Capitalism Is Dead (Literature Notes)

The essay Capitalism is dead: long live Technofeudalism by Yanis Varoufakis, former Greek Minister of Finance, describes how advancements in technology killed what we used to call capitalism and replaced it, unwittingly, with a form of feudalism.

…our preferences are now shaped not by markets but by machine networks — what I call “cloud capital”. Amazon’s Alexa, for example, is the portal to a totalitarian, fully centralised system of preference creation and satisfaction. First, it trains us to train it to dictate what we want. Second, it sells us what we now “want” directly, bypassing any actual marketplace. Third, it succeeds in making us sustain this enormous behavioural modification machine with our free labour: we post reviews, rate products. Finally, it amasses huge rents from capitalists who rely on this network of cloud capital, usually 40% of sale price. That’s not capitalism. Welcome to Technofeudalism.

  • Cloud capital killed capitalism (markets and profits)
    • Markets were replaced by online marketplaces that aren’t really markets, they are fiefdoms (Apple takes 40%, Amazon charges sellers 30%)
    • Profits were replaced with cloud rent (servers, SaaS subscriptions, APIs, listing in the marketplace)
  • Capital is no longer physical goods, machinery, but digital (cloud capital) and we toil like serfs for a small number of cloud lords that own the fiefdoms
  • The latest in cloud capital is to train us to train it to control us (AI, machine learning). We serve it for free by giving it data, content, attention.

See also:

  • Atoms and Bits

    The prevailing industry of the last century was the industry of atoms—physical infrastructure, extraction of natural resources, and moving things around faster.