“Not that the vision is a new one. John Maynard Keynes’s famous essay “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren” imagines a world with far less work and far more leisure; Shulamith Firestone wrote about “cybernetic communism.” Yet the most complete picture of FALC or FALGSC might come not from radical leftists or academic economists, but from Star Trek. In that imagined universe, replicators produce physical goods and artificial intelligence takes care of services. There is no need for money, no need for work, and no problems with resource competition. People do what they want.” (Annie Lowrey, 2019)
Call it cybernetic social democracy, care ethics, whatever you want, but technology doesn’t just make life easier for people with disabilities — it has the potential to re-shape material reality and make it more accessible for everyone. If that sounds optimistic in a way that invokes Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communism memes, hold up and hear me out. Aaron Bastani’s larger iteration of the meme, namely his book Fully Automated Luxury Communism, examines the potential to create a world of post-scarcity. Everyone should have what they need and even what they want.
Overcoming Phone Ableism
Let’s walk a step further with Bastini: everyone should have access to everything — and access means more than just overcoming resource scarcity: What if we also demanded the development of technology to de-normalize certain forms of ability while providing access to all variations of ability?
Marx believed capitalism creates a lot of this technological possibility before finally giving way to socialism. Google may be the maker of the rope to hang capitalist ableism: “Google offers a powerful API that lets developers create tools for people with disabilities . . . “Camera Switches” essentially lets you use face gestures to complete a number of actions . . . the update lets you map around six face gestures to over a dozen phone controls. These can also be tweaked based on gesture size to prevent the app from constantly initiating actions.” This is rough around the edges and doesn’t seem to do enough now, but we’ve seen functionality rapidly increase for analogous advances in the past.
The Energy Internet of Things
3D printing is very cool: it has the ability to work with a multiplicity of materials and forms in the same print. That makes for better 3D printed houses or appliances, but it also now works in the field of energy. Lithium-ion batteries, which power smartphones, laptops, electric vehicles, watches and more, are still pretty inefficient. A “solid-state” battery is in the works, however — a “lighter weight, more energy dense, and ideally safer than today’s champion technology. The next frontier, they say, is the solid-state battery — and perhaps 3D-printed ones, at that.” Multiple materials can be deposited onto the matter that constitutes the printer’s “ink”. Anything extraneous to the performance of the batter is eliminated. In addition to the ability to reach far greater portions of the world and make power universally available, 3D printed materials are designed to have less “stuff” in them, which suggests that an unintended good outcome of a 3D-printed material economy is efficiency of resource use and materials, cutting down on extraction, associated exploitation of labourers and other burdens.
The Amazing Catnip Disk and Why Pets and Humans Should Share Products
Pet toys are typically fun for the pets (at least we think they are) but maybe less so for humans. But Nerf’s taking on the pet toy market may bode well: Nerf’s pet toys are appropriately marketed to a generation of pet owners who grew up shooting or throwing or otherwise playing with nerf guns and other toys. The new products include tennis balls shooting 50 feet, and a “blaster” with a “spring-loaded mechanism [which] launches . . . flying catnip discs about 10 feet.” And before you say this technology isn’t on par with 3D printed energy and face-guided phones, people who have fun with their pets probably live longer than those who don’t. All people and pets are entitled to better toys.