Sunday, 5 August 2018

Paul Mason's Postcapitalism - A Detailed Critique - Chapter 5(7)

The Role of Technology

Paul continues, 

“According to standard economics, a person like Richard Stallman should not exist: he is not following his self-interest but suppressing it in favour of a collective interest that is not just economic but moral.” (p 122) 

However, a case can easily be made that those who seek to break apart existing monopolies are operating perfectly consistently with market logic. Many of those that sought to break apart monopolies like the East India Company, or the slave systems of the southern U.S., or, as with the US itself, after WWII, which argued for breaking up the old colonial empires, did so using moral arguments, but behind which stood cold cash calculation. 

The division that Paul makes, in relation to the requirement of large capitals, such as Google, to keep some software Open Source, is again nothing new. As soon as capital started to produce commodities, it began to be forced to introduce certain regulations and standards. Canals and canal boats can only work on a network on that basis; railways were not only led to standardise the gauge, but time itself; road traffic can only operate if everyone abides by the rules and so on. Similarly, although originally, things like nails, bolts, and screws came in all sorts of individual specifications, very quickly they had to be standardised. But, the standard settled on, whether it is in relation to railway tracks or video recorder formats, is not necessarily the best, but can be determined by which producer is dominant. 

The base technologies of this long wave cycle were already in existence by the time the Innovation Cycle peaked in 1985. Paul gives a list of the various technologies and platforms that currently exist, but, in reality, all we have are developments of that base technology constructed around the microchip, and telecommunications. That includes the development of fibre optic cables, and radio /wireless communications. Even a lot of the wireless technology, built into the internet of things, utilises this radio technology, i.e. RF (Radio Frequency) devices. A lot of that, so far, as with previous long wave cycles, has gone into labour-saving technologies for production. The development into consumer products always comes later, and however much we think we have seen of those so far, I think will be nothing compared to what we see in the next 10-20 years, in a whole series of areas of life, as the upward phase of the long wave continues. Take just one important area, health and social care. We already have the ability to cheaply decode each person's genome and identify from it a series of potential susceptibilities to various illnesses; we have the potential, using AI, to identify potential illnesses from blood, retina and other analysis; we have the potential to implant subcutaneous chips to constantly monitor blood pressure, and so on, in the same way chips monitor our cars etc.; and to send this information to our GP's, or, where necessary, to paramedics, even before an emergency arises; we have surgical robots assisting in brain surgery etc., which, with AI, have the possibility of replacing human surgeons; we have, therefore, the ability to introduce the elements of flexible specialisation into healthcare, in place of the old, 20th century, Fordist, mass production healthcare systems, like the NHS, and to provide everyone with cheap, individually tailored, lifelong healthcare solutions. 

But, we have more than that, with the extension of these technologies into gene technology solutions to various illnesses, as well as the ability to regenerate cellular tissue. We have also a) cybernetic technologies to assist our own deficiencies, and the rapid development of robots that will be able to carry out, in the home, all of those tasks currently assigned to nurses, and social care workers. The so called demographic time bomb for health and social care systems, caused by the ageing of the baby boomers, will turn out never to have existed, as all these new technologies are rolled out, and sold to them as commodities. 

Ultimately, so long as our brain functions, these developments will enable us to replace, or even discard, the other parts of our body, utilising new, better constructed, more efficient, and more durable components as required, or as they become available. In fact, eventually even our brain becomes disposable, as we back up its contents, and neural connections to other more durable media. In the process, we will demonstrate not only that mind is the means by which the universe/matter becomes conscious, but that we ourselves, are more than just mind or matter, in the form of consciousness. As Ernest Wood put it, matter is that principle in Nature which brings the past into the present, and he describes the mind as the means by which the future is brought into the present. So, when we use our mind to plan some future event, we then act upon it so as to achieve that result. (Ernest Wood, Yoga, p 140-1) 

Consciousness is what links the two. Our mind does not tell the brain to send instructions to our legs to walk, for example, autonomously.  Such autonomous movements are usually an indication that something has gone wrong with the brain's functioning, or is the result of some external electrical stimulation, i.e. a galvanic response.  The mind is like the processor of a computer, which takes stored information, from memory,or storage, and processes it to produce some new result, which is then sent as instructions to external devices, using the stored device drivers.  But, the computer processor does not do that processing without being told what to process, and what the end product should be, without a programmer, providing a programme, and set of instructions of what it should do.  That is the role of consciousness.  In the same way that we take a multitude of still frames, shown in sequence, and construct a moving image, or in reverse, when we move our head rapidly from side to side, our brain inserts a series of breaks, so that we do not see a blur, such as you get on a camera from a rapid panning shot, so our consciousness operates to provide reality with a form that we can comprehend, of past, present and future, even though, in reality, none of these things exist in that form. Our consciousness is the means by which a series of multi-dimensional, non-linear phenomenon are converted into a four dimensional, linear reality that we are thereby enabled to comprehend. 

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