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Cybernetics [message #531] Sat, 13 April 2019 23:01 Go to next message
Messages: 1
Registered: April 2019
Hey everyone I'd like to start an in depth discussion on cybernetic theory as it relates to left struggles.

The main proponent that is generally brought up is Cockshott and while his work Towards a New Socialism usually generates a lot of buzz I have my personal doubts. There are a lot of resources for learning about Cybernetic Socialism and the Youtuber Hawaii Left Review goes pretty ham on the subject. I was really jazzed about the prospect because it seems like the most logical way to use the production and distribution infrastructure that capitalism has already built.
My main goncern however stems from TIQQUN's publication The Cybernetic Hypothesis & also The Baffler article called Blame The Computer which predict the handheld device as a sinister control scheme & that the very notion of a 'computer science' is a propped up market to get a bunch of useful idiots to construct war machines. The article also points out how the printed circuit, and much of the design of software is actually a perpetuation of 1950's hierarchical class society, in an embedded way (Xanadu's Ted Nelson harps on this a lot as well).
Additional dangers of cybernetitization come from the lack of ethics whenever a new technology is discovered. Count Alfred Korzybski wrote about this after observing the devestation of WWI: technology always gets abused heavily until the !science! of Ethics is applied. This is really nightmare fuel when you start to consider miniaturized killer drones who are made w/o ethics, and then AI starts replicating itself, and then there is no place for ethics to ever enter into the equation and you just have automated death on loop.

Anyone have some thoughts on the matter? I used to think a lot more on this and have it better written up but I just took a 6 mo internet break. Sorry for no links as ironically I'm phoneposting, but I will give up phones in the 'fuscia' generation and stick to sbc's and librebooted thinkpads.
Re: Cybernetics [message #598 is a reply to message #531] Fri, 10 May 2019 16:57 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Messages: 87
Registered: January 2019
I haven't read The Cybernetic Hypothesis but I'll address some general ideas:

1. The idea of cybernetics exists to resolve the problem of how to organize a post-capitalist society.
2. Past experiments in building post-capitalist societies have failed to surpass class society because (among other reasons) their technical methods simply recreated classes over time. (By technical methods I mean an advanced division of labor, money accounting, payment in wages, production of commodities, etc).
3. The word cybernetics is based upon the Greek root word which meant to steer or pilot. In a modern cybernetic economy the key principle would be to replace human decision-makers with mechanical decision-makers, or today, computerized decision-makers. The reliance on, or promotion of, special classes within the division of labor to make economic decisions ultimately destabilizes socialized economies due to the gradual re-emergence of classes.
4. The real challenge is to replace old technical methods, which were developed and refined specifically for a capitalist mode of production, with new methods that correspond to a post-capitalist system. This obviously can't be done overnight but the general movement must supersede capitalist technical methods or regress into capitalism.
5. Cockshott & Cottrell's Towards a New Socialism was not the first work to address these ideas. In fact, Marx himself was very critical of attempts to surpass capitalism without abolishing things like money, wage-labor, and commodity production. Marx ridiculed the idea that these things could exist in socialism.
6. After Marx, these arguments were later echoed by 'left communists' such as the GIK (Group of International Communists) in their work on socialized production and distribution. Money was meant to be replaced by a new technical innovation: the labor certificate. Cockshott's advocacy of labor-time accounting and the use of such notes or vouchers was not a new idea. In fact, even his advocacy of general economic decision-making via referendums was advocated earlier by Cornelius Castoriadis.
7. The ethical problems of computers and AI under capitalism is specific to that system. The structure of capitalism replicates technology and technical methods which support it, and discards anything else. Which is why useful but non-profitable technology is always discarded while profitable but highly wasteful technology is rapidly promoted.

[Updated on: Fri, 10 May 2019 16:58]

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Re: Cybernetics [message #599 is a reply to message #598] Fri, 10 May 2019 17:05 Go to previous message
Messages: 87
Registered: January 2019
Final thought: the real value of cybernetics and computers can't even be realized until we've begun building a post-capitalist society. Like most technology, only when the profit motive has been superseded by labor-time accounting and socialized production can we really expand the potential of modern techniques of production and science.
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