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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Is it time to call “Capitalism” an Existential Threat yet?

Is it time to call “Capitalism” an Existential Threat yet?

By Khannea Suntzu
April 18, 2013

A few years ago I argued that rampant disparity in terms of affluence
and poverty (or opportunity versus marginalization) in the world
might be interpreted as an existential risk.

In other words, a very large number of human beings might literally
be pushed in to premature death by the combination of (a) disparity
and (b) accelerating technologies.

My point in 2007 was that technology is increasingly something that
more rich people “purchase” (or invest in), and reap benefits from.

So in effect I argued that at some point in the none too distant
future technology might create products only for people who have
money; lots of people would be without jobs and effectively unable
to generate any meaningful income, and be displaced from the
basic range of essential goods and services to literally survive.

This point was in some other form made by Jeremy Rifkin, Marshall
Brain, Thomas Frey, Frederico Pistono and several others, and each
placed the emphasis a little differently.

Essentially this is already happening.

Millions of human beings die prematurely as a result of being unable
to generate a sufficient income, and in some extreme cases these
people starve to death, or otherwise live unacceptably undignified

Strikingly, we live in a world where this form of severe disparity does
not bother the people in “developed” countries to a sufficient degree
as to demand immediate action.

It is worse – even very moral people around me will knowingly
purchase articles that were made in third world nations under
unambiguously severe conditions of slave labour, or severe
exploitation. And nobody regards this as morally wrong.

In fact many would offer arguments that this is a “good” thing.

My earlier argument didn’t include a range of secondary problems,
such as resource depletion, the quickly encroaching state fascism in
all “developed” countries (including the EU and US), the secession of
rich people from society in to effectively a plutonomy, the collapse of
biodiversity, the collapse of quality of goods in the western world
(specifically food), global weirding and terrorism.

My argument was about the combination of disparity and
‘exponentially advancing technologies’ (assuming the latter
is actually occurring).

Fast forward to 2013. The occupy movement has come and gone.

The Zeitgeist and Venus project movements have come and gone,
and even serious and intelligent people I know wouldn’t even watch
the informational videos of these movements, “by and large because
they were busy”.

I have shared in the last years a nonstop barrage of arguments that
at least something is very wrong, and this could end up biting us in
the ass as a planetary species.

My 2013 argument goes a little further. I would place the practice of
capitalism itself in the spotlight, and argue that the kind of (flawed?
Inconsistent?) Capitalism we have world wide today is in effect
becoming an existential risk.

In other words, IF this can be argued, should we ask as a
technoprogressive (transhumanist/extropian,whatever)
community what would be moral to say or do?

We can all consent in the status quo and just bide our time
and maximize our private opportunities, but the end point of
“a complacency of the educated” might be a very bleak future

My question (and accusation) is fairly simple – Capitalism
is introducing a very large number of failure modes in the
functionality of the world, and yes we do have reasonable
alternatives other than “latter day” Capitalism (I can offer
you a few if you insist) that might be better than the mess
we have today.

Capitalism is causing massive problems, far more in number or
complexity than I’d care list, and these consequences can very
well be argued to cause massive (and absolutely unnecessary)
human suffering and premature death well in our lifetimes
(before 2050).

What would be even worse, a functional collapse of western society
(to say it in critical alarmist speech) has become thinkable just a
few years ago, and in 2013 is regarded by many not just as plausible,
but inescapable.

I wouldn’t go as far, but we should avoid the more severe
consequences, since we could, and the world has become
very small.

Apathy today might result in lethal forms of instability,
mass-migrations and blowback just a few years down
the road.

My question is very straightforward – can Capitalism be reasonably
argued to be an existential risk, and if so, what action should we
take to negate this risk?

And can we agree on any such action, or are we cast helplessly adrift?

Capitalism is about maximizing resource depletion and leveraging
costs to external parties. Do not underestimate the destructive
potential of this.

Also do not underestimate the potential of people to religiously cling
to capitalism.

As I have come to analyze it, what we regard as Capitalism (which is
a fairly arbitrary cloud of confused and inconsistent conceptions by
and large) is a mechanism that *in practice* gets as much ore from
the ground, in as short a time, at as low a cost, turning it in to the
most breakable and cheap products, shipping them everywhere at
cost cutting trade deals, while keeping wages as low as possible,
by playing countries against each other in a race to the bottom of
dismantling anything resembling civilization, while bypassing as many
possible environmental and health code regulations (or dismantling
them), all the time while corrupting whatever passes for a political

Sure I GET IT, some people benefit from this. But that benefiting
will turn pretty goddamn sour very soon.

This is a predatory, entropy maximizing system.

And in its current form it doesn’t just stagnate progress or research,
it is HOSTILE to science and progress. And it is hostile to anything
resembling fair competition.

Have a walk in any highly capitalist third world country.

You’ll spot slaves within minutes. You’ll spot environmental collapse
in minutes. You’ll spot resource depletion in minutes, all of these
mostly irreversible.

Sure *some* people are benefiting in any game of chairs. It won’t
last however.

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