Making a Future Where Everyone Can Be Fulfilled

Adam Singer
11 min readMay 28, 2021
Photo Credit: Muhammad Faiz Zulkeflee

“I don’t want to go back to the way things were, but where else can we go from here?”

This is a feeling many of us have dealt with over the last year as we saw our lives upended. Some of us are still dealing with it now, and others are enjoying a “return to normal.” We may feel euphoric for a while as we get to do things again that we’ve been missing, but then find old discontentment seeping in just behind the fading euphoria. It returns as we see grim news headlines, and watch the same old political fights repeat themselves. As we are once again forced to face old problems, we may wonder to ourselves, “are we missing an opportunity to change things for the better?”

Our leaders often refer back to some romanticized version of the past as if it holds our solutions for the future. The past wasn’t working well for most people. We evolved out of it for a reason. Thankfully we have some exciting advantages that we’ve never had in the past.

For all of human history and up until today, as far as we know, the human condition has been subject to people’s material survival needs, and to some degree, people’s wants. Satisfaction of those needs has mostly come as the result of human labor. This is a core foundation of all economies, trade, and by extension, most of daily human living in the past and today. Going further, one can make the case that nearly every feature of life in our society that we experience every day can be traced back to that need for labor. All economic, political, and sociological theories that were grounded in their own era’s reality, were subject to this basic rule: humans have to work to meet their needs and wants. All religions in existence were born under this inescapable condition as well.

For the first time in known history, humanity is on the cusp of an era where people will be able to meet almost all of their material needs and wants with automation, technology, and machines. The time only dreamt about by long-gone science fiction authors is nearly upon us. This opens up new social, economic, and political possibilities that are fundamentally different than any ever seen before in any human culture, be it tribal, modern, post-modern, etc. For the very first time ever, we have a chance to earnestly map out a future for humanity that isn’t based on scarcity, power, fear, and uncertainty. We are now seeing the realistic and tangible ways we can meet our needs without human labor. We can imagine a new social idea that is free from the most stubborn old restraints, and we are learning more every day how to make that social idea real.

At the same time, while new maps and models have a huge new degree of freedom from the old requirements of labor, human nature remains the same. A realistic map to a better future still needs to include, and compensate for, the fact that we’re all still “only human.”

This map would show that certain challenges in human nature must still be overcome, regardless of our technology and wealth. For example, capitalism as it exists now is incompatible with this future. It may not necessarily have to go away completely, but it will have to change. Today’s capitalism does not accurately evaluate nature, education, creativity, or passion. It favors greed and is easily exploited, often handing the greatest wealth to the most ruthless.

The good news is, a lot of destructive and unhelpful human behavior can be traced back to the same scarcity, fear, and power struggles, in which our old social models saturate us. We can work towards the improvement of both our socioeconomic experience, and our interior human experience, in conjunction with one another. The more we do this, the more we will energize a positive-feedback loop that will accomplish a lot of the reform and restoration for us, or at least make a lot of the work feel truly effortless and even fun.

To put it another way, we have a new opportunity which has never before been available to us. If we develop ourselves on a personal and cultural level, to meet our emerging technology with the right intentions, we’ll step confidently into a future that’s even better than we can currently imagine. Technology can not do our personal development for us, but it can give us the space and time to access growth that feels both easy and fulfilling, compared to the way most of us live today. Then, with that growth comes even better technology and social ideas. The cycle continues, better every time.

So, is the goal here to reach a future where nobody has to do anything, and where everyone is lazy and served all day by robots? If someone wants to live out the rest of their days that way, there may come a time when they can. But that is not the goal. The goal is a future where every single person has the time and the means to awaken to and pursue their true passions, and to live a life rich with adventure and bliss; a future where everyone’s dreams can come true.

Below, I have drawn out a diagram of the general flow of thought, and some common arguments I often hear against this kind of optimism, which are cemented in current popular capitalist and reductionist ways of thinking. Click here for a full-screen version

There is much more to be said regarding the “No” arguments in the diagram above. However, in the interest of keeping us on track I’ve decided to break that out into a separate article that addresses the relevant connections to inequality, corruption, and dependency. I have also expanded on the argument of unfulfilling jobs that can’t be automated, and the idea that there will always be “some work to be done.” (link to article forthcoming)

I mention “the interior” and I’d briefly like to explain what I mean by that. By “the interior,” I mean that which the philosopher Ken Wilber lays out beautifully in his books.* It is the realm of our existence which coincides with but is not contained in the measurable, material world. This is a place that means a lot of different things to different people. But for my purposes here, I want to emphasize that whatever one thinks about that place, the important thing is to recognize that it exists as a real part of our lives, and cultivating or maintaining a connection to that place is important. Thoughts, feelings, states and stages of awareness, “the heart” (in the immaterial sense), the ideas of the spirit and the soul; these are all objects of the interior. This is a place that strongly influences our existence as individuals, and as a society. Therefore, whether or not it is measurable, it is real. Now, saying “the interior is real” is not the same thing as saying that “everything that arises from the interior has equal importance and validity.” Attempts to dismiss the importance of the interior by pointing to flawed or untrue interior things, miss this crucial point.

When we’re talking about a real thing that is also immeasurable and looks a little different to all of us, how do we know we’re all on the same page? In regards to a future that works well for everyone, a good starting place is in the common threads that we can all access, both as individuals and as a culture. On an individual level, I can only speak from my own experience. Personally, I have found a combination of meditation, grounding, awareness of my breathing, and deliberate focus on connecting to my heart, along with taking time to read good books and be outside, to be very helpful. For others, this process may look different. This takes time, but it has become a thing that feels effortless and has resulted in new levels of inspiration I hadn’t previously experienced. (I should also mention I don’t do all of these things every day!) Regardless, I recognize many of us simply don’t have that spare time. Before the pandemic, I didn’t either. We each deserve the time and space that we need to develop our interior condition with whatever methods feel best to us. The results of this practice can then move into tangible action, with a true sight on the greater good and the ability for a person to help others find that inspiration as well. This is the state in which some problems begin to solve themselves, while others may cease to exist altogether, as it becomes clear they didn’t need to exist in the first place.

To briefly link equality here, I’ll just say the following: There are many societies which do not have the means to automate labor, and may not have the means for decades longer. It probably isn’t realistic to expect these advances to happen globally at the same time. That’s why it’s so important for those of us in wealthy industrialized nations to reform our social model to something more kind and conducive to the evolution of our collective interior. Such a society will naturally set itself to work making solutions available to everyone, and it will not be painful to do so.

So, what can we do right now?

First, all the work that’s already being done in the areas of social justice, environmentalism, business and government reform, philanthropy, and supporting young people in getting a good start, etc., is all extremely valuable, and anything else I suggest is not intended to subtract value from those efforts. I’d like to add the interior component as a possible option for someone who is wondering how to help untangle our societal mess from the inside.

The ingredients could look something like this:

  • A person who has the space and time to connect to their heart (or if you prefer, their interior), and who takes some time to do so, will begin to experience positive changes. This person will feel more energy, and after a while will experience more and more inspiration.
  • Connecting to their heart will orient them toward increasing the quality of life not only for themselves, but for the people around them (and if one is already predisposed to multiculturalism, all humans and other living things). Materialistic and egocentric desires will start to subside. Compassion and generosity will increase on their own.
  • Encouragement and collaboration with other people around this person will amplify these qualities even further and begin to transform into collective action.
  • Businesses and legislation that genuinely support this action on its own merit, with funding, physical space and resources, for instance, can further amplify the collective action in a way that can operate in concert with material society at large (economies, governments, etc.) rather than against it. In other words, if governments and businesses genuinely get behind these efforts simply because it makes life better for people, not because it will increase profit, and our economy can be adjusted to make some space and support for that to happen, then social justice activists and the material social structure can finally stop fighting. We don’t have to tear down capitalism to save humanity, and capitalism doesn’t have to oppress humanity to stay in existence. Eventually we will naturally uncover a new model that replaces capitalism with something better, rather than arguing about which preexisting socioeconomic model is superior (“Let’s go back to socialism!”), when in fact none of them are going to get us where we ultimately want to go.
  • Across a multi-generational timeline, a positive-feedback loop will create more and more of this change that benefits literally everyone. Say for example (if it could hypothetically be measured in such a way), that our current collective human condition is 90% subjected to greed and scarcity. We may be able to get that down to 80% for the next generation by using a combination of efforts outlined above, and allowing for as much openness and optimism in young people as possible. We can guide them to recognize the difference between a self-aggrandizing dream that won’t lead to fulfillment, and a heartfelt dream that will lift them up along with everyone around them, and then we can put real support and resources behind them when they express these dreams. Their generation may be able to further reduce that greed and scarcity level down to 50%, and the next generation may be able to get it down to 10%.
  • At that internally and externally improved stage, combined with the benefits of technology and medical care, we may be able to have the first truly informed conversation about the possibility of eliminating human suffering.

This is where it gets terrifically exciting, because we have never experienced this type of society before. It will be something genuinely new. All the old arguments that “we can’t accomplish that because…” no longer apply. We’ll know we’re on the right track because it will feel better for all of us, and it will seemingly “want” to come about with its own momentum. What untapped human potential might then emerge?

I see many ways this can translate into the exterior (or, “the real world” as some would think of it). For instance, anyone in the education system has a lot of power here. Any of us can talk to our politicians and the people in our lives about these ideas, and encourage some greater clarity of the interior. Business owners with successful companies obviously have a huge opportunity to make positive change if they are so inclined. Developers of technology can prioritize things that liberate people and unclog their lives, rather than ensnare them. In regards to supporting young people’s sense of possibility, a lot of great work is already being done here. There’s always room for more.

In this recipe, there are some important balances that ought to be maintained. The heart connection is key. Say you give a person the time, space, and energy to act on new inspiration, but they are not tuned in to their heart. How might that impact their priorities? They might only pursue some new venture that is designed to make them a lot of money. Say you have an inspired, heart-centered mission that came from one or more individuals, but the collective isn’t also heart-centered. What you end up with is a result that is still stuck in an ego-based environment, which is the kind of result we see all around us. Perhaps it will be a piece of legislation that gets a lot of pushback, or a nonprofit that is doing good important work, but only has the scope to treat symptoms instead of the disease. Perhaps we will elevate a business leader who makes philanthropic donations and pays their employees well, but still spends a lot on advertising messages that damage the human psyche, and perpetuate capitalism in its current harmful form.

Likewise, if people are inspired to look inward and make this positive change happen, but they are all trapped and exhausted working 40 or 50 hours per week doing something that’s meaningless to them in order to make ends meet, not much progress will be made. We can’t force our political and business leaders to stop being greedy, and to stop hoarding all the available resources we could otherwise be using to bring about a better future for everyone. But we can build a society, starting with each person, that doesn’t elevate greed in the first place. This is why connecting with the interior (in addition to, not instead of, the exterior) matters so much. It creates change that behaves like evolution, lifts humanity up while following the path of least resistance, and literally makes life better for every person on Earth.

A few days after publishing this article, I came across another that follows a very similar train of thought by some brilliant writers much more influential than myself. Click here to read a wonderfully written, economically-informed piece by

, Tony Seba, and James Arbib that further strengthens this message.

*Ken Wilber, A Brief History of Everything (Shambhala; 2nd edition, 2001)

--

--