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July Conference: Innovation held back

The Workers Party is holding a Day Conference on 1st July to discuss how to rebuild British industry. The Conference is for Members Only and invited guests. In the run up to Conference we are publishing a number of pieces submitted for the purposes of stimulating discussion around the theme of reviving British industry, the challenges of AI and automation and the role of vocational education.

All our articles in this series are produced by ordinary members, we have no gilded theoreticians to hand down answers. Our struggle is in learning how to think, rather than being told what to think. Our party encourages the active participation of the membership in discussing shared problems and our policy response. This piece has been submitted by Karol Glebocki.

The relationship between capitalism and innovation

It is a popular myth that capitalism brings innovation, every system does it’s just what we humans are always pursuing. Capitalism speeded up the process due to the growth of industries in which industrial machinery had to be correctly supervised, used, maintained and improved in order to do that it was necessary to provide at least some level of education to the masses, however even that couldn’t be implemented right away because who would work in extremely dangerous mines in tiny mining shafts if not the children, but the conflict of interests between various capitalists brought an end to this shameful practices (at least in the West for time being).

Capitalism by its very nature is only interested in profit and that’s the key to understanding nuances here. Let’s take as an example the current ongoing debates about climate change and transportation. We are being bombarded by two groups of influence – liberals and conservatives, the first one with groups like Stop Oil are calling for an immediate ban on all fossil fuel cars and replace them with electric ones which have lower carbon print, and the second group is mocking them pointing out various problems with electric cars, such as low distance on one charging, the problem with recycling of batteries etc. but conveniently none of these people is addressing the elephant in the room – public transport. There are various studies proving that carbon print from fossil fuel buses or trains is by far lower than any fossil fuel or electric car, but there is no profit so, no one seems to be interested.

Another popular subject in this context are self-driving cars, Tesla and many other tech-car companies are running various tests, and there are even places in which one can take a lift in such car but accidents are still happening because driving on the road including by default so many unpredictable factors that AI available today cannot cope with, but that’s because of a nature of driving on the road but there is a useful place in which such technology could be implemented without so many obstacles and factors and could thrive making the transportation cheaper and easier – railway, but again no profits there.

This is why as a strong believer in climate crisis I don’t see how we can tackle the issue in a profit-driven economy, as long as the main consideration of managers is cutting the costs and increasing the profits, as long as maybe illegal but rational (from the capitalist perspective) idea is to ditch old oil into the river instead of paying for recycling than long we won’t be able to address this topic seriously, just like we can’t talk seriously about innovations if for example Samsung making smartphones has to constantly keep spending their resources to develop not only, fresh modern phones with best possible technology inside but also has to employ engineers to produce slightly faster processors than previous ones, but slower than their top-range, making low, mediocre and high-end chipsets for different price range to fulfil “the market demand” in quotes because market demand is fancy term in this context because people are not buying cheaper smartphones for some bizarre reason but only because they can’t afford the highest end ones.

Another example is the company Intel, famous for their computer processors, for years they keep developing 4 main lines of PC processors – I3, I5, I7 and I9 more recently, everyone who is slightly interested in the subject knows that I9 are the best out of them and I3 are the lowest end but is there any practical use or situation in which I3, I5 or I7 would be a better choice than I9? Simple answer – no. I9 are the fastest and when the number of calculations to make is equal they are the most energy-efficient (it might be necessary to restrict them with software to be so but still, a simple app or new Windows update could fix the issue) yet Intel is developing for years all those lines, carefully calculating things to make sure that the new I3 won’t be faster than the new I5 and so on – just think about all these engineers losing their time for this crap instead of developing objectively better technology.

So, to summarise capitalism doesn’t bring innovations – humans do, not because of capitalism but often instead of it.

One thought on “July Conference: Innovation held back

  1. The contradictions about the way capitalism deals with climate change, when it basically can’t deal with it.
    Dealing with environmental problems, eg end of biodiversity, pollution, soil erosion, pesticide, via technology. The case of herbicides : Bosch has invented a machine to administer herbicides not on the whole field, but only on visible weeds. The huge machine has long arms equipped with cameras; when the camera spots a weed, that immediately sends out a squirt of herbicide, the machine never needing to stop or slow down.
    Obviously that machine is very expensive and is only suitable for massive fields. The trend has been in Europe the amalgamation of farms into large concerns; this goes against the environment, which is better protected by smaller fields surrounded by hedges. Hedges offer habitat fro wildlife, offer protection against wind and against soil erosion. In France more hedges have been torn up in the last 20 years (with all talk of environment protection etc) than in the 20 years before that. That is because there is no government or Eu protection for small farmers who need minimum prices for their produce in order to survive. They give up, or retire, and their farms are bought up by large concerns.

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