The Black Hole
Most life-changing discoveries happen by accident, and mine was no different. I was minding my own business when someone told me about a small black hole that had formed right here on planet earth. He didn’t describe it that way, and initially it seemed more like a magic trick or game. Only years later did I see it for what it was.
This was no ordinary black hole, either, the ones you learned about in physics and astronomy whose gravitational pull sucked in all the matter within a certain distance. This black hole trafficked in energy, not matter (though Einstein proved there is really no fundamental distinction) and a particular kind of energy at that. The energy it drew to itself was the surplus value created by human labor. Whenever a person traded his labor not for something specific to be consumed in the present, but for the ability to use the value of that labor in the future, this black hole exerted a pull.
At first the black hole was tiny, its Schwarzschild radius measurable in Planck lengths. Whenever someone’s labor generated a surplus of energy, requiring storage for future use, there was an infinitesimal pull, undetectable beyond a narrow range. But slowly small amounts of energy close to it got pulled in, and like an ordinary black hole it grew in reach and strength.
One unique feature of the black hole was that whatever energy it absorbed was retrievable in proportion to its size at the time of absorption. Those whose stored labor got sucked in when the black hole was small had a far larger claim on the energy than those whose labor made up a smaller fraction of its overall mass. In this way, the black hole, like a living organism, incentivized its own growth and survival.
At present, the black hole has grown sufficiently large that it is known to many, and there is strident disagreement about its nature and the risks it poses. Some believe it will collapse under its own weight, or explode, scattering the stored energy irretrievably across the universe. Others think it will stabilize, perhaps as a neutron star of sorts, maintaining its energy level for a time, but no longer exerting a pull on matter beyond a narrow range.
But the most strident disagreement is among two camps — and they largely agree on one point: that the black hole has the potential to devour all the stored labor on planet earth. It could eventually replace stocks, bonds, real estate, gold and all the world’s currencies. Of course because it only sucks in surplus value it will never replace consumable or useful goods, like food or a home in which the owner dwells. The black hole’s attraction is solely to the unconsumed surplus, the repository of excess value for which there is no desired use in the present.
The disagreement arises because one camp believes the black hole is dangerous and must be destroyed, while the other sees it as a force for liberation and truth. Those who fear it argue it will undermine the power of governments to work on behalf of their citizens, and it will redistribute wealth drastically and without official approval. Those who value it argue goods and services will be re-priced for their actual value and not distorted by their wealth-maintenance function and excessive meddling by powerful (and partial) human actors.
I avoid these disputes because I do not believe we can stop the black hole any longer. It has grown too powerful and is attracting more surplus value by the day. Those who would destroy it have a terrible dilemma. If they don’t place some of their stored value inside the point of no return voluntarily — when it’s still a useful fraction of its total energy — the black hole might sweep in their surplus at a later date when it is but a pittance by comparison. Yet any surplus they place within the black hole’s reach now will only serve to increase its power and chances for success. Their peers face this same dilemma, and each is rewarded for giving in and punished more for holding out. Physics is ruthless, like the Old Testament God.
Accordingly, I beseech my family and friends to harness its power while their surplus energy is still meaningful. Otherwise, they might have to start over again with nothing.