Capitalism and the Future are Incompatible
I think. In my opinion I guess. I mean. Whatever…
I know, I said the C word (not that show about cancer either) with the implication that I don’t think it’s the world’s greatest possible system. I’m so so sorry. I apologize to myself more than anyone, because I’ve painted myself as an edgy hippie ~looney lib~ socialist before I even got started. So as a sort of disclaimer let me say I hate this topic, and I already hate myself on your behalf. You’re welcome. It’s probably important to say that the issues I’m bringing up aren’t necessarily capitalism specific. Maybe just human specific. However, capitalism is my point of reference — being an American.
We’re in a weird-ass time
Technology is exploding at a rate we’ve never seen before. Every day, maybe multiple times a day even, discoveries and advancements are made that seem like sci-fi. People don’t even believe me when I tell them what’s going on in tech and medical fields, or things we’re just on the cusp of. For example, self driving cars. A potential future where no one has to drive, there are no accidents, everyone gets to work smoothly and they get to beat the shit out of some 12 year old (digitally, in a videogame, I’m not a monster) on the way. Sounds great, right? Wait, you just thought it didn’t you. The thing this article is about just ran through your head…
“But what about jobs? What about the economy? Where do the car insurance companies go? What about people who drive for a living?”
-literally you right now
You just did the thing. You looked at the problem backwards and allowed our economic model, which was invented to be beneficial to humanity, to be a barrier to a thing that would be beneficial to humanity. This is really the core of what this article is about, more than capitalism at all.
When your economic system is the enemy of whatever is beneficial to humanity, there is a problem.
Money is a concept we humans created to help us make sense of trade and business, not cripple our progress. Let me just write the summary point right here right now instead of saving it as some big impactful closing statement. The next time you see something potentially awesome for humans that’s potentially disruptive for the capitalist model — don’t think “Well fuck that thing then.” Think, “how can we modify our system to adapt to progress.” ~OR~ “What’s a new system we could transition to that fits the coming future better than what we currently have.” Humans make the mistake constantly of believing that what they have is all there is or can be. There were times when humans lived in hunter gatherer societies. There are living societies today with no concept of ownership whatsoever. A system built purely on economic darwinism isn’t the only way to live and I want to prove to you it won’t stand the test of time in even the very near future.
Capitalism has a long history of opposing progress Because Money. Let me briefly mention a few examples so we can move on.
The brilliant Nikola Tesla is an obvious place to start. The big one is his work on Alternating Current having such a rocky road due to other people with more money being invested in Direct Current. (Alternating current IS pretty dang popular today — so we won this one in the end). In addition to this, he was working on several other inventions such as one that theoretically pulled infinite energy directly from our own ionosphere that were buried by capitalists who don’t like the idea of an infinitely renewable free energy source. Maybe it can’t be done and it’s nonsense. I don’t know. Maybe this was a weak place to start after all. SO let’s move on to something I know more about.
In the 80s, Dr. Barry Sterman discovered through research something that you probably STILL haven’t heard of called Neurofeeback had significant success in stopping epileptic seizures. He published his findings, and was rewarded by having all of his funding pulled. Not because he was wrong, but because drug companies can’t sell drugs in a world where he’s right. Neurofeedback can be very successful in treating a host of other conditions such as addictions, depression, anxiety, insomnia and probably a ton of other shit I haven’t even looked into because it’s such a niche topic. Instead we get people addicted to sleeping meds and depression pills to disastrous effect.
Today we have the issues of Big Oil funding ignorance about the disastrous effects of their practices, and opposing transitions to renewable clean energy that could be beneficial to humanity for the rest of time potentially. Gotta make money today, who cares what happens to the planet tomorrow. Or hell, to people’s own land and drinking water today. They’re even suing cities such as Denton, TX who hurt their potential revenue by banning fracking. Citizens are being punished for using the democratic system to protect their land, health, and safety from reckless capitalist endeavors.
I could probably go on endlessly about this subject, and talk about where even the concept of capitalism is better than the execution — like the situation with Comcast etc. where competition essentially doesn’t exist, we have lower quality internet than many parts of the world, garbage service, and no options whatsoever. The antithesis of the capitalist ideal is not having somewhere to go when someone treats you like dog shit. I guess what I should say is that capitalism might not really be the root of the problem at all. It’s just harder to attack Human Psychology. Money, after all, is just a representation of power. An abstraction, a human tool. Humans did this, and do this. These problems aren’t really limited to corporations or the United States Government which is equally guilty. It’s just people — and we need to get out of our own way.
So why do I think this is so important, now more than ever to have this discussion? It isn’t just self driving cars. It’s a large number of things pointing to one very obvious future. The thing we’ve been working towards since the first humanoid creature thing from history times picked up a thing not attached to its body and thought “I can do thing with this”.
The end of labor and money as a concept.
Depending on who you are and how initiated you are to this topic, you might think I’m a lunatic right now (or you decided that a million words ago so this isn’t new to you). However some of you are probably like “Yep yep where do I skip to something new and interesting”. I don’t even know where to begin with this topic, I think it’s easiest to link the oft shared Humans Need Not Apply video that summarizes pretty well some of why many people much smarter and more important than me are having this discussion.
To summarize, we’re automating the SHIT out of work right now with simple AI and robotics. With technological progress being exponential as it is (stop thinking linearly you dufus) robots you MAY hear about as being wacky and impractical and expensive today will be cheaper, faster, and better than your average human tomorrow. With AI advancements, even creative work is at risk (as the above video will explain). Even outside the more sci-fi sounding stuff, there’s a growing trend for companies with a fraction of the employees of their competition rivaling and crushing them. The examples thrown around a lot are the handful of people at Instagram today versus the many thousands of yesterday’s Kodak — or the Ubers and Lyfts rivaling taxi companies and other forms of public transport.
I guess, strangely, Capitalism is both the enemy of this future AND the main engine of it.
Which is dumb as hell. Work is being eliminated because corporations want to cut costs, not because they want a future where humans don’t have to get up and go to pointless jobs every day for diminishing wages only to not be able to cover their expenses or pay off their college loans. However, what worries me is that in the face of overwhelming evidence that we’re eliminating work on a very short timeline (shorter than the average person imagines or is prepared for) the conversation is never “We did it fellas. Time to pack up, we finally killed work!” No, that isn’t what people are saying. People are saying, “WHAT ABOUT THE JOBS!?” because we continue to cling to a model that doesn’t support this kind of revolutionary progress. The fact I can’t start writing an article that criticizes this failing of capitalism at all without fearing knee-jerk reactions by dogmatic capitalists is the problem. We can’t even begin having a conversation about it, because to propose a criticism of a thing is similar to saying “Hey tribe, I’m in THIS tribe now, fuck you!” This isn’t about being on this side or that side, though. This is about looking objectively at the reality standing in front of us and confronting it honestly.
The Luddite Fallacy
You might have an objection at this point about automation and a workless future. It’s the Luddite Fallacy. Without giving a history lesson, the Luddite Fallacy asserts that where jobs may be eliminated by technological advancements, new jobs are created by the same technology. There are always new jobs.
I have an objection to your Luddite Fallacy objection — and that is that it’s a very short sighted view. You’re viewing the past rate of technological progress and applying it to the present, where it’s much faster. What happens when changes come so quickly that humans can’t possibly adapt. In my job today it’s possible I’d need to learn a new software every month to keep up with industry standards. What happens when a human can’t learn new skills and tools as fast as they’re required, but an AI can? What happens when humans aren’t better suited for the new jobs being created by automation than the same job stealing AIs and robots? The Luddite Fallacy doesn’t hold up any more.
this is the part where I sell you on my magical solution.
And its SOCIALISM!
Or COMMUNISM (what’s the difference between communism and socialism anyways?)
Or BASIC INCOME (socialism again).
No, I don’t actually know — it probably isn’t those things. I can’t envision a model that works that isn’t capitalism. For what it’s worth I think capitalism has done a lot of pretty good things and is more or less the best thing we’ve got going. I just know capitalism can’t survive what’s coming, and if we don’t figure this out we’re heading for some kind of hilarious dystopia. Hilarious only because we’re dumb apes that let fictional numbers representing value destroy us. Not hilarious like everyone is laughing all the time. It’s like… dark humor basically. As much as I like laughing about dark stuff, though, I think we might need to start getting serious and think up some solutions to these very real and very troubling problems.
Sorry for this article, Dad.