After Work: Anticipatory Knowledge on Post-Scarcity Futures in John Barness Thousand Cultures Tetralogy
Keywords:post-scarcity, work, utopia, dystopia, critical future studies
What would happen if we could create societies with an abundance of goods and services created by cutting-edge technology, making manual wage labour unnecessary – what has been labelled societies with a post-scarcity economy. What are the pros and cons of such a future? Several science fiction novels and films have discussed these questions in recent decades, and have examined them in the socio-political, cultural, economic, scientific and environmental contexts of globalization, migration, nationalism, automation, robotization, the development of nanotechnology, genetic engineering, artificial intelligence and global warming. In the first section of this article, I introduce methodological approaches and theoretical perspectives connected to Critical Future Studies and science fiction as anticipatory knowledge. In the second and third section, I introduce the question of the value of work by discussing some examples from speculative fiction. In section four to seven, I analyze the Thousand Culture tetralogy (1992–2006), written by science fiction author John Barnes. The Thousand Cultures tetralogy is set in the 29th century, in a post-scarcity world. It highlights the question of work and leisure, and the values of each, and discusses these through the various societies depicted in the novels. What are the possible risks with societies where work is voluntary?
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