Friday, December 23, 2005

Dr. Adrian Bowyer on "Darwinian Marxism"

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto that, "By proletariat is meant the class of modern wage labourers who, having no means of production of their own, are reduced to selling their labour power in order to live." This diagnosis is essentially correct; it is a commonplace that people with resources can quite easily use them to acquire more, but people without have to try exceptionally hard to get anywhere, and most of them never do. Marxism then goes on to say that the way to fix this problem is for the proletariat to seize the means of production by revolution, which is a good candidate for the all-time worst-idea in human history. Whenever it is applied the main things produced are corpses, and in the last hundred years the body count from this idea's application was even worse than that from Nazism. So the Marxist prescription, unlike its diagnosis, is plain wrong. Its prognosis also turns out to be wrong - it predicted that the revolution would happen first in the most industrially-advanced nation (Britain at the time), whereas in practice Marxist revolutions tend to happen in countries making the transformation from an agrarian economy to an industrial one.”

Continue reading this paper

This is the beginning of a fantastic paper entitled “Darwinian Marxism”. The paper was written by Dr. Adrian Bowyer, who is a professor at Bathe University and one of the developers working on the RepRap project. The paper deals with the topic of how self-replicating fabrication machines will effect economics. Dr. Bower refers to this effect as Darwinian Marxism because of the potential for self-replicating machines to evolve according to a pattern of artificial selection and thereby increasing the number of manufactured goods at an exponential rate. This concept is very similar to what I dubbed in my last post 'techno-anarchy' and I highly recommend reading the paper – its not that long. Also you may be interested to know that the RepRap machine is making serious progress toward becoming operational. You can checkout the progress here at their blog.

Also you can read an interview with Dr. Bowyer here at the Speculist.


This is a hopeful avenue of research, and I would rather have a marxist doing productive technical research, than selling crack on the street or fomenting violent revolution. It would be fantastic if everyone could supply his own basic needs.

By Blogger al fin, at 23/12/05 22:14  

"Raw materials might be a bit of a bottle-neck, of course..."

Of course.

Raw materials and other pre-conditions are the limiting factors of every potentially "exponential" process. And where exactly does plastic come from?

By Anonymous Jason Ruspini, at 27/12/05 01:11  

These replicators are just the first stage. No one expects the first gen RepRap to end poverty. The real leveling down changes will come from nano scale fabrication. Thes machines will be able to to assemble atoms which means that most everything can be built out of carbon. Carbon is an abundant element on this planet and there shouldn't be much trouble in making sure that everyone has enough to go around.

By Blogger Micah J. Glasser, at 28/12/05 13:50  

Not only is Marx’s “remedy” of violent revolution wrong, but his diagnosis of “alienation” is itself wrong. This is because none of us is either a pure “worker” or a pure “investor.” We are all, more or less, hybrids of these two cardinal social designations. To Paraphrase Marx, a “worker” is someone who uses labor and time as his agency of leverage to gain the products of society, while an “investor” is someone who adds to this agency a greater degree of control over his time. Thus, we have a sliding scale between the cardinal endpoints of “worker,” (with no self-directed time), and “investor” (with infinite self-directed time). Further, we are told that these conditions are unqualifiedly the product of “injustice.” Of course, this leaves no room for personal choice and strategy in effecting our agency.

Thus, not only is there no “Great Man” to Marx’s theory of history—there’s no one at all. If there is no one at all—we are all victims in need of a “saving truth.” (Sounds like someone wants to have us drink the cool aide again—remember Jim Jones and Guyana.) Not only this, we need to be aware that when one begins his understanding of reality by emphasizing his victim-hood, he begins by stacking the deck AGAINST HIMSELF.

I do not wish to make little of the fact that inequities and iniquities exist, nor of the human misery that surely must follow such ills. However, if we are to address these issues, we need to all loose the “class warfare” mentality. No grand scheme has ever, or ever will realize its utopia. The human race has been drinking the cool aide that these bozos have been selling for far too long. These grand schemes, religions, totalisms and the like only produce their own ills to be added to those that already exist. The bloodbaths of the 20th century should have at least taught us this much.

The best solution to our problems, as individuals and as societies, is to deal with EACH problem that we encounter on its own according to the organic and particular principles of social organization that are discovered as we go along. As we discover these principles, we should use (not abuse) Okun’s Razor in weaving our understanding of them into a greater synthesis. Further, as we synthesize our systems awareness, we need to be especially careful that we don’t create new “grand schemes.” The answer to “alienation” begins with refusing another glass of cool aide (social poison).

As to the machine, it is like any other machine in that it serves whoever controls it. Such control can always be subverted. Lasting control comes ONLY from the effective use of strategy. Happy hunting.

Posted by Bill Churchill

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