Keith Parkins
Oct 25, 2016 · 3 min read

Cost of stuff tending to zero

There is a different way of looking at what Kartik Gada calls technological deflation, that is the price of stuff tending to zero, and that is from the viewpoint of its information content, but let us first go back to 2008.

In 2008, capitalism ended, we are now in a postcapitalism phase.

As Paul Mason explains in PostCapitalism, we have Kondratieff waves 50 years long, Mercantile Capitalism, Industrial Capitalism, Financial Capitalism. Each wave is started by technological innovation. Capitalism is an adaptive system, has it post-2008 lost the ability to adapt?

As David Graeber explains in Debt, we have mush longer waves, pre-classical period, classical period, Middle Ages, Capitalism.

We are now in a period of transition.

The market self-corrects or so we are told.

The market did not self-correct for the banks and they had to be bailed out.

Iceland did not bail out the banks, criminal bankers and politicians received prison sentences.

Price gives a signal in the market.

Cost according to classic Marxism, has has three components, labour, land (raw materials) and money.

We can now add a fourth factor, information.

Information flows freely, the cost tends to zero.

We see this with e-books, digital music.

If there is zero price, there is no signal in the market, the market cannot function.

It is only the application of Draconian copyright and intellectual property rights that blocks the free flow of information.

We think of markets and capitalism as the same, we use interchangeably. As David Graeber shows in Debt, they are not the same.

During this period of transition we could have many different outcomes.

Serfs working for apps, is one possibility. Uber, task rabbit, Deliveroo, atomised workers bearing all the risks and capital costs, working for a pittance, bidding against each other in a negative auction, often working for less than the minimum wage.

Contrast with workers cooperating to maintain wages and their fair share of profit. Productivity has increased, but workers have not seen their fair share of productivity gains.

In the US, wages have flatlined since the early 1970s.

Or bullshit jobs, McJobs, mindless, deskilled jobs, workers cheaper than robots.

Or we could have open source, sharing, open coops, collaborative commons.

We have open source software, designers contribute for free, the software is available for free. The Hive in Dalston. There are are open source cars, tractors.

We now have an open source satellite, UPSat, Greek QB50 cubesat, which the Greeks have just delivered. Open source software and hardware. A Cygnus automated cargo spacecraft will deliver UPSat to the International Space Station.

A Basic Income can form part of the sharing economy, collaborative commons. It provides for our basic needs, we no longer have to work to live.

We can work on what we desire.

If we contribute to, draw upon, the collaborative commons, we have less need for an income.

In the short term, it can be derived by taxing high tech companies, dealing with tax dodgers.

We move from a world of artificial scarcity to one of abundance.

Do we want the future of UPSat, collaboration, sharing, free flow of information or one of atomised workers working as serfs for apps?

The choice is ours.

Light on a Dark Mountain

The machine is stuttering and the engineers are in panic. They are wondering if perhaps they do not understand it as well as they imagined. They are wondering whether they are controlling it at all or whether, perhaps, it is controlling them.— The Dark Mountain Manifesto

Keith Parkins

Written by

Writer, thinker, deep ecologist, social commentator, activist, enjoys music, literature and good food.

Light on a Dark Mountain

The machine is stuttering and the engineers are in panic. They are wondering if perhaps they do not understand it as well as they imagined. They are wondering whether they are controlling it at all or whether, perhaps, it is controlling them.— The Dark Mountain Manifesto

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