Jetpacks, Robots and the Radical Politics of Technology

A day workshop – 11:00-16:30 Sunday 27 January 2019, The Common House. Unit 5E, 5 Punderson’s Gardens, London E2 9QG

Technology appears as either promise or threat – the rise of the robots means either a fully automated luxury future without work, or basically the Terminator film franchise. Where the left was dominated by a pessimistic vision of technology in the not too distant past, the current moment is one full of visions of life after work as technology does all the toil and, to top it off, solves climate change without us having to change anything else. In both visions, technology is this thing out there, separate from us; either a machine to enslave us or one to liberate us.

But is this all there is to a radical politics of technology? How else can we understand the world and the complex of machines, algorithms and technologies we live with and through?

It is vital that we free our imaginations from the grip of capitalist realism (the idea that capitalism is the only option for organising society), and picture possible future worlds and the role that technology will play in them. But we must also keep our imagined worlds grounded in social and economic realities Not forgetting, for example, that we are living on a planet with limited natural resources, or that we have to consider how to make our imagined futures real.

At this one-day workshop of facilitated discussions we will explore some areas within the radical politics of technology: ways of understanding technology in the context of the labour process; how technology relates to ecological concerns; how it has been shaped by the social and economic relationships of capitalism and other hierarchical societies; and how we can shape it in future.

We will continue a discussion begun at an earlier event, Techno-Fantasies and Eco-Realities [https://www.weareplanc.org/blog/techno-fantasies-and-eco-realities/] – although if you missed that one, don’t worry, this one will have a stand-alone agenda. We intend to get down to specifics, with sessions on particular types of technology, some historical examples and some key debates within the politics of technology.