grarpamp at gmail.com
Tue Jan 17 21:57:36 PST 2023
Technocratic Dystopia Is Impossible
Robert Blumen via The Brownstone Institute,
In the coming technocratic dystopia, life will be grim for most of us.
For those who survive the preliminary depopulation, a technological
control grid run by AI and robots will keep tabs on our every
movement. You notice that your pantry cube is running a bit low on
freeze-dried bug burgers, fake meat, and cockroach milk.
You time your break to fall outside of your three daily hours of
wind-powered internet. Forbidden by the World Economic Forum from
owning your own car, you flag down a quick ride share from your leased
living quarters in a stacked shipping container on the near side of
your 15-minute city. After dropping off the seven other people in your
ride share, you arrive at the fake meat distribution point, where you
wait in a long queue, hoping to trade in a few of your remaining
carbon ration credits for more provisions.
You worry that your transaction might be rejected by the central bank
digital currency network. After all, there was that one moment where
your wrinkled brow showed slight unhappiness. You wonder if the facial
recognition AI picked it up during one of your masked Zoom calls.
But for the elites, things will be better than ever. Private jets,
cars, ultra wagyu beef tenderloin (for their dogs), and large estates.
Life-extension drugs will make them nearly immortal. They will
vacation at 5-star hotels, a short limo trip from the Louvre, but
without the crowds.
The WEF – an infinite source of technocratic malapropisms – says that
you will “own nothing” and be happy (the happiness perhaps will be a
drug-induced state as Yuval Hariri suggests). Many independent
researchers who have looked into the WEF’s plans have reported similar
findings. For example – see James Corbett, Patrick Wood, Whitney Webb
2, Tessa Lena 2, Jay Dyer, and Catherine Austin Fitts.
Aaron Kheriaty, who says much the same in his book The New Abnormal,
calls the oncoming system “communist capitalism.” Jeffrey Tucker calls
it “techno-primitivism.” He describes the system as:
a combination of digital technology plus a rollback into previous
ages of existence to a time without fossil fuels and meat plus
geographical isolation and limited choices for average people. In
other words, it’s a step back to feudalism: the lords of the manor are
digital titans and the rest of us are peasants toiling in the fields
and eating bugs when the food runs out.
The researchers that I have cited have done a deep dive into the GI
tract of the beast. While I don’t dispute the truth of their findings,
my problem with much of the commentary on the Great Reset is that it
takes the Grand Plan at face value. Indeed, a group of elites have a
plan. They are open about some parts of it (and most likely, less open
One can imagine something, plan for it, and even try to bring it into
being. However, in order to succeed, the laws of reality must be
observed. The laws of cause and effect apply to all things. Grand
utopian visions always fail in the implementation – if they even get
How It Works Or Does Not Work
The idea of a totalitarian control grid is familiar to science fiction
fans, but imaginative fiction stretches boundaries for artistic
purposes. Utopia (including dystopia) is a form of science fiction.
There are crucial aspects in the plan for a technocratic dystopia
that, as fearful as it is, cannot be realized.
Technocracy imagines a world where elites have all the good things in
life for themselves, much as the middle class in the developed world
does today. Internal combustion engines, reliable wall power, air
travel, consumer electronics, beef, alcohol, dentistry, stable dry and
well-insulated buildings, books, and video streaming services are all
readily available. At the same time, a much reduced population of
dispirited, drugged worker-slaves will own nothing. That is a vision
but it is not a possible version of reality.
To be elite in this world means to be wealthy. Wealth is created
through the production of goods and services. There are many forms of
what could be called “second-order elites” – wealthy people who
parasitize off privately created wealth. But their ability to do that
depends on true wealth, which is created by production. Once you have
enough goods for your own needs, additional wealth is held in the form
of assets. Assets can be reduced to a few categories: land, equity,
debt, commodities (below ground in the form of deposits and above
ground such as inventories of metals). Without going through each
asset class in detail, equities and debt derive their value from
businesses, which exist only because they have customers. After they
have impoverished everyone and confiscated all of our property, their
assets will be worth nothing. You will be worth nothing, and you will
I have seen dystopian predictions for how the rich will get richer by
trading futures contracts on our biometrics. Futures contracts are a
bet with a zero-sum outcome. The winning side makes a profit and the
losing side takes an equal loss. Who will the losers be? And what good
is the money unless there are goods and services for sale to spend it
Kheriaty cites some elite policy wonk who thinks that “funding to the
public sector must increase.” By what? Who will pay the taxes? Even if
the public sector had unlimited access to money, who will produce the
goods and services that the public sector needs to buy, in order to
build their control grid? With what will they pay the workers who
How will the elites get stuff for their personal use when it is not
available to the masses? Modern goods depend on a vast base of
accumulated capital. To take one example, consider airplanes and
airports. Airports, including the runways, are complex capital goods
requiring intensive maintenance by skilled labor. Air traffic control
requires a combination of capital goods, skilled labor, and energy to
run. This documentary tells of the 30,000 parts that an airport must
have on hand to keep the planes from having downtime. At the same
airport, the airline runs a separate facility where the jet engines
are broken down by skilled mechanics, serviced and rebuilt.
Who Builds the Systems?
Is this all going to be done by AI and robots? Computer networks and
servers depend on complex supply chains. CPU chips are made mostly in
Taiwan, memory chips in South Korea, and hard drives at several places
including North America. A single factory to produce semiconductors
costs over $1 billion to construct and involves technical expertise
from many different fields.
The robotic control grid rests on a base of energy and mining. Robots
are made out of metal as are data centers and computers. Energy is
extracted from underground deposits of coal, oil, natural gas, and
uranium. Once mined metal must be extracted from the rock and formed
into bars, pipes, wires or whatever the intended use. Even “green
energy” requires enormous amounts of metals. Copper and iron are not
so hard to find, but some of the minor metals required for batteries,
such as cobalt and niobium are much harder. An operating mine is
depleted, and then retired, as minerals are extracted. New deposits
must be located and developed. Within the mining industry, there is a
division of labor between prospecting for new deposits, building
mines, operating mines, and financing them.
Who will operate the control grid? Technology requires skilled labor
to operate. AI can only imitate skills that people have already
demonstrated. AI models must be trained by operators vetted by humans.
Data scientists decide when the training is complete, or, when the
model requires retraining. Many decisions are made during this process
and it can only be initiated with a goal in mind. Will robots do it
all? Who will build them? Where will the metals come from to make
them? The power to run them? Who will write the software to control
The control grid will require a massive amount of skilled labor.
People obtain skills by working in the same field – or several
different fields – over the course of a career. Most people enter the
labor force in their early 20s and many remain for five decades or
more. People learn how to do complex things, such as building a
semiconductor factory or flying an airplane, by working under more
experienced colleagues, and taking on increasingly difficult
challenges as they gain experience. Most commercial airline pilots
start out with flight training they receive in the military, and from
there make the step to short-haul regional carriers with the
aspiration of one day sitting in the cockpit of a major airline.
I could go on with my series of examples, but they only illustrate
that there is a deeper principle at work here. The wealth that makes
technology possible to run the control grid and provide the elites
with the good things requires a market economy.
“The economy” – that thing which has an on//off switch, that we could
flip for two weeks, and then flip back. Do you remember how, we all
dug in, we wore our masks, we socially distanced, we sheltered in
place? That curve didn’t know what hit it. We flattened that poor
curve’s sorry backside. Then we turned the switch back to the “on”
position. Once the economy finished rebooting, we picked up right
where we left off. Actually it did not happen that way. In that
hallucination, no one lost their business, their home, friends, family
relationships, years of their childrens’ education, their careers, or
anything else meaningful.
There Is No Switch
The production of goods and services is not a machine with a switch.
“Economy” is a name for the process by which we all produce things and
provide them to others. Not only does this process create cool stuff
like mobile phones and air travel, it is what enables us all to stay
warm, dry and alive. It is an interconnected network of billions of
individual decision-makers, firms, goods in process, capital goods,
energy generation, transportation systems, and people who operate
The most compelling explanation of the necessity of the market was
discovered by the great economist of the Austrian School, Ludwig von
Mises. Mises in his 1920 paper examined the problem of central
planning. The ownership of all productive capital by the state –
socialism – was a popular idea at the time. It was thought by the
intellectuals to be inevitable. With ownership comes responsibility. A
central planning board would take on the task of planning the entire
economy. What should be produced? How much? By whom? To be distributed
The starting point is understanding that productive assets are
“scarce.” In normal English, scarce means that a good is difficult to
find. Economists use the word to mean there are more potential valued
uses for the asset than the amount of that asset that currently
exists. To use the asset in one way comes at a cost of less of it to
use for some other purpose. Any decision that involves using more
bricks to build houses means fewer bricks to build walls.
Mises observed that the number of possible uses of all existing
capital goods to produce consumer goods and services is unimaginably
large. Given the vast numbers of capital goods, skilled workers, known
types of consumer goods, and different production processes to create
them, the possibilities are almost infinite.
Not only must the choice be made between producing more capital goods
and fewer consumer goods, or the opposite, but there is an
incalculable variety of choices within each category.
On the capital goods side – do we need more power generation? Should
the planner invest in nuclear, coal, natural gas, LNG, or pipelines?
Factories? Of what type? Or transportation networks, ports, terminals,
or logistics? Do we need more specialized capital goods such as
machines that etch circuits into silicon chips, or more general
purpose tools like trucks and computers? The planning must look years
into the future. The extraction of minerals from the ground and the
generation of energy takes years of planning and development so that,
when the small business owner needs an iPad, it is available at the
local Apple Store.
For consumers, which is better? More shoes and fewer mobile phones?
More burgers and better furniture but fewer kitchen sinks and bicycle
tires? The number of plans is infinite. There are always entrepreneurs
with ideas for goods that do not yet exist, that they would like to
bring to market. More production of well known goods means fewer new
inventions. Even subsequent generations of the “same product” differ
as subtle improvements (or in the case of Microsoft Windows,
not-so-subtle retrogressions) are introduced.
Mises asked, how would the central planner decide between alternative
uses of productive resources? He startled the economics field with his
conclusion: production of goods and services as we know it would be
impossible under central planning. In my opinion, Mises’ breakthrough
is the greatest and least well known contribution to social sciences
in the last century. It sparked a great deal of debate in professional
economic circles at the time, but remains to a large extent unknown
today outside of scholars.
If central planning is impossible, how is it that we have all the
things that we have now? Who decides what to produce? In a market
economy – with private ownership of the means of production and a
sound monetary system – business firms decide what products they will
offer. They are in competition with each other, and they compete with
entrepreneurs who would like to enter their markets.
In order to choose between one thing and another, there must be a way
to compare alternatives. This is accomplished by what Mises called
“economic calculation.” Before starting, expected monetary costs are
compared against expected monetary revenues. Profits consist of the
differential between realized costs and revenues. Owners in the market
economy are looking for profit opportunities. The more profitable
opportunities are undertaken, the less profitable or loss-making
options are not.
To compare alternatives, profits may be compared to costs using
ratios. Financial ratios, such as internal rate of return, or return
on equity are dimensionless: they contain monetary units in both the
numerator and the denominator. These metrics attempt to capture the
economic efficiency of any particular decision. Without a means of
comparison, who could say whether society will benefit from more shoes
and fewer shirts, or the opposite? Using dimensionless ratios,
alternative uses of scarce resources can be compared against each
Costs and revenues are always estimated because the full costs of
production cannot entirely be known until after production, nor can
sales revenues be known until the goods are sold. It may be more (or
less) expensive than expected to hire the workers needed, supply chain
issues may crop up, a space may open up at a lower than expected rent,
demand for the product may be stronger, or weaker. The ability to
estimate future costs and prices is a key to success in earning
Awareness, or imagination of what can be produced, how, and with what
originates in the diversity of human knowledge, experience, and the
way in which all of us are situated differently in the world. Within a
business firm there resides an accumulation of knowledge about that
industry. That firm may be well positioned to bring new products to
market similar to their current product line. The company that makes
motorcycles will have a good idea of customer preferences in that
market. Someone else may have regional or local knowledge of market
conditions. That person notices on his drive to work how far you have
to go from his home to a dry cleaner. That local knowledge gives him
insight into where a dry cleaner might fill an unmet need.
Prices Must Be Market Prices
Market prices are a key to the process. Mises was building on
developments in price theory by the Austrian School in the decades
prior. It had been discovered a few years before Mises that market
prices of capital goods and labor come about because entrepreneurs and
business firms are able to place a definite monetary value on each
resource that they wish to use in production. Each worker hired, each
space rented, each machine or office product purchased, every
advertisement purchased, and each gallon of gas used in transport has
a specific monetary value to each entrepreneur.
Each business, each entrepreneur must determine the amount they are
willing to pay for the labor and assets they plan to use. Their buying
prices are based on the way in which the asset contributes to the
selling prices they expect. The process of competitive bidding ensures
that scarce resources are used by those entrepreneurs and businesses
who place the greatest monetary value on their use.
The value of the resource to the business originates in the value that
the consumer at the very end of the supply chain places on the final
product. Business firms must be able to sell into a consumer market
(even if several layers downstream) in order to value their components
in the supply chain. At the end, the consumer decides on the
trade-offs between more of one thing and less of another through their
willingness to buy at a given price.
The price system functions as a collaborative system to pool the
knowledge, experience and ideas of everyone about how to put available
resources to their best use. The price system gives the entrepreneur
an idea of how the rest of society values specific economic resources
in monetary terms, enabling economic calculation so that production
decisions can be made.
Other than the free market economy, sound money, and private property,
what alternatives are there for the use of existing finite resources
in creating useful things? None. None at all. Mises emphasized that he
was not saying that capitalism is a better economic system than
socialism. Socialism is not an economic system at all because it does
not offer a solution to the problem of how to economize the use of
scarce resources. Economic calculation with money prices is the only
way that has been discovered to do this.
The elites’ version of the world where Bill and Klaus have nice things
with a high tech control grid crushing everyone cannot be built in the
form which they imagine. Bill and Klaus cannot possibly make all the
stuff they want on their own, even with robots. Their vision does not
include economic calculation.
Stuff does not make itself. Making stuff must occur prior to having
stuff. Making all the nice things takes a lot of people, and a lot of
capital goods. The scale and division of labor required to fill the
supply chain for even one complex product, such as a mobile phone,
requires economic calculation, which would be abolished as part of
their mad plan.
To build high tech systems there must be widespread ownership of
private property. Private property must be under the control of
competing business firms and their investors. Labor must be free to
move around, to change jobs, and to acquire skills. And people must be
paid competitively determined wages. Wages are prices, which
demonstrate the contribution of the worker within the framework of
If the dystopian control grid is not possible, what will happen when
they try to bring it about? As economist Joseph Salerno wrote, a
dedicated attempt at central planning would result in a complete
disintegration of human society. We saw the beginnings of this in the
massive supply-chain shocks and labor market disruptions in the past
two years. We have not seen a full recovery from that brush with
disaster. There are pilot shortages, an oncoming food shortage,
healthcare worker shortages, and frequent business closures due to
Utopian visions wipe the slate of the world clean so that it may be
rebuilt perfectly. Grand utopias cannot be realized because, while
imagination is unconstrained reality has limits. What is a dystopia
other than the role of an NPC in someone else’s utopia? In this case,
the utopia is the dream of psychotic elites who imagine that they can
have the end products of mass cooperation without the open society
that enables it.
Much damage can be done in the attempt, but it is only a question of
how far it can get before it cancels itself.
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