2113 (part one) — Immortality and Taxes

It is the year 2113. It is a very strange future, and one that has been shaped by the world we are already forming. 2113 is a the result of good 21st century where people didn’t die, and there was no major collapse or instability, and very few people died. There was no “great reset” and humanity made it through a number of massive challenges. This 2113 is the best world we could have inherited out of many.

In this future people have moved in to space and have swarmed the Solar System. But it didn’t just stop there — already in the 2020s people started extending their lives and the oldest person alive in 2113 is in her 160s. And it didn’t just stop there — people uploaded their minds in to machine substrates and lived in virtual realms, as well as in robotic bodies. Human bodies didn’t just enter in to a Promethean bargain and became post-human — they exploded in numbers. In the 2040s and 50s humans procreated with no constraint as human minds were copied. In the mid 21st century the number of human minds in the earth-moon system swelled from just over 10 billion to fifty billion in the span of decades, largely because of copying. All these copies and derivative minds were people too, deserving of legal recognition. By now in 2113 there are several thousand billion minds with recognized citizenship status and the tide of procreation has been slowly turned. All people live in relatively blissful conditions, amid many times as many nonvolitional artificial intelligences (processes) who are sentient and mindful, but who do not care if they exist or not. The solar system of 2113 is innundated with mind.

All this has implications. Where do you leave all those minds? Clearly these minds are by and large software entities. They exist in machine programmable substrates. Each such mind has an infrastructure guaranteeing security and computational comforts in the ton-range of what we might label computronium. Most these minds still exist on Earth — over a trillions superhuman consciousness states. These people don’t work — machines work for them, so they need to validate and meaningfully perpetuate their own existence. Many do so in unspeakably beautiful states of enhanced perception and enhanced immersion. These are no sollipsistic dream states — the trillion or more on Earth are and experience far more than Arhchangels could ever has aspired of being, doing, achieving or experiencing. But the consumption of experience required material resources and it requires energy. These minds have tunnelled towards the greatest gradient of energy available — on the one hand the energy of the Earth’s hot core, and on the other hand the free flow of high energy particles radiating from the sun — and as a third the cold vacuum of space. Facilitating all those minds and their needs was a huge undertaking. It required the reconfiguration of the Earth’s crust. Humanity burrowed down and through veins of dedicated processing infrastructure clawing through the primal bedrock, massive computational industries spread much as the roots of a planetary fungus. Heat exchangers transport warmth downward from the sun, in to the Earth, and heat from the inner Earth crust outward in to space.

Imagine Trillions of minds, the most dim of them starting at several times the processing power and cognitive ability of a single baseline human mind — ranging well in to the dizzying heights of supernatural, or divine cognitive achievement. That means — for each human several tons to sheer mountains of devices with a sophistication where down to the atom level condensed meaning is generated and cultivated. Multiply that by over a trillion, and you get a new tectonic state on Earth — atoms of the planetary crust having been forced in to a computational geology, an industry of calculation and deliberation.

Trillions of consumers have citizenship rights. They “vote”, although not in a manner we’d recognize in the early 21st century. These humans deliberate on what is important and they demand from the collectivized means of the state apparatus how available resources are used. One thing all these minds agree on is a very constrained influx of new minds. New minds cost resources. All minds agree that a certain broad range of configurations of sapiens, self-awareness, free will, desire, pleasure and unpleasure comprises a person. These persons have inalienable rights. The two trillion plus minds of the solar system vehemently agree that recognition and affirmation of personhood is the essence of civilization, and this collective insistence brings with it certain inalienable rights. One consequence is consensus that the influx of new minds MUST be curtailed.

Another consequence is that, even though to be a large mind is subject to freedom, it IS taxed. Taxation still exists and thrives, but not in a manner where it would make sense to people from the early 21st century. In essence — undesirable states, consumption and behavior are taxed. Yes, there are also illegal functions, and they are quite effectively disallowed. One illegal is murder. Another illegal is suicide. In the Earth-moon system to die is very difficult, even when its done volitionally. That’s the consequence of democracy. People in 2113 care, and they do not want to lose someone they know and most probably cherish. Hence nearly everyone in the Earth-Moon system agrees — Thou shallt not die. So in essence on and in Earth taxes are still inescapable, but death — not so much.

Imagine all those machines making computations. Imagine flows of energy. That energy has to go somewhere. Already the Earth’s surface is very hot. The atmosphere has become much thicker and natural terrestrial life can nor survive on the planetary surface. The world is bathed in a thick soup of exhaust fumes, nanobots and pushed out planetary gasses. The sky is green and overcast, but illuminated in a rather novel manner. From the planetary crust emanates a equatorial halo of literally thousands of brightly glowing spikes — space elevators. These do ferry up cargo, but the transport of material objects in and out of Earth is inconsequential with the true function of this forest of structures reaching up in to the sky — the true function is to radiate away heat from the planet.

And that it does — a forest of thousands upon thousands of sometimes hundreds of meters thick structures carries a steady flow of thousands degrees hot plasma in to Earth orbit, fans it out over a jungle of interwoven strands and surfaces reaching tens of thousands of kilometers in to space, and having surfaces of hundreds of kilometers broad planes. The leaves of Earth radiate heat away, and they glow at hundreds of degrees centigrade Celsius. All this would not make sense to people of the early 21st century. Imagine these structures rising from the equator unevenly, dotting oceans and mountains, embedded in to mountains of pure industrial shape, and imagine these gossamer strands reaching in to the very zenith, where they fan out in pitch black fractals of indescribable celestial beauty. One glance and everyone would agree — this is pure beauty. But it is function too. Well-deliberated functionality always comes with a pleasing aesthetic quality, and the nimbus of structures swirling the planet meshes with a far far greater halo of energy collecting structures tunneling electrical energy in to the Earth system. In fact the halo of devices and industries that captures solar energy is a gossamer web of physically interlocking entities that reaches to the moon and beyond. These are often thin cable like structures running for tens of thousands of kilometers, making use of scientific processes scarcely suspected in the early 21st century, and doing so quite effectively.

As I said, things are taxed in 2113. They are as long as they are forms of vanity. Possessions. Minds who own things need to pay taxes over ownership. In the Earth system everyone, even the most inadequate incompetent mind, is thousands upon million times “richer” in material goods than any baseline human ever was, but at a certain level of affluence these minds find themselves constrained by the needs of the majority of voters. Voters come to complex flowing coalitions and through these coalitions come to determine common good. The common good implies that what is contrary to the common good is subjected to tax — disincentive. Tax is then recycled back in to the maintenance of collectivized resources of all of humanity. One such consequence is that all ability — intricate forms of mind and personal property mostly is taxed, beyond a certain level. In 2113 owning tons of computational substrate, by whatever regionally enforced configuration (computronium in the Earth tectonic layers is another substance than vacuum exposed computronium in a asteroid solar orbit) means you as a person take from what other people might also like having access over, and it means you get to pay for the privilege. Yes in 2113 there is still a thing such as private property. In fact, the few tens of billions of directly human derived personhoods still maintain properties and physical heirlooms dating back in to the 20th century.

Old clothes. Dolls. A favorite gramophone. Your ancestral jewelry. A painting.

But there is a certain level of measurable, algorithmic opulence in the solar system of 2213 every other mind has the freedom to disagree with. Own to much and the tax man cometh.

This can be interpreted as a form of “progress tax” but it makes more sense to label this a “displacement tax”. If you are too smart or resourceful, this is nearly always the result of knowing unique “intellectual properties”, i.e. you know things other people do not. In the worlds of 2113 this is nearly the only form of achievement — everyone is effectively rewarded by being subtly better than a trillion other citizens in doing something specific with all the means at your disposal. In that manner you create a steady growth of personal affluence, of which the vast majority (well over 90%) is taxed away in real time, instantaneously, with every nano-transaction you engage in.

This burdens all minds with certain constraints on their ability. In a universe where ability is largely dictated by the amounts of computational substrate you can buy, the new evolutionary algorithm which dictates how successful you are is by and large exclusively dictated by a host of subtle nuances of ability you can’t (yet) buy, because you own the IP. Ability of course is programmable and transferable in 2113. It’s all software. However if you discover a subtle new “trick”, you get to enjoy the fruits of having made that progress.

This has created an ecology of stable states if existence and mind in 2113. It is much like an ecology of animals. In the universe of 2113 location and modus operandi dictates everything. Pain is real. Pain in 2113 is experienced by shrinkage. Becoming less of you, though reversible (recoverable) is the measure of what is undesirable, hence painful. In the solar system of 2113 sacrifice is relinquishment of mind. To sacrifice and to suffer is the loss of cognitive substrate. The trillions of diffuse citizenry of 2113 receive many free services, but beyond a certain level (and at a specific spot in the system) taxes tend to eb and flow in a complex cyclical tide to take away.

Taxes must be calculated along a predictable metric. This Metric is derivative of a digital measuring mechanism for currency. All currencies in 2113 are digital and algorithmic. There are many thousands of dominant competing forms of currency and all are subject to supply (measurable new ideas and conceptions, new ways to generate value) and all currencies are linked to the great and famous of 2113. In the solar system several great names of the early 21st century still live and name brands, corporate personhood and personal name identity flow in to one another. These great entities are very rich, very resourceful, unspeakable shrewd and ingenuous and they create massive economic progress.

The constant flow of progress creates a constant eb and flow of value. The manifestation of progress, especially when it is created by enterprising individuals, creates power. The use of power implies displacement and quite often such displacement is physical.

Have a look at the inner solar system. The moon is aglow in cities. The Earth and Moon are linked in a halo of structures, like ephemeral glowing figure eight rings stretching like diamond dust through planetary space. Looking from afar it is clear regular geometric patterns of illumination on Earth and the Moon signify pervasive industry and civilization. Even with human eyes from 2013 such patterns are beautiful. But they do signify a cutthroat tug of war between the realms of the collective versus the private. Self-interest collides with state interest.

It is a quaint historical artifact that the final arbiter of collective interest turned out to become Google. Google merged with the Lunar bank in the 2060s, and created a zero point for taxation. This was an awkward historical choice but it has proven largely inescapable. In 2113 taxes are 100% on that spot on the moon. Hence all entities near that spot on the moon (which is situated north of Rima Pitatus and east of the Wolf Crater) are non-profit entities. The physical structure is massive — a giant iron dome several rising over ten kilometers from the lunar surface and burrowing just as deep. Around that dome the Moon surface is barren, as by definition that spot is the highest world possible tax real estate, with the highest tax rates in the solar system, algorithmically VERY close too 100%. Life is only possible along several very narrow corridors leading in to and out of the “economic transaction equilibrium point” on the moon. Then slowly, hundreds of kilometers along the Lunar surface some very sparse spartan tax anti-havens can exist.

Every person in the solar system receives a basic income. That means that for every mind a relative level of affluence is guaranteed, and beyond a certain property and income level a certain taxation is implied. In nearly all places except a few the wealth implied by the basic income allows a standard of living literally (and objectively) millions of times as affluent as the most affluent person in 2013 is guaranteed. But in many places — especially close to the “economic transaction equilibrium point” taxes will make any sort of business impossible. To engage in libertarian practices, i.e. “enterprise” one needs t be somewhat removed from this point. So in essence the other side of the moon is the least taxed place on the moon. And this is visible — on the other side of the moon there is a massive and thriving city with conditions most locally suited for industry, traffic, service and trade. But there are other spots on the moon, generally close to energy conveyance hubs and traffic hubs where conditions are stable and predictable enough to allow for the formation of thriving metroplexes of habitation and progress.

Once you get off the moon this gets very complicated all of a sudden. It means that taxation ebs and flows with the orbit of the moon, the time it takes to transport goods, energy and information relative to the “economic transaction equilibrium point”, and (to make matters overly complex for all entrepreneurs in the solar system) with the emergence of new ideas, the consumer policies of large stakeholders (which we might naively label “the artilects”) and fads and fashions. So to conclude this first installment of my 2113 series — the Earth of 2113 is bathed in three sources of extropic illumination — the light of energy from the sun, the dark radiance emanating from the southern half of the lunar surface emanating the measure of “the golden rule” or the “social contract” and of course the subtle and pervasive emanation emitted from all region zones of enterprise scattered everywhere throughout the solar system.

  • Giulio Prisco

    Hi K, a Strossian vision, considerably less dystopian then your usual, I am afraid you may be becoming soft.

    Like for all sociological visions, an important question is “what do those who don’t like this society do?” Do they escape to the stars?

    I think any society has its discontents. They escape, or they act as a societal immune system, forcing it to change in some ways.

    I look forward to other 2113 episodes, for example Religion, Sex, Family, Underground, Crime…

    • Khannea Suntzu

      The asteroid belt dear! In fact a major plotline of this future is the struggle between placid inner system (Earth, Moon) and the Libertarian “screw you and your goddamn anti-progress tax” Rhoids.

      You’ll love the part on religion.

  • Alan Brooks

    Like this piece, but then I have no discernment as far as SF goes; the line between S and SF is growing blurrier. Plus what is academic and what is not is hard to see.

    Giulio, it must be said re taxes that if someone wants to avoid taxes, they can utilise offshore shelters; take deductions. Sometimes it appears libertarians complain to hear the sound of their voices over the microphones.
    The Nanny State exists because well-nigh everybody wants the State to do something for either they or their families, friends, ethnic groups, etc. It’s all a big game of Chicken, expecting someone else to chicken out, to cave in. But in democracy, everyone eventually gets what they deserve.