1. The Technology Singularity
Ray Kurzweil's 2005 prediction of the "Technology Singularity", the point in time when machines will finally overtake humans in intelligence, is looking more inevitable as the years go by.
We are seeing this first-hand today with the pervasive growth of intelligence in the everyday "network". GPS that can help us navigate efficiently through real-time changes in driving conditions, messaging software that suggests suitable responses and suitable endings to sentences, IVR systems that provide self-service functions over the phone, and many more. And we read about breakthroughs in Artificial Intelligence, such as the many applications of Deep Learning.
2. The Energy Singularity
There is a second singularity that is also approaching, which I call the "Energy Singularity". I define it as the point at which the marginal cost of energy production and transmission is virtually zero. In other words, the world can access as much energy as it needs at virtually no cost. The infrastructure to deliver energy has already been paid for at this point, and the investment can thereafter be harvested ad infinitum.
We're putting in place the infrastructure for the Energy Singularity as we speak, but we don't realise that we're doing it. We think we're saving the planet from climate change by reducing the emissions from hydrocarbons, but we're actually doing something of far greater significance. We're making energy sustainably cheaper to produce, and one day the marginal cost per unit of energy will be virtually zero.
Wind farms are the fastest-growing source of renewable energy, rapidly catching up with hydroelectric power, and likely to be the largest source of renewable energy in the near future, much larger than solar.
These two trends together bode very well for the productivity of society in general, whether in the primary (agriculture), secondary (industry) or tertiary (services) sectors.
In fact, since energy is the ultimate currency, the availability of cheap and abundant energy (The Energy Singularity) means that human society will become unimaginably wealthy in a very short time. Humanity does not even have to exert itself to guide the application of that energy towards productive ends, because Artificial Intelligence is capable of doing it on our behalf (The Technology Singularity).
However, the imminent arrival of the Technology and Energy Singularities doesn't necessarily and automatically translate to a higher standard of living for human beings. There is a certain conscious economic "rewiring" of society that will be required to transition to this better future and to minimise the pain of the transition.
Consider however, that as firms become capable of replacing human labour with machine labour, the inner cycle necessarily begins to weaken.
Of course, long before that stage is reached, there will probably be bread riots and violent revolution, because people are unlikely to starve quietly.
The Economic Singularity, the point when society rewires itself in a sustainable way so that equilibrium is again attained, will require the intervention of governments. Here is what that could look like:
This is a new equilibrium that gives every person what they need without their having to work for it. The Economic Singularity will mark the beginning of the much-awaited Leisure Society.