Benjamin's vision of the future

More on traveling around our communities in 2050:

Rebuilding cities on higher ground is too expensive so we retrofit existing ones to welcome the sea. Electric cars and buses are now amphibious easily transforming into boats to traverse flooded areas. A network of sidewalks modeled on floating piers with occasional drawbridges over the canals enables pedestrian and bicycle access.


More on traveling long distances in 2050:

Of course I only fly when I have to; because it usually takes so long! The new suborbital spaceplanes are few and super-expensive but zeppelins have made a comeback and advanced technology makes them just as fast as the freeway used to be; but no faster. Too bad those high-speed trains didn't work out.

More on community:

There are three choices for where to live inside city limits: in the apartment and condo towers on a houseboat or underwater in one of the new glass-and-bioplastic-sealed aquarium homes a few of which were built long ago as regular houses and converted before the sea got to them. All of the choices are expensive so cohousing has become nearly ubiquitous as a way of sharing the cost. This has had a transformational impact on the formerly alienated and unfriendly urban life of my city.

More on how home has changed:

Cohousing means we still have some private space but we have to get along. We can't let hidden conflicts fester until they explode so we use the Forum process to keep our important feelings in the open. We also have lots of fun together playing all kinds of games from cards and Scrabble to virtual-reality adventures.

More on home’s energy:

Wind power is now the largest single source of electricity in the world. We buy power from our city's local grid which is largely powered by the rows of eggbeater-like vertical-axis wind turbines sticking up from the middle of the canals between the tall buildings downtown. Those concrete canyons sure do funnel the wind nicely.

 More about how we changed our energy mix:

Let me tell you those big fossil-fuel companies did not go down without a fight! After we finally revoked their corporate personhood rights they tried to muscle into the exploding renewable energy markets and push a bunch of crazy centralized megaprojects like paving the Sahara Desert with some kind of plastic solar panels made from surprise all their stranded oil reserves. Once city-scale grids proved resilient enough we finally shut that nonsense down for good.

More about water systems:

Desalination used to be thought of as just another giant industrial solution but the Slingshot Living Machines and other related small-scale water treatment devices many of which rely on internal ecologies to filter water the way Nature intended ensured that we could each wield the power of transforming seawater into tap water and back again. Almost every large building has its own desalination and wastewater treatment systems built right in and the underwater houses share neighborhood-scale facilities.

More about food is produced:

We have a few of those fancy farm towers nowadays producing food right here in the city but most of it comes from the land just like it always has. We even get some delicacies by zeppelin from faraway lands but basic staples are grown right next door. Sadly the farmers are still fairly poor, many of them live out there because they can't afford the city, but most of them love their work and their polyculture fields are works of art with curving rows of different crops spiraling around and through each other. And of course the harvester bots have put an end to the inhumanity of making people work all day picking produce in the middle of our brutal summers.

More about food consumption:

Look I know meat used to be a hugely divisive issue but these days people have found a balance and don't have to think about it much anymore. What livestock we have is carefully grazed in ways that mimic natural herds and help rebuild soil drawing down a significant amount of the excess carbon in the air though not nearly as much as Dr. Savory thought. We rarely eat carnivorous fish but herbivores are farmed alongside water-based crops in aquaculture systems some of which double as wastewater treatment yes that idea does take some getting used to. And the trend of eating insects seems to be taking off though I'm still not sure whether it will turn out to be just a fad.

More on how people consume goods in 2050:

Make doing the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard was the battle cry of the Tax Shifter Movement which really took off once that whole corporate personhood nonsense was out of the way. It's simple: we tax products more if they harm people or other living things and use the money to subsidize the good stuff like organic produce and new computers made 100 from the materials in old computers. It all works much better since we started requiring that all retailers take back their worn-out products for refurbishment or recycling and since the Circular Economy Act of 2047 they even have to pay people for turning in those old products. 

More on workplace and enterprise decision- making:

You could say it's the Spanish Empire all over again but the wave of cooperatives that popped up across the country after that anti-corporate-personhood amendment mostly modeled on Mondragon really is the best thing that's happened to the economy in decades, maybe centuries. It's taking a while but even the biggest surviving corporate behemoths from the twentieth century are slowly converting to cooperatives as more and more of their employees threaten to desert.

 More about worker compensation:

I guess it used to be taboo to talk about salaries but when the employees own the company that really has to change. At my co-op we have a salary board that keeps track of the overall compensation picture and gently dissuades anyone who tries to write him/herself a pay raise that doesn't make sense.

 More about economic policy changes:

I know I'm sounding like a broken record here but really everything came down to corporate personhood. As long as those giant private economic entities were able to hold our government hostage by declaring that any move to limit their power violated their Constitutional rights we just couldn't make the changes society and the climate so desperately needed.

 More about social programs:

This modern world is crazy complicated for us primates and our brains haven't evolved enough yet to keep up on their own, unless you count those crazy new cyborg brain implants as a form of evolution. At least for the vast majority who aren't interested in being that kind of early adopter college education is really a basic necessity and I'm thrilled the government finally realized that. I wish it weren't so common these days to take all your classes from home but I guess most of those huge campuses really did need to be converted to farmland.


More about politics and decision-making:

Sorry it's getting late but if you want a good overview of some of the best new decision-making tools check out the short story Degrees of Freedom by Karl Schroeder in the collection Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future. We're a small-group species it's taken a lot of creative software design to get that large-group decision-making problem under control and we're still a long way from perfect.


More about racial equity in 2050:

Aside from abolishing corporate personhood the most important law in the last 35 years was the one requiring police forces to replace officers faster in places where arrest rates were most disproportionate to demographics e.g. fraction of those arrested being black men as compared to fraction of the general population. In the American South for a while it was standard for cities to hire a whole new force every couple of years and I guess the unconscious bias trainings finally got through to people. Coming in third in importance probably would be the law that abolished prison time as punishment for drug offenses.


More about how the climate movement built power and won:

It was a lot of hard work and diplomacy. All the different advocacy groups wanted similar things but the disagreements to be ironed out were endless. Again the  Forum process was a big help among several other techniques including the ones from Degrees of Freedom.


More about how your communities adapted to climate change:

I think I've described this pretty well already.


More about front-line climate adaptation:

Since 2008 everyone has known that we had to do something about the big banks driving the rest of the world deeper and deeper into debt. After abolishing corporate personhood we finally did something about it something big: we abolished compound interest for any financial institution doing business in America and held a Jubilee to celebrate in which all unpayable debts to U.S. interests were revoked. I've never seen anything like it before or since.


More about dealing with climate displacement:

Yeah you know those poor farmers I told you about? Most of them are immigrants same as always. But at least they have citizenship now. It's looking likely that we'll elect our second Latino president this year, sorry Latina, and she's got some big ideas for improvements but the fact is that these huge population flows are a hard problem with no easy solutions.


More on nature: 

Technically a lot of public lands were already off limits but the government kept writing new loopholes until we cut their ties with the resource-extraction cartels by, you guessed it, abolishing corporate personhood. Similar political shifts in Brazil and Indonesia solved the bulk of the deforestation problem. As for extinctions the new Rights of Nature amendments in Constitutions around the world are helping finally put teeth in all those Environmental Impact Assessments which used to be just rubber stamps for developers.


More about the social or cultural shift that contributed to climate stability:

There are so many people better qualified than me to talk about this: Joanna Macy David Korten the Pachamama Alliance Planetary Collective the list goes on. The New Sacred Story of interconnectedness and interdependence was already beginning to go mainstream in 2015.


More about the single most important thing we did to stop climate change:

The military always says you go to war with the army you have. The most powerful tool we had in 2015 was the global market. People argued that market signals would never be enough, ;and they were right at first. The carbon taxes stayed too low to make a big enough difference until we fixed our democracy and voters across our drought-stricken wildfire-charred and hurricane-ravaged nation finally demanded sufficient action.

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