What Producerism gets surely wrong


Go back to analog tech? WHY?

What Producerism gets surely wrong /img/producerism.jpg

Economic growth is the problem, and the solution is producerism, says D. Moench:

“Teslas, electric cars. “Green tech” [are] all make-believe solutions - a vainglorious Silicon Valley–spun fantasy that promises we can go on living in the hyperconsumptive, power-devouring, technological way we currently do.”

The starting assumptions of the article are that:

  • Growth-oriented economics is indeed our central problem.
  • Without growth, no existing form of liberal economy can function. And, without liberal economics no one has yet discovered a way to provide the niceties of free expression, free speech, free association, or anything approaching the entrepreneurism of free business enterprise.

The reverse of China

The proposed solution consists of doing “the reverse of China - build a system of liberalism, but without capitalism. The good news is such a political movement exists in nascent form, hidden in the annals of American history, and is called Producerism.”

The article then describes what a producerist political economy would look like. Personally, I like the proposal to ban high speed trading, for these reasons, as well as the one to “tax all trade transport based on mileage traveled from origin to final destination”, because the current status of worldwide trade is plain stupid, before even being embarrassingly dangerous. I also agree with the initial observation about “vainglorious Silicon Valley–spun fantasies”, as is easy to see in these posts. But that is not the point of this post.

One correction, if I may…

Whatever your political ideas are, that presentation of producerism is useful to think about lots of crucial things (democracy, private enterprise, citizenship…). I recommend reading it. The point of this post is only to constructively point out that, if that article is a 100% correct description of producerism (I have no reason to think otherwise!) there are one or two things that are wrong, or maybe just superfluous.

I refer to these passages:

“Encourage, sponsor, and rigorously develop the use of analog technologies to replace digital technologies whenever and wherever possible. There are inherent, natural reasons why a vinyl record sounds “warm,” “alive,” and “present.” Whereas, even a “lossless” digital audio file sounds distant, stale, and forced.”

“There is something inherently displeasing and unhealthy - and also addictive - to the human brain about digital technologies. Our brains need to be permitted to pause and contemplate. Filling them with meaningless chatter and manipulation undermines a healthy democratic culture. Make quiet and calm a right, the way access to sunshine was a right in Rome.”

The two paragraphs above confuse and mix too many things to be correct. To begin with, it makes little to no sense,even when it would be physically possible, to “replace digital tech with analog tech”. Limiting distance meetings and telecommuting in a world plagued by air pollution and traffic? Why?

Vynil records? They may have a warmer sound, but with so much hardly-recyclable junk piling up everywhere, resurrecting vynil is much more stupid than storing music on objects that many more people already have, and are much more versatile than LP players.

In general, the capability to save, store, share and process all sorts of “documents” (including audio and video) in digital formats, on the same networks and physical media… is so beneficial, ubiquitous, already so ingrained in our existence, that is half impossible, half absurd to propose abandoning it. Much more about this point here, further editions available on request.

The problem is not the digital, or the tech

The crucial point, however, is another: yes, there is plenty of undeniable evidence of “unhealthy and addictive” uses of digital technologies. It is extremely likely that human beings are not ready, as a species, to handle some very specific digital technologies, or use cases of the same technologies. The easiest examples are the braindead adoption of backwards systems like WhatsApp, or the inability to see that what is really wrong in “kids with smartphones” is NOT the “smartphone”!.

But the digital practices mentioned in those paragraphs are “unhealthy and addictive” in the same way as US/western healthcare and drugs research are “unhealthy and addictive”. Remove instantness from social networks, and you will remove much of the addictiveness.

What is wrong, in both cases, is not the technology, but the business models that are allowed to exploit it. That Producerist Manifesto proposes abolition of corporate personhood and financial speculation, “No stockholders who don’t work in the company”… Whether such proposals make sense or not, is another issue. But adopt them, and a lot of “unhealthy and addictive” digital tech will disappear from the shelves, without pushing at least 50 years back lots of useful products or services.

Image source: Screenshot from Producerism at Psychology Wiki

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