O.M-R. – I have been wondering for some time, how would a society structured around reproduction and recycling instead of the production and consumption of new goods look like? Then I almost immediately realised that utopias are rather rare nowadays, and that, generally, when we imagine the future, we visualise a dystopian future in which we would not like to live. Or at least that is what books and movies imagine for us: a future in which our natural resources are exhausted, we cannot reproduce ourselves or artificial intelligence has taken over human intelligence, just to name some of the most common scenarios. Of course, what seems utopian to someone may seem the opposite to somebody else. In any event, I decided to make a few notes on a future I would want to live in, and see where this would take me.
In the society I imagine it makes no sense to talk about work-life balance, as it is at the very basis of its structure. This is a society in which all of us who are able to work have a paid job of about 20 hours a week. This allows us to comfortably undertake other activities that bring us personal satisfaction, such as creative, physical or social activities; but also to reproduce ourselves and take care of our descendants. A portion of the freed-up time also serves to take care of our home, starting with our food. Our meat consumption is moderate and there is the possibility of cooking and eating produce grown by ourselves in spaces provided for this in parks, terraces and roof tops. That if we live in the city, because at the same time, many people have chosen to move to the countryside – either to work professionally in agriculture or to telework in their particular field. Large farms have not completely disappeared and are intended for the production of staple foods such as wheat and corn. However, small and medium-sized farms are the ones providing the population with meat, fruits and vegetables. By dealing directly with producing and preparing of our food, taking care of our homes and children, we do not need to pay others to do so, which makes our 20-hour workweek economically sustainable.
In this society, families of all types coexist: straight, gay and bisexual, two-parent and single-parent, nuclear and extended. There are also collective living arrangements, not necessarily based on blood ties, by which a group of people decides to become family (similar to the communes of other times). All these forms are recognised both socially and institutionally and parental leaves, for example, are granted to and distributed symmetrically among the adults registering as parents of the new-born. The goal is to ensure that new-borns always have one parent with them, at least for their first year of life. If one or more parents decide to extend their leave beyond this year, they will not receive any salary, but the time spent caring for a child counts in your CV as a service to society (in a similar way as military service did in the past, for example).
We are in an economic system in which recycling is an essential productive activity. From the large-scale recycling of materials to small workshops dedicated to giving a second life to clothes and everyday objects, there are numerous professionals in this area. Through increasingly sophisticated chemical processes we are able to neutralize those few toxic elements still used to manufacture certain products. An ethics of scarcity and reuse prevails, not as synonymous with poverty, but with human intelligence, which has finally understood that much of our natural resources and raw materials are finite. This emphasis on recycling coexists with technological advancement in the line we know. For example, we perform many of our daily activities through a small smart mobile device (a kind of personal assistant) containing all information, documents and other material that we need throughout the day (from our communications to the shopping list, without forgetting entertainment gadgets such as games and movies). If we want to, the device can also keep track of our health (physical activity levels, impact of the food we buy on our metabolism, etc.). Money, as such, has disappeared from circulation, and payments are made through the same device, which also manages our finances, updating them as we spend. It also files our taxes, which allows authorities to control tax evasion.
Our political system remains essentially representative. It coexists with spaces of electronic direct democracy at the local level, but it is considered necessary that a group of people, elected by universal suffrage, is devoted to collecting and defending citizens’ different interests. This especially because we have made progress in consolidating broader geopolitical entities like, for example, Europe, where the only way of ensuring that all people’s interests are taken into account in the decision-making process is through elected representatives. In any case, the continued evolution of information and communication technologies allows for greater control of government actions on the part of citizens – transparency portals are extremely comprehensive and detailed. Furthremore, monarchy as a form of state has disappeared around the world, and so have nobility titles.
Our cities are compact; skyscrapers predominate in order to reduce cities’ territorial extent and environmental impact. There is abundant vegetation between buildings, as well as on their exterior walls (vertical ecosystems). Artists, trained or spontaneous, and children intervene regularly in public space, adding colour and imagination to streets and sidewalks. All potential sources of energy, from our journeys on foot to sunlight, are used thanks to different storage devices. There are only electrical means of transportation, including aeroplanes. Bicycles, scooters, etc. are predominantly used for short distances and public transport for longer distances. Cars are rare, and often shared among several owners. Slow travel dominates, and we prefer to take the boat for transoceanic trips, and feel the journey, than to take the plane. Planes are used only for professional travel, which, moreover, is becoming less necessary thanks to hologrammatic communications that allow our interlocutor to be present among us, and even have lunch or dinner together. There is also the possibility of travelling as a tourist to the moon or any of the space stations enabled for this. It is something we try to do at least once in life, a sort of pilgrimage that allows us to appreciate the infinite and see the Earth from a different angle.
This text was originally written in Spanish, and has been translated by the author.
The last issue of New York based magazine Triple Canopy is devoted to how we imagine the future with the title ‘The long tomorrow’: