Hello friends! Its been a while. Sorry about that. Its been a busy semester, teaching an overload class, and wrapping up some publishing projects (here and here). But we are back, and we have a ton of new shows coming your way this summer! Coming up in the next weeks, we have another episode with our Columbus OH friends, “Chairman Moe’s Magic Contradiction” on Adam Curtis’s new documentary, ”Can’t Get You Out of My Head.” We also have panels coming up, on Clyde Barrow’s new book on the Lumpenproletariat, Phil Cunliffe’s The New Twenty Years’ Crisis, and an interview with Christine Louis-Dit-Sully.
For this 31st episode of Fully Automated, and to help us break the dry spell, our guest is none other than legendary podcast figure “KMO”! KMO is the host and producer of the C-Realm Podcast, a cartoonist and author of the book ‘Conversations on Collapse.’
On KMO’s bio, there’s a great quote from Doug Lain, creator of the Diet Soap podcast and now the Zero Books podcast (and previous guest of this show!):
KMO was once a winner in the capitalist game. He had high tech dreams and plenty of ambition, but somewhere along the line KMO dropped out, spent what he had, and started over in a simpler way. No longer rich and no longer so enamored with the technocratic fantasies of the prevailing order, he squeaks by in this world while seeking another. More than anything KMO is a broadcaster and interviewer who has a gentle and amiable way of challenging and inspiring interesting conversations with authors, artists, psychedelic gurus, sociologists, NASA scientists, economists, and more on his weekly podcast called the C-Realm.
Now, to be sure, KMO is not exactly what you might call a ‘typical guest’ for this podcast. Yet, as you’ll hear, he is a widely read reader on all things to do with the politics of technology, and science fiction.
I first met KMO a few weeks ago, in the Politics and Science Fiction room, on Clubhouse that I started earlier this year, with Giuseppe Porcaro, Jamie Chipperfield, Sarah Shoker, and Nicholas Barrett. It became clear we had some overlapping interests on the topics under discussion, so we stayed in touch and found out that we have a lot of mutual friends in the leftwing podcast universe.
KMO recently invited me on his show, the C-Realm, for a discussion of science fiction and the politics of technological change. And this episode of Fully Automated is kind of a Part 2 of that show, where KMO responds to my arguments.
In this episode, you’ll hear us discuss a wide range of topics: Clubhouse as a phenomena; recent remarks by the pop star Grimes on whether communists should be interested in Fully Automated Communism; the rise of PMC ideology, and why its so hard to discuss the topic of class on the left anymore; Thomas Frank’s recent claims about Wuhan lab leak theory, and its significance for the already tarnished reputation of mainstream media; and, finally, we chat about politics and science fiction — you’ll hear KMO talk about why and how science fiction is (and isn’t!) for him political!
For those interested, here are the links to the couple of items KMO mentioned in the show:
- His written response to my views on FALC, as I expressed them during my appearance on C-Realm (see my brief rejoinder below).
- The book he mentions is Future Scenarios: How Communities Can Adapt to Peak Oil and Climate Change, by David Holmgren (2009-04-14).
Rejoinder: Reading KMO’s published remarks on Patreon, he offers what I find to be a rather wild and somewhat bad faith interpretation of my views on Walmart and FALC:
“You invoked WalMart as an example of a very complicated system of production and supply chain management and then suggested that it needn’t be labor-intensive. You could just set it up and let it run for long periods and just check in on it from time to time. That’s not how WalMart works. WalMart’s operations require constant attention and tweaking by an army of highly-specialized, highly-trained and very-highly compensated individuals. They use a lot of what could loosely be described as “artificial intelligence” but it also involves constant human toil.”
Frankly, I am at a bit of a loss as to how KMO comes to this interpretation. To be clear, in my discussion with him, I never said that WalMart isn’t labor intensive. That wasn’t the point at all. Indeed, I re-listened to what I said, and it is very clear that what we were discussing was what is referred to sometimes as the Socialist Calculation Debate. Hence my referencing cybernetics, Stafford Beer, and the Chilean Cybersyn system. My discussion of WalMart was very obviously a reference to Leigh Phillips & Michal Rozworski’s book, The People’s Republic of WalMart. This is an important pillar of any discussion of FALC, because it shows how we might begin to overcome narrow assumptions about the limits of socialist economics, and ‘leap frog’ the pace of technological development to hasten the day when full automation displaces labor, and finally explodes the capitalist value system. Of course, we could equally just sit around and wait for the scenario Marx outlines in the Grundrisse (in the famous ‘Fragment on Machines’) to happen all by itself. But the question of socialist strategy was something that preoccupied Marx too, quite apart from his quest to grasp capitalist political economy. Clearly our arrival at capitalism’s point of ultimate contradiction was not something Marx was content simply to sit around and wait for. And neither should we!
Final note: apologies, but the audio quality is a bit over-produced in this episode. I have been trying to up my game with Adobe Audition, and I think I added too much gain to my own track here. Hopefully I’ll be able to catch this the next time.
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