Imagine that one day humanity has the good fortune to actually meet aliens and learn about them. But, once the topic turns to their politics, we find out that these little green men are actually a bunch of red commies?!? Not only that, but they have a single government for their whole planet!
It's only natural that, even after we talk the Republicans out of nuking the alien ship, we would still be very confused. After all, we're told that communism is supposed to stifle technological progress, not support it. However, considering how heavily technology influences politics and economies, maybe we shouldn't be surprised that the aliens found a place for central planning in their society.
Indeed, to take a look at the future of technology, a one world government with a centrally planned economy might not only be an advantage, it might be a necessity. And if that's the case, it’s worth asking not if we will arrive at the same point, but when.
In 1964 Russian astronomer Nikolai Kardashev proposed a method for measuring a civilization’s technological advancement based on the amount of energy it is able to use. In a nutshell, it breaks civilizations down into three types:
Type 1 - can use and store all the energy available on its own Planet
Type 2 - can use and control energy at the scale of its own Star System
Type 3 - can control energy at the scale of its own Galaxy
While these types of civilizations seem far off in the future, we might be closer than we realize. In fact, famed astrophysicist Michio Kaku predicts that humanity is only about 100 or 200 years away from becoming a Type 1 civilization.
Keeping that in mind, it is almost certain that our visitor friends would be at least Type 1. And with the power to control a planet's energy comes certain responsibilities that will heavily influence the structure of whatever society has the technology.
After all, this is something with the power to kill everything on the planet.
At a certain point, technology becomes powerful enough that whoever possesses it can control the world. Obviously, a Type 1 civilization will be the de facto rulers of their planet. However it's worth examining what would happen to any other societies present on the planet. There's every reason to think that they would be absorbed into the Type 1 civilization and lose their own sovereignty in the process. Indeed, it is likely that by the time humanity becomes a Type 1 civilization (again, 100-200 years according to Kaku), the concept of sovereign nations would become obsolete.
The most pressing reason for such a change would be safety. Type 1 technology could easily kill everything on the planet and to have nations competing for it would be suicidal. Imagine, for example, if The U.S. knew that China was about to take control of all the energy on the planet. That would be an existential threat to American sovereignty and would likely result in war. Thus, nations competing for Type 1 technology based on their own self-interest would be unacceptable and an obstacle to be overcome.
So, to avoid conflict, the technology would have to be open source and used on behalf of all mankind. However, whatever agency that administered it (imagine a kind of U.N. that controls al energy for the entire world) would, for all practical purposes, be the most powerful entity on the planet. In such a scenario, once sovereign nations will simply be unable to compete with kind of power and their sovereignty would be gradually eroded.
However, the real nail in the coffin for the concept of nationhood would come back to the issue of competition. Simply put, there would be no room for nations competing based on their own self-interest. This all powerful energy agency would likely demand that countries be neutered of their military power, lest one of them attempt to take control. So, with an extremely powerful supranational entity having increasing influence over everyone's affairs, individual nations would likely come to look more like the individual states in America as far as their individual power was concerned.
While this sounds like an extremely foreign concept, there is every reason to believe that it will come to pass for reasons besides safety. Namely because, 200 nations each pursuing their own interests, often at the expense of each other is extremely inefficient on a planetary scale. Armed conflict, unilateral decision making, and an inability to efficiently organize at the transnational level are all obstacles to the progress of humanity. So, while technology might be the catalyst for reducing national sovereignty, common sense will be what makes it extinct.
As for the aliens, it’s safe to say that the ones we meet would have already come to this realization and would likely be operating with a single government for their whole planet. Although it’s doubtful that they would stop with just a political restructuring.
Beyond homogenizing political processes, advanced tech would also offer more efficient ways to organize the world economy. Central planning, forever the scourge of capitalists, would likely become the dominant economic system as soon as the technology is available.
As it stands now, humans motivated by profit are generally thought to be the most efficient way to allocate resources. However, technologies like quantum computing promise hyper-accurate economic models that can predict demand for resources down to the ounce. At that level of accuracy, allocating resources based on human profit motive would not only be wildly inefficient and anyone who tried to do so would quickly fall far behind those using quantum computers to plan their economies.
Essentially what this means is that capitalism is on borrowed time. As soon as the technology becomes available, the profit motive will be replaced by machines that do a better job for less money. The irony is inescapable.
Indeed, the only reason to maintain capitalism would be for philosophical reasons. However, nothing will change the reality of it being an antiquated system that is inherently unequal. In the face of such a reality, it will eventually be replaced. After all, why deal with all the waste and greed present in human minds when a machine can be programmed to do it more efficiently, more equitably, and without corruption?
At the end of the day, technology will keep progressing for as long as society continues to function. It's kind of a built-in feature of intelligence. So, as technology progresses, humanity will have to continually adapt the way we organize ourselves and our resources in order to keep up.
Just as the printing press democratized knowledge and led to the rise of classical liberalism, so too will future technologies force us to reconsider our current systems.
Of course, change is always stressful for some people, and humanity is guaranteed to experience significant change over the next century. However, it’s important to note that this is not only natural but necessary. It is only through constant change and innovation that we can ever hope to improve our world. Our ancestors have done it, our children will do it, and our little communist alien friends are also in the exact same boat, or ship, whatever you want to call it.
Can Capitalism Survive Advanced Technology?