Home
I was reading something scary the other day. Obviously it was from an economist. He said the real problems haven't started yet. Wait until the Baby Boomers start retiring. Their nest eggs are tiny and there won't be enough Social Security and health care money in the universe to keep everyone in cat food and diapers.

I'm an optimist so I think society will find a way to adapt. But I wonder what that will look like? It might be an improvement.

For one thing, I think you'll see more sharing. The Internet can make it easy to know where you can find resources to borrow. The most obvious example is carpooling. But it could get down to who has food in the fridge that will go bad because someone will be out of town for a week. Or maybe it becomes easy to find a reliable grandma who will babysit for free if you agree to feed her cat next Tuesday. The market for sharing is totally untapped.

I just bought two tickets to a show, for an upcoming trip. I'm sure I will like the show. But I won't like it more than watching a good TV show with family or friends while eating popcorn and sitting on the couch. It's just different. Most luxury expenses are entirely unnecessary in terms of happiness.

I eat a lot of meals out, but it's mostly for convenience. After most restaurants go out of business, which should happen in the next five years, people might start cooking group meals. It makes a lot more sense for your family to make a big pot of mashed potatoes and meet the neighbors for a group buffet. That's relatively little work for each family, and relatively cheap. Again all you need is the Internet to help you organize that sort of thing. Plus you need a good dose of poverty to eliminate the alternatives.

The new poverty is likely to be different from anything that came before. Imagine a world where even the poor have good Internet access and universal healthcare. If you were healthy and could use the Internet to find everything else you needed, from borrowing a tool to organizing a Scrabble game, you'd be pretty much set.

The other way the future could go is that out of economic necessity the government will approve some sort of feel-good pill that makes your external situation less important. You won't mind sharing a one-room apartment with 20 people if they are all on the same pill. And you won't require much in terms of entertainment. So long as the pill is cheap, which it could be if the government declares it so, then people won't need much to be happily retired. The pill could be outlawed for anyone under 65, just so the wheels don't completely fall off the economic engine.

It would be impossible for the government to approve a pill that simply made you feel good. Society frowns on that sort of thing. But imagine the inventors of the pill being smart about how they describe the pill's impact. Instead of saying it makes you happy they could say it makes you less fussy. You won't mind eating that cat food instead of steak because you're suddenly less fussy when medicated. Even the most religious person would agree that living like a monk can be a good thing. Fussiness is the influence of the devil. The government would surely approve an anti-Satan pill.

Which way do you think it will go: more sharing or more medication?
 
Rank Up Rank Down Votes:  +1
  • Print
  • Share

Comments

Sort By:
Dec 9, 2008
You got the usual comments that this is "socialism" or "communism". Maybe, but before we all condemn that consider: Capitalism doesn't work. A handful of people grab all the power and goodies and the "have nots" eventually rebel and kill them and society collapses. Socialism doesn't work. If all your needs are met there's damn little motivation to go to work unless you love your work. Thus, no sucky jobs get done and society collapses. Communism doesn't work. It's just all the worst aspects of capitalism and socialism rolled into one. I have no idea what's left but it probably won't work either. We did alright for thousands of years living in villages that didn't know the others existed. Maybe that's where we'll wind up when the oil runs out. Now, where the hell did I put my soma?
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 9, 2008
SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE!!!
 
 
Dec 9, 2008
Ummm...we already have such pills and people are already taking them.

Alcohol, cocaine, Prozac...
 
 
Dec 9, 2008
Since what is really being discussed is resource distribution and how a society does nor doesn't work out some sort of equitable balance, I offer two examples of how it's done when the state doesn't intervene:

1. Riots in Greece. The real bone of contention is not the police killing of one 15-year old, but the extreme income disparity between those at the top and the majority at the bottom. The riots were going on before the police killing; the killing merely lit one more fuse. When people in these numbers are compelled to violence, something is out of whack.

2. California criminal gangs. According to state law enforcement officials, the 18th Street gang, one of the many gangs involved in drugs, extortion, and organized thefts has, by itself, 35,000 members in the state. Other gangs have comparable in-state numbers. When that many people find organized crime a better way to make a living than entering the work force, something is out of whack.

Whining about the high costs of social justice ignores the higher costs of inevitable alternatives.
 
 
Dec 9, 2008
> Which way do you think it will go: more sharing or more medication?
Both. With pills like that, I fully expect there to be a lot of medication sharing.
 
 
Dec 9, 2008
www.freecycle.org
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 9, 2008
It's a practical idea to make non-working people take the nonfussy pill, and ban all drugs which prolong life or aid in gross thing such as viagra or life-alert. There is surplus of people on earth, some four billions.
Look at the disgusting life of many poor people in the world, and somehow many of them go to the extra extents (drugs, exotic foods, etc.) to live long.
On a science program, scientists predict that people will live all the way to 150 years. A person asks the question: what are we going to do with that extra time?
 
 
Dec 9, 2008
I think green jobs are going to save the economy and help old folks give back to the community in little ways that can provide an income and/or at least make them stay viable to the community. I don't really have any clear ideas for how that will happen, but I think it will make a difference.
 
 
Dec 9, 2008
THX 1138 anyone?
 
 
Dec 9, 2008
I see two other alternatives as possibilities:
1) Outsourcing - sending poverty-stricken retirees to low-cost of living countries where there needs can be met for a few dollars a day.
2) Ice floes.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 9, 2008
I'm in a bad mood today so this post is going to come off as a bit bitter. Appologies in advance to any Boomer readers.
The baby boom generation has been so self serving all their lives that I simply can not imagine they will somehow have a revelation in their mid 60s and suddenly decide that they need to live more harmoniously with each other.
I mean they've run up the national debt to pay for government services that bennefit them leaving their children and grandchildren to pay for them. They didn't want to pay enough into Social Security while they were working so today the program isn't actuarily sound enough to meet its payout obligations. So their children and grandchildren will pay for it with higher rates throughout their working lives. They take life prolonging drugs and vitamins, but many chose not to live a healthy lifestyle. End result: massive healthcare costs for their children and grandchildren. In short, they will keep mortgaging the future because they don't have to suck the life out of the economy for that much longer ir order to live out their days in comfort.
Remember, this generation is massive, they aren't particularily concerned about the future, and they come out to vote. Government dispensed pills will be needed, but they'll be used to keep the younger generation in check, not placate the older ones.
 
 
Dec 9, 2008
Scott, I think someone has been sharing their medication with you.
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 9, 2008
Scott, in a couple years, you'll look back at some old blog posts, and you'll read this one.

And you'll say to yourself...."What was I on when I wrote that?"

"And more importantly...where can I get some now?"
 
 
Dec 9, 2008
Personally, I'm waiting for the big pharma companies to invent complete body rejuvenation so that everyone can permanently be in their mid 20s. No more old people, no more retirement, no more death. Maybe work hard for 100 years saving all your money so you can have the next 100 years on the golf course before going back to work.
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 9, 2008
Sharing.. two words Craigslist... ok.. that's only one word.

I Don't think things are going to get nearly as bad as people think. Bad times today aren't what they were 100 years ago. Or even 50 years ago for that matter.

Giving a shout out to my Gov Blago today.. whoohooo.. now if we could get indictments for Daley, Stroger and Obama!

Go Patrick Fitzgerald!!!! Three down (Ryan, Rezco, Blago) three to go!
 
 
Dec 9, 2008
you just described the concept of the POT LUCK. Remember those? Neighborhood/church/whatever pot lucks?
As for the soma-esque drug for old people, I argee, that's Viagra.
 
 
Dec 9, 2008
Both sound optimistic to me. What are impoverished neighborhoods like, now? Guns, street drugs, domestic violence, theft, prostitution, disease, injustice, severe paranoia, etc... I can't think of any good reason why "more" poverty would be nicer than less poverty. If anything, a major expansion of poverty would destroy our spend-heavy government. I could easily imagine us becoming feudal, or more like a confederacy than a single government.
 
 
Dec 9, 2008
oooooo, more medication, definitely....Big Pharma to the rescue!
 
 
Dec 9, 2008
"you've just pitched THX1138 (well, the drug part anyway)! "

Hmm. I've heard of Lucas' film but never saw it, but I'm curious how much it steals from Alduous Huxley, considering how much the drug in question sounds like "Soma" from "Brave New World."



Also, completely off-topic, but Scott, what is UP with your website? You're one of the most popular comics in the world, and I love your comic and blog, but it takes sometimes up to a minute for either your comic or blog to load, far longer than any other site I visit. I don't mind the flash and the other nonsense, and it's not that stuff that's taking a long time, it's just response time on your website is HORRIBLE. This is from several higher-end computers at several locations, by the way, so ti's not just me. I've tried to ignore it since I know the site was relatively new but it's been long enough, you need to find new hosting or something.
 
 
Dec 9, 2008

Congratulations!

You've just pitched communism!

 
 
 
Get the new Dilbert app!
Old Dilbert Blog