September 17, 2014
I have dubbed the coming decades the Age of Magic because our smartphones and other technology will soon allow us to navigate our environment as if we are wizards. Doors will identify us as we approach and unlock for the right wizards only. Lamps will respond to wizard hand signals from across the room. Cars will drive themselves. You get the picture. In about ten years you won’t need to physically touch anything you want to control. Your location and identity will be continuously broadcast from your smartphone, and because of that your environment will respond to your preferences as if by magic.
But here’s the interesting thing. People will have different levels of magic based on income. The top 1% will be like super-wizards, able to control their environments with both technology and money. If you are rich, you have access to more services, apps, clubs and businesses. Additional doors literally open for you as you approach. Stores offer you more services and even special sale prices. Self-driving taxis are never far from you because their central brain recognizes you as a frequent user. Or perhaps you paid extra to never wait more than two minutes for your taxi.
I won’t bore you with a million examples because I think you get the point. The environment will someday snap to attention when a rich person enters the room but it will ignore anyone who can’t afford a smartphone or can’t afford the services of businesses that allow you to control them via hand gestures and verbal command. Rich people will someday walk among the public like super-wizards.
Yesterday I was putting gas in my car, and on the sidewalk near me was a young woman with a cardboard sign begging for money to get home to Idaho. This is an unusual sight in Pleasanton California. I asked her what her story was and it sounded legitimate to me. She had hit a bad patch of luck. I asked how much it cost to get to Idaho and she said $200. So I handed her $200 from my old-timey wallet and wished her luck. Maybe she bought heroine with the money, but I like to think she is halfway to Idaho by now and on the way to something better. In either case, she is lucky I needed gas. At least it got her off the street.
My point is that in a few years, instead of reaching into my wallet, I could have gestured toward her like Ironman about to send an energy blast from my palm and said something wizard-like to my smartphone such as “Transferus investmentalius $200!” and the money would have transferred from my bank to her bank. (That is probably a bad example. I doubt she has a bank account.)
I expect that we will start using goofy Latin-sounding commands for our wizarding because normal words occur too often in casual conversation. Today we have “Okay, Google” as one of our first wizard commands. Soon we will have commands such as “lampus illuminati” to turn on the lights.
My point is that if you think the resentment about the top 1% is bad now, imagine how bad it will be when the rich have super-wizard powers and the rest of society does not. In 2014, a top one-percenter can blend in with the crowd. In ten years that might be nearly impossible because the environment will change as rich people enter the space.
I expect to be killed by an angry crowd in Macy’s within ten years.