The hollowing-out of the middle class as wealth becomes more unequal is dangerous for a capitalist economy, which relies on middle-class consumption to survive as a viable system, at least as far as Marxist theory goes. However, according to the concepts of Resource-Based Economic thinking, technological improvements are a more important factor. The old systems of profit-driven competition and debt-based investment will be undermined and ultimately rendered void through the proliferation of technology such as 3-D printers and the rise of crypto-currencies like Bitcoin.
The argument goes that we now have the technology to access a tremendous amount of potential energy from wind, wave and tidal action, ocean currents, temperature differentials, falling water, geothermal, electrostatic, hydrogen, natural gas, algae, biomass, bacteria, phase transformation, Fresnel lenses, and thermionics. There is no reason that we couldn’t see a complete automation of the work force over the next four decades, as artificial intelligence and autonomous machines take over the drudge work entirely. A resource-based economy, it is argued, would be more appropriate in a post-scarcity world.
This theory states that the capitalist structures of companies and industries will be washed away as marginal costs of producing things (and therefore profit) begins to approach zero. This will lead to the rise of the Collaborative Commons. Aspects of this system include the “Internet of Things,” connecting billions of consumer devices to a vast global network, an Energy Internet, by which renewable energy is distributed, and consumers becoming “prosumers,” producing their own energy and releasing surplus onto the grid. This vision sees the manufacturing industry replaced by distributed 3-D printing, the financial system replaced by digital currencies, wage labor replaced by automation, and intellectual property replaced by the Creative Commons. It is a utopian ideal making more than a few assumptions, but considering that we were all riding horses and bowing to feudal lords not too long ago, it might not be as crazy as it sounds.