Hammer, sickle… laptop


INSIGHT
Published
Oct 8th '20
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Karl Marx had a theory that those who owned the means of production shaped society. It struck the imagination of those who didn’t.

 

He claimed it was inevitable that the workers would own the means of production. This lead to a revolution or two, and subsequent events suggested it might have been better if Marx had stuck to running that market stall with fellow political philosopher Spencer. But joking aside, the predicted revolutions changed very little. The problem was not an alienated proletariat,  or a delay in historical inevitability. It was the fact that he was wrong.

 

He had confused cause and effect. Both society and the ownership of the means of production are actually shaped by the technology available.

 

Marx saw steam technology reshaping an agrarian society, and held wicked machine owners responsible. But the proletariat would never own one of Boulton and Watt’s fine products – rich millowners were as inevitable as oppressed millworkers because of them.

 

Fast forward 200 years, during which every change in society can be traced to a new technology. (The IC engine. Aircraft. The thermionic valve. Computers)  The cutting edge technology now is the Cloud. The Cloud means that we can at last all own the means of production – provided that it is a laptop.

 

And society is about to change as a result. The Covid crisis and social distancing may accelerate it, but the changes are inevitable, and they are all already happening.

 

So what will the real workers revolution look like?

  • Remote working becomes the norm – why travel to an office to see a screen when you have one at home.
  • The gig economy becomes mainstream – skills are easier to market, and to call in as needed. Full time employment becomes the novelty.
  • That big office marks your business not as a giant, but as a dinosaur.

 

Several tech giants are not reopening their offices this year. They say it is to protect staff – cynics might say it is to test becoming a fully remote operation.

 

Commuting, 9-5, even cities are suddenly looking obsolete.

 

Is the revolution is here? What do you think?

 

Author: Richard Mitchell

 

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