What Dreams Won't Come

Welcome to techno-Malthusianism.

Woman reaching for a planet.

Cautionary sci-fi tales have a bad habit of turning into startups these days. If you're wondering how much more dystopian things can get, a company called Prophetic is now developing a device that lets you control your dreams, so you can get more work done, in your sleep. It's by the same guy who designed the brain implants for Neuralink.

It's fitting, don't you think?

The tech elite have spent nearly a hundred years promising us a better living, longer lives, more luxury, and more leisure.

And yet, it never seems to happen.

Every single technology that was supposed to give us more time and freedom has wound up working out well for a handful of shareholders and CEOs, and not so great for the rest of us, even if we find ourselves wedded to them. Now, dozens of neurotech companies are working with everyone from cosmetics companies to government agencies. They want to get inside your head. They want to make you "happier" and more productive.

They want to mine your dreams.

Some of them want to put a chip in our heads that shock us when our minds wander. They believe they can read our thoughts and even predict when we're about to fall in love or commit a crime. They envision a world where they can monitor and regulate our cognitive metrics.

They call it brain transparency.

As Nita Farahany writes in The Battle for Your Brain, advances in neurotech are already taking us to a place "where individuals, companies, and governments can hack and track our brains in ways that fundamentally impact our freedom to understand, shape, and define ourselves." Neurotech companies are racing each other to turn our brains into oceans of profit. They make big promises about the medical possibilities, but it's window dressing. To them, we're smartphones waiting to be cracked open and decoded.

These neurotech developments align with other trends we're seeing as the elite consolidate their power. They've admitted it's their self-appointed mission to have as many children as possible while culling the sick and poor. These tech elites literally think they're going to save humanity. Meanwhile, they want to replace teachers and essential workers with robots. They think they're going to geoengineer their way out of climate collapse and colonize space. They're trying to figure out how to make themselves immortal by growing organs in labs and uploading their consciousness to computers.

They envision a future without us.

It makes sense when you think about it. These ambitious plans for Net Zero 2050 just happen to coincide with peak oil and natural gas. There's nothing noble here. If the rich want to prolong their comfortable lifestyles, they'll have no choice but to transition to solar and wind. There simply won't be enough cheap, abundant fossil fuels left to power their devices.

The Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Peter Thiel types aren't stupid. And they aren't living in denial, at least not when it comes to climate science. They fully understand that we're on track for 2C or 3C of global warming.

They know what it means.

They don't care.

What we call collapse, they consider a great and long overdue downsizing. They're all Malthusians at heart, who subscribe to the doctrine. They're going to continue upgrading their quality of life while inflicting pandemics and famines on everyone else. It's not a conspiracy theory. In his 1798 treatise An Essay on The Principle of Population, Thomas Malthus explicitly recommends dismantling public health and sanitation so that diseases can kill off the poor. He described them as "inert, sluggish, and averse from labour, unless compelled by necessity." If life got too easy, they would get lazy and start having too many kids. So, the elite had no choice but to cull them.

According to Malthus, societies with an overpopulation problem should try to double their mortality rates.

So when you read about scientific breakthroughs that promise to reverse aging and chronic disease, you have to understand something. That's not for us. When you read about rising mortality rates and hospitals rationing care as vaccination rates for common diseases plummet...

That's for us.

If Thomas Malthus were alive today, he would applaud these higher mortality rates as accomplishments. He would say it's a good thing that people aren't getting vaccines and boosters. He would want drugs like Paxlovid to cost thousands of dollars per course. There's a direct line of intellectual inheritance from economists like Malthus to Milton Friedman and on down to the current generation who constantly insinuate themselves into conversations about international politics and public health. They carry his legacy.

If you're like me, you've spent the last year wondering why the elite say one thing and do another. Our institutions always seem to acknowledge threats but never do anything about them. You've wondered why the mainstream media publishes on report after report about our problems, but they never mention concrete steps we could be taking to avoid disaster.

Is it really just incompetence?

Or is it something else?

It makes economic sense to invest in public institutions and infrastructure if you plan on the world population to remain stable. It doesn't make sense if you plan on letting it all fall apart while building up enclaves and fortifying them against the masses. That seems to be what they're doing. Their actions only make sense through a techno-Malthusian lens.

Also consider how states are rolling back child labor laws to plug holes in the workforce, created by staggering numbers of death and disability. They have no trouble letting teens as young as 14 serve beer and operate heavy machinery, as long as it's not their kids doing it. On some level, they know it's a stopgap, a temporary fix in a bumpy transition.

They have a plan. They're going to send their kids to nice private schools with clean, sterilized air and 3D printers. Their kids will listen to Steve Jobs types wax philosophical about typography and connecting the dots. Their kids will study music and art history. Their kids will take dance classes and piano lessons. Their kids will read Shakespeare.

Our kids...

Our kids will start serving beer and operating heavy machinery at the age of 14, or even 12. They'll join the expendable workforce. They'll have a chip implanted in their heads to buzz out distracting thoughts and emotions. When they go to sleep, they'll go to their second lucid dream job. Maybe the rich will use their heads to mine cryptocurrency.

Their kids will make robots. Our kids will work for the robots. They'll work when they're awake. They'll work when they're asleep.

They'll wonder why they're so tired.

If you think the elites aren't capable of such sinister behavior, look at the work of Paul Piff, a psychologist at the University of California. In study after study, he charts the antisocial influence of egregious wealth. The richer you get, the more money you want. The more entitled you feel to what everyone else has. The more moral justifications you invent.

Just like Malthus.

We could have a different future, but the rich don't want that. They're stuck on the idea that poor people don't work hard enough and that poverty is a choice. I don't know exactly how you combat that attitude. I just know that nothing else explains what's happening. There's no other reason for the levels of apathy, neglect, and cruelty we're witnessing. The rich know exactly how to exploit our weaknesses and pit us against each other, and they're doing it so that we'll be less trouble, fewer mouths to feed, fewer resources spent.

The tech elite don't want us to dream. They don't want us to daydream. They don't want us to create. They don't want us to love.

That's why you should. In our techno-Malthusian dystopia, holding onto your humanity serves as a form of resistance.

It's our only chance.

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