Dit boek van Joël Kotkin verscheen in april van 2020, in het midden van de Coronacrisis dus. Zelden was een boek zo actueel. Het schrikbarend scenario dat in het boek wordt geschetst, lijkt zich vlak voor onze ogen af te spelen, ook al is er in het boek geen sprake van een virus. Maar de aanval op de middenklasse (denk aan de sluitingen van winkels en horeca, de toenemende werkloosheid of het onmogelijk maken van elke vorm van sociaal leven) en de opkomst van de technocratie waar die boek voor waarschuwt, wordt maand na maand, week na week, meer en meer realiteit. Kotkin heeft zelfs de rol van China bijna volledig juist. Maak je klaar voor de notities van dit griezelig helderziend boek.
- De toplaag van de globalistische miljardairs - de nieuwe aristocratie - vormt zich ook in nominaal socialistisch China:
The trend is not only a Western one. In avowedly socialist China, for example, the top 1 percent of the population hold about one-third of the country’s wealth, and roughly 1,300 individuals hold about 20 percent. Since 1978, China’s Gini coefficient, which measures inequality of wealth distribution, has tripled.13 Globally, the ultra-rich are an emergent aristocracy. Fewer than one hundred billionaires together now own as much as half of the world’s assets, the same proportion owned by around four hundred people a little more than five years ago.14 The concentration of wealth is also clear in property ownership. In the United States, the proportion of land owned by the one hundred largest private landowners grew by nearly 50 percent between 2007 and 2017, according to the Land Report. In 2007, this group owned a total of 27 million acres of land, equivalent to the area of Maine and New Hampshire combined; a decade later, the one hundred largest landowners held 40.2 million acres, more than the entire area of New England.15 In much of the American West, billionaires have created vast estates that many fear will make the rest of the local population land-poor.
- Zelfs met het internet en met sociale media is de controle op informatiestromen meer dan ooit in handen van een beperkt aantal bedrijven:
Even as blogs proliferate, giving the appearance of information democracy, a small group of companies—mostly based on the West Coast of the United States—exercise tightening control over the flow of information and the shape of the culture. Our new overlords do not wear chain mail or top hats, but instead direct our future in jeans and hoodies.24 These technocratic elites are the twenty-first-century realization of what Daniel Bell prophetically labeled “a new priesthood of power” based on scientific expertise.
- Zelfs aanhangers van de vrije markt zouden de nodige reserves ten aanzien van de evolutie aan de dag moeten leggen (corporatisme <> vrije markt):
On the other hand, the devotees of market fundamentalism, refusing to acknowledge the dangers of oligarchic power and the harm being done to the middle and working classes, might further a political trajectory that threatens the viability of capitalism itself.
- De conservatieve kritiek van het kapitalisme en de verdediging van de Middeleeuwen:
Some conservative thinkers, such as the late Roger Scruton, have been critical of the disorderly modern urban world and especially of the suburban culture created by liberal capitalism. Scruton favored a return to a geography of densely populated cities surrounded by a protected countryside, without the middle landscape of suburbs—the places where the property-owning middle classes overwhelmingly live today. Likewise, some leading architects, including Britain’s Richard Rogers, seek a return to something like the medieval city with its public market squares, which they consider a more livable alternative to the modern suburban sprawl.30 Such backward-looking ideas have been offered as remedies for the weaknesses and failings of modern society. But they might also provide a rationale to discourage upward mobility for the many and to concentrate property in fewer hands.
- De Tweede Industriele revolutie is uitgeput en de nieuwe economie heeft zijn belofte niet ingelost:
Gains in productivity in the last decade were barely half those in the previous decade and barely one-fourth the average increases between 1920 and 1970. The economist Robert Gordon notes that the newest wave of technology, while dramatically changing how we communicate and get information, has done very little to improve the material conditions of life, particularly in housing and transportation.
- Heeft het te maken met gebrek aan antitrust? Hoe dan ook zijn er negatieve gevolgen (de de macht van de nieuwe techbedrijven is ongezien):
Antitrust actions in the United States have fallen by 61 percent since the early 1980s, leaving the tech oligarchy with almost unlimited power—under administrations of both parties—to acquire or crush competitors.16 In recent years, Facebook has swallowed potential competitors such as Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus, with little resistance from regulators.17 Google is among the most voracious in acquisitions, purchasing a new venture every other week in one year, and a total of 240 companies as of January 2020.18 Armed with massive war chests and the means to buy the best talent, a small number of companies have achieved monopolistic or duopolistic power over some of the world’s most lucrative markets. Google controls nearly 90 percent of search advertising, Facebook almost 80 percent of mobile social traffic, and Amazon nearly 40 percent of the world’s cloud business along with 75 percent of U.S. ebook sales. Google and Apple together provide over 95 percent of operating software for mobile devices. Microsoft still accounts for over 80 percent of the software that runs personal computers around the world.
- De macht van de tech oligarchen wordt nog groter door artificiële intelligentie en hun dominantie over andere industrieën is enorm aan het worden:
The rush into artificial intelligence is likely to strengthen the dominant position of those firms that already have enormous reservoirs of both money and talent. A few firms will probably join the oligarchy over time, and some familiar ones may go out of existence or be acquired by others. But the top firms tend to exist as properties of a small number of financiers and technologists who operate within a narrow, self-referential universe.22 This concentration of technological power portends a far less democratic future.23 With their huge cash reserves, the tech oligarchs have plans to dominate older industries like entertainment, finance, education, and retail, as well as industries of the future: autonomous cars, drones, space exploration, and most critically artificial intelligence. Firms like Google, Amazon, and Apple have invested billions to gain post position in both traditional and emerging industries.
- Hetzelfde vindt plaats in China: de opkomst van een technocratische elite die voor zichzelf zelfs een plaats veroveren in de Communistische Partij :
Its tech sector is second only to that of the United States and increasingly sees itself as Silicon Valley’s successor. In certain sectors, including ecommerce and mobile payments, China has already established a powerful lead.27 Much of China’s technology boom results from massive investments by both state-sponsored and private firms in leading-edge technologies. In 2016 this investment was greater than that of Japan, Germany, and South Korea combined, and it produced ten times as many new graduates in engineering, technology, science, and medicine as the United States.28 China has spawned its own plutocratic elite, too: the number of Chinese billionaires in 2017 was just behind the number of billionaires in the United States, and growing much faster.29 Since 2000, many billionaires from tech and other sectors have entered the Communist Party in a seamless manner that Mao Tse-tung would never have countenanced.30 China thus has two intertwined elites— one political, the other economic. The rise of a technocratic elite might be said to fit neatly into the Marxist notion of “scientific socialism,” mobilizing scientists, technicians, and engineers for the common good.31 But it has demolished the basic egalitarian ethos of socialism.
- Wat leidt tot een ongeziene "surveillance" staat (a la Jeremy Bentham) ism. met Amerikaanse techbedrijven die China als proeftuin kunnen gebruiken voor andere landen (en die nu ook de rest van de wereld als proeftuin hebben voor de uitrol van hun technologieën zoals tracking en tracing (dankzij corona afkomstig uit China, maar dat is puur toeval uiteraard):
The regime also uses facial recognition technology and “social credit” scoring, which includes everything from credit worthiness and work performance to political reliability. Surveillance of citizens is sometimes done with the unconscionable connivance of major American tech firms, some of which are also experimenting with bringing similar tools to the private marketplace.35 In the future, the Chinese use of surveillance technology could be a model for other countries seeking to employ technology to regulate the lives of citizens. In fact, this kind of surveillance capacity is already being sold to other countries, particularly in Africa, as a tool for regimes to control their populations and spy on political opponents.
- Dit leidt niet alleen tot een surveillance staat maar oook tot een nieuwe "elite" in regelrechte tegenspraak met het gelijkheidsideaal van de Verlichting. Ironisch genoeg bestaat die nieuwe elite bijna uitsluitend uit Verlichtings-adepten:
Instead, a technocratic economy is engendering a new kind of hierarchy, favoring highly skilled technicians and engineers. Their dominance will grow as technology plays an ever greater role in the economy, while the value of labor further declines. Americans, long enamored of the entrepreneurial spirit and technological progress, have been slow to see the tech oligarchy as a threat.38 Leftist historians, alert to the dangers of aristocracy, have tended to focus their ire on financial companies that may be large and powerful but aren’t nearly as wealthy or as influential in shaping the economy as the tech sector, which seeks to capture virtually every other industry, including finance.39 At the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011, anticapitalist demonstrators held moments of silence and prayer for the memory of Steve Jobs, a particularly aggressive capitalist.40 Some people still see Bill Gates, a clear monopolist, as one of the “meritorious entrepreneurs,” notes Thomas Piketty.41 One progressive writer, David Callahan, portrays the tech oligarchs, along with their allies in the financial sector, as a kind of “benign plutocracy” in contrast to those who built their fortunes on resource extraction, manufacturing, and material consumption.42 Yet America’s tech titans have attained oligopolistic sway over markets comparable to that of moguls like John Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, or Cornelius Vanderbilt.43 They may wear baseball caps rather than top hats, but their economic and cultural power is vast, and likely to become far more so.
- In de nieuwe wereld is geen plaats voor de arbeiders- en de middenklasse (paradoxaal genoeg wordt deze nieuwe wereld na "the great reset" net ondersteund door links en door liberalen de grote verdedigers van resp. de arbeidersklasse en de middenklasse):
In the developing technocratic worldview, there’s little place for upward mobility, except within the charmed circle at the top. The middle and working classes are expected to become marginal. While the oligarchs might speak of a commitment to building what Mark Zuckerberg calls “meaningful community,” they rarely mention upward mobility.10 Having interviewed 147 digital company founders, Gregory Ferenstein notes that they generally don’t expect their workers or consumers to achieve more independence by starting their own companies or even owning houses. Most, Ferenstein adds, believe that an “increasingly greater share of economic wealth will be generated by a smaller slice of very talented or original people. Everyone else will come to subsist on some combination of part-time entrepreneurial ‘gig work’ and government aid.”
- Gelukkig is er voor de grote massa nog een basisinkomen:
Ferenstein says that many tech titans, in contrast to business leaders of the past, favor a radically expanded welfare state.12 Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Travis Kalanick (former head of Uber), and Sam Altman (founder of Y Combinator) all favor a guaranteed annual income, in part to allay fears of insurrection by a vulnerable and struggling workforce. Yet unlike the “Penthouse Bolsheviks” of the 1930s, they have no intention of allowing their own fortunes to be squeezed. Instead, the middle class would likely foot much of the bill for guaranteed wages, health care, free college, and housing assistance, along with subsidies for gig workers, who do not receive benefits from their employers.13 This model could best be described as oligarchical socialism.
- Reële en virtuele wereld vallen binnenkort samen (trans- of zelfs posthumanisme):
Google’s vision for the future is characterized by “immersive computing,” in which the real and virtual worlds blend together.18 Tech leaders like Ray Kurzweil, longtime head of engineering at Google, speak about creating a “posthuman” future, dominated by artificial intelligence and controlled by computers and those who program them. They look forward to having the capacity to reverse aging and to download their consciousness into computers. This vision rests on a faith in—or an obsession with—technological determinism, in which new technology is our evolutionary successor.19 But is this what most people want the future to be?
- De techgiganten nemen ook de controle over van de traditionele media:
The power of the tech oligarchy has grown at a time when print publishing and the firms that have dominated it are experiencing a secular and probably irreversible decline. Between 2001 and 2017, the publishing industry (books, newspapers, magazines) lost 290,000 jobs—a decrease of 40 percent. Any newspaper or magazine today will have an online presence, but with Facebook and Google dominating the growth in online advertising, it’s exceedingly difficult for new or smaller publications to survive. While Google alone made $4.7 billion from news publishers in 2018, the industry continues to shrink.23 “When you look at what’s evolved, and the amount of revenue that’s going to the Googles and Facebooks of the world,” says Alan Fisco, president of the Seattle Times, “we are getting the crumbs off the table.”
Even as they devastate the old media, the oligarchs also have the means to purchase some of its most venerable survivors. Since 2010, tech moguls and their relatives have bought the New Republic, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, and the long-distressed Time magazine, purchased for $190 million.25 In China, the estimable South China Morning Post was taken over by Alibaba, one of the country’s largest online retailers.26 Owning publications appeals to the vanity of tech oligarchs, giving them enhanced entree to literary and journalistic circles.27 The publications acquired in this way get an extra edge: they can enjoy the luxury of producing content without worrying much about money.
- Techbedrijven luisteren mensen af en houden geen rekening met privacy (maar liberalen zijn niet geïnteresseerd):
In 2018, Amazon’s in-home device Alexa was found to be eavesdropping on people’s conversations.46 Once exposed, such intrusions are often ended, at least temporarily, but there is reason to believe that privacy ranks low in tech company priorities.47 Google’s former executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, once told CNBC: “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”
- De nieuwe wereld is een zeer ongelijke wereld (maar links is niet geïnteresseerd):
But as the Valley has ascended to global preeminence in technology, class divisions have grown ever starker. By 2015, some 76,000 millionaires and billionaires lived in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, but hundreds of thousands of people were struggling to feed their families and pay their monthly bills. Nearly 30 percent of Silicon Valley’s residents rely on public or private financial assistance.
- De gelijkenis met fascisme en communisme is frappant:
Those who harbor a sense of natural superiority tend to support strong governmental action in line with their personal values and an overconidence in their own competence, according to research by Slavisa Tasic of the University of Kiev on decision making in government.39 But the history of unaccountable rule by “experts,” or those claiming intellectual superiority, is less than encouraging for liberal democracy. Mussolini’s Fascist ideology is now viewed as reactionary and clownish, but it highlighted the idea of a society governed with scientific principles by a cognitively superior ruling class.40 Soviet Communism, the sworn enemy of Fascism, followed a similar technocratic course. In the late 1890s, Engels saw technology as the key to achieving the productivity gains that could transform societies without the need for capitalism.41 Marx believed utterly in the crucial role of technocratic administrators and scientists in society. He even offered to dedicate Das Kapital to Charles Darwin.42 Marx’s first successful acolytes, the Bolsheviks, believed that a small, ideologically motivated elite could turn a backward Russia into the most advanced and progressive regime on earth. The Bolsheviks would replace the old aristocracy with their own ideological elite, whom they believed could
orchestrate a more egalitarian society. “If 10,000 nobles could rule the whole of Russia,” Lenin asked. “why not us?”43
The most powerful clerisy on earth today is in China. Intellectuals and scholars long played an influential role in Chinese politics and administration—similar to the role once played in the West by clerics when they were by far the most literate element of the population.46 Traditionally, the Mandarinate followed Confucianism, which celebrates learning not “for the sake of the self” but as a way to cultivate “the communal quality” that could help shape the society, as the Chinese scholar Tu Wei-ming writes.47 While Mao Tse-tung was hostile to the old Mandarinate, he placed a high value on technical expertise, with a typically Marxist faith in science. “We shall teach the sun and moon to change places,” he predicted, and he needed the brainpower of his nation to do so.48 Yet the scientific and technical experts either respected or feared the ruling authorities so much that they did not openly confront the insane policies of the Great Leap Forward that led to a famine and killed as many as 36 million people.49 One witness, the journalist and author Yang Jisheng, writes that the Party cadres viewed the peasants as “expendable.” The cadres “became overbearing and vicious in imposing one campaign after another, subjecting disobedient people to beatings, detention and torture.”
- De nieuwe "superklasse":
Looking at the question globally, David Rothkopf, author of Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making, compiled a list of more than six thousand members of what he calls the global “superclass”: leaders of corporations, banks and investment firms, governments, the military, the media, and religious groups. From this list, Rothkopf and his colleagues drew a “globally and sectorally representative sample” of three hundred randomly selected names, and found that nearly three in ten had attended one of twenty elite universities, particularly Stanford, Harvard, and the University of Chicago.4 Universities have also been seen as reinforcing the preeminence of what John Sexton, president of New York University, calls the “idea capitals” of the world, such as New York, Boston, London, Paris, and Beijing—all having universities and their graduates as a major part of their economic growth
- Ook de impact op de academische wereld is negatief, pluralisme verdwijnt (de links-liberalen nemen over):
The vast majority of academic articles—so crucial for getting tenure—are rarely cited, especially in the social sciences and humanities.26 Academic life has grown sterile and irrelevant to most people, even as an academic degree has become more important than ever for an individual’s prospects.
Marcuse would likely be pleased that today’s universities are achieving levels of unanimity that one might have found in a medieval school of theology or in a Soviet university. In 1990, according to survey data by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, 42 percent of professors identified as “liberal” or “far-left.” By 2014, that number had jumped to 60 percent.32 A few years later, a study of fifty-one top-rated colleges found that the proportion of liberals to conservatives was generally at least 8 to 1, and often as high as 70 to 1. At elite liberal arts schools like Wellesley, Swarthmore, and Williams, the proportion reaches 120 to 1.33 The skew is particularly acute in fields that most affect public policy and opinion. Well under 10 percent of faculty at leading law schools, such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Columbia, and Berkeley—schools that graduate many of the nation’s leaders—describe themselves as conservative.34 In other countries too, academia is far to the left of the general population. Roughly half of British voters lean to the right, while less than 12 percent of academics do. 35 Similar ratios are common across Europe and in Canada.36
- Links-liberalisme is de nieuwe religie en die niet meedoet, moet de mond worden gesnoerd:
Environmentalism, says Joel Garreau, has become “the religion of choice for urban atheists.”14
Some veteran climate scientists—such as Roger Pielke and Judith Curry, or the Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore, or former members of the UN International Panel on Climate Change—have been demonized and marginalized for deviating from what Curry has described as an overly “monolithic” approach to the issue of climate change.26 Some climate activists even seem ready to take dissenters to court in an effort to ban their ideas by legal means. Not only energy companies but think tanks and dissident scientists have been targeted for criminal prosecution.27
These tactics are all too reminiscent of the medieval Inquisition.28 It is a very poor way to tackle a complex scientific issue, where open inquiry and debate are needed, observes Steve Koonin, President Obama’s undersecretary of energy for science.
- Transhumanisme: krankzinnig maar op weg naar het "nieuwe normaal":
Although it sounds a bit like a wacky cult, transhumanism has long exercised a strong fascination for the elites of Silicon Valley. Devotees range from Sergei Brin, Larry Page, and Ray Kurzweil (of Google) to Peter Thiel and Sam Altman (Y Combinator). Kurzweil celebrates new technologies that allow for close monitoring of brain activity.33 Y Combinator is developing a technology for uploading one’s brain and preserving it digitally.34 The aim is to “develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on Artificial Intelligence.”
In some ways, transhumanism seems natural for those who hold technology above all other values. It dispenses with the physical and emotional realities of belonging to a church. Transhumanism offers a “marketing opportunity for new technology,” notes Thomas Metzinger of Gutenberg Research College in Mainz. An immortality app can be offered for sale to the transhumanist customer base.36 This new faith represents a major break with traditional religions. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam stressed the essential equality of people (at least among the faithful), and commanded acts of charity and other good deeds toward the less fortunate. These teachings would eventually feed into democratic and egalitarian thinking, particularly in the West.37 Equality is not something that concerns the transhumanists, though. Yuval Noah Harari sees instead a future where “a small and privileged elite of upgraded humans” gain control of society and use genetic engineering to cement the superior status of their offspring. Their aim will be not to follow God’s laws but to become gods themselves, by a kind of directed and accelerated evolution:
Without a physical basis in local communities, they don’t encourage the mingling of diverse people, but tend to be self-selecting for those who see themselves as both morally and intellectually superior to the vast majority of the population. They may offer guidance on how to prolong life, but little in the way of moral instruction. A world without traditional religion might still have people with spiritual awareness, but it would be short on the blessings of institutions that have promoted community, sacrifice, and faith for millennia.
- Kunnen maar terug naar het goede oude kapitalisme:
Capitalism did not produce the dystopia that Marx predicted, but instead uplifted a large portion of the masses and created a solid middle class (a designation first used in Britain in 1812).18 A study covering the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States shows that all three saw a rapid decline in the concentration of wealth from the 1820s up to the 1970s.19 Never before had so much prosperity and relative economic security been so widely enjoyed.20 And with more prosperity came a stronger political voice.
Today a symbiosis between the economic oligarchy and the clerisy poses the biggest threat to the future of the middle class, as it serves to promote values and advance policies harmful to their well-being.
Many business leaders—and the vast majority of students at the Harvard Business School—favor what the philosopher John Gray calls “hyper-liberalism,” defined as a “mixture of bourgeois careerism with virtuesignaling self-righteousness.”7 A large proportion of top CEOs see it as their responsibility to influence public attitudes and policy, rather than simply meet the needs of shareholders or serve customers. A kind of “corporate vigilantism” has appeal for some business leaders.8 The notion of social responsibility plays into advertising and CEO pronouncements in firms such as Audi, Gillette, Procter & Gamble, Nike, Apple, and Pepsi.9 To be sure, this might please some consumers, while alienating many others.
- De nieuwe "managers" zien dat echter niet zitten. Ze vinden het wel goed zo:
People in occupations like construction, the energy sector, or agriculture tend to favor less intrusive economic and social policies. On the other hand, well-educated managers of major companies and their technical staff are naturally attracted to the idea of a society ruled by professional experts with “enlightened” values—that is, by people much like themselves.10 This trend among corporate leaders brings the oligarchy closer to the elements of the clerisy—lawyers, academics, the media—that have long looked down on the middle orders. “Rid society of the dictatorship of the middle class,” the literary historian Vernon Parrington suggested in the late 1920s, “and the artist and the scientist will erect in America a civilization that may become what civilization was in earlier days, a thing to be respected.”
- De middenklasse moet weg want klimaat is belangrijker:
Some environmental zealots, such as the Guardian’s environmental reporter George Monbiot, openly hope for a recession as a way to reduce carbon emissions, even if it causes people to lose their jobs and homes. For this reason, James Heartfield, a Marxist historian, says that “green capitalism” represents a new ruse for the upper classes to oppress those below them. The “Brahmin left” essentially employ a concern for global ecology to force the middle and working classes to absorb the costs of centrally imposed scarcity, under the pretext of “human survival.”
- Brave New World:
An even greater social challenge may emerge in China, where some authorities are concerned about the effects of deteriorating family relations, particularly in care for aging parents. The government has started a campaign to promote the ideal of “filial piety,” a surprising revival of Confucian ideals by a state that previously attempted to eradicate them.27 The problem of family breakdown is especially severe in the countryside. The flow of migrants into the cities in search of work has resulted in an estimated 60 million “left behind children” and nearly as many “left behind elderly.” The migrants themselves suffer from serious health problems, including venereal disease at rates far higher than the national norm, but the children left behind in rural villages face especially difficult challenges. Scott Rozelle, a professor at Stanford University, found that most of these children are sick or malnourished, and as many as two in three suffer from anemia,
worms, or myopia. Rozelle predicts that more than half the left-behind toddlers are so cognitively delayed that their IQs will never exceed 90.28 This portends a future as something like the Gammas and Epsilons of Brave New World.
- Links bestaat niet meer, maar een backlash dreigt (de verarmde middenklasse en de arbeidersklasse drijven naar nationalistische en populistische partijen en dat mag natuurlijk niet):
Across Europe, traditional parties of the left now find their backing primarily among the wealthy, the highly educated, and government employees.32 Germany’s Social Democrats, France’s Socialists, and the British and Australian Labor parties have been largely “gentrified,” as has America’s Democratic Party, despite the resurgence of “democratic socialism” as part of its ideology. They have shifted their emphasis away from their historic working-class base, toward people with college and graduate degrees.
As the major left-leaning parties in high-income countries have become gentrified, the political orientation of working-class voters is realigning. Populist and nationalist parties in Sweden, Hungary, Spain, Poland, and Slovakia have done particularly well among younger votes. In fact, many of the right-wing nationalist parties are led by millennials.40 American millennials too are surprisingly attracted to right-wing populism. In November 2016, more white American millennials voted for Donald Trump than for Hillary Clinton. Their muchballyhooed shift toward the Democratic Party has reversed, and now less than a majority identify as Democrats.
- De rol van migranten:
Many people in Europe have welcomed migrants from poorer countries, including former colonies. Political and cultural elites in particular have elevated cosmopolitanism and “diversity” above national identity and tradition. Tony Blair’s “Cool Britannia” was an effort to highlight cultural diversity as a central part of modern Britain’s identity.18 Herman Lebovics, in Bringing the Empire Back Home: France in the Global Age (2004), pondered how to redefine what it means to be French in a multicultural age. When Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, flung the doors wide open to a huge wave of refugees and migrants from the war-ravaged Middle East in 2015, many ordinary Germans were eager to show Gastfreundschaft, or hospitality, as were many people elsewhere in Europe. By the end of that year, nearly a million refugees had entered Germany alone, and the public welcome turned cold. Chancellor Merkel’s decision came to be widely unpopular with Germans and the vast majority of Europeans.19 A year after the rapid influx of refugees began, Pew Research found that 59 percent of Europeans thought immigrants were imposing a burden on their country, while only a third said that immigrants made their country a better place to live. Among Greeks, 63 percent said that immigrants made things worse, as did 53 percent of Italians.20 In 2018, Pew found 70 percent of Italians, almost 60 percent of Germans, half of Swedes, and 40 percent of French and British citizens wanting either fewer or no new immigrants; barely 10 percent wanted more.
- Voor de meerderheid is de toekomst grimmig, wat tot nare gevolgen kan leiden:
Democratic capitalist societies need to offer the prospect of a brighter future for the majority. Without this belief, more demands for a populist strongman or a radical redistribution of wealth seem inevitable. A form of “oligarchic socialism,” with subsidies or stipends for working people, might stave off destitution while allowing the wealthiest to maintain their dominance.55 But the issue boils down to whether people—not just those with elite credentials and skills—actually matter in a technological age. Wendell Berry, the Kentucky-based poet and novelist, observed that the “great question” hovering over society is “what are people for?” By putting an “absolute premium on labor-saving measures,” we may be creating more dependence on the state while undermining the dignity of those who want to do useful work.
- Gedwongen urbanisatie staat ook op de agenda (om mensen beter in het oog te kunnen houden?):
Even in nominally socialist China, old urban neighborhoods are being physically destroyed and residents uprooted to build “global cities.” Maggie Shen King’s novel An Excess Male, set a few years in the future, has a longtime Beijing resident remembering the brutal razing of the old blocks of hutong, or courtyard houses, once common in the capital, and the displacement of residents.
Decades ago, the National Urban Coalition noted that urban revitalization programs generally produced some overall economic benefit for cities, but at the cost of “the deprivation, frustration and anger of those who are becoming the new urban serfs.”56 Today, big cities continue to draw the wealthy and the well-educated, with impoverished residents pushed to the margins, and little in between.57 The result is “rising inequality, deepening economic segregation, and increasingly unaffordable housing,” which Richard Florida describes as a “new urban crisis.”58 Some of those living in the cities outside the “glamour zone” feel trapped—victims of an urban system that doesn’t provide opportunity for them. A backlash against gentrification has appeared in many cities, such as Ontario, Berlin, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and New Orleans.59 Tactics for repelling gentrifiers have included vandalism and even arson.60 Jawanza Malone, executive director of Chicago’s Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization, says that city leaders purposely neglect some neighborhoods while giving priority to the high-end economy and real estate speculation. “This isn’t natural; this was created,” said Malone. The lack of investment in certain areas by the city government or the private sector reflects their “perceived lack of importance to the city. It’s a signal that residents here aren’t as important.”61
Constant monitoring will no doubt produce some efficiency in things such as trash collection, but at an enormous cost to privacy. The data gathered from monitoring people’s daily lives will also be fed into the advertising and marketing machine that generates the oligarchs’ fortunes. Meanwhile, the big tech firms will gain insights about urban life—including energy use, transit efficiency, climate mitigation strategies, and social service delivery—and sell the information to cities around the world.19 “The whole point of a smart city is that everything that can be collected will be collected,” says Al Gidari, the director of privacy at Stanford University’s Center for Internet and Society.20 Global Cities of the Damned Canadians, Americans, and most Europeans still have the option of objecting to heavy surveillance and control, but citizens of many other countries—Russia, China, and African nations—may have less ability to say no.21 Data collection is totally unfettered in China’s “techno-utilitarian” system, with no privacy protections for the individual.22 In its drive to dominate the next generation of artificial intelligence, the Chinese Communist Party works closely with tech
oligarchs, both foreign and domestic, giving little consideration to public concerns. For example, if tech companies identify a district they want to turn into an “innovative ecosystem” like Silicon Valley, they wouldn’t need to wait for organic urban development to take place, writes Kai-Fu Lee, former president of Google China. Instead, they can work with the government to speed things up by clearing out the inhabitants and “brute-forcing the geographic proximity” of the desired elements. The politically connected tech developer need not worry overmuch about the kind of opposition to development that often arises in Western cities.
- En een systeem van sociale kredieten controleert de bevolking nog meer:
The Chinese Communist Party is clearly aware that artificial intelligence brings huge potential for controlling a city and its residents. China’s large population of well-educated people and its enormous underclass both could pose challenges to the regime. The government uses technology in a complex “social credit” system to track citizens’ activities and maintain control over all segments of the population. There’s even an app that rewards people for reporting signs of dissent to authorities, such as illegal publications.24 Christina Larson, an MIT researcher, likens China’s surveillance system to the “electronic democracy” that Isaac Asimov described. As she puts it, “Who needs democracy when you have data?”
- En nog meer AI voor de creatie van de perfecte politiestaat:
The Chinese regime has been implementing facial recognition systems around the country to track the movement of citizens, beginning in the Xinjiang region of western China, where Muslim Uighur dissidents are seen as a serious threat to the regime. This is a place where simply wearing a beard, or giving your child a Muslim name, can catch the attention of police. The facial recognition system alerts authorities when someone on a watchlist strays more than 300 meters from home or workplace, and that person could be arrested. Once an individual is caught up in the criminal law system, the chances of acquittal are estimated at less than one in a hundred. The regime is also aiming to collect DNA from every resident of Xinjiang, and implementing a satellite tracking system for every vehicle in the region. “They are combining all of these things to create, essentially, a total police state,” said William Nee, a China campaigner at Amnesty International.This kind of digital surveillance is likely spread to major urban areas in developing countries, many of which regard China as the ultimate role model. Given that many of these cities do not generate enough prosperity to improve the lives of their residents, it’s not at all surprising that governments might find appeal in a technological approach to social control.30 Can We Resist the “Surveillance Society”?
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The effects of digital saturation appear to be profound. Young people today have been found to be less assertive and more risk-averse than earlier generations. Many lack basic soft skills, such as knowing how to interact with other people. In Australia, researchers have found that excessive time glued to screens has resulted in a younger generation “incapable of small talk, critical thinking and problem-solving.” A survey of American millennials found that 65 percent did not feel comfortable engaging with another person in a face-to-face conversation, and 80 percent preferred conversing digitally.
We may be witnessing a deterioration of the real-world human interaction that has always been fundamental to our species. For example, today’s tech-savvy children clearly have problems relating to the opposite sex, a phenomenon traced in part to their immersion in social media and easy access to internet porn. In America, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Japan, and the United Kingdom, younger people have been disproportionately contributing to what researchers have characterized as a “sex recession.”20 Artificial beings even appear poised to replace actual people in the most intimate of human activities. One entrepreneur invested in a sex robot shop to fill a perceived need for “a safe space for men to practice healthy sexual interactions without the complexity of a normal human relationship.”
As the French novelist Michel Houellebecq notes acidly, the price of improved technology appears to be a weakening of our capacity for real human interaction.