Robots, AI, and Totalitarian Superfluousness
Many people are perplexed by the drive towards firing workers and replacing them with machines. They ask "who will buy the products?". But, when looked at from a neoliberal/ totalitarian ideological viewpoint, robots are the "final solution" to the ruling class's problem: "who will be our servants after we kill all the grasping, uppity peasants"? Using robots to do that would be even more efficient than what Jay Gould, the crooked Robber Baron, proposed:
I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.
Has no one noticed the warnings of scientists and ethicists against creating machines that can autonomously kill humans? Has everyone lost the memory of Skynet in the Terminator movies? Does the human race have a death wish? Just asking.
Americans used to pride themselves on their critical thinking and debating skills, on the right of genuine free speech. But that all has been undermined by electronic media, by the hypnosis of screen watching, the cocooning effect of one's social media bubble, the privatization of the public spaces necessary for community and society to prosper. Nobody has heard of Jurgen Habermas, but everyone knows about the Nike swoosh (while not caring about its sweatshopping business model).
How can one expect children to learn about democracy or to become socialized when civics classes have been eliminated in favor of teach-to-the-test? Meanwhile, the average kid spends hours playing violent videogames and watching violent TV shot through with neoliberal propaganda, i.e. advertising. Advertising, no matter how anti-social, is rarely criticized, so long as it is service of making a profit.
The strong emphasis of totalitarian propaganda on the "scientific" nature of its assertions has been compared to certain advertising techniques which also address themselves to the masses...But there is nothing more to the frequently overrated similarities...Businessmen usually do not pose as prophets and they do not constantly demonstrate the correctness of thier predictions.
- Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (OOT), p 345
They do pose as prophets these days. Prophets of the coming wonders of robots and AI.
Look at the shiny robot. Don't pay any attention to the most corrupt health care system on the planet, third world mortality rates, massive out-of-wedlock births to teenagers, a rotting infrastructure, crumblng schools, and on and on. Somehow robots and AI will fix all of this. Ignore identity theft and invasive profiling. Also, don't pay attention to how completely isolated individuals have become, dependent upon FAANG for their news, their shopping, their mail, their business. Don't notice how, even in groups, people just stare at their smartphones. Above all, don't listen to those worthless social scientists and other non-STEM bleeding heart liberals - we made sure they totally discredited themselves with the working class by their decades of support for divisive Identity Politics (IP).
Too bad we have thrown the baby of society out with the bathwater of IP. We do not recognize that we have dismantled civil society and replaced it by a toll-boothed, censored, surveiled similacrum run for profit by a handful of megacorps. A digital Pottersville. We have lost our common sense, or rather handed it over to easily manipulated social media platforms. In reality, being on the internet is not "social"; it is a solitary, lonely business. People have likened it to being in a jail cell with the screen as a window.
The internet kills socialization. It is full of lonely people with hundreds of Facebook "friends", most of whom are just playing networking games or self-promoting. The internet offers a phony replacement for the social structures that rampant corporatism and globalization have destroyed. To use Sheldon Wolin's term, neoliberalism is friendly Fascism. It treats people as objects, valued only for their economic worth. (They sell your clicks.) Hannah Arendt said all of this long ago:
Loneliness...is closely connected with uprootedness and superfluousness which have been the curse of the modern masses since the beginning of the industrial revolution...To be uproooted means to have no place in the world, recognized and guaranteed by others; to be superfluousness means not to belong to the world at all. Uprootedness can be the preliminary condition for superfluousness, just as isolation can be the preliminary condition for loneliness...
The experience of the materially and sensually given world depends upon my being in contact with other men, upon our common sense which regulates and controls all other senses and without which each of us would be enclosed in his own particularity of sense data which in themselves are unreliable and treacherous. Only because we have common sense, that is only because not one man, but men in plural inhabit the earth can we trust our immediate sensual experience.
HA, OOT, pp. 475-6
Today, with populations and homelessness everywhere on the increase, masses of people are continuously rendered superfluous if we continue to think of our world in utilitarian terms. Political, social, and economic events everywhere are in a silent conspiracy with totalitarian instruments devised for making men superfluous.
HA, OOT, p 459
I am always amazed that I can easily find OOT quotes that are still fresh and relevant today, seventy years after OOT was written. What immediately follows amazement is sadness, because we are repeating all the mistakes that led to the great crisis of the 1930s-40s, and doing it with much more powerful technical means of surveillance and propaganda. We truly have lost our common sense, which is why most of the frogs are cluelessly staying in the now-boiling pot.
The dots the frogs do not connect is that totalitarian governments always have enemies lists, and once complete power is achieved, those enemies are also found internally. The frogs are distracted because each potful is told that the frogs in the other pots are enemies; and isn't it great that TPTB are boiling your enemies?
The world faces problems of overpopulation and ever escalating plunder of non-renewable resources and ecosystems. Both of these problems are inherent in the neoliberal ideology of infinite growth on a finite planet. Neoliberalism blocks democratic solutions to those problems by destroying governments, societies, and communities who resist the suicidal commodification of all aspects of life. Poor people are thrown overboard if they get in the way of the next quarter's profits.
Instead of recognizing the impossibility of permanent growth (of the 0.1%'s bank accounts) the neoliberal ideology has decreed that austerity (for everyone but themselves) is needed. The MIC has decreed that we will blow up half the planet to enforce our neoliberal ideology on foreign societies, which we deem heretical if they will not follow our economic pracitices or accept being garrioned by our troops and being surveilled by outposts of the FBI, CIA, and NSA.
In Greece, neoliberalism entered the "final solution" stage. It decreed that an entire country would be looted and sold off. Its entire social structure would be vaporized; pensions denied, healthcare and education available only to those who could pay for such luxuries. The beauty of neoliberalism is that it creates an open air panopticon. It controls all monetary transactions; it monitors all computer and telephone communications. It proactively subverts political movements. It aims to kill its enemy: countries and societies. People who care and societies who care are nothing but parasites, moochers to them - gee, where have we seen that before?
The totalitarian attempt to make men superfluous reflects the experience of modern mases of their superfluity on an overcrowded earth...Within the framework of totalitarian ideology...if the inmates are vermin, it is logical that they should be killed by poison gas; if they are degenerate, they should not be allowed to contaminate the population; if they have "slave-like souls", no one should waste his time trying to reeducate them. Seen through the eyes of ideology, the trouble with the camps is that they make too much sense, that the execution of the doctrine is too consistent.
HA, OOT, p 457
Can anyone say "raghead"?
Only where great masses (of people) are superfluous or can be spared without disastrous results of depopulation is totalitarian rule...at all possible.
HA, OOT, p 311
These days, we have literally billions of superfluous people. Mostly in the Third World, but increasingly in the First World. The whole concept of "superfluousness" as a failure of society has been erased from our culture. Instead, America has been killing superfluous people for decades. Blowing up the Middle East because they are sitting on "our oil". In the ME, we have perfected the techniques of militarized policing, torture chamber jails, indiscriminate bombing and drone warfare. Just as the Nazis got some value out of their slave labor, the Empire of Chaos uses refugees from our wars to destabalize our next victim. We can also recruit some of them as terrorists - sort of like the capos and sondercommandos the Nazis recruited to do the dirty work in the KZs.
America is already a full blown totalitarian society in its overseas military bases that have metastacized to almost every country on the planet. It is already a full blown totalitarian society in our domestic ghettos, where policemen shoot people of color as casually and as consequence-free as a concentration camp guard would shoot an inmate.
The American public has been politically lobotomized (by social media, smartphones, reality TV, and massively available pornography) in preparation for the mass looting of what is left of the middle and working classes. The rollout of robotic vehicles, stores without clerks, and warehouses without workers will produce massive unemployment. In the absence of the already shredded social safety net, that unemployment will produce violence. That violence will justify the use of drones, robocops, and whatever other hitech slaughter has been produced in the MIC's laboratories and factories.
The robotic future is obvious to anyone paying attention. Most people are not paying attention.