Economic inequality is already a concern, but it could become a nightmare in the decades ahead, and I fear that we are not well equipped to deal with it.
Truly extreme gaps in income and wealth could arise from many causes. Consider just a few: Innovations in robotics and artificial intelligence, which are already making many jobs uncompetitive, could lead us into a world in which basic work with decent pay becomes impossible to find. An environmental disaster like global warming, pollution or disease could sharply reduce the ability of people of ordinary means to live in specific regions or entire countries.
Future wars using ever more highly destructive technology, including chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons, could devastate vast populations. And it’s not out of the question that dire political changes, like the rise of racist or otherwise exclusionary social structures, could have terribly damaging consequences for less privileged people.
Of course, I dearly hope none of these things ever happen. But even if they are unlikely, as part of our progress to a better world, we should be thinking now of how we might address them.