Who do great concepts belong to?

Life in communism 4.0

Internet, Industry 4.0, artificial intelligence, robotics and big data are fundamentally changing the whole of society. This is especially true in the world of work. But changing them is ambivalent. The Janus-faced nature of the automation of activities and work processes is expressed on the one hand in the enthusiasm of all those who assume that machines will now do all unpleasant work and that humanity will have time for leisure and creativity. The others are afraid that Industry 4.0 will cause unemployment of unknown proportions, as machines take away people's work

Man as a better machine?

The human-machine relationship has always been difficult. With the beginning of capitalism man and machine compete with each other - especially in the segment of simple activities, machines were and are often cheaper and better: first the loom, then the steam engine, today the automatic cash register.

What is new, however, is that the jobs of the middle and upper classes are also apparently threatened. Machines can discover problems and solve them independently. The learning and reflective human being as the “crown of creation” is in question.

People remain the central authority when it comes to social developments - and they have to learn to deal with technology.

But when we are currently discussing the fact that a computer can beat one of the world's best Go players, we forget that machines don't just tick like humans. The technology itself has no idea about the game, it just follows rules. If these are changed, people can adjust to them - a programmed super computer then suddenly looks pretty old.

People remain the central authority when it comes to social developments - and they have to learn to deal with technology. What is often neglected in these discussions: technology alone is not a thing. It is not a thing, but a social relationship - it is not about the reification of technology in the form of a computer or a 3D printer, but about the production conditions under which it was developed and from which it can also be unwound. The assembly line came about when it came to making various small work steps as efficient as possible. This will always be the case. Algorithms, however, can be reprogrammed in such a way that they can be used in an emancipatory way.

The liberation of the machine ...

The aim is therefore to liberate machines from the logic of capitalist exploitation. It's not just about using robots that would do all of the unpleasant work for us, you also have to ask yourself who they belong to and in which society they are used for what purpose. Automation and digitization alone will not overcome capitalism. For this, the question of ownership must be asked and an anti-capitalist perspective developed.

The first attempts in this direction were made in 1971, in the early history of the computer and before the existence of the Internet. The Briton Anthony Beer, together with the philosopher Fernando Flores, developed the cybersyn project for socialist Chile, where Salvador Allende had just become president. The aim was to build a planned economy on the basis of a computer program for state enterprises. Economic processes should be controlled in real time by computers and a teletype network and controlled by a command center. The system, which is primitive from today's perspective, was never ended because Allende was killed in a military coup. Cybersyn was buried, the control room destroyed.

... to free people from capitalism

The advancing digitization may now offer the opportunity to follow up on these ideas and replace the capitalist economy with something sensible - a flexible and democratically controlled planned economy that always compares demand and supply and puts people's needs at the center and not profit . A kind of self-organized and decentralized cybernetic system: cyber communism.

Communist concepts of digital economic control are gaining new honor in current discussions. The group "Fully Automated Luxury Communism" was founded in London, calling for luxury communism and prosperity for all. With Postcapitalism by Paul Mason and Inventing the future Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams have recently published two works that outline the vision of a post-capitalist digital world. From a technical point of view, it seems to be possible by networking everything and everyone, using the Internet of Things and intelligent systems to enable optimal cross-border production planning.

The technology alone doesn't do anything. It is not good or bad and it goes against a just society

If the demands of the old, analogous communism, namely the socialization of the means of production, were also met, these networks could ensure the supply of people. This could establish a just society in which increasing automation no longer leads to fear of unemployment and further social division - but by reducing working hours to more time and diverse development opportunities for everyone.

The technology alone doesn't do anything. It is not good or bad and opposes a just society - it is the current capitalist conditions. It is important to take action against them and to use technology wherever possible. On a small scale, there is the possibility to carry out personal acts of sabotage, to program algorithms that break others, to outsmart facial recognition, to provide incorrect data or to hack or paralyze corporate websites. But all of this will not be enough. A fundamental alternative is needed for how we deal with technology - and how we can use it beyond the logic of capital and exploitation.