A fable: Uselessness in Seattle
Sometime between 20 o’clock and 21 o’clock on 30 April, 2044, Moira Pease was beaten to death as she left the auditorium. She was a seventh dan in taekwondo, wore bullet-protective clothing, and carried a laser immobilizer. Her QuikHelp button had been activated, but the medicopter did not arrive in time to save her.
L. Pease, as she preferred to be called because of her lesbian orientation, had been effective in presenting her argument. While the titles Mr., Mrs., and Ms. were still used by heterosexual individuals, others preferred the L, G, B, T, and Q designations, as appropriate to their sexual preference. L. Pease believed that as much as half of the entire national population was “useless.”
A few minutes before her death, L. Pease had been debating Mr. Amda Warsangali, a third-generation Somali American who argued that there were no useless people, only individuals trapped in useless activity. Pease and Warsangali represented opposing factions of the Millennial World Party, the national political organization that emerged from the bloodbath suffered by Republicans and Democrats during the elections of 2020.
The difference in their viewpoints went beyond semantics and affected the implementation of national policy.
The States President watched the debate from the East Wing of the White House because he had to deal with the fact that 46 percent of Americans between the ages of 15 and 65 were idle. The World President watched from her West Wing residence because the problem of idleness was also a global phenomenon. After the 2024 elections, Congress decided to amend the Constitution in order to assign domestic responsibilities to one chief executive and global issues to a co-CEO. As the nation entered the third decade of the 21st century, it was evident that the traditional job was too big for any one person.
The debate had taken place in the quiet village of Cambria on California’s central coast, far away from the turmoil and violence of the two megalopolises. LARGO, the merged populations of Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Diego, teemed with more than 28 million residents to the south, and SASAFO, the cosmopolitan conglomerate of nearly 19 million stretching from San Jose to San Francisco and across the bay to Oakland and the East Bay cities, lay to the north. The venue had been selected by OmniViewTV and the Zuckerberg Memorial Foundation because of its relative isolation.
Local residents boycotted the debate, and local businesses locked their doors despite the fact that their major source of income was tourism. Lifelong residents of the tiny hamlet had never witnessed a riot, there hadn’t been a murder in the collective consciousness of the community, and general disorder was virtually unknown. The mayor, acting on behalf of her constituency, tried to reject the proposal to hold the event in her community, even taking the case as far as the state Supreme Court.
The court ruled that the Universal Jump and Shout Act of 2019 guaranteed freedom to voice or express any opinion, regardless of content, throughout the state, and that no institutional or municipal restrictions or covenants could repress such free speech.
The bill that created the law breezed through the legislature after the riots and killings that took place on college and university campuses during the off-year elections of 2018. Of course, when Gov. Newsom signed the bill into law in 2019, he never imagined that it would lead to such a volcanic increase in the bloody hostilities that blemished the state during the ensuing years. And now Cambria had its first casualty of the new political environment.
During the exchange with Mr. Warsangali, L. Pease argued that nearly half of the working-age population is no longer needed for the production of agricultural and manufactured goods. She made the point that machines have been doing the work for years, and they do it more economically and efficiently. Meanwhile, people have continued to reproduce at pre-cybernation levels. This brought about a condition in which the nation has more than 100 million “useless” people.
Mr. Warsangali did not dispute the factual part of L. Pease’s presentation, but rather disputed her assertion that these 100 million people were “useless.” His point was that the accelerated production of goods required a greater degree of consumption. However, the long recession of the 2020’s fostered frugality.
During the last century, the U.S. handled its overproduction by exporting both agricultural and durable goods to other countries. But, now even countries that once had underdeveloped economies have armies of robots performing mining, farming, and manufacturing activities. Once the production process began, he said, it could not be interrupted. Manufacturing, especially, continued despite the massive expansion of surpluses.
He addressed an audience of bureaucratic functionaries who had obtained their tickets to the debate through an international raffle for which tickets cost 100,000 Globals, the currency that replaced Euros, U.S. dollars, and most other money in accordance with the Helsinki Agreements of 2033. He told the group that he had a solution.
Colleges and universities, he said, had adopted free tuition policies and all textbooks were available on Apple iPhone CXXIII, but the traditional curriculum remained unchanged. Historically, higher education trained students to produce goods and perform services. However, the modern state needed people trained to consume. Current problems could be solved by intense consumption. To manage this properly, universities would have to develop advanced degrees in “designation science.”
Designation scientists would have the skills to separate citizens into consumption categories that were appropriate to them and of benefit to society. “Commodity Consumers,” for example, would be people who were judged to be of lower intelligence and could be relied upon to spend their government allocations on every innovation to sensory TV or blood-sport interactive games. “Service Consumers” would be people whose DNA showed them to be susceptible to various medical conditions that require clinical visits, hospitalization, and extended periods of rehabilitation and social assistance.
After giving the Civil Guard his statement regarding the death of L. Pease, Mr. Warsangali was taken to San Luis Obispo and put on the CASlowRail, with a connection to Coastal Hyperloop in Oregon. Upon arrival in Seattle, he was mobbed by a group of philosophers who accused him of promoting a “post-eugenics” policy. Sometime after the last of the academics left the scene, Mr. Warsangali’s corpse was discovered on the station’s platform. His death was officially listed simply as collateral damage in this Huxley-Orwellian New World.