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.