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This Machine Kills

Author: This Machine Kills

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A podcast about technology and political economy /// Agitprop against innovation and capital /// Hosted by Jathan Sadowski and Edward Ongweso Jr., Produced by Jereme Brown /// Hello friends and enemies

Listen anywhere that fine podcasts are distributed. Subscribe at patreon.com/thismachinekills to get premium episodes every week.
38 Episodes
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We’re joined once again by co-host of TrashFuture, Riley Quinn, as we conduct further investigations into the mind of the Thought Leader. We start with a journey back to some of the Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 progenitors of the modern day big ideas bozo. From the counterculture libertarians and (allegedly) coke-addled entrepreneurs to the meme hustlers and corporate grifters. Weird how so many of them ended up flying on the Lolita Express? Anyways… nothing to see here, move along. We then consider how the Thought Leaders’ jobs at the consent factory have now been automated by capital – just another unfortunate victim of disruption. Follow Riley (https://twitter.com/raaleh) and listen to TrashFuture (https://trashfuturepodcast.podbean.com/). Of course you’re already doing both, right? Subscribe to hear more analysis and commentary in our premium episodes every week! patreon.com/thismachinekills Hosted by Jathan Sadowski (twitter.com/jathansadowski) and Edward Ongweso Jr. (twitter.com/bigblackjacobin). Production / Music by Jereme Brown (twitter.com/braunestahl).
We’re joined by co-host of TrashFuture – and friend of TMK from the start – Riley Quinn as we examine the brain of the Thought Leader. Forged in the fires of the financial crash, driven mad by Internet induced techno-optimism, brains smoothly polished by the infinite growth of a zero interest rate world – the modern day Thought Leader is the charlatan in the court of tech capital. They spend their days promoting Big Ideas Books that contain remarkably little thinking, while asserting all the solutions to complex societal problems. But that’s okay because they aren’t really meant to be read by anybody anyways. Unless, of course, you’re Riley. Follow Riley (https://twitter.com/raaleh) and listen to TrashFuture (https://trashfuturepodcast.podbean.com/). Of course you’re already doing both, right? Subscribe to hear more analysis and commentary in our premium episodes every week! patreon.com/thismachinekills Hosted by Jathan Sadowski (twitter.com/jathansadowski) and Edward Ongweso Jr. (twitter.com/bigblackjacobin). Production / Music by Jereme Brown (twitter.com/braunestahl).
How is a neoliberal economy planned? How should a socialist economy be planned? We parse through the “socialist calculation debate.” First laying out the critiques of socialist state planning—and the supposed superiority of the price system and spontaneous order under the market—posed by the original theorists of neoliberal thought: Ludwig Von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. Then knocking them down one-by-one as we consider what a successor of Project Cybersyn might look like. Some stuff we reference: • The Return of Social Government: From ‘Socialist Calculation’ to ‘Social Analytics’ by Will Davies https://scihub.wikicn.top/10.1177/1368431015578044 • The Use of Knowledge in Society by Friedrich Hayek: https://learn.canvas.net/courses/1446/files/549519 • How to Make a Pencil by Aaron Benanav: https://logicmag.io/commons/ • The Singular Pursuit of Comrade Bezos by Malcolm Harris: https://medium.com/s/story/the-singular-pursuit-of-comrade-bezos-3e280baa045c Subscribe to hear more analysis and commentary in our premium episodes every week! patreon.com/thismachinekills Hosted by Jathan Sadowski (twitter.com/jathansadowski) and Edward Ongweso Jr. (twitter.com/bigblackjacobin). Production / Music by Jereme Brown (twitter.com/braunestahl).
cold open: Interview with Eden Medina on Project Cybersyn: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSmQCvfT4pU We dig into one of the most interesting and exciting experiments in socialist innovation ever attempted: Project Cybersyn in 1970s Chile. There’s much to be learned from the history of how a ragtag group of revolutionaries sought to create a cybernetic system to organize and manage a democratic socialist economy. As well as from its ultimate demise at the hands of a CIA-backed military coup. While this prototype of cybernetic democratic socialism was smothered in its cradle by authoritarian neoliberalism, the lessons gleaned from this real utopian endeavor must live on today. Cybersyn is dead, long live Cybersyn! Some stuff we reference: • Cybernetic Revolutionaries: Technology and Politics in Allende's Chile by Eden Medina https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/cybernetic-revolutionaries • The Anti-Socialist Origins of Big Data by Greg Gandin: https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/anti-socialist-origins-big-data/ • Chomsky interviewed by Denis Staunton: https://chomsky.info/2009____/ Subscribe to hear more analysis and commentary in our premium episodes every week! patreon.com/thismachinekills Hosted by Jathan Sadowski (twitter.com/jathansadowski) and Edward Ongweso Jr. (twitter.com/bigblackjacobin). Production / Music by Jereme Brown (twitter.com/braunestahl).
Continuing the TMK conceptual hit list, we set our sights on more key concepts that have been, to varying degrees, corrupted by capital’s foul influence and weaponized to achieve its ideological and material goals. We pass judgement on the concepts of inclusion, tech company, smart, and artificial intelligence. Some stuff we reference: • Terms of inclusion: Data, Discourse, Violence by Anna Lauren Hoffmann: https://scihub.wikicn.top/10.1177/1461444820958725 • On the Moral Collapse of AI Ethics by J. Khadijah Abdurahman: https://upfromthecracks.medium.com/on-the-moral-collapse-of-ai-ethics-791cbc7df872 • Potemkin AI by Jathan: https://reallifemag.com/potemkin-ai/ Subscribe to hear more analysis and commentary in our premium episodes every week! patreon.com/thismachinekills Hosted by Jathan Sadowski (twitter.com/jathansadowski) and Edward Ongweso Jr. (twitter.com/bigblackjacobin). Production / Music by Jereme Brown (twitter.com/braunestahl).
32. Conceptual Hit List

32. Conceptual Hit List

2021-01-0601:37:51

We’re kicking off 2021 with a different spin on the standard new year resolutions by drafting the official TMK conceptual hit list. We go through some foundational ideas in digital capitalism that we resolve to destroy. In this episode we lay out our case against innovation, disruption, entrepreneurship, and flexibility. Now is a good time to be clear about the techno-political concepts that must be put up against the wall of ruthless criticism. Consider this the first draft of a conceptual hit list that has room to grow as we confront enemies, both old and new, in 2021 and beyond. Some stuff we reference: • The Fetish of Technology: Causes and Consequences by David Harvey: https://digitalcommons.macalester.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1411&context=macintl • Technology: The Emergence of a Hazardous Concept by Leo Marx: http://www.f.waseda.jp/sidoli/Marx_2010_Concept_Of_Technology.pdf • Why Chinese youngsters are embracing a philosophy of “slacking-off” by Jane Li: https://qz.com/1938809/why-chinese-youngsters-are-embracing-a-culture-of-slacking-off/ • Despotism on Demand: How Power Operates in the Flexible Workplace by Alex Wood: https://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/book/9781501748899/despotism-on-demand Subscribe to hear more analysis and commentary in our premium episodes every week! patreon.com/thismachinekills Hosted by Jathan Sadowski (twitter.com/jathansadowski) and Edward Ongweso Jr. (twitter.com/bigblackjacobin). Production / Music by Jereme Brown (twitter.com/braunestahl).
We're unlocking the second half of our exploration into the techno-politics of Luddism. Let us all go forth into the new year with dreams of smashing machines and sabotaging capital. In this episode, we offer the case for a techno-politics of unmaking to combat innovation fetishism. Talk about examples of Luddism in action at Amazon warehouses and on the silver screen. And wrap up with an exciting reading series of a shockingly prescient essay from the old radical computer industry magazine, Processed World. Some stuff we reference: • Is it OK to be a Luddite? by Thomas Pynchon: https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/97/05/18/reviews/pynchon-luddite.html • Surviving Amazon by Sam Adler Bell: https://logicmag.io/bodies/surviving-amazon/ • World Processor by Jacob Silverman: https://thebaffler.com/salvos/world-processor • Sabotage: The Ultimate Video Game by Gidget Digit: http://www.processedworld.com/Issues/issue05/05sabotage.htm Subscribe to hear more analysis and commentary in our premium episodes every week! patreon.com/thismachinekills Hosted by Jathan Sadowski (twitter.com/jathansadowski) and Edward Ongweso Jr. (twitter.com/bigblackjacobin). Production / Music by Jereme Brown (twitter.com/braunestahl).
With all the end of year reading lists rolling out, we decided to hop on the bandwagon and offer our own recommendations for what to read over the holidays and beyond. Sometime in the near year we plan to release the TMK Syllabus – a live document of books, articles, and other resources that inform the TMK ethos of critical techno-politics. In this episode, we provide a preview of the TMK Syllabus by discussing some of the books that have influenced us in different ways – the good, the bad, and the weird – and some of the excellent new books from this year. Subscribe to hear more analysis and commentary in our premium episodes every week! patreon.com/thismachinekills Hosted by Jathan Sadowski (twitter.com/jathansadowski) and Edward Ongweso Jr. (twitter.com/bigblackjacobin). Production / Music by Jereme Brown (twitter.com/braunestahl).
We’re joined by the great Veena Dubal (twitter.com/veenadubal), law professor at UC Hastings, for a fantastic discussion about how gig work platforms like Uber have weaponized ideas of flexibility and entrepreneurship, the political / legal origins of the distinction between “employees” vs. “independent contractors,” and the possibilities for building worker power in the face of authoritarian neoliberalism. As Silicon Valley takes aim at other professions – rolling out flexible exploitation, eviscerating labor rights, and turning all jobs into piecework – the fate of gig workers is the fate of everybody. Some stuff we reference: • Those in Power Won’t Give Up Willingly: On the Future of Organizing Under Prop 22 by Veena Dubal and Meredith Whittaker: https://onezero.medium.com/amp/p/e6eaa3ee2324 • Wage Slave or Entrepreneur?: Contesting the Dualism of Legal Worker Identities by Veena Dubal: https://repository.uchastings.edu/faculty_scholarship/1596/ • The Drive to Precarity: A Political History of Work, Regulation, & Labor Advocacy in San Francisco's Taxi & Uber Economies by Veena Dubal: https://repository.uchastings.edu/faculty_scholarship/1589/ • Words Matter: How Tech Media Helped Write Gig Companies into Existence by Sam Harnett: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3668606 Subscribe to hear more analysis and commentary in our premium episodes every week! patreon.com/thismachinekills Hosted by Jathan Sadowski (twitter.com/jathansadowski) and Edward Ongweso Jr. (twitter.com/bigblackjacobin). Production / Music by Jereme Brown (twitter.com/braunestahl).
We offer the case for a techno-politics of unmaking — quite literally deconstructing capital — to combat the innovation fetishism that masks the social relationships inherent in all technology. We also talk about examples of Luddism in action at Amazon warehouses. There’s some great tangents along the way (the acting roles that Ethan Hawke has been taking lately are surprisingly, righteously Luddish). We wrap up with an exciting reading series of a shockingly prescient essay from the old radical computer industry magazine, Processed World. Some stuff we reference: • Is it OK to be a Luddite? by Thomas Pynchon: https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/97/05/18/reviews/pynchon-luddite.html • Surviving Amazon by Sam Adler Bell: https://logicmag.io/bodies/surviving-amazon/ • World Processor by Jacob Silverman: https://thebaffler.com/salvos/world-processor • Sabotage: The Ultimate Video Game by Gidget Digit: http://www.processedworld.com/Issues/issue05/05sabotage.htm Subscribe to hear more analysis and commentary in our premium episodes every week! patreon.com/thismachinekills Hosted by Jathan Sadowski (twitter.com/jathansadowski) and Edward Ongweso Jr. (twitter.com/bigblackjacobin). Production / Music by Jereme Brown (twitter.com/braunestahl).
28. The Hammer of Ludd

28. The Hammer of Ludd

2020-12-1601:23:26

At last, the Luddism episode has dropped! We dig into the actual, and massively misunderstood, history of Luddites — not as an insult for people who are deemed “anti-progress,” but as a labor movement who confronted the machinery of industrial capitalism. We discuss how Luddism should inform militant working class power, what lessons we can apply today for how we think about technology, and draw connections to other struggles against oppressive systems, whether in the streets or the shop floors. Think of Luddism as like Marie Kondo, but for technopolitics. Does this technology contribute to human well-being and/or social welfare? If not, take it apart and toss it away! (Listen to the end for a post-outro treat from Klobbering Klobuchar.) Some stuff we reference: • A Nod to Ned Ludd by Richard Byrne https://thebaffler.com/salvos/a-nod-to-ned-ludd • Sabotage by Elizabeth Gurly Flynn https://www.marxists.org/subject/women/authors/flynn/1917/sabotage.htm Subscribe to hear more analysis and commentary in our premium episodes every week! patreon.com/thismachinekills Hosted by Jathan Sadowski (twitter.com/jathansadowski) and Edward Ongweso Jr. (twitter.com/bigblackjacobin). Production / Music by Jereme Brown (twitter.com/braunestahl). Thanks to Laura for voicing Klobbering Klobuchar.
Folk, country, punk, rap – these seemingly disparate genres all have deep roots in radical politics of the working class. They each emerged out of particular material conditions and, in turn, sought to create music about those conditions. And they have all been subjected to, in their own way, processes of depoliticization that have attempted to defang their social messages. To help us recover these lost histories – and draw parallels to the ways technology has also undergone processes of being made ahistorical and apolitical – we are once again joined by Alexander Billet, an editor at Locust Review and contributor to Jacobin, whose work provides great materialist analysis of music and culture. Check out Alex’s work http://alexanderbillet.com/ and follow him on twitter https://twitter.com/UbuPamplemousse Subscribe to hear more analysis and commentary in our premium episodes every week! patreon.com/thismachinekills Hosted by Jathan Sadowski (twitter.com/jathansadowski) and Edward Ongweso Jr. (twitter.com/bigblackjacobin). Production / Music by Jereme Brown (twitter.com/braunestahl).
[Oh the irony that, on an episode about music, the sound quality on this episode is a little gritty due to some recording issues – big ups to Jereme for working production magic cleaning up the audio.] In this episode, we discuss the cultural and technological politics of music and the shadow that Spotify has cast over the industry. As exploitation in the cultural economy accelerates, it’s become radical to even recognize that artists are also workers. And, as such, we all have a stake in their struggles and solidarities against the platformization of culture. Joining us on this journey into sound, we have Alexander Billet, an editor at Locust Review and contributor to Jacobin, whose work focuses on the intersections of art, music, and politics. Check out Alex’s essay on Spotify’s exploitative streaming model: https://jacobinmag.com/2020/12/spotify-streaming-model-exploitation-class-conflict Follow him on twitter: https://twitter.com/UbuPamplemousse. Subscribe to hear more analysis and commentary in our premium episodes every week! patreon.com/thismachinekills Hosted by Jathan Sadowski (twitter.com/jathansadowski) and Edward Ongweso Jr. (twitter.com/bigblackjacobin). Production / Music by Jereme Brown (twitter.com/braunestahl).
Conservative commentators used the phrase “immanentize the eschaton” as a criticism of socialism and communism. For these stooges, who thought they stood at the end of history, any alternative to neoliberal capitalism and American hegemony was tantamount to ushering in the apocalypse. Well we’re here to tell you not to fear the end of their grand utopian project. If the rest of us experience this reality as a lived dystopia, then why not try to hasten its demise? We dig deeper into our discussion on the radical potential of real utopias, providing more examples along the way. Subscribe to hear more analysis and get premium episodes every week! patreon.com/thismachinekills Hosted by Jathan Sadowski (twitter.com/jathansadowski) and Edward Ongweso Jr. (twitter.com/bigblackjacobin). Production / Music by Jereme Brown (twitter.com/braunestahl).
24. Utopianism for Cynics

24. Utopianism for Cynics

2020-12-0301:27:081

TMK is taking a break from our regularly scheduled analysis of the ongoing dystopia by pivoting to utopianism! In this episode, we take seriously the question: What would it mean to do utopianism in a way that doesn’t demand abandoning our commitments to materialist critique? We argue for why the anti-capitalist left must reassert its capacity for utopianism and outline some examples of “real utopias” with radical potential that are inspiring our thinking about the kind of alternatives that are imminently achievable. Our discussion builds on the analytical framework detailed by Erik Olin Wright in his work on real utopianism and anti-capitalism: • Transforming Capitalism through Real Utopias (essay) https://www.ssc.wisc.edu/~wright/Published%20writing/Presidential%20address%20--%20uncorrected%20page%20proofs.pdf • How to Be an Anticapitalist in the Twenty-First Century (book) https://www.versobooks.com/books/3065-how-to-be-an-anticapitalist-in-the-twenty-first-century Subscribe to hear more analysis and commentary in our premium episodes every week! patreon.com/thismachinekills Hosted by Jathan Sadowski (twitter.com/jathansadowski) and Edward Ongweso Jr. (twitter.com/bigblackjacobin). Production / Music by Jereme Brown (twitter.com/braunestahl).
We continue our discussion on Huawei by laying out the ways that network infrastructure has become a site for proxy battles as the US/UK and China pursue different agendas for national security and industrial policy. Subscribe to hear more analysis and get more premium episodes every week! patreon.com/thismachinekills Hosted by Jathan Sadowski (twitter.com/jathansadowski) and Edward Ongweso Jr. (twitter.com/bigblackjacobin). Production / Music by Jereme Brown (twitter.com/braunestahl).
22. Huawei or the Highway

22. Huawei or the Highway

2020-11-2501:27:28

Time to get into the 5G! Well, okay, the international political economy of 5G and the new Cold War with China. We trace the history and expansion of Huawei—a hugely important, but greatly misunderstood (and badly analyzed), company at the center of next-gen communication technologies—and its role in the global development of the telecom industry since the 1980s. This episode is kinda information dense, but a focused analysis of Huawei is crucial for figuring out pressure points or fault lines in the global system. 5G won’t cause covid, but will it cause communism?! (Nah, it’s state capitalism). Our discussion builds on, and fills in some gaps in, this great new essay by Evgeny Morozov on the geopolitics of Huawei: https://mondediplo.com/2020/11/10huawei Subscribe to hear the second part of conversation with Michael and get more premium episodes every week! patreon.com/thismachinekills Hosted by Jathan Sadowski (twitter.com/jathansadowski) and Edward Ongweso Jr. (twitter.com/bigblackjacobin). Production / Music by Jereme Brown (twitter.com/braunestahl).
“Technological superiority is a prerequisite for ethical superiority.” These words by Palmer Luckey, founder of Anduril Industries, encapsulate a dangerous philosophy underpinning how the bloodless ghouls in the tech sector aim to integrate their systems and ideologies into the military-industrial complex. Michael joins us again to discuss the deep technological, ethical, and political contradictions that undermine their claims to superiority of any kind. As Luckey and his ilk create and operate the machinery of American imperialism, we must reject their claims to superiority and their ascension up the chain of command. Subscribe at patreon.com/thismachinekills to help support TMK and hear premium episodes every week! • Read Michael’s excellent essay on the politics of drone warfare and drone witnessing: The Testimony of Drones https://sydneyreviewofbooks.com/essay/the-testimony-of-drones/ • Follow Michael on twitter: https://twitter.com/richardson_m_a • Check out his work: https://www.arts.unsw.edu.au/our-people/michael-richardson Hosted by Jathan Sadowski (twitter.com/jathansadowski) and Edward Ongweso Jr. (twitter.com/bigblackjacobin). Production / Music by Jereme Brown (twitter.com/braunestahl).
We jump into the abyss of Anduril Industries—one of the most actually evil, yet little known, technology companies in existence today—and Palmer Luckey, its ultra right-wing founder and Peter Thiel acolyte. To help us discuss how Silicon Valley is bringing its brand of innovation and disruption to the military-industrial complex, we’re joined by Michael Richardson, a senior research fellow at the University of New South Wales and expert on the cultural politics of military technology and drone warfare. • Read Michael’s excellent essay on the politics of drone warfare and drone witnessing: The Testimony of Drones https://sydneyreviewofbooks.com/essay/the-testimony-of-drones/ • Follow Michael on twitter: https://twitter.com/richardson_m_a • Check out his work: https://www.arts.unsw.edu.au/our-people/michael-richardson Subscribe at patreon.com/thismachinekills to hear the second part of conversation with Michael and get more premium episodes every week! Hosted by Jathan Sadowski (twitter.com/jathansadowski) and Edward Ongweso Jr. (twitter.com/bigblackjacobin). Production / Music by Jereme Brown (twitter.com/braunestahl).
We discuss the aftermath of the election, including the banner year for the tech sector, the power dynamics of a Biden/Harris administration, the dynastic conspiracy of interests in San Francisco politics, the risks of a disengaged polity, and the need for an active left. Subscribe at patreon.com/thismachinekills to help support TMK and hear premium episodes every week! Hosted by Jathan Sadowski (twitter.com/jathansadowski) and Edward Ongweso Jr. (twitter.com/bigblackjacobin). Production / Music by Jereme Brown (twitter.com/braunestahl).
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