clear bright future
(2019) by Paul Mason
excerpt before getting book – Reading Arendt Is Not Enough
Paul Mason (@paulmasonnews) tweeted at 5:03 AM – 2 May 2019 :
Reading Arendt is not enough – an excerpt from my book #ClearBrightFuture via @nybooks https://t.co/ftMRHZIZzK(http://twitter.com/paulmasonnews/status/1123905920457682945?s=17)
In 1951, Arendt wrote that the ideal subject of a totalitarian state is not the convinced Nazi or communist but “people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (that is, the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (that is, the standards of thought) no longer exist.”
What had made people susceptible to fake news in the 1930s, Arendt argued, was loneliness: “the experience of not belonging to the world at all, which is among the most radical and desperate experiences of man.”
That’s the kind of loneliness you experience today in small-town America, or in the left-behind industrial towns of Britain, or the backwaters of Poland and Hungary—all heartlands of the new authoritarian racism. It’s also, paradoxically, the kind of loneliness you can experience in a networked society:
Later, in her report on the trial of the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, Arendt coined the famous phrase that could be applied to many of today’s authoritarian kleptocrats: “the banality of evil.” Thousands of Nazi functionaries like Eichmann had participated in mass killing, only to return home each evening to humdrum domestic life. What made them capable of this, Arendt argued, was the loss of their ability to think: “
This, in turn, was rooted in the modern bureaucratic lifestyle. Totalitarian states make people into cogs in an administrative machine, Arendt argued, “dehumanizing them.” Worse, she said, this might even be a feature of all modern bureaucracies.
too much ness
as we copied and pasted insights from Arendt into our Facebook pages, and held up her words on placards at anti-Trump rallies, a series of disturbing questions arose.
Third: Hitler was destroyed by Stalin. The entire postwar world in which Arendt, Orwell, Koestler, and Levi wrote their critiques of the totalitarian mind-set was created by the victory of one totalitarian state over another.
The paradox of today’s cult of Arendt is that, among all the anti-authoritarians of that era, her thought is the least equipped to help us answer those questions..t
Practically, Arendt solved the problem of fascism versus Stalinism by escaping to America, an achievement nobody could begrudge. Theoretically, however, she solved it by claiming that American constitutional democracy was a form of industrial society uniquely immune to totalitarianism.
deeper: maté basic needs
Arendt was a theorist of “What’s gone wrong and how should humans live?”—but not “What’s happening, and why?”
The assumption that Arendt was the first person to identify the common features of the totalitarian projects of Nazism and Stalinism is nonsense.
The Austrian socialist Lucien Laurat proposed in 1931 that the USSR was neither capitalist nor socialist, but “bureau-technocratic”: a new ruling caste had seized control and imposed a new form of class society.Laurat explicitly connected this to the emergence of managerial bureaucracy in Western countries, creating “another form of exploitation of man by man” to replace capitalism.
It was in the aftermath of the Moscow trials that an oddball left-winger named Bruno Rizzi published a book entitled The Bureaucratisation of the World. In it, he argued that the Soviet bureaucracy was simply a Russian expression of a new form of class society that was replacing capitalism all over the world: “bureaucratic collectivism,” he called it.
When Hitler and Stalin signed their peace pact in August 1939, ..Rizzi’s bureaucratic collectivism thesis took off powerfully inside the Western left. ..“a new form of exploitative society.” This “managerial revolution” was destined to triumph everywhere, leaving historical progress with no option but to operate through the actions of totalitarian dictators.
In George Orwell’s masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty-Four, it is Burnham’s ideas that are parodied in The Book, the secret manual of the underground movement trying to overthrow Big Brother. Orwell rejected Burnham’s claim that the world was about to become three unmovable totalitarian dictatorships, but explored—by way of a warning—how it might come about: by suppressing all knowledge of the past; by turning language into political jargon so that people can’t think rebellious thoughts; and by repressing sexual desire.
Orwell’s hero, Winston Smith, does find out about the past. .
He maintains a critical private language in his diary..t
this is key/huge to resistance/humanism/et-al
These ideas—circulating from Rizzi to Burnham to Orwell—had been current for more than ten years when Arendt wrote The Origins of Totalitarianism. What distinguished Arendt, then and later, was her refusal to explain why totalitarian ideologies triumph. “There is an abyss,” she wrote, “between men of brilliant and facile conceptions and men of brutal deeds and active bestiality, which no intellectual explanation is able to bridge.
Arendt failed to understand the class dynamics of the societies that produced both fascism and Stalinism.
the number one weapon for the US right is that self-same “eighteenth-century philosophy” that Arendt assumed had given Americans immunity from totalitarian rule: their individualism, which has been turned against them during thirty years of free-market rule, and their belief that economic choice constitutes freedom.
Collapse everything and start again is the modern right-wing fantasy.
if Trump has triggered a crisis of progressive thought, it is in particular a crisis for the cult of Hannah Arendt. The United States of America was her last and enduring hope: the only political institution on earth that was supposed to be immune to totalitarianism, nationalism, and imperialism.
Arendt’s humanism was based on “what ought to be,” not on what is. Human beings, she wrote, should resist totalitarianism by trying to live an active life of political engagement, and by carving out freedom to think philosophically.
But no matter how many progressive causes she espoused, hers was a worldview tainted by admiration for the reactionary German tradition in philosophy begun by Friedrich Nietzsche.Nietzsche taught the German bourgeoisie of the late nineteenth century that its fantasies of empire and volk were more valid than the working-class project of collaboration, equality, and a human-centered society. Morality is a sham, he said, and the most honest thing to do is to pursue your own self-interest by any means necessary.There is no purpose to human existence, such as the “good life” imagined by Aristotle, and so no set of morals or ethics can be derived from it.
Nietzsche would become the cult figure of neoliberalism. Once human beings are reduced to two-dimensional, selfish, and competitive individuals—in a world where “there is no such thing as society,” as Margaret Thatcher once put it—the only logical response is to cast yourself as one of Nietzsche’s supermen: the alpha male, the ruthless manager, the financial shark, the pick-up artist.
Arendt certainly drew different moral conclusions from those of Nietzsche, but she could never see him or the philosophical tradition he gave birth to as the progenitor of Nazism. Indeed, she went out of her way to absolve him of responsibility for Hitlerism. To her dying day, she remained in awe of Nietzsche’s leading pro-Nazi follower, and her one-time lover, the philosopher Martin Heidegger.
For us, understanding the philosophical through-line from Nietzsche via Hitler to the American neocons of the Iraq era and the alt-right of today is critical. Nietzsche is the all-purpose philosopher of reactionary politics. He says to the middle-class mind, dissatisfied with managerial conformity, that there is a higher form of rebellion than the one proposed by socialists, feminists, and other progressives: an individualist rebellion against morality, in favor of oneself.
He tells the elite that elites are necessary, and he is brutally honest that this demands a form of social apartheid in which most people perform “forced labor.” He decries state intervention, just as the modern right does, and advocates “as little state power as possible.” He is appalled, of course, at the possibility of working people using taxation to redistribute wealth. Nietszche, instead, idolizes the “criminal type”: all the gangster lacks to be a superhero, he says, is “the jungle, a certain freer and more dangerous form of nature,” in which he can demonstrate that “all great men were criminals and that crime belongs to greatness.”
Nietzsche greeted the rise of European imperialism with the words: “A daring master race is being formed upon the broad basis of an extremely intelligent herd of the masses.” What that master race needed was freedom from social norms and religious morals, so that they could become “the kind of exuberant monsters that might quit a horrible scene of murder, arson, rape and torture with the high humor and equanimity appropriate to a student prank.”
Any reading of what Nietzsche actually said, in the context of the rise of the German labor movement and the birth of German imperial ambition, should leave any humanist, democrat, or supporter of human rights reeling in disgust. But he did not repel Arendt.
The Scottish philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre once wrote that there is something logical in the repeated rediscovery of Nietzsche and his superman theory. Whenever the capitalist order comes under stress and the rule of the elite is challenged, the ordinary morality that rich people profess is called into question. Repression, deviousness, lies, and even murder become the order of the day. At these critical moments, the ordinary, boring bureaucrats discover that their norms and morals were just a jumble of old rules without any logical underpinning. Because of this, wrote MacIntyre, “it is possible to predict with confidence that in the apparently quite unlikely contexts of bureaucratically managed modern societies there will periodically emerge social movements informed by just that kind of prophetic irrationalism of which Nietzsche’s thought is the ancestor.”
That is exactly what we are living through now, and Arendt’s thought cannot explain it—because she refused to understand fascism as the elite’s response to the possibility of working-class power, or to understand the essential role of irrationalism in all such reactionary movements, and because hers was a philosophy based on American exceptionalist assumptions of immunity to totalitarian impulses.This is sadly disproved.
Arendt’s optimism about postwar America stemmed from her belief that people can learn to take self-liberating actions, learn to distinguish good from bad, and the ugly from the beautiful. But if you share her optimism—and I do—then you are now up against a very dangerous opposing force.
In this context, the rediscovery of Hannah Arendt and the humanism of the 1950s is not enough.
We need a humanism that can resist the re-establishment of biological hierarchies and root instead the universality of human rights on *more solid foundations than the ones currently under attack..t
This project will need to survive contact with the new challenge of thinking machines and the new ideology of machine control known as post-humanism.
tech as it could be..
livestream of book launch talk
Really interesting discussion of @paulmasonnews’ new book tonight – a humanist (almost liberal) take on the economics and politics we find ourselves in, with a culture war is here to stay edge https://t.co/LerZm2UfUg
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/TorstenBell/status/1125846801188368385
orwell: not about having a crystal ball but about knowing what kind of world you live in
as i’ve tried to report the world.. people don’t know what kind of world they’re living in.. partly because illusion that it will change.. partly because so rapid
my anatomy of the crisis: we are living thru a 3 fold crisis: econ model that doesn’t work for most people; evaporation of consent for democracy/law/rights in most stable democracies in the world; rising problem of algorithmic control.. t
tech power, democracy and crisis of orientation makes me wonder.. is there a deeper thing going on.. in book i call it.. crisis of neoliberal self.. ie: market into everyday life.. the disenchantment of politics by market.. t
can keep an econ on life support for a long time.. but can’t keep keep ideology (i think he said that.. was about human mind/logic) on life support.. why did we become so defenseless against machine control
i think the 30 yrs of evisceration of agency.. to now.. where there’s no market logic.. there’s another logic of nation/race/creed/gender.. i think this neolib self we created.. it’s been like an elementary drug to helplessness..t
while we are talking about rights.. realities are being created.. against which we are defenseless.. t
these mechs of social control will travel.. on what basis do you demand the right to control the machine..
the basis of the whole thing was the attack on the possibility of truth.. (if do that have to believe in agency of human – paraphrase)
what i’ve observed is that we almost don’t need some moral philosophy.. ie: plenty of self driving cars.. we need to teach ourself to become intelligent clients for moral philosophical ideas..t
rather..focus on listening to 7b voices/curiosities everyday..& let morality emerge – aka: it’s already in us
via ie: tech as it could be..
going to have to have something better in minds than a series of market calculuses.. advocacy for a new form of virtue ethics..t
what kinds of ethics are we going to need: what is a good society..t
my real fear – when we create these machines.. if we don’t give them a philosophy of humans.. they will impute one.. likely.. man superman theory.. and they will be the superman
i’ve learned to move the problem away from econ.. if you want to discover humanity.. has to be proposed on a diff level.. t
the moment where all the people are persuadable if passing..
interviewer: you’re now the big universalist
however the left were.. think the anti globalization movement.. marxism was always universalism and humanist
we might one day free ourselves.. has always been there in my thinking.. the real problem is .. for me.. neolib can’t move on by itself.. w an econ void.. and if you keep separating the two.. can never imagine idea..
what’s changed is the threat.. we could lose the enlightenment.. ie: unis..
what we need.. and what we can do now.. is better than uni ness
i don’t think people realize how under threat the truth sources are..t
ultimate truth source for humanity: curiosity.. not unis
interviewer: your focus is more.. what is the big problem
the question you’re asking i would reframe like this:
the customer wants to be human but finds it easier to get his coffee if he goes along w it.. market only measures performivity.. so never had to check a box that said i believe in it all..t
everyone of them (?) produces a manifesto that copies and pastes from prior
the bat fight is going on.. some say way i do that is defend ie: minorities..
the alliance of the elite and the mob.. what they want..both of them.. is access to history.. (arendt)
what she is saying is they can’t survive in a history where there’s progress.. they have to rewind it so there’s no progress
from pew reports – one of key indicators that you vote for trump is you believe getting a degree is a waste in time
that it’s a waste of time to have knowledge
huge diff there.. degree is not knowledge.. so in a bigger bind that what you are voicing..
radical defense of human being is going to be critical.. and overcoming mass feeling of fatalism..
interviewer: what should we do
i want to say.. work it out for yourselves.. you have the answers.. if understand problem correctly..t
the main enemy is no longer goldman sachs.. of goldman would fight fascism.. i’d fight alongside
ep thompson .. two marxisms: 1\ liberation 2\ machine control – history as machine
because of mixture one no many yeses.. no real replacement for capitalism.. along w ‘utopia leads to holocaust’ left has no utopia.. i feel we’re really feel the absence of any goal.. because right has all the utopias
we have to move from reflexes..t
let’s move to ie: daily curiosity
7b of them.. everyday
we have the means to listen to and facil that
ie: tech as it could be..
cultural marxism is .. giving people rights.. (paraphrase correct?)
workers for me was a self taught ethics
yeah.. but more pure would be ie: curiosity (over decision making ness)
the elite doesn’t need fascism.. arendt said german world needed it.. we don’t have strong labor movement so don’t need it in same way.. in a way.. fascism is a romantic revolutionary.. get rid of it all .. great man thrives.. what stops them is defeating them.. that’s why i think ie: protests are right.. but that’s not going to defeat them
on ability to draw on something w roots – a belief system.. so it’s possible.. your gen is going to have to come to some kind of rational.. for if you can’t persuade them.. what could you do.. it’s about the rule of law.. ie: can’t drive 90 mph w/o getting a ticket.. but people can abuse people.. ie: tommy robinson
i’m very optimist about our ability to discourage fascists.. but not about deep rooted ideology from ie: movies/media.. we have created a mythology that is hyper sexualized/genderized
we are in a cultural war.. start telling stories that mean stuff.. stop telling stories that never end
questioner: i think your hope for the world is rediscovering an angry jesus
pinker ideology .. that everything is alright.. but what i don’t buy is that there is an irreversible ness to progress
so you buy the .. everything is alright ness..?
where my optimism comes from.. tech alone never solves things.. it creates situations.. that it’s up to humans to put right.. i believe we can.. why i’m so fixated on controlling ai.. is i believe it can be used for a great alteration..t
indeed.. ai humanity needs: augmenting interconnectedness
what’s the most dangerous – letting go of agency
i believe humans can set selves free.. tech combined with (?)
neolib said – can be good/bad.. as long as follow market..t
what would the angry jesus do.. what table would he/she turn over.. whose feet would he wash.. my answer would be.. the one thing.. ie: roman empire was.. burn incense to your gods.. worship in own home.. and the marxists said.. no..
if performative market relationships (were key).. key to going forward is to stop performing/obeying.. get real beliefs out.. what shall i do..t
notes/quotes from book (
still waiting on library purchase – thanks library):
for 3 decades, millions of people have allowed market forces to run their lives, shape their behaviour and overrule their democratic rights. there is even a religion dedicated to worshipping this machine’s power and control: it’s call economics..t
we need a radical defense of the human being..t
mufleh humanity law: we have seen advances in every aspect of our lives except our humanity– Luma Mufleh
part 1 – the events
the argument of this book is that it will not (4th industrial revolution put everything right).. to unlock the potential of new techs to boost human wellbeing, there has to be something human left to defend. but each of the crises we face – economic, geopolitical and technological – is rooted in the erosion of what it means to be human
since the 80s free market ideology has attacked our right to possess a self that is more than a collection of econ needs..
one of this book’s aims is to put the post humanism industry (inflection pt w trump election) out of business…
to defend rationality you have to defend what it is based on: the proposal that experience plus accurate observation can create verifiable truth inside our brains
after the holocaust and the 2nd world war, humanism was the liferaft the survivors clung to..
humanism became unfashionable because of its association w white, eurocentric culture, its justifications for colonial domination and its alignment w male power..
from vietnam to iraq, devastating attacks on human life were carried out by politicians professing to be humanists..
only one thinker in humanist tradition combined realism – the idea that the world exits beyond our senses – w a defn of human nature that can withstand 21st cent theories of cognition and ai.. karl marx.. despite all the flaws in his theories and all the crimes committed in his name..
human nature et al
(trump) had won, i suggested, ‘because millions of middle class and educated us citizens reached into their soul and found there, after all its conceits were stripped away, a grinning white supremacist. plus untaped reserves of misogyny’
to re establish order and predictability in the world, we need to restore what the neoliberal era stripped out of it: the 3-d human being w a belief in restraint, kindness, mutual obligation and democracy; and army of individuals who can think independently and who mean what they say.. as you can imagine, this won’t be easy
perhaps it’s also not what we need.. ie: order and predictability..obligation.. are those humane or cancerous to humanity?
trump understood that tired people don’t want logic or principles’; and they don’t want the kind of freedom that the libertarian right offers. in fact they fear freedom.. what they want is a leader who rises above logic and truth and tells them all their inner prejudices are right
to prepare ourselves for the blow up that is coming we need a better understanding of what happened over the past 30 yrs.. not just to the econ but to our collective human psyche, our sense of agency , our belief in reason..
yeah.. i think our looking to history for answers is part of what’s distracting/messing with us.. ie: we keep looking at whales in sea world.. (and we entered sea world way more than 30 yrs ago)
part 2 – the self
reading arendt isn’t enough
(arendt) refused to understand fascism as the elite’s response to eh possibility of working class power, or to understand the essential role of irrationalism in all such reactionary movements, and because hers was a philosophy based on american immunity to totalitarian impulses, which is sadly disproved..
arent’s optimism about post war america ultimately stemmed from her belief that people can *learn to take self liberating actions, *learn to distinguish good from bad and the ugly form the beautiful.. but if you share her optimism – and i do – then you are now up against a very dangerous opposing force..
we need a humanism that can resist the re establishment to biological hierarchies and root the universality of human rights on more solid foundation than the ones currently under attack.. it will need to survive contact w the new challenge of thinking machines and the new ideology of machine control known as post humanism
yeah.. deeper than that.. to something *already in each one of us.. ie: a nother way
the trick/secret.. is to uncover that.. not to learn more on top of our whale ness
part 3 – the machines
turing made a 3rd proposal which, during the next 50 yrs, is set to transform human life even more fundamentally: that machines will one day be able to think… in his 1950 paper *‘computing machinery and intelligence’ turing spelled out the possibility that, once they could process info as logically as the cleverest human being, computer would begin to out think us
turing.. – am thinking it has to do w how we define intelligence.. is it really thinking? or is just computing/remembering/recombining
what computers can’t do et al
mechanical materialism – culminated in 1814.. laplace: if you could measure the position of all objects in the universe and know the forces actin on them, then ‘nothing would be uncertain’.. universe.. a giant mechanism, following predetermined and predictable laws..
once you measure.. it’s dead.. so.. can’t measure alive things.. so.. alive things are uncertain
natural selection, darwin showed, as an automatic process – but it is not like a machine at all.. it is random and w/o purpose..
in computer age.. return to immaterial thinking.. quantum mechanics early 20th cent.. physical world is created by our act of observing it.. no laws of cause/effect, only uncertainty and probability.. and the act of observing sub atomic world both changes and in a sense ‘creates’ it
though disputed – most famously by einstein – this development in physic triggered the revival of belief among educated people that the whole world, including our physical brain.. is the product of our mind..
james jeans popularized quantum physics in the 1930’s : universe ‘more like a great thought than a great machine’.. better word jeans was looking for: software
metaphysics.. ideas that are rational but cannot be proved..
on observation creating reality/history
from the late 1960s, when science and rationality were being deployed to defend the mass killing of civilians in vietnam, we see scientists such as wheeler and zuse lurch towards the idea that ‘reality is a being computed’.. that info precedes and creates matter (it from bit) and that only billion of acts of observation have created the universe.. new idealism linked to computing machines..
what made the new idealism possible was the relative incoherence of those trying to give a materialist explanation of the digital world.. as w norbert wiener,: ‘info is info, not matter or energy…’
he meant: digital into introduces a new property in to the physical world unknown to physics – and that we have to understand this new thing as separate from both matter and energy..
wiener understood that to process info you need only a tiny amount of matter and not much energy.. the assumption was that the incredible power emanating from a computing machine – to solve simultaneous equations, crack codes, calculate entire company payrolls in a single day – needed a separate category in the material world..
but none of those things (equations, codes, payrolls) are humane
you will often hear wiener’s famous claim repeated as if it were self evidently true. it is not. in 1961 ibm physicist rolf landauer proved that info is physical and that wiener is therefore wrong. summarizing his results he wrote: ‘info is not a disembodied abstract entity; it is always tied to a physical representation.. this ties the handling of info… to all possibilities/restriction of our real physical world’..
specifically, he showed that info processing consumes energy.. info costs energy to produce and has to be rep’d by matter.. bits take up room in reality.. they consume electricity, give off heat, have to be stored somewhere..
once we understand there is no info w/o physical rep ‘it from bit’ become logically impossible.. because its premise is that there was once a moment however brief in which info existed before physical reality.
plus.. if the universe is a giant discrete computer operating in packets and pixels, then, as einstein observed, the whole of physics is wrong.. physics is based on the assumption that reality is smooth and continuous.. not in bits.. discrete packages of time/space.. but smoothy.
the new metaphysics of science is one of the strongest underpinnings of the anti humanism that pervades 21st cent ideologies. if info exists prior to the physical world and human history is just ‘software computing itself’ we are back to he scenario .. where every choice we make is really predetermined by the gods, moving us like pieces on a game board.. there is not human freedom or agency to defend..
why does it matter? norbert wiener understood why it mattered.. his term from computer science was ‘cybernetics’: the science of control..
both humans and computers can control their outside environ..info said wiener, is simply what they exchange w the outside world – orders and feedback..
if the new digital idealism is right, humanism is just a form of nostalgia..
we need to defend the concept of a human being who is capable (subject to given historical circumstances) of autonomous thought and action. or as philosophers call it, freedom..
to do this.. we must root humanism isn something more solid than nostalgia..
ch 9 – why do we need a theory of humans?
this view of human nature (neuroscience – claiming that all human behaviour is determined and that free will is an illusion) has become very popular in modern secular societies.. nassim nicholas taleb insists we are ‘playthings of randomness’.. yuval noah harari.. insists that ‘to the best of our scientific understanding, determinism and randomness have divided the entire cake between them, leaving not even a crumb for freedom.. free will exists only in the imaginary stores we humans have invented..
little wonder that social attitude surveys reveal many people are ‘living for the moment’ because they don’t believe their actions can influence the future.. ‘success depends on forces outside our control’.. pew
harari repeatedly claims that neuroscience supports the idea that free will is impossible.. there is, however, an entire neuroscientific literature that refutes this claim..
the neuroscientific evidence to support the absence of free will is not conclusive… those using it to bolster the philosophical claim that humans have no capacity for freedom do so because they are predisposed to that particular view of human nature
looking at whales in sea world
is there any theory of human nature that allows for the possibility that we will perfect ourselves in this world, using our amazing brains to imagine solutions to the problems of hunger, desire, unhappiness? and to do it ourselves, w/o the intervention of god or a giant computer programmed before the start of time?.. to construct one.. you would have to start w a list of unique biological facts about human beings
perhaps we just start w 2 needs.. and focus on .. listen to.. and facil that.. assuming that to be an undisturbed ecosystem and so then trusting our human being ness to take care of the rest.. ie: undisturbed ecosystem: ‘in undisturbed ecosystems ..the average individual, species, or population, left to its own devices, behaves in ways that serve and stabilize the whole..’ –Dana Meadows
marx came to an even more radical conclusion: that history is not the unfolding of the world mind, or god’s will, but the unfolding of the biological potential w/in human beings to change the world around them. human nature changes as we transform the world around us.. we can change human nature by changing society.. marx said the biologically given purpose of human beings is to set themselves free, using tech to change both their environ and themselves..
let’s do this first: free art-ists. via tech as it could be..
humans said marx, differ from animals because they can imagine changes in their own environ, express them thru language and execute them thru work.. given marx’s obsession w work and with workers, you can be certain that if he’d wanted to define human nature simply as ‘the ability to work’ .. as ben franklin did w the latin term homo faber – he would have. instead he defined it as ‘species being’
for the early marx, communism meant simply the realization of human nature.. in 1844 he defined it as: ‘the complete return of man to himself as a social (ie: human) being – a return accomplished consciously and embracing the entire wealth of precious development’.. communism, marx wrote, ‘equal humanism’.. what stood in its way was private property and the power relations that go with it
hardt/negri property law et al
the marx who wrote this was unknown to he intellectuals who formed the first socialist parties in the 1880s, to the workers who stage the russian revolution or to lenin, stalin and mao.. when the humanist essays of the young marx were discovered in the 1930s, they were politely ignored and labelled the ‘early writing’ by the official communist world.. in china it was not allowed even to openly study them until the late 1970s..
this freedom-centred defn of communism didn’t exactly fit w the world of the 5 yr plan and the mass incarceration and murder of political opponents.. nor did marx’s early philosophical works say much about the doctrine of inevitability that had become associated w official marxist philosophy.. but the first person to translate them into english ..grasped their power. ‘marxism’ wrote the self taught america revolutionary raya dunayevskaya ‘is radical humanism’
the connection between support for politicians like trump and a fatalistic attitude to human nature is well evidenced..
even deeper.. the connection between assuming a system of representation.. ie: presidents/congress/et-al
fatalism promoted by ie: taleb and harari will, if unchallenged leave us disarmed against the ongoing power grabs of tech monopolies and surveillance states.. the same fatalism pervades the neo confucianism of the chinese state as it preps to instal a social control system.. linking behavioural data to a social insurance ‘score’.. which can bestow or deny access to jobs, ed, and travel rights..
in early 21st cent the attacks on human choice and freedom are merging in to a single project: technologically empowered anti humanism
liberalism which claimed the human capacity for free will was eternal, has no defence against the actuality of its erosion in given historical conditions. and because it spent the past 30 yrs telling us not other system was possible, it is devoid of any political strategy except defending the status quo
only if you believe, as marx did , that freedom is going to be a social and historical construction – not an innate quality – can you begin to see a way of regrounding society on human values, not machine values..
? it is innate.. has to be or it won’t work.. the problem is that we’ve stripped/covered that innate ness.. so the solution is to ie: return the shells
but a theory of human being takes us only to the threshold of the main problem: the challenge of machines that can emulate us
? that is a distraction.. meaning.. that’s not possible.. it’s only possible for us to believe it.. and in that believing.. we change ourselves.. ie: into whales in sea world
ch 10 – the thinking machine
the brilliance of human brains is that they can function at many diff levels of abstraction at once. by ‘abstraction’ we just mean ‘making a certain kind of sense’ out of info.. if you categorize each kind of thought pattern as a ‘hidden layer’ which can randomly talk to any other layer, you have a working model of a brain playing a computer game..
that’s not thinking – thinking is much more than figuring out how to play/win a game
embodiment et al
if we can move ai beyond its current showcase deployment,s and use it to design and run the systems we need to survive on this planet – form smart energy grids to smart cities to synthetic meds – then aristotle’s daydream become relizable.. machines that know their tasks and can do them w/o human guidance could begin to bliterate class divisions, hierarchies, poverty, oppression and ineq..
but here there arises a mismatch between what regulators think they need, what the engineers developing the ai think they need and what society actually needs
mufleh humanity law: we have seen advances in every aspect of our lives except our humanity– Luma Mufleh
there are, even today, no clearly agreed and implemented global safety standards for ai..t
global safety standards: gershenfeld something else law
we cannot take the next step forward w/o deciding who we are, and what values we want our machine intelligence to express
let’s go for this: tech as it could be..
ie: automated apple picking machines.. it simply automates a cumbersome human process.. once we have developed ai that can consistently out think human beings, as alphago did w lee sedol, the solution will be to show the computer an apple and ask: *what is the best way to produce 84 million tonnes of these
*really? that’s the question ..? for humanity..?
not to mention we don’t even do apples right.. ie: avg apple you get at store 1 yr old; grow own food; et al .. agri surplus et al.. killer.. evidenced in a world that trashes 40% of its food.. no?
so the crucial question is : what do we mean by best?.. but this is where the problems start.. because our society is already swamped by problems of choice and design caused by competing definitions of best
that’s not the crucial question..
if get to right answer.. it renders decision-making/choice irrelevant.. because we’re listening from within first each day.. rather than checking out our choices and designing/planning/coercing our day from there..
autonomous ai cannot be safely deployed under any form of market driven capitalism.. but if deployed into socially useful applications under meaningful, ethical human control, ai could be the tool that liberates humanity
at root then, ai has to be programmed w an ethical system reflecting a view of human nature..t
this is what’s diff today.. our ability to do this.. to ground this chaos
if there is a founding document of post humanism it is donna haraway’s cyborg manifest, published in 1984. it is written in jargon which looks deliberately designed to obscure meaning, but a short summary would be: tech has blurred the boundaries between humans and machines, while advances in biology suggest there is no important difference between humans and animals.. therefore we are all ‘hybrids of machine and organism; in short, we are cyborgs’
now said haraway, there was at best ambiguity as to whether humans are natural or artificial – and so the world merges in to a single reality, of which the cyborg and not the human being is the primary inhabitant. unlike human beings, haraway insisted, cyborgs are gender neutral
to avoid fragmentation (to help feminism) .. haraway wanted to set aside all the dualism on which revolts against oppression were based: mind vs body, nature vs machine, even man vs woman.. once we accept there is not significant diff between humans and machines, said haraway, we can stop looking for ‘revolutionary subjects’ full stop. ‘i would rather be a cyborg than a goddess’ she concluded
as a metaphor, the cyborg as a means for haraway to ask: how do we get out of the dead end that socialism, feminism, and black nationalism entered once they started measuring all the forces fighting for social justice by how much the y oppressed each other..
but for post humanists the cyborg is more than a metaphor: it is a claim about reality.. if we have in reality become cyborgs.. then the upside for haraway is that all problems of alienation disappear
when haraway said she’d rather be cyborg than goddess.. she had one very clear cyborg in mind: rachael in blade runner who deckard refuses to kill.. rachael stands, said haraway ‘as the image of cyborg culture’s fear, love and confusion’.. who would not rather be rachael – beautiful, unfree and at one w the universe because she is incapable of feeling alienated?
but if you want the cyborg to be more than a metaphor , and to underpin the idea the humans and machines have become indistinguishable, you need a whole diff theory of reality. and that would be provided by the rise of magical thinking w/in science..
this new materialism (all separate systems) is the opposite of the materialism marx tried to outline: a theory proposing that human interactions w nature change it
the required course of action for those who want to resist them is clear.. we need, in direct opposition to post humanism, a radical defence of the human being.. we need to defend the idea of a reality knowable by science, albeit a science under critical observation itself.. we must impose on ai, robotics and projects to enhance human beings biologically an ethical system that privileges all human beings and is developed form their universal features
hello.. augmenting interconnectedness.. bag all the other stuff – including defence ness.. (irrelevant and energy waste with the means we have today to unleash people)
in his later work, erich fromm began to understand how technological subservience would lead humans to begin thinking of themselves as cyborgs, and that this might propel some towards a project of voluntary extinction.. (1973) fromm: the world becomes a sum of lifeless artefacts; from synthetic foot to synthetic organs, the whole man becomes part of the total machinery that he controls and is simultaneously controlled by..
virginia woolf: 1910 – human character changed.. relations shifted
2010 – the future they were promised had been cancelled.. but the entire ed system and the anti humanist orthodoxy taught across the arts and social sciences, had also told them no better system was possible..
how might tech be changing human nature and modifying our concept of self..
sherry turkle: ‘network as internet’s social lab of self’
freedom of thought, protest, lifestyle and sexuality were all supposed to depend on free market econ.. now it became clear that all personal values of this generation were in conflict w the econ system that had shaped them
at the root of resistance strategy there has to be a change happening at the level of self.. we need the ‘networked individual’ to change: form an identity spontaneously produced by tech and social freedom to an id consciously crafter by collective actions.. the working class of the 19th cent moved from id ing a common interest between them to designing a common project.. so must we
well.. 7b projects.. everyday (or one.. if that project is to facil 7b projects daily)
networked individualism et al
instead of adapting themselves to a preexisting community – the suburb, the squash club, the church, the workplace – people created communities centred on themselves..
well.. not really.. (if so we wouldn’t be in this mess).. they created communities centred on the limited choices offered them in decision making (aka: voluntary compliance et al)
what we need on top of this is a *framework that allows us to take conscious control of our networked ‘selves’ in ways that prevent them being **manipulated and to fight for a common info system in which the ***competing claims of political forces can be objectively judged and the lies publicly categorized as lies
if we try this *framework: 2 convers as infra.. with daily curiosity as our cure/defense/offense for **manipulation (voluntary compliance et al).. ***competition and judgement et al.. will become irrelevant
part 4 – marx
there is a lot to criticize in marx’s work. but his core idea – that humanity as a species is biologically capable of setting itself free thru technological innovation, self transformation and work – has to form the basis of a 21st cent radical humanism..
tech as it could be..
sometime between may and sept 1843 3 new ideas came to marx:
1\ struggle against religious superstition is not enough .. have to focus on changing society that breeds it.. impulse to invent gods hard wired as long as gaps in scientific knowledge
ok.. so always .. because always gaps in knowledge..
besides.. knowledge isn’t the point – of humanity et al
2\ only way to achieve complete human freedom is to abolish private property.. when we make something in order t sell it or buy something made by other people, we are disconnecting ourselves form the most human thing we do, *which is to work
3\ beyond abolishing property.. no ownership
imagine no possessions.. et al
marx said simply: communism is the project of individual human freedom
common ism.. et al
when we ask ‘what’s the essential attribute of a human being?’ marx says that we should look for qualities that have been constant throughout all the diff forms of society .. for marx, one such quality is our ability to work to a conscious plan and in a necessarily social way
rather.. undisturbed ecosystem: ‘in undisturbed ecosystems ..the average individual, species, or population, left to its own devices, behaves in ways that serve and stabilize the whole..’ –Dana Meadows
essence: maté basic needs
unlike all other thinkers about human nature, marx puts labour at the centre of being human
according to marx, as soon as human can produce a surplus, a power struggle starts over how it is divided..
the whole of 19th cent liberalism revolved around the idea of a static, permanent human nature.. their default position was to believe that everything in history was determined by a previous event, and yet that human beings retained an innate, unchanging capacity for freedom of choice
so much here.. ie: choice as voluntary compliance..
for marx.. free will is not something innate and immutable: it is something we possess only partially in societies governed by classes and scarcity. for marx, free will is something humanity can achieve by changing its social circumstances..
once we understand that the structure of all societies has been premised on specific systems of labour and wealth hoarding: then we can see how all advances in tech, productivity and complexity have tended to increase alienation
in capitalism .. the number one fetish object is money.. everything is mediated by it.. money and commodities are what we are obsessed with.. in large part because most people don’t have enough of either..
marx said that to abolish alienation we need to abolish private property.. to give humans real freedom of action we need to abolish the power relationships that create a poverty stricken working class and a wealthy commercial elite alongside each other. you would also have to abolish money and, ultimately, abolish work
since none of this could be done w/o an even more complex social org than capitalism, and even better tech.. marx understood that the push/pull of history.. was the only route to ending human self estrangement
today.. we do have the means to tech/mech (as it could be.. augmenting interconnectedness) for/toward a more complex social org (2 convers as infra toward undisturbed ecosystem; eudaimoniative surplus)
that is what communism meant for marx. but anyone who tells you that communism was his goal is wrong.. marx said abolishing property was only the beginning of human liberation.. once you’d abolished property, you would consciously have to go on fighting to end all forms of self estrangement, alienation form other people and from nature, and all forms of fetishism – whether religion, money, obsession or consumerism.. far from being the ‘end of history’ said marx, communism would rep the ‘end of the prehistory of humanity’..
for marx, this was not some lofty idea or project. it was just the logical outcome of a process we are discovering in much great detail: our evolution into a species that expresses its shared intent via *language and cooperation using tech progress..
more we know about neuroscience and evolutionary stages.. more marx’s teleological view of human nature looks scientific, not metaphysical
that we think we have to define/defend things as scientific.. huge part of the problem..
marx got a lot of other things wrong – but his determination to define humans as something more than the puppets of a great mind or cogs in the machines of history is this greatest legacy to the age of ai.. quantum computing and genetic engineering..
this is why we need to be using tech/ai/whatever-you-call-it.. to listen to and facil daily curiosity
every voice.. every day
w the onset of ai we are about to take a step beyond what’s been routine for 40 000 years: we will soon be able to create *tools that know more than us, and which may quickly develop attributes we cannot control nor even observe
*yeah.. i don’t think so..
to build marx’s theory of human nature into a project of liberation thru tech, we are going to have to pose the question: what did marx get wrong?.. the answer is: quite a lot
the problem for us is that the method marx used to describe complexity is not good enough..
if we insist, as marx did, that our mental model of the world has to be derived from our best scientific understanding of reality, it would be ludicrous to suggest that the dialectic is the finished from of that model.. it would be like declaring that the history of music stops w beethoven
rather worse.. right? beethoven’s music good.. current mental model bad
i am a radical humanist who thins we’re on the cusp of achieving something marx wanted: a technologically enable society in which most things are consumed for free, and the alteration of human beings on a mass scale din order to take advantage of such freedom..
we need a global ethical framework to keep it under control
part 5 – some reflexes
they would have to develop a diff and more combative set of reflexes.. find each other and act..
far from rapidly automating production, advance market economies are creating millions of jobs that do not need to exist – bs jobs as david graeber calls them..
bs jobs et al
to counteract the democratization of knowledge, corps adopted the strategy of massive asymmetry, intellectual property capture and algo control..
as tech monopolies grow they accelerate capitalism’s transformation from a system based on production to one based on rent seeking
the solution is that we consciously design a new global social system to utilize the capabilities of automation, reduce the amount of work needed to keep us alive on the planet and in the process stabilize the planet’s ecosystem. critical to that project will be the regulation of ai, the protection of data rights and resisting the control of human beings by algos
the events of the 4th century ce show that, when a system is heavily dependent on people following control routines ordained by the elite, refusing to conform to those routines can have revolutionary consequences.. the basic reflex we need to cultivate is the power to refuse..t
rather.. the power to do/be something else.. (gershenfeld something else law).. make refusal irrelevant
let’s start by understanding what an algo is. it’s the use of logic to turn complicated situations in to a series of yes/no questions, and to issue instruction according to the answers.. an algo is logic plus control..
one of the most depressing rituals to emerge during the past 20 yrs is the ted talk. the person giving the talk is unknown to most people but their delivery is slickly believable, and they’re often filmed from below to make them look authoritative. the subject of the talks is also depressingly constant: how to take advantage of human weakness.. the top 25 ted talks of all time include ‘how great leaders inspire action’; ‘how to speak so people want to listen’; ‘a guide to the invisible forces that motivate everyone’s actions’; ‘how to spot a liar… billed as a collection of ideas worth spreading, the ted talk is actually devoted to spreading a single idea: that human judgment is fallible and behavioural economics can allow a few smart people to make a lot of money..
it should be clear now what a revolution is: the temporary achievement of true human status, a glimpse of what marx called ‘species being’.. when we compress years of change into a few days or weeks we also speed up what marx called ‘the alteration of humans on a mass scale’.. we begin to live for each other..
by the same logic you can understand what a counter revolution is. it is the re imposition of selfishness and antihuman routine..
foucault: ‘do not base politics on human rights, or indeed individual human beings. ‘the group’ wrote foucault ‘must not be the organic bond uniting hierarchized individuals, but a constant generator of de individualization’
we need, for reasons i have explored in this book, to risk gaining conventional political power. we need to engage w the state – militarized and oppressive as it is – and the electoral system, because unless we do so the forces of liberal centrism will collapse, to be replaced w authoritarian nationalism
actually.. we need to offer something else.. (a nother way) for 100% of us.. (has to be everyone or it won’t work) so that power/military/oppressions/electoral/nationalism/authority.. et al.. become irrelevant
‘but the thing that i saw in your face, no power can disinherit’ wrote orwell, commemorating people like salvini. ‘no bomb that ever burst shatters the crystal spirit’.. but how do you create the crystal spirit in the first place?… the answer is.. it took 2 generations..t
it has to connect our individual refusal and defiance w a political project: to end market logic and promote human and environmental logic in its place
promote? sounds like a ted talk..
rather.. let’s design for something 7b souls already crave.. let’s just free people (all the people) up to that..
with the means we have today for revolution (or whatever you want to call it).. refusal and defiance are wasted energy
alasdair macintyre: because class society suppresses human potential so thoroughly ‘human development takes place in quite unpredictable leaps. we never perhaps know how near we are to the next step forward‘.. t
for me all the angst emanating from misogynists, ethnic nationalists and authoritarians everywhere is evidence that they too can feel how close we are to the ‘next step forward’