Manifestophilis (Interviews With the Devil): The Future, Movements, Post-Scarcity

Patrick Higgins: In an attempt to move beyond this kind of poisoned postmodernism do you see any hope in other movements such as Neo-Futurism or New Sincerity? 

The Devil: Hope isn’t something I’m particularly comfortable with in general. That’s the real problem, because I do want to escape this postmodern swamp, but I’m not necessarily advocating for unconstrained hope or joy or love. I’m also suspicious of anything that labels itself as an instrument of progress. Now I don’t think that these movements are necessarily advocating this.

PH: They’re more limited in their interests.

TD: Yes, as a movement they’re more interested in promoting interest in certain subjects and feelings that have been shoved to the wayside, but like any movement this is only so good as the people involved. 

PH: So the followers of these collectives are going too far.

TD: It’s the common problem of any sort of movement like this, movements that don’t really have any specific center. They’re more felt-out than defined. So something that emerges to promote careful use of irony; to embrace unconstrained, legitimate emotion at the expense of cynicism – note that this means good and bad emotions – it becomes a den for a sort of pop-culture adrenaline junky. People who just constantly shut themselves off to certain parts of reality in favor of constant, hyped positivity and good feelings. 

PH: This mainly applies to the New Sincerity movement.

TD: Yes. The Neo-Futurists are certainly more stable, but I think they are also perhaps at risk of losing their control. Even if you’re trying to progress things in ways that are eco-friendly, efficient, and useful – who determines that? And what does it say that their movement is titled after a group that encouraged warfare and destruction in the pursuit of an abstract progress? No matter how much you want to escape that urge there’s something there. It’s the same problem with Left Accelerationism.

PH: By Left Accelerationism you are referring to the belief in anti-Capitalist revolution through overfeeding Capitalist foundations through automation and the like? 

TD: Yes, though again there’s so many different people forging so many definitions its hard to keep track of what Accelerationism means to one person compared to another. But the problem is, even if you keep feeding information and power into the system with the intent of breaking it down, what’s to stop other people from using that information separately for their own benefit? If you just throw out resources in an attempt to overfeed the system then anyone, including people who want to stop you, can take what you’re creating and remold it, redefine it, deconstruct it, keep building new machines in the system to handle this info-dump. 

PH: Be that as it may, it does seem like the current state of automation is creating the need for an alternative system of welfare and protection for individuals. As jobs disappear to machines we’re going to need some way to either put people back to work or admit that we need a system where the majority of people aren’t going to be able to engage in these kinds of jobs. 

TD: True, we may be heading that way, but I’m always cautious of Utopian rhetoric. Certainly artists would be ecstatic to live in a world where everything is automated to the point that anyone has the resources and time to pursue personal creative development, but then consider where that goes. Art is reaching increasing levels of automation too. And if you enter into a society that has no conflict, either external or internal, you’re going to lose a huge motivating factor for artistic development. Or any kind of development. 

PH: Would a post-scarcity, or post-capitalist society lack internal or external conflict do you think?

TD: I don’t think it would, but that’s my issue. Either you must admit that such a society will still engage in conflict, and it’s very likely that these conflicts will still be as devastating as they are today, or else you must set yourself up for a society of stagnation. 

PH: What do you think the major conflicts of such a society would be?

TD: First off, we need to realize that not every place in the world could just develop into this kind of culture and infrastructure a the same time. Let’s say that America became a post-Capitalist country. If that works out we could probably expect some other places with strong ties to us to follow suit eventually, like the UK, France, Germany, Canada. Allies really. But what about impoverished countries that cannot possibly automate this way? Are they just going to get pushed to the side, even more than they already are anyhow, or are we going to take it upon ourselves to impose our decisions onto these countries? Next up is the issue of specialization and energy. Even if basic needs are automated, you have the need for maintenance and the need for energy. So who’s maintaining this stuff? Either its privatized specialists or specialists employed by the collective or the government or what-have-you, and all it means is that a small group has enormous power over everyone else. Same case with energy. Where is it coming from? Even if its wind turbines or solar panels someone needs to install, build, design, those things. Finally, environmentalism and population issues. If the population keeps increasing, then even if we have automation, we’re fucked. Even if we have a clean cycle of automation where machines can somehow design, build, repair, and improve themselves, and let’s assume that they’re doing this without any semblance of self-aware intelligence, then all we’re doing is producing an infinitely expanding factory. Even if every product being produced is absolutely clean it would be destructive if the population doesn’t go down because industry would necessarily expand. 

PH: Is there no hope for a happy, stable humanity?

TD: Life has never been about happiness. Stop assuming you need it, stop assuming you deserve it, and stop assuming it’s the best thing to give to other people. There’s better ways to live and move forward. 

PH: Like what?

TD: I can’t tell you that, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing my job. 

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