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Does “capitalism” fully explain the ruthless extraction and consumption we witness?

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By Emanuel Pastreich

Capitalism has become the most popular term on the internet, serving as a catch-all concept that explains all aspects of an insane political and economic system wherein the entire Earth is consumed without a concern for the future in the pursuit of short-term profits. But does "capitalism" explain what we are witnessing, and could there be some fundamental difference between this economic and ideological system and others we have witnessed in history?

It is clear that the destruction of the environment by corporations controlled by banks of supercomputers that ruthlessly and single-mindedly calculate short-term profit has reached a stage not unlike a war. A large section of the global economy is based on this process of stripping resources from the Earth without regards to long-term impact and producing one-time use products, often unnecessary, for the consumption of the wealthier citizens of our planet. But that destruction of the environment, whether the burning of jungles, the cutting down of forests or the pollution of oceans and skies, is paralleled by real wars as well that generate similarly real profits for the few, or more importantly, for those same banks of supercomputers.

In a nutshell, the fate of our world lies in the hands of a tiny number of people and those people also are giving over all agency to the machines that offer such convenience.

We do not have to wait for supercomputers to achieve consciousness for us to lose control of our civilization. All we need is for computers to set the priorities for our society on the basis of profit, without any consideration for the needs of the ecosystem, or of humanity itself. And if social networks, videos and games remap the neural networks of our brains, encouraging dopamine-driven short-term thinking, we will no longer be capable of "global governance" and the computers will take over, ready or not. Perhaps they will have no choice but to take over, long before they have developed any consciousness.

We humans have not lost our minds completely, but we have delegated the dirty work of calculating profit, and by extension, of setting priorities, to supercomputers without even noticing it. In this land, the one-eyed are being led to the precipice by a massively parallel blind........

© The Korea Times