Digital economy is the dream world of extremist liberal capitalism: professor 

February 8, 2021 - 15:37

TEHRAN - Professor Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, chair of the Centre for Iranian Studies at the London Middle East Institute, says the digital economy “is the dream world of extremist liberal capitalism.”

Noting that the man is entering “the age of supersonic power,” Professor Adib-Moghaddam says “technology has sped up power projections to the degree that we are even haunted in our living rooms.”

Adib-Moghaddam has introduced the first course on “Artificial Intelligence and Human Security” to the curriculum of SOAS University of London. The Module presents a critical analysis of Artificial Intelligence with a particular emphasis on its implication for human security. It connects current research into the ethics of AI, to comparative philosophies including the socio-economic theories of the Frankfurt School and their emphasis on the perils of modern forms of production for human existence and the threat of “perfectionism” in capitalist societies. In addition, the course considers the “techno-politics” of Paul Virilio and the critical approaches of Iranian philosophers such as Jalal Al-e Ahmad(https://www.soas.ac.uk/courseunits/15PPOH048.html).

“The digital economy is opaque, unseen – it blurs the boundaries of states, it transcends them and by that impinges on the sovereignty of national governments.”In an interview with the Tehran Times, Professor Adib-Moghaddam says even “biggest theoreticians of power such as the French philosopher Michel Foucault and Antonio Gramsci couldn’t realize” this “supersonic” power.

On whether this will downplay the traditional aspects of power, Adib-Moghaddam says, “We are entering the age of “supersonic” power. Power, including the might to discipline and control, has been galvanized, accelerated and magnified. This is something even the biggest theoreticians of power such as the French philosopher Michel Foucault and Antonio Gramsci couldn’t realize.”

‘We are even haunted in our living rooms’

The professor says, “Technology has sped up power projections to the degree that we are even haunted in our living rooms. Unless we will develop equally supersonic forms of resistance, our ability to think independently and to empathize compassionately will be substituted by a robotic subjectivity that is compliant, docile, and dispensable.”

On the fact that the digital economy is determining the economic power of countries, the professor says, “As our current technologies, in particular AI-based systems, are based on supersonic hyper-speed, everything is accelerated including the economy of course.”

The distinguished scholar says the digital economy is promoting capitalism.
“The digital economy is not only a reality that is already determining the global economic system, it is an indispensable factor in the dissemination of capitalism. Exactly because it is supersonic like a projectile that one doesn’t see coming, the digital economy is opaque, unseen – it blurs the boundaries of states, it transcends them and by that impinges on the sovereignty of national governments. It’s the dream world of extremist liberal capitalism. The invisible hand of Adam Smith has been substituted by bionic tentacles of an opaque avatar with no real location and material structure.”

“If AI research yields a new ideology centered around the notion of perfectionism and maximum productivity, then it will be a destructive force that will lead to more wars, more famines and more social and economic distress, especially for the poor and vulnerable.” The professor cites some examples of the unseen digital economy.  

“Uber became the world’s largest taxi company without owning any taxis. Facebook, the world’s most popular social media site, creates no content. Amazon has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, does not own any real estate.”

 ‘Humanity is at threat like never before’

Technology and the digital age have emerged as a revolution that is shaping human destiny. 

About where the digital revolution is taking humanity, the professor notes, “Humanity is at threat like never before. This is a part of my research projects, now and it is based on my new SOAS postgraduate seminar on Artificial Intelligence and Human Security, flanked by a great cast of SOAS students. In this seminar, we are discussing how the new inventions in AI based technologies affect our individual security. 

“We look at trends that are post-human, in warfare, in forms of surveillance and data gathering. AI is affording companies and governments the great luxury of direct penetration into our private lives. We are under a huge microscope, a constant MRI that scans our cognition, body, and preferences. 

“What is needed is a strong regulatory framework that is anchored in local, national, regional and most importantly global institutions to supervise how all of this is used. We need a comprehensive ban on killer-bots for instance, in the same way that we have the Geneva Convention.” 

He also predicts that countries that won’t develop their digital infrastructure will be dominated by “this new assemblage.”

Professor Adib-Moghaddam says Iranian intellectual Jalal al-e Ahmad had rightly pointed to the threats and opportunities of the digital age even before Artificial Intelligence-based technologies were invented.

“Jalal al-e Ahmad rightly referred to the threats and opportunities of this ‘machine’, even before AI-based technologies were invented. As I mentioned in a recent article: If we can program our machines to understand our ethical standards, then AI research has the capacity to improve our lives which should be the ultimate aim of any technological advance. But if AI research yields a new ideology centered around the notion of perfectionism and maximum productivity, then it will be a destructive force that will lead to more wars, more famines and more social and economic distress, especially for the poor and vulnerable. 

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