PHILOSOPHY AGAINST THE MACHINE, #1–Series Introduction, & Four Ways To (Begin To) Re-Humanize Humanity.
By Robert Hanna
On 22 November 2016, immediately following the equally disastrous and scandalous election of Donald Trump as POTUS, I created an alternative political party, The WTFU Party, aka The WAKE THE FUCK UP! Party.
At its zenith, The WTFU Party had 12 members and 23 fellow travelers/sympathizers, including 8 sympathetic non-human animals (7 cats and dogs, and 1 baby squirrel), but it disbanded after a year.
A longer-term product of The WTFU Party, however, was a series of short essays written by me for the benefit of Party members (and others) under the pseudonym “Mr Nemo,” then self-published as a book, DARE TO THINK FOR YOURSELF!.
From May 2018 to January 2019, I wrote a another series of short essays conceived as parts of a philosophical diary, this time under my own name, and then also self-published those as a book,THINKING FOR A LIVING: A PHILOSOPHER’S NOTEBOOK.
Yet another recent philosophical writing-&-self-publishing project, which ran from September 2017 to May 2019, was a series of micro-essays, under another one of my pseudonyms, “Hugh Reginald,” about contemporary events, issues, and problems, PHILOSOPHY RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES!
The last micro-essay in that series was about an equally disturbing and fascinating post I’d seen in Aeon —
“[The Human] As Industrial Palace”
Throughout history, the extraordinary complexities of the human body have frequently been expressed and interpreted through metaphor. In the early 20th century, the German physician and writer Fritz Kahn caught the attention of scientists and laypeople alike with his expressive illustrations pairing human physiology with the most advanced technology of the era: industrial systems. In his most famous illustration, Der Mensch als Industriepalast, or [The Human] as Industrial Palace (1926), Kahn visualised the interior of the human body as a bustling chemical plant. Originally an interactive installation, this short video from the German animator Henning M Lederer breathes new life into Kahn’s illustration, augmenting the original image with mechanical movements and sounds. Lederer’s update offers a visually and conceptually rich melding of technology, biology and design, echoing a time when machinery permeated the collective consciousness in a manner quite similar to computing technology today.
Video by Henning M Lederer: https://aeon.co/videos/the-body-as-machine-first-imagined-in-1927-now-brought-to-new-animated-life
This line of critical thinking, together with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and other apocalyptic events in the first few months of 2020, led me into a new project, a collaborative book co-authored with Michael Cifone, SCIENCE AND THE NEW APOCALYPSE: A Neo-Organicist Novum Organum.
A recent long essay by me, “WE ARE NOT MACHINES! Neo-Organicist Politics For The New Apocalypse,” is an excerpt from the working draft of that book.
The present series, PHILOSOPHY AGAINST THE MACHINE, is a convergence and synthesis of the lines-of-critical-thinking that drove The WTFU Party, DARE TO THINK FOR YOURSELF!, THINKING FOR A LIVING, and PHILOSOPHY RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES!, and are now driving SCIENCE AND THE NEW APOCALYPSE.
The name of this new series is also, of course, a spin on the name of the rock band, Rage Against The Machine, with special reference to their anthem of rebellion, “Killing In The Name”–
In this context, “The Machine” is essentially equivalent to what I call The Four Horsemen of The New Apocalypse:
(i) global technocratic corporate capitalism, aka “advanced” or “big” capitalism,
(ii) political neoliberalism, especially neofascist neoliberalism,
(iii) the digitalization of world culture via information technology and social media, and
(iv) an all-encompassing scientistic, technocratic, materialist or physicalist, ecologically-devastating, philosophical conception of non-human nature and human nature alike: formal and natural mechanism.
In my opinion, The Four Horsemen of The New Apocalypse–of which the COVID-19 pandemic, as devastating and dire as it is, is only a harbinger–are literally killing us in all the relevant senses of that phrase, and therefore the Horsemen need to be relentlessly criticized, stopped dead in their tracks, and collectively replaced by a worldwide system of constructive, enabling, dignitarian social institutions,[i] newly designed, created, and sustained by us, before it’s too damned late.
This worldwide rebellion against The Machine in turn, is what I call re-humanizing humanity.
So that’s what PHILOSOPHY AGAINST THE MACHINE is all about.
Four Ways To (Begin To) Re-Humanize Humanity
1. Universal open physical/political borders.
People should be able to travel to and live anywhere they want on the face of the Earth, provided they sufficiently respect the dignity of the other people living there.
Moral and sociopolitical benefits: if adopted, such a system would effectively end problems of domestic and international refugees, and also dispense with the highly restrictive requirement that people be granted asylum/protection in other places only if they can demonstrate political persecution.
2. Universal free lifelong health care and universal free education up to age 21.
Beyond that, higher education would also be universally available and free, but entirely dependent on individual choice & interest, whereas the up-to-21 phase would be guaranteed for everyone.
Moral and sociopolitical benefits: if adopted, such a system would not only guarantee that everyone’s physical and mental health, and their intellectual, emotional, and practical development, are nurtured, but also class/race/ethnic/religious, etc., discrimination between different people’s access to these common goods would be effectively ended.
3. Truly generous universal basic income, aka TGUBI, and universal basic jobs, aka UBJs.
The TGUBI would be roughly $25,000 USD equivalent (say, in Euros or whatever) per year–plus cost of living adjustments (COLA) over time, and in differing economic contexts–no strings attached, for everyone 21 or over, but systematically reduced if you choose to earn more than $50,000 USD equivalent + COLA per year.
Indeed, I note with strong interest that Justin Trudeau’s governing Liberal Party in Canada is currently seriously debating the adoption of a version of TGUBI:
A guaranteed basic income for all Canadians has emerged as the top policy choice of Liberal MPs, just as the Trudeau government is crafting its plan to help people weather the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and rebuild the ravaged economy. The Liberal caucus is calling on the government to adopt the idea in a priority policy resolution for consideration at the party’s upcoming national convention. And MPs consider it so important that they’ve designated it their top resolution, guaranteeing that it will go directly to the Nov. 12–15 convention for debate and a vote.[i]
Over and above, the TGUBI, UBJs would yield another $25,000 USD equivalent + COLA per year, also starting at age 21, to do jobs for 14 hours a week (Keynes predicted 15 hours per week, but I think he was in thrall to the ideology of five-day workweeks + two-day weekends) spread out over a 7-day week, hence on average two hours per day, that specifically help people and satisfy true human needs and also are highly eco-sensitive, e.g., teachers, people who assist in healthcare, people who tend gardens or parks, people who clean up things, people who build houses, people who grow food, etc, etc.
Moral and sociopolitical benefits: if adopted, such a system would not only effectively end poverty, but also make it possible for people to quit their current jobs (quite possibly bullshit jobs–i.e., meaningless and unproductive jobs, even if well-paid–but also quite possibly boring, dangerous, exploitative, or otherwise oppressive jobs, i.e., shit jobs per se) and do what they really wanted to do with their lives, and with only a minimal amount of work if they opted for a UBJ, but also guaranteed to be meaningful work; moreover, this scheme also would not prevent anyone from working more hours for more hours inside the UBJ system, or for higher wages outside it, if they wanted to.
Re taxation: Those who opted for their TGUBI + UBJ = $50,000 USD equivalent + COLA wouldn’t pay taxes on their income.
Indeed, generally, income taxation wouldn’t begin until people have earned at least $50,000 USD equivalent + COLA.
Taxation rates for earnings above the $50,000 USD equivalent + COLA tax-free barrier would be graduated, very low just past the barrier, rising moderately past that, and rising increasingly steeply for those who wanted to earn much more than the $50,000 USD equivalent + COLA barrier.
Millionaires, billionaires, & (soon) trillionaires would be income-taxed at an extremely high rate, at least 90%.
Let’s call this taxation protocol (i.e., a highly generous low-end tax-free barrier, plus graduated tax-rates very low just past the barrier, rising moderately past that, rising steeply at the higher end, up to at least 90% at the top end), a highly progressive tax.
Correspondingly, there would also be highly progressive taxes on (i) wealth in all its forms (not just property), and (ii) inheritances.
Other natural sources for funding the TGUBI + UBJs system would be radically deep cuts in spending on police forces, prison systems, and the military, followed by their step-by-step devolution and gradual replacement by new constructive, enabling dignitarian social institutions.
4. Universal open digital borders.
By this, I mean universal free access for everyone everywhere to all content and formal information (say, algorithms) that is/are of actual or potential dignitarian/humanitarian significance, especially including cultural content/information legal-political content/information TOGETHER WITH the universal and free ability of folks everywhere to criticize that content and information for dignitarian/humanitarian reasons, i.e., complete dignitarian/humanitarian digital transparency.
Moral and sociopolitical benefits: if adopted, this system would cover all intellectual, artistic, and scientific products of all kinds, which would be the common property of humanity, and also, on the dignitarian/humanitarian digital transparency side, this would significantly constrain/reduce the ability of governments, administrators, police forces, military, etc., etc., to coerce, control, or otherwise oppress people, since they wouldn’t be able to hide their digitally-recorded or digitally-driven or digitally-mediated activities/operations from public scrutiny.
One obvious general moral and sociopolitical benefit of adopting such a four-part scheme as a normative guide–what Kant would have called a “regulative Idea of pure practical reason”–is that wherever actual conditions fall significantly short of what’s required by these principles, then radical or at least significant improvement of the actual conditions could be justifiably demanded.
Moreover, the four-part scheme could also be used in designing, creating, and sustaining many new constructive, enabling dignitarian social institutions, since such institutions would naturally be the vehicles of, or support systems for, implementing these principles, or else actual direct realizations of the principles.
And here are the most obvious examples of those: people who live together, either intimately or in other wider communities, can pool their TGUBIs/UBJs, and create families, partnerships, clubs, groups, or other voluntary associations, of all kinds, all in a constructive, enabling, dignitarian framework, in order collectively to pursue the satisfaction of their true human needs.
[i] See M. Maiese and R. Hanna, The Mind-Body Politic (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), also available online in preview HERE.
[i] J. Bryan, “Guaranteed Basic Income Tops Policy Priorities for Liberal Caucus at Upcoming Convention,” CBC News (12 September 2020), available online HERE.
AGAINST PROFESSIONAL PHILOSOPHY REDUX 480
Mr Nemo, W, X, Y, & Z, Thursday 17 September 2020
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