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Re: <nettime> "Too bad your great ideas will never work."
Felix Stalder on Sat, 16 Sep 2017 10:43:18 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> "Too bad your great ideas will never work."


On 2017-09-15 07:30, Morlock Elloi wrote:

> While one (usually a Marxist) can argue that nothing ever changes, I 
> think that the exponential rise of the complexity of everyday
> technology creates a qualitatively new environment, where smaller and
> smaller number of specialists really understand (and therefore have
> power over) everyday "objects".

I think this is the key point here. We are in the midst of an explosion
of complexity that overwhelms our (Western) social, political and, I
would argue, cognitive and psychological structures.

The ensuing breakdown is most clearly visible on two fronts: The climate
crisis that shows us with overwhelming force that the way we have
structured our relationship with the biosphere (industrial capitalism
based on compound growth) is no longer functional. This, in and of
itself, will spell the end of this model and makes Keynesian approaches
to crisis (stimulate demand through public spending) unworkable for
anything but the short-term, at the price of exacerbating the problem in
the medium-term.

The second front where the breakdown is visible is the crisis of
democracy as it has developed following the French revolution:
liberal, representative, parliamentarian, national. The institution
based on this model are no longer capable of managing society in a way
that produces the necessary degree of coherence and cohesion. This is
not just a question of the welfare state, but the absense of a more
general sense that there is something like a collective destiny to look
forward too. This opened the doors for reactionary and xenophobic forces
of Trump, Brexit, AfD, etc that articulate a collective project (even if
it's self-destructive).

What we are left with are escalating crises to which those with money
seek individual solutions (should I sell my beach property before prices
collapse? How to staff my prepper retreat?) while the rest see
themselves trapped in a struggle over diminishing resources (made worse,
of course, by a realignment of geopolitics starting, from demographics
upwards).

In the mean time, those who are able to manage some aspects of the new
complexity are gaining power quickly, and as usual, economic power and
political power are meshed in one another, to a degree that there is
lots of speculation about Marc Zukerberg running for president in 2020.
Also here on nettime.

As a result, it seem like where are heading into a "stratification of
the society based on particular cognitive abilities", as ME has put it,
which would be a kind authoritarian meritocracy. While this might be an
apt description for the most dynamic segments of society, we are also
entering a situation in which inherited wealth plays a role unlike
anything it did over the last 100 years. And getting an inheritance does
not require particular cognitive skills.

But this situation is far from immutable or a predetermined outcome of
technological development.

> If the left is to prevail, it must find such currency, integrate
> those into its body politic, and dismantle the cognitive
> stratification. The currency is not necessarily the cash. It can be
> the ideology that is attractive not just to janitors, minorities and
> the unemployed. Unbelievable number of very clever and capable
> techies wander through various groups (Ethereum, Bitcoin, yoga,
> Blockstack, etc.) looking, in vain, for the meaning of life - the
> 6-digit salaries are not enough.

My hunch is that the two crises can only be addressed simultaneously and
within the same framework and that advanced tech will play a key role if
we are not taking about a collapse of society and reverting towards the
small scales.

From a white middle-class perspective, the commons might offer some ways
to construct such a framework. We see a lot of activity around this, on
all different levels. This is why I think these struggles of the
reorganization of basic infrastructures are so interesting. They are not
about a simple pendulum swing from the market to the state, as the state
and it's institutions are part of the problem. But they are about
inventing new public institutions to embody a different pattern how to
relate to the biosphere and to each other.

And technology, which created much of this complexity, can also be used
to render it legible and thus make it politically addressable, if we use
it to reinvent and extend democracy.

Of course, the white middle-class perspective will not suffice, but
rather than seeing new Platonic universals, we need ways of thinking and
doing that can be translated into different experience, change their
language, but remain some coherence.


Felix

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