Sunday, March 1, 2015

Something To Look Forward To

- But you can't go on talking and thinking about these things. It's interesting, but only a hobby. You have to take care of yourself. If you don't, no one else will. You'll be in real trouble if you don't watch out. Make a list of what you should do.
- I can't think of a single item. Can you?
- No. But there must be something. You have to have hope.
- I do. There's this theory I've been reading about. As communications that once were controlled by monopolies at high profits are now produced and consumed directly by people at no cost on the Internet, so energy and transport will go the same way. Everyone will have solar panels on their rooftops and everyone will share transport rather than own a car. The production of the tools of communication and energy production and transportation are getting cheaper and cheaper through automation, approaching the point where the tools can manufacture themselves and repair themselves. Only the raw materials the tools are made from need be provided, but they can be recycled. Sounds good, right?
- Do you believe it's really possible?
- Yes. The guy who's come up with this is as we speak working with the EU directly to implement his ideas and they are being implemented. Twenty-five percent of Germany's electricity is now provided by the consumers themselves. The large energy companies are on their way out of business. China's leader, after reading the book in which these ideas are laid out, started implementing them on a massive scale. The United Nations is implementing them in Africa. Many other countries are beginning to. The main holdouts in this process are U.S. and Canada.
- Why?
- The theorist...
- What's his name?
- Jeremy Rifkin. In the subtitle of his new book is the phrase, "The Eclipse Of Capitalism".
- Then why are capitalist governments working with him?
- That's the interesting question, isn't it? Rifkin says there are great problems ahead, global warming, exhausting of oil resources and increasing costs of extraction, and so far only he has shown up with a solution.
- Do you believe that?
- I do. The head of Germany he works so closely with is the same woman who is forcing austerity measures of the poor countries of the EU, when the EUs own advisers have put it into their official report on those policies that it is certain that they cause further impoverishment and decline of economic stability. She is the epitome of capitalism.
- Then what is she doing supporting "The Eclipse Of Capitalism"?
- Well, she isn't. Was the undermining of the music and publishing industries by the free, sharing, "horizontal" organization of Internet the destruction of capitalism?
- What do you think?
- It destroyed certain markets but replaced them with others, creating new vast monopolies: Apple, Google, Twitter, Facebook. Monopoly is the high point of capitalist achievement. It is the win.
- So you think the EU, Germany, the UN are looking ahead to the prospect of new mega-monopolies? They'll be able to absorb all the profit released by the people freely trading with each other transportation, energy, communication that are produced at little or no cost?
- Yes. The United States and Canada are not participating because it is against the interest of their oil companies, the largest in the world.
- What about China?
- A large producer, but also the largest importer of fossil fuels.
- So not the end of capitalism, but a battle between two kinds of capitalist monopolies is beginning. Will people really be better off?
- Isn't it amazing that you can even ask that question?
- Why?
- Free communication through the Internet, free energy from the sun, nearly free robot manufactured and managed transportation, and we have to ask, will this make life better?
- Food is not free, water is not free, shelter is not free. Google, Facebook, Twitter sell advertisements for these things and others that are not free.
- You think that all the savings will go to the monopolies and everyday life will not get better?
- Do you think the Internet has made everyday life better? Do people work less? Are their lives more pleasant? Has it made people cooperate more or less?
- You mean, cooperate outside of sharing information, in their personal lives?
- Yes.
- The guy we're talking about seems to think so. Young people work for social capital, not material, he says. But what is social capital?
- What?
- Gratitude and obligation. Reputation and reward. The more you give, the more you are entitled to receive. A trade. A deal. An investment.
- A kind of capitalism.
- Exactly. When you really care about the people around you, you get to know them and like working with and helping them. Your reward is in the act itself.
- And the Internet, sharing economy doesn't work that way.
- On the Internet no one really knows anyone or cares about anyone. We've talked about the lack of real compassion in the lives of the those who've grown up with the new sharing economies.* Everyone is in a game to create reputation, where the big winners become the go-to place, a content monopoly in the sharing economy.
- They do give away their time and energy and things. That's real too.
- The fact is everyone on the Internet is an artist, not just the writers and musicians and filmmakers who give away their work. Everyone there shares pictures, descriptions, representations of life. But art is not life.
- What is life then?
- Art is like a sentence waiting for a reply. When your friend replies, and you two together put what you newly agree on into practice, when you change, improve how you live together, that is life. Change, not exchange. Fundamental change.
- And that doesn't happen with the Internet?
- The opposite happens. Political passivity. Less ability to live together creatively. All creativity has gone into art of communication, with the big pay off of becoming a "content" monopoly. We can share our energy, our solar power, share our cars and old things with each other, but we will be paying for all this just as we pay for the Internet by a daily life that gets harder day by day.
- Now we have jobs, working for the people who own the monopolies behind the Internet. What will we be doing if machines can do almost all the work?
- Rifkin, the theorist, working with Germany, the EU, China, and the UN, says that for a couple of generations people will be working on building the new energy and transportation infrastructure. Once it is done, however, the situation will be really, really interesting.
- How so?
- The monopolies of the communication sharing we have now are paid by users buying the products of advertisers who primarily are the other monopolies of energy, transportation, food, shelter, the cost of the advertising built into the prices paid. People will have "free" communication, energy, transportation, but they will still have to pay for food and housing, still under monopoly control. How will they do it if there is no more work for them?
- Can food and shelter be produced on the same system as the Internet, energy, transportation?
- They can.
- How?
- Making them free, of course.
- For anyone to take who wants.
- Like the Internet.
- That would require there was enough food and shelter for everyone.
- There is. Right now.
- If everyone didn't take more food and shelter than he could use.
- Yes. See any chance of that happening?
- Actually, yes. If people get used to sharing ideas, art, communication, energy, transportation, why not?
- In one sense, I agree. People are getting less attached to property. But here's the problem. The sharing economies, communication, energy and transportation, are being constructed by the old system of capitalism and monopoly. Capitalism and monopoly are not being "eclipsed" by the process, rather they are being strengthened. How could the last piece be put in place, the sharing of food and shelter?
- What's the problem?
- The problem is how the owner of the monopoly infrastructure will get paid. Communications monopolies, Google, Facebook, Twitter, get paid by energy, transportation, food, shelter sales, the energy and transportation infrastructure monopolies get paid by the work building the infrastructure. But once food and shelter are free, how is the provider of the infrastructure to be paid, when there is literally nothing more to be bought from outside the sharing economies?
- Then you think it will never happen, this last addition to sharing? Which, correct me if I am wrong, requires no new technology at all to be implemented? Could be done right now?
- You're not wrong. With free communications, free energy, free transportation, people still will be slaves to the monopolies holding control of food and water and shelter.
- But what will they do? When everything is made virtually for nothing?
- What they do now. Produce more and more elaborate luxury food and housing for the wealthy.
- Isn't there a limit how much luxury can be produced?
- The people will be put to use researching how to get past the limits. But maybe we'll never get to this point. The U.S., with its antiquated oil based technology, monopoly transportation, but immense military, suffering competitive decline may intervene to take by force the profits of the more advanced in energy and transportation.
- In which case the rest the world will have jobs as slaves to us in America. They'll be producing luxuries for us.
- Something to look forward to.
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Compassion & The Story