Plan of Attack
My first major claim is that capital, at least in the technological sense, is no longer scarce. We have sufficient productive capital to meet our needs through growing food, constructing buildings, producing clothes, and so on. To establish this, I will start by setting out a catalog of individual and collective needs. I will then examine current population trends to see what we can learn about the future growth in these needs, followed by an evaluation of our available capital and its ability to meet those needs. That entire section of The World After Capital shows that physical capital is sufficient in aggregate. It does not address questions of wealth distribution, which will be discussed later.
My second claim is that attention is now the key scarcity, meaning that our present allocation of attention is resulting in humanity’s needs not being met. To establish this I will start by pinning down more precisely what attention is and presenting several examples of human needs that either are already no longer met, such as the need for meaning, or that are at risk of not being met in the future, such as calories due to the climate crisis—all due to a lack of attention. After that I will consider how much human attention is currently caught up in Industrial Age activities, and how more attention is being trapped through the dominant uses of digital technology, such as advertising-based social networks. I will also discuss why market-based capitalism cannot be used to allocate attention.
I will then make concrete suggestions for how to facilitate the transition to the next age, which I call the Knowledge Age. In keeping with the ideas about knowledge and humanism that I presented earlier, my suggestions focus on increasing freedoms as the basis for more available attention and improved allocation of that attention.