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Capitalism’s Failure Of The Flesh: The Rise Of The Robots


#1

Capitalism’s Failure Of The Flesh: The Rise Of The Robots

Phil Rockstroh

The system and its machines must begin to serve humanity, as opposed to what has been the case since the advent of the industrial/technological age: the mass of humanity serving the machine.

"Yet we insist on remaining mentally epoxied to electronic appliances, as the oceans of our technology besieged planet die, as the atmosphere is choked with heat-holding greenhouse gas emissions, and, as a result, exquisite, living things disappear forever." (Photo: Nicolas Kovarik/Getty)

#2

“We have delivered insult after insult to the soul of the world, and yet it loves us with an abiding and bitter grace. The question remains, do we love it in turn, and deeply enough, to mount a resistance to the present order thus turn the tide against the love-bereft forces responsible for the wholesale destruction of both landscape and soulscape.” (Phil)

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Yes!

Thanks Phil - a laser beam article - focused - pure - powerful and beautiful.

I have long wondered, as mountaineers are want to do do - why we climb?

Let me leave a thought behind, for reflection.

The Seven Years’ War, 1754 (56) to 1763 - overturned the world order - and it is now. It was known as the French and Indian War here in North America, and started in 1754 - so a nine years war, actually.

Interestingly, a young man was just coming of age after this war, one Horace Benedict de Saussure - in many people’s opinion, the first geologist!

He put up a reward for whoever would climb the mountain first, and some twenty years later, Mont Blanc saw its first ascent (1786). Later, de Saussure did manage to climb to the summit himself.

I have always harbored the thought, that de-Saussure, seeing what many consider the first truly world wide war up close, thought to himself, ‘there must be a better way’ - and like a grizzly bear fleeing mankind on the plains - he headed for the mountains - not unlike a certain blogger I know - who posts here ~

This is what Phil is talking about - re-acquainting oneself with primitive and powerful emotions, in preference to the artificial aphrodisiacs of modernity.

It works !


#3

They’ve got it all wrong
In the “olden days” before economics became the false God that now dictates what can happen and what can’t, people used to ask, “Do we have enough ‘stuff’, and enough people, to do what is needed to be done?” Today the question asked is, “Do we have enough money and can we afford to do what needs to be done?”
This is not a new phenomenon, of course, but over the last couple of centuries it has been those demigods like Adam Smith, Jean Batiste Says, and the Milton Friedman’s who have misled everyone by ignorantly, or deliberately, ignoring the customer.
In finance and economics, in Government circles, everyone talks about “investors”, about “capital”, about equity, about share markets, bond markets, interest rates, and of course, “economic growth.” Everything seems to be conditioned on production, even the accepted measure for a nation’s wellbeing uses the Gross Domestic Product – the GDP, as its indicator.
Why is this so? Production is irrelevant if it isn’t going to be consumed. Surely, consumption is a far more important aspect of any economic cycle?
It is absolutely pointless to produce anything unless it is going to be consumed.
Everyone focusses on how to make a profit, but everyone seems to ignore the fact that every dollar of “profit” comes from consumption. It does not come from production. And as always – the customer is the consumer – and ultimately, the customer is always the people.
It doesn’t matter what the product or service is – whether it’s a bridge, or a bomb, or a bottle of milk, it is only going to be consumed if it is used by people.
A bridge is part of society’s infrastructure aimed at providing a service for the people. A bomb is the essential for killing and promoting war, and warfare is really just politics by another means. A bottle of milk is a symbol for supporting life, and that should be the purpose of any genuine Government.
Consumption is the single most important factor in every economy? It is what, virtually, every business is dependent on. And it is the factor that most Governments seem to have no genuine understanding of its importance.
Adam Smith came up with his mystical theory of an “invisible hand” to, somehow, always balance things out, so that an equilibrium will occur. Says came up with a theory that if you produce something the demand will, somehow, automatically appear. Neither of these soothsayers had any real concept of mass production, let alone the imagination to conceive of today’s toxic financial products that are capable of laying waste to every economy in the world.
Freidman, of course, was the preeminent advocate of the “free market” concept, claiming that a market untouched by regulation will always be self-regulating because, Smith’s “invisible hand” will make sure everything will balance out. He, probably more than anyone else, is responsible for the conception of those toxic financial products that are now, with a nominal value in excess of three quadrillion dollars, are virtually, beyond the control of anyone.
What none of these demigods bothered to think about was, “Where are all the customers supposed to get the money to buy all the things that were produced?”
If they did think about it at all their answer would probably have been, “by working”, or “by borrowing from a money lender”.
What other choice did a customer have, unless he or she were born with “a silver spoon in their mouth,” in which case they sponged off their heirs?
But always, without fail, our demigods refused to address the question of, “Where does the money come from, who has the authority to create money, and what is the purpose for having a money system in the first place?”
The one and only purpose for having a money system in any society, is to create ‘something” that represents a convenient and acceptable medium of exchange.
Money is not a “store of wealth”. It is useless until it is exchanged for something that is needed, or wanted. Obviously, the more money you have the more choices are available, but the “richness” of life does not depend on how much money one has.
Provided the “token” used for money is universally accepted within the given society, and it comes with a guarantee that it is not a false “token,” it pretty much doesn’t matter what sort of token is used to represent “money”.
Essentially, a money system is a public service created for the benefit of the society. It allows the convenient flow of day to day trading throughout the nation. It is also an essential responsibility that the citizens of the nation choose to authorise their Government to provide.
The issue that is always avoided is, how do we get the purchasing power into the hands of the customer? It doesn’t matter whether the customer spends a million dollars or ten dollars, somehow, the money in a society has to get to the customer to balance the money on the production side, including the profit margin.
So far, the only universally accepted way has been for the customer to get a job, and to tie that debt noose around their neck. But, with advancing technology, and the mantra of “efficiency” and increased profitability, the job market is being eroded. When the history of the last 200 years is studied objectively, it becomes clear that the thrust of progress has been to produce more with less labour. The advent of the computer chip greatly accelerated the progress and the next step seems to be the application of AI, artificial intelligence.
So, for the last two hundred years, progress has been aimed at putting people out of work. It is an unfortunate fact that “work,” and borrowing, happens to be the greatest sources of “purchasing power” for the vast majority of people on this planet. If we are going to let AI take over even more of the “work functions” previously handled by people, how are the displaced people going to become customers?
It should be obvious to anyone that this ongoing drive to reduce labor costs and increase profitability, is a self-defeating exercise. This especially applies to cutting services to the people least able to gainfully acquire purchasing power.
Every dollar a Government spends directly contributes to the profitability for the “gamblers”, as in fact, is the correct term for “investors”. The economic and finance “experts”, and most Governments, simply don’t realise this. These “experts” who are still wallowing in the decrepit 19th century theories of Smith and Says, see Government spending as an “evil” thing that has to be reduced. They claim that any expenditure above whatever revenue a Government can extort, must be eliminated.
In truth, every independent nation automatically has monetary sovereignty. That of course, doesn’t apply to the Eurozone when the countries sold out their sovereignty to the European Central Bank. What monetary sovereignty means is that the Government of those nations has the sole authority, and responsibility, to create and issue their nation’s supply of “money”. In actual fact, there is no need for any such Government to resort to taxation. A monetary sovereign nation cannot go broke, it cannot become insolvent, and it cannot be bankrupted, and it really doesn’t have to borrow money from anyone. A monetary sovereign Government can always fund any program to which the people are prepared to allow their Government to commit itself.
Unfortunately, in today’s weird world of economics, everything is geared to financing production, marketing, publicity, distribution, infrastructure, but virtually nothing is focussed on financing the customer. Basically, the only approved way for the customer to gain purchasing power is to get a job and place a debt noose around their neck, while the Government taxes the hell out of them at every opportunity.
For years we have been told there is no such thing as a free lunch, and the customer has been told, “If you want to eat, get a job and work for it.”
Finance and economics focus on supporting the gamblers, under whatever label they are given, whether it is an “investor”, an entrepreneur, or a start-up. The sole purpose of any and every commercial undertaking is always to make a profit. If there is no potential for a profit, nothing will be attempted.


#4

the industrial revolution has given humanity so many “time saving” techno advances like cars, washing machines, fork lifts and more. ironic, isn’t it, that with all this people feel rushed to get all their work and chores done? we can hardly enjoy our leisure time and most of us are sleep deprived. and the weapons! the never ending arms race promising to keep us safe puts all life on earth in peril. have we outsmarted ourselves?

“I think the human race made a big mistake at the beginning of the industrial revolution, we leaped for the mechanical things, people need the use of their hands to feel creative.”―Andre Norton

#5

I don’t see how you can consider that a better way or " re-acquainting oneself with primitive and powerful emotions?" Placing a bet on who can climb a mountain has nothing to do with being primitive. It is competition. Indigenous people could never understand that relationship, that would be a different perspective. Not saying there is no benefit, but it is not the same benefit.


#6

Nothing is the same, of course fern.

But it is as close as one can get - or, to be more accurate - as close as I can get.

Competitive - yes. There are all sorts of denial alive and well in the world of men these days. That man is not inherently competitive, as are all living things - is one form of denial.

But often the competition is with oneself - to see what one is capable of - to see what you can get away with.

Another form of denial would be in believing that mankind is not inherently disposed to gambling - to the test of one’s powers - with life and limb at stake.

What is your vaunted game of football - or the NBA - the high school heros vying for attention. I mean really - it is as plain as the nose on one’s face - but I have noticed that man’s capacity for denial, whether of climate change or of his own mortality (see all religions) - is very near the mathematicians invention of “infinite”.

You know, in these crazy times - for I know you see them too - I study the words and reminiscences of Gorbachev, and Yanis Varoufakis, and Vladimir Putin, and many many more - too many to enumerate - the list is that long.

But here I am this morning, in a favored reading place, re-reading for the umpteenth time, my all time favorite mountaineer and travel writer, Bill Tilman, in the very large hardcover edition of his seven essays on his mountain excursions in the Himalayas and central Asia, published by The Mountaineers of Seattle, “The Seven Mountain Travel Books”, by H. W. Tilman (1983).

This man fought thru both World War One & Two, in their entirety, as an artillery officer, and in WW II, behinf enemy lines in Albania and Italy, where he was given the keys to the Italian City of Belluno for his efforts.

After WW I, he went to Africa for some fourteen years, farming coffee and learning to climb with Eric Shipton - on leaving Africa he cycled across the continent from east to west, surviving largely on bananas (tongue in cheek)… and then things get really interesting.

I challenge you and all others on Common Dreams to read these seven travel books - if you would criticise what I said in my original comment on this thread. Tell me if these works are simply about climbing mountains, or if they are not, as they most certainly are - books of the most highly developed philosophy of life - and one man’s reaction to that “MORAL INJURY”.

You will be the better for it.

How is it that so many come on Common Dreams, complaining endlessly of the way things are, of the way things ought to be - ‘pie in the sky’, as Bill would put it - and yet never once doing more to change their own lifestyles - the very reason we are in the pickle we are indeed in???

How is that?

I will answer - people do not want to change - to discomfit themselves.

It is so easy to write and to criticise - but to actually change - avis raris.

Tilman and I mountaineered and traveled, ‘for to see an’ for to admire’ - not because it is easy, but because it is hard.

Is this a rational response - certainly not - but for all that - what is rationality - a poor, a very poor substitute for the real thing - for life at the bone - which is why so many prefer the military life and war - for all its horrors.

Change is hard - and as the great Tyrolian mountaineer Reinhold Messner put it - he realized at long last that adventure was exactly this - not mountains and competition - but simply leaving the comfort & safety of one’s home for the unknowable time spent away from the tried and the true.

The Navy Seals have an expression - ‘staying hard is hard - dying is easy’.

Livy of Rome spoke near identical words in his history of Rome before the Empire.

Get the book I have referenced - read and laugh, for Bill has a marvellously dry sense of humor - and his view of the world is grounded in the world of war, which we are still in - and still deny we are in.

Manysummits in Calgary


#7

More competition, competition of ideas. Nature is about cooperation as well. It is not necessary to defend your position, I only point out that the two things are not the same and have different consequences. Of course knowing yourself is represented by both. That is the way of mountains and why Native Americans still celebrate and hold them sacred. That is continuity. One thing.

My uncle wrote a book as well. He was in a Japanese prison camp in WW11. No, he wasn’t captured but abandoned by a General. About 80% of the men died. He survived. Was given the keys to the city and became a millionaire. A very quiet millionaire.


#8

I have to disagree with the article’s premise, “The system and its machines must begin to serve humanity, as opposed to the mass of humanity serving the machine,” and disagree as well with the dubious notion that AI can live up to its hype. The most over-hyped AI trend today is the self-driving car, which is in fact a lie, a ruse to distract a gullible public, a fraud. Android-like robots likewise will never become commonplace. Technology can and does aid humanity to produce a higher quality of life, but technology can be abused. Detrimental affects that are directed toward the working poor are left uncorrected if doing so upsets the profit enjoyed by the wealthy. This too is an abuse of theoretical capitalism which otherwise can be seen as a means to direct funds to some industrial enterprise that should benefit most people and harm none.


#9

Of course - “competition of ideas” !

As for the co-operation found in the natural world - a semantic discussion - dependent upon how the thinker chooses to frame the conversation.

There is the theory of group competition, as well as individual.

Co-operation is real, no doubt, but the reason we co-operate is because it works to our advantage - it is another competitive advantage.

Interesting story about your uncle - the ‘quiet millionaire’.

I would ask what your experience of life is - as I would of all posters on Common Dreams?

Unless one is a little bit loud - you are left with this disembodied run of words on a screen.

Unlike Phil Rockstroh - who tells you who he is, where he comes from - to add perspective to his words.

This is my method as well.


#10

I can see we view these things differently but I agree it is a semantic discussion of sorts. I was looking at the initial phrase to see if I had overlooked that possibility.

I think your book is probably very good. I told you the story as i have a perspective on that history. I find that a difficult read but I might get to it.

My life experience is eclectic, and the older I get the longer the story. I guess I don’t have to much to say about it. I know a bit about your history from your posts, always an interesting read.


#11

Whatever you are selling, I want one.


#12

Nice.


#13

Thanks for your time and effort in your responses fern !

I suppose we’ll leave it at that then - a man’s personal life has to be respected.

See you again on another thread - fates willing.


#14

Thanks to you as well. Definitely. a person’s privacy is important especially in the age we live. Sure thing, see ya.


#15

How can there be capitalist robots when robots won’t require money?


#16

Great post.


#17

I don’t see the problem with sexbots. Do we have a problem with vibrators?