A Pirate reads Piketty, part 2: The Caprices of Technology

George Walkden's picture

Part 2 of Piketty's book deals with the relationship between capital and income over time. There are fluctuations, there are differences between countries, and some forms of capital have changed in importance: agricultural land, for instance, has shrunk to a tiny proportion of the overall capital of the countries investigated. Still, the overall trajectory is pretty clear: capital is on the rise. Piketty cautions that "there is no natural force that inevitably reduces the importance of capital ... over the course of history" (p234).

One contention that should resonate with Pirates is that "technology, like the market, has neither limits nor morality". Piketty clarifies this by arguing that "Progress toward economic and technological rationality need not imply progress toward democratic and meritocratic rationality", and hence that "If one truly wishes to found a more just and rational social order based on common utility, it is not enough to count on the caprices of technology".

Opinion: What you dont see you dont care, but you should

Editor's picture

Mark Ford - Technology Blogger

In the following, references to “software” also means “firmware” or similar.

From heart pumps to self-driving cars, the robots have long arrived. Behind every movable part lays a monster; the infinite possibilities of software. Each application built upon thousands of lines of computer code. Built layer by layer, an ever growing stack of reusable objects. And like a tower of cards or a hairline crack, unchecked problems can quickly lead to complete structural collapse.

Computer hackers understand those building blocks and they seek out those hairline cracks. It may take longer, but even without the blueprints - the source code - the weaknesses may still be found and exploited. The dangers to human life from accidental or malicious intent are well recorded. And history demonstrates, security through obscurity buys little or no time.

Opinion: The Genie Is Out of the Bottle

Ed Geraghty's picture

There are some people who will tell you that technology is "morally neutral"; they will tell you that it's only what we do with the technology which has a moral impact.

This is not necessarily true.

It is not only naive but verging on irresponsible to assume that all technology is a purely positive force - technology does not exist in a vacuum, it is not the result of spontaneous generation.  All technology is designed, and it is designed with the biases of those who design it.