Since Nietzsche called for the “Revaluation of all values!” we have, in Western Civilisation, seen certain transvaluations take place in areas such as race, gender, sex and violence, but what we have failed to revaluate is value itself.
A revaluation of value would untie its connection with exchange (money) and align it to needs – a thing’s importance would therefore be gauged according to how necessary it was. But in order to do this we would need to remove the stigma of “price”. Progress doesn’t happen because it’s expensive.
So, in order to make the real advances that our technology-rich culture is capable of, we now have to eradicate the barrier of “expense”.
THE TRULY HUMAN CIVILISATION
In a truly human civilisation, needs should be rights. In a truly fair society, everyone should have the opportunity to start the race from the same line. In our societies, sacrifices created by the monetary exchange system place people behind the starting line.
In a truly human civilisation, a person with disabilities should be allowed access to the technology designed to satisfy his or her needs without concern that sacrifices must be made to obtain the necessary barter. A teacher, or an intellectual, needs access to academic texts and should be granted that access; an artisan needs access to certain tools and materials; a gardener needs access to seeds and gardening tools, as well as a patch of land to garden on … etc.
In a society in which needs are understood and catered for by the society itself, on a wide and universal level, those same needs would seep into wants, but without taking over the space of wants. By planting values on authentic needs, civilisation would evolve into societies rich in purposeful-desires as opposed to our current civilisation that is drowning in pulp-waste-wants.
TECHNOLOGY IN A TRULY HUMAN CIVILSATION
Paradoxically, the truly human civilisation will be defined by the fact that it will not be dependent on human labour in order to function or maintain it. It will be a place that is built and maintained by machines, and in which the goods produced by those machines will be distributed by the same machines. As Einstein preached: “Those instrumental goods which should serve to maintain the life and health of all human beings should be produced by the least possible labour of all”[i].
Of course this implies a loss of jobs, and a loss of menial tasks has tragic consequences in our societies dominated by monetary exchange. There is a vicious circle involved in our conclusion: in order to allow technology to liberate human beings from the drudgery of menial tasks we need to revaluate the value system based on money, and, technological development is the key to transcending the monetary-exchange system.
In order to close this circle, technology needs to be appropriated by the society itself so that it can be removed from the dictatorships of the capitalist corporations.
In our current model of society, the consumer pays repeatedly for goods produced by the money exchange system. Firstly, we pay for the technological research carried out with public money, secondly we pay for the cost of the products created by companies who have appropriated that technology as their own, and thirdly we have to pay each time we want to acquire the updated versions of products that have been deliberately programmed with a short life span. Of course, for the system, the important thing is that we pay, and that the money keeps flowing and moving to the top. It is this assumption that needs a radical revaluation.
In a sense, technology forces us in a direction beyond the monetary exchange. It is the essential function of technology to do what a human being cannot do by himself. To replace humans in terms of labour is to replace our role of being slaves to ourselves. In effect it is our exchange-system culture in its pure, slave-production/slave-maintenance role, that inhibits the development of technology .
While individuals continue to see themselves essentially as active members of the master-slave, sacrifice-reward exchange system, technology will always be viewed: a) with some suspicion (as an impediment, taking away our own chances of participating successfully in the system); b) as a commodity that can be produced and exchanged for profit, and as such, just another object that enslaves desire rather than liberating humanity.
The first leap to a revaluation of technology in a positive way must come about by abandoning the view of technology as commodities to be sold. A revaluation would see machines as something readily available for use without any ultimate aim of making a profit. This attitude places the entire monetary exchange system in question.
Technology can truly liberate us, but it won’t if we need to constantly sacrifice our time and real needs in order to be able to obtain that liberation. The purpose of technology is to liberate us from labour, not to ensure that we are shackled to it.
In order to remove technological development away from the market place and its role as an exchange-value/profit-making tool, we need to control the power of making machines that will be able to make themselves. Which means: a) control of the raw materials needed to make these machines; b) control of universities so that scientists and designers will be encouraged to plan technology in a social direction rather than a profit-making one; and c) control of the use of these machines once they are made.
Of course, these incentives have to come from the grass roots, the demos, the people. The so-called free market cannot be expected to have any inclinations towards implementing a structure which has an aim to abolish the free market.
Produce, distribute and maintain itself: there are the three basic functions that a truly human, technological society should be based on. Within production itself there are embedded needs to search for and extract the raw materials needed for that production to be possible. This implies a need for an ecological design for all future technology. A truly human civilisation will need to programme its machines with an ability to recognise excess, to understand the negative idea of over-farming, and to be able to judge the limits of extraction. A truly human civilisation needs, above all, a control of eco-friendly technologies.
[i] See Albert Einstein, OUT OF MY LATER YEARS, chapter 6. ON FREEDOM