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Re: <nettime> Live Your Models
Florian Cramer on Thu, 5 May 2016 04:10:54 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Live Your Models

   Hello Frederic,

   1/ on the one hand, you show very well that "there is hardly a system
   that is more dependent on�efficiency-optimized global supply chains,
   high investments into manufacturing capacities, economics of scale and,
   well, the neoliberal economic system as computer electronics," you
   criticize the "naive automation" of the three last decades, you insist
   on the fact that our electronics society leans on "rare" metals;
   2/ but you also argue that "a modern big�furniture factory is
   significantly more environmentally and�resource-friendly than a
   FabLab; and of course, a modern data center�centrally hosting several
   thousand or million websites is�environmentally more friendly than
   thousand or million micro servers in�individual homes," siding with
   accelerationists who - like "post-environmentalists,"
   "eco-pragmatists," etc. - reject so called "Folk politics."

   My point is radically pragmatic. In most cases, production (or services
   like a web server) is more resource-efficient at larger scale. That by
   itself has nothing to do with cybernetic automation, but with simple
   physics. A network server running 1000 virtual hosts on a single 36
   Gigaflops-CPU and a 350W power supply is significantly
   resource-friendlier than decentral 1000 microservers with 0.04
   Gigaflops-CPUs and 1.5W power supplies. The same is true for the mass
   production of a chair in a efficiently engineered furniture factory
   versus laser-cutting the same chair in a FabLab, or mass-producing 1000
   cups vs. one thousand decentral 3D printers printing that cup, or even
   artisans manually producing 1000 cups.

   I see "Folk politics" as a heritage of 19th century resistance against
   industrialization in, among others, romanticism, the Luddite movement
   and the Arts and Craft movement that trickled down to the
   counter-cultures of the 20th century. It is a belief that
   decentralized, local, small-scale production is by definition better
   and ecologically friendlier than mass production - which makes sense
   for products like milk (locally farmed milk vs. centrally farmed milk
   that gets transported several hundred or thousand miles in trucks) but
   for designed products.

   (On the issue of whether or not organic farming is environmentally
   friendlier than conventional farming, see - among others - this article
   ventional-agriculture/ . I do not claim expertise on this subject; it
   only strikes me that science tells something else than intuition, and
   that the scientists voicing doubts are _not_ the climate-change-denying
   type of scientists or publicists.)

   "Naive automation" concerns something completely different: namely the
   automation of critical infrastructures, including power plants and
   energy grids, stock markets and financial transactions, transportation
   (autonomous cars...), flood protection, police and military systems -
   in short, not the automation of production, but the
   cybernetic/computerized automation of systems on the level of analysis,
   control and decision-making. "Total automation", to quote Snricek and
   Williams, and the "abolition of work", to quote Black and others, needs
   to include this type of automation since otherwise, it would neither be
   total, nor abolish work. On top of that, there's the question whether
   this total automation would be technically possible at all, even if one
   ignored all the risks, given the actual limitations of hardware,
   software and the things artificial intelligence can not do.

   From their very different perspectives, leftists (Snricek/Williams,
   Graeber), liberals (Rifkin) and right-wingers (Singularity and
   transhumanism evangelists) seem to buy into a 21st century messianism
   of the deus ex machina - the last remaining hope that technology will
   be able to save us.

   What I cannot understand is how some people who argue for acceleration,
   posthumans, and accelerated technologization

   The problem is: All these discourses still work on the basis of a 19th
   century romanticist paradigm (fully developed in such
   literary-philosophical works as Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein") of
   "humanist" versus "posthumanist", "acceleration" versus "slowdown" etc.
   A critically informed activism would overcome these binarisms and make
   technologically, scientifically and ecologically informed, pragmatic
   decisions where automation is useful and where it should be strictly
   avoided. I.e.: in a world soon inhabited by 10 billion people, highly
   efficient furniture factories are better than FabLabs or even artisans
   inefficiently producing furniture; soy food factories are preferable to
   the currently one billion�cows on farmland, a greater source of CO2
   pollution than cars. But you don't want software run political
   elections, nuclear power plants, military defense systems, and not even
   the middle management of your municipal administration or school, as
   Graeber suggests.


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