One of the few certainties about the year 3000 seems to be that there will still be 168 hours in each and every week.  Creating a viable way for all humanity to use their 168 hours is a major challenge for the industrialized world (which currently seems at best only able to create such viable ways for a diminishing minority of its citizens).

This paper explores some of the issues which will need to be addressed before we will truly be able tolive in the year 3000.

When asked to look forward a thousand years it is tempting to begin by contemplating those things which will change during that time, and then postulate the consequences of such changes.

Instead, I would like to ponder on the consequences of things we know will not change over the next 1,000 years.

In particular, in this paper, I would like to focus on one thing which almost definitely will not change – and that is the number of hours in a week – and ask what will humanity do during their 168 hours per week in 3000?

Surprisingly, this is not even an easy question to answer in 2003;  principally because it is not a question usually asked in this form.

In 2003 and for most of the past 200 years, in industrialized countries at least, questions about time use have been prefaced by the belief that time is inevitably or naturally divided into two categories – productive time (which we call a job, and by which we mean economically productive) and personal time (by which we mean economically non-productive time, no matter how productive it might be in any other sense).

Citizens are assumed to divide their 168 weekly hours between these two categories, earning enough in their productive time to enjoy their personal time.

Implicit in this belief is that all of society’s wealth is created during productive time and consumed during personal time.[1]  This belief may be accurate (personally I don’t believe it is) but accurate or not it doesn’t provide a viable basis for a sustainable world for at least two reasons:

  • a significant minority of citizens (and their number comfortably exceeds the official unemployment rate) are excluded from participation in what might be called wealth creation time and hence are forced to become dependent on others for their sustenance
  • a different significant minority are so fixated on their participation in wealth creation time that they have little effective personal time – and as a consequence cause significant damage to themselves, their community and their environment

It is my contention that the practical dilemmas created by this division of human activity are insurmountable, and hence a new model is needed.[2]

For this reason, a simple extrapolation of current trends does not portend a viable way to structure humanity’s time use – even in 2010 let alone 3000.

Hence, before attempting to address the question of what humanity might do with its 168 hours a week in 3000, I would like to outline an alternative classification of time use.

I propose a two dimensional matrix (see figure 1).  The horizontal axis is divided into two domains:  time spent alone or in communal activities which are not exchange based, and time spent in exchange based relationship with others.

The vertical axis is a (potentially infinite) hierarchy with activities which are essential to physical, emotional or spiritual survival at the bottom, above which is a list of activities graded according to their ‘distance’ from being fundamental to survival.

This representation has the value of placing on a par both those exchange-based and those non-exchange based activities which are survival imperatives.

This model replaces one relatively arbitrary division (into productive and non-productive) into another (solo & relationship based activities and transaction based activities).

However, the second dimension in the proposed model (the vertical axis) introduces a new concept – that of criticality to survival.

The current economic model clearly places greater importance on productive activities vis a vis non-productive ones irrespective of either’s criticality to survival.

Hence, unambiguously survival imperatives (such as conceiving, birthing and rearing children) which are devalued in the current model achieve equal status with other survival imperatives (such as producing food) which are given pre-eminence in the current model.

Such a change in conceptual framework will, if implemented, have profound implications for the ways in which society organizes itself to get things done in the future.

New ways of understanding wealth and value will be needed, but given that these are entirely artificial, human created constructs I have no doubt human ingenuity and creativity will rise to the occasion.

There is no need to completely re-invent the wheel.  Current industrial era economics is very effective at identifying and extracting the value inherent in transactions.  The principal unit of this value is the dollar (or Euro, or Shekel or…) and these will continue to be needed in the future.

As suggested in an earlier footnote, industrial era economics has been partially successful at extending the scope of the dollar to reflect the value in a wide range of human services which were once outside the scope of the marketplace[3].  But there are at least three reasons why dollars as a representation of value cannot be pressed into service much beyond their current scope:

  • dollars are created by centralized institutions located well away from the communities where relationship value is created.  It is difficult, if not impossible, for distant agencies to recognize this community value, and hence insufficient dollars are created
  • relationship value is by its very nature created by people in their local interactions[4] and people by law are prevented from creating dollars to represent this value[5]
  •  the value in relationships diminishes very quickly as one moves away from the communities in which it is created.  Dollars, on the other hand, are deliberately designed to be equally valuable everywhere, and to be equally useful to whomever possesses them.

Hence, dollars are inadequate measures of the value inherent in either solo or relationship based activities.  Appendix 1 is a brief exploration of just what might be appropriate for that purpose, but the overwhelming conclusion is that economics as currently practiced is inadequate for the task of identifying the exchange value of the full range of activities which are essential to human survival.

My fundamental assertion is that if something is essential to survival, whether or not it is based on economic exchange, we must find a way to ensure that the value created when it is done is recognized and captured.  The current system assumes this is impossible for some activities and hence relegates them to an unacceptably second class status.

This same imperative then exists, though with progressively less criticality, as the activities being considered are less essential to survival.

The fundamental premise of this paper then is that a system (or parallel systems) capable of recognizing and capturing the value inherent in undertaking all survival activities can be developed and implemented.

The day-to-day application of such a system would mean that every citizen would clearly (and valuably) be able to identify the contribution their activities made to their own survival and to the survival of others.

Less obviously, it would also mean that every citizen was part of at least one community within which they were engaged in valuable relationships[6]

For this reason, such a system will go a long way towards ensuring everyone has a viable place in the world (something which will please the huge numbers currently being displaced by economic development) and creating the possibility that every place will be viable.




There are plenty of examples at the local community level, even today, where value exchange systems other than money operate in parallel with money.  “If you take my kids to school I will pick up your drycleaning” is one example as is “If you will help out with the school reading program we will reduce your childrens’ school fees” (which is something many primary schools in Australia at least are now doing).

There are also an increasing number of computer based “barter networks” springing up every year.  The number of tax accountants who are paid in babysitting hours is increasing annually, as is the number of dual occupancy developments being funded almost entirely through trade credit systems.

In order to explore these parallel value exchange systems, consider that there are three ways to get the food you need to eat.   You can make (or grow) it yourself.  You can get it directly from someone else (presumably in exchange for something they want).  Or you can buy it from someone else (ie exchange a token you acquired in some way for the food you need).

The first two of these happen without any money being involved.  Some other value mechanism is used to determine the amounts which are exchanged.  The exact details are open to innumerable possibilities because of another inherent quality of the first two methods.  That is, they are both intensively personal and largely community based, and have dominated the way food has been produced and distributed throughout history.  It is only the intervention of money in the form of dollars which permits the huge farm to make and ship food over large distances to the marketplace.

Large farms are here to stay.  They are efficient users of resources and there is a large market from people for whom domestic exchange is impossible.

However, to behave as though they were the only way to provide food, and to marginalise those who would grow their own, or exchange it directly is irresponsible (and contributes to unemployment).

This is just one example of the ways in which communities create value which widen the definition of our national wealth, and which can be exchanged in mutually beneficial ways.  There is no shortage of other examples, including relatively well known LETS and HOURS schemes, a proliferation of Barter and TradeBank Cards and the less well known examples such as the artworks of Boggs[8].

There are also myriad historical examples, most arising creatively out of economic crises, and quickly stifled in recovery.

Almost all examples (with two notable exceptions being in France and in the Mercosur countries in South America) all are relatively small, labour intensive and fragile.  As their importance is increasingly recognized, however, they will become more sophisticated (perhaps issuing smart cards to keep track of transactions and balances), mainstream (perhaps a single smart card will record our parallel membership of many local or special purpose systems) and networked (with brokers arising to exchange one local currency for another to accommodate a mobile population.

Further information about the history and current status of such schemes can be found in the following book:

The Future of Money – Creating new wealth, work and a wiser world”, by Bernard Lietaer – Random House, 2001

“Money, Heart and Mind – Financial Well-Being for People and Planet”, by William Bloom – Viking Press, 1995

“Money – Understanding and Creating Alternatives to Legal Tender”, by Thomas H. Greco -Chelsea Green, 2001

“New Money for Healthy Communities”; by Thomas H. Greco Jr – self published, 1994

“Rethinking Our Centralised Monetary System – The Case for a System of Local Currencies”, by Lewis D. Solomon – Praeger 1996

“The Real Meaning of Money”; by Dorothy Rowe – Harper Collins, 1998

“Money in an unequal world”, by Keith Hart – Texere Publishing, 2001


[1] It is this dichotomy which has enraged many women, since much of what economics deems to be ‘non-productive’ is hard work primarily engaged in by women.

[2] It is true that the definitions of ‘productive time’ have proven to be flexible enough to accommodate a trend away from physical production to the production of services.  But the inevitable consequence of this trend is the commercialization of all human activity, something which currently concerns at least some people and will increasingly come to concern others as they consider its consequences (do we really want or need someone else to dress us every day?).

[3] In fact, it is credibly arguable that all industries which exist today have arisen as humans have outsourced something we once did for ourselves.  And some economists contend that future economic growth will happily arise from a continuation of this trend, though as I have suggested earlier I remain both sceptical and wary of such predictions.

[4] Transaction value might also appear to be created through local interaction, but it is subject to a broader network of principles, regulations and covenants which means it is probably more accurate to say that most transactions exchange value created elsewhere. (Many commentators, though it must be acknowledged not all, argue that it is only private banks and governments who can be accurately said to create what I have called transactional value.

[5] Though this doesn’t stop enterprising individuals from creating many other tokens which, for them, represent value – see Appendix 1.

[6] As argued earlier, dollars and other national currencies are incapable of accurately representing the value in significant, survival imperative activities.  Hence, every citizen who survives must be part of at least one community within which the value necessary to survive has been created and exchanged.

[7] Note that the arguments made here can be extended to some solo activities – but by and large the notions of value explored here have little relevance unless multiple parties are involved.  Typically, there is little to be gained by explicitly calculating the value inherent in solo activities, though this emphatically does not mean they have no value.

[8] Boggs – a comedy of values”, by Lawrence Weschler – University of Chicago Press, 1999