p, li { white-space: pre-wrap; }

I lock the door in darkness, slide down the handrail of the stairs, and hop quietly over the fence into the alley. I’m just heading to the convenience store, but going out the gate of this apartment block would double the length of the walk. So I ninja out of my own yard and stroll down the alley and into the store.

I’m buying one object. The guy at the counter is seven million years old, and tonight he’s feeling it. We grumble mutual politenesses and set to operating the machinery of capitalism.

He presses buttons, purses lips. I tap a screen, insert a card, remove the card, slide the card, apologize for some reason. He takes the card from me, squints at it, types in a number vaguely related to the one on the card. It fails. I insert the card again and this time the machine loves it, demands more stroking and patting, beeps with pleasure. Finally it extrudes a receipt from a distant appendage and we both breathe a sigh of relief, ready to return to the brooding solitude appropriate to this moonless night. I slip home in silence.

This man could be at home right now, oiling his feet or whatever. There’s no reason I couldn’t walk into a building, grab the thing I want, slap my wallet against a machine and walk out. It happens already in some of the megacities. Theft might go up without the presence of a human eye, but it’s not like the guy was in any condition to physically stop a robbery. His whole job description is to be the guy you rob.

So he doesn’t want to be there, and I don’t want to be there either. (If you somehow do want to be at a corner store in the middle of the night, let me know. They’re hiring.) I could probably use some trap-house “sharing economy” app to get things delivered to my door by someone who’s having even less fun than the grocery gnome. Or I could log on to Amuzon and have pretty much anything that humans make in my postal box this week, courtesy of the sweaty, wild-eyed migrant workers of the warehouse camps.

We have, as a species, accomplished a grand project. Despite the fact that most of us were coerced, and despite the fact that the instigators of this project were bumblefucks with no concept of what alien power they were messing with, we did a planetary Thing and now we must live with it.

We optimized our distribution and transportation networks. It sounds so banal, but as a gang of animals it’s an incredible thing to do. I mean, ants are awesome and they do some really complex things, but can you imagine if one species of ant spread across the entire surface of the planet, moved more earth than all other forces combined, and controlled the majority of the solar energy powering our biosphere? They would be a terrifying menace.

Oh yeah, and we burned all the carbon we inherited from our biological ancestors, polluting the atmosphere and causing the world to swing back into a DINOSAUR-AGE JUNGLE OF DEATH but this time with ROBOTS! Wait, that didn’t all happen yet. But it probably will, because we’re addicted to our just-in-time infrastructure. And to fix the climate catastrophe, we will have to complete another planetary project in a fraction of the time that the first one took.

The system we’re using can’t be steered toward a self-sustaining structure. It’s a flawed design. It’s inherently oriented toward control. Capitalism is a giant complicated aqueduct that siphons all of the world’s juice into the decadent baths of the ruling class. Where they probably pee in it, and sit there smiling.

The reason my backyard is closed to the alley is the same reason the ancient spirit of the hillside has to stand sadly in the store all night. It’s for security. To make sure that people don’t try to get what they need. To keep the profits pumping uphill to the puppetmasters.

If we built a new world, designed a system to uplift all the people, it would have to be in balance with the biosphere. You can’t have a healthy populace without a functioning ecosystem. We would have to get creative, find a way of coordinating the movement of bits and atoms that follows the logic of giving-back rather than ever-taking. An economic compost pile.

In permaculture, we say that there is no such thing as waste. Pollution is just too much of a resource in the wrong place. If I don’t want to be buying things at a store, and Old Greg doesn’t want to be selling them, then our time is wasted.

Our time is pollution, too, for the robots: they must calculate the connections between our monetary identities and verify their integrity and record the exchange and mutually sign their approval. It’s what they do, what they’re made to do, and they would clearly love to get on with it if only we malfunctioning meat men would put the damn chip in the port correctly. They can think a thousand times the speed of my midnight mind. They sit and hum impatiently as we waste our time wasting their time.

If we were to stop wasting our time and resources on market interactions, on capitalism, on capitalists who are polluted with so much of our juice that they can’t even think straight about what to do with it, we could correct the inequalities in our logistics. We could have an economy oriented around conserving energy, transforming it, circulating it as intricately as possible. The biosphere would flourish along with the people. There would be more than enough to go around, if we could distribute it right.

We have the capacity. We’re just misusing it.

Thanks for reading,

– Max


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