No matter what we do or how we wish to live our life, we must always be aware that in the end we are slaves to our stomachs. This has been the truth for mankind throughout our entire history. When we lived as nomads, if we did not hunt and gather, then we would starve to death. When we started to settle down, it became farm or starve to death. When we industrialized and moved into cities, it became work or die. Theoretically in the future we could come to an age where food is provided for everybody based on their biological needs and then it will become simply use the fork to bring the food to your mouth or die, but we are not yet there. Perhaps even beyond that we will come to an age where all humans can be hooked up to devices which automatically provide them with nutrients from the air, but that is getting into the realm of high science-fiction that will certainly never occur in our lifetimes, but perhaps will be close to the reality of our descendants.
The fact of the matter remains that we are currently living in the stage of work or starve. This is not something that people should be blamed for. It is not our bosses or the elites who are forcing us to work or die, but rather mother nature. Even so, we do now live in an age where it would be easily possible to ensure that all people are provided for with a very minimal amount of effort expended. In the past it used to be that there needed to be many people farming or gathering food to make sure that everybody was provided for, but in modern times while we have much more people, there only needs to be a relatively small number of people providing food due to advances made in agricultural technology. We need only around 2% of people to be farmers to provide us all with food. It would be possible for us to make a system where each person only needs to work 1 out of every 50 days and we could sustain this model.
However, as society has become more complex, we have grown to have far more complex needs and wants than food alone. We do not live near where the food is grown so we need transport for it. That requires trucks, trains, planes, and cars all of which require fuel to operate which requires people mining and drilling. We need to preserve the food as well with refrigeration which requires electricity which requires some form of power plant, and while those can be made to run off of sustainable resources such as wind or light, there is still a need to construct and maintain them, and if the population is increasing then we would always need more. Also electricity is not only needed for food, but also entertainment devices and computers. While we do not necessarily need these things, imagining society without them nowadays is nearly impossible and nobody who does have them would be willing to give them up.
One feature of our society is that while things are currently functioning, we always want more. We will always want newer and faster devices with more features. We will always want new movies with bigger budgets and new songs that are in theory also better in some way. All of our wants have led us into this complex economy that requires most of work our entire lives to try to satiate our ever-evolving desires. But there is no end to this. Even if we do get to a stage where none of us need food because we develop some sort of futuristic air filtration feeder as I had suggested, we would still want more things. Though of course in such an age, robots would probably be the ones making us all of the more things we want, but my question is, then what becomes of humans? We only know of what we are as humans by what we do. If no humans needed to work ever again, what would they do? Would they get bored? How would they find pleasure if entertainment no longer became something that was a break from the constant toil but rather every single day was a vacation?
We humans are slaves to our stomachs and also the desires of our minds, but the stomach has a limited area which can definitely be filled whereas our desires are bottomless pits. The way that we have structured our society has been to feed into this fire rather than try to quell it. Who does not want better technology? Who does not want to find cures for diseases and help people live longer into old age? While these things have certainly been seen as universally good, I have to question the other things that have come from our endless march forward towards what seems to be called progress. What is the point of living a longer life if we waste more time looking at colorful and funny images on our smartphones? The evolution of our values has not matched the evolution of our technology. More things does not make us more happy but we want them anyways, all the while we have been becoming alienated from our friends, families, and fellow man from the impersonalization that our communication technology has led to. Abandoning the nuclear family model as well has been another development which may lead to something greater, but for the time seems to be detrimental.
I worry that our progress this whole time has been for a mistaken ideal that will only lead to us to live worse lives where we are less happy and satisfied but so disillusioned with reality that we think we are still heading in the right direction and will make things better. It is true that we will all have more, but what even does happen when we have everything? Will we still be driven to create great works and art, or will we become idle? Where are now and where are we going?