The argument goes something like this:
- Society requires that most of us work.
- But physics tells us that work is energy. “Labor saving appliances” allow us to replace human labor with other energy sources.
- It might be possible to make energy free. Tesla thought that there might be sources of free cosmic energy. Much of his physics was unsound but solar energy is a possible example. Lewis Strauss, the chairman of the atomic energy commission (1954), thought nuclear energy might become “too cheap to meter.” Plentiful thorium or deuterium fuels, for example.
- No one then need work any longer. Machines would replace all human labor. (Today machines are able to do half of all human jobs. But completing the task might involve the creation of “mechanical life” and the subsequent class struggle between humans and AIs.)