Tag: capitalism (page 1 of 11)

The corrosive nature of captalism

I used to think there was no chance of the current system of capital-based society ending within my lifetime.

But now? I’m not so sure. I see influential writers I respect like Seth Godin and (in this case) Warren Ellis talk openly about the harms of capitalism.

And given the crypto collapse following the pandemic perhaps people are slowly coming to realise there’s more to life than money…

money

From a certain perspective, capitalism is the environment into which we are born, and conditions within it are corrosive: we either adapt to those conditions in order to survive — people will always have to be taught how to tend the machines, and it has been said, after all, that humans are the reproductive organs of machines — or build a sturdy environment suit, or we are seriously harmed. Which casts many of us as good little prisoners or effective wasteland scavengers.

Source: A Suit Of Capitalism | WARREN ELLIS LTD

Image: Jorge Salvador

What technology means in late capitalism

Anyone familiar with Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle will appreciate this article by Jonathan Crary, author of the short but impressive 24/7 Capitalism.

Crary’s argument is that our current status quo depends on a capital-fuelled extractive mikitary-industriiall complex that cannot be sustained. What comes next can’t (isn’t likely to look like) just a ‘Green New Deal’ version of it.

Any possible path to a survivable planet will be far more wrenching than most recognize or will openly admit. A crucial layer of the struggle for an equitable society in the years ahead is the creation of social and personal arrangements that abandon the dominance of the market and money over our lives together. This means rejecting our digital isolation, reclaiming time as lived time, rediscovering collective needs, and resisting mounting levels of barbarism, including the cruelty and hatred that emanate from online. Equally important is the task of humbly reconnecting with what remains of a world filled with other species and forms of life. There are innumerable ways in which this may occur and, although unheralded, groups and communities in all parts of the planet are moving ahead with some of these restorative endeavors.


However, many of those who understand the urgency of transitioning to some form of eco-socialism or no-growth post-capitalism carelessly presume that the internet and its current applications and services will somehow persist and function as usual in the future, alongside efforts for a habitable planet and for more egalitarian social arrangements. There is an anachronistic misconception that the internet could simply “change hands,” as if it were a mid-20th-century telecommunications utility, like Western Union or radio and TV stations, which would be put to different uses in a transformed political and economic situation.

But the notion that the internet could function independently of the catastrophic operations of global capitalism is one of the stupefying delusions of this moment. They are structurally interwoven, and the dissolution of capitalism, when it happens, will be the end of a market-driven world shaped by the networked technologies of the present.

Of course, there will be means of communication in a post-capitalist world, as there always have been in every society, but they will bear little resemblance to the financialized and militarized networks in which we are entangled today. The many digital devices and services we use now are made possible through unending exacerbation of economic inequality and the accelerated disfiguring of the earth’s biosphere by resource extraction and needless energy consumption.

Source: The Digital Age is Destroying Us | Literary Hub

Do NFTs tend towards dystopia?

At the weekend I visited the Moco Museum with my wife in Amsterdam. It’s the first time I’ve seen an NFT art exhibition. It wasn’t… bad? But, as someone commented when I said as much on social media, the ownership model is kind of irrelevant. It’s the digital art that matters.

(the animation below is from a video I took of an appropriate Beeple artwork)

What I think we’re all starting to realise is that for everything to be on the blockchain, we would need to fundamentally change the nature of human interaction. And that change would be toward dystopia.

In this article, James Grimmelmann, who is a professor at Cornell Law School and Cornell Tech (where he directs the Cornell Tech Research Lab in Applied Law and Technology) explains just this.

Loosely speaking, there are three kinds of property you could use an NFT to try to control ownership of: physical things like houses, cars, or tungsten cubes; information like digital artworks; and intangible rights like corporate shares.

By default, buying an NFT “of” one of these three things doesn’t give you possession of them. Getting an NFT representing a tungsten cube doesn’t magically move the cube to your house. It’s still somewhere else in the world. If you want NFTs to actually control ownership of anything besides themselves, you need the legal system to back them up and say that whoever holds the NFT actually owns the thing.

Right now, the legal system doesn’t work that way. Transfer of an NFT doesn’t give you any legal rights in the thing. That’s not how IP and property work. Lawyers who know IP and property law are in pretty strong agreement on this.

It’s possible to imagine systems that would tie legal ownership to possession of an NFT. But they’re (1) not what most current NFTs do, (2) technically ambitious to the point of absurdity, and (3) profoundly dystopian. To see why, suppose we had a system that made the NFT on a blockchain legally authoritative for ownership of a copyright, or of an original object, etc. There would still be the enforcement problem of getting everyone to respect the owner’s rights.

Grimmelmann clarifies in a footnote that just because NFTs might work for art, doesn’t mean they’re appropriate for… well, anything else:

A lot of the current hype around NFTs consists of the belief that the rest of the world will follow the same rules as NFT art. But of course part of the point of art is that it doesn’t follow the same rules as the rest of the world.

Source: I Do Not Think That NFT Means What You Think It Does | The Laboratorium