Irrelevant

Everyone in Silicon Valley is focused on building the future, Mr. Harari continued, while most of the world’s people are not even needed enough to be exploited. “Now you increasingly feel that there are all these elites that just don’t need me,” he said. “And it’s much worse to be irrelevant than to be exploited.”

It is becoming less clear why the ruling elite would not just kill the new useless class. “You’re totally expendable,” he told the audience.

Because they haven’t yet completely persuaded themselves that the useless class consists of the bigoted Nazi types who want to destroy everything good in the world. They are still at the stage of creating that narrative.

This Harari fellow is simply retelling what much smarter people said long before him (Sennett, in particular) but people are responding because it rings true.

We hear a lot about “replacement fears” these days. This is their origin. They are hardly crazy.

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18 thoughts on “Irrelevant”

  1. Do you refer to books of Richard Sennett, like The Culture of the New Capitalism? Or to another person?
    What are his most recommended books?

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      1. ” This has been a big topic for years”

        I first heard the term “irrelevant to production” applied to people in the late 80s or early 90s. At the time the idea was they could still be “relevant to consumption” which is slowly morphing into “relevant as consumption” has large groups of people are being turned into raw material to be shipped around (most ‘migrant’ crises) or resources to be extracted (opioid epidemic).

        Most people are kidding themselves about their ability to thrive in an increasingly fluid world.

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  2. There is also a seeming abyss between being told we are “totally expendable” (*) , descriptions of self-driving cars and computer algorithms performing diagnosis instead of human doctors, and so on VS. “We need more people” approach in European countries with low birth rates which is used to justify immigration.

    Is it because politicians are all about the short term? And by short, I mean, extremely short short term calculations?

    (*) Who is not expendable? Are school teachers expendable, for instance, but not university professors? What one needs to do to not become expendable? What if one is an average person, not a star in any field?

    As for accusing the most of humanity of being “bigoted Nazi types,” I think another justification for hatred will be found since the people those “bigoted masses” are allegedly bigoted against will also become completely expendable. May be, the justification will be global warming, destroying our planet.

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    1. As for the “we need more people” policies, we must remember that fluidity hasn’t won yet. The hostilities are taking place right now. The people who are needed are the ones who proved their dedication to fluidity and lack of interest in the nation-state model. They will be discarded, too, but for now they are serving an important goal.

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  3. It’s actually pretty easy to view other people as being mostly “obstacle courses”, in the way while not yielding any benefits—with all the arrogance and eagerness so many have to cause anyone who rubs them the wrong way a lot of trouble, and with all the laws making various kinds of social interactions “criminal offenses” if they go south or are not carried out properly according to script, one can feel detached from and intruded upon by the presence of most others, and view them as some kind of “undue hardship”, wishing to somehow be relieved of them.

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  4. OT (this topic, maybe on topic for you). I was looking around for a new series to watch and found several Spanish ones (haven’t seen any of them yet) that might be described as “shooting fish in a barrel” that is they seem to be about dystopias (or restricted environments) in which people are systematically killed. This ties right in to several disturbing Spanish movies I’ve seen in the last few years.
    The dominant metaphor of Spanish cinema in the last few years seems to be “Spain is a death trap”.
    Is the literature this brutal or is it more subtle? How can anyone think this is sustainable?

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    1. The literature is gut-wrenching. Especially the kind that’s written by younger authors. The rich, established authors have started doing their “rah rah, everything is so pretty” thing but the younger writers want nothing to do with the celebratory narratives. The most recent crisis novels I’ve been reading are nothing short of devastating. And that’s exactly what I talked about at the German conference. People tried arguing with me but both the government guy and the youngish writer who was there agreed with me and said that we have to look at reality, and except for those who are very well-off there’s nothing much to celebrate.

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      1. \ The rich, established authors have started doing their “rah rah, everything is so pretty” thing but the younger writers want nothing to do with the celebratory narratives.

        Very interesting twist on the usual narratives presenting the old as backwardly and futilely resisting the fluidity, while younger generations are supposedly enlightened enough to support it. See Brexit and other phenomena.

        You often review others’ books, but have you written about the new age in popular Spanish imagination? Is it different from Britain, for instance?

        I suppose Germans are for it since their country so far is one of the largest EU benefactors. Interesting whether it will change and when.

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  5. News:

    Report: Far-right German commandos planned to kill politicians, immigrants
    Covert network of some 200 neo-Nazi and far-right soldiers and veterans planned to abduct and execute Green Party leader Claudia Roth, Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and former president Joachim Gauck, as well as leaders of asylum group, on ‘Day X,’ when law and order collapses, German magazine Focus reports.

    https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-5398245,00.html

    Meanwhile in Israel:

    Palestinian militants in Gaza fired over 300 rockets and mortar shells into southern Israel within a span of two hours Monday evening in the most intense hostilities in the region since 2014.

    over the course of the day, 50 Israelis were hospitalized at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon due to the hostilities. At least 19 were injured by the rocket fire and an additional 31 people were treated for shock. Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva treated 47 people, three injured and the rest were suffering from shock.

    A 19 year-old IDF soldier is in critical condition after a Cornet anti-tank missile was fired at an empty bus he was standing beside near the Gaza border. The bus, from which IDF troops had just disembarked, was completely destroyed.

    Iron Dome batteries were deployed throughout the south and have intercepted more than 60 missiles deemed to pose a danger to Israelis.

    Due to the barrages, residents throughout the region were instructed to stay close to shelters and protected areas.

    The Israeli Air Force struck at least 70 terror targets throughout Gaza; at least two Palestinian militants were killed and nine injured in the airstrikes.

    Hamas and the Islamic Jihad said that the rocket fire was revenge for Sunday night’s Israeli incursion into the strip.

    They also asserted that if Israel escalates its response, they will launch rockets even deeper into Israel.

    https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-5398776,00.html

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  6. Positive and very surprising news:

    Morocco adds Holocaust studies to educational curriculum
    Rabat’s decision to teach the Holocaust is the first time an Arab state takes such an initiative, marking a turning point in what some analysts see as shifting Arab perspectives.

    Morocco’s decision marks a turning point in what some analysts see as shifting Arab perspectives toward the region’s Jewish community, although it is unclear how teaching about the Holocaust could translate into warmer relations with Israel. The kingdom, like many other Arab countries, does not recognize the Jewish state.

    Prof. Meir Litvak, chair of the Department of Middle Eastern and African History at Tel Aviv University, told The Media Line that in the Arab world the general view on issues surrounding the Holocaust “has always been ‘whatever happened to the Jews in Europe was a European affair. Europeans were perpetrators and the Jews were victims. But the real price was paid by the Arabs when Israel was established.’”

    https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-5392905,00.html

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  7. \ During the period when English-language publishers were cool on the commercial viability of “Sapiens” — thinking it too serious for the average reader and not serious enough for the scholars —

    Pity those “much smarter people” haven’t written something like that themselves, but with more ideas and deeper analysis presented in a simple fashion. I am now reading “Liquid Modernity” and it is very interesting, but also an effort too big to become as popular as Harari’s books. The thing is that main ideas could be presented in a simpler fashion for a wide audience.

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    1. Zygmunt Bauman did that a lot. He has these short,easy books about trickle down economics, consumerism, etc that aim to reach wide readership. I hate them because they are too primitive but he did try.

      Try also Liquid Love.

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  8. Forgot to mention that I completely disagree with Harari’s judgement in the quoted part below (quote 1) regarding the politicians being worse than tech executives. I will take an elected politician who is my employee and can be changed (fired) any day over some unknown tech executive who sees me as unperson and does not rely on me at all.

    As for UBI, I do not believe it is sustainable. Just imagine: why would 0.0000001 % of extraterrestrial elite pay for useless billions of human beings for decades and decades … seemingly forever. Out of kindness of their hearts because of being good people? I cannot believe it for a second. They talk of UBI now and may even apply it for a while in a few Western countries to ensure popular passivity in face of their reforms (look at my 2nd quote below), but as their new order becomes entrenched and develops further, it will be phased out.

    Btw, does anyone talk about UBI for millions in Africa and in the Middle East? Who will pay for that? I am sure those people would be glad to receive it, but American venture capitalists do not hurry to start promoting it. 🙂

    Also, if UBI is paid in America and fluidity is for open borders, how will the entire world coming to a few UBI countries be prevented? I have the suspicion corporate nation-states may have borders the moment they decide to get rid of somebody and care about human rights much less than Trump the moment their interests are threatened even a little.

    QUOTE 1

    He said he had resigned himself to tech executives’ global reign, pointing out how much worse the politicians are. “I’ve met a number of these high-tech giants, and generally they’re good people,” he said. “They’re not Attila the Hun. In the lottery of human leaders, you could get far worse.”

    “You’re totally expendable,” he told the audience.
    This, Mr. Harari told me later, is why Silicon Valley is so excited about the concept of universal basic income, or stipends paid to people regardless of whether they work. The message is: “We don’t need you. But we are nice, so we’ll take care of you.”

    QUOTE 2

    Venture capitalists periodically call for California to secede or shatter, or for the creation of corporate nation-states. And this summer, Mark Zuckerberg, who has recommended Mr. Harari to his book club, acknowledged a fixation with the autocrat Caesar Augustus. “Basically,” Mr. Zuckerberg told The New Yorker, “through a really harsh approach, he established 200 years of world peace.”

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    1. UBI is a way to pump state money into the pockets of people like Zuckerberg. As long as you provide everybody with a smartphone and an Internet connection, Zuckerberg and Bezos don’t care if you are in Africa or on the moon.

      Welfare is transforming into money-making opportunities for the very rich.

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      1. “Welfare is transforming into money-making opportunities for the very rich”

        It’s worse than that, it’s turning people into a natural resource to be mined and turned into profit.

        Like

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