One of the most interesting things about socialism and communism is that, realistically, we haven’t experienced much of either in the way that Marx intended. While I’ve covered that before in other articles, today we’re going to dive into the cybernetics and information technology that could allow for socialism to work. This is an important topic for me, because back when I was a senior in college studying supply chain management, I was a fairly confused former conservative who knew capitalism was broken but didn’t understand how socialism could work. At the time, there really wasn’t any examples of socialisms that respected human rights, provided a high standard of living to the masses, and didn’t rely on autocrats or bureaus dominating the political landscape. For me, it was inconceivable that any of this could work and it seemed like we were just stuck living in a degenerate dystopia with no decent alternatives. In this article, we’re going to look at what changed my perspective, starting with the socialist epiphany I had, as well as provide information in general on why socialism keeps getting more and more viable with each passing day. For people that aren’t convinced on socialism, this article is for you. For people that are interested in learning more about cybernetic socialism, this article is for you. For people that want to know why anyone would be crazy enough to create a tax-exempt, Marxist religious organization and risk his career writing dozens of articles on a website with a pretty small viewership, this article is also for you.
When I was studying supply chain management, we had to run simulations of master production schedules on excel sheets and code the inputs. From part trees to labor hours to inventory to supply shortages to demand forecasts, we had to navigate it all, change what we had to, and provide a profit for the firm. The hypothetical company I managed in this class was a push-type operation, in which suppliers supplied the manufacturer, the manufacturer supplied the distributor, and the distributor sold the final product to the customer. It was the same system that the Soviet Union used for the entirety of its production, in which firms created demand forecasts and tried to satisfy their production targets, so I had already been looking at parallels for a while between the capitalist and state socialist modes of production here. One day when I was plugging in the demand forecasts into the master production schedule, in which demand for a company is estimated by its sales and marketing personnel, I had an epiphany: the Demand Forecast would only get more accurate over time as information technology increased. In the Soviet Union, the best they could go off of was the time until obsolescence for products, basic requirements of living, and population sizes. There wasn’t a reactive system in place, that could provide more information on what the consumers actually desired, and the political setup guaranteed that the wishes of the proletarians went unfulfilled. As I began to think about how information technology has become increasingly useful in modern America, where ads cater to you based on your search history to provide you with options that you’d likely want, where predictive algorithms are beginning to know us better than ourselves, and where almost every transaction not paid for in cash is electronically logged, I realized that the demand forecasts of firms would get exponentially more accurate over time if there was no barrier to that information that we see under capitalism. The socialist push-type operation could completely work nowadays if such a state had access to the same information that capitalist firms have nowadays, because if a state firm had access to all this information, from the time that people purchase these items, to what characteristics people prefer in their products today, to when individuals will purchase these products, the supply problems in socialism would become irrelevant.
I’m not advocating state socialism here, but rather saying that if the technology of today can allow such an inefficient system to match the demands of the market, that gives you an idea of the potential we have in our hands nowadays. Without the barriers of information found in private institutions, in which market actors like to retain most of what they know to prevent the competition from benefitting as well, a truly socialist society could coordinate the economy on a scale so profoundly more efficient than anything we’d ever dream of, with the technologies of the present. While the supply chain field has a variety of different systems, if we could create omniscient Demand Forecasts, the push-type system for manufacturers could economize the production process so much that things could become far cheaper than they were before. We could take advantage of bulk discounts without fear of overproduction or surplus inventory, utilize the economy-of-scale in factories before transitioning those factories into producing different things based on demand cycles, while warehousing finished items for their eventual sale. With such powerful information technologies, the commodity markets would change drastically as well, with risk and speculation being reduced more and more as firms became more knowledgeable about what they needed and when they needed it, freely sharing that with each other in order to create pricings on commodities that reflected the reality of the market. While this may seem far-fetched to you, the truth of the matter is that as information technology continues to grow in sophistication and accuracy, the abilities of companies to predict what they need to do to satisfy market demands in the most profitable way possible is only going to become more fantastical. If we take keiretsus into account, with market actors tied together by ownership in each others’ stocks and industrial banks that corral them, it becomes clear that this situation in which information is shared freely by firms isn’t impossible and could be very mutually beneficial to everyone involved. Capitalism is an impediment to this reality, but so are traditional forms of socialism, which is why my friends and I started thinking about the ideas that eventually formed what became Surplus Statism.
I’m not here to sell you on Surplus Statism, but I am here to sell you on cybernetic socialism. The fact is that traditionally, socialism failed because the incentives weren’t there, the top-down command apparatus disenfranchised the workers, and the conflicts of interest in the leadership meant that the peoples’ problems were never addressed. In cybernetic socialism, where we could use the technologies of today and tomorrow to remove those conflicts of interest inherent in state structures, create command apparatuses in which the workers created their own production schedules tailored to what worked best, and establish what amounted to a cellular democracy in the workplace, we achieve everything the workers have always dreamed of. For visual representations on how this would look in terms of the organizational structure, this is best exemplified by a blanket with Project Cybersyn features on it seen below:
Reading books like Designing Freedom by Stafford Beer, Cybernetic Revolutionaries: Technology and Politics in Allende’s Chile by Eden Medina, and Red Plenty by Francis Spufford can give you a better idea on cybernetics than I ever could in this article but the point remains: to accomplish what socialism is intended to achieve, we need to embrace cybernetic theory. The entire field of cybernetics is oriented around information technology and computers, with its earliest implementations being in the mid-20th century. With the processing power that we have today, with all the different inputs we can supply systems with today, the ability of cybernetic socialism to solve society’s problems has grown exponentially since it was last attempted. The problem today is that cybernetic socialism is a complex philosophy, that wouldn’t have the same impact on anyone reading this as it would on the ordinary person in the reader’s country. Cybernetic Socialism is strictly the domain of nerds, on par with Warhammer 40K in terms of its complexity, and most people wouldn’t bother trying to understand it. Cybernetic Socialism, by design, isn’t going to win in a democratic election when the majority of any given populace has too low of an IQ or interest to truly understand it. Similarly, Cybernetic Socialism conflicts with Vanguarism to a high degree because, for the wannabe dictators of the world, cybernetics poses an existential threat to any power they might gain from launching a successful revolution. In its limited applications in the Soviet Union, cybernetics showed immense performance gains, but the party saw it as a threat to its rule and shut down these projects by the 1960’s. In Allende’s Chile, Cybernetic Socialism had almost been implemented as a third way position between the state socialism of the Marxist-Leninist world and the capitalism of the West, but was dismantled in the subsequent American-backed revolution. Cybernetic Socialism, for the most part, has been relegated to the dustbin due to human nature but that doesn’t mean we should give up on advocating for it and continuing to create systems that can accommodate it.
The varieties of socialism possible today, capable of circumventing the bureaucracies that dominated the socialist ideologies of the 20th century, should be inspiring. The material surplus generated by production facilities today have reached the point at which no one needs to want or hunger anymore. The problems we face today, from liberal-spawned racism to private transportation costs to never-ending job insecurities to skyrocketing costs of childcare, are symptoms of capitalism. The vast majority of the problems we face today are artificial and would not exist, if we managed our resources and cultural sphere better. We shouldn’t turn to the past, looking at prior failed attempts at socialism, but rather look at what failed, look at how we can solve those institutional problems with cybernetic theory, and look only forward from there. The world is, for the first time in history, on the side of the socialist. If we can create a cybernetic socialism capable of gaining broad support with the public, we can finally solve these artificial problems and usher in the paradise that Marx wanted for us. Material conditions determine social conditions, and in the past, with the technology that we had on our hands at the time, humanity was not capable of creating a form of socialism that could endure and create happier lives for people. Nowadays, that’s not the case, and with the ecological countdown on our hands, these next few decades might be our last shot at saving humanity from capitalism and itself. So get busy reading, get busy thinking, and get busy organizing, because we all live at a very crucial time in human history, where our impact as humans has never been more magnified than it is now. I don’t want to live long enough to see capitalism crumble away as the environment and population are degraded to the point of economic destitution; I want to live long enough to see a socialism come about where I’m jealous of the people younger than me, where I know the future is secured for humanity, and I know things will only get better with time. Cybernetic socialism is humanity’s salvation.