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The 'iEverything' and the Redistributional Imperative


The 'iEverything' and the Redistributional Imperative

Robert Reich

t’s now possible to sell a new product to hundreds of millions of people without needing many, if any, workers to produce or distribute it.

At its prime in 1988, Kodak, the iconic American photography company, had 145,000 employees. In 2012, Kodak filed for bankruptcy.


It just may be that a redistribution of wealth from the rich to everyone else may be the only means to save the economy. But who would do the redistributing, and who would watch over their shoulders to keep them from skimming? Who would decide where the line of demarkation denoting too much wealth to keep is? What about the agreed upon fact that police and military personnel with a lot of weaponry on hand would, as things are now, not likely to be on the redistributionist side? How do global warming and other environmental and infrastructure issues factor in? How much time is left to persuade enough people that this is a good solution to economic problems?


i believe that the "iEverything" as conceived / outlined here by Reich is missing one of its key elements / effects:

The individual "human" becomes literally a node on a larger bio-technologic / cybernetic network. Especially as we accelerate toward direct interface between computer chip and neuron: Think "brain implants," or direct thought-connection through the next generation of your "smart-phone"; instead of keyboarding in an internet search, just think it. Instead of logging into your "social network account" or Instagram / Facebook identity in order to "social network," just think into it.

This larger network will have / has its own structural and functional logic, irrespective of what the "individual" humans believe about their "individuality." It's impossible to have a perfect analogy, but one way to think about what is happening and what the outcome will mean for humans, is to think of how the formerly "individual" single-celled creatures became organized by "evolutionary logic" into what we call plants and animals.

i don't think it's going to be about "time left to persuade enough people that [redistribution] is a good solution to economic problems." The "redistributive logic" of the emerging network will "evolve" the "economy" of the emerging network in ways that work for the emerging network as it evolves. More or less irrespective of what any humans think.

Regarding the obvious accelerating ecological collapse that leads you to ask your question about how much time is left:

One of my e-mail signatures currently reads "We are witnessing a fascinating race between ecological dis-integration / mass extinction, and our vanishment into a beyond-human bio-technologic cybernetic network (evolutionary step beyond conceivable human understanding). Maybe both will occur at the same cosmic instant, in a hyperbolic singularity!"

In a previous version of this e-mail sig, i also included financial and economic crisis / meltdown / collapse as a third element accelerating hyperbolically toward singularity. i removed it because the ecological and cyber-network elements seem so much more "important," but reading Reich's essay i think i'll try to work it back in, thinking about the "redistributive logic" of the "economics" of the emerging / evolving network.

Especially incorporating the suddenly emerging 3-D printing, "physical manifestation of thought" element that Reich includes here. i want to read Jeremy Rifkin's most recent book on the "zero marginal cost" economy - which explores how the acceleration of cyber-networking and the emergence of 3-D printing will overwhelm / transform the "corporate" structure of the modern economy - and try to grasp more holistically how all the elements coalesce and "evolve" together into whatever this "beyond human" networked new "creature" will be / do if it does emerge / evolve, and does not die at "birth" with the collapse of the Earth's ecology.


My reply below was intended to reply to stiffupperflipflop but i hit the wrong "reply" icon.


Money is an artificial construct used to exchange "value" over distance and time. It was a useful idea that has been compromised primarily by usury and externalities. Money must be modified to account for those and other shortcomings. However, simple redistribution of wealth does not affect another evolving problem--the inequality of dignity, another "payment" for work. The movie "Idiocracy" may be all too prescient, reflecting the fate of humanity that increasingly yields to the technological innovation not checked by the precautionary principle. Humankind is bound and determined to outthink itself right off of the planet, taking countless innocent species with it. The cynical bread and circuses paradigm of Power for Power's sake only exacerbates the issue. True (i.e. liberal) education (not training) is required for all to bend the course of "civilization" on a path of sustainable planetary balance.


"The iEverything also does whatever you want. It gives you a massage, fetches you your slippers, does your laundry and folds and irons it."

Wow! There goes the end to marriage... as patriarchy conceives of it.


"How much time is left to persuade enough people that this is a good solution to economic problems?"

You pose a set of arguments suffused with Libertarian subtexts.

The above, in keeping with the site regulars' most insistent Talking Point--turns the problem of vanishing Democracy (along with a synchronistic loss of economic power in the Middle Class and increasingly, those identified with the upper middle class Professional Sector) into this idea that if people could be persuaded, so it would be.

This comment either misses the TRUTH about today's congestion of power (see: Page and Gilens Study and also, evidence of The Piketty Report) or pretends that it's not the case.

Also, the word is demarcation. You wrote "demarkation," the proof of erudition and deep thought. Not.


Your cool evaluation of this form of Trans-humanism reminds me of a Nazi learning how to make pure production endlessly more efficient: pay no attention to all those human souls on the receiving end of this MAN AND MACHINE over (Mother) nature approach.

At minimum, a cursory moral advisement is humane. After all, it's not as if the high technocrats who push militarization, surveillance, and things as odious--and lethal to the natural world--as factory farms, and bio-technologically reformatting more and more of this fragile planet's ecosystems show a molecule of respect for the things that cannot be measured: such as the mother's love for a child, what a tear drop costs, and what LOVE has put together expressly forbidding that no man put (it all) asunder.

You seem amused by it all... as if somehow this CONTROL and reformulating of both the human being and the natural world represent some kind of inevitability, Progress even.

Artificial Intelligence is a very real danger when mostly it advances the positions of the established dominator class and the prism through which they view the world. Hint: Mars rules.


What you left out is the cost--imposed by the creators--of this "do everything" item. If Internet in my area, for example costs $88 a month... then like it or not, I must pay close to $1000 a year if I want that service. In case you missed it, most products and services today are in the hands of fewer and fewer corporate oligarchs. THEY control costs... they're not improving lives with altruism in mind.


You have endless supplies of arrogance and presumption, and you never seem to be able to acknowledge whenever anyone points it out, so i will not bother explaining anything to you.

But you are on the one hand hilariously confused about who i am, what i advocate for, and what i represent, and at the same time you are utterly reprehensible with your "cool" willingness to viciously smear anyone who happens to trigger one of your jerking knees.


SR operates under the "One rage fits all" paradigm.



What is your antecedent for "that"?



The iEverything also does whatever you want. It gives you a massage, fetches you your slippers, does your laundry and folds and irons it.

Uh, Bob, I don't know if you hang around with other guys very much but - in the list of "whatever you want" - massages, slippers, and laundry don't even crack the top ten.



The only way the ecology of the earth will collapse is if the sun goes supernova and burns the earth to a cinder. There have been a number of mass extinctions in the past and life still exists on the earth. If the environment changes, then living organisms evolve adaptations that will allow them to survive in a changed environment. That is the beauty of natural selection: if you change the environment, then life will change to survive in an altered environment.

A catastrophic meteor impact in the past spewed so much junk into the atmosphere that the climate changed (the earth became cooler). This wiped out the dinosaurs and allowed humans to become the dominant species on the earth. So, climate change was bad for dinosaurs and good for humans.

Regardless of how the environment changes (e.g., if humans cause the earth to warm because we burn fossil fuels), humans will use their big brains to change the environment to suit us. Humans have lived on the moon, a far more inhospitable environment than anywhere on earth. We certainly will be able to live on a warmer earth.

Have you seen the Stanley Kubrick classic: "Dr. Stangelove?" In the movie a nuclear holocaust is imminent (something that will cause the ecology to collapse). Dr. Stangelove says no need to worry. We can simply move into caves until the radioactivity decreases to the point humans can move back to the surface. To maintain the population, there will have to be 10 females to each male (How do you like them sexist apples, Siouxrose?).

The problem is that no other species has the ability to change the environment to suit them (with the possible exception of beavers who change a stream into a pond by building a dam). All other species must adapt genetically and this takes a long time. Hence, climate change will cause some species to go extinct and other species to flourish. Since we are causing climate change by burning fossil fuels, the question we have to answer is: "What moral obligations do we have to all those species that will go extinct because of our love of the internal combustion engine?"


You vastly undersell the breadth and depth of the mass extinction event that is already underway, and you vastly oversell the human ability to adapt to a collapsing ecology.


The ecology is not going to collapse because of global warming. The ecology did not collapse after the meteor impact that killed off the dinosaurs. And mammals replaced reptiles in the ecosystem after the meteor impact so climate change was actually beneficial to mammals..

Are you aware that the vast number of species that have ever lived are now extinct. Mass extinction is normal. You seem to think it is bad.

Biologists will tell you that adaptation is the result of changes in the genes of living organism. If you move to a mountain, the amount of hemoglobin in your circulatory system will increase because the partial pressure of oxygen in the air you breathe is lower. This is a physiological adaptation that permits survival at higher altitudes.

Astronauts on the moon do not adapt to the habitat on the moon. They use technology to change the habitat to suit them. I live in Nebraska where the winters are cold and the summers are hot. I don't adapt to the seasonal changes in climate. What I do is turn on the furnace in the winter and the AC in the summer so that the environment in my house is not cold in the winter and not hot in the summer.

Are you aware that oil companies are advertising that burning fossil fuels is actually good for humans? The reasoning is that increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will stimulate photosynthesis and increase crop yields. What they say is true, but it begs the question of our moral obligations to those species that will not be able to adapt to a warmer earth and will go extinct.

By the way, the notion that the notion that there is a mass extinction event underway that is due to ecological collapse is the fallacy of Russell's teapot. Bertrand Russell once said a teapot exists in orbit somewhere between the orbits of the Earth and Mars. He then pointed out that it is nonsense to believe him simply because you cannot prove the teapot doesn't exist. It is logically impossible to prove a negative; i.e., you can't prove there are no unicorns. You state there is mass extinction underway due to ecological collapse and then expect me to believe you because I can't prove you are wrong. Not that different than asking a man when he stopped beating his wife.


"Collapse" does not equal "everything dies." You seem to think you're schooling me on something but you are simply obtuse.

And i see from your Russel's Teapot reference that you are here under a new name and we have met before.

You really do seem to think you are onto something, and that you are schooling people, but seriously, you're not.


The idea of a "redistribution of wealth from the rich to everyone else" is silly for two reasons. One is obvious. We have no power over the rich. The other is that the middle class of this generation so strongly opposes letting a crumb trickle down to the poor. This is the generation that ended actual welfare aid to the jobless poor and many of the unemployable, and has been targeting the disabled.


There's a difference between "the ecology collapsing" and "the atmosphere becoming uninhabitable."


Do you assume that "nearly everyone" is a middle classer? The middle class has been shrinking for years, and permanent poverty keeps growing. Low wage workers can get things like a TV or microwave for under $25 second-hand. Millions of Americans don't own a refrigerator; many low rent apts. or rooms come with a functioning refrigerator. You seem to see a country where everyone is doing OK, able to meet basic needs and still have money left over for luxuries. In reality, we have a poverty crisis. Times have changed. America looked at the policies and programs that took the US to its height of wealth and productivity, and decided to do just the opposite. The inevitable happened. The middle class is getting phased out, while hopeless poverty continues to grow. Sure, we're a rich country, but nearly all of that wealth is concentrated at the top.