Industrial philosopher in times of digitization
An industrial philosopher is a similar anachronism as the term working class. Industry in the classical sense can no longer be separated from developments such as digitization, research and teaching. The classic industry does not exist anymore. Everything permeates and overlaps. Medicine, IT, Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Military, Espionage, Administration. Everything. A worker today is either a highly specialized technician with multiple abilities or a person with multiple placement impediments. So unemployed for a long time. That does not fit together.
Philosophers reflect on society, the meaning of existence, reality and perception. Industry has never functioned according to a democratic principle. Even if one speaks of flat structures, there is always a decision maker at the end where one can not decide over. Banks are not democratic and administrations are not. The notion that managers and politicians must somehow earn the allegiance of their subordinates democratically is as romantic as it is false. I’m not talking about the fact that a leader should have qualities that make it easier for his employees to follow him or her. This undoubtedly has a positive effect on cooperation. But that is not democratic. Industry basically works just like a medieval society. There is a king, the boss, who in turn is subordinate to the emperor and the pope. These are then owners and shareholders. There are knights and stewards. There are artisans and dependent farmers who have to pay their dues. There are the feudal lords and his vassals who are loyal to him. Classic industry and large parts of society still work the same way. Politics in Western countries works according to the democratic principle of separation of powers, modeled on the US Constitution. All societies have Roman law. Power still has the stronger; and be it with the most money. With this, reality can be created according to the principle of being, which creates consciousness.
The power has the one who follows the majority. Digitization and the unstoppable data tsunami are another completely different dimension of development. Nobody knows today where the development will lead. The only thing that is clear is that it is becoming ever more complex and confusing. In China, something like communism seems to work, while in Russia, the genes of the Soviet Union are still in people’s minds, including communist ideas about how capitalism works. Populists in many countries are conquering the hearts of people whose heads know that they, too, will not bring solutions.
Industry is just one side of a multi-faceted body. Industry is the staple that works the same almost everywhere. Even in China, we are experiencing an industrial boom because the planned economy functions just as Walter Ulbricht would have wished for the GDR. Overtaking without catching up in Chinese, so to speak.
As far as democracy is concerned in the developed democratic states, it is a delicate little plant that needs to be carefully cared for and nurtured. Most people would renounce democracy if they felt better; and they should not be afraid of the future. Affiliation and identity play a big role in a person’s life.
Digitization is like a tsunami that can not be stopped. The future will be very different from what we can imagine. First descriptions and the concept of digital feudalism have already surfaced.
The future always looks very different than contemporaries can imagine from their perspective. In 1945 people could not begin to imagine that this broken Germany would ever be rebuilt. They could not have guessed that there would be an incredible economic miracle in West Germany. The people of the 1980s could not imagine that the wall would fall once. No one believed in reunification. After the collapse of communism, people believed in the end of history. But history is always industrial history. Hand ax, wheel, burned bricks, bronze tools, iron, steel, concrete, steam engine, communication technology, telephone and networks all play a crucial role. And then, of course, there is the military that claims all of these technological possibilities and perfects them to focus on pure power. And then there’s this alarming phrase that went through the media: Putin knows what Google knows ……
We are still living in a Roman age. It has not changed much; except the technological possibilities. Therefore, industrial philosophy is an interesting way of looking at things.