Physicals, Virtuals, Machines and Overlords
Is the dark vision of a new caste system for the fourth revolution inevitable?
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
World Economic Forum’s Drs. Klaus Schwab and Yuval Noah Harari present their dark vision for humanity as inevitable. But is it?
During a very long interview filmed earlier this week in the Miami Beach studio of MSCS Media, which operates under a Spotify contract much like the one that Joe Rogan has, it became clear to me that many still do not understand the nature of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, Yuval Noah Harari, and the dark vision of the future which they are so aggressively advancing throughout the world.
This vision of Schwab and Harari is based on projections that the future of humanity which they foresee will consist of an anticipated “fourth industrial revolution”.
What is the fourth industrial revolution?
Who wins and who loses in this version of the future?
According to Wikipedia:
“The Fourth Industrial Revolution, 4IR, or Industry 4.0, conceptualizes rapid change to technology, industries, and societal patterns and processes in the 21st century due to increasing interconnectivity and smart automation. A part of this phase of industrial change is the joining of technologies like artificial intelligence, gene editing, to advanced robotics that blur the lines between the physical, digital, and biological worlds.”
Throughout this, fundamental shifts are taking place in how the global production and supply network operates through ongoing automation of traditional manufacturing and industrial practices, using modern smart technology, large-scale machine-to-machine communication (M2M), and the internet of things (IoT). This integration results in increasing automation, improving communication and self-monitoring, and the use of smart machines that can analyze and diagnose issues without the need for human intervention.
It also represents a social, political, and economic shift from the digital age of the late 1990s and early 2000s to an era of embedded connectivity distinguished by the omni-use and commonness of technological use throughout society (e.g. a metaverse) that changes the ways humans experience and know the world around them. It posits that we have created and are entering an augmented social reality compared to just the natural senses and industrial ability of humans alone.”
WEF chief Schwab has proclaimed that a key element of the COVIDcrisis-fueled “Great Reset” will be to advance and shape this “Fourth Industrial Revolution.” And in public statements, he has explained what this means: merging man with machines. “What the fourth industrial revolution will lead to is a fusion of our physical, digital and biological identity,” Schwab explained in a speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
This is not a conspiracy “theory”. Schwab even wrote a book on the subject in 2016 entitled Shaping the Future of The Fourth Industrial Revolution. In it, he explains how looming technological changes will allow governments to “intrude into the hitherto private space of our minds, reading our thoughts and influencing our behavior.” The title is a tell. This vision is not inevitable, but rather will have to be shaped if it is to develop in the way that he and his WEF colleagues envision. Once again, a quote from Herr Dr. Schwab, in which this vision is presented as inevitable.
“Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies will not stop at becoming part of the physical world around us — they will become part of us,” according to the future envisioned by Schwab. “Indeed, some of us already feel that our smartphones have become an extension of ourselves. Today’s external devices — from wearable computers to virtual reality headsets — will almost certainly become implantable in our bodies and brains.”
Among those technologies are “active implantable microchips that break the skin barrier of our bodies,” Schwab explains. These “implantable devices,” Schwab continued, “will likely also help to communicate thoughts normally expressed verbally through a ‘built-in’ smartphone, and potentially unexpressed thoughts or moods by reading brain waves and other signals.”
Schwab suggests that these technologies would be used by governments to determine who may travel, and even for “pre-crime” purposes.
“As capabilities in this area improve, the temptation for law enforcement agencies and courts to use techniques to determine the likelihood of criminal activity, assess guilt or even possibly retrieve memories directly from people’s brains will increase,” he explains, adding that authorities might require “a detailed brain scan to assess an individual’s security risk.”
One wonders if such a brain scan will pre-identify individuals with socio/psychopathy and/or megalomaniac tendencies? And will this be required for both commercial as well as private jet flights? Or will this be another case of “Good for thee but not for me”.
I think we have seen that movie before, loosely based on a 1956 short story by the amazingly prescient Philip K. Dick, entitled "The Minority Report".
This is a vision of the future which is commonly referred to as “Transhumanism”. The focus of Klaus Schwab and his wingman Yuval Noah Harari seem to be on bringing this vision to maturity, while convincing the members of the trade organization comprised of the thousand largest companies in the world - and their owners- the “World Economic Forum” (or WEF), of how much more money, power, and monopolistic control can be had if they will only get on board with the program.
“It is very likely, within a century or two, Homo sapiens, as we have known it for thousands of years, will disappear,” Harari said at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs recently. “We will use technology to upgrade ourselves — or at least some of us — into something different; something which is far more different from us than we are different from Neanderthals.”
What does jolly Santa Klaus and the WEF envision as the nature of their brave new world? George Jetson comes to mind. By the way, where ARE those flying cars they promised us?
In a post on the WEF website by Danish Parliamentarian Ida Auken, the direction and goals of all this transhumanism become more clear. “Welcome to the year 2030,” Auken writes. “I don’t own anything,” including a home, and “I have no real privacy. No where I can go and not be registered. I know that, somewhere, everything I do, think and dream of is recorded.” But her biggest concern is those who refuse to participate.
“My biggest concern is all the people who do not live in our city,” Auken explains, noting that some stubborn individuals refused to merge with machines. “Those we lost on the way. Those who decided that it became too much, all this technology. Those who felt obsolete and useless when robots and AI took over big parts of our jobs. Those who got upset with the political system and turned against it.”
If you cannot shake images of the Matrix and Terminator series out of your mind, you are not alone.
What does the social structure of global human society look like as we move into this envisioned Transhumanist/Fourth Industrial Revolution world?
Historically, most political and social scientists from mid-20th century to the present, as well as the corporate media pundits who re-package the work product coming from academe and think tanks, have relied on the conceptual structure of lower, middle, and upper classes as they try to categorize and comprehend political and social trends. In parallel, others use the Marxist terms Bourgeoisie (and the related petty-Bourgeoisie) and Proletariat.
Since a series of radio interview discussions which I had with Mr. Glen Beck about a year ago, I have become convinced that these 20th century frameworks, including the dialectic of Republican versus Democrat (US political parties) or “liberal” versus “conservative” were no longer particularly useful in trying to understand what is happening in the US (and western world) body politic. Back then, I had become convinced that the emergent new tension was between those who were committed to a collectivist vision (lets call them Socialists, or maybe Marxists, for want of a better term) versus those committed to an independent autonomous vision of personal sovereignty (“Libertarian” starts to get at that).
So much time seems to have passed since then, and I am now personally persuaded by an alternative construction of modern social and political reality which is emerging from the fringes of academic and other thought leader essays on Substack and online journals such as UnHerd. That being that society is now being divided into Physicals, Virtuals, Machines (I guess that includes Borg-like transhumans?), and a very small, elite group of “Davos Man” Overlords.
What could possibly go wrong?
In the classic novel “Animal Farm”, George Orwell provides a metaphorical analysis of the Stalinist version of totalitarianism, in which a small caste of Party members lived very well and the rest of the population did not. This is the caste of the Overlords. The book is a warning that ordinary people in society must not give up their power, or a caste of rulers will rise and repeat all the excesses typical of past totalitarians throughout history. Technology may change, and every totalitarian regime is different, but fundamental human behaviors never change. Orwell writes:
“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”
See here for further analysis of this famous concluding Animal Farm quote.
As envisioned in Schwab’s transhumanism-dominated future, the “Davos Man” monopolist Overlords will hold all assets, and control all financial transactions. This vision is the origin of the famous WEF phrase “You will own nothing and be happy”. The business model behind this is basically an advanced version of modern corporate rent seeking behaviors, in which a small number of companies and their owners will own all assets. Think BlackRock, State Street, Vanguard and Bank of America, who are already well on their way to completing this objective. Then these resources will be allocated out on basically a rental basis “for the greatest good for the greatest number”. Utilitarian/Marxism with a dash of command economy thrown in. “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs”. At least for the lower castes.
So, now we have defined the Overlords and their machines. What about the Physicals and Virtuals castes?
The battle now being fought, while the Overlords, their databases and machine learning algorithms look on, is between those whose power and interests are grounded in the material world, and those whose wealth comes from the world of ideas. The political analyst NS Lyons characterizes this as a class and culture war between “Physicals” and “Virtuals”.
As nicely stated by Mary Harrington (writing from the perspective of United Kingdom politics), in her essay “Can Sunak end the new class war? A deep divide exists between Virtuals and Physicals”:
What’s key is that the moral outlook is downstream of concrete material interests. Physicals work in sectors such as farming, construction, manufacturing, haulage, mining, and so on: occupations inextricable from the material world. Virtuals, on the other hand, work at a layer of abstraction apart from the physical world: think finance, academia, education, media, tech, and so on.
And Virtuals dominate the elite. For as the West has de-industrialised, Western money and power have drained from Physical occupations toward Virtual ones such as finance and tech. And, as a consequence, Virtuals today hold a near-monopoly on institutional power. Westminster occupational data reflects this: barristers, teachers, solicitors, and journalists are well represented among MPs. Conversely, you can trace the waning power of the Physicals in the total number of MPs who were previously farmers, miners or manual workers. This total shrank by a factor of five between 1979 and 2015, from 142 to a scant 33.
Mary Harrington continues:
Mutinous Physicals may need to learn from the truckers: Trudeau eventually ended the protest by freezing protesters out of their own bank accounts. Even the most capable Physicals can’t easily get by in the modern world without access to Virtual finance and tech.
Another possibility is a more thoroughgoing push to turn what’s left of working-class Physicals into the “useless class“ some predict will emerge if AI and automation replace human-powered jobs. This would represent the final Virtual victory: for without even the option to withdraw their labour, it’s hard to see on what basis such a group could compel elites to consider their political interests. This condition of political weakness would be even more pronounced should UBI replace earned wages: few adolescents, however rebellious, will do more than pull faces at their parents if they’re afraid their pocket money will be stopped.
And heres the rub. Virtuals are deeply invested in the belief that reality is whatever they believe it to be. Truth is relative. There is neither objective truth, reality, nor ethics. In the world of on-line gaming and virtual reality, there is no objective ground truth, no actual physical reality to contend with. Only a sort of “Truthiness”, a sense of “that seems plausible”. And a whole lot of fantasy. And from this perspective, many of the social divides which are tearing up the electorate and redefining politics in the United States suddenly start to make sense. Back to Mary Harrington again for more key insights:
This class-inflected contest between the virtual and the real economies is the core of the class and culture war now being fought across the West. It also helps to make sense of how apparently unrelated issues, such as trans rights and immigration, can become bitter battlefronts in the same war.
Trans rights make sense as a proxy for the Virtuals’ core moral claim: that ideas matter more than the material world. When we consider what a person is in legal terms, do we prioritize the material fact of their biological sex, or their inner, abstract idea of who they are? Understandably, the Virtuals prefer the answer that places their class of work, their worldview and by extension their political interests at the top of the moral pile.
High immigration, meanwhile, is a material positive to Virtuals: more people means more growth. This material upside is then moralized in terms of “openness”, “culture”, “freedom” and so on. For working-class Physicals, though, high immigration means stiffer competition for jobs.
Fortunately or unfortunately, what neither Mary Harrington nor the Virtuals seem to appreciate is that from the perspective of the Overlords, Virtuals are even more expendable than the Physicals are. Someone needs to run the farms, milk the cows (or at least maintain the robotic milking machines), collect the trash, and treat the ill. The Virtuals are the ones at greatest risk of replacement by computational algorithms, and are already finding themselves being made “redundant” at a surprisingly fast rate. They may be the first to be forced into universal basic income slavery allocated via central bank digital currency with a social credit score topping just to make sure that they do not get uppity.
In closing, I hope that readers who have not previously encountered these new ideas of Transhumanism, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and the new caste structure of Physicals, Virtuals, Machines and Overlords can now appreciate that there are fundamental shifts in the structure of modern society which are being actively promoted and imposed upon us by a variety of political and economic actors.
In his book The Revolt of the Elites, Christopher Lasch summarizes the situation nicely.
The thinking classes are fatally removed from the physical side of life… Their only relation to productive labor is that of consumers. They have no experience of making anything substantial or enduring. They live in a world of abstractions and images, a simulated world that consists of computerized models of reality – “hyperreality,” as it’s been called – as distinguished from the palatable, immediate, physical reality inhabited by ordinary men and women. Their belief in “social construction of reality” – the central dogma of postmodernist thought – reflects the experience of living in an artificial environment from which everything that resists human control (unavoidably, everything familiar and reassuring as well) has been rigorously excluded. Control has become their obsession. In their drive to insulate themselves against risk and contingency – against the unpredictable hazards that afflict human life – the thinking classes have seceded not just from the common world around them but from reality itself.
Which are you? Physical, Virtual, Transhuman machine, or Overlord? Which world do you want to live in? The sterilized, depopulated and highly managed city of Danish Parliamentarian Ida Auken’s fantasies, or the physical world for which she has such distain?
And more importantly, what is the world that you wish to have your children inherit.
I have made my choice. I prefer to join Candide and go work in the garden.
What I would like to know is what your positive alternative vision of the future looks like. Whether Physical, Virtual, or a blend of the two, if we want to beat the Overlords (and their transhuman machines), we need our own great narrative. One which evokes Morning in America rather than the Matrix and the Borg as the future of humankind.
And most importantly, what I want to know, is “are you kind”.
Well, the first days are the hardest days
Don't you worry anymore
'Cause when life looks like Easy Street
There is danger at your door
Think this through with me
Let me know your mind
Whoa, oh, what I want to know
Is are you kind?
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I am watching an exodus from the cities to small towns that has sped up the past 2 1/2 years, with some young people choosing to live in the "physical" rather than "virtual" world. They're choosing to get by with smaller, simpler homes while the trade off is more recreational time in beautiful surroundings and they're a lot happier than those spending their days in windowless cubicles in glass and steel high-rises with bigger houses and fancier cars. I see some hope.
What strikes me is that the "virtuals," of which Schwab's minion Harari seems destined to play the "lead," assume that the transition will occur as if it depends only upon the Dungeon Master (Dungeons and Dragons) changing the rules to make it so, or a game of Sim World where you can reduce the population by 90% and simply start a new simulation, and that will repair all the tears in the world fabric being made now. A world dependent upon an AI infrastructure could well run short of key metals. There are many untested assumptions about how an AI/smart city would run and how well that would work real time. Are we going to live in slits in the ground like the new ultramodern Saudi "Line city?" What if the master plan is a dismal failure?
If synthetic foods don't sustain health for the Physicals to do their part, then what? If Soylent Green is people, and people are filled with deadly viruses and malevolent prions, even a smaller fit and able population will be hard to sustain. And if blotting out the sun to control the climate brings ambient light levels so low that crops won't thrive--given that the sun is the powerhouse of organic life, same. It all seems like a game which the Overlords haven't thought out very well.