Sunday, December 12, 2010

Is it communism?

Preface: I am NOT a "member" of either the Venus Project or the Zeitgeist Movement. The below is an attempt to address accusations made by dissenters of those projects that they are inherently communist -- but with, perhaps, my own take on what a future society should look like. For the most part, this "rebuttal" does ally itself with the Zeitgeist Movement and the Venus Project, but 4. and 5. in particular may differ slightly from those organizations' propositions, and I make no attempts to hide this fact.

1. Anarcho-communism and perfect communism are nothing like Stalinism, or any other implementation of state communism. The early Communist parties were afraid of revolt, so they adopted authoritarian practices. If our economic models are similar to perfect communism, that does not entail all of the negative consequences of what was essentially state socialism. Most of Europe is already socialist today, but no one has a knee-jerk reaction to its healthcare policies, for example, because those policies were implemented in a way that was completely dissimilar to that of the policies of the original Communist parties. In any case, while associating true communism with Marxist-Leninism or any other variant of state communism is itself erroneous, more importantly, each of the tried economic plans is contingent on the existence of scarcity, ownership, private property, etc. -- and, therefore, state mandates, hierarchy, top-down approaches, and lowest-common-denominator distribution of resources.

If the criticism is not that communism = state communism, then it is often that communism as an ideology has existed for over a hundred years and has never been effectively put into practice. This is basically a concession that it is a "good idea" (our economic models are not communist, though they are very similar), but that no one will listen. If this is the case, then the person making the assertion needs to stop attempting to convince those attempting to convince the world that it's not going to work, and start attempting to convince the world! Wouldn't that be so much more meaningful a use of his time?

Attempting to convince me to stop convincing others is not going to work itself, so you're being doubly inefficient by trying, and hypocritical to boot.

2. We have no interest in empowering the proletariat. In the future, humans will not just freely work alongside one another at will; they will also delegate monotonous tasks to machines. Marx had good ideas, but they were limited to his particular time period, and were thus naive and myopic -- in essence, resultant from the conditions and variables of the current system, and not from anything outside of it.

3. The economic system is just one of several internetworked systems which play a key role in the functioning of society as a super-system. Two "communists" may agree about the problems of means of production, private property, and social hierarchy, but that does not mean that both understand the various technical and social issues which currently plague our societies. Saying that our goals are "communism" is akin to saying that a computer system is an instant messaging application running on the system software.

So we and "communists" both enjoy using that same application; what does the application say about our respective practical solutions to foundational problems, or our goals and values? Further, what does it say about the entire, emergent system which we are developing? Reducing or relegating any set of ideas to a predefined category is an error of categorization borne from faulty qualitative analysis; an idea possessing a quality found in another idea that is part of a particular category does not mean that the former idea is also part of the category, and to think otherwise leads not only to errors in cognition, but to social enmity and conflict as well. Additionally, even where an idea is a member of a particular category, we cannot use non-defining qualities shared by members of that category to make assumptions about the idea.

4. We need a justification for human life before beginning work on the design of a new system. Communism does not provide this, because it is merely a vague economic model; it says nothing about scarcity, technology, infrastructure, the meaning of the universe, epistemology, meta-cognition, methodologies, process management, the scientific method, the nature of value, eliminating social biases, etc.

5. Communism is flat-out wrong in assuming that we can be "free" to access resources as they are made available, regardless of who we are. Rehabilitation, confinement, and conditioning centers will all be necessary in the future -- though, as abundance increases, and all fundamental human drives and desires come to be properly satiated with minimal time spent feeling deprived, there will eventually no longer be an impetus for most traditional, obvious forms of human conflict. After this, we would simply need to monitor conditioning centers carefully so as to allow memes and concepts to run properly and efficiently on their host minds, while controlling environmental stimuli to the greatest extent possible. This process will become easier as the human mind is augmented via nanotechnology and other cognitive enhancements.

Marx's communism was missing a necessary element that was not entirely developed in his time: the scientific method and its corresponding methodologies and principles. Rule by an ungoverned majority who simply wish to oppress dissenters in the name of their precious "free access to resources" or "control over the means of production" is NOT something that happens to peer reviewed communities in any form. So, yes, checks and balances will exist, as they do in democracy, but they will have some rational basis, and they will not come in the form of any one particular person or group of persons -- they will be contrary ideas. In other words, in our model, if a "senator" makes a decision that defies the views of someone who has written a letter to him -- and it is concluded that his decision is best, based on a number of variables and calculations performed by several parties -- that does not guarantee that the person who'd written the letter will not be "senator" for a day when his or her next idea is more agreeable and logical. Context will be stressed, and no one will have an absolute, indefinite role to play.

This may all sound like we're setting ourselves up for oppression, but do scientists "oppress" one another by prohibiting the publishing of poorly conducted studies, or by invalidating published ones with new or current research? Do architects "oppress" their peers by determining that they do not understand how to build bridges? Does Wikipedia "oppress" its users by disallowing the publishing of irrelevant or frivolous articles (well, they may be too lax)? Meta-analysis already exists in psychological circles, so why don't we implement it on a more fundamental level? True oppression only occurs in the face of scarcity; everything else is simply a matter of listening to the ideas that exist. What reason would anyone have to develop a bias, then consequently ignore new information, in a society like that proposed? How would he or she benefit from boosted social status and ego in a world without social hierarchy?

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