Life, Labour & Algorithms


#1

Which age are we living in ?

Is it the hyper age of Communications and Networking ?
Is it the golded age of Information, Data ?

or we live in ages & cages of :

  • exploitation
  • algorthmic supervision & management
  • data driven algorithms that are highly biased by data and organizations that run it
  • automated oppression, and discrimination
  • identity theft and technocratic governance
  • free to choose our employer but not my decisions
  • where every student of engineering & technology asks for automation as their ultimate fantasy ?

Why we as critical individuals are not capable enough to do something against at, even at personal and individual level. ?

Even if we are ready to do so? do we have the means/modes and power to act, bootstrap and propel ourselves together towards such anti-oppressive - which is anti-hegemonic forces ?

We in Free Software and Open Hardware - Scientifically driven Technologic communities, somehow have a huge collection of tools, frameworks, practices that really have the potential to illustrate democracy, cooperation, collaborative decision making, reaching consensus for commons, self organizing common resources, etc…

But still why cannot we make a alter-real-business model that can provide a plan, action calling plan, to bootstrap and break ourselves ourselves from the chain of oppression (economic, cultural). Why we do we still go work for corporate houses, boring institutions, media houses, think tanks that actually serve the capitalistic, castist, nationalistic, fascist forces in society for 5 days, and work 2 days for satisfying ourselves by internalizing radical thoughts and self satisfying ourselves that we are actually working towards that, while in the long run, numbers and maths being rational and cold - state that the more work one puts for such oppressive forces, are going to be leading and dominating our life behaviours.

Let’s discuss that. This need not be philosophical. Being philosophical is enough. There are people who have done that well that us. We need discussion that generates righteous indignation within ourselves, help us survive the battle that long happening without oneself and work collectively towards a end, that need to be satisfying one by creating a common bridge between Labour Power and Social Good. A fundamental contradiction which most of the time we fail to ignore.

Either being a Hacktivist, Slacktivist, or Activist is not enough. Instead of tiring ourselves with reasons that stops us from being non active, we need narration, stories, reasons that movitates us that drives us for action. If we agree to that, we are going to meet our true self at several instances, and confrant us within ourself, and ask questions that actually going to depress us - but it is the path that we have already chosen to walk. Aren’t we ?


When are we going to attain our peace ? How ? Is evangelising, and taking philosophical or skill development classes alone is going to do that ? Come on, do we have the illustrative power to give what the current student needs in the AI/ML demanding system ? Neither do we have infrastructure nor the complete political depth of automation to be ourselves responsible.

Yes educating the students and academy is essential. It is vital and prime. But is that it ? what is the indication that such community has matured ?

Answer me Truthfully. Please dont state shell reasons. State what is stopping you from framing such a plan and action ?


#2

I’ve spent several years around FSFTN and FSMK folks. I find the atmosphere is too much talk and too little action. There is too much cynicism is in the air. Whenever someone proposes something, others only react to it with discouragement. I myself might have been guilty of that. Having grown frustrated with this, I have retired to my own little bubble where I do the little things that make me happy. Sure, I still believe in free software and continue contributing most of my free time to it. But I do that with no illusion that I am forwarding some great cause. I just do it because it makes me happy.

@31gane In my interactions with you, I often see you coming back to the need for “economic incentives”. I think those are only one side of the picture. Humans are more than rational self-interest seekers. The rational Homo economicus model which both capitalist economics and Marxism is built on is flawed. To work effectively as a group, we need something more than just rational self interest. If a job in a traditional capitalist company provides that something, I’d probably take it up.


#3

I guess everyone is living in their little bubble, engulfed in their goals and beliefs. You know i did in my own little bubble too.

Yes of course, economic side of the life is one part. But i do respect my emotional needs to. If i can able to go use a free software platform to survey a village that have met with socio-economic and environment problems like : high salt water filled with chemical effluents, labour exploitation from a local corporate company, and increased erosion of vegetaion, etc… atleast it gave me a internal satisfaction that i can able to deploy free software/hardware tools for such situations.

I really enjoyed the feeling. To work as a group, yes we need more than rational bindings, i learned we need a common cause that keeps us motivated and asks for delivering the outcome with each of our labour, time and resource. This further begs for self organization and management, where each one of us have to become not just a “coder” (coding is craft), but also contribute towards management. Suddenly everyone internally have to behave like a manager that we have been trained for. Then comes the backlash for collaboration and cooperation, and slowly again we learn that we need compassion, empathy, support, love, between peers who are willing to work cooperatively, using collaborative ecosystems, for a common cause in transparent manner.


I hope, the something you mention is not just a singular thing, it is a collection of several different factors that propel us individually and in a way support us to work together, amidst personal depressions, conventional responsibilities.

I also believe, we have lot to learn from biology and evolution. We might need to unlearn conventional and readily available organization methods.

I keep coming to “economic” angle, because, end of the day, i believe it is not possible to sustain even as a consumer of products without fiscal support. That is why we started to think, see, look, learn alternative economic models that have pretty much accepted that it is not the rational factor that binds workers, but also deliberately avoid providing popular formulas for success, as supplied by capitalism or neoliberalism. I still do not know whether marxism does that.

We can keep discussing about failures in alternative economic models, and learn why they failed so ? in subverting the dominant economic system. But to initiate, the group must start somewhere and can able to document everything they do, learn and how they made themselves flexible and rigid at places and situations necessary.


As far as i know, we are in a age, where humans are popularized and interpreted as “self interesting seekers” or “greedy” individuals, and mass media keeps suppressing our ability to work collectively for or against a common cause. Most of the time best of the collective comes from negative situations - like disasters.

Even if u can able to find that “something” in current economic system, it provides the thing one expects just to keep the hegemonic forces intact, to preseve its current structure and functionality as it is. Then are we not fueling it ? My argument is to act in favour of collective self sustenance, is to think, model, act against the current dominant system. And to act collectively every individual needs economic support, and also the “emotional” gear or “something” as you said. I situate that “something” in the alternative side of the equation.


Does contributing to free software/hardware projects have siezed the means of production from capital ? No. To best it has made available in plenty in commons, from which again the capital takes the tools, instruments commons contributed - for granted, even without any legal restrictions. Production method (collaboration, democracy), rights (licenses), community can help generate platforms, instruments, tools for commons. But only an “radical” or alternative system can use the same set of tools, contribute back all the while acting against the dominant system - by not disrupting the unions, collectives, but by aiding them, strengthening the workers unions, etc…


#4

We pretty much agree on all the problems of capitalism, and how free software has made insufficient impact on it. It is only when it comes to the proposed solutions that we don’t see eye to eye.

Yes. the something is a multitude of small factors.


#5

I wanted to ask, do you really think, that is there a cultural space in our locality like, TN, Karnataka, Kerala, for Do It Yourself, or Tinkering, or Home brewing hobbies, like serious hobbies ?

From a bird’s eye view (I apologize for reducing the view), it seems that we are all pretty many consumers of free software and hardware. Most of the times, we use them well, to a certain degree. I can see only a very few serious contributors. I mean we can count them ?

What makes an individual (of all genders), to hesitate them from making a tool or instrument or a software, a framework or … something that can be used and improved by others ?

  • Is that hesitation is due to individual economic hurdle ?
  • Is that hesitation is due to lack of group organization, & vision ?
  • Is it due to the individual people giving more preference to the individual self gratification ? (while that is not essentially wrong per se.)
  • Is it due to the abundance of tools that are available in commons, that raises the question of productive throughput (i.e, what if someone or some group who is better at implementing an idea before the individual or group does)
  • Is there an appreciation for individuals who do hard labour - for instance in software development space, like package management, developing compiling kernel modules, designing algorithms that are seldom in use or latent from common view?
  • Is it because something which is hard to explain by the group ? Like an impetus to see the immediate social impact of a creation (tool, service, platform, instrument…) ?
  • Is it because we are culturally alienated from common labour populace ?

#6

Some opinions below.

There is certainly a lack of group organization and vision. When anybody suggests even a mildly constructive goal, there is a lot of discouragement wrapped up in the logic of feasibility. There are a lot of ego conflicts within the community. Everyone wants to be some kind of “leader” and won’t volunteer to join work others have started.

No, there is no appreciation because there are so few in the community who actually understand these things. If there were more, they probably stopped being part of the community because there’s nothing for them here.

Sometimes, obsession with socioeconomic impact is a hurdle. For many of the things I do and like to do, there is no obvious socioeconomic impact. I often see my free software work more as art rather than some utilitarian work. So, I have no proper platform within the community to talk about my work. People are too eager to shoot it down as having no socioeconomic impact. This tendency is very common among communists, for whom, somehow every little action must be part of some great class struggle. It’s like they can’t appreciate anything in life apart from the end of capitalism.

This reason is certainly valid, but I think it is overused. Many people in the free software community are middle class people who can actually afford to spend a bit (you can tell by the money they spend on buying expensive phones, travel, eating out, etc.). Even when they can’t, usually a group of people can pool money and get things done. Most often this economic reason is provided as an excuse to therefore not do anything — a mask to hide a lack of vision or initiative.


#7

We have been answering several questions about why free software, open hardware, an instance of transparent technology through scientific means is essential for rebooting a open culture. This is where tools created by labor of several workers influence society as a whole from average to variation to extremes; from macro to micro.

For instance, lets take the case of Wolfram Mathematica, from a mathematician and logician who was very influence in the world of computation and mathematics, and have contributed to fractals, etc… I have witnessed several people from our community itself have been using it, for its acclaimed query and answering system which is almost academic, but also to a extent exploration for students who have not yet grasped the political economy of production, distribution and consumption of science and scientific tools through technology.

How many of us wondered what will be the answer why Wolfram Mathematica Service, Package is not yet made transparent, - a.k.a, free software or at least open source ???

Why Wolfram Technology is not Transparent ? - A dozen Reasons !!!

I would call the community to answer the answers found in the above link. Also, please take your time to read the answers in the replies. If we cannot answer them questions, it means really we are stuck somewhere. I have tried to answer myself for those answers. I am interested to know what others think… i am calling the peers i know… @CommonsSibi @prashere @arunisaac @Balvis @demonshreder @ragul @ramaseshan @maniraj @manimaraninam1027 @crakensio … and all others, also SWIFT, to answer it.

I honestly do not know whether the politics of Wolfram Mathematica is taken seriously or not. We have many instances criticizing Google search engine, and its plethora of services, and others like it - Amazon, FB, etc… But i think Mathematica is equally another service that stands very illustrative of Commodification of Scientific Knowledge accelerating the dichotomy and contradiction within the scientific community that stands of human knowledge generation and regulation.

Please discuss.


#8

The article is a classic example of “open-source” utilitarianism that refuses to acknowledge free software values. The word “open-source” only refers to a design methodology. With free software, we talk about much more – about property rights, about universal access, etc. Free software is an ideal in the same spirit as liberty, equality and fraternity. We want liberty, equality and fraternity not just because of some utilitarian value but because it is of intrinsic value to us as human beings. For example, we don’t say freedom of speech is unnecessary because most people are not journalists and will never engage in public speech. Likewise, universal access to source code and the rights to study, modify and distribute it are of intrinsic value regardless of whether it is useful to this person or that person, regardless of whether you are a programmer, etc.

My political arguments above alone should be enough to refute the entire article, but let me go ahead with some technical arguments as well. Central to the article are the following claims.

Centralized coherent design is not possible with free software

This is false. Many projects retain a coherent design by means of community consensus (eg, Guix). Some do it by having benevolent dictators (eg, Linux). Others do it by working behind closed doors inside a company but later releasing the code (eg, Firefox, Android). Mathematica could easily copy the Firefox, Android model.

Very few people care about source code; they wouldn’t read it even if they had access

It’s true that only a small fraction of people read the code. Even I didn’t start reading the code until many many years (~4 years) after I had started using free software. But, now that I have started reading code, I read some free code or the other almost everyday. And, it has been an enormous learning experience reading other people’s code, understanding how they wrote it, what’s good, what’s bad, etc., not to mention the profound sense of empowerment that I can fix and improve any software I use. Proprietary software, on the other hand, wants to simply keep one a passive consumer forever.

And, repeating what I said earlier, arguing that releasing free code is unnecessary because very few will read it, is like saying that free speech is unnecessary because very few people are journalists and will need it.

Free software just imitates, does not innovate

This is just nonsense. Look into any proprietary software – you will find major innovations that arose in the public domain and was captured and repackaged in the proprietary world. In my own areas of interest, consider the GNU Guix system distribution. It uses a novel new “functional model of package management”. This is a major innovation and there is nothing like it in the proprietary world. Look at PGP encryption. Did it arise in the proprietary software? No, of course not. I could go on and on with the list of innovations produced in free software. The author is just ignorant on the subject, and chooses to remain so.

Steady income

This is the only point of the author that I can at least partly agree with. But, I am not totally convinced. I think systematic donation, new business models, etc. can provide steady income even with free software. However, the devil is in the details, and I don’t claim to have expert knowledge on these topics.

That’s it, I hope I have refuted major point in the article both politically and technically. If not, if there’s some particular point I have not addressed, please let me know. I will tackle that as well.


#9

:heart:

:clap:

:sunglasses:

:clap: :heart:

:heart_eyes::star_struck::heart_eyes_cat::raised_hands::ok_hand::+1::muscle::muscle:


#10

I am hoping people in the movement read this and understand properly.


#11

Most of us have travelled from just being a community that supports technology for science, to a community that embraced politics and realized that we have undermined the social, economic and political for relatively longer period of time, which we can still hear from our past.

But the more dialectical understanding of Nature, Society, and how each of us influenced individually, at micro level as well as collectively at the social level is far more of a insight that moved us to connect with other people’s movement. This always seems inevitable.

We network with activists, ground working scholars, researchers, etc… who have their own experience in their respective domain in the society. We are mobilizing ourselves collectively. But the more we mobilize ourselves we realize that we lack critical theory and action, against which we are mobilizing for.

Are we mobilizing against Capitalism ?, Neoliberal policies ?, Globalized Trade monopoly ? Algorithmic Mass Surveillance ?, Knowledge stratification of Society (Neo Caste?), Enclosure of commons ? Commodification of Social Relations ?

Are we mobilizing against all kinds of oppression ? Yes may be it looks like it ? Should we ? Why ?

We situated ourselves at the forefront of technological changes which we dont take lightly. And the conditions of our situation, has a deep underpinning of every vertically governed aspect of the society. At this point it transforms our individual skills, passion, actions into a collective responsibility - a political action that need to work in several pillars of the society and governance.

We need to have a look and observation that interprets with several point of views at the same time : mathematical, poitical, economic, social, legal, technological,


#12

I have been thinking that we have a short sighted view of relationship between privacy and labour at the individual scale and social scale.

We must start redefining and re-educating ourself on : Labour Theory based redefining of Privacy - which is highly needed in information and network age.

If Privacy fundamentally mean that a individual in a collective society has the right to have control on their own function, bodily integrity, decision making, autonomy, etc… Then why not Labourers have no control over deciding how to control their economic sustenance ?


Now depending on the geo-cultural situations of global society, the differences in how opression works varies widely. But all have one thing in common, a hierarchichal chain of relationships based on some kind of oppression. Mostly on the following stratifications :

  1. Gender
  2. Caste
  3. Race
  4. Religion
  5. Class

Every stratification system tries to oppress people recursively. Which simply means the society organizes oppression not just through simple hierarchy. Although that helps one understand from a freezed temporal view, a static view. However we know that history and dialectical relationships between seemingly unrelated factors creates complex dynamics that requires a more critical approach.

For instance, this recursion is what we see in Indian Society called as : Brahminization of culture. Do not confuse the term or just spiral up with hate speeches around a certain casted community. Remember no individual has control over the choice of Caste. It is decided by Birth like a virtue. For further exploration please explore Ambedkar, Chattopadhyaya, & Periyars works.

Coming back to the point, this brahminization is a cultural program, which dictates that “there must always be set of castes that must be oppressed by the higher casts”. And this this simple rule keeps repeating at every scale and level of the hierarchy, just resembling a Fractal World. Thus for any individual born into such stratification order, will mostly have some caste caste under their feet and some caste over their heads. And the relationship ship is subjugative and submissive respectively.

What we see in common is not just hierarchy, not just fractalization, but also a division of society that fundamentally have instrumentalized the division through restriction, alienation of knowledge from the oppressed, so that the oppression can continue for eternity. The oppressed become the oppressed in first place because of the denial of knowledge - as a main contributing factor.

Once the division is put into place based on the existing form of organized unjust ruling and law, culture, and economy takes care of the rest of transitioning the same state of stratification through time : decades, centuries, etc… until the oppressed becomes sensitized, angry, conscious, and organize couragely together to question the oppressor and eventually overthrow the way society is organized.

Historically it is always a socially challenging phenomenon for humans to find a common factor that cross cuts the caste, race, religion, gender divisions. This is how induced ignorance works. The culture is so powerful that it can program most of the individuals to think unification is impossible because of the difference and oppression experienced by the nearest fractal peer.


Thus it is clear that a society stratified in a particular way, has historical contingency that must be taken into account to understand how the contemporary works. Else it is just a half baked interpretation that does not have any fruitful learning.

So Why Social Stratification ?

  1. Frame & Deploy the Rules in favour of Opression
  2. Appropriate the Fruits of Labour from the Oppressed
  3. Own the instruments of knowledge to continue the Injustice
  4. Creating oppressed layers of subjugation, will probably keep the people chase towards social-economic mobility
  5. Own the instruments of production to create a treadmill for extracting Surplus Labour.

But on the other hand, we have converged on one strong factor. LABOUR. Everybody works for somebody. And the strange thing of any market based economy is that, we need consumption to produce. But to produce the oppressors need the Labour working for them. So through any of the stratification strategy the labour power will be extracted, and the result product is sold in market which must be purchased in some other market, which can have different theme or different location or different cultural values, etc…

Thus Labour based unification demands one more view. Thus we have :

  1. Historical View
  2. Knowledge View
  3. Labour View

All these views are deeply interconnected and interpenetrates each one to manifest the reality around us. Comprehending the reality thus requires us to understand them holistically.

This helped us understand undeniably the oppressor needs the oppressed and thus mass consciousness is the threshold beyond which the oppressors ready to negotiate and agree to make any changes as long as it wont affect their position to rule.


Imagine, what will happen if Algorithms dictated by Ruling & Managerial class decide the remaining individuals life in a already stratified society that denies equal distribution of knowledge. Imagine, what will be happen to you in a Caste ridden system be ruled with the new algorithmic power that is made for meeting the goals of Profit, & Power. It readily creates a nexus between the Communal/Fascist regimes and Capitalist Ruling class & Managerial class. Because Capitalism leverages on existing Culturally programmed inequalities, so that a neat flow of capital and labour can be orchestrated in favour of extracting surplus, while for example the caste system of division of labourers can easily take care of maintaining the constructed inequalities.

We know the Media is a instrument of Control that yields to the powerful, and the above nexus easily controls media to control the masses to create manufactured consent, decisions, likes, dislikes, reinforce ignorance, fake sense of satisfaction through short term gratification, mass consumption attitude, etc…

This demands that the common Unification factor = Labour, needs to be connected with values of individual autonomy, which can be collectivized again to represent a blow against the oppression. If the unionized mass demands labour rights and privacy rights from social point of view, then in a way it is a blow.


Getting back to the original point : What we mean about economic liberty is not much legally and culturally connected to social definition of Privacy. What is considered as fundamental violation in social sense, is taken for granted or hyper normalized in economic sense. One is usually not comfortable with Mass Surveillance, but relatively more comfortable with Unique Numbering to get their deserved Food in their Stomach.

This Bifurcated view must be subjected to discussion and debates by civil societies, pro people movements, pro social Sci/Tech Communities, Coops, Union, and their network of federations. Only a watchful whistleblowing, and Surveillance of ruling class, state, bureacracy, oppressors, & exercising power over it will keep them in order as a regulator to suppress the anti-social agents and patterns.

Can the role of state as a regulator, governor be replaced ? In a way it is inevitable. When we have a state aligned with different political agenda that is not favourable for people progression, it results basically in a tug of war.


Algorithm based Platform Services tumoring over the commons resources in Internet & Web, which are essentially marketed as Connectivity Services with anti-scientific production practices imposed on their labourers, while disconnecting, isolating, hyper individualizing each person through anti-social practices that are now hidden in those proprietary technology packages.

Legal fence around these technologies are not going to reveal their anti-social practices, leaving us no other way of creating a completely transparent alternatives riding on self organizing labour owned coops, decentralized & federated as a strategy against monopoly - through creating commons and diversifying and populating commons way of self organizing.

So while introducing privacy we must introduce privacy with labour integrity just like bodily integrity. In a sense labour power can be directly connected with bodily integrity. Then we might start to see some recognition of idea of self respect and further with critical philosophy.


Within 24h, we have 8hrs recognized as organized labour contribution. with legal bindings, with agreed economic returns at individual scale. In that 8 hrs most probably we become generators of algorithmic services that are targeted to consume data and information in more than needed quantity and quality. In the remaining 16 hrs sustantial amount of time is alloted for consuming these algorithmic services which in turn is used to generate data for the service. This is unroganized labour without any material returns. This turns us into data generators.

So an individualized person is further reinforced to be more indivualized to split the personality into a person under workplace surveillance to be generators of logics required to compose a algorithm based service and also to be data generators for those algorithms back. This interpretation is not new.

But the same relation is taken to a new level of recursion, as mentioned before, in a social fractal world as :

  1. consume the service (else you will feel left alone)
  2. produce data for the service (it is the result of collective labour)
  3. produce codes embedded logics, mathematical models, rules, composed into algorithms, only to target other persons to consume it back

This is not just a treadmill or a simple vicious cycle, but a fractalized vicious cycle.


#13

Reading References :

  1. Nooscope - Knowledge extractivism
  2. Rate of Exploitation
  3. General Intellect
  4. Cybernetic Planning
  5. Media Theorized
  6. In the Net
  7. Producing & Reproducing
  8. Women of Struggle, Women in Struggle
  9. Feminism for 99%