The future is expensive: introduction

In late November, a stark revelation hit me: I hadn't made any financial plans past graduation, and I didn't know whether or not pursuing a six-figure salary was worthwhile. Worse, I couldn't make any financial plans with the knowledge at my disposal, because most of the major purchases I'd be making in my lifetime would probably be things that hadn't been invented yet! How does one budget for purely theoretical equipment?

I didn't have much time to research this question with exams and term projects on the horizon. What little preliminary research I could fit into my schedule led to three tentative conclusions:
  1. The high-tech lifestyle was cheap, getting cheaper, and would continue to get cheaper.
  2. Technology was narrowing the gap between rich and poor.
  3. A post-scarcity economy, which the Singularity is likely to produce, will eliminate economic inequality. There will be no digital divide among digital people.
If even one of these assessments was correct, it would have been great news. As long as I was earning enough to live on from paycheck to paycheck, I'd be able to pursue a job I loved, or failing that, one with a decent 40-hour workweek. I wouldn't have to go to the most prestigious graduate school, and could pick one with a research project I liked. And if I did ever get a high salary, I could spend and be merry, because my retirement was safe. I'd do my part to stimulate the economy and keep Moore's Law alive. I might even be able to donate to research foundations and offset my personal carbon footprint.

Unfortunately, now that I've had time to research these three assertions in detail, I'm satisfied that they're probably all wrong. My next three posts will explain why.