The Revaluation of Value

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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.

LEAPING FORWARD

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.

EPILOGUE

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

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The Future System

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All systems are designed to dissuade and impede the adoption of any better system. The system will impede change by blocking the ability to conceptualise or understand the alternatives.

Our global, neo-liberal culture unabashedly announces in its deep cynicism that it is the least worst of systems. An announcement made whilst plundering the natural resources of the planet and blindly damaging the ecosystem that all life on earth depends on. Of course, being the least worst is tantamount to announcing that it is the best. By doing so it warns us not to bother to go looking for vain alternatives. These, it says, cannot exist. There is, of course, no true encouragement of freedom here. Only a fool, it says, would look beyond the best thing for something better.

However, this is all an ideological lie. Systemic change is needed. The bubble idea that it is the economy that sustains us (and not the world) has to be burst. However, that bubble can only be burst by transcending the system of exchange. Our lives are currently subject to restraints on any true democratic access to technology and resources. However, the technological emancipation of humanity will only come about by abandoning our will-to-want-more and adopting a will-to-necessity. And this can only come about by developing this positivist and anti-nihilistic idea of human importance in the universe.

The priority of our capitalist economy is to make money. This is done by selling things. In order to sell things one must have something to sell. In order to have things to sell one must be able to obtain things already produced or produce them yourself. In order to produce things you must have people and/or machines that can do it. Given technological development as it is production can be carried out by either exclusively human labour (although this is hardly ever the case anymore), by a mixture of labourers and machines, or by primarily automated machinery. That production is evolving in the direction of the latter option seems to be the most logical perspective. However, if we ever reach an economy whose manufacturing is based solely on truly automated, self-producing and self-reproducing machinery, then … Do we need an exchange system involving production by human beings anymore? And if the answer is “no”: do we need an economy anymore?

If machines can mine resources and farm food, and can reproduce themselves and manufacture other new machines, the importance of labour in production must obviously be greatly diminished. A move towards such self-automated, self-reproducing, intelligent technologies should therefore see an equal trend towards the diminishing of the need for labour. Nevertheless, this is not the case in most societies. In the globalised economy intensified labour in sweatshop conditions in Third World countries is still a normal practice for large multinational corporations.  Slaves it seems are still more economical than high-tech machines. Developed countries have developed labour markets in services, many of which depend on tourism to hold them up. Unemployment can still have tragic consequences and it is one of the major causes of stress in societies. Our traditional wage-based exchange system depends on the incorporation of human beings into the system in order for them to be able to survive. Most survival still depends on people’s ability to procure salaries according to the sacrifice made through selling their time and skills as labour. If the amount of human labour needed is severely diminished so will the opportunities for survival, and so will the viability of the system of exchange that rewards only according to sacrifice.

For Einstein, one of the fundamental goals of civilisation is to make “those instrumental goods which should serve to maintain the life and health of all human beings … produced by the least possible labour of all.”[i]  In other words, let the machines do the physical work and leave it to our sapiens’ minds to be creative and thoughtful. However, the System seems to be continually pushing us in the opposite direction. Ironically, civilisation is increasingly insensitive to human progress as its technological advances make it more and more automated. Instead of allowing technology to liberate humanity, the economy uses it to create ever cheaper labour in order to produce ever greater profits.

If economists were forward thinking they would have to consider the radical consequences of our post-modernity. Technology is a lot more highly developed than the machines in the market place itself. A real technological revolution that would completely transform the world economy is possible. In order for human progress to actually occur and for all human beings to be liberated to develop themselves as human beings, the whole exchange system could be replaced by a human-maintenance system operated by self-reproducing, autonomous machinery.

In a world in which production and services is handled by machines, money is unnecessary. Labour will no longer need to be a sacrifice exchanged for rewards. Humanity will no longer be the homo economicus.

[i] Albert Einstein, OUT OF MY LATER YEARS; Wisdom, New York, 1950, p.18.

EINSTEIN’S MESSAGE FOR POSTERITY

 

294733-albert-einstein-seven-things-you-didn-t-knowI’d like to reproduce Einstein’s Message For Posterity.

“Our time is rich in inventive minds, the inventions of which could facilitate our lives considerably. We are crossing the seas by power and utilise power also in order to relieve humanity from all tiring muscular work. We have learned to fly and we are able to send messages and news without any difficulty over the entire world through electric waves.

However, the production and distributuion of commodities is entirely unorgansed so that everybody must live in fear of being eliminated from the economic cycle, in this way suffering for the want of everything. Furhermore, people living in different countries kill each other at irregular time intervals, so that also for this reason any one who thinks about the future must live in fear and terror. This is due to the fact that the intelligence and the character of the masses are incomparably lower than the intelligence and character of the few who produce something valuable for the community.

I trust that posterity will read these statements with a feeling of proud and justified superiority.”1

How deeply we have betrayed that trust. Where is progress?

1 Albert Einstein, OUT OF MY LATER YEARS, Philosophical Library Inc. New York, 1950, p.18