As the disruptive capacities of technological innovations continue to advance at an exponential rate, it is increasingly clear that the capitalist economic model is unable to effectively manage resources and distribute wealth under the conditions of sustainable abundance now being brought forth. Vast increases in productivity and efficiency will be realized in the years ahead through an integrated network of smart-products (termed the Internet of Things, or IoT), accessible renewable energy harvesting technologies, energy sharing across a distributed smart-grid, the decentralization of manufacturing through 3D printing, open online education, the decentralization of finance, legal contracts and governance through Blockchain applications, and the progressive automation of the workforce.
Just as John Maynard Keynes prophesized nearly a century ago, “a point may soon be reached, much sooner perhaps than we are all of us aware of, when these [economic]needs are satisfied in the sense that we prefer to devote our further energies to non-economic purposes.” Keynes foresaw such an economic state of abundance coming about through, what he first termed, technological unemployment which, he stated, “ [we]will hear a great deal in the years to come;” the ultimate implication being “that mankind is solving its economic problem.” Keynes looked expectantly to a future in which machines had progressed to the point of providing an abundance of freely available goods and services to humanity — liberating people around the world from menial labor, debt and servitude for the first time.
Ironically, the operating principles of the capitalist marketplace are bringing us ever closer to this very state, while simultaneously the relevance of the competitive market is progressively undermined by the same emerging paradigm. Capitalist logic dictates that the entrepreneurial spirit of a competitive market will continually drive productivity increases and marginal cost decreases. Marginal cost — the cost of producing additional units of product — is the focus, as this is where entrepreneurs and businesses make their profits in a market-exchange economy (at the margin); and when marginal cost approaches zero, so too does profit. The effects of near zero marginal cost can already be seen wreaking havoc across several media industries such as entertainment, communications and publishing, as more and more content continues to be shared and made freely available across digital, collaborative networks.