Books have increasingly become central parts of how my worldview and political beliefs are shaped ... but this one pushed me over the edge. It's one thing to know in an abstract sense, that new, critical, well thought-out information can change you, but actually feeling and noticing that change in almost every way you interact with the world is a different thing.
The book is essentially about its title, "Inventing the future" through full automation, universal basic income as a post-capitalist, post-work world.
Their arguments (and some other interesting stuff) in point form:
- Inventing is pretty much the keyword ... not (re)creating a nostalgic, revised, imagined past, or "fixing" current (exploitative) economic systems ... The goal is invention; which (in part) means having long-term, universally-oriented plans and approaches to creating the future as opposed to relying on/fetishizing short-term, localized, predominantly emotionally-driven responses (Occupy is one of the case studies). (Here's a good article on why protests don't really work by one of the founders of Occupy)
- Full automation and universal basic income are sort of married concepts in the book. Firstly, there's an explanation of how automation is changing the labor market in drastically different ways compared to previous years (because of advanced robotics, machines' capabilities to learn and massive data collection, large-scale, unprecedented automation is far likelier) ... and instead of (almost singularly) funnelling this displaced population into education/employment schemes/programs, why not implement universal basic income, that will allow people to live under full automation? Secondly, universal basic income has to be a liveable amount of money without means-testing, for everyone (students, immigrants etc) unconditionally and a supplement to welfare.
- Post-work (and reducing the work week) is also a central part of the full automation + UBI formula; under capitalism, labor isn't fairly compensated by wages (putting it lightly). Precarity/scarcity have become pillars of the job market. For the unemployed/underemployed, capitalism and the absence of work create social conditions for punishment and control (e.g. mass incarceration, restrictive immigration policies etc).
- A post-work world "liberates humanity from the drudgery of work, dependence on wage labor and the submission of our lives to our bosses". It also overturns the asymmetry between labor and capital, work and bosses ... essentially, a person can work at a place they actually want to work at and if the pay isn't enough, they can quit and because UBI will ideally (monumentally) reduce the surplus population, employers have less "I'll just hire someone else for less pay" leverage. (What stands out for me is choice ... actual, real, independent choices of whether and how to work at a place (or not), without coercion or fear of financial insecurity/homelessness/poverty).
- Post-work also dislodges this ideological (low key religious) orthodoxy that suffering is an inherent part of reward (which reminded me of the cultural memes of "All work, no play/While you're sleeping, I'm working/You have the same 24 hours in a day Beyonce does etc") ... which essentially centre on "working" (at all costs) and basing our identities and worth on that work ... "What do you do?", the subtext of that is, "If you don't have a job, you're not earning money so you don't really have value" (right?).
- Post-work also means freedom ... to spend time with family, to start businesses, to go back to school, to engage with/participate in politics, to create, to plan, to dream, to breathe, to try, to fail, to live.
- Some ideas of the "hows": designing capitalism to fund UBI (e.g. less military spending, higher corporate taxes, carbon tax etc) (random slightly unrelated funny thing I heard in a podcast: When it comes to free education, everyone asks, "Where are we going to get the money to pay for it?" but no one asks how we can afford to bomb Afghanistan for the 15th year in a row), mass populist movements, ecosystem of organisations (mobilization of media organizations, think tanks, civil societies, political parties), analyzing/working on points of leverage... essentially creating and building a new "common sense" of what the world can look and be like.
- Really interesting likkle ting ... did you know that most of the innovative technological creations (the internet, GPS, Siri, touchscreen etc) were government funded? ... which makes sense because under a profit-driven, capitalist model, investing millions of dollars into experimental technological ideas with high likelihoods of losses wouldn't be rational, so governments fund them, which, in turn, (among other things) for me debunks the myth that capitalism necessarily breeds innovation, that government support is about "laziness" and that wealth is privately created (taxpayer money funds Apple creations, Apple sells it to public, Apple makes money, doesn't pay taxes and hides/hoards nearly trillions in off-shore accounts, economy suffers etc etc etc) (Interesting articles: "Here's how all the technology in the Iphone was created by socialism, not capitalism" and "Taxpayers helped Apple, but Apple won't help them".
My favorite quote:
We must expand our collective imagination beyond what capitalism allows