Reading Response 6 // Niyah Jackson

Speculative Everything

According to this article, design can nudge our behaviors as consumers and get us to modify our decisions. This is quite obvious, but I’ve never heard this summed up in a word before: “captology.”

I like the way “micro-utopias” sounds. These otherworldly environments are meant to appeal to the desires of a single person or small group. These do exist already cults, sexual fantasy environments, but I wonder how else they can be used in the near future. This makes me think of the decked out underground bunker camps for the wealthy/elite that serves as protection against natural disasters.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jimdobson/2016/10/07/exclusive-look-inside-the-worlds-largest-underground-survival-community-5000-people-575-bunkers/#1b676abb16e4

“Much of today’s dreaming around technology is shaped by military priorities or a short term, market-led view of the world based on standardized consumer dreams and desires.” This is my favorite quote from the reading. I agree with the author in that we’re capable of thinking much bigger.

I like this idea of flipping the model of design around technology products and services to look at the new reality first, then create scenarios, and last persona’s to bring it to life. I had to do this a few times during my internship at LPK. We created futuristic “brand worlds” for clients, wrote a narrative of what everyday life is like in this new world, and then created a fictional character and gave them attributes to help bring it all together in a cohesive story.

When I got to the anarcho-evolutionist’s world, I laughed when it said one of their modes of transport is “human”, but I paused to think about the genetically modified animal powered vehicle. I’ve never thought about that before, and I don’t necessarily think it’s a good idea, but it is an interesting one. I mean we did once used to ride horses to get from place to place. I wonder how fast a genetically modified horse could go and the implications of that.

Medium

I like how the author outlined that designers are creative, optimistic, and idealistic which leads them to naturally generate futures. In turn, there’s really no need for categorical divisions based on certain types of design, because at it’s core this is what it should do. I also appreciated that the author mentioned designers must work with others to bring their vision to life (ie.  funders, users, contractors, marketers). It would feel like a huge burden to be expected to come up with consistent brilliance on our own.

My favorite quote from this piece was “Putting technology at the center of anything is profoundly conservative. The only change is change to social practices.” It seems to tie right back to my favorite quote from the other reading. Both are saying we’re limited on our views about what technology can accomplish. 

Reading Response 5 / Adam Stafford

Having grown up in a largely conservative household, there has always been a huge emphasis on hard work, securing a high paying job and being able to live comfortably. Part of this comes from the political and economic atmosphere created by my conservative parents, but another part of it has to do with my father’s occupation as a businessman. All of these things combined can create a pretty narrow view of present system we live and work in, as well as hinder one’s perspective of some of the possibilities for the future. For example, as far as my experience with discussions on automation in the workforce go, ideas like these are often met with fear, whether it be a general fear of technology’s influence, or the fear of a lack of control over your own life and work. Although these ideas have played a big role in my life, I always found myself skeptical of them, wondering, “There must be some kind of realistic alternative to all of this”.

Those skepticisms I had when I was younger have become more prevalent over time, and it’s readings like this one, Four Futures by Peter Frase, that affirm, at the very least, the real possibility of alternative ways of living. In the introduction to his book, Frase dives deep into arguments on both sides of the issues of automation and climate change. He breaks down the role that work plays in our lives, explaining things in a comprehensible way without accusing or vilifying anyone. Although he states that some of his examples and approaches are deliberately hyperbolic, he keeps them within boundaries that makes things seem realistic or at least possible.

Despite the often bleak connotation that comes with automation, I like the sort of positive perspective that a question like, “Why, then, should today be any different? If a robot takes your job, something else will surely be on the horizon,” brings to the topic of automation. Humans have a knack for creativity and finding productive, positive uses of our time- surely something new is in the cards if many of our jobs are taken by robots. Those with a more pessimistic perspective may interpret this differently, feeling that it’s more concerned with a person having a job than a person’s quality of life. There’s merit in this sort of perspective, but I think it misses a little bit of the point- we’re talking about alternative ways of living and being, right? Who’s to say that a viable alternative does or does not involve jobs for so many people, thanks to advancements like automation or universal basic income? If more of the workforce is robotic that leaves more time for leisure, creativity and innovation on our part. Maybe I’m being too optimistic, but just because some jobs may go away doesn’t necessarily mean we must be relegated to undesirable jobs.

Regardless of what side you’re on or how you perceive these issues, one thing is true- we have a lot of world-changing things in the works, and there are bound to be countless more obstacles in the future. The more we are able to work together and look for opportunities in new concepts and ideas, the more likely we are to have a positive future for everyone.

Reading Response 5/ Miranda Beitel

Four Futures addresses a lot of concerns about our possible future world that I had been considering while we discussed our new tech research. When Rachel discussed her finding of a machine that can create garments on it’s own, I began to worry. The treatment of garment workers is abhorrent in some cases and something certainly needs to change. However, if you replace the workers with a machine, how will they accrue income? Just like Charlie’s dad at the toothpaste factory from Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate factory, automation can cause already starving families to be left with no income, no other prospects, and no hope. It’s true that  advances in automation will replace some, if not many, human jobs entirely but it’s also true that automation can also create new jobs. At the end of Tim Burton’s film I mentioned, Charlie’s father gets a better job repairing the machine at the toothpaste factory that replaced him. But will there be enough new jobs created by automation to allow all of the working class they replaced to live their lives comfortably? Will the 1% actually make an effort to protect the environment in their quest for automation and money? As Frase states, if we hope to move toward a state of greater equality in the future world of automation— we will all have to have shared sacrifice and shared prosperity. And to do that, I agree, we will require a new economic system than that of capitalism.

Another interesting idea discussed was the idea of growing babies in artificial wombs to allow women to be free of the role of reproducing the labor force. I’ll admit this isn’t likely to happen. A great deal of women want children and want to carry their child and experience the miracle of birth. It is, however just one of the many ways women are oppressed by capitalism. They are expected to produce, raise, and care for the labor force and aren’t compensated for that. They also may be a part of the labor force themselves but are getting paid less than men for the same jobs. Imagine if women could find a way to break this cycle of oppression that not only comes from the role that they are taught to play as unpaid mothers and caregivers to the labor force but also the extreme class barriers imposed on everyone as a result of capitalism. Capitalism needs women to be compliant to this system for it to function so if women decided to find some way to no longer participate, they could possibly bring about the direct end of capitalism. This type of revolution, however, has happened before and the results were rather undesirable. So what kind of future should we expect to have if we were to let capitalism deteriorate on it’s own?

Frase referenced the exact quote I chose from the Streeck reading to sum up what is happening to capitalism. Basically Streeck says that capitalism is already deteriorating, regardless of the fact that there is no obvious replacement. There is no telling when or if it will disappear but one thing is certain, there is no currently available force that can reverse the decrease in economic growth, social equality, and financial stability. So which of the four futures Frase described are most likely? It’s easy to believe that the 1% won’t quietly stand by and compromise and we need them to for a communist or socialist society (or something similar) to take place. But many argue that socialism in America is already well underway. An article from The Nation describes several cities who are experimenting with public ownership. Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Santa Fe, New Mexico are all working toward municipally owned banks. Four hundred and fifty communities have established municipal owned internet systems. Now what if we were to scale this model up as an attempt to fight corporate oppression? Would capitalism crumble and be replaced immediately? What kind of resistance would it be met with? It’s safe to say that the future isn’t clear but based on these actions there is evidence of hope for a better economic system in the future.

Reading Response 5 / Heather Weyda

In “Four Futures” by Peter Frase, he touches on the subject of automation and the possible effects that it may have on the world as we know it. There is often a negative connotation around the idea of further implementing AI into labor positions due to the already volatile state of employment, specifically in the United States. It’s estimated that 47% of the jobs can be replaced through robots and automation. When people think of this possibility they usually imagine more menial jobs such as fast food, factory work, of toothpaste cap screwers like the dad in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But, this reading suggests that it will take over more skilled work as well such as doctors or lawyers. I found a website that I’ve posted here before, but is even more relevant to this reading, https://www.replacedbyrobot.info/.
For reference:
Graphic Designer: 3.7%Chance of Automation
Industrial Designer: 3.7% Chance of Automation
Fashion Designer: 2.1% Chance of Automation

So luckily we all seem to be in the clear!But why don’t we want to be replaced by robots?  Mostly, for the idea that we need that job to survive, make an income, and to have a sense of fulfillment. In the current capitalistic society we often base our value on our work and the wages we earn from said career path. But, if there is a universal basic income it might ease the fear of the automated replacement of jobs. Then I beg the question of if only some of the jobs are able to be replaced would people simply shift to a more creative fields or automation sciences and somewhat keep up the capitalistic ideals of earning the most money as possible? Or would people embrace the freedom without work and live life based off of their own interests? As Frase suggests, the main issues behind automation is the political system rather than the automation itself. The way things are now do not allow for a good alternative for people who are being replaced by these robots and therefore scares people when they think of the inevitable robot takeover. I also found it extremely interesting when he said that many farmers in California were turning to automation due to the lack of workers after the southern border surveillance increased. It would be interesting if it was actually due to a lack of labor or if it was a lack of cheap labor, simply because most do not think that automation is due to a lack of available workers, but because the automation is overall cheaper than the labor.

When I was reading about the job aspect of this reading I thought about this article where Elon Musk Warns Governors: Artificial Intelligence Poses ‘Existential Risk’ It’s interesting when someone who is one of the leaders warns against this specific area of technological advancement. “Musk told the governors that AI calls for precautionary, proactive government intervention: ‘I think by the time we are reactive in AI regulation, it’s too late,’ he said.” I wonder as to why he feels as though the AI needs to be regulated and it is not political policy that should change. I question how far the robotics is allowed to go and that might possibly what worries Musk as well. For example, Frase talks about the artificial womb in which we grow human embryos, but only up to 2 weeks. Even though the timeline of the grow is regulated I question the necessity and morality of this research.

Reading Response 5 / Rachel Adkins

“Four Futures”, by Peter Frase, is the tale of two factors, robotic automation and climate change, and how they will basically be the deciding components in the future (or lack thereof) of capitalism. One of his main points is that both of these elements have the capacity to make things, in layman’s terms, very good or very bad for a large number of people, depending mainly on who has control of the circumstances.

A highly resonating line from Frase suggests, “who benefits from automation, and who loses, is ultimately not a consequence of the robots themselves, but who owns them.” One of the major themes Frase continually repeats throughout this excerpt is the direct association between robotics technology and how, currently, their main goal is to in some to, in some way, shape, or form, function only to serve political/economic interests. When there is a shortage of human workers due to rising labor costs, corporations turn to automation to fill their spots, but this is if, and only if, the cost of labor becomes so high that it ultimately exceeds the cost of implementing automation technology. Basically, what Frase is suggesting is that under capitalism, robotics and automation are only viable options if they benefit the political and economic goals of those at the top, the ones who ultimately control the technology.

This led me to think back on my brief research assignment over automation within the garment industry. The True Cost is a documentary that provides a full disclosure look at the fashion and garment industries and the humanitarian issues that plague their very existence. According to their website there are roughly 40 million garment workers in the world, with 85% of them being women. As it stands, automation in the garment industry is still very much under development, and definitely not on massively large scales that would be needed for full industry automation. Under that notion, one might say it is safe to assume that these jobs are not under immediate threat. But more than anything that lead me to wonder, what does safe in this case?

While doing the initial research on these upcoming technologies, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “whom is this really going to be benefiting?” The two developers I looked into were both western based, and one specifically, SoftWear, limits its technology exclusively to U.S. based companies in order to promote “homegrown” production. Essentially, they hope to provide affordable, labor-free means of production, so American companies can stop relying on overseas workers. I think this illustrates a perfect example of how the benefits of automation, specifically in a capitalist system, only apply to those who control the technology, and those beneath it are left to work that much harder.

What I assume this might mean is that if this technology was implemented only in Western factories, where the goal is to ultimately be able to pull all of their money out of the Asian labor market, they are subsequently cutting jobs without producing any clear benefit or for the workers they are ousting. As suggested by Frase, there are many economists who claim that there is a natural cycle to automation: that eventually new, better jobs and opportunities will come about in the absence of a position now fully automated, and those who find themselves unemployed as a result will easily come to fill them. But in this case, the automation process is taking place in a completely different environment from where the jobs are that it will ultimate be replacing; American jobs are not being replaced with American automation, low-paying, exploitative jobs in under-developed countries are being replaced with American automation.

Reading Response 05/Andy Millard

In this reading by Peter Frase, Peter shares his ideas of “Four Futures”: Communism, Rentism, Socialism, and Exterminism. By discussing the near but also deniable future of robotics, computers, and climate change, accompanied by politics He paints a detailed picture of what could very possibly be and what we hope to never happen.

It’s a little wild to think that half of the jobs in the United States could be taken over by computerization. Im sure there is more good than bad that comes from that, but after reading, I feel as if I myself haven’t been critical enough when thinking about the future. It’s as if I can’t see past the near future realities, and when I do I go a little crazy and don’t consider all the habits and structure around the world today, unless i’m considering a future world similar to Star–Trek where we have overcome all of our historical flaws… Maybe I can blame the internet and media for engraining in my brain with what is coming next, not necessarily opening up a world of ideals, as it is through these readings we have done for class that my mind has truly been opened up.

With all the talk of climate–change and speculative fiction through this reading, the movie Snowpiercer came to mind, a dystopian–like film which came out in 2013 staring Chris Evans. This film is based on a future where a climate–change experiment kills all life on earth except for those aboard this train. This train essentially travels around our frozen planet, and after time creates its own class system (not a class system I want to be apart of). This movie somewhat blew my mind when I saw it and I remember leaving the esquire theatre thinking “what the fuck…”. What’s really wild is, that was only four years ago and seemed just ridiculous, and now it’s as if the concept of that film isn’t too crazy to think about.

Reading Response 5 | Kat Fenton

Just like everything in life we are ruled by cause and effect. We currently have a huge influx of machine labor, and therefore a large decline in natural resources and habitable land. As we enter into a new age of technology, we also face rising fears of automation and job scarcity. While one side of the argument addresses our fears of having ‘robot overlords’, it’s important to take a look at the other side. We need to take a look at the positive affects of a reduction in the need for human labor.

We open the door to universal basic income. A concept that would probably be wholesomely accepted in a future where jobs are unnecessary. There is also the opportunity to consume large amounts of information in a short amount of time. The example used in Four Futures is in appliance to the medical field. Computers are able to process large amounts of medical knowledge and help the doctors using them diagnose patients more accurately. Robotics then come into play. Instead of outsourcing our clothing to child factories in China and India, we are able to create them here in a much more cost effective and humanitarian way.

When both these technologies are combined, we get wondrous things like self driving cars, self sufficient farms, and so much more. One of the other examples used in the reading is artificial wombs. This heavily ties in to one of my favorite books Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Its a book that really helps me understand what’s we’re are talking about in class right now. Its a dystopian and utopian society at the same time. It just depends on how you’re seeing it. One of the running themes is that women don’t give birth anymore (due to artificial wombs) and therefore the whole family structure is obsolete and seen as savage and archaic by most people.

Another effect of these wombs is that sex no longer has a negative stigma. It’s accepted as a part of everyday life and actually encouraged by the government to help people build social bonds. Women still take various forms of birth control but abortions are widely available to those who need them. Children are ‘manufactured’, so to speak, to have certain attributes that make them like the jobs that they will be assigned to in the future. For example, astronauts are rotated regularly in their artificial womb to stimulate their developing sense of balance. They are also created to fit into certain social classes, each of the classes are taught to respect each others jobs.

This was done through the showing of an experiment where a few people from each of the classes (Alphas, Betas, Omegas, and Epsilons) are seperated and put on islands. Alphas die of starvation and dysentary because none of them are willing to farm or create bathrooms. They simply speculate about how to make their situation better without ever acting on it. I forget how the betas and omegas die but the Epsilons have no one to direct them so the die of starvation as well.

Reading Response 5

After this reading this, I went to give “Four Futures, Visions of the World After Capitalism,” By Peter Frase five stars on Amazon.

“Four Futures,” is the first reading in this class that I completely aligned with. Frase puts in clear words that we should think about the future more rigorously especially in the categories, automation and climate change. On page four, Frase calls today, “the second machine age,” that this new phase is causing high unemployment, low wages, and 47% of current US employment is dependent to this machine age. In this society, if robots take our jobs, there must be something else to support us, and this is the first time I think the UBI can come into play and help sustain our future if it crashes due to the second machine age. I am someone who fears technology and its power it has over our individualism and communism. No one knows where this technological age is leading us, I find it venerable; that one mistake in the system, can cause everything to crash and that is why I believe Frase words so relatable.

In this world of cybernetics, there are none to very few regulations in technology. On page 12, Frase says “we must locate our problems not in technology but, but in policy.” After reading that, it allowed me to understand that the government must put laws in place to protect us from the tech world. Technology is designed, engineered, and revolutionized to benefit society and to cause no harm. Since little to none can create and enforce policies in our cyber driven society to prohibit problem causing dilemma’s. The purpose is to look beyond the horizon of the future and the veil of events, and realize that we must live in equality and restructure the way we live and the policies live by.

https://lhslance.org/2013/features/cell-phone-use-really-affect-communication-skills/

Can you imagine not having text or email when having to communicate?

The age of cybernetics allows us to connect with people and gather information in an entirely different way. When we need to get a hold of someone or chat without verbally talking, we can do it faster than “the speed of light.” What if our cell phones and computers just stopped working, could people handle the anxiety and responsibility of making face to face contact all the time?

Many of us prefer email or text to communicate because we have time to edit and review the content before we send it, so when it comes to having in person interaction, we tend to not be straight to the point and freeze up. It is important for us and society to put ourselves out there and develop our in-person communication. These skills are linked to social agility and emotional intelligence that is essential factors in developing executive presence.

When it comes to my communication abilities, I do lack the skill of public speaking, I am working on getting straight to the point, but I can make eye contact, I can keep a conversation going, and I feel confident going in and making a point in person than behind a screen. Everyday, I practice to be a clearer communicator and less dependent on a mobile device. I believe that technology is AMAZING but has many downfalls because of the way people use it. As I find myself hanging out with my friends or going out to dinner, I look around and everyone is on his or her phone. Can we not even talk face to face when we are with each other? Because of this, I have done a social media cleanse for over three months now. My friends claim “I am the worst texter on earth,” but that is because when I am with my family or friends, I am with them. I am not with my cell phone. I am not wasting valuable time that I could spend being productive or making memories. If someone needs to get ahold of me so bad, they will call me. Then when it comes to social media, I believe it is a great platform for personal expression, business, and marking. I feel like our generation is less focused on their own life but on what everyone else is doing. We are in need for individualism.

What would your life be life if you took a break from your phone? Probably pretty amazing.

Reading Response 5 | Niyah Jackson

This is my favorite reading so far. All I needed to come to this conclusion was to read the first sentence: “Two specters are haunting Earth in the twenty -first century: the specters of ecological catastrophe and automation.” The two entities on their own aren’t what intrigued me, but the combination of the pair together led me to believe this piece would show the duality between what seem like two irrelevant ideas. The whole “robots are taking our jobs” notion and “climate change is ruining our Earth” is in the news constantly, but I am ashamed to admit I never thought about how they are actually more congruent than a contradiction.

I like the comparison to the Industrial Revolution and how this is a “second machine age.”

I think about an age before telephones when you’d have to write a letter to someone in a different state if you wanted to reach them. Our way of communicating has connected us extensively. Now someone in the Massachusetts can text/facetime/snapchat/DM someone in Morocco and think nothing of it. And things are just moving faster. But is it too fast? The idea that music can be copied and transferred speedily and typically for no charge is a threat to the musicians who work hard on their craft and are expecting to profit from it. Will this reduce the desire for artists to keep content creating?

The author mentions we have the possibility to replace humans with computerization, but that doesn’t mean it’s a reality. This ties back to our previous reading “Guidelines for Envisioning Real Utopias” where he examines evaluating alternatives to capitalism with three criteria: desirability, viability, and achievability.

What effect does the replacement of jobs have on people with “menial” jobs like factory workers and farmers? A portion of these workers are minorities, immigrants even, who take these jobs because no one else will and they need to make money to provide for their families. Something tells me they won’t be given higher up jobs (even though most of them are certainly qualified enough to do so), and even if they were given a more desirable employment opportunity, those are being taken over by robots too. Will they have to go back to their home countries (where there’s also a lack of jobs?) or will they start their own businesses? Is this where universal-basic-income comes into play? Since there are no jobs, but people still need to be able to afford to live, this is the government’s way of having the best of both worlds?

Would people buy what entrepreneurs make though? If there’s universal income, meaning no frills, would people choose to spend their money on someone’s handmade mug? And it’s not exactly like people can go to work in addition to the universal income, because the jobs would be taken by computers. This could mean a lack of creating art because ultimately there’s no money being made from it. Or maybe the no sales aspect is appealing because it removes the pressure to sell? How would this affect social class? Would there be the “elite” who have jobs that haven’t been taken over? Which means they have income on top of the UBI, making them richer, more power, etc. This defeats the purpose of UBI doesn’t it? Which is to try and get everyone on the same level playing field. What about people who have generational wealth and are a step ahead of those who don’t? There may be equality but not equity.

What will this do to education? Will people desire to go to college? What would they major in if they have no job waiting for them after graduating? Will this lead to a disproportionate amount of people working in tech and possibly even marketing?

It’s crazy that he says even creative jobs will be replaced, for so long people thought that would be safe, but they’re figuring out a way to get around it anyway.

Interesting point to make that there could be a small elite who deny climate change is occurring, and while the vast majority are conserving, they are consuming (ie. more, new tech), and acting as a mindless detriment to our society.

Along with the rise of fake news, will there be sponsored ads and articles saying the world isn’t as bad off as it seems, or there’s been a reversal, and we’re all good now, just to keep up with capitalism and being able to sell this new consumer technology?

I like how at the end the author says making predictions about the likelihood of these types of futures encourages passivity, while assessing the possibility puts us at the center of the action. This class has made me more in the center, than one of those people who reads about this happening and then shrugs it off and keeps going like I hadn’t read it (ie. automation of jobs). I am curious to know the rest of what the author has to say, so I’ll probably end up reading the whole book.

A movie is coming out this December called “Downsizing” and it’s very fitting for the kinds of topics we’re discussing in this class. By getting a surgery to downsize people into little miniature-looking figurines, it expands our natural resources, and wealth so people can live rich without negatively impacting the shortage of supplies due to overpopulation and climate change. It’s a different perspective (no pun intended) to looking at these kinds of problems.