How to survive disruption?
The World Economic Forum expects that over two thirds of world jobs will be ‘transformed by technology in the next decade’. This means the dawn of a new era of disruption.
The late French philosopher Bernard Stiegler gave much thought to this problem. He wrote many books, but the one that addresses this most directly is called Automatic society.
He writes a lot about how to create negative entropy – negentropy – of the Anthropocene through the ‘neganthropic’ – human ability – to contribute to the Neganthropocene by creating with, not just calculating or analyzing with, devices of artificial memory, which threaten to replace human knowledge. Some of his ideas include:
- An economy not based on growth but instead on what Amartya Sen called human development or ‘capacitation’ – which Stiegler calls ‘knowledge’
- Valuing ‘contributory’, ‘societal’, ‘practical’, ‘therapeutic’, or ‘anti-entropic’ value or utility
- Privileging that which is shared and collectively practiced
- Not letting algorithms short-circuit our protentions (desires and expectations of the future) by making of the Republic of Numbers a Republic of Letters by redistributing revenue outside of salaried activities – thus safeguarding buying power
- Creating a contributory economy that stems from the acquisition of knowledges – returning to people multiple knowledges (not just limited competences) – these could range from sharing knowledges in sports or cuisine. Returning with these knowledges is the power to dream…
- economic actors will no longer be divided into producers, on one side, and consumers, on the other: they will be ‘contributors’ which is to say that they share and produce knowledge that is useful to society and the territory;
- the value produced by contributors is not integrally monetizable, it constitutes a positive externality that cannot be reduced to the value of exchange or use because it is not used up with time.
The breadth of this economic model includes the valuation of time:
The value of knowledges is not augmented by being rare (by contrast to exchange value), and is not used up over time (by contrast to exchange value) : to the contrary, it is developed and enriched over time. The therapeutic effects of knowledges are progressively built in the long term, and their value is augmented to the degree by which they are shared and collectively practiced: the individuals who exchange them are thus mutually enriched by transforming and diversifying their way of life and by [collectively] ameliorating the quality of their environs and their everyday – in short, by expanding the possibilities of their existence, through mutual encapacitation. It is thus necessary to develop new concepts of value and utility (‘contributory’, ‘societal’, ‘practical’, ‘therapeutic’, or ‘anti-entropic’ value or utility) and above all, new measurements by which to gauge them.
Finally, he writes that he believes ‘the future belongs to those who are capable of producing a new theory of becoming and of creation of bifurcations into becoming creating futures, and I believe that new theory will not come from neo-liberalism’ – before embarking on a rather frightening assessment of geopolitics…
I originally addressed most of these points on the Creative Good Forum, which can be joined.
- Comment survivre à la «disruption», Le Temps [interview]
- Digital knowledge, obsessive computing, short-termism and need for a negentropic Web [interview]
- recherchecontributive.org [Plaine Commune project research site]