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6 January 2021

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Technology and AI response: Capitalists only invest for profit

microchip, photo: Jon Sullivan/CC

microchip, photo: Jon Sullivan/CC   (Click to enlarge)

Clive Walder, Birmingham South West Socialist Party

Mark Best's article 'Can green technology and AI save capitalism?' was excellent, and many readers could use personal experiences to develop the points he made.

Mark is quite right when he points out that capitalists will only invest where they can be confident of a profit being made rather than for the good of society. Many of us take broadband for granted. What is less well known is that the technology has been around since the 1970s.

The Post Office Engineering Union (a constituent part of what is now the Communication Workers Union) passed a motion supporting a nationwide broadband rollout in 1981! They could see even then how this could benefit society - with possibilities such as remote medical diagnosis or the remote learning that is so necessary today.

That conference motion lay gathering dust and was ignored by successive governments because there was no profitable commercial application for it. This only changed when computers became a mass consumer product and could be produced sufficiently cheaply to make a profit, a fact well hidden by the capitalists.

Self-driving cars would be useful for people like me who have an eyesight condition, which means that I would never pass a driving test.

The job app that Mark referred to could enable workers to not just advertise their skills, but also to advise potential employers what hours they would be available, whether they have caring responsibilities, and where would be the most convenient location to work. It could also be used to procure work to be done from home if necessary.

Capitalism has developed the applications it finds profitable and useful. It will no doubt develop applications such as automatic reminders to buy groceries because the capitalists can use that information to increase sales.

But the unprofitable, socially useful stuff like the early broadband requires a socialist economy without the profit motive.

What's your view?

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In The Socialist 6 January 2021:


2020 - a year which drove home the catastrophic failures of capitalism


Workers' action wins Tory U-turn on school safety


3 lockdowns, 20+ U-turns ... We can't trust the Tories

Nottingham City Council: Major battles against cuts ahead

UNICEF feeds children in the UK for the first time

News in brief

Hospital security staff on strike for £12 an hour

British Gas workers on strike against fire and re-hire pay cut


Protect the NHS - Funding, Pay, PPE, Public ownership

Protect lives and livelihoods, fight to defend the NHS


Engels on the origins of women's oppression


Universities: refund the rent, cancel the fees, for fully funded, publicly owned education

University teaching moves online in England

Reader's opinion

Books that inspired me: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Technology and AI response: Capitalists only invest for profit


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Article dated 6 January 2021

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