Edit & Opinion

Fourth Industrial Revolution and withering away of Liberalism

The advent of the fourth industrial revolution promises to overturn both conscious and subconscious aspects of human life.

Recently, Microsoft announced to invest $ 1 billion in the Elon Musk founded AI venture that plans to mimic the human brain using computers. The efforts are to build artificial general intelligence (AGI) that will eventually surpass the cognitive capabilities of humans.

These developments can hardly be looked in isolated technological prisms without noticing its implications on the economic, political, and social life of its consumers.

Many Western nations which were considered a beacon of individual rights, liberal values and democratic form of government have seen the rise of nationalism and authoritarianism in their countries.

After DonaldTrump and Brexit, liberal voices are mostly seen in alliance with the plutocratic form of government. Most of the Asian and African nations have seen advancing and retreating democracies and both Russia and China seem comfortable in their surveillance societies and don’t plan on tilting to open democracies anytime soon.

Many scholars and economists have argued that this shift is the reaction of the onslaught done to the economies of these nations by 2008 financial crisis and once the economies are put on track, liberalism will be able to turn the tide as it had did earlier.

But most of them tend to forget that the very relationship between capital and labour has undergone an unprecedented and irreversible change and the very nature of these developments are favoring the rise of right wing authoritarianism imbedded in unbridled capitalism rather than the so called ‘polite capitalism’, which we are familiar with under global liberal order.

Different ideologues have reacted differently to these turbulent shifts. Earlier, under the empire of liberalism, communism was considered the biggest and most coherent threat, so to keep the left at bay, liberals sometimes flirted with the left on the shared values keeping their economic prudence intact. People eventually came to see liberal facade of welfarism, individualism and secularism to be more viable than those of class antagonisms. So what came into practice was the community of progressives, an amalgamation of Keynes, Marx and Adam Smith.

Following their narrow ideological prisms, it was ‘left’ that lost most of its market value and the onslaught was celebrated by the liberals as was seen in Nehru’s India. Thus forcing socialism to limit itself to peace and internationalism rather than class conflict.

Even in the troubled 30’s capitalism started strengthening liberalism because of its capacity to amalgamate and the socio-political dynamics it promised to offer. But sadly after the 2008 financial crisis, when it was inherent that liberalism lacks the dynamics to run the empire of free flow of capital, internationalism and free trade, it was replaced by authoritarianism. While the liberals are still hell bent on seeing the problem through psychological lenses but the shift can be subtly defined as ‘natural’.
With the rise of AI, automations and IOT (Internet of things), the relation between capital and labour has taken a sullen shift.

While at the time of Industrial revolution, capital needed both blue and white collar jobs and was able to fed to their needs, the fourth industrial revolution, they have the capacity to remove the blue collar jobs altogether. Thus we are seeing a reverse trend, as the manufacturing industries which went to China for cheap labour are returning to US to run their workerless factories.

So, right find itself better placed with the developments with its more ruthless surveillance capitalism as compared to more nuanced liberal capitalism. What capitalism has now is a more coherent political ideology which is gaining new recruits throughout the globe with every passing day.

These trends will be proven dangerous for the societies because as the markets will move and respond according to these developments, there will be an outcry for implementing the model of Universal Basic Income, in which the social benefits are provided by the state to most of the population. Liberalism under that model will not just be affordable to the market needs because of its inclusive values but the right wing authoritarianism will prove fruitful in cutting the cost by delegitimizing the ‘other’ in the society, the trend that is already gaining its ground across the world. So with the better and cost-effective allies, who needs old ones?

This is time for some soul searching for both the left and the liberals as they see their political land washed away in front of them. Also the left should be focused on more appropriate and decentralized means and modes of production and fighting surveillance capitalism rather than rejoicing the demise of the liberal class.

 

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