Note — Jan 24, 2021

Capitalism Is over, if You Want It.

Aaron Benanav for Logic explores how a socialist society might use digital technologies to assist in its operation. “We do not want software to substitute for the price mechanism,” which it would likely do if simply implemented for optimisation, something corporations and markets like to do. Quoting from the work of Victor Glushkov, Stafford Beer (Cybersyn), Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, and Otto Neurath, the author outlines a two tiered system where algorithms provide different models of optimisation, and a series of protocols allow associations of citizens to orient their collective choices along more varied axis and towards rich and varied lives.

Efficiency, whether calculated in terms of energy use, resource consumption, or labor time, would remain a concern, but it would no longer be the sole concern. It would simply be one of many. Other considerations—dignity, justice, community, sustainability—would also enter the picture. […]

Algorithms would have an important role to play. They would codify what philosopher John O’Neill describes as “rules of thumb, standard procedures, default procedures, and institutional arrangements that can be followed unreflectively and which reduce the scope for explicit judgements,” streamlining the planning process so it doesn’t become an endless series of meetings. […]

[W]e have to accept that deliberating endlessly is undesirable and doomed to failure. To function at all, a society that replaces the single-minded focus on cost control with multi-criteria decision-making must use algorithms to help clarify the choices to be made and protocols to help structure the way it makes these choices.