We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Monday, February 27, 2017

Artificial Intelligence: ‘Frankenstein’ or Capitalist Money Machine

Click here to access article by James Petras from his blog. (Edited for clarity around 9:50 AM Seattle time on 2/28/2017.)
The best and the worst of the experts reporting on AI [artificial intelligence] assert that it is an autonomous system, devoid of any link to the class structure within which it operates. Their version of technological determinism, above and beyond the needs and demands of capitalists, has fits neatly with the corporate ideology of the trash journalists and pundits.

The fundamental questions that must be raised include: 1) ‘AI’, for whom?; 2) How are the productivity gains of AI to be distributed between capital and labor? 3) How are work time, income and pensions distributed between the owners of technology and the labor force?; and 4) What kinds of socio-economic activity does AI serve?
The short answer to all the above questions is "for the benefit of the ruling capitalist class"! Like everything else under capitalism, workers create many wonders like artificial intelligence (AI) only to have capitalists buy them up, "own" them like commodities such as tooth paste, and benefit from them while most workers grind out a day-to-day existence. Capitalist conspirators--yes, they gather in secret behind closed doors and plan to steal the wonders created by workers--have long discovered four great insights to aid in their tiny class's dominance over the vast majority. 

First, the new ruling class had discovered under the early charters granted by monarchs (the East India Company, for example) that they could greatly enhance their wealth at the expense of workers/peasants in foreign lands by securing exclusive rights over the material production of workers/peasants. They saw that with this new wealth they could secure for themselves other productive operations by simply "purchasing" such rights like commodities. Their new system became known as "capitalism" and they, "capitalists" schemed to get such an arrangement in their own European countries. Soon they put out all kinds of propaganda about the merits of buying rights to the products of workers in facilities they "owned". They labeled such arrangements as "free markets" . Likewise they used nice sounding words like "liberalism" to described the theory of their new economic system.

Second, the embryonic capitalist class conspirators mapped out a plan to get workers to aid them in overthrowing the arbitrary rule of monarchs and aristocrats, the descendants of warriors who used violence as a means to conquer territories and put inhabitants under their control. They decided to make all kinds of grand promises such as "liberty, equality, and fraternity", "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness", and a "social contract" in which they promised to take care of the workers/peasants. The vast majority of people, consisting of the latter, fell for this con, and have lived ever since in a daily struggle just to survive.

Third, the capitalist conspirators promised workers/peasants that they would no longer be ruled by the arbitrary whims of tyrants, but by the rule of law created in "democratic" institutions such as parliaments. Of course, initially they restricted such participation to themselves, but after some period of time they expanded voting privileges to include the new upper middle class, and later to most workers. You see, they learned how to screen out any dissidents from their parliaments through their control of all the indoctrination centers (which they "owned"), using jobs which they controlled to reward or punish people (illustrated here in a capitalist governed state), and through the discriminating use of bribes called "campaign contributions". 

Fourth, the new ruling class soon discovered that they needed worker bosses and other skilled workers to make their new system of rule work. Thus they decided that they would give these skilled workers and supervisors lots of gold/money and privileges such as eating at the same table as their capitalist rulers. Such workers, described as "upper middle class" by sociologists, were soon seduced into serving their masters by enjoying a much higher standard of living than ordinary workers and enjoying opportunities to socialize with such all-powerful people. (It made them feel so important.) These workers were soon so enamored of their new masters that they began to forget about their role as workers and their natural ties to, and affection for, other workers. (Malcolm X well understood this phenomenon as he expressed it in his observation about "a house Negro and a field Negro".) They, too, fell for this con and devoted their lives to serving their new capitalist masters.

And, it looks like capitalists will live happily ever after...or until they destroy all humans in a nuclear conflagration or destroy the habitat that supports human life while engaged in their mad pursuit for ever more profits and power.

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