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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Digital Creativity and the End of Capitalism

At the recent Toronto Global Forum, everyone was talking about driver-less cars.  The image was clear - transport costs down, accidents reduced, efficiency increased.  All the sticky human elements that get in the way of both profitability and safety would be gone.
Along with a whole lot of jobs, of course.

The driver-less car becomes a great symbol, then, for the broader economic shifts happening right now.  The emphasis on cutting costs has supplanted doing new stuff under the guise of a capitalist "so what" mentality.  Increasingly, pressure is on employees to justify their existing value and for entrepreneurs to dedicate the vast majority of their energy to the hustle to employers/consumers who aren't going to come part-way into the deal at all.  

In theory, this is supposed to ensure the tightest possible efficiency and that only the best, most saleable ideas come forward.  Again, in theory, this is supposed to mean only the best, most useful and innovative ideas and services will exist; everything else will atrophy under a lack of funding.

Competition is clearly a big part of this picture.

All else being equal, the fastest company in any market will win.

Can a person out-race a machine?  Can a horse outmatch the horse power of a car?

Why should we think that's any different on any kind of labour, physical or cognitive?

So - what happens when the competition is a computer, a robot, a digital network of systems increasingly working like one brain, except the size of the entire Internet?  How does anyone compete against that?

Robots can carry more weight, work without breaks, don't need maternity/paternity/compassionate leave and don't expect salary raises to keep doing the same job.

That's just the manual labour.

Bots can learn to do customer service, project management, crisis communications, military strategy, even artistic performance.

There's room for variety and a comfort level of wanting to work with a person, of course, but in the big picture the value of mechanised and digitized labour has broad-based appeal for everyone.

As bots creep into the workplace and reshape our economy, there will be less and less need for human labour.  There will be no way for humans to retrain on new skills, because there will be fewer and fewer jobs for which humans are better qualified to work than their data-driven, mechanical counterparts.

Look at the video linked above at the 13:49 mark.

Western society puts the capitalist system above the individual, with the notion being that the markets will inherently lead to consumers having the best possible lifestyle.  

As computer stock markets increasingly interact only with other computer stock markets and drones fight wars against other drones, there is a dwindling role for humans to play as producers and providers in that economy.  

If we're not producing, however, we're not earning - and if we're not earning, how can we consume?

Our focus on quick wins and low-hanging fruit ensures that we will collectively ignore this problem until, like Mike Duffy, it grows too severe to avoid.

Don't worry about any of that, though - it's all someone else's problem somewhere down the road.

Just watch a Hatsune Miku video instead.

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