The Free-Market Fraud: Tech Innovation and Alternatives

Exiled Consensus
Aug 5, 2018 · 13 min read
greens.org.au

Introduction: Technological Nirvana

An ocean of ink has been spilled to describe how technology allows humanity to attend to its various needs and desires, which are summarized in Maslow’s Pyramid below. In such proclamations, technology is treated as an autonomous entity, an ethereal force that guides human beings who shouldn’t be bothered with higher-order social, economic and political questions. Interestingly, advancement in the natural sciences led to mounting challenges against, and often death of many superstitious beliefs — causes of plague or the structure of the solar system, for instance. However, this advancement has also bred another superstition — that relentless and thoughtless technological development can bring about the much sought after society of the future.

Maslow’s Pyramid

Origins: How is it made?

It is instinctively assumed that the heart of all technology development today is private Silicon Valley companies. As Dan Lyons writes in Disrupted, Silicon Valley now refers to not just the Bay Area anymore, but wherever the networks of capital and technology ideologies extend to (so, most of the world?). This can include Chicago, New York, Boston, London, Tel Aviv, Bangalore, Seoul, Tokyo and so on. However, such an assumption is flawed. The science and engineering of new inventions and discoveries are not so trivial that they can be spearheaded by a few capital cowboys in a Wild Wild West of technical orgy. The basis for all our high-tech economy lies in the state, with very long timeframes and large costs no venture capitalist with a requirement for a quick return can tolerate. These are R&D programs funded by various state agencies and its branches, including the Pentagon, NASA, EPA and so on. Examples are too numerous to state. Some include space technologies, GPS, self-driving cars, cameras, indeed the internet itself. A closer look reveals that the military and war is intrinsic to high-tech research. While a large section of the US Defense (doublespeak for Offense, or Invasion) budget includes Operations and Maintenance, contained within it lies a tiny slice ear-marked for research and development (~84B for 2018, out of ~700B with the most recent increase under Trump).

https://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/Documents/defbudget/fy2018/fy2018_Press_Release.pdf
Social Media
Cell-phones
Automobiles
Internet

Work: How democratic is a society when the work isn’t?

As described above, many products and services can take entirely new forms if society wields them communally. The basic research to enable these technologies is already largely communal, as taxpayer funding amalgamates with labor. However, the ownership of further development is then concentrated into a few hands, which breeds highly distorted and damaging versions of otherwise promising products and technologies. If the engineers, designers, planners, supply-chain managers and other employees collectively owned the outputs of their work through co-operatives, decision-making would reflect that accordingly. According to Democracy at Work Institute, there are two defining features of a worker co-operative:


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