Fourth Industrial Revolution Blocks the New

While technology has been encroaching on more spheres of life over the past 25 years, the ruling elite and their representatives are now zealously promoting a new and dramatic digital-technological upheaval—the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution—that will supposedly transform everything under the sun, open amazing vistas, increase government and business transparency and accountability, and put humanity on a bright new footing. Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum is the main spokesperson of this capital-centered agenda.

The super-rich tell us that the “velocity, scope, and systems impact” of this “historically unprecedented” and “disruptive” digital-technological revolution full of “endless innovations” sets it apart from other revolutions and that everyone should be euphoric about the future.

Among other things, The Fourth Industrial Revolution will purportedly fuse digital, physical, and biological systems into one, effectively blurring the lines between the three spheres and transforming humans into cyborg-like entities (“augmented humans”) capable of incredible things. The unthinkable will become thinkable and will no longer be the stuff of far-fetched sci-fi movies. This includes planting micro-chips in people’s bodies to optimize the benefits of the digital-technological revolution.

“Production, management, and governance” will also be greatly and positively impacted by this allegedly inevitable and desirable revolution that cannot happen fast enough. According to Schwab, this means more “agile” and “less linear” types of arrangements are needed to contend with emerging realities.

Redefining humans, relations, and life in this way will, according to the global imperialist oligarchs, dramatically accelerate the rate and quality of progress for the human species and eliminate all kinds of problems and disasters that the ruling elite themselves have fostered and benefitted from for hundreds of years. Indeed, the new digital-technological revolution will open the door to a more “responsible capitalism” that “consumers” and “quantified selves” should be very excited about, even if, as Schwab himself openly admits, this means more surveillance and less privacy.

There is growing pressure to believe that ignoring the profound crises perpetuated by capitalist social relations and focusing instead on genome editing, artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, virtual assistants, drones, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing will solve long-standing problems inherent to societies based on class oppression and exploitation. In this way, the focus is removed from capitalist social relations as the root cause of most problems while technology is fanatically presented as the key to “improving the quality of life for populations around the world.” Everything can supposedly improve without touching capitalist social relations that guarantee endless crises.

The net effect of such a cynical orientation and approach to life which reveals the ruling elite’s fear of defeat is to undermine the initiative of the working class to usher in a pro-social alternative to capitalism. Everyone is to succumb to digital-technological fetishism. Such an orientation and approach deliberately ignores the growing political marginalization of the entire polity and the non-stop concentration of wealth and power in fewer hands. We are to casually forget that technology and previous “innovations” have never eliminated class exploitation and oppression. We are to conveniently overlook the fact that this technology and technological fetishism comes from profit-maximizing capitalist firms themselves. Somehow, and suddenly, technology is neutral and has no class character to it. If we are to believe the super-rich, technology and society will swiftly become human-centered without altering class relations in any way. The profit motive apparently disappears in this technological utopia and all “stakeholders” win. Schwab even contends that corporations will no longer be socially irresponsible but will become inclusive and focused on equity, dignity, and the environment. He does admit, however, that new wars and harmful actors will grow.

But how will digital-technological fetishism reduce, let alone eliminate, inequality, unemployment, under-employment, poverty, hunger, homelessness, debt, generalized despair, and environmental degradation? These have all been steadily growing despite the spread of various technologies over the past 25 years. How will more screen time and isolation reduce alienation and health problems and give rise to deep, healthy, authentic connections between humans? How will genome editing empower the human spirit? Can artificial intelligence and algorithms really capture the complexity, depth, evolution, integrity, and intergenerational memory of the human organism, the human species, and the ensemble of human relations? Are humans math problems? Can a modern human personality arise so long as obsolete capitalist social relations remain intact? How will a digital-technological revolution end the parasitic private expropriation of social wealth? Will replacing social consciousness with digital consciousness end insecurity and chaos? Will doing everything remotely and through apps empower people and open the path of progress to society? How will uberizing everything increase prosperity for all?

It appears that the megalomania of the ruling elite, who are getting richer and more out of touch by the day, has swallowed them up again. They are delusional and irrational to the extreme. They really believe, or at least want everyone else to believe, that technology can rapidly bring about “accountable capitalism” and overcome social, economic, environmental, and health problems that have been worsening under capitalism for decades.

Proponents of the Fourth Industrial Revolution have also grown fond of repeating the nonsense that growing inequality is the “main issue of our times” instead of recognizing that the political marginalization and exclusion of the people is what gives rise to inequality. Would inequality exist if working people had real decision-making power? Savage inequality is the direct result of people having no real say in the affairs of society, which in turn is the direct consequence of the domination of society by a tiny ruling elite. Addressing inequality without empowering people is a non-starter. It is the broad disempowerment of the people where they have no role and no say in anything that has given rise to inequality and other tragic problems. The tendency for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer cannot be reversed unless sovereignty is vested in the people themselves. Nonetheless, the super-rich cynically offer the twisted logic that they now offer solutions to the problems produced by their outdated system.

People everywhere should reject the horribly entangled machinations and prejudices of the historically-exhausted super-rich who are preoccupied with defeat. They are preparing greater tragedies for everyone and are unfit to rule and govern. They and their anachronistic system are the main block to progress. The super-rich are not going to introduce any arrangements that deprive them of their class power and privilege. The fact is that numerous problems have worsened despite previous industrial revolutions. Why will the Fourth Industrial Revolution be any different now?

At this critical historical juncture, working people have no choice but to develop their own independent pro-social aim, politics, analysis, outlook, and actions. This is the only way to end the humiliation and degradation suffered by people everywhere. Everyone should reject the assumptions, aims, politics, outlook, and agenda of the super-rich. Ignore the super-rich and their political and media representatives and focus instead on the wisdom, dignity, and strength of working people, the actual producers of wealth in society.

Doing things the old way (e.g., always begging politicians to do the right thing, voting for one of the parties of the rich, rejecting investigation, relying on the monopoly-controlled media for information and analysis, etc.) is not working. Operating within the discredited framework of defunct liberal institutions cannot bring about a society that places control of society’s wealth in the hands of working people and guarantees the rights of all. Liberal democracy no longer works. The polity is being destroyed under the weight of the Old. Doing things the old way is exhausting and amounts to spinning wheels. It is a massive misuse of vital energy—energy that could be invested in more effective and vibrant actions and analyses that advance the general interests of society.

Despite many dangers, it is nonetheless an exciting time to come together to develop new ways and means—new cultural, political, and social forms—to settle matters with the old conscience and push forth with a new conscience, outlook, and agenda free of the influence of narrow private interests. More and more individuals, groups, and organizations are slowly but surely working to craft a new independent vision and direction with a new energy that strives to harmonize the interests of individuals with the interests of the collectives they belong to, and the general interests of society. It can be done.

Shawgi Tell is author of the book Charter School Report Card. He can be reached at Read other articles by Shawgi.