The conservative or apolitical transhumanist/singularitarian argument against the Steal This Singularity approach is, fundamentally, that it’s unnecessary. The tech will produce democratized abundance and liberties beyond our wildest imaginings and all we need to do is hang on tight and support science and technology and, generally, not stir too much shit up. I call this the “there’ll be pie in the sky when you don’t die” argument, which is a play off of a Woody Guthrie satire, which is, in turn, about 40 times more obscure to young 21st Century Americans than even an Abbie Hoffman reference.
Basically, the narrative goes that we’re going from home/desktop media, which gave all of us the equivalent of a printing press and broadcast studio from which to have a voice in the world to 3d home printing i.e. manufacturing. If we get molecular technology and tie that in with 3D manufacturing, every man and woman can make what they need from very little in their homes. Of course, that assumes homes, but that’s one brief example of a path to democratized abundance that seemingly doesn’t require any political activism.
Of course, the past and the present are prologue, even in consideration of technologies as disruptive as those being promoted and predicted by transhumanoids and singularitarians. Such was my point in Part Three of this mess about folks clinging to today’s currency as a life raft while sailing about the entire galaxy visiting other property owners. We have both the willingness and the talent to snatch scarcity out of the jaws of abundance and oppression out of the jaws of liberation. We do it today when we impose austerity based on the abstraction of global debt and when we let the US-based National Security Industrial Complex build one-way transparency by using the same now-completed Virtual Panopticon to shield itself from investigation while having full access to everybody else’s data.
Since the dawn of the digital culture, there has been a tug of war between the notion of
- Free — stuff that can be easily copied and shared should be shared, because otherwise you create scarcity in the face of nearly limitless (virtual) wealth
- Business — the systemic legacy of selling intellectual and creative stuff, starting companies that lock replicable bits behind turnstiles and make a business of it. Bill Gates took the side against free and did very well by it.
As much protested by the likes of Jaron Lanier [read my comments on his recent book], creative artists and writers are now stuck in the middle of this inconclusive dialectic.
During the early 1990s, digital countercultural idealists trumpeted the idea of free. There was a broad feeling amongst those of us at play in the fields of the arising tech revolution that if the anarchic shockwaves of shifting social relations brought about by — among other things — the digitization of cultural stuff and the resultant ease with which that stuff could be copied unto infinity and accessed from anywhere hit us, then we would happily surf those crazy waves of change.
The other part of that deal, as many of us perceived it, was that everything else had to change too. We knew that the end of scarcity in the digital realm would be “heightening the contradictions” (as they say) in the industrial capitalist model. We assumed that either capitalism would rise to the challenge by finding ways to support those disintermediated or displaced by technical change — or it would be forcibly altered or dissipated in the forward rush of boundary defying technologies.
Rather, we’ve been subjected to that same stasis — stuck in these same primitive currency valuations and their correspondent debts — and we stand today as perfect examples of what could not only continue but expand under the regimen of home manufacturing — that is, the utter disintermediation and abandonment of formerly wage earning (and eventually, business-making) people for the crime of not being able to come up with a sublime enough hustle in the midst of satiated needs to get some other human being to pass those currency tickets that legitimize his or her existence to hir.
We shall see. As a famous poet once said (i’m paraphrasing):
First they disintermediated the livelihood of the musicians, and I did not speak out for I wasn’t a musician. Then they disintermediated the livelihood of the writers, and I did nothing for I wasn’t a writer. Then they automated the programmers, and suddenly a whole lot of libertarians decided that guaranteed income was a thing.
Steal This Singularity in Seven Parts & A Song
- Part One: Steal This Singularity Defined
- Part Two: Steal This Singularity? Yippie!
- Part Three: The More Things Change, The More You’ll Need to Save
- Part Four: The Worm Earns (or it can fuck off and die)
- Part Five: There’ll Be Pie in the Sky When You Don’t Die.. Or We Don’t Need no Steenkin’ Steal This Singularity
- Part Six: So What (or How Can I Help this Estimable if Weird Project?)
- Part Seven: A Special Naughty Hipster’s Steal This Singularity
- White Babbits: This Months Steal This Singularity Theme Song. Sing along with Grace Slick