless someone paid you money in exchange. This is the principal difference between the Age of Agriculture and the Age of Industry. In the Agriculture Age you produced what you consumed and what was extra you bartered for stuff you called luxury. In the Industrial Age you consumed what you could never produce yourself and you needed money to consume the bare necessities. It was complicated and it disconnected a vast majority from the cycle of consumption as they didn’t have the basic currency to be part of the exchange mechanism the market.

 

But that is changing in the information Age. Before EBAY came along imagine an unemployed Martin in Arkansas whose sole possession is his labor and a bunch of old Vogue magazines that his mother used to collect. What could he have done if he lost his job? Or worse – couldn’t get a job? He couldn’t monetize his Vogue magazines in the small town he lived in. But in the Age of Information and EBAY, he sold his collection to me across 8000 kilometers just when I needed it desperately for my film shoot. He could monetize seemingly worthless junk as we could connect directly with each other. EBAY is not a conventional market. It is a peer to peer mechanism of exchange. Often it is only an exchange of information. It even facilitates barter.

 

We see outsourcing all around us. Why? Because everything that a man can do that part of a man’s labor that can be digitized will be digitized and become commoditized. This will proceed at such a rate that soon there will be very few things that man will be able to charge for as fees for his labor. Though this will be a destabilizing factor for millions of people, this is not a bad thing at all. At last man will be free from the tyranny of physical labor. He will have to find ways for monetizing who he is and not what he can do with his hands. How unique he is and what unique value he as a human being can bring to his fellow beings will determine how much he is worth. Surely a human being is not human because he can make his hands produce rice or turn a lever or punch a few keys. He is human because he can think, he can emote, he can empathize, he can help and he can entertain. In short he is as good as his Imagination is.

 

Welcome to the Age of Imagination. A short 39-44 years away. In between will come – the shortest of All Ages in History: from 2025 to 2037- 45. The Knowledge Age, where for a brief period the barometer of wealth will be knowledge. Some will also call this the Age of Energy as the only other measure of wealth will be who has the highest control of the World’s Energy. But all this will change with the Advent of the Age of Imagination. In this Age there will be a New Economy (not the one we now call the dot com bust) that will be as much about valuation as the dot com bubble. But the valuations will be of human beings and the product of their minds. And this won’t be a bubble. This Age will last a minimum Thousand Years. The Next leap in Human Civilization will come only after that long a time because the implications of the Age of Imagination will boggle the human minds burdened with the baggage-thought of the preceding Agricultural (feudal), Industrial (imperial), Information (corporate marketing) Ages. That Age after 1000 years is beyond Imagination. It could be anything that our grandchildren wish to create. Yes, it will be the Age of Creation. The Final Frontier. When finally, we will be able to gaze at the face of God. And when finally, He will embrace us as his equals.

 

In between will come an era which will be dominated by our sojourn into Space and for this reason the Age will be referred by many as The Space Age but this will not change the character of the basic Human civilization on Earth as all the institutions of the Age of Imagination will continue to be stable. Though the drama of all the preceding Ages will be played out in all their glory among the colonized and terra-formed worlds of the Space Age.

 

 Enough of prophecies. About the New Economy of the Age of Imagination.

It will be about the means to monetize the human traits of each person and the new mechanism by which people exchange value. It will begin by the creation of a new currency Credits. Credits will be issued to the poorest at the rate of USD 8 per hour for 8 hours per working day. I.e. each poor person around the world will be given a Credit Card with 260 days x 8 hours x $8 = 16640 Credits equivalent to 16640 USD. This will be called the Minimum Human Value. These Credits will not be allowed to be converted back to any other currency though all currencies will be convertible to Credits. Companies will be encouraged to enter into a system of trade and industry with these poorest where they will pay with their Credits. Companies will be able to show the credits thus earned as additional Value in their portfolios. They will be able to invest further in Special Territories if they convert their currencies into Credits. They may even invest the Credits they have already earned. People will be able to earn Credits by being good, helping others, imparting knowledge, sharing information and selling their labor or ideas all of which will only be tradeable in Credits. This will result in a virtuous cycle which will eliminate old currency and change the lifestyles of people worldwide. By this time cheap energy sources will become available due to the huge investments made in technology during the end of Information and Start of the Knowledge Ages. This same investment will also result in the deployment of Robots and AI for most of the physical labor jobs in the world markets and all such work would have been digitized and outsourced to Intelligent Machines.

 

(Excerpted from my essay The Age of Imagination: Dawn of the New economy & the Next Civilization)

 

 

Posted in Age Of Imagination.


0 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

You must be logged in to post a comment.



Copyright © 2014 Rediff.com India Limited. All rights Reserved.  
Terms of Use  |   Disclaimer  |   Feedback  |   Advertise with us