Technology versus capitalism: which is worse?

In modern times, I have seen several books attempting to provide alternatives to global capitalism to stave off climate destruction and other problems, like the richest one percent holding half our wealth. Actually, I applaud these authors because they are right that global capitalism is destructive and must be eliminated from our society if we are to survive.

But what about technology? Unfortunately, merely eliminating global capitalism and consumerism will not be sufficient. For example, suppose we create a more egalitarian society with more local sustainability, and where wealth is more evenly distributed. Sounds good right? Unfortunately, in such a society, technological development can still be possible. And, if we are all equally participating in technological development and advance it in the same way that we are advancing it now, then we will only have equality in the human realm, because technology requires fundamentally unsustainable practices such as mining.

Yes, the “class struggle” is important, but “solving” it by getting rid of capitalism won’t necessary solve much—if we keep within our mentality of technological progress. Merely putting the power in the hands of those who produce, as was the dream of some Marxists, will not create stability.

There is nothing wrong with getting rid of global capitalism and fighting against it. But we need more than that: we need to incorporate within that a respect for the environment and that means respecting the dangerous power of technology. The Amish understand this partially and that is why they are cautious about technology. In the same way that technology can disrupt their simple life, so does technology have the power to disrupt post-capitalist utopian ideals without a basis of deep respect for nature.

Therefore, alongside of getting rid of global capitalism and our consumerist tendencies, we need to keep an eye on technology as well, and incorporate a caution towards it along with a deep respect for nature if we are to ever reach a better society that is not exceptionally violent as our current one. In fact, technological progress is even the breeding ground for encouraging capitalism, so we should be even more cautious of technology than we are of capitalism.

N.B. It is important to note that local trade and local exchange with some basic property rights could still be important and useful for a post-global-capitalist society. The important thing is to concentrate on the devastating effects of technology every step of the way, and attempt to ameliorate the effects of technology, so we can better understand which societal system will lead to a better world.


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