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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

digital futures « Previous | |Next »
December 14, 2013

The National Broadband Network is crucial is crucial to Australia's future because without the infrastructure of high capacity symmetric broadband, Australia's future is quite depressing.

It will be, if the new luddite movement of technology-rejectors remain in charge of governing the country, because Australia's economy will remain primarily based on digging and growing things. Their form of a post-Industrial economy is the past and it and they will not prevent the decline of Australia manufacturing or the ongoing slide in middle-class incomes.

PopeDCoalition21stcentury.jpg David Pope

The rhetoric of the old cultural conservative strand of the new luddite movement opposing many forms of modern technology is familiar. That rhetoric was centred around the decline in civic values being laid at the door of “privatising” technologies such as the iPod and the mobile phone because they isolate social beings from one another, turning them into atomised consumers who actively withdraw into their own zones of security. These teenagers have become unsociable narcissists who use the internet to download porn and play games etc etc.

This old rhetoric indicates that the conservative opposition to a digital future is premised on a fear of the future unknown effects that new technologies might cause. They “refuse” the lure of “the electronic hive because the new media pose a dire threat to the search for “wisdom” and “depth". As Gertrude Himmelfarb put it:

Like postmodernism the Internet does not distinguish between the true and the false, the important and the trivial, the enduring and the ephemeral. . . . Every source appearing on the screen has the same weight and credibility as every other; no authority is ‘privileged’ over any other.

It’s mostly junk and a comic strip has the same authority as the Bible.

It goes deeper than the politicians and cultural conservatives. Many industrialists recognize the changes that are coming, and are fighting back hard. In order to protect their centralized business models they are trying to block any new advancement in communications technology or business model which threatens their current positions. This group includes those media traditionalists in favour of offshoring of manufacturing and de-industrialization premised on substituting inexpensive labor for capital. Why invest in a machine to assemble products in Australia when Chinese companies could throw half a million workers at the problem? The Internet, telephones, and affordable air travel and sea shipping made it easier than ever to coördinate labor from far away.

At the core of the idea that broadband can enhance economic growth is the belief that the Internet, and broadband in particular, is a General Purpose Technology (GPT). If that is the case, then it does have the potential to fundamentally alter the nature of the economy, just as electrification did. It is the new economic activity made possible by the high speed infrastructure that is the key to our digital futures. It is the basic infrastructure that is needed for work, life and leisure activities.

It will also cause economic disruption and generates winners and losers. If the net economic effect of buying a book from Amazon rather than from your local bookstore is similar, it is Amazon rather than the local bookstore benefits from the transaction. Consequently, the number of workers in the book, periodical, and music stores has decreased markedly. Much of business-to-consumer e-commerce, for example, reflects a shift in economic activity from ―brick and mortar to online retail rather than new economic activity.

It is true that the kind of manufacturing in which labor costs are most important isn’t ever coming back from low-wage countries , but that doesn't preclude Australia focusing its efforts on advances in the technology of manufacturing itself—the set of new ideas, factory innovations, and processes. Australia needs to build on its advantages in many advanced technologies, such as simulation and digital design, the use of “big data,” and nanotechnology. All of these can play a valuable role in creating innovative new manufacturing processes as well as products.

Such an industrial policy for manufacturing involving cutting-edge techniques or products would have policies to boost domestic manufacturing—tax breaks, new R&D spending, and vocational training for workers in areas including advanced technologies like batteries, computing, defence and biotechnology.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 2:40 PM | | Comments (4)


Of course the religion based on the Bible is now little more than a childish, even infantile comic book religion.

social media provide a form of freedom from the parents who constrain and control the freedom of teenagers to just go out and wander.

You can hear the free market neo-liberals now---new tax rules and subsidies that favor some industries over others are to be sharply opposed. Why should manufacturers should get breaks not available to, say, a software company.

Interesting way GST has structured his position from his opening comments re the New Luddism.
Certainly there is a conflict within the bastions of capitalism between new neolibs who are comfortable with new technology and sunset capitalists now suddenly joining the left, even appropriating its longstanding criticisms of the alienating social impact of misused technology in an unregulated setting.
In this case, the guinea pigs appear to be teenager zombies in the now-familiar stasis we witness of them on buses,tuned out and "pretty vacant".
It is uncertain, of course, whether electronic media and its gizmos are responsible for the New Psychosis, many felt even in ancient times (eg my youth) that young people were, "unsociable narcissists"; it is true that we know not whether wastage of human potential is caused by capitalism, or a natural (fugue)state perpetually odious to the march of generations since departure from their own youth, exists.
The conservatives, of course, are coming from a similar yet radically different position to the left, since the elite vision of what the purpose of society is different from that of the leftists, who always abhorred the dumbing down of the masses, in the first place.
Personally, I think new technologies are fine, even though I personally am incompetent as to the employ of them. But then, I got used to and adapted to redundancy a long time ago.
Isn't the real issue the inability of capitalism to midwife a process of change equitably and rationally, a flaw in mindset also evident in the threatening employ of cheap imported labor, as a parallel and connected example?
Theyare,in fact, too busy settling old scores, exercising old prejudices and habitually sniffingout new forms of expediency, rather than offering leadership and policy that offers a win for all concerned?
Technology is no quick fix regardless of whether capitalism creates the dumbed down field of endeavour within which technology operates and how and why it is used, or whether it merely accentuates a natural state... but it could be.
But those of us who have observed the arguable abuse of one techno advance already, television, a squandered educatonal and change facilitating possibility of a technology if ever there was one, do wonder at what mischief new technologies will be put to, at this stage of history as we enter an era of Foucaultian conditioning and surveillance.