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"time da ressaca"

Não faz parte dos nossos objectivos mas demasiadas vezes afloramos a framework total: fica então um pequeno apontamento onde se implicam às nossas teses. Para o entrosamento temíamos recuar algum tempo – vem de longe – mas temos matéria suficiente dos últimos pares de anos para nos mantermos on topic no geist dos media e tech e respeitar o método imposto. Segue-se um overall com possíveis desenvolvimentos a fechar em próxima sessão. Shall we?

Falávamos de AI.

After many false starts, artificial intelligence has taken off. Will it cause mass unemployment or even destroy mankind? History can provide some helpful clues (...) such concerns sparked furious arguments two centuries ago as industrialisation took hold
in "The return of the machinery question" 25 junho 2016

Circa 2016, mas a remeter a dois séculos antes, revolução industrial: avisámos que vinha de longe. O que podemos então aproveitar da comparação? Bastante, desde que - ao contrário de uma abundante linha de literatura actual sobre tecnologia - não tentemos na equiparação menorizar o seu alcance. Se sim, é-nos credível que-

Many of those questions have been asked, and answered, before (...) lessons that can be learned from the original response to the machinery question
in "The return of the machinery question" 25 junho 2016

- do mesmo artigo, a génese da diferença a não desprezar à comparação:

AI is contributing to a transformation of society “happening ten times faster and at 300 times the scale, or roughly 3,000 times the impact” of the Industrial Revolution
in "The return of the machinery question" 25 junho 2016

Do mesmo artigo, uma última referência para arquivo ainda sobre os temas do último post. Se o uso de algoritmos e outros artifícios mais não fazem do que demonstrar uma intencionalidade muito humana, uma que se esconde por detrás de uma falsa neutralidade e que é cada vez mais difícil -e necessária - de acusar, há sempre uma potencialidade ainda mais obscura por detrás. A de, efectivamente, removerem o humano da equação.

An AI technique called “deep learning”, which allows systems to learn and improve by crunching lots of examples rather than being explicitly programmed, is already being used to power internet search engines, block spam e-mails, suggest e-mail replies, translate web pages, recognise voice commands, detect credit-card fraud and steer self-driving cars. (...) “Instead of people writing software, we have data writing software.”
in "The return of the machinery question" 25 junho 2016

No modelo actual, herdarás uma distopia ditatorial à-lá-big-brother circa '84. Na segunda opção, e se sentido algum mil e um maus filmes de ficção científica nos trouxeram, seguir-se-á a exterminação da espécie humana.

Chegados à revolução industrial as possibilidades são várias, mas a comodidade de as apresentar numa economia -pun!- de fontes leva-nos, por exemplo, aos seguintes excertos - todos retirados do mesmo artigo, e o título ajudou imenso na selecção. De um "The end of capitalism has begun", 2015, Paul Mason:

The main contradiction today is between the possibility of free, abundant goods and information; and a system of monopolies, banks and governments trying to keep things private, scarce and commercial. Everything comes down to the struggle between the network and the hierarchy: between old forms of society moulded around capitalism and new forms of society that prefigure what comes next.
in "The end of capitalism has begun" 17 jul 2015
Without us noticing, we are entering the postcapitalist era. At the heart of further change to come is information technology, new ways of working and the sharing economy. (...) Peer-to-peer has become pigeonholed as a niche obsession for visionaries, while the “big boys” of leftwing economics get on with critiquing austerity.
in "The end of capitalism has begun" 17 jul 2015

E sem menosprezo ao debate da austeridade -central e urgente- se nos tens acompanhado desde o início das nossas teses reconheces ecos deste debate do "peer-to-peer". Como sobressai das nossas leituras, a tecnologia atingiu um patamar de desenvolvimento que nos permite nada menos que uma revolução civilizacional para uma maior emancipação, e, simultaneamente, um maior perigo do seu uso em sentido inverso. Ou, passando a palavra:

Capitalism, it turns out (...) will be abolished by creating something more dynamic that exists, at first, almost unseen within the old system, but which will break through, reshaping the economy around new values and behaviours.

Three major changes information technology has brought about in the past 25 years:

  1. First, it has reduced the need for work, blurred the edges between work and free time and loosened the relationship between work and wages (automation)
  2. Second, information is corroding the market’s ability to form prices correctly. That is because markets are based on scarcity while information is abundant. The system’s defence mechanism is to form monopolies – the giant tech companies – on a scale not seen in the past 200 years, yet they cannot last.
  3. The spontaneous rise of collaborative production: goods, services and organisations are appearing that no longer respond to the dictates of the market and the managerial hierarchy. (...) A whole business subculture has emerged over the past 10 years, which the media has dubbed the “sharing economy”
in "The end of capitalism has begun" 17 jul 2015

...e no contraponto ao "ismo" habitual:

Neoliberalism (...) has broken the 200-year pattern of industrial capitalism wherein an economic crisis spurs new forms of technological innovation that benefit everybody (...) the upswing of which was premised on the suppression of wages and smashing the social power and resilience of the working class (...) the planning system and late neoliberal culture reward above all the creator of low-value, long-hours jobs.
in "The end of capitalism has begun" 17 jul 2015

E assim chegados àquilo da autenticidade.

Innovation is happening but it has not, so far, triggered the fifth long upswing for capitalism that long-cycle theory would expect. The reasons lie in the specific nature of information technology. We’re surrounded not just by intelligent machines but by a new layer of reality centred on information.
in "The end of capitalism has begun" 17 jul 2015

As boas notícias, e concordamos com o autor do artigo/livro:

Its dynamics are profoundly non-capitalist.

Millions of people are beginning to realise they have been sold a dream at odds with what reality can deliver. Their response is anger
[present] e-business model: monopolise and protect data, capture the free social data generated by user interaction, push commercial forces into areas of data production that were non-commercial before, mine the existing data for predictive value – always and everywhere ensuring nobody but the corporation can utilise the results. The business models of all our modern digital giants are designed to prevent the abundance of information. Yet information is abundant. Information goods are freely replicable. Once a thing is made, it can be copied/pasted infinitely (...) if the normal price mechanism of capitalism prevails over time, its price will fall towards zero, too.
in "The end of capitalism has begun" 17 jul 2015

For the past 25 years economics has been wrestling with this problem: all mainstream economics proceeds from a condition of scarcity, yet the most dynamic force in our modern world is abundant and (...) “wants to be free”.
in "The end of capitalism has begun" 17 jul 2015

Como as corporações estão a lidar com a contradição acima? Monopólios. E como se resiste a estes? Informação "descentralizada e distribuída".

Alongside the world of monopolised information and surveillance created by corporations and governments, a different dynamic growing up around information: information as a social good, free at the point of use, incapable of being owned or exploited or priced.
in "The end of capitalism has begun" 17 jul 2015

E aqui um grande parêntesis para citar uma citação que regressa a Marx -desconhecíamos, chegámos às mesmas conclusões por outras vias- a propósito da nossa convicção - constatação e repúdio- à economia da ganância:

Marx imagined (...) the creation of an “ideal machine”, which lasts forever and costs nothing. A machine that could be built for nothing would, he said, add no value at all to the production process and rapidly, over several accounting periods, reduce the price, profit and labour costs of everything else it touched.
in "The end of capitalism has begun" 17 jul 2015

Essa máquina e maquinaria, nOS POSITIVOS, designa a framework total. Terminando Marx e comparações:

Marx imagined information coming to be stored and shared in something called a “general intellect”
in "The end of capitalism has begun" 17 jul 2015

Novamente, aquilo das redes distribuídas, descentralizadas, e se nos lestes sobre o local enquanto proximidade, saberás destes chegar à "comunidade". Voltaremos, continuando:

Collaborative production, using network technology to produce goods and services that only work when they are free, or shared, defines the route beyond the market system.
in "The end of capitalism has begun" 17 jul 2015

O autor tem uma visão claramente positiva do resultado final das contradições em choque da actual economia de mercado. Nós, à ironia que devemos aOS POSITIVOS, somos mais realistas. Concordamos na análise:

True, states can shut down Facebook, Twitter, even the entire internet and mobile network in times of crisis, paralysing the economy in the process. And they can store and monitor every kilobyte of information we produce. But they cannot reimpose the hierarchical, propaganda-driven and ignorant society of 50 years ago, except – as in China, North Korea or Iran – by opting out of key parts of modern life. By creating millions of networked people, financially exploited but with the whole of human intelligence one thumb-swipe away, info-capitalism has created a new agent of change in history: the educated and connected human being.

Mas, e como alertamos os nossos fellow punx desde o início das teses, o "velho" sistema não pretende simplesmente desvanecer sem uma luta e não estamos muito certos que estejam a perdê-la. O autor prossegue neste ponto com camparações ao fim do feudalismo: é uma época que também nos importa e já chegou a fazer uma ou outra aparição por aqui, e é também um excelente contraponto para basearmos os nossos receios. As classes senhoriais de então não estavam igualmente dispostas a abdicar da sua autoridade e privilégios e se tal acabou por acontecer devemos mais à "estatização" da autoridade na figura do rei absoluto do que à vontade -capacidade- popular de emancipação. O restante da comparação é-nos igualmente digno de nota para contemplação:

The replacement of feudalism by capitalism[:] the first thing we have to recognise is different modes of production are structured around different things. Feudalism was an economic system structured by customs and laws about “obligation”. Capitalism was structured by something purely economic: the market. We can predict, from this, that postcapitalism – whose precondition is abundance – will not simply be a modified form of a complex market society. If such a society is structured around human liberation, not economics, unpredictable things will begin to shape it.
in "The end of capitalism has begun" 17 jul 2015

Ainda no feudalismo-capitalismo-pós:

[No] feudal model of agriculture (...) something that looks incidental to the old system – money and credit – (...) was actually destined to become the basis of the new system. In feudalism, many laws and customs were actually shaped around ignoring money; credit was, in high feudalism, seen as sinful. So when money and credit burst through the boundaries to create a market system, it felt like a revolution. (...) A combination of all these factors took a set of people who had been marginalised under feudalism – humanists, scientists, craftsmen, lawyers, radical preachers and bohemian playwrights (...) and put them at the head of a social transformation.
in "The end of capitalism has begun" 17 jul 2015

Infelizmente não nos ficámos só pelos humanists, scientists, craftsmen, lawyers, radical preachers and bohemian playwrights, também há tudo o resto... E neste ponto temos que recuperar um artigo que de tão óbvio nunca o citámos antes - damos por adquirido que vcs simplesmente já o têm na bagagem (*).

* Mas numa consulta recente notámos que corre o risco de desaparecer do seu sítio original por isso o arquivaremos aqui. Já vos alertamos antes: nada é permanente na rede.

On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs

Ever had the feeling that your job might be made up?

In the year 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that technology would have advanced sufficiently by century’s end that countries like Great Britain or the United States would achieve a 15-hour work week. There’s every reason to believe he was right. In technological terms, we are quite capable of this. And yet it didn’t happen. Instead, technology has been marshaled, if anything, to figure out ways to make us all work more. In order to achieve this, jobs have had to be created that are, effectively, pointless. Huge swathes of people, in Europe and North America in particular, spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed. The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. It is a scar across our collective soul. Yet virtually no one talks about it.

Why did Keynes’ promised utopia – still being eagerly awaited in the ‘60s – never materialise? The standard line today is that he didn’t figure in the massive increase in consumerism. Given the choice between less hours and more toys and pleasures, we’ve collectively chosen the latter. This presents a nice morality tale, but even a moment’s reflection shows it can’t really be true. Yes, we have witnessed the creation of an endless variety of new jobs and industries since the ‘20s, but very few have anything to do with the production and distribution of sushi, iPhones, or fancy sneakers.

So what are these new jobs, precisely? A recent report comparing employment in the US between 1910 and 2000 gives us a clear picture (and I note, one pretty much exactly echoed in the UK). Over the course of the last century, the number of workers employed as domestic servants, in industry, and in the farm sector has collapsed dramatically. At the same time, “professional, managerial, clerical, sales, and service workers” tripled, growing “from one-quarter to three-quarters of total employment.” In other words, productive jobs have, just as predicted, been largely automated away (even if you count industrial workers globally, including the toiling masses in India and China, such workers are still not nearly so large a percentage of the world population as they used to be).

But rather than allowing a massive reduction of working hours to free the world’s population to pursue their own projects, pleasures, visions, and ideas, we have seen the ballooning not even so much of the “service” sector as of the administrative sector, up to and including the creation of whole new industries like financial services or telemarketing, or the unprecedented expansion of sectors like corporate law, academic and health administration, human resources, and public relations. And these numbers do not even reflect on all those people whose job is to provide administrative, technical, or security support for these industries, or for that matter the whole host of ancillary industries (dog-washers, all-night pizza deliverymen) that only exist because everyone else is spending so much of their time working in all the other ones.

These are what I propose to call “bullshit jobs.”

It’s as if someone were out there making up pointless jobs just for the sake of keeping us all working. And here, precisely, lies the mystery. In capitalism, this is exactly what is not supposed to happen. Sure, in the old inefficient socialist states like the Soviet Union, where employment was considered both a right and a sacred duty, the system made up as many jobs as they had to (this is why in Soviet department stores it took three clerks to sell a piece of meat). But, of course, this is the very sort of problem market competition is supposed to fix. According to economic theory, at least, the last thing a profit-seeking firm is going to do is shell out money to workers they don’t really need to employ. Still, somehow, it happens.

While corporations may engage in ruthless downsizing, the layoffs and speed-ups invariably fall on that class of people who are actually making, moving, fixing and maintaining things; through some strange alchemy no one can quite explain, the number of salaried paper-pushers ultimately seems to expand, and more and more employees find themselves, not unlike Soviet workers actually, working 40 or even 50 hour weeks on paper, but effectively working 15 hours just as Keynes predicted, since the rest of their time is spent organising or attending motivational seminars, updating their facebook profiles or downloading TV box-sets.

The answer clearly isn’t economic: it’s moral and political. The ruling class has figured out that a happy and productive population with free time on their hands is a mortal danger (think of what started to happen when this even began to be approximated in the ‘60s). And, on the other hand, the feeling that work is a moral value in itself, and that anyone not willing to submit themselves to some kind of intense work discipline for most of their waking hours deserves nothing, is extraordinarily convenient for them.

Once, when contemplating the apparently endless growth of administrative responsibilities in British academic departments, I came up with one possible vision of hell. Hell is a collection of individuals who are spending the bulk of their time working on a task they don’t like and are not especially good at. Say they were hired because they were excellent cabinet-makers, and then discover they are expected to spend a great deal of their time frying fish. Neither does the task really need to be done – at least, there’s only a very limited number of fish that need to be fried. Yet somehow, they all become so obsessed with resentment at the thought that some of their co-workers might be spending more time making cabinets, and not doing their fair share of the fish-frying responsibilities, that before long there’s endless piles of useless badly cooked fish piling up all over the workshop and it’s all that anyone really does.

I think this is actually a pretty accurate description of the moral dynamics of our own economy.

Now, I realise any such argument is going to run into immediate objections: “who are you to say what jobs are really ‘necessary’? What’s necessary anyway? You’re an anthropology professor, what’s the ‘need’ for that?” (And indeed a lot of tabloid readers would take the existence of my job as the very definition of wasteful social expenditure.) And on one level, this is obviously true. There can be no objective measure of social value.

I would not presume to tell someone who is convinced they are making a meaningful contribution to the world that, really, they are not. But what about those people who are themselves convinced their jobs are meaningless? Not long ago I got back in touch with a school friend who I hadn’t seen since I was 12. I was amazed to discover that in the interim, he had become first a poet, then the front man in an indie rock band. I’d heard some of his songs on the radio having no idea the singer was someone I actually knew. He was obviously brilliant, innovative, and his work had unquestionably brightened and improved the lives of people all over the world. Yet, after a couple of unsuccessful albums, he’d lost his contract, and plagued with debts and a newborn daughter, ended up, as he put it, “taking the default choice of so many directionless folk: law school.” Now he’s a corporate lawyer working in a prominent New York firm. He was the first to admit that his job was utterly meaningless, contributed nothing to the world, and, in his own estimation, should not really exist.

There’s a lot of questions one could ask here, starting with, what does it say about our society that it seems to generate an extremely limited demand for talented poet-musicians, but an apparently infinite demand for specialists in corporate law? (Answer: if 1% of the population controls most of the disposable wealth, what we call “the market” reflects what they think is useful or important, not anybody else.) But even more, it shows that most people in these jobs are ultimately aware of it. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever met a corporate lawyer who didn’t think their job was bullshit. The same goes for almost all the new industries outlined above. There is a whole class of salaried professionals that, should you meet them at parties and admit that you do something that might be considered interesting (an anthropologist, for example), will want to avoid even discussing their line of work entirely. Give them a few drinks, and they will launch into tirades about how pointless and stupid their job really is.

This is a profound psychological violence here. How can one even begin to speak of dignity in labour when one secretly feels one’s job should not exist? How can it not create a sense of deep rage and resentment. Yet it is the peculiar genius of our society that its rulers have figured out a way, as in the case of the fish-fryers, to ensure that rage is directed precisely against those who actually do get to do meaningful work. For instance: in our society, there seems a general rule that, the more obviously one’s work benefits other people, the less one is likely to be paid for it. Again, an objective measure is hard to find, but one easy way to get a sense is to ask: what would happen were this entire class of people to simply disappear? Say what you like about nurses, garbage collectors, or mechanics, it’s obvious that were they to vanish in a puff of smoke, the results would be immediate and catastrophic. A world without teachers or dock-workers would soon be in trouble, and even one without science fiction writers or ska musicians would clearly be a lesser place. It’s not entirely clear how humanity would suffer were all private equity CEOs, lobbyists, PR researchers, actuaries, telemarketers, bailiffs or legal consultants to similarly vanish. (Many suspect it might markedly improve.) Yet apart from a handful of well-touted exceptions (doctors), the rule holds surprisingly well.

Even more perverse, there seems to be a broad sense that this is the way things should be. This is one of the secret strengths of right-wing populism. You can see it when tabloids whip up resentment against tube workers for paralysing London during contract disputes: the very fact that tube workers can paralyse London shows that their work is actually necessary, but this seems to be precisely what annoys people. It’s even clearer in the US, where Republicans have had remarkable success mobilizing resentment against school teachers, or auto workers (and not, significantly, against the school administrators or auto industry managers who actually cause the problems) for their supposedly bloated wages and benefits. It’s as if they are being told “but you get to teach children! Or make cars! You get to have real jobs! And on top of that you have the nerve to also expect middle-class pensions and health care?”

If someone had designed a work regime perfectly suited to maintaining the power of finance capital, it’s hard to see how they could have done a better job. Real, productive workers are relentlessly squeezed and exploited. The remainder are divided between a terrorised stratum of the – universally reviled – unemployed and a larger stratum who are basically paid to do nothing, in positions designed to make them identify with the perspectives and sensibilities of the ruling class (managers, administrators, etc) – and particularly its financial avatars – but, at the same time, foster a simmering resentment against anyone whose work has clear and undeniable social value. Clearly, the system was never consciously designed. It emerged from almost a century of trial and error. But it is the only explanation for why, despite our technological capacities, we are not all working 3-4 hour days.

Esse longo excerto dos bullshit jobs são a intro necessária ao contraponto do feel good e optimismo do pós-capitalismo que se apresenta antes. Se concordamos com a constactação -

Today, the thing that is corroding capitalism, barely rationalised by mainstream economics, is information. Most laws concerning information define the right of corporations to hoard it and the right of states to access it (...) The equivalent of the printing press and the scientific method is information technology and its spillover into all other technologies.
in "The end of capitalism has begun" 17 jul 2015

...e discordamos que a velha guarda vá simplesmente roll over and die como devia, a miríade das mais patéticas ocupações que se inventam e sustentam em prol desse sistema é a prova que este intenciona sobreviver e se adapta para o fazer. Aqui, e continuando a viajar no tempo, citamos o Piketty circa 2014. Se estivemos a olhar do presente para o futuro, altura de olhar do passado para o presente.

Nota: se, na prática, o nosso post de hoje se socorre de autores e obras publicadas em livros, queremos salientar que o fazemos na base de artigos de imprensa sobre os ditos. Não quebrámos o método :)

A base de trabalho, mashup nosso:

We already knew that the end of capitalism predicted by Marx never happened [mas] under the present circumstances capitalism simply cannot work.
in "Occupy was right: capitalism has failed the world" 13 abril 2014

Se o insuportável do capitalismo se traduz num pós-capitalismo merry-go-round dependerá de nós neste momento do tempo, mas na base das observações feitas pelo autor e pela resiliência dos bullshit jobs, muito temos que fazer se queremos lá chegar. Turns out, apesar da sua insuportabilidade, nunca este esteve melhor e com perspectivas de melhor ficar - para mal dos restantes 99%.

But didn't we already know this? The rich get rich and the poorer get poorer? And didn't the Clash and others sing about it in the 1970s?
The tendency of capitalism in this model is to concentrate more and more wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer people.

Piketty demonstrates that there is no reason to believe that capitalism can ever solve the problem of inequality, which he insists is getting worse rather than better. (...) The singular significance of his book is that it proves "scientifically" that this intuition is correct[:] financial inequality in the 21st century is on the rise, and accelerating at a very dangerous pace.

Capital, and the money that it produces, accumulates faster than growth in capital societies. And this pattern, which we last saw in the 19th century, has become even more predominant since the 1980s when controls on capital were lifted in many rich countries.

Piketty goes on to point out, however, that only the varying crises of the 20th century – mainly two world wars – prevented the steady growth of wealth by temporarily and artificially levelling out inequality. Contrary to our perceived perception of the 20th century as an age in which inequality was eroded, in real terms it was always on the rise. (...) If this process is not arrested, poverty will increase at the same rate and, Piketty argues, we may well find that the 21st century will be a century of greater inequality, and therefore greater social discord, than the 19th century.
in "Occupy was right: capitalism has failed the world" 13 abril 2014

Aos mais curiosos e mais distraídos, também se adiantou uma proposta a jeito de solução. Ficarão surpreendidos em sabê-la -not!- e compreenderão porque estamos fodidos:

But no matter. What have we learned? Capitalism is bad. Hooray! What's the answer? Socialism? Hope so. "It is not quite so simple," he says, disappointing this former teenage Marxist. "What I argue for is a progressive tax, a global tax, based on the taxation of private property. This is the only civilised solution.
in "Occupy was right: capitalism has failed the world" 13 abril 2014

Sim, boa sorte com isso de taxar os ricos. Mas é a deixa para iniciar o caminho de regresso à actualidade. Citando ainda do capitalismo que falhou ao mundo:

About the rise of managers, or "super-managers", who do not produce wealth but who derive a salary from it. This, he argues, is effectively a form of theft (...) Piketty effectively rips apart one of the great lies of the 21st century – that super-managers deserve their money because, like footballers, they have specialised skills which belong to an almost superhuman elite. (...) "One of the great divisive forces at work today," he says, "is what I call meritocratic extremism". Neither [...] makes or produces anything but their wealth, which is really a super-wealth that has broken away from the everyday reality of the market, which determines how most ordinary people live.
in "Occupy was right: capitalism has failed the world" 13 abril 2014

Sim, voltámos ao Graeber mas os bullshit jobs damos por dados: usámos a deixa como conclusão de hoje e introdução ao próximo post: inteligência artificial, automatismos, pós-capitalismo, sociedade. Fica o rationale como teaser:

Graeber believes that since the 1970s there has been a shift from technologies based on realising alternative futures to investment technologies that favoured labour discipline and social control. Hence the internet. “The control is so ubiquitous that we don’t see it".

Graeber distinguishes between play and games – the former involving free‑form creativity, the latter requiring participants to abide by rules. While there is pleasure in the latter, it is the former that excites him (...) He is suggesting that, instead of being rule-following economic drones of capitalism, we are essentially playful.
in "David Graeber interview: ‘So many people spend their working lives doing jobs they think are unnecessary’" 21 March 2015

Shall we?

an artisans revenge