Re-thinking the meaning of super-abundance and post-scarcity in light of Christian Transhumanism

In some ways, we already live in a post-scarcity society. We have access to a virtually infinite number of articles, videos, and products. Furthermore, in the developed world, it often seems like there is a super-abundance of material goods. A simple trip to the grocery store will reveal a bewildering array of options, unless there are supply chain issues of course. It is true that we do not have limitless energy or computation, though nuclear fusion and artificial super-intelligence may change this, but we are on the verge of having the technology to have a true post-scarcity society with true super-abundance. The question is whether this super-abundance is actually desirable and how it should be used.

To determine how to arrive at a true post-scarcity society, it is important to first define what post-scarcity means. A post-scarcity economy can be defined simply as an economy where scarcity of resources, or at least some resources, is not an issue. Everything needed to support the economy and the civilization sustained by it is readily available with minimum labor and energy input. A post-scarcity society ideally leads to super-abundance. By super-abundance, I mean a virtually limitless supply of something, whether this be food, energy, consumer goods, or intellectual/artistic works. The ideal goal of a post-scarcity society would be super-abundance for as many members of the society as possible.

How would a super-abundance of goods benefit humanity? At its best, super-abundance would allow each human being to realize their full potential since they would not lack any of the resources needed to live out their true purpose and live a fully human life. One of the main reasons that humans are not able to live to their full potential is lack of resources. People living in poor countries are just as smart, hardworking, and compassionate as those living in rich countries, but because of a lack of resources, they are often unable to achieve the quality of life that can be achieved in wealthier countries. Satisfaction of basic physical needs, such as food, medicine, housing, physical safety, etc., is not just a foundation for physical wellbeing. It is also important for mental and spiritual wellbeing, both of which are necessary for living a life that is truly human.

Perpetual poverty leads people to often lose hope for ever having a better future, leading them to self-destructive behaviors, including alcoholism and drug abuse for example. Satisfying basic physical needs is important for providing people with the resources necessary to live fully human lives marked by hope and purpose. In this way, super-abundance is highly desirable since it would remove this physical limitation that gives billions of people living in poverty a practical death sentence, as the Peruvian priest and theologian Gustavo Gutierrez put it in his seminal book, A Theology of Liberation.

Before super-abundance can be achieved however, we must consider how this super-abundance would be used and what socio-economic form it would take. Material abundance is typically seen through the lens of consumer capitalism, which requires an abundance that is ever increasing and encouraging ever-increasing consumption, namely to generate profit for investors in the goods and services being consumed. We know that this approach is pushing up against planetary limits and is not good for the human soul or our relationships with God, others, and creation. Is there another way to think about material abundance and its form and purpose? Rather than seeing super-abundance as simply a way of increasing consumption of material or digital goods and services, the goal of super-abundance could be simply to provide the material foundations humans need to fulfill their true purpose. For this goal of super-abundance to be distinct from the consumerist goal of super-abundance, the true purpose of human life must be something other than being a consumer of evermore goods and services to generate evermore profit for investors.

From a Christian perspective, God created humans to be loved, to love God, to love others, and care for God’s world. Living out this purpose does require that our basic physical needs are met. Super-abundance could provide everything a person needs materially to fulfill that purpose. You are most able to love others when you are healthy, well-fed, and have a place to live, for example. On the other hand, the Christian perspective makes satisfaction of material needs through super-abundance just one part of enabling humans to live out their true purpose. Humans have more needs than material ones. Man does not live by bread alone. Humans also need faith, hope, and love which will not come simply having an infinite supply of food, medicine, or technological devices. Furthermore, a need-based approach to super-abundance would not require us to continuously extract more resources from the planet in order to continually increase consumption and production for the sake of profit, whether this is referring to raw materials for physical products or more energy for digital technology. We can have a sustainable super-abundance which provides for the basic needs of every human so they can thrive while still effectively caring for creation and allowing the non-human world to flourish as well. The ideal would be having everything materially that is needed for humans to flourish and having a recycling system so efficient that civilization rarely needs to extract more resources from the outside environment.  True super-abundance would also require that goods and services are accessible to everyone not just the most affluent. Super-abundance, to not result in a dystopia, would need to include a super-abundance of the commons.

Super-abundance can liberate humans from the physical and spiritual suffering that results from a lack of resources. This makes it an essential part of a Christian Transhumanism. On the other hand, super-abundance by itself will not enable humans to live out their true purpose and be satisfied. The psychological suffering that results from the consumerist use of material abundance, even among those who are affluent and living in developed countries, shows that material abundance is only one part of what is needed to live a truly human life. We need relationships. We need meaningful work. Most of all, we need God.


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