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09 April, 2016

The good scenario against “robo-Capitalism”

by system failure

In previous articles we have examined various scenarios, all of them Dystopian, on how things could evolve in future due to the rapid rise of hyper-automation. Today, hyper-automation contributes significantly to one of the biggest problems, which is the accelerated increase of unemployment.

We have defined as "robo-Capitalism" the situation in which all the economy and research will be guided by the need for increasingly efficient machines. This means, more or less, that human needs will become irrelevant for the elites who eventually will end to control all the resources and the means of production.

But, is there any alternative to this situation? Could things evolve differently, in a non-Dystopian way?

During the last three-four decades, we have experienced one of the most fascinating technological innovations in human history: the rise of computers and the internet. What we observed, is a rapid spread of this technology worldwide, mostly because of one of the most fundamental characteristics of classic capitalism: the chase for profit through competition. The technology escaped from the hands of governments, agencies, universities, and became accessible to most of the people in the developed world, while still being expanded in other geographical areas.

Should we expect something similar to happen with robots in the oncoming decades?

It is not certain. That's because the conditions now are quite different. In the past decades, the need for profit made companies to spread the technology rapidly in the societies. It was invented mostly in state-owned institutions and the private sector took it to exploit it.

Especially during the 90s, many small-medium businesses in the United States flourished and drove the technology forward. The significant number of competitors of all sizes pushed the prices down and the technology became approachable to millions of people in many countries.

However, at the same time, the power of big corporations was growing fast. They were promoting their interests by penetrating, more than ever, in every key decision center. The philosophy of the small-medium companies has changed. Now, most of those who build a new product, are seeking to sell their company to the biggest companies which create cartels and monopolies. The 2008 crisis made things worse, as the period of "easy money" officially terminated and the small-medium sector became an even easier victim to the corporate monsters.

A significant part of the research has been privatized and under current circumstances, it would be natural to expect that the big private companies would keep the new technology for themselves in order to impose the new conditions. There are plenty of strong signs that the elites are breaking the social contract and design a kind of global Feudalism. TTIP-type agreements, the Greek experiment, and, the cruel neoliberal measures being imposed even in economically advanced areas, like eurozone, are some of these signs.

Yet, the alternative, good scenario to this Dystopian future may come from the "inside".

The thirst for more power and profit may drive the biggest companies into a new cycle of fierce competition. Furthermore, it may not be that easy for them to keep the monopoly of technology too long. Eventually the technology of hyper-automated machines will escape from the monopolies, and a new sequence of small-medium businesses will become active in the field. Soon, we could see a similar scenario to that of the computers and the internet. However, in this case the impact to the societies will be much more profound. If hyper-automated machines become more and more cheap and accessible to millions of households, it could seriously boost the quality of life for millions of people into unprecedented levels.

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