A dangerous transhumanism

Inhuman Power – Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Capitalism
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE / Nick Dyer-Whitford is a ring fox in critical studies of technology and artificial intelligence. He also criticizes luxury communism and the so-called accelerationists.


In the flood of books on technology development, many rely on loose impressions and personal preferences. The advantage of this book is that it uses a clear method to understand the phenomenon of artificial intelligence – and the ideologies that accompany it. This method is pronounced Marxist, but it is not just a loose use of the concepts of exchange, capital accumulation and alienation. Dyer-Witheford, flanked by Kösen and Steinhoff from the same environment from Ontario, is based on readings of Marx's own thinking about technology, found in the text collection floorplans and especially in his much-talked about "Fragment on Machines". One of Dyer-Witheford's duties is to transfer Marx's observations of 1800's industrial technology to that 21. century information technology.


Already in Marx's descriptions, capitalism itself is a machinery that makes people instruments of their own inherent logic. Man is himself a material, a consumable, a tool – which can also be thrown away when it becomes superfluous. The workers were moved from the country to the factories in the cities, but already their manual labor operations were analyzed and streamlined. The result was always that some were made redundant.

To remedy unemployment with civilian pay is an illusory solution. Accelerationism, like Italian futurism at the turn of the last century, has strong fascist tendencies.

When the work operations are gradually imitated by machines, the machines gradually take over until we get the fully automatic factories. Human labor is now needed only where mental tasks are to be performed: assessments, decisions, analyzes. But with artificial intelligence, these tasks are also analyzed, imitated and performed by machines. Admittedly, artificial intelligence is creating new job markets for analysts and controllers, but many employees who today analyze and optimize systems and "purify" big data are concerned: They also know that their work maneuvers are being spied on by the programs, so that the system can make them superfluous in the next round. Thus the machinery of capitalism will think better and better without human help.

luxury Communism

When you can replace both the human body and the consciousness, man becomes superfluous. The book puts the problem at the forefront and asks: What happens when the production processes of capitalism manage without humans? The job market is being affected not only by Marxists, but also by market liberalists, who have begun to take up parts of the left's rhetoric. More people are in favor of civilian pay – since the labor market is doomed to shrink. For some left-wing thinkers, this invites a high-tech post-capitalist idyll: The machines work, while we humans are free to take care of ourselves and each other. When production costs go to zero, we can all live as counties, a scenario Aaron Bastani elaborates in his Fully Automated Luxury Communism [See New Time in August].

The authors have some sympathy for luxury communism, but point out that the very form of technology is characterized by the driving forces that have produced it. The artificial intelligence is created as means of capital accumulation, monopolization and concentration of power. It originally grew out of the military-industrial complex's research and strategic competition logic.

Since power accumulation is a major problem with automation, remedying unemployment with civilian pay becomes an illusory solution. In exchange for a penny to each of us, the power of information and the means of production will remain with those with the money.

But shouldn't the means of production be taken over by the proletarians in the narrative of Marxism? Here the discussion is detailed and full of considerations, all the while the authors are also attracted to the idea of ​​high-tech post-capitalism. Since artificial intelligence and analyzes of big data are primarily developed as specifically capitalist tools for manipulation and surveillance, the question becomes whether they can be "reformatted".

Can artificial intelligence be used differently and better, for example to monitor the planet, to more environmentally friendly agriculture, to an ecological infrastructure of satellites and sensors? Perhaps, say the authors, but more likely those who are eager for mechanical manipulation and monitoring of nature will contribute further to its destruction, since artificial intelligence and automation are so closely linked to the consumer society and its excessive consumption. The authors believe luxury communists on the left, like Bastani, are trying to conjure away the ecological problems of seductive simplifications. 

Luc Vernimmen. se libex.eu


Where some hope that technology can free man from capitalism, there is a danger that capitalism will liberate itself from all human considerations instead.

Some view this as liberating and exciting. Many «accelerationists» considers technology development as necessary and inevitable and often talks about technological change as if it were natural phenomena – objective processes that we can encourage and accelerate, but not stop or avoid. Such an ideology reaches its climax where IT guru Peter Thiel allies himself with the rabid techno-Nietzschian Nick Land. Both tend to view the free operations of capitalism as more important than human freedom. Countries are also known for admiring Chinese capitalism as more perfect than the Western economy. Accelerationism, like Italian futurism at the turn of the last century, has strong fascist tendencies and a pull towards the inhuman.


In the book, the authors suggest that we can explore another non-technological "inhumanity" – the non-human nature. Ecology urges us to move more slowly and learn something about the fragility of the ecosystems we associate with – all that is beyond human control.

The authors are attracted to the idea of ​​high-tech post-capitalism.

The authors contrast technology development with such sensitivity. The artificial intelligence race is moving towards a dangerous transhumanism, a concept of the author's clear meaning: With artificial intelligence, capital has learned to think and sense – in the form of machine learning, pattern recognition and sensors. Digital systems thus incarnate the logic that has constantly operated in capitalism, which makes individuals – bosses and employees – nod, and what Marx calls "character masks" for capital.

"What does technology want?" Asked technology guru Kevin Kelly in one of his books – and replied that it would give us opportunities. INRather, following this book, digital technology has become a compelling force that deprives us of the freedom to choose. Technology development has produced an intelligence without consciousness, and it is uninterested in creating a human and good society – or a planet in ecological balance.

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