Communist Party USA

  The metaverse looms. With your latest headset and implants, there may be real stores, but the only ones you know are virtual, on Amazon. There may be real workplaces, but the only one you work in is a Microsoft Virtual Office. You may have real friends and co-workers, but you spend all day meeting and collaborating with their avatars in Facebook rooms and other locations. The majority of eyeballs in the world belong to Google. Your YouTube eyes see anything, and everything, in any dimension, and anywhere the IOT (Internet of Things) is active.  But let’s take off our headset. Remove the implants. There is no doubt the virtual world is advancing as never before. The build-out of the Internet has transformed the sensible geography of the planet, and our lives. Yet, the material footprint of the virtual world’s activity is immense. Massive data centers are distributed across the world. Satellites and fiber cables connect their hubs. Semiconductor manufacturing is one of the most capital and energy intensive of all industries. Biden’s Build Back Better plan promises huge subsidies to construct more computer chip factories in the United States. Vast wired and wireless networks connect billions of users and devices — all to ensure that things reach your front door in time to keep you from leaving home or office to travel to a box store. The advancing social nature of both production and consumption of high tech confirms a long-standing forecast of Marx: the revolutions in production that capitalism incites lead toward increasing scale and socialization of production processes, which in turn have led to systematic antagonistic relations with private ownership throughout society. This contradiction is abundantly apparent in far-reaching political and social consequences when the chief corporate assets are profiles on half the world’s population, and the most valuable currency is information. The reforms of these corporations warrant more socialism than anti-trust action. Yet no reform is likely until the workers are organized, and the customers and other stakeholders too. As tech leviathans go, Amazon is special. It combined a pioneering e-commerce software platform with a massive distribution system, allowing the goods we buy in the virtual world to quickly appear on our doorstep for real. Amazon’s commercial goal is to supplant, not just enhance, retail shopping. No malls are needed in the future. Amazon is the mall of malls, the Meta Mall, if you will. Its profits are special, too. Amazon’s estimated revenue for 2021 is $457 billion, and its net earnings are $32 billion, an increase of over 1,000% since 2017.   Dealing in public goods On top of Amazon’s material foundation arise many layers of software infrastructure on which apps of every description depend. Much of that software is licensed as “open or community sourced” software and considered “public goods” — no charge for use. The dirty little secret about open-source software is that its collaborative and shared information processes have been a better source of innovation and resilience than copyrighted software in many sectors. “Public goods,” or “quasi-public goods” are defined in economics as a category broader than just taxpayer-funded projects. They include goods or services that are universally available and non-excludable (you can’t keep people from using it for free) and have no effective rivals. The lighthouse is a classic example. A lack of one or both characteristics makes a product — especially an intangible product — less suitable as a commodity. There are two practical reasons for this: 1. As famously characterized by the economist Paul Samuelson, ideas are crappy stores of value. As commodities, intangibles “leak” (“depreciate” in economic terms)…

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Reining in Big Tech