The Coming Market Triumph
by Johnny Kramer
by Johnny Kramer
You may not
know it, but you are probably living in the final generation anywhere
on the earth to endure poverty, disease and scarcity of physical
goods – at least in the way such things have existed from the dawn
of civilization until now.
If that seems
unbelievable, consider how much of today’s world – especially the
Internet – would’ve sounded like an absurd, utopian fairy tale to
you just 15 years ago.
What if someone
had told you in 1992 that it would be not just possible, but commonplace,
in less than 15 years to literally find more information on your
computer, all free, through it being linked to a network of other
computers, literally than you could buy then for many, many millions
have believed that?
it would’ve cost 15 years ago to even attempt to amass a personal
library of books, photos, audio and video tapes to rival what’s
available now online, free. A billionaire probably couldn’t have
afforded it. If you bought it all, where would you store it? Even
if you figured out how to store it, you wouldn’t have been able
to retrieve any of it, in literally a second or two, the way you
can now with a search engine. Plus it wouldn’t be continuously updated,
with no work on your part, the way the Internet is today.
has also produced other miracles. To name another, through sites
like You Tube, it’s now possible to produce your own television
show, totally on your own with no approval from anyone, for literally
less than $500 – including the cost of a computer and a camcorder.
have believed that 15 years ago either?
many other products you now take for granted in your daily life
that didn’t even exist 15 years ago, at least not as they do now:
cheap, disposable cell phones; navigation systems; satellite radio;
DVD; digital satellite and cable TV; flat-panel TVs; high-def TV;
have believed just 15 years ago that any of this would ever be possible,
much less that it was all less than a generation away?
about imminent, massive change and improvement is understandable.
And it’s not new. In his 2005 book, Nanofuture: What’s Next for
Nanotechnology, J. Storrs Hall, Ph.D., asked readers to imagine
someone pulling up to a farmer in 1899 in an early automobile, and
trying to convince the farmer what his grandchildren’s lives would
be like – including that they would live to see a man walk on the
moon. The farmer probably wouldn’t have believed any of it. But
he would’ve been wrong.
whether you would have believed predictions of today’s world just
15 years ago. Keep your answer, and the farmer’s from 1899, in mind
as you read this article, because you would’ve been wrong then;
if you doubt this article’s predictions, you’re going to be wrong
change so far in human standard of living, of course, was the Industrial
Revolution. It’s startling to think that comparatively little progress
of this type occurred from the dawn of human civilization until
about 1800; the average person didn’t live much better in 1800 A.D.
than he or she did in 1800 B.C.
There is still
much propaganda and misinformation about the Industrial Revolution,
especially from the left. We read often of the "horrors"
of child labor and "sweatshops." It’s true that such conditions
were horrific by 2007 American standards. But, by 1807 or even 1907
standards, they were vast improvements over pre-industrial farm
life; otherwise, those millions of people wouldn’t have voluntarily
worked in such conditions.
today have any concept of what life was like prior to the Industrial
Revolution, nor do they stop to consider how incredibly blessed
they are. There is no poverty left in America today in terms of
what was considered poverty throughout the entire history of the
world until the last 100 years or so.
the poorest people in this country who at least have jobs and places
to sleep literally have a higher standard of living than the wealthiest
person on the earth did less than 150 years ago; 150 years ago,
the wealthiest person on the earth didn’t have anything that the
poorest today consider basic necessities, like indoor plumbing,
electricity, central heating or air-conditioning, antibiotics or
a refrigerator – much less things that may not be life-sustaining
necessities, but are the luxuries of yesterday that most consider
the necessities of today, like cars, televisions, computers, etc.
Were it not
for the Industrial Revolution, we would all be working 1518 hours
per day on our own farms, with little to show for it but barely
producing enough food to keep ourselves from literally starving
to death, and making our own clothes out of rags.
Lew Rockwell commented in 1997: "Anthropologists note that
throughout human history, one key sign of prosperous times is the
wide consumption of beef (which requires far more land and other
resources than crops). It's no surprise that America distinguished
itself in world history for being the first society in which beef
was available to one and all, no matter how poor, especially through
This is a
specific, astounding example of how capitalism has made a daily,
cheap, virtual necessity for the poor out of something that throughout
all of history, until just a few generations ago, was a very rare
luxury for the extremely wealthy.
Revolution made mass production of not only food, but everything
else, possible for the first time. In countries with relative economic
freedom, productivity – and thus, wages – grew; prices were massively
lowered; hundreds of new products became available; and basic necessities
like food, clothing and shelter became more and more widely available
– with luxuries not far behind.
Will Continue to Improve
most everything will continue getting better long-term. New products
we can’t even imagine now will be invented, and existing products
will get better and cheaper overall, in spite of the government’s
One of the
more exciting advances coming soon is the emergence of household
robots. In 2005, Toyota announced that it plans to begin selling
humanoid robots (meaning robots with bodies like people, with a
head, torso, arms, legs, hands and feet, that can perform similar
physical movements to a human) in 2010 for around $1,000 US. And,
of course, like all electronics, they’ll face competition and will
all rapidly get better and cheaper. By 2025, the personal robot
industry is expected to be a bigger industry in the US than the
be one of the greatest advances ever in human standard of living,
where even the poorest people will have full-time bodyguards and
servants. Imagine having a robot that can clean your house, do your
yard work, laundry, etc., shine your shoes, cook your meals, guard
you and your house, and more. As artificial intelligence improves,
they will soon also be able to handle more complex chores, like
dangerous jobs that humans shouldn’t be doing, and highly skilled
personal repairs, like home remodeling and auto repairs. Humans
will soon be free from such burdens, able to move on to other things
and produce more wealth.
really exciting is, as blessed as we are today, and aside from the
more minor improvements that will continue to occur, there are three
more revolutions coming over the next 2025 years that will
make all prior progress look like blips on the radar of history.
of Accelerating Returns
is a world-renowned inventor and author. In the 1970s, he invented
the first flatbed scanner and the first reading machine for the
blind. Bill Gates calls him "the best person I know at predicting
the future of artificial intelligence." Among other accurate
predictions, in his 1989 book, The Age of Intelligent Machines,
Kurzweil predicted that a worldwide computer network would emerge
around 1995, and gave a quite accurate description of the late-90s
Internet. Of course, those predictions were ridiculed at the time.
year, Kurzweil said that by the time a child born today graduates
from college, poverty, disease and reliance on fossil fuels will
all be things of the past.
perhaps the world’s foremost futurist, and his projections are based
on what he calls The Law of Accelerating Returns, the heart of which
is that the rate of change is accelerating. Kurzweil believes that
progress is exponential, rather than linear, although most people
intuitively believe that it’s linear, probably because they experience
time linearly. But the price-performance of computing power is now
doubling about every year (which means you can buy twice as much
computing power for the same money, or the same for half the money,
as you could one year ago), which is, by definition, an exponential
trend. Kurzweil believes this is just the latest in a series of
exponential changes going back billions of years, and that this
change will affect all of society by the 2020s.
in 2004, "The past is not a reliable guide to the future. The
20th Century was not 100 years of progress at today’s
rate but, rather, was equivalent to about 20 years, because we’ve
been speeding up to the current rates of change. And we’ll make
another 20 years of progress at today’s rate, equivalent to that
of the entire 20th Century, in the next 14 years. And
then we’ll do it again in just seven years. Because of this exponential
growth, the 21st Century will equal 20,000 years of progress
at today’s rate of progress – 1,000 times greater than we witnessed
in the 20th Century, which itself was no slouch for change."
Genome Project is an example of the accelerating rate of change.
In 1989, medical researchers began working on decoding the human
genome. After finishing 1/10,000th of the genome that
year, they announced a plan in 1990 to sequence the entire genome
in 15 years. Naturally, this plan was ridiculed as a waste of time,
money and effort chasing an impossible goal. In 2000, only 2% of
the genome had been sequenced, and the critics were still scoffing.
But the entire genome was completed in 2003, and the critics weren’t
scoffing any more.
happens with exponential change: almost all of the progress happens
right at the end.
is basically the software instructions for building the human body,
and research indicates that the human genome hasn’t changed significantly
in at least 40,000 years. As Kurzweil has quipped, how many people
have software that they haven’t updated or replaced for 40 months,
much less 40,000 years?
of the human genome that increasing technology is beginning to provide
will create the first revolution, which is already beginning and
should reach maturity in 1015 years: Biotechnology.
will soon make it possible to turn genes partially or totally on
or off. As more is learned about the genome, it appears that certain
genes provide nothing to sustain life (at least in today’s modern
world), but are necessary for certain diseases to occur. Turn off
the gene, and you decrease vulnerability to a certain disease, or
even create immunity from it.
example of an obsolete gene is the Fat Insulin Receptor Gene, which
is the gene that causes the human body to store fat. Tens of thousands
of years old, this gene basically says: "Store every possible
calorie, because the next hunting season may not work out so well."
That was undoubtedly a useful gene at one time, but today it not
only causes cosmetic and self-esteem issues, but contributes to
all kinds of diseases as well.
have already succeeded in turning off the FIR gene in lab mice and
rats; after taking a drug to turn off the gene, the rodents gorged
themselves on nothing but junk food like candy, milkshakes, cheeseburgers
and pizza, yet lost all of their fat reserves and became physically
incapable of storing fat. Five pharmaceutical companies are rushing
to bring FIR inhibitor drugs to the human market, and Kurzweil estimated
in 2005 that the drugs were only 510 years away. Of course, you
can thank the FDA and the government’s pharmaceutical-industrial
complex for the drugs not already being cheaply available.
stage of biotechnology will make it possible to insert new DNA into
a person, curing hereditary diseases, cosmetic defects, and fixing
formerly permanent injuries, like paralysis, and re-growing missing
medical researchers are seriously talking about soon being able
to slow and eventually reverse aging, and Kurzweil believes that
human life expectancy, which was 18 in prehistoric times, 35 in
1800 America, 50 in 1900 America, and now approaching 80 in the
developed world, will be growing by more than a year every year
within 15 years.
In their 2004
book, Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever,
which was aimed mainly at Baby Boomers and older, Kurzweil and Terry
Grossman, M.D., wrote that, if you can hang on for just another
1015 years, you can live to see the remarkable progress that
lies ahead and see your life expectancy grow into the hundreds of
The next revolution,
which will take over in 1520 years where biotechnology leaves off,
is nanotechnology, which is generally understood to involve anything
less than 100 nanometers in size. One nanometer is the length a
human fingernail grows in one second. The ability to manipulate
matter at that scale is so profound that eventually, human history
will likely be separated into two basic eras: pre- and post-nanotech.
the paradigm that has governed the number of transistors that can
fit on a chip has been Moore’s Law, named after Intel researcher
Gordon Moore. The law originally stated that the number of transistors
that can fit on a chip would double every 18 months. It’s now about
every 12 months. At the current rate of progress, Moore’s Law will
hit a wall about 2020, meaning that the distance between transistors
on a chip will be only a few atoms, and it will be physically impossible
to fit any more onto a chip.
Kurzweil notes, Moore’s Law is the fifth, not the first, computing
paradigm. When one hits a wall, the next takes over.
The next paradigm,
which is verified by companies like Intel, is three-dimensional
molecular computing, which is a prerequisite to molecular manufacturing,
and will take over from Moore’s Law around 2020, just as electronics
enters the nanotech (100 nanometers and less) range.
of mature nanotechnology are enormous; probably the biggest is that
it will bring to physical goods a similar deflation to what the
Internet has already brought to raw information.
will make almost all physical products self-assembling and nearly
free. Everyone will have a personal nanofactory in their homes.
They’ll shop online (which full-immersion virtual reality will make
indistinguishable from shopping in a physical store today), select
a product, pay with a credit card for the software to manufacture
it, and download the software it to their nanofactory, which will
then manufacture the product out of free materials like carbon and
hydrogen pulled from the air. And there will be free, open-source
blueprints available, just as there are today with software.
an animation of a personal nanofactory from Nanorex, Inc. and
K. Eric Drexler, who was awarded the first Ph.D. in Molecular Nanotechnology
nanofactory will make almost all physical goods, including food,
clothing, shoes, toiletries, etc. nearly free. It will also be able
to make larger products – like furniture, cars and houses – either
with a larger nanofactory or in a modular fashion, to be assembled
by humans or by robots.
will also make possible blood-cell sized robots, which can perform
precise and painless surgery; kill pathogens and cancer in seconds;
clear the arteries of the heart of plaque; deliver oxygen to the
tissues so efficiently that it will be possible to sit at the bottom
of a swimming pool for hours or run a marathon without taking a
breath; repair wounds or broken bones in hours; align teeth in minutes;
or repair or replace teeth, with synthetic material indistinguishable
down to the molecular level from natural teeth, painlessly in minutes.
will completely decentralize energy, making everything solar and
electricity, heat and air-conditioning free; making all fossil fuels
and other polluting technologies obsolete; and will quickly, easily
and cheaply clean up all existing pollution.
By the 2020s,
almost the entire world economy will be information, and there will
no longer be significant human employment in service and manufacturing
industries. As Kurzweil notes, we’re automating jobs at the bottom
of the skill ladder and replacing them with jobs higher on the skill
ladder. This may alarm some, but anyone who understands economics
knows that it’s glorious, miraculous progress whenever jobs are
lost through normal market forces.
(human-level and beyond) AI (artificial intelligence)
massively world-changing implications of nanotechnology, even that
will be dwarfed by Strong AI, which should arrive just as nanotechnology
fully matures in the mid-2020s.
of artificial intelligence is doubling every year, and is currently
about at the level of a mouse brain. At the rate its doubling,
AI will reach human levels around 2025, then soar past it as it
continues to double every year. That means one year later, artificial
intelligence will be twice as smart as the average human. The next
year, it will be four times smarter. The year after that, 16 times
smarter, etc. When one stops to ponder the implications of this,
it’s not hard to imagine that the world of 2030 will be unrecognizably
better than the world of 2025, as artificial intelligence easily
solves age-old problems that unenhanced humans have never been able
like Unabomber Ted Kaczynski hear such predictions and imagine dire
outcomes, like robots making humans their pets. But the retort of
optimists like Kurzweil is much more sensible: Rather than a war
between humans and machines, there will be a merger of humans with
the technology they’ve created. The nanotechnology that will make
possible, by the time Strong AI arrives, to kill pathogens and deliver
oxygen to the body’s tissues more efficiently will also be able
to massively upgrade the functionality of the human brain. So, as
artificial intelligence doubles every year, human intelligence will,
space here to address all of the objections to these ideas – especially
about their implications. But the following objections are probably
the most common about the veracity of these predictions:
future is unpredictable.
this is true. In fact, one of my core rules for life is that the
future is unknowable. But technological progress has been proceeding
on a smooth upward curve for 60 years, and there's no indication
it's going to stop; if anything, its speeding up. Extrapolating
trends into the future, barring unforeseen changes, is likely to
produce reliable predictions.
has dozens of predictions going back at least 20 years that have
turned out to be quite accurate. As he says, if you ask him what
Googles stock price will be in five years – or whether Google
will even exist then, all he can do is guess. Ten years ago, there
was no such thing as Google, and no one couldve foreseen it.
But if you ask him how much computing power one will be able to
buy for x number of dollars in 2012, or how much it will cost to
sequence a base pair of DNA in 2019, he can make a predictions for
questions like that based on extrapolating trends, and those predictions
are likely to be quite accurate – and, if they're off, it will
likely be because they were too conservative.
still waiting for the flying cars they predicted in
I have never
seen such a statement that documents who said such a thing, when
they said it, exactly what they said, and why the person who said
it was credible. Every time Ive seen it, this objection is
in the form of: My neighbors uncles co-workers
barber said back in the ’50s, someone (I dont know exactly
who) said thered be flying cars by 2000, or Back
in the ’60s, people thought wed be living on the
moon by now.
with reliable track records like Kurzweil arent responsible
for predictions others made.
such predictions were made, the year 2000 was likely chosen randomly
because 2000 sounded futuristic at the time. And, if such predictions
occurred, its not yet known that they were wrong; all thats
known for certain now is the timetable was off. (Incidentally, there
are people like J. Storrs Hall who are working now on producing
intrigued by these ideas, please take the time to educate yourself
about them, rather than relying on hear-say from others. Theres
a list of recommended reading at the end of the article.
describing an impossible, ridiculous utopia, free of problems.
wont be a utopia any more than is today's, although our
world probably wouldve sounded like utopia to a person in
1800. But we knew that we still have problems, just not ones as
basic as a person faced then, like starving to death or contracting
cholera from drinking a glass of water.
the most basic human needs for survival are food, clothing and shelter.
In 1800, about 90% of the U.S. economy worked in agriculture, meaning
our technology was so primitive that it took almost everyone who
was working just to attempt to feed everyone. By 1900, that number
was down to 30%, with another 30% in manufacturing. Today each figure
is around 3%, but the poor live better than kings in 1800, and the
unemployment rate is still under 5%, because human desires are unlimited
and there could never be enough labor available to do all of the
jobs other people would like to have done. Automation of some jobs
frees people to purse other jobs.
If it still
took almost the entire labor force to even attempt to produce enough
food for everyone, who wouldve had time to invent, develop
and bring to market things like indoor plumbing, central heating
and air-conditioning, electricity, etc? A person literally starving
or infected with painful disease would be too preoccupied with that
to concentrate on writing a book, singing a song or accomplishing
anything else that makes life so much better for us all.
As K. Eric
Drexler wrote in his book, Unbounding
the Future, There is more to life than material goods,
but without material goods life is miserable and narrow. If goods
are expensive, people strive for them; if goods are abundant, people
can turn their attention elsewhere.
world wont be utopia – just a massive improvement over todays.
also true that new technologies, while solving old problems, will
also bring new problems. Virtually everything in life is a mixture
of good and bad, but the benefits of these new technologies will
far outweigh the drawbacks, and people acting in their own self-interest
will find ways to mitigate the problems. For example, the massive
improvements the Internet has brought far outweigh its drawbacks,
like computer viruses or spam, and new products are constantly being
developed to combat the problems.
is, by definition, incurable. And no one could find work in a world
This is true,
of course. But a world where most physical goods are super-abundant,
mostly self-assembling and nearly free wont be a world without
scarcity. There will still be scarce physical goods, like antiques
or original works of art. And there will still be a market for them;
while such items will be able to be replicated at almost no cost,
it will be a measure of status to own originals – just as some will
likely choose to drive pre-nanotech, gasoline-burning cars as status
symbols as such cars will be more expensive and rare.
And even if
almost the entire economy is information by the 2020s, as people
like Kurzweil predict, the more intangible realm, such as individual
knowledge and talents, will still be rife with scarcity, and will
continue to make work and trade possible.
As an example,
there will always be scarcity of information, and people today continue
to make money selling information and ideas. But the scarcity of
information that exists today is nothing like that which existed
just 15 years ago, prior to the Internet. Technology hasnt
eliminated scarcity; it has just alleviated it in some ways, and
changed it in others.
for the State
the massive increase in standard of living that’s coming, another
exciting aspect to these changes is it may finally kill support
for the state. It’s very likely that within 25–30 years, if not
sooner, individuals will have more wealth at their disposal than
entire nation states do today. In a world where the private sector
has eliminated poverty, disease and other health concerns (like
the obesity "epidemic"), scarcity of physical goods and
pollution (like the statist "global warming" scam) through
nanotechnology, and personal bodyguard robots have taken on the
purported role of government police, it’ll be fascinating to see
what excuses, if any, the state will be able to successfully make
for itself then.
Reason to Support Ron Paul
of laissez-faire often attack libertarians by pointing out that
living standards were much worse in the 19th Century,
and we had less government then; and that our living standards are
much higher now, and we have much government now. All of this is
true, of course. But statists point out these facts as "evidence"
of the necessity of significant government intervention in the economy.
but rarely stated or backed up with further evidence (because there’s
little, if any, further evidence to offer), is that living standards
were worse in the past due to lack of government, and they’re higher
now due to much larger government. This is the logical fallacy of
correlation proves causation, also known as false cause or cum hoc
ergo propter hoc (Latin for "with this, therefore because of this").
of this logic is evident on its face. If living standards rise with
the size of government and the amount of its regulations, people
in countries like the Soviet Union and Communist China in the past,
and Cuba and North Korea today, should have the highest standards
of living in the world. But the opposite is true.
The fact is,
people in the United States have a higher standard of living than
anywhere else in the world due to the foundation of relative laissez-faire
that spawned such a massive capital accumulation during the 19th
Century. At the time of the Revolution, the U.S. was a third-world
country; within 100 years, it was the wealthiest nation on earth.
But this massive
progress was slowed dramatically by the rotten Progressive Era,
and slowed further by the growth of government since. As blessed
as we are, the standard of living the poorest American would enjoy
today, if government at all levels still consumed only about 5%
of the national income as it did 100 years ago, rather than nearly
10 times that today, boggles the imagination.
If the prospects
for the future discussed in this article excite you, then they are
still more reasons, in addition to all of the other benefits of
significantly increased freedom, to support Ron Paul, because the
freer the country and the economy and the sounder the money, the
faster this progress will arrive.
As an example,
consider again the Fat Insulin Receptor knockout drugs. The reason
they’re still 510 years away is due to the way the FDA massively
slows down progress with its ridiculous tests. And when the drugs
arrive, as miraculous as they’ll be, they’ll be far more expensive
than they would otherwise be, due also to government regulations
like the FDA’s ridiculous tests, which cost roughly $800 million
Do you think
we’d be seeing such massive progress, innovation and deflation with
technology like computers, DVD players and plasma TVs if we had
a Federal Technology Board requiring similar tests, costs and delays?
In a free
market, drugs like Fat Insulin Receptor inhibitors would almost
certainly be available now, or very soon, and be quite inexpensive,
eventually becoming dirt cheap.
other things, Ron Paul wants to create such a market by busting
the medical cartel and the pharmaceutical-industrial complex. Probably
the biggest thing you can do right now to massively increase your
future standard of living, and that of those you care about, is
to devote whatever time and money you can to Ron Paul.
When I read
about these coming advances, it sometimes makes me wish I had been
born a couple of generations later than I was, so that I would never
have known first-hand the world of disease and scarcity that exists
today. Even so, at 30 years old, barring a fatal accident or disease,
I’ll not only live to see these changes, but will still be relatively
young when they arrive – especially considering the coming advances
in life expectancy. While I sometimes wish I’d been born later,
I’m deeply grateful to be able to experience these changes in my
lifetime. There may have never been a better or more exciting time
in the history of the world to live than right now.
If you’d like
to learn more about these ideas, a Google search of any of the terms
or people mentioned in the article is a good place to start.
also a number of fascinating speeches available from people like
Ray Kurzweil on video sites like You Tube.
is a list of some books I’ve read on these ideas, which you may
like if you’re interested in a much deeper study:
[send him mail]
has a BA in journalism from Wichita State University and is available
for freelance writing or copyediting. He writes from Wichita, KS.
© 2007 LewRockwell.com