Many readers may not know this but in 1949 Albert Einstein, the great scientist of the 20th century, wrote a piece for the economic journal, Monthly Review, entitled: “Why Socialism”. In it, he calls for the establishment of a social and economic system that puts people before profit. He also speaks of the “predatory phase” of human development which in our time is capitalism, a recent socio-economic system although many think it has been around for thousands of years.
In one passage in the 1949 essay he states:
“…most of the major states of history owed their existence to conquest. The conquering peoples established themselves, legally and economically, as the privileged class of the conquered country. They seized for themselves a monopoly of the land ownership and appointed priesthood from among their own ranks. The priests, in control of education, made the class division of society into a permanent institution and created a system of values by which the people were thenceforth, to a large extent unconsciously, guided in their social behavior” (http://monthlyreview.org/2009/05/01/why-socialism).
Einstein’s writing about science should be of current interest to all for within his 1949 essay, he makes the following salient point:
“Science, however, cannot create ends and, even less, instill them in human beings; science, at most, can supply the means by which to attain certain ends. But the ends themselves are conceived by personalities with lofty ethical ideals and—if these ends are not stillborn, but vital and vigorous—are adopted and carried forward by those many human beings who, half unconsciously, determine the slow evolution of society. For these reasons, we should be on our guard not to overestimate science and scientific methods when it is a question of human problems; and we should not assume that experts are the only ones who have a right to express themselves on questions affecting the organization of society” (ibid).
Tell this to Bill Gates and the purveyors of “progress”.
The forces of production
In an essay I penned a while back entitled, “Pit the Poor Luddite” (http://www.dailycensored.com/pity-the-poor-luddite-the-end-of-work-under-capitalism-and-the-rise-of-the-surplus-labor-army/), I wrote:
“Under capitalism, as the ‘forces of production’, technology, moves further and further ahead of the ‘relations of production’, people and their class relations, what is being created is a world without jobs – the end of the “thumb” – the homo- Fabian” (http://www.dailycensored.com/pity-the-poor-luddite-the-end-of-work-under-capitalism-and-the-rise-of-the-surplus-labor-army/).
The turn of the new millennium is when the automation of middle-class information processing tasks really got under way, according to an analysis by the Associated Press based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Between 2000 and 2010, the jobs of 1.1 million secretaries were eliminated, replaced by internet services that made everything from maintaining a calendar to planning trips easier than ever. In the same period, the number of telephone operators dropped by 64%, travel agents by 46% and bookkeepers by 26%. And the US was not a special case. As the AP notes, “Two-thirds of the 7.6 million middle-class jobs that vanished in Europe were the victims of technology, estimates economist Maarten Goos at Belgium’s University of Leuven.”
Economist Andrew McAfee, Brynjolfsson’s co-author, has called these displaced people “routine cognitive workers.” Technology, he says, is now smart enough to automate their often repetitive, programmatic tasks. ”We are in a desperate, serious competition with these machines,” concurs Larry Kotlikoff, a professor of economics at Boston University. “It seems like the machines are taking over all possible jobs” (http://www.businessinsider.com/how-the-internet-is-making-us-poor-2013-3).
So then just who will consume the products of the new cyber technology if there are no jobs for people to produce incomes so they can consume – if surplus labor becomes the norm? Is the Internet making us poor? Will we soon see the rise of a new, neo-Luddite movement or will we imagine and create meaningful social change that assures technology belongs to the public commons and not to the one percent? Or, will we see accelerating social inequality as ‘all jobs’ are replaced with cybernetics? (ibid).
Einstein saw the development of a worldwide predatory oligarchy early in the 20th century when he wrote:
“Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights” (http://monthlyreview.org/2009/05/01/why-socialism).
Einstein was perspicacious in his long view of history and we would do well to pay attention:
“I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots” (http://www.flero.net/when-technology-surpass-human-interaction-world-have-a-generation-of-idiots/).
Unfortunately, it seems that this day is here. Worshiping technology is now the norm. Scientism has replaced ‘science’ (http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-folly-of-scientism) and with it we see the rise of a new, more virulent ruling class bent on destroying all life through what they call “progress”, i.e. the creation of more and more artificial intelligence, the destruction of nature, the creation of laboratory rats and dependant populations. Monsanto, is just one example of the new scientism but the notion abounds in all areas of life.
Worshipping the ‘tools’ we as humans have been able to manufacture within a framework of ‘predatory capitalism’ will have far reaching results that the world cannot really even imagine, although Einstein tried:
“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones” (ibid).
Oligarchies and the forces of production in the hands of a few
The superiority of the forces of production and their concentration in the hands of a few predatory oligarchs out to make nothing but money under the auspices that property is wealth, has now arrived. The pictures tell a thousand words and as we see the destruction of human interaction in favor of artificial intelligence we witness the rise of the “idiot” that Einstein so clearly warned us about.
There is only one thing that we as humans can do to assure that the air we breathe, the food we eat, the morality we have and the world we live in puts people and their needs before profit and again, Einstein is salient:
“I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society” (http://monthlyreview.org/2009/05/01/why-socialism).
Since 1949 when Einstein penned this piece for Monthly Review we have seen millions die from the excesses of predatory capitalism. Is it too late? Will we revert to the Stone Age as Einstein so eloquently envisioned? Or can we educate masses of people to see that capitalism is a devastating socio-economic system even for those who presently handsomely profit. Or again, is the short term thinking we are embroiled in today while we worship the tools of enslavement too humungous for us to see the forest through the trees?
Quoting Einstein again:
A happy man is too satisfied with the present to dwell too much on the future” (http://www.flero.net/when-technology-surpass-human-interaction-world-have-a-generation-of-idiots/).
The choice is ours if we are educated enough to make it.