Four Futures: Life After Capitalism

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10 thoughts on “Four Futures: Life After Capitalism

  1. Anna Anna says:

    Just from looking at it, you can tell that Four Futures will only describe each of its scenarios briefly This a 150 page book, after all Yet somehow the brevity disappointed me nonetheless It probably didn t help that I read it in the throes of insomnia Not that I disagreed with what was said, nor that the choice of four options didn t seem sensible, rather that the introductionthan a fifth of the total page count set up slightly unrealistic expectations Specifically, it claimed Just from looking at it, you can tell that Four Futures will only describe each of its scenarios briefly This a 150 page book, after all Yet somehow the brevity disappointed me nonetheless It probably didn t help that I read it in the throes of insomnia Not that I disagreed with what was said, nor that the choice of four options didn t seem sensible, rather that the introductionthan a fifth of the total page count set up slightly unrealistic expectations Specifically, it claimed to be social science fiction my absolute favourite sub genre of fiction rather than futurism Then the scenarios themselves lacked the detail and colour to really live up to that Frase was most likely trying to keep it simple, whereas I wanteddepth and density That said, I really liked the up front assumption that capitalism is destroying itself, based on this excellent Wolfgang Streek quote The image I have of the end of capitalism and end that I believe is already underway is one of a social system in chronic disrepair, for reasons of its own and regardless of the absence of a viable alternative While we cannot know when and how exactly capitalism will disappear and that will succeed it, what matters is that no force is on hand that can be expected to reverse the three downward trends in economic growth, social equality, and financial stability and end their mutual reinforcement.Frase cites a fairly limited selection of sci fi novels to support each of the four futures, so the rest of this review will discuss each in turn and suggest additional relevant sci fi references Let s be honest, this is one of those books that I liked although part of me was always thinking, I would have written this a little differently.CommunismIn this future of abundance and equality, sadly the least likely of the four, ubiquitous automation releases the population from unwanted work, the benefits of this are shared through a basic income, and climate change can be easily dealt with using technology The chapter focuses on how meaning in life might be found without late capitalism s emphasis on paid work as identity Frase mentions pseudo currencies online based on status and social media likes The elision between personal identity and hierarchies of esteem was interesting in itself Without a job to provide a group that you re part of postdocs in my case , activities currently minimised as hobbies could provide similar groupings Would they need to be hierarchical, though I think work hierarchies are all about competition for a scarce resource promotion tosenior, allegedly better jobs Without that scarcity, I think the word hierarchy might be less immediately applicable While social media esteem does involve a jockeying for popularity, there isn t the same sense that only a strictly finite number of people can be recognised for whatever reason Surely abundance and equality would also allow forco operation rather than competition.The communist scenario reminded me of the Culture novels, especially The Player of Games, in which games and love affairs occupy the leisurely lives of citizens Particularly interesting to me in that novel was the discussion of Culture language, which is deliberately structured to restrict hierarchies and prevent sexual discrimination It strikes me that a communist world would radically alter the meaning of words like value and work I imagine such a world would also place great emphasis on experiences travel, sports, and art in particular I wonder what sort of literature it would produce Unfortunately, we re very unlikely to find out RentismThis future involves abundance thanks to automation, without equal distribution of the gains involved In such a world, a privileged elite holds the patents and extracts rents from everyone who wants a copy Again, climate change has somehow been fixed by technology I liked the use of Transmetropolitan and its maker codes as an example here I was also reminded of a totally OTT cyberpunk novel in which media piracy carried the death penalty This was applied in a darkly absurd fashion by the inevitable cyberpunk hired killer, who executed the offender than used some of their brain matter to improve the performance of coaxial cables in his stereo system I m pretty sure that s a real book and I didn t just dream it Can t remember the title for the life of me, though Cyberpunk as a sub genre is predicated on ubiquitous computing with strongly enforced corporate gatekeeping Rentism has the plausibility of already being visible everywhere The most valuable corporate assets these days are forms of intellectual capital, not machines or buildings but algorithms, designs, DNA, and databases of personal information The extent to which this undermines the operation of capitalism is the theme of Paul Mason s Postcapitalism A Guide to Our Future and should be obvious to any A level economics student If the supply of a good is infinite, because it can be copied at effectively zero cost, the price falls to zero Free market economics cuts its own throat Only monopolism, a so called market failure, prevents this According to Mason, and in my view as well, this situation is inherently unstable due to the difficulty of preventing piracy SocialismNow we come to the futures in which climate change cannot be handily swept aside by technology In the socialist scenario, there is scarcity but relative equality thanks to government intervention and planning This calls to mind several sci fi novels that I have known and loved Gwyneth Jones Bold as Love series, in which an anarchic government of rockstars steers England through economic and environmental collapse Ken McLeod s Intrusion and Julie Zeh s Corpus Delicti Ein Prozess, both of which explore how interventionist governments that deal effectively with environmental collapse can also take an unnecessary level of interest in women s bodies The former series is hopeful to a point, the latter two are less willing to put their faith in governments Intrusion is very much a Labour utopia dystopia, which encouraged me to compare it with the Conservative austerity and privatisation that happened instead If your freedom is constrained, do you prefer it to be for a greater public good or for higher shareholder returns I was a little surprised that the socialism chapter didn t mention carbon rationing, which was briefly discussed as a potential Labour government policy back in the halcyon days of 2008 The Carbon Diaries 2015 and sequel spin out the consequences of such a policy It did, however, talk about economic planning in Francis Spufford s fascinating book Red Plenty Inside the Fifties Soviet Dream Could supercomputers plan the economy for us I would hope they could at least monitor environmental limits and warn against activities that would cross them a carbon cap and trade scheme would obviously require automated monitoring and control Frase s take on cap and trade was interesting that if the government controls the price mechanism then it s not a capitalist market per se To my mind, the truly subversive and anti capitalist element of cap and trade is placing a hard quantitative limit on carbon emissions, production of some good, or whatever This is antithetical to the magical thinking in free market economics that wealth can increase infinitely and that the Earth will costlessly absorb infinite pollution forever.Of the four futures, I think socialism is the best we can now hope for I believe that we ve missed our chance for a smooth, technology led climate change mitigation If that was ever possible and there are structural reasons why not cf Fossil Capital The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming , it certainly seems too late now A world in which everyone has a basic income and carbon ration, however, looks vanishingly distant, simply because it would require a reckoning with the tiny elite who control a disproportionate share of global wealth.ExterminismThe final and most plausible future is one in which climate change causes scarcity and the wealthy retreat to their citadels, while everyone else struggles to survive Unfortunately this can already been observed in the horrific and inhumane treatment of refugees in America, Europe, Australia, et al At a national level, racism and xenophobia allow rich countries to turn a blind eye to the suffering and death of refugees At an international level, the richest insulate themselves further by building bunkers and retreats in New Zealand If you feel like being incandescently angry, read this very long New Yorker piece on super rich survivalists These people seem unwilling or unable to face the fact that they caused, and are still causing, the instability that they fear Their greed for wealth and privilege has undermined the social contract and faith in politics Their lifestyles are changing the climate Their espousal of neoliberalism has split society, undermined trust, and depleted the public realm And now they want to buy their way out of the country, indeed the world, that they ve wrecked for short term gains Anyway, Frase s first sci fi example in this chapter is the film Elysium, which he admits has a political economy that is somewhat difficult to extract I found it a rather unsatisfactory dystopia, in which the shock was that a white American guy had to deal with a similar daily life to a developing world slum inhabitant The plot s focus was on getting healthcare for the underclass, without any explanation of why it was so scarce in the first place given total automation Why aren t the elite extracting rents on the technology Anyway, the film s resolution seemed to me like a metaphor for Obamacare now you can get basic healthcare, no need to concern yourselves with all the other problems caused by structural inequality Aapposite example of a rich elite quite actively trying to kill off an unemployed underclass can be found in The Ballad of Halo Jones The main character lives in an overcrowded and dangerous ghetto for the unemployed, until in desperation she signs up for the army as a way to escape The war she joins is brutal and pointless, quite possibly only happening as a way to simulate production of weapons and kill off the unemployed That seems to me the most likely formactive exterminism would take fomenting wars Actually, this also a theme in the last novel I read, S N U F F. Given the resource shortages that climate change will continue to cause, it probably won t take much encouragement.The most depressing thing about Four Futures is that it was published in 2016, yet since it was written the world has moved significantly closer to an exterminist future thanks to Brexit and Trump I don t think that s just the sleeplessness talking Still, a thought provoking book that provides a tidy taxonomy for life after capitalism I just wish it had been at least twice as long


  2. Adam Adam says:

    Science fiction is to futurism what social theory is to conspiracy theory an altogether richer,honest, andhumble enterprise Or to put it another way, it is alwaysinteresting to read an account that derives the general from the particular social theory or the particular from the general science fiction , rather than attempting to go from the general to the general futurism or the particular to the particular conspiracism.With that in mind, Frase uses science fiction and Science fiction is to futurism what social theory is to conspiracy theory an altogether richer,honest, andhumble enterprise Or to put it another way, it is alwaysinteresting to read an account that derives the general from the particular social theory or the particular from the general science fiction , rather than attempting to go from the general to the general futurism or the particular to the particular conspiracism.With that in mind, Frase uses science fiction and social theory to look at four possible futures He posits that we can end up in a world of either scarcity or abundance, alongside either hierarchy or equality This makes for four possible combinations They are Communism equality and abundance In this scenario he envisions a basic income that grows irrelevant as the tax base shrinks and as automation reduces the need for work What s left of it, he argues, could be used as a kind of whuffie , the reputation measuring currency in Doctorow s post scarcity novel, and he looks at dogecoin as a sort of precursor to this it s an internet currency that s essentially worthless, and so used for tipping people online Its chief pitfalls are that we ll never automate everything, and doing away with money might be possible, but we ll still have hierarchies he cites infighting wikipedia editors.Sci fi examples Star Trek, Corey Doctorow s Down and Out in the Magical Kingdom view spoiler The long run trajectory, therefore, is one in which people come to depend less and less on the basic income, because the things they want and need do not have to be purchased for money Some things can be produced freely and automatically, as 3 D printing and digital copying technologies evolve into something like Star Trek s replicator Other things have become the product of voluntary cooperative activity rather than waged work It therefore comes to pass that the tax base for the basic income is undermined but rather than creating an insoluble crisis, as in the hands of basic income critics, the withering away of the money economy, and its corresponding tax base, becomes the path to utopia.But I would still argue that the communist society I ve sketched here, though imperfect, is at least one in which conflict is no longer based on the opposition between wage workers and capitalists or on struggles over scarce resources It is a world in which not everything ultimately comes down to money A communist society would surely have hierarchies of status as do capitalist and all societies But in capitalism, all status hierarchies tend to be aligned, albeit imperfectly, with the master hierarchy of capital and money The ideal of a postscarcity society is that various kinds of esteem are independent, so that the esteem in which one is held as a musician is independent of the regard one achieves as a political activist, and one can t use one kind of status to buy another In a sense, then, it is a misnomer to refer to this as an egalitarian configuration it is not, in fact, a world that lacks hierarchies but rather one of many hierarchies, no one of which is superior to any other hide spoiler Rentism Hierarchy and abundance a really great look at how intellectual property rights aren t rights to property but to patterns, and how we re expanding the concept to includeandpatterns that we used to not think of as things that were commodifiable he talks about fashion designers lobbying to copyright dress patterns, Monsanto copyrighting sees, John Deere arguing that farmers can t use third party software on its tractors, etc This, combined with greater automation, creates wealth inequality as the amount things people can buy grows, but squeezes human labor out of the system Eventually, all that s left is a dwindling creative class, rentiers who collect payments without contributing to the system, and a class of guards who enforce the rentiers rights For all these reasons, it seems that the main problem confronting the society of anti Star Trek is the problem of effective demand that is, how to ensure that people are able to earn enough money to be able to pay the licensing fees on which private profit depends Of course, this isn t so different from the problem that confronted industrial capitalism, but it becomessevere as human labor is increasingly squeezed out of the system, and human beings become superfluous as elements of production, even as they remain necessary as consumers.Ultimately, even capitalist self interest will require some redistribution of wealth downward in order to support demand Society reaches a state in which, as the French socialist Andr Gorz put it in his 1999 book Reclaiming Work Beyond the Wage Based Society, the distribution of means of payment must correspond to the volume of wealth socially produced and not to the volume of work performed 23 Or, to translate from French Intellectual to English you deserve a decent standard of living because you re a human being and we re a wealthy enough society to provide it, not because of any particular work that you did to deserve it So in theory, this is one possible long term trajectory of a world based on intellectual property rents rather than on physical commodity production using human Ultimately, even capitalist self interest will require some redistribution of wealth downward in order to support demand Society reaches a state in which, as the French socialist Andr Gorz put it in his 1999 book Reclaiming Work Beyond the Wage Based Society, the distribution of means of payment must correspond to the volume of wealth socially produced and not to the volume of work performed 23 Or, to translate from French Intellectual to English you deserve a decent standard of living because you re a human being and we re a wealthy enough society to provide it, not because of any particular work that you did to deserve it So in theory, this is one possible long term trajectory of a world based on intellectual property rents rather than on physical commodity production using human labor What Gorz is talking about is something like the universal basic income, which was discussed in the last chapter Which means that one long run trajectory of rentism is to turn into communism view spoiler inally, any society like the one I have described, which is predicated on maintaining great inequalities of wealth and power even when they have become economically superfluous, will require a large amount of labor to prevent the poor and powerless from taking a share back from the rich and powerful The economists Samuel Bowles and Arjun Jayadev call this type of labor Guard Labor and define it as the efforts of the monitors, guards, and military personnel directed not toward production, but toward the enforcement of claims arising from exchanges and the pursuit or prevention of unilateral transfers of property ownership 17 It includes private security guards, police officers, the military, prison and court officials, and weapons producers An estimated 5.2 million guards worked in the United States in 2011.18These would be the main source of employment in the world of anti Star Trek creators, lawyers, marketers, and guards It seems implausible, however, that this would be sufficient the society would probably be subject to a persistent trend toward under employment Especially if all the sectors except arguably the first would be subject to pressures toward labor saving technological innovation Even high level managerial functions can be partly automated in 2014, a Hong Kong venture capital fund called Deep Knowledge appointed an algorithm, a program called VITAL, to its board, where it receives a vote on all investments.19And perhaps even creativity isn t such a uniquely human talent if we reduce that word to the creation of replicator patterns In a paper presented to a 2014 conference of the Association of Computing Machinery, a group of medical researchers presented a method for automatically generating plausible hypotheses for scientists to test, using data mining techniques.20 Such approaches could eventually be applied to other formulaic, iterative processes like the design of pop songs or smartphone games.What s , there is also another way for private companies to avoid employing workers for some of these tasks turn them into activities that people will find pleasurable and will thus do for free on their own time The computer scientist Luis von Ahn has specialized in developing such games with a purpose applications that present themselves to end users as enjoyable diversions but which also perform a useful computational task, what von Ahn calls Human Computation hide spoiler Sci fi examples Charles Stross Accelerando, Anti Star Trek , Warren Ellis TransmetropolitanSocialism equality and scarcity Similar to communism, but with the realization that we live in a finite world and have to deal with climate change In general, Frase writes, the struggle is over how to recognize and control the waste products of human civilization, rather than imagining that we can ever separate ourselves from nature He argues we need a state driven project that can mobilize resources and labor in a way that s beyond the capabilities of either the free market or a communist free for all He warns against the obstructive tendencies of modern politics, where the left believes it s too late to take meaningful action, and the right can t be bothered because climate change will only effect the poor He makes a case for a centrally planned economy, and that humans have to take their place as custodians of the planet on a large scale that probably involves geoengineering, but also restructuring our daily lives Sci fi examples Kim Stanley Robinson s Pacific Edge, Mars Trilogy, 2312 Mary Shelley s Frankenstein.Exterminism hierarchy and scarcity The scariest of the four, made all the worse because it s basically already happening With the need for labour diminished by automation the rich no longer have the need for the working classes, who are no longer working, they re just poor He cites the algorithmic drone targeting in the war on terror, the militarization of America s police and the growing prison industry It s terrifying In a 1983 article, the Nobel Prize winning economist Wassily Leontief anticipated the problem of mass unemployment that has been contemplated throughout this book In what he calls, with some understatement, a somewhat shocking but essentially appropriate analogy, he compares workers to horses.One might say that the process by which progressive introduction of new computerized, automated, and robotized equipment can be expected to reduce the role of labor is similar to the process by which the introduction of tractors and other machinery first reduced and then completely eliminated horses and other draft animals in agriculture.5As he then notes, this led most people to the conclusion that from the human point of view, keeping all these idle horses would make little sense As a result, the US horse population fell from 21.5 million in 1900 to 3 million in 1960.6 Leontief goes on to express, with the cheery confidence of a mid century technocrat, his confidence that since people are not horses, we will surely find ways to support all of society s members Echoing Gorz and other critics of wage labor, he argues that sooner or later it will have to be admitted that the demand for employment is in the first instance a demand for livelihood, meaning income 7 However, given the contemptuous and cruel attitudes of today s ruling class, we can in no way take that for granted.Fortunately, even the rich have developed norms of morality that make it difficult to reach for this Final Solution as a first resort Their initial step is simply to hide from the poor, much like the characters in Elysium But all around us, we can see the gradual drift away from just corralling and controlling excess populations, into justifications for permanently eliminating them.Sci fi example Blomkamp s Elysium


  3. Philippe Philippe says:

    Peter Frase s essay is an exercise in what is commonly known as scenario planning The author himself seems to be totally agnostic about this intellectual discipline that has a rich, decades long history But that doesn t detract from his attempt to visualise a range of post capitalist futures The basic idea behind the methodology is straightforward identify a limited number of critical uncertainties and investigate how they might interact to shape different, but plausible and coherent futur Peter Frase s essay is an exercise in what is commonly known as scenario planning The author himself seems to be totally agnostic about this intellectual discipline that has a rich, decades long history But that doesn t detract from his attempt to visualise a range of post capitalist futures The basic idea behind the methodology is straightforward identify a limited number of critical uncertainties and investigate how they might interact to shape different, but plausible and coherent futures In this book, Frase identifies three uncertainties The extent to which automation will make human labor superfluous The extent to which climate change will lead to scarcity of natural resources and human habitat The type of coordination and redistribution mechanisms relied on by our societies Frase makes a very strong, almost theoretical hypothesis about the impact of automation all the futures discussed in this book assume that the need for human labor in the production can be eliminated That renders the whole analysis rather speculative to my mind But admittedly it leads to interesting questions So, if automation is the constant, then the impact of the ecological crisis and the tensions and accommodations between classes are the variables As far as the impact of climate change is concerned, the spectrum runs from scarcity to abundance In other words, we may or may not be able to transition toenvironmentally benign infrastructures and behaviours Politically we may evolve towards aegalitarian or ahierarchical society So this leads to eitherdistribution or concentration of political and economic power Combining these two critical uncertainties leads to a typology of four scenarios egalitarian abundance communism , egalitarian scarcity socialism , hierarchical abundance rentism , hierarchical scarcity exterminism Given the political assumptions that define the various futures, each scenario embodies different solutions to deal with both the impact of total automation As a result four distinct storylines appear The story of Communism revolves around the way we construct meaning when life is not centered around wage labor Socialism reflects an egalitarian society that works together to rebuild and deepen its relationship to nature In the Rentist future intellectual property becomes a key component of the property held by the capitalist class Finally, in the Exterminist future the ruling classes find no better response to the threat of impoverished, restless, idle masses than to incarcerate or eliminate them The shock of reading this book is that the most cynical, dystopian scenario seems the most plausible one Given the abundance of telltale signs in the world today one could easily elaborate this story into a full length book.It is also interesting to note that Frase foregrounds the concept of a basic minimum income in each of the three other scenarios But it seems to play a different role and assume a different weight in each scenario Clearly, this book encapsulates an interesting thought experiment, obviously within the limits of the foundational hypothesis of total automation Although Rentism strikes me as the least likely of the bunch, none of the scenarios can be easily dismissed They should give all of us pause for thought 3,5 stars


  4. Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin says:

    This is a short simple book that lays our four scenarios of the future, Abundance and egalitarianism, Abundance and Hierarchy, Scarcity and Egalitarianism, Scarcity and Hierarchy Four types of life possible outside capitalism Interesting but it seems like a pretty straightforward extrapolation of noncapitalist societies running on these four categories based on these two dichotomies.Update 2 4 2020 this is not a prediction book but merely goes over four possible scenarios We either solve our This is a short simple book that lays our four scenarios of the future, Abundance and egalitarianism, Abundance and Hierarchy, Scarcity and Egalitarianism, Scarcity and Hierarchy Four types of life possible outside capitalism Interesting but it seems like a pretty straightforward extrapolation of noncapitalist societies running on these four categories based on these two dichotomies.Update 2 4 2020 this is not a prediction book but merely goes over four possible scenarios We either solve our resource problem or we don t We either have affluence or scarcity and we either have aegalitarian society or ahierarchical society This leads to four possibilities Abundance and egalitarianism think Star Trek , Abundance and Hierarchy think abundance high tech but everything is controlled by a rentier elite , Scarcity and egalitarianism think a post apocalyptic ecotopia where people subsist peacefully but not with a lot of material resources Old timey society but with socialism the final one scarcity and Hierarchy or exterminationism a well off and walled off elite gets rid of poor people who aretrouble than they worth in elite eyes William Gibson said the future is here just unevenly distributed well all four of these futures are here and can be seen if you look for them which one becomes dominant is up to us


  5. James (JD) Dittes James (JD) Dittes says:

    Is there a horror movie villain you can think of that haslives than capitalism Rumors of its demise stretch back to the era of the trust busters and the Progressive Party Every time a depression or war or rival ideology seems to have the system on its knees, its limbs burst to life and someone appears to proclaim, I m back Considering the events since The Great Recession, along with growing numbers of Americans who support socialized college funding and medical insurance, this might be Is there a horror movie villain you can think of that haslives than capitalism Rumors of its demise stretch back to the era of the trust busters and the Progressive Party Every time a depression or war or rival ideology seems to have the system on its knees, its limbs burst to life and someone appears to proclaim, I m back Considering the events since The Great Recession, along with growing numbers of Americans who support socialized college funding and medical insurance, this might be another time to contemplate Capitalism s demise At least that s what Peter Frase sets out to do in this short, thought provoking look into the future.I ll admit that I was expecting something of a manifesto here, but that s not what I found Frase presents the future in an imaginative way including references to literature and sci fi movies like Star Trek and Elysium along with the thoughts of political scientists This adds levity to scenarios that are far ranging, and I think that it makes the bookaccessible to readers.What replaces Capitalism Frase frames his ideas in the growing calls for another basic tenet of socialism the Universal Basic Income UBI Ten years ago, this was a laughed at, pie in the sky proposition Now it is gettingserious consideration Why Because people recognize that automationthan globalization is eliminating jobs but not the need for human beings to have a basic standard of living.Frase s futures include Communism when the UBI is in place, and automation ends the role of scarcity in the economy He takes a look at Renterism, where corporations own all the cars Uber , the seeds food Monsanto , and other key elements of daily life, typical people will find their rights reduced in the face of production efficiencies Fase s chapter on Socialism goes beyond current debates about health care and student loans into the theme of climate change and social engineered energy production His final chapter, on Exterminism, examines the possibility that excess workers will be sloughed off into even broader prison systems as the wealthy retreat into offshore utopias guarded by walls and private security forces.For me, the demise of Communism came from its inability to reward innovation in the way that Capitalism can I m skeptical of Frase s ideas about an end to scarcity, because this is a chronic problem in communist countries look at Venezuela s current food shortages, where were hampered by low oil prices and exacerbated by a command economy Still, I buy the jobs free technological future that he foresees, and I m growing in acceptance of the UBI.This is a thought provoking, insightful look into four possible futures, should capitalism fall by the way side Should rumors of capitalism s demise prove once again to have been greatly exaggerated, Frase s book still shines light on very real possibilities or adaptations for the future.Special thanks to Net Galley and Verso Books for allowing me an advanced copy to review


  6. Robert Clarke Robert Clarke says:

    This book is a chilling account of humanity trying to cope with the endgame of capitalism, which up to the upcoming age of climate change and automation induced unemployment, had enriched everyone s lives extraordinarily well Frase s fourth scenario, Exterminism is a horrifying amalgamation of Elysium, Atlas Shrugged, BioShock, The Terminator, Manna, and Ender s Game where the isolated wealthy elite in charge of the robots use those robots to genocide the immiserated buggers left unempl This book is a chilling account of humanity trying to cope with the endgame of capitalism, which up to the upcoming age of climate change and automation induced unemployment, had enriched everyone s lives extraordinarily well Frase s fourth scenario, Exterminism is a horrifying amalgamation of Elysium, Atlas Shrugged, BioShock, The Terminator, Manna, and Ender s Game where the isolated wealthy elite in charge of the robots use those robots to genocide the immiserated buggers left unemployed and redundant on Earth, as indirectly and guilt free as possible Knowing the depths of human greed, it s sadly not an unlikely scenario that people in power would systematically kill off the redundant, revolting humans left on the surface to haveof Earth s resources for themselves Ruthless psychopaths inclined toward power would nuke the Earth s surface if it meant they got to rule over the ashes.The irony is that the end state, a post scarcity Communist utopia not unlike Star Trek or The Culture, would be realized whether it s for 7 billion humans each given a universal basic income of 30,000, or 30,000 billionaires and their families living on inheirited wealth after a mass die off similar to that of America s original inhabitants making way for wealthier European colonists Since robots do all the work, people would be left to do whatever they want to All the world s resources are essentially free to them, as they would be in a post scarcity communist society albeitshared They get an exponentially lesser share if they don t exterminate the poor, therefore the poor must be exterminated to make Lebensraum for the master race You know, as if the so called master race couldn t help genetically inferior untermenschen transcend their biological limitations, or mine space forresources to share The Nazis had grand ambitions for space as well unfortunately only after a greater Holocaust against all Eastern Europeans, explicitly modeled after American colonization An exterminist future is a consequence of closed minds lacking in distinctly human traits like imagination or empathy You could build a Death Star and blow up Earth to sate the primitive reptile brain at the heart of fear and greed, but it ll never be enough for our reptillian overlords Just ask David Icke 4 5, could ve been longer andin depth I m also not a fan of this guy s stereotypically leftist antipathy to capitalism as the root of all modern evil, rather than a free market system that amplifies evil already present in human nature while also enabling humanity to thrive at scale and individuals to succeed on their own merits, as opposed to the feudalism that came before Make no mistake Jared Diamond, the human race was never predominantly tolerant or egalitarian, not even in hunter gatherer bands Where do you think the word tribalism comes from Why don t you ask the chief and his harem of wives The animal kingdom of literal Darwinism couldn t care less for any sort of justice outside you were too slow and got devoured by a wolf Human brains are supposed to be above such reptillian urges but alas, Social Darwinist tribalism couldn t bealive in the age of President Trump.In spite of this, I hope humans will someday come to their senses, stop bickering about identity politics, and look to the stars in search of greater horizons as each human individually self actualizes Together we could rule the galaxy and find a way to escape entropy, but we re trapped upon this dump of a rock on a collision course with extinction, as Donald Trump and friends grow richer at the expense of everyone else Get a fucking grip, humanity Trump won t bring your redundant factory job back and he knows it We re at a point where all unfulfilling work could be automated away, leaving us at long last with lives of leisure to pursue our passions working not because we have to, but because we want to But that s only if we want to


  7. Kars Kars says:

    Something new is coming Fuck yes this is good Short, well written exploration of what the twin challenges of automation and climate change might bring us in the future Not as prediction but as a call to arms Frase mines the history of leftist thought for useful ideas and uses recent sci fi pop culture as metaphors for exploring them The book covers a lot of ground in a small package and ties together a lot of ideas that any progressive interested in technology has likely already come acr Something new is coming Fuck yes this is good Short, well written exploration of what the twin challenges of automation and climate change might bring us in the future Not as prediction but as a call to arms Frase mines the history of leftist thought for useful ideas and uses recent sci fi pop culture as metaphors for exploring them The book covers a lot of ground in a small package and ties together a lot of ideas that any progressive interested in technology has likely already come across but adds value by tying it all together in a coherent if somewhat cheeky two dimensional framework Essential


  8. Kusaimamekirai Kusaimamekirai says:

    One would imagine that a book envisioning but as the author constantly reminds us does not guarantee four distinct post capitalist scenarios involving socialism, communism, scarcity and abundance should be if nothing else interesting Somehow however, this book is not Maybe it s the overly technical language Maybe it s the reliance on science fiction tropes a genre I m not particularly familiar with Most likely it s the relentless gloom of the author Yes, it s difficult to be bright an One would imagine that a book envisioning but as the author constantly reminds us does not guarantee four distinct post capitalist scenarios involving socialism, communism, scarcity and abundance should be if nothing else interesting Somehow however, this book is not Maybe it s the overly technical language Maybe it s the reliance on science fiction tropes a genre I m not particularly familiar with Most likely it s the relentless gloom of the author Yes, it s difficult to be bright and cheery about a future with probable resource scarcity run by a wealthy elite as the earth burns up around us However there are no solutions here Within these four scenarios we are unemployed, at the mercy of rich owners of intellectual property, or simply exterminated when we cease to be useful to the capitalist class I suppose it s a useful thought experiment for some, but in a world already filled with gloom, why add to it by reading the flights of fancy of someone who imagines how much worse it could be


  9. TraceyL TraceyL says:

    Read it for a reading challenge Economics is just boring, man.


  10. Joel Joel says:

    Sometimes you click on a link somewhere, in something that you re reading, which takes you to another link and another and another as you continue the train of thought of your line of inquiry as far as time allows When that happens to me, often times the end of the line in the referrals process is a book, which I sometimes put in mycart and forget about it till it arrives at my doorstep and I pick up the book and try to figure out what I was thinking.So it goes with Four Futures This Sometimes you click on a link somewhere, in something that you re reading, which takes you to another link and another and another as you continue the train of thought of your line of inquiry as far as time allows When that happens to me, often times the end of the line in the referrals process is a book, which I sometimes put in mycart and forget about it till it arrives at my doorstep and I pick up the book and try to figure out what I was thinking.So it goes with Four Futures This nasty little tome by Peter Frase isn t really a book it s sort ofan extended whine replete from the first sentence to the last which I ll admit I didn t get to with tired recitations of the debunked thoughts of yesteryear and unsubstantiated assertions buttressed by outrage and insult as the only recourse by and for the weak minded.It used to be people would write to attempt to persuade others It is widely believed that the best way to bring others around, to sway them to the validity of your claims is through the written word Debates are hostile, arguments unhelpful winners needing to show their dominance, losers attempting to not be humiliated in front of their peers But the pen in the quiet of night, darkness cut by the flickering flame of a candle that illuminates just as the black words on paper enlighten.Those days are over, it would seem.Specifically, Four Futures looked at least when I mistakenly bought it to be an outside the box presentation of four ways the world could see itself reorganized if things continue to go as they currently are Currently are means technological innovation continues to undermine employment and environmental degradation continues to cause life conditions to worsen for people who are degrading their environments Indira Gandhi, Frase is not Poverty is the greatest polluter, to Frase has given way to wait for it rapacious evil of corporations motivated only by a conspiracy of greed.What does Frase propose Ignore climate deniers , they are crackpots anyways really try what Marx was trying for of course not the half hearted attempts of Pol Pot, Hugo Chavez and Joseph Stalin but really do it condemn the corporate interests and the managerial elite, etc How to do this Read Keynes and Krugman never mind that those two have been widely debunked Never mind that Frase doesn t seem to understand spontaneous order can t figure out issues of scarcity and still pines for that simplified planned world that has produced famine after famine after famine As I tried to read this book I didn t go very far, neither should you , I channeled Ayn Rand a little bit for giggles As Frase decried the fallacy of Wall E s portrayal of post work, technologically advanced humanity I m not kidding while he defended the idea of Universal Basic Income which, he claims, doesn t have to produce sloth and deviance, I imagined what Rand would have said about Frase s workless world Machines producing for the consumptive purposes of the listless masses what could go wrong Of course forget that we have the technology that we have because of capitalism which, though imperfect, actually does take into consideration incentives forget that the only solution for greed is competition, and that planning just makes another less accountable elite forget that planned economies do not work because the profit motive is the only way for humanity to allocate its scarce resources And forget that in rich places the environment is getting better reforestation and water purification and detoxifying our rivers while in poor, workless places the environmental damage continues relentlessly Or, for the know nothings, better yet just forget everything humanity has learned about itself since we pulled ourselves from grinding poverty and 35 year life expectancy I m sure that s gonna work All that to say don t read this book And if you can figure out a way I can un read it, I d be grateful for the hint


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Four Futures: Life After Capitalism ❰PDF / Epub❯ ★ Four Futures: Life After Capitalism Author Peter Frase – Polishdarling.co.uk An exhilarating exploration into the utopias and dystopias that could develop from present societyPeter Frase argues that increasing automation and a growing scarcity of resources, thanks to climate c An exhilarating Life After PDF ✓ exploration into the utopias and dystopias that could develop from present societyPeter Frase argues that increasing automation and a growing scarcity of resources, thanks to climate change, will bring it all tumbling down In Four Futures, Frase imagines Four Futures: PDF/EPUB ² how this post capitalist world might look, deploying the tools of both social science and speculative fiction to explore what communism, rentism, socialism and exterminism might actually entailCould the current rise of real life robocops usher in a world that resembles Futures: Life After PDF ✓ Ender s Game And sure, communism will bring an end to material scarcities and inequalities of wealth but there s no guarantee that social hierarchies, governed by an economy of likes, wouldn t rise to take their place A whirlwind tour through science fiction, social theory and the new technologies already shaping our lives, Four Futures is a balance sheet of the socialisms we may reach if a resurgent Left is successful, and the barbarisms we may be consigned to if those movements fail.

    Download Book Best Sellers in PDF format by an economy of likes, wouldn t rise to take their place A whirlwind tour through science fiction, social theory and the new technologies already shaping our lives, Four Futures is a balance sheet of the socialisms we may reach if a resurgent Left is successful, and the barbarisms we may be consigned to if those movements fail."/>
  • Kindle Edition
  • 160 pages
  • Four Futures: Life After Capitalism
  • Peter Frase
  • English
  • 23 July 2017

About the Author: Peter Frase

Peter Frase Life After PDF ✓ is an editor at Jacobin magazine, a PhD candidate in sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center, and has written for In These Times and Al Jazeera He lives in New York City.



10 thoughts on “Four Futures: Life After Capitalism

  1. Anna Anna says:

    Just from looking at it, you can tell that Four Futures will only describe each of its scenarios briefly This a 150 page book, after all Yet somehow the brevity disappointed me nonetheless It probably didn t help that I read it in the throes of insomnia Not that I disagreed with what was said, nor that the choice of four options didn t seem sensible, rather that the introductionthan a fifth of the total page count set up slightly unrealistic expectations Specifically, it claimed Just from looking at it, you can tell that Four Futures will only describe each of its scenarios briefly This a 150 page book, after all Yet somehow the brevity disappointed me nonetheless It probably didn t help that I read it in the throes of insomnia Not that I disagreed with what was said, nor that the choice of four options didn t seem sensible, rather that the introductionthan a fifth of the total page count set up slightly unrealistic expectations Specifically, it claimed to be social science fiction my absolute favourite sub genre of fiction rather than futurism Then the scenarios themselves lacked the detail and colour to really live up to that Frase was most likely trying to keep it simple, whereas I wanteddepth and density That said, I really liked the up front assumption that capitalism is destroying itself, based on this excellent Wolfgang Streek quote The image I have of the end of capitalism and end that I believe is already underway is one of a social system in chronic disrepair, for reasons of its own and regardless of the absence of a viable alternative While we cannot know when and how exactly capitalism will disappear and that will succeed it, what matters is that no force is on hand that can be expected to reverse the three downward trends in economic growth, social equality, and financial stability and end their mutual reinforcement.Frase cites a fairly limited selection of sci fi novels to support each of the four futures, so the rest of this review will discuss each in turn and suggest additional relevant sci fi references Let s be honest, this is one of those books that I liked although part of me was always thinking, I would have written this a little differently.CommunismIn this future of abundance and equality, sadly the least likely of the four, ubiquitous automation releases the population from unwanted work, the benefits of this are shared through a basic income, and climate change can be easily dealt with using technology The chapter focuses on how meaning in life might be found without late capitalism s emphasis on paid work as identity Frase mentions pseudo currencies online based on status and social media likes The elision between personal identity and hierarchies of esteem was interesting in itself Without a job to provide a group that you re part of postdocs in my case , activities currently minimised as hobbies could provide similar groupings Would they need to be hierarchical, though I think work hierarchies are all about competition for a scarce resource promotion tosenior, allegedly better jobs Without that scarcity, I think the word hierarchy might be less immediately applicable While social media esteem does involve a jockeying for popularity, there isn t the same sense that only a strictly finite number of people can be recognised for whatever reason Surely abundance and equality would also allow forco operation rather than competition.The communist scenario reminded me of the Culture novels, especially The Player of Games, in which games and love affairs occupy the leisurely lives of citizens Particularly interesting to me in that novel was the discussion of Culture language, which is deliberately structured to restrict hierarchies and prevent sexual discrimination It strikes me that a communist world would radically alter the meaning of words like value and work I imagine such a world would also place great emphasis on experiences travel, sports, and art in particular I wonder what sort of literature it would produce Unfortunately, we re very unlikely to find out RentismThis future involves abundance thanks to automation, without equal distribution of the gains involved In such a world, a privileged elite holds the patents and extracts rents from everyone who wants a copy Again, climate change has somehow been fixed by technology I liked the use of Transmetropolitan and its maker codes as an example here I was also reminded of a totally OTT cyberpunk novel in which media piracy carried the death penalty This was applied in a darkly absurd fashion by the inevitable cyberpunk hired killer, who executed the offender than used some of their brain matter to improve the performance of coaxial cables in his stereo system I m pretty sure that s a real book and I didn t just dream it Can t remember the title for the life of me, though Cyberpunk as a sub genre is predicated on ubiquitous computing with strongly enforced corporate gatekeeping Rentism has the plausibility of already being visible everywhere The most valuable corporate assets these days are forms of intellectual capital, not machines or buildings but algorithms, designs, DNA, and databases of personal information The extent to which this undermines the operation of capitalism is the theme of Paul Mason s Postcapitalism A Guide to Our Future and should be obvious to any A level economics student If the supply of a good is infinite, because it can be copied at effectively zero cost, the price falls to zero Free market economics cuts its own throat Only monopolism, a so called market failure, prevents this According to Mason, and in my view as well, this situation is inherently unstable due to the difficulty of preventing piracy SocialismNow we come to the futures in which climate change cannot be handily swept aside by technology In the socialist scenario, there is scarcity but relative equality thanks to government intervention and planning This calls to mind several sci fi novels that I have known and loved Gwyneth Jones Bold as Love series, in which an anarchic government of rockstars steers England through economic and environmental collapse Ken McLeod s Intrusion and Julie Zeh s Corpus Delicti Ein Prozess, both of which explore how interventionist governments that deal effectively with environmental collapse can also take an unnecessary level of interest in women s bodies The former series is hopeful to a point, the latter two are less willing to put their faith in governments Intrusion is very much a Labour utopia dystopia, which encouraged me to compare it with the Conservative austerity and privatisation that happened instead If your freedom is constrained, do you prefer it to be for a greater public good or for higher shareholder returns I was a little surprised that the socialism chapter didn t mention carbon rationing, which was briefly discussed as a potential Labour government policy back in the halcyon days of 2008 The Carbon Diaries 2015 and sequel spin out the consequences of such a policy It did, however, talk about economic planning in Francis Spufford s fascinating book Red Plenty Inside the Fifties Soviet Dream Could supercomputers plan the economy for us I would hope they could at least monitor environmental limits and warn against activities that would cross them a carbon cap and trade scheme would obviously require automated monitoring and control Frase s take on cap and trade was interesting that if the government controls the price mechanism then it s not a capitalist market per se To my mind, the truly subversive and anti capitalist element of cap and trade is placing a hard quantitative limit on carbon emissions, production of some good, or whatever This is antithetical to the magical thinking in free market economics that wealth can increase infinitely and that the Earth will costlessly absorb infinite pollution forever.Of the four futures, I think socialism is the best we can now hope for I believe that we ve missed our chance for a smooth, technology led climate change mitigation If that was ever possible and there are structural reasons why not cf Fossil Capital The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming , it certainly seems too late now A world in which everyone has a basic income and carbon ration, however, looks vanishingly distant, simply because it would require a reckoning with the tiny elite who control a disproportionate share of global wealth.ExterminismThe final and most plausible future is one in which climate change causes scarcity and the wealthy retreat to their citadels, while everyone else struggles to survive Unfortunately this can already been observed in the horrific and inhumane treatment of refugees in America, Europe, Australia, et al At a national level, racism and xenophobia allow rich countries to turn a blind eye to the suffering and death of refugees At an international level, the richest insulate themselves further by building bunkers and retreats in New Zealand If you feel like being incandescently angry, read this very long New Yorker piece on super rich survivalists These people seem unwilling or unable to face the fact that they caused, and are still causing, the instability that they fear Their greed for wealth and privilege has undermined the social contract and faith in politics Their lifestyles are changing the climate Their espousal of neoliberalism has split society, undermined trust, and depleted the public realm And now they want to buy their way out of the country, indeed the world, that they ve wrecked for short term gains Anyway, Frase s first sci fi example in this chapter is the film Elysium, which he admits has a political economy that is somewhat difficult to extract I found it a rather unsatisfactory dystopia, in which the shock was that a white American guy had to deal with a similar daily life to a developing world slum inhabitant The plot s focus was on getting healthcare for the underclass, without any explanation of why it was so scarce in the first place given total automation Why aren t the elite extracting rents on the technology Anyway, the film s resolution seemed to me like a metaphor for Obamacare now you can get basic healthcare, no need to concern yourselves with all the other problems caused by structural inequality Aapposite example of a rich elite quite actively trying to kill off an unemployed underclass can be found in The Ballad of Halo Jones The main character lives in an overcrowded and dangerous ghetto for the unemployed, until in desperation she signs up for the army as a way to escape The war she joins is brutal and pointless, quite possibly only happening as a way to simulate production of weapons and kill off the unemployed That seems to me the most likely formactive exterminism would take fomenting wars Actually, this also a theme in the last novel I read, S N U F F. Given the resource shortages that climate change will continue to cause, it probably won t take much encouragement.The most depressing thing about Four Futures is that it was published in 2016, yet since it was written the world has moved significantly closer to an exterminist future thanks to Brexit and Trump I don t think that s just the sleeplessness talking Still, a thought provoking book that provides a tidy taxonomy for life after capitalism I just wish it had been at least twice as long


  2. Adam Adam says:

    Science fiction is to futurism what social theory is to conspiracy theory an altogether richer,honest, andhumble enterprise Or to put it another way, it is alwaysinteresting to read an account that derives the general from the particular social theory or the particular from the general science fiction , rather than attempting to go from the general to the general futurism or the particular to the particular conspiracism.With that in mind, Frase uses science fiction and Science fiction is to futurism what social theory is to conspiracy theory an altogether richer,honest, andhumble enterprise Or to put it another way, it is alwaysinteresting to read an account that derives the general from the particular social theory or the particular from the general science fiction , rather than attempting to go from the general to the general futurism or the particular to the particular conspiracism.With that in mind, Frase uses science fiction and social theory to look at four possible futures He posits that we can end up in a world of either scarcity or abundance, alongside either hierarchy or equality This makes for four possible combinations They are Communism equality and abundance In this scenario he envisions a basic income that grows irrelevant as the tax base shrinks and as automation reduces the need for work What s left of it, he argues, could be used as a kind of whuffie , the reputation measuring currency in Doctorow s post scarcity novel, and he looks at dogecoin as a sort of precursor to this it s an internet currency that s essentially worthless, and so used for tipping people online Its chief pitfalls are that we ll never automate everything, and doing away with money might be possible, but we ll still have hierarchies he cites infighting wikipedia editors.Sci fi examples Star Trek, Corey Doctorow s Down and Out in the Magical Kingdom view spoiler The long run trajectory, therefore, is one in which people come to depend less and less on the basic income, because the things they want and need do not have to be purchased for money Some things can be produced freely and automatically, as 3 D printing and digital copying technologies evolve into something like Star Trek s replicator Other things have become the product of voluntary cooperative activity rather than waged work It therefore comes to pass that the tax base for the basic income is undermined but rather than creating an insoluble crisis, as in the hands of basic income critics, the withering away of the money economy, and its corresponding tax base, becomes the path to utopia.But I would still argue that the communist society I ve sketched here, though imperfect, is at least one in which conflict is no longer based on the opposition between wage workers and capitalists or on struggles over scarce resources It is a world in which not everything ultimately comes down to money A communist society would surely have hierarchies of status as do capitalist and all societies But in capitalism, all status hierarchies tend to be aligned, albeit imperfectly, with the master hierarchy of capital and money The ideal of a postscarcity society is that various kinds of esteem are independent, so that the esteem in which one is held as a musician is independent of the regard one achieves as a political activist, and one can t use one kind of status to buy another In a sense, then, it is a misnomer to refer to this as an egalitarian configuration it is not, in fact, a world that lacks hierarchies but rather one of many hierarchies, no one of which is superior to any other hide spoiler Rentism Hierarchy and abundance a really great look at how intellectual property rights aren t rights to property but to patterns, and how we re expanding the concept to includeandpatterns that we used to not think of as things that were commodifiable he talks about fashion designers lobbying to copyright dress patterns, Monsanto copyrighting sees, John Deere arguing that farmers can t use third party software on its tractors, etc This, combined with greater automation, creates wealth inequality as the amount things people can buy grows, but squeezes human labor out of the system Eventually, all that s left is a dwindling creative class, rentiers who collect payments without contributing to the system, and a class of guards who enforce the rentiers rights For all these reasons, it seems that the main problem confronting the society of anti Star Trek is the problem of effective demand that is, how to ensure that people are able to earn enough money to be able to pay the licensing fees on which private profit depends Of course, this isn t so different from the problem that confronted industrial capitalism, but it becomessevere as human labor is increasingly squeezed out of the system, and human beings become superfluous as elements of production, even as they remain necessary as consumers.Ultimately, even capitalist self interest will require some redistribution of wealth downward in order to support demand Society reaches a state in which, as the French socialist Andr Gorz put it in his 1999 book Reclaiming Work Beyond the Wage Based Society, the distribution of means of payment must correspond to the volume of wealth socially produced and not to the volume of work performed 23 Or, to translate from French Intellectual to English you deserve a decent standard of living because you re a human being and we re a wealthy enough society to provide it, not because of any particular work that you did to deserve it So in theory, this is one possible long term trajectory of a world based on intellectual property rents rather than on physical commodity production using human Ultimately, even capitalist self interest will require some redistribution of wealth downward in order to support demand Society reaches a state in which, as the French socialist Andr Gorz put it in his 1999 book Reclaiming Work Beyond the Wage Based Society, the distribution of means of payment must correspond to the volume of wealth socially produced and not to the volume of work performed 23 Or, to translate from French Intellectual to English you deserve a decent standard of living because you re a human being and we re a wealthy enough society to provide it, not because of any particular work that you did to deserve it So in theory, this is one possible long term trajectory of a world based on intellectual property rents rather than on physical commodity production using human labor What Gorz is talking about is something like the universal basic income, which was discussed in the last chapter Which means that one long run trajectory of rentism is to turn into communism view spoiler inally, any society like the one I have described, which is predicated on maintaining great inequalities of wealth and power even when they have become economically superfluous, will require a large amount of labor to prevent the poor and powerless from taking a share back from the rich and powerful The economists Samuel Bowles and Arjun Jayadev call this type of labor Guard Labor and define it as the efforts of the monitors, guards, and military personnel directed not toward production, but toward the enforcement of claims arising from exchanges and the pursuit or prevention of unilateral transfers of property ownership 17 It includes private security guards, police officers, the military, prison and court officials, and weapons producers An estimated 5.2 million guards worked in the United States in 2011.18These would be the main source of employment in the world of anti Star Trek creators, lawyers, marketers, and guards It seems implausible, however, that this would be sufficient the society would probably be subject to a persistent trend toward under employment Especially if all the sectors except arguably the first would be subject to pressures toward labor saving technological innovation Even high level managerial functions can be partly automated in 2014, a Hong Kong venture capital fund called Deep Knowledge appointed an algorithm, a program called VITAL, to its board, where it receives a vote on all investments.19And perhaps even creativity isn t such a uniquely human talent if we reduce that word to the creation of replicator patterns In a paper presented to a 2014 conference of the Association of Computing Machinery, a group of medical researchers presented a method for automatically generating plausible hypotheses for scientists to test, using data mining techniques.20 Such approaches could eventually be applied to other formulaic, iterative processes like the design of pop songs or smartphone games.What s , there is also another way for private companies to avoid employing workers for some of these tasks turn them into activities that people will find pleasurable and will thus do for free on their own time The computer scientist Luis von Ahn has specialized in developing such games with a purpose applications that present themselves to end users as enjoyable diversions but which also perform a useful computational task, what von Ahn calls Human Computation hide spoiler Sci fi examples Charles Stross Accelerando, Anti Star Trek , Warren Ellis TransmetropolitanSocialism equality and scarcity Similar to communism, but with the realization that we live in a finite world and have to deal with climate change In general, Frase writes, the struggle is over how to recognize and control the waste products of human civilization, rather than imagining that we can ever separate ourselves from nature He argues we need a state driven project that can mobilize resources and labor in a way that s beyond the capabilities of either the free market or a communist free for all He warns against the obstructive tendencies of modern politics, where the left believes it s too late to take meaningful action, and the right can t be bothered because climate change will only effect the poor He makes a case for a centrally planned economy, and that humans have to take their place as custodians of the planet on a large scale that probably involves geoengineering, but also restructuring our daily lives Sci fi examples Kim Stanley Robinson s Pacific Edge, Mars Trilogy, 2312 Mary Shelley s Frankenstein.Exterminism hierarchy and scarcity The scariest of the four, made all the worse because it s basically already happening With the need for labour diminished by automation the rich no longer have the need for the working classes, who are no longer working, they re just poor He cites the algorithmic drone targeting in the war on terror, the militarization of America s police and the growing prison industry It s terrifying In a 1983 article, the Nobel Prize winning economist Wassily Leontief anticipated the problem of mass unemployment that has been contemplated throughout this book In what he calls, with some understatement, a somewhat shocking but essentially appropriate analogy, he compares workers to horses.One might say that the process by which progressive introduction of new computerized, automated, and robotized equipment can be expected to reduce the role of labor is similar to the process by which the introduction of tractors and other machinery first reduced and then completely eliminated horses and other draft animals in agriculture.5As he then notes, this led most people to the conclusion that from the human point of view, keeping all these idle horses would make little sense As a result, the US horse population fell from 21.5 million in 1900 to 3 million in 1960.6 Leontief goes on to express, with the cheery confidence of a mid century technocrat, his confidence that since people are not horses, we will surely find ways to support all of society s members Echoing Gorz and other critics of wage labor, he argues that sooner or later it will have to be admitted that the demand for employment is in the first instance a demand for livelihood, meaning income 7 However, given the contemptuous and cruel attitudes of today s ruling class, we can in no way take that for granted.Fortunately, even the rich have developed norms of morality that make it difficult to reach for this Final Solution as a first resort Their initial step is simply to hide from the poor, much like the characters in Elysium But all around us, we can see the gradual drift away from just corralling and controlling excess populations, into justifications for permanently eliminating them.Sci fi example Blomkamp s Elysium


  3. Philippe Philippe says:

    Peter Frase s essay is an exercise in what is commonly known as scenario planning The author himself seems to be totally agnostic about this intellectual discipline that has a rich, decades long history But that doesn t detract from his attempt to visualise a range of post capitalist futures The basic idea behind the methodology is straightforward identify a limited number of critical uncertainties and investigate how they might interact to shape different, but plausible and coherent futur Peter Frase s essay is an exercise in what is commonly known as scenario planning The author himself seems to be totally agnostic about this intellectual discipline that has a rich, decades long history But that doesn t detract from his attempt to visualise a range of post capitalist futures The basic idea behind the methodology is straightforward identify a limited number of critical uncertainties and investigate how they might interact to shape different, but plausible and coherent futures In this book, Frase identifies three uncertainties The extent to which automation will make human labor superfluous The extent to which climate change will lead to scarcity of natural resources and human habitat The type of coordination and redistribution mechanisms relied on by our societies Frase makes a very strong, almost theoretical hypothesis about the impact of automation all the futures discussed in this book assume that the need for human labor in the production can be eliminated That renders the whole analysis rather speculative to my mind But admittedly it leads to interesting questions So, if automation is the constant, then the impact of the ecological crisis and the tensions and accommodations between classes are the variables As far as the impact of climate change is concerned, the spectrum runs from scarcity to abundance In other words, we may or may not be able to transition toenvironmentally benign infrastructures and behaviours Politically we may evolve towards aegalitarian or ahierarchical society So this leads to eitherdistribution or concentration of political and economic power Combining these two critical uncertainties leads to a typology of four scenarios egalitarian abundance communism , egalitarian scarcity socialism , hierarchical abundance rentism , hierarchical scarcity exterminism Given the political assumptions that define the various futures, each scenario embodies different solutions to deal with both the impact of total automation As a result four distinct storylines appear The story of Communism revolves around the way we construct meaning when life is not centered around wage labor Socialism reflects an egalitarian society that works together to rebuild and deepen its relationship to nature In the Rentist future intellectual property becomes a key component of the property held by the capitalist class Finally, in the Exterminist future the ruling classes find no better response to the threat of impoverished, restless, idle masses than to incarcerate or eliminate them The shock of reading this book is that the most cynical, dystopian scenario seems the most plausible one Given the abundance of telltale signs in the world today one could easily elaborate this story into a full length book.It is also interesting to note that Frase foregrounds the concept of a basic minimum income in each of the three other scenarios But it seems to play a different role and assume a different weight in each scenario Clearly, this book encapsulates an interesting thought experiment, obviously within the limits of the foundational hypothesis of total automation Although Rentism strikes me as the least likely of the bunch, none of the scenarios can be easily dismissed They should give all of us pause for thought 3,5 stars


  4. Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin says:

    This is a short simple book that lays our four scenarios of the future, Abundance and egalitarianism, Abundance and Hierarchy, Scarcity and Egalitarianism, Scarcity and Hierarchy Four types of life possible outside capitalism Interesting but it seems like a pretty straightforward extrapolation of noncapitalist societies running on these four categories based on these two dichotomies.Update 2 4 2020 this is not a prediction book but merely goes over four possible scenarios We either solve our This is a short simple book that lays our four scenarios of the future, Abundance and egalitarianism, Abundance and Hierarchy, Scarcity and Egalitarianism, Scarcity and Hierarchy Four types of life possible outside capitalism Interesting but it seems like a pretty straightforward extrapolation of noncapitalist societies running on these four categories based on these two dichotomies.Update 2 4 2020 this is not a prediction book but merely goes over four possible scenarios We either solve our resource problem or we don t We either have affluence or scarcity and we either have aegalitarian society or ahierarchical society This leads to four possibilities Abundance and egalitarianism think Star Trek , Abundance and Hierarchy think abundance high tech but everything is controlled by a rentier elite , Scarcity and egalitarianism think a post apocalyptic ecotopia where people subsist peacefully but not with a lot of material resources Old timey society but with socialism the final one scarcity and Hierarchy or exterminationism a well off and walled off elite gets rid of poor people who aretrouble than they worth in elite eyes William Gibson said the future is here just unevenly distributed well all four of these futures are here and can be seen if you look for them which one becomes dominant is up to us


  5. James (JD) Dittes James (JD) Dittes says:

    Is there a horror movie villain you can think of that haslives than capitalism Rumors of its demise stretch back to the era of the trust busters and the Progressive Party Every time a depression or war or rival ideology seems to have the system on its knees, its limbs burst to life and someone appears to proclaim, I m back Considering the events since The Great Recession, along with growing numbers of Americans who support socialized college funding and medical insurance, this might be Is there a horror movie villain you can think of that haslives than capitalism Rumors of its demise stretch back to the era of the trust busters and the Progressive Party Every time a depression or war or rival ideology seems to have the system on its knees, its limbs burst to life and someone appears to proclaim, I m back Considering the events since The Great Recession, along with growing numbers of Americans who support socialized college funding and medical insurance, this might be another time to contemplate Capitalism s demise At least that s what Peter Frase sets out to do in this short, thought provoking look into the future.I ll admit that I was expecting something of a manifesto here, but that s not what I found Frase presents the future in an imaginative way including references to literature and sci fi movies like Star Trek and Elysium along with the thoughts of political scientists This adds levity to scenarios that are far ranging, and I think that it makes the bookaccessible to readers.What replaces Capitalism Frase frames his ideas in the growing calls for another basic tenet of socialism the Universal Basic Income UBI Ten years ago, this was a laughed at, pie in the sky proposition Now it is gettingserious consideration Why Because people recognize that automationthan globalization is eliminating jobs but not the need for human beings to have a basic standard of living.Frase s futures include Communism when the UBI is in place, and automation ends the role of scarcity in the economy He takes a look at Renterism, where corporations own all the cars Uber , the seeds food Monsanto , and other key elements of daily life, typical people will find their rights reduced in the face of production efficiencies Fase s chapter on Socialism goes beyond current debates about health care and student loans into the theme of climate change and social engineered energy production His final chapter, on Exterminism, examines the possibility that excess workers will be sloughed off into even broader prison systems as the wealthy retreat into offshore utopias guarded by walls and private security forces.For me, the demise of Communism came from its inability to reward innovation in the way that Capitalism can I m skeptical of Frase s ideas about an end to scarcity, because this is a chronic problem in communist countries look at Venezuela s current food shortages, where were hampered by low oil prices and exacerbated by a command economy Still, I buy the jobs free technological future that he foresees, and I m growing in acceptance of the UBI.This is a thought provoking, insightful look into four possible futures, should capitalism fall by the way side Should rumors of capitalism s demise prove once again to have been greatly exaggerated, Frase s book still shines light on very real possibilities or adaptations for the future.Special thanks to Net Galley and Verso Books for allowing me an advanced copy to review


  6. Robert Clarke Robert Clarke says:

    This book is a chilling account of humanity trying to cope with the endgame of capitalism, which up to the upcoming age of climate change and automation induced unemployment, had enriched everyone s lives extraordinarily well Frase s fourth scenario, Exterminism is a horrifying amalgamation of Elysium, Atlas Shrugged, BioShock, The Terminator, Manna, and Ender s Game where the isolated wealthy elite in charge of the robots use those robots to genocide the immiserated buggers left unempl This book is a chilling account of humanity trying to cope with the endgame of capitalism, which up to the upcoming age of climate change and automation induced unemployment, had enriched everyone s lives extraordinarily well Frase s fourth scenario, Exterminism is a horrifying amalgamation of Elysium, Atlas Shrugged, BioShock, The Terminator, Manna, and Ender s Game where the isolated wealthy elite in charge of the robots use those robots to genocide the immiserated buggers left unemployed and redundant on Earth, as indirectly and guilt free as possible Knowing the depths of human greed, it s sadly not an unlikely scenario that people in power would systematically kill off the redundant, revolting humans left on the surface to haveof Earth s resources for themselves Ruthless psychopaths inclined toward power would nuke the Earth s surface if it meant they got to rule over the ashes.The irony is that the end state, a post scarcity Communist utopia not unlike Star Trek or The Culture, would be realized whether it s for 7 billion humans each given a universal basic income of 30,000, or 30,000 billionaires and their families living on inheirited wealth after a mass die off similar to that of America s original inhabitants making way for wealthier European colonists Since robots do all the work, people would be left to do whatever they want to All the world s resources are essentially free to them, as they would be in a post scarcity communist society albeitshared They get an exponentially lesser share if they don t exterminate the poor, therefore the poor must be exterminated to make Lebensraum for the master race You know, as if the so called master race couldn t help genetically inferior untermenschen transcend their biological limitations, or mine space forresources to share The Nazis had grand ambitions for space as well unfortunately only after a greater Holocaust against all Eastern Europeans, explicitly modeled after American colonization An exterminist future is a consequence of closed minds lacking in distinctly human traits like imagination or empathy You could build a Death Star and blow up Earth to sate the primitive reptile brain at the heart of fear and greed, but it ll never be enough for our reptillian overlords Just ask David Icke 4 5, could ve been longer andin depth I m also not a fan of this guy s stereotypically leftist antipathy to capitalism as the root of all modern evil, rather than a free market system that amplifies evil already present in human nature while also enabling humanity to thrive at scale and individuals to succeed on their own merits, as opposed to the feudalism that came before Make no mistake Jared Diamond, the human race was never predominantly tolerant or egalitarian, not even in hunter gatherer bands Where do you think the word tribalism comes from Why don t you ask the chief and his harem of wives The animal kingdom of literal Darwinism couldn t care less for any sort of justice outside you were too slow and got devoured by a wolf Human brains are supposed to be above such reptillian urges but alas, Social Darwinist tribalism couldn t bealive in the age of President Trump.In spite of this, I hope humans will someday come to their senses, stop bickering about identity politics, and look to the stars in search of greater horizons as each human individually self actualizes Together we could rule the galaxy and find a way to escape entropy, but we re trapped upon this dump of a rock on a collision course with extinction, as Donald Trump and friends grow richer at the expense of everyone else Get a fucking grip, humanity Trump won t bring your redundant factory job back and he knows it We re at a point where all unfulfilling work could be automated away, leaving us at long last with lives of leisure to pursue our passions working not because we have to, but because we want to But that s only if we want to


  7. Kars Kars says:

    Something new is coming Fuck yes this is good Short, well written exploration of what the twin challenges of automation and climate change might bring us in the future Not as prediction but as a call to arms Frase mines the history of leftist thought for useful ideas and uses recent sci fi pop culture as metaphors for exploring them The book covers a lot of ground in a small package and ties together a lot of ideas that any progressive interested in technology has likely already come acr Something new is coming Fuck yes this is good Short, well written exploration of what the twin challenges of automation and climate change might bring us in the future Not as prediction but as a call to arms Frase mines the history of leftist thought for useful ideas and uses recent sci fi pop culture as metaphors for exploring them The book covers a lot of ground in a small package and ties together a lot of ideas that any progressive interested in technology has likely already come across but adds value by tying it all together in a coherent if somewhat cheeky two dimensional framework Essential


  8. Kusaimamekirai Kusaimamekirai says:

    One would imagine that a book envisioning but as the author constantly reminds us does not guarantee four distinct post capitalist scenarios involving socialism, communism, scarcity and abundance should be if nothing else interesting Somehow however, this book is not Maybe it s the overly technical language Maybe it s the reliance on science fiction tropes a genre I m not particularly familiar with Most likely it s the relentless gloom of the author Yes, it s difficult to be bright an One would imagine that a book envisioning but as the author constantly reminds us does not guarantee four distinct post capitalist scenarios involving socialism, communism, scarcity and abundance should be if nothing else interesting Somehow however, this book is not Maybe it s the overly technical language Maybe it s the reliance on science fiction tropes a genre I m not particularly familiar with Most likely it s the relentless gloom of the author Yes, it s difficult to be bright and cheery about a future with probable resource scarcity run by a wealthy elite as the earth burns up around us However there are no solutions here Within these four scenarios we are unemployed, at the mercy of rich owners of intellectual property, or simply exterminated when we cease to be useful to the capitalist class I suppose it s a useful thought experiment for some, but in a world already filled with gloom, why add to it by reading the flights of fancy of someone who imagines how much worse it could be


  9. TraceyL TraceyL says:

    Read it for a reading challenge Economics is just boring, man.


  10. Joel Joel says:

    Sometimes you click on a link somewhere, in something that you re reading, which takes you to another link and another and another as you continue the train of thought of your line of inquiry as far as time allows When that happens to me, often times the end of the line in the referrals process is a book, which I sometimes put in mycart and forget about it till it arrives at my doorstep and I pick up the book and try to figure out what I was thinking.So it goes with Four Futures This Sometimes you click on a link somewhere, in something that you re reading, which takes you to another link and another and another as you continue the train of thought of your line of inquiry as far as time allows When that happens to me, often times the end of the line in the referrals process is a book, which I sometimes put in mycart and forget about it till it arrives at my doorstep and I pick up the book and try to figure out what I was thinking.So it goes with Four Futures This nasty little tome by Peter Frase isn t really a book it s sort ofan extended whine replete from the first sentence to the last which I ll admit I didn t get to with tired recitations of the debunked thoughts of yesteryear and unsubstantiated assertions buttressed by outrage and insult as the only recourse by and for the weak minded.It used to be people would write to attempt to persuade others It is widely believed that the best way to bring others around, to sway them to the validity of your claims is through the written word Debates are hostile, arguments unhelpful winners needing to show their dominance, losers attempting to not be humiliated in front of their peers But the pen in the quiet of night, darkness cut by the flickering flame of a candle that illuminates just as the black words on paper enlighten.Those days are over, it would seem.Specifically, Four Futures looked at least when I mistakenly bought it to be an outside the box presentation of four ways the world could see itself reorganized if things continue to go as they currently are Currently are means technological innovation continues to undermine employment and environmental degradation continues to cause life conditions to worsen for people who are degrading their environments Indira Gandhi, Frase is not Poverty is the greatest polluter, to Frase has given way to wait for it rapacious evil of corporations motivated only by a conspiracy of greed.What does Frase propose Ignore climate deniers , they are crackpots anyways really try what Marx was trying for of course not the half hearted attempts of Pol Pot, Hugo Chavez and Joseph Stalin but really do it condemn the corporate interests and the managerial elite, etc How to do this Read Keynes and Krugman never mind that those two have been widely debunked Never mind that Frase doesn t seem to understand spontaneous order can t figure out issues of scarcity and still pines for that simplified planned world that has produced famine after famine after famine As I tried to read this book I didn t go very far, neither should you , I channeled Ayn Rand a little bit for giggles As Frase decried the fallacy of Wall E s portrayal of post work, technologically advanced humanity I m not kidding while he defended the idea of Universal Basic Income which, he claims, doesn t have to produce sloth and deviance, I imagined what Rand would have said about Frase s workless world Machines producing for the consumptive purposes of the listless masses what could go wrong Of course forget that we have the technology that we have because of capitalism which, though imperfect, actually does take into consideration incentives forget that the only solution for greed is competition, and that planning just makes another less accountable elite forget that planned economies do not work because the profit motive is the only way for humanity to allocate its scarce resources And forget that in rich places the environment is getting better reforestation and water purification and detoxifying our rivers while in poor, workless places the environmental damage continues relentlessly Or, for the know nothings, better yet just forget everything humanity has learned about itself since we pulled ourselves from grinding poverty and 35 year life expectancy I m sure that s gonna work All that to say don t read this book And if you can figure out a way I can un read it, I d be grateful for the hint


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