Computers, Privacy & the Constitution
-- HenryRaffel - 01 Mar 2024

Alienation 2.0: An Update to Marx's Theory

If you thought capitalism was alienating, wait until you hear about the latest update! Alienation 2.0 has dropped and is much more efficient and effective than Karl Marx’s last gen theory. The new system can now account for the consistent tracking of your behavior through a small device in your pocket, loaded with the latest spyware, and will leave you wondering where your species-essence has gone. Alienation 2.0 is built on Marxist architecture and so the separation of yourself from “conditions of meaningful agency” resulting from the four forms of alienation remain in full effect.

What We Do

Not everyone works in a factory, but whether or not you know it everyone produces one commodity even more valuable to modern technocrat—data. Our behavior is tracked by a myriad of devices and converted into data that belongs not to you, but to the company tracking your behavior. Marx’s alienation from the product of labor refers to that in creating the product of labor, that commodity becomes a hostile, “alien object” belonging to the capitalist. As the worker produces more, the “alien world of objects” and the capitalist becomes more powerful while the worker’s inner world grows less powerful.

Similarly, through tracked human behavior, our behavior becomes an alien object—data—to be owned. Just as the worker’s value is dictated by the product he creates, the smartphone user’s value is dictated by the data his behavior creates. At the same time, the more tracked behavior, the easier it becomes for the company to elicit specific behavior by understanding previous behavior and so our inner world becomes less our own to control.

How Behavior is Forced

While we may feel like we decided on the discounted delivered burrito offered through a push notification, such tracking elicitation of behavior deprives us of much of our “free conscious activity.” Marx’s alienation from the activity of labor is the loss of ownership and direction over the activities of a worker’s life to the capitalist, ensuring labor becomes not the “satisfaction of a need” but a mandatory means to satisfy physical needs like food and lodging changing its nature into “forced labor.” Their work is no longer “free conscious activity” and so the worker only feels truly human when he engages in “his animal functions—eating, drinking, procreating”—the escape from work.

Our own behavior, through data and behavior elicitation, has likewise become owned and directed by the data-tracker. It is directed when the Starbucks iPhone app offers us a cheaper latte when passing by a store, when it hits 7:30 PM and DoorDash? tells us it is time to order our dinner, and when Tinder’s algorithm suggests you take this person out on a date. We no longer engage in the free conscious activity that ordering espresso, calling out for pizza, or finding someone attractive at a bar once were. We have lost control over our the “animal functions”—our last refuge—in which we felt truly ourselves.

What We Are

But it is work—and our behavior—as dictated by our free consciousness that makes use human. “The productive life is the life of the species,” but when it is controlled by another and we are forced to sell that productivity, we make our "life activity," our "essential being, a mere means to...existence.” This is alienation from the self, or dehumanization. Today, both our work and personal behavior, our “animal functions,” are both controlled and sold, untethering most of our life from who we are.

How We Interact

Under a capitalist system, every human is either a “useful or threatening object”—an obstacle or a rival. The capitalist gains money from the worker and the worker needs the capitalist to provide a method of sustenance. So it is the same from the prospective of the tracker, whether private or the state. This results in alienation from other people. Likewise, the corporate tracker sees each human as accumulated data, a useful object, to which they can control. The state tracker sees each human behavior as a potential threat, something which they “need” to control or risk losing the ability to listen to everyone. We see the threat of beautiful people on social media and so viewers try to mitigate this threat through consumption of beauty products pushed on them by the corporate tracker. We see an influencer in Monaco and are threatened by the ostentatious display of wealth we would love nothing more to copy, and so Delta’s cheapest flight there makes a miraculous entrance into our social media feed.

Where Does That Leave Us?

So, where does alienation due to surveillance capitalism leave us? Our intelligence has become artificial as our consciousness is dictated and fickle. While we live in a black and white room, we only know the sky is blue because Google tells us, Instagram promises us, and the Apple Vision Pro simulates it, not because we go outside and look. We have lost the consciousness that is required to understand that new information is in fact acquired when we live in the real world. Not only have students begun to rely on conversation AI to escape learning and creativity, we have become that very escape. What is intelligence without learning and creativity? If the information concerning our behavior is no longer ours but the tracker’s, like an machine learning model’s algorithm, we can be predicted and our decisions are made into guesses. If our behavior is enticed, we like a chat model are merely responding to prompts telling us what to do and our behavior is just a simulation as to what a freely conscious human would do—like a T-1000. If we are just a useful object and if we merely respond to threats, then we are focused on a goal without any compassion towards those around us. Without free consciousness, without control over our lives, without the ability to interact compassionately with those around us, what are we but an intelligence made artificial?


Webs Webs

r4 - 02 May 2024 - 14:55:46 - HenryRaffel
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