15 September 2016

Popular: development suffers under US hegemony

Harry Bentham

Aggressive mass surveillance and the continued sanctions on Iran originate with the same ideological goal: relentless control over all things technological.

Many progressives find fault with the modernity of technology. In their view, all technological progress only favors the state and the corporate elite, and constantly disempowers ordinary people [1]. Such a perspective is based on prejudices, heralding pessimism that could only disempower and censor us even more. This essay offers a very different interpretation of the relationship between hegemonic and statist interests and the spread of new information technologies.

The global spies and punishers are the ones who have betrayed everything modernity stands for. They have turned their backs on the technological progress that marks us apart from the other apes. They are the Luddites. In their desire to monitor, restrict and control everything for themselves, they are retarding the potential of our technology to truly improve life and freedom for all. And, like the Luddites, they are doing this to keep their jobs.

The United States is indeed a focal point for most of the technological breakthroughs in the world, but the fruits of all these breakthroughs remain inadequately shared with the rest of humanity. By failing thus, we in the West fail to inspire or educate, and so fail to fulfill any supposed role as the leaders of modernity.

What exists in the United States and other Western countries is not an environment for true technological progress. It is environment for profits and hoarding. As the celebrated physicist Michio Kaku has pointed out, there is a “brain drain” by which the US is supported by foreign scientists and takes credit for their accomplishments [2]. At the same time, the US allies threaten countries with sanctions and airstrikes if they appear to be progressing beyond the rigid bounds of technology delineated by the US and its cruel apologists, as it is with Iran.

What has been stated above may seem like a hard case to present, as it is not comparable with many other statements being made in the present politics. However, it finds good theoretical support between the lines of a similar economic theory. The particular theory explaining the imperative behind such a drive for monopoly and restrictions on the circulation of decisive technologies is the theory of the “capitalist world-economy”, as articulated by US social scientist Immanuel Wallerstein in his lectures and essays [3]. This theory portrayed the world as divided between the struggling countries of the global periphery and the self-appointed club of the rich core (who also happen to be the Bilderberg powers and OECD signatories) [4].

The core countries, which are primarily led from Washington, maintain their dominance by having a higher level of monopoly within the global production process [5]. They control decisive new areas like the genetic engineering and microcomputer industries, as well as emerging technologies [6]. It is from their centers, such as Silicon Valley, that the most valued industrial technologies begin to contribute to the global production processes.

The division of the world into low-tech and high-tech producers is the axial division of labor, long necessitated by the nature of a profit-driven world divided in terms of national borders and by the restriction of countries to having a specific economic base determined by their history (agrarian or industrial?) By reducing other countries to a state of dependency, the industrialized core is able to wield a more powerful military and obtain more political rights on the global stage [7]. This injustice, in turn, allows them to legitimize further oppression on the grounds that they are the most advanced and that the others need them more than they need the others. It is inevitably this injustice that gives the rich countries the ability to impose sanctions on others whom they disagree with.

As the core countries possess the more powerful position in the production process, it follows that they may at times deliberately thwart development, degrading technology and with it health and life in the rest of the world. There have been events that confirm the validity of this thesis. From US hostility to Japan’s rapid technological advancement to present US hostility to Iranian scientific progress, the rich and powerful remain as equipped and poised as ever to “set them back a decade or two or three”, as US Republican congressman Duncan Hunter ranted [8]. A comparable sentiment was found in the infamous words of Curtis LeMay concerning North Vietnam, and the threats of mass murder issued by Zionist Israel against the hapless Gaza Strip.

The core countries’ unilateral spying on the world only reinforces this thesis. What they are doing, in that case, is amassing capabilities and hiding them. They are subverting technology, arresting its natural destiny to empower the common man. They sought to hide these capabilities, to preserve them without challenge and so maintain the status quo. This, they knew, would maximize their power and profits.

Rather than allowing civilization to adjust and progress by knowing about and overcoming the brute technological arsenal of the state, the monopolistic powers are in love with secrecy for exactly the same reasons that the corporations are in love with intellectual property. The more barriers they set up to prevent others knowing what they have, the less the likelihood that anyone will be able to see the pathways to overthrow their unjust preponderance of power and wealth.

Julian Assange’s consideration of the perpetual use of security fears to attack internet freedom is particularly informative in this regard. Speeches on terrorism, narcissistic caressing of the US regime as the world’s only responsible custodian, and assumptions that some among humanity are just too irresponsible to hold certain capabilities, are always used [9].There is no fault in the analysis that the same arguments used to attack internet freedom are being recycled to attack Iranian scientific progress. These phobic arguments, which reject any notion of the human family, are deeply paranoid at best and racially aggravated and at worst.

Statist and hegemonic restrictions on technology’s potential in the name of security are nothing but Luddite policies swimming against the technium’s tide of freedom described in the works of Kevin Kelly [10]. Such restrictions presuppose that allowing the inevitable freedom of access to knowledge and the human right to develop independently will culminate in a security threat. What the defenders of the paranoia and monopoly fail to mention is that their actions interfere in creativity. Attempting to hoard all capabilities and strike others who attempt to develop is a blatant attack on technology itself – an affront to the natural force of the technium.

We can learn two very important conclusions from what has been exposed by the state’s massive betrayal of modernity and attempt to circumvent it. First, the view that the NSA’s sinister mass surveillance is a manifestation of out-of-control technological progress is opposite to the truth. It is the NSA and the statists themselves who fear today’s technological explosion and its liberating potential. The NSA’s violation is an attempt to retard the liberating effects of technology in the world today. They have tried to stab modernity in the back. As such, the opponents of the spies need not use Luddite arguments. They should instead be exposing the paranoid state and its supporters as Luddites – sluggish and archaic authorities opposing the freedoms that modernity stands for.

Second, we must more eagerly prepare for the near future when monopoly, state power and the appropriation of knowledge by companies are made impossible by the very acceleration and democratization of technology itself. A top theory of this awakening wasauthored by Yannick Rumpala, who speaks of a radical change in the capitalist mode of production as a consequence of new manufacturing technologies [11]. Although Rumpala’s paper itself is mainly discussing the implications of additive manufacturing (3D printing), the inclusion of K. Eric Drexler’s atomically precise manufacturing (APM) revolution [12] and J. Craig Venter’s synthetic biology revolution [13] makes the experiment of a networked economy with no factories, no corporations and no state increasingly possible.

Our other possible world may only be decades away, making our prescience of the political ramifications now truly important. It may have the potential to radicalize and transform everything about our economic and political existence, violating the former paradigm entirely and replacing it with something no-one can accurately predict.

Let us not fall for the view that mass surveillance is a case of our technology breaking bad. It is a clear manifestation of the doomed state’s paranoia in the face of the common man’s technology. What we have seen from the surveillance state, massive monopolistic corporations and the neoconservative ideologues defending the two is a pure Luddite manifestation of the phobia of technology. As George W. Bush once admitted, the “gravest danger” to US hegemony is “at the crossroads of radicalism and technology”[14]. In addition to this, neoconservative thinkers such as Francis Fukuyama have stood strongly against the movement encouraging the most radical vision of humanity’s liberation through technology: transhumanism [15].

Information wants to be free. The unrestrained democratization of knowledge and technology is the world’s inheritance, the freedom of humanity to achieve its noblest aspirations.

[1] J. Hughes, Citizen Cyborg: How Democratic Societies must Respond to the Redesigned Human of the Future (Westview Press, 2004) p. 130-131
[2] M. Kaku, “The Secret Weapon of American Science”, Big Think,http://bigthink.com/videos/the-secret-weapon-of-american-science, retrieved 15 March 2014
[3] I. M. Wallerstein, “Modernization: Requiescat in Pace”, p. 106-111 in The Essential Wallerstein (The New York Press, New York, 2000), p. 111.
[4] Id. “Class Formation in the Capitalist World-Economy”, p. 315-323 in The Essential Wallerstein (The New York Press, New York, 2000), p. 316.
[5] I. M. Wallerstein, World-Systems Analysis: An introduction (Duke University Press, Durham, 2004) p. 17-18.
[6] Ibid. p. 28-31
[7] Ibid. p. 11-17
[8] B. Armbruster, “Congressman Says U.S. Should Use Nuclear Weapons If It Attacks Iran”, Think Progress, http://thinkprogress.org/security/2013/12/04/3018431/duncan-hunter-iran-nukes/#, retrieved 15 March 2014
[9] J. Assange et al. Cypherpunks (OR Books, 2012) p. 72
[10] K. Kelly, What Technology Wants (Viking Penguin, 2010) p. 269-270
[11] Y. Rumpala, “Additive manufacturing as global redesigning of politics”, h+ Magazine,http://hplusmagazine.com/2013/10/07/additive-manufacturing-as-global-redesigning-of-politics/, retrieved 15 March 2014
[12] K. E. Drexler, Radical Abundance (PublicAffairs, 2013) p. 286-287
[13] J. C. Venter, Life at the Speed of Light (Viking Adult, 2013) p. 178
[14] The New York Times, “Text of Bush’s Speech at West Point”,http://www.nytimes.com/2002/06/01/international/02PTEX-WEB.html?pagewanted=2, retrieved 28 June 2013
[15] F. Fukuyama “Transhumanism”, Foreign Policy,http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2004/09/01/transhumanism, retrieved 30 June 2013

Read more Harry Bentham political philosophy with Catalyst: A Techno-Liberation Thesis (2013)

Harry Bentham

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