François Soulard – Dunia Platform
Michel Volle – economist, Iconomy Institute
For thirty years, the digital revolution has been breaking down the walls that have somehow kept contemporary economy in balance with rights and social justice. From inequalities, predation and new forms of dependency on network intelligence to the contradictions between automation, employment and sustainability, through social and geographical polarizations, there are many disruptive effects that heavily shake the edifice of capitalism and its legacy rules.
The spreading of the harmful effects of the digital is a fact. They are the subject of controversies the details of which we will not discuss. Still, their adverse consequences are strong enough to reinforce the climate of skepticism about current modernization. As several studies show1, public opinion has reservations about the promises announced in relation to information technologies and, a fortiori, about the very idea of dominating the “digital destiny” considering contemporary problems.
However, despite some initial reactions to curb the most harmful digital behaviors, there is no indication that this interference will be mitigated without rewriting the established rules. On the contrary, the train of innovation has been running for five decades (miniaturization, connected objects, govtech, metaverse, etc.), and the absence of a real compass to guide the new productive capitalism heralds a stormy future. The harsher world we are heading into will make this orientation even more dangerous.
To this end, it is healthy to go up the wave of phenomena generated by the digital and approach its sources of evolution. Figures such as Von Neumann, Licklider, Tanenbaum, or Taylor, Keynes, Chamberlin, Smith and many others, have shown the fertility of such hindsight when building certain computing and economics models. The history of techniques also sheds a far-reaching light on this type of approach. For Stearns, Gille, Caron or Allen, the intrinsic functioning of a technical system modifies the architecture of thought, of production, of relations with nature and, gradually, of the social order, being the challenge of societies to elucidate them to adapt and respond to them.
Let’s be clear: this is not to imply that techniques define the meaning of history and that it is inevitable to be subject to a new type of technodeterminism. Our intention is to point out that the current technical system powerfully rearranges the material and sociocultural conditions in which we live, leading to an adjustment of human intentions and strategic frameworks.
In that regard, our motivation lies in understanding our societies in the process of cyber-industrial transition in close connection with the very heart of the information revolution, that is, the universal programmable automaton, and the interactions that it has with all social strata. Although this connection seems obvious, it is still difficult to find theoretical corpus that try to assemble all the floors of this new building with a certain coherence. Here and there, analysts are rightly interested in data governance and algorithms, fundamental techniques, artificial intelligence, surveillance, two-sided markets, platforms, monopolies, disinformation, cybersecurity, ethics or the sociology of uses, etc.
But the computerized society is not just a bunch of compartmentalized phenomena or disciplinary perspectives. This representation is no longer that of the reality of computerization that has irrigated all (or almost all) the social structure through profound qualitative and organizational changes, even more so in industrial countries. Minds are clearly reluctant to elucidate these fundamental movements that forge new socioeconomic foundations.
Therefore, we feel it is crucial that his problem be addressed trying not to lose sight of current power relations. Here we explore how the nature of digital-based transformations can contribute to a perspective, if not emancipatory, at least favorable to a horizon of social justice. This will be addressed by borrowing notions developed by John Rawls, Amartya Sen, and Nancy Fraser.