Summary: A new industrial revolution has begun. Knowledge of previous ones can guide us, preparing us for its likely dynamics and showing us the political actions necessary to distribute it’s benefits. But the 1% are working against us, seeking to return us to the pre-New Deal era of inequality and profitable (for them) instability. Keeping us passive is the key to their success; keeping us ignorant is one way to do that.
- The past helps us see the future
- The world of yesterday
- The world of tomorrow, emerging today
- Jeff Bezos shows us our high-tech future
- For More Information
(1) The past helps us see the future
The previous industrial revolutions produced great new wealth from increased productivity, but distributed only by politics: collective action producing new public policy.
The future need not resemble the past, but it’s a likely scenario. The technopians, like Marc Andreessen (@pmarca on Twitter) vividly describe the wonders of the future, but actively deny the political action probably necessary to realize it. They’re brilliant, educated people. How could they ignore this history? The simple answer: they’re not stupid; they believe that we are stupid.
(2) The world of yesterday
“Knowledge itself is power.”
— Thomas Hobbes’ Sacred Meditations (1597)
This works in reverse as well. Our amnesia shifts power from our hands to those of others. A people that have lost their past cannot learn, and so cannot prepare for the future.
The advent of the first two industrial revolutions produced great wealth, but concentrated in few hands — with massive unemployment and poorly paid workers in unsafe conditions. This resulted from policy, not happenstance, as the 1% bitterly fought efforts to change the Gilded Age political system and distribute the bounty of America’s material and technological riches. This, plus a financial system run by and for the 1% (e.g., creditor-friendly deflation) produced incredible (and unnecessary) hardship accompanied by economic instability.
As a result America’s second industrial revolution started and ended with decade-long depressions (the Long Depression and Great Depression), with frequent use of violence to suppress workers (see this list of private and State violence against unions).
Due to our sanitized children’s history, Americans know little of our history between the Civil War and WW1 (other than the cowboys). We cannot see the sad real history behind our fables (e.g., see “Little Libertarians on the prairie“), let alone learn from it.
Change came only when the Progressive and New Deal reforms laid the foundations for the prosperity of the post-WW2 middle class.
(3) The world of tomorrow, emerging today
Technopians confidently predict widespread prosperity, but omit the collective action that produced a happy ending in the past. They rely not just on our amnesia, but on propaganda: a religious-like faith in technological progress. The parallels with past “opiates of the masses” are obvious.
It’s one of the oddities of our generation that we must spend so much time dealing with beliefs that future generations might find difficult to even understand. Such as American exceptionalism, libertarianism, and techno-utopianism.
While we shadow-box, Andreessen and his peers take us back to the future. A new Gilded Age rises around us; here are a few examples.
- The 2005 – 2009 illegal cartel suppressing wages, run by Google, Apple, Intel and Adobe.
- The new American economy: concentrating business power to suit an unequal society.
- For Thanksgiving, Walmart shows us the New America— Part time, no benefits, minimum wage wonderworld.
- Private equity firms strip-mine America: buy a company, cut r&d and capex, outsource labor to Asia and temp agencies, cut benefits, borrow every dollar possible, extract every dollar, sell it off — the wreckage becomes others’ problems.
(4) Jeff Bezos shows us the future of high-tech America
Amazon shows us the future in many ways. E-monitoring of workers; every step, including time in the bathroom. Executives thinking every day about ways to prevent workers organizing for better wages and conditions. Extensive use of temp labor to break links between workers and their actual employers. An inspiring story of technology intelligently applied to destroy the middle class and benefit the 1%.
- “Inside Amazon’s Warehouse“, The Daily Caller (the Lehigh Valley newspaper), 18 September 2011 — “Lehigh Valley workers tell of brutal heat, dizzying pace at online retailer”
- “In the Wake of Protest: One Woman’s Attempt to Unionize Amazon“, The Atlantic, 12 December 2011
- “I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave“, Mac McClelland, Mother Jones, March/April 2012 — “My brief, backbreaking, rage-inducing, low-paying, dildo-packing time inside the online-shipping machine.”
- “Amazon warehouse jobs push workers to physical limit“, Seattle Times, 3 April 2012
- “Amazon unpacked“, Financial Times, 8 February 2013 — “The online giant is creating thousands of UK jobs, so why are some employees less than happy?”. Amazon treats its workers like robots, making the future transition to robots easy.
(5) For More Information
See the Reference Page listing all posts about The 3rd Industrial Revolution
Posts about the New America being built now:
- The new American economy: concentrating business power to suit an unequal society, 27 April 2012
- For Thanksgiving, Walmart shows us the New America, 19 November 2013