by Zoe Harding
Let’s leave the sordid world of Earth behind for a bit, and explore the potential of a concept that’s kind of easy to dismiss out of hand.
In his venerable Culture series, Iain M Banks describes a future society based around Minds, unimaginably super-intelligent AIs that control vast ships and space-going habitats, on which a massive collection of alternately hedonistic and depressed lesser-biological beings (assumed to be human, although it’s never made explicit) live pampered and comfortable lives. The Culture is semi-utopian, although, if it resembles any society, it resembles the US in its relations with other civilisations, The books frequently focus on both the skulduggery necessary to keep the civilisation running and the injustice of being born outside it. Nonetheless, it is a portrait of a society in which humans (probably) are protected, cared for and treated equally through advanced technology.
Because utopias aren’t easy or fun to write, few societies like the Culture have appeared in fiction before or since. There is one notable version, however, in the form of an oddly idealistic leftie meme: Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communism.Continue Reading
by Olivia Hanks
The Labour Party’s deputy leader Tom Watson wrote in The Guardian last week about the challenges posed to society by automation. Rapid developments in artificial intelligence over the last few years have brought this issue to prominence once again, and spawned a proliferation of articles saying, effectively, “We know we said this in the 60s, but this time we mean it — robots are going to take over the world!”
The fact that fears of mass unemployment caused by machines proved largely unfounded in the 19th century and again 50 years ago doesn’t mean that we should ignore this issue. Far from it — it presents us with an opportunity to rethink our entire approach to work.Continue Reading
by Mattie Carter.
Political debate often takes a binary form. We cast the left and right as two belligerent armies, fighting for the control of the political and economic apparatus of government and we dehumanise those who disagree or object to our values as part of an amorphous mass of evil. If you oppose aspects capitalism, then those on the right will cast you in the light of a statist, Stalinist, pseudo-intellectual and if you mention any benefits of the system then the most diehard socialists will dress you down with all the fervour of a zealous priest, preaching platitudes and quotes from Das Kapital. This is not something we should necessarily take the blame for, as much research suggests that it is a borderline insuppressible instinct, in fact I do it several times in this article, but I open with this because I’m about to attempt to defend believers in the global free market economy.