Sunday, June 30, 2019

More on Fully Automated Luxury Communism (FALC)

Annie Lowry reviews Aaron Bastani's book in The Atlantic, 20 June 2019.
The most ardent advocate for FALC, Aaron Bastani, a London-based media executive and writer, has written a new book on the topic. ... Bastani believes that we are already living through a potentially epochal transformation of the economy, as epochal as the establishment of agriculture and the introduction of engines and electricity. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and advanced computing might be about to eliminate the need for human labor in no small part, Bastani claims.

That could mean the continued ruination of the planet, as oligarchs throw thought conferences on yachts and the masses struggle to make rent. Or it could mean the healing of the planet and the thriving of all its inhabitants. What it might take is converting the world to solar and other renewable forms of energy, mining asteroids for raw materials, implementing Communist political systems, and guaranteeing everyone basic services. Enter utopia—a healthy world and an economy of abundance, free and accessible to all.

Bastani is certain about the viability of all of this, yet has a topsy-turvy understanding of recent history and the contemporary economy. He fails to give capitalism much credit for moving billions of lives out of poverty, for instance, and fails to recognize the preeminence of race and racism in explaining the success of President Donald Trump or Europe’s far right.
Not exactly a new idea. Lowry mentions Keynes (“Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren”) and Shulamith Firestone (“cybernetic communism”). "Yet the most complete picture of FALC or FALGSC might come not from radical leftists or academic economists, but from Star Trek." Yep.
Humans in rich societies could and arguably should work far less than they do, and might thrive far more if they did, FALC argues. There is no need for the world to look like Star Trek for that to become reality.

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