Tuesday, 16 May 2017

TRUMPIST POPULISM, NEO-LIBERALISM AND ANTI-SEMITISM




Introduction

Nearly three decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the reintegration of the former Communist countries into the capitalist world economy, rightwing populism with authoritarian if not Fascist aspects, is thriving not just in Eastern and Western Europe but most notably in the US that presents itself to the world as a democratic society. An eclectic ideology that embraces ethnocentrism, militarism and law and order state, capitalism and anti-elitism invariably aimed at traditional political, financial, and social elites that favor a bourgeois consensus, rightwing populism is shaped by each country’s history, institutions and culture, but projects the illusion that it favors the “common citizen”. To some extent, populism is a reaction to globalization and neoliberal policies that have accounted for massive capital concentration in the top ten percent of the population at the expense of the middle class and workers.

With the election of a rightwing populist president strongly appealing to racist, xenophobic, and misogynist elements in society, it is hardly surprising that anti-Semitism episodes flared up right after Donald Trump was elected in 2016. The rise of anti-Semitic episodes as a result of “Trumpism” political wave within the Republican Party was to be expected, just as the rise in Islamophobia, xenophobia, and racism were encouraged. Considering the measures that the White House, Congress and Justice Department have proposed impacting minorities in every domain from the criminal justice system to health, housing and education, social justice is suffering further setbacks.

Appealing to disgruntled whites, especially workers who have suffered chronically lower living standards, Trump promised economic nationalism as the panacea to socioeconomic problems. Reverting to Ronald Reagan’s nationalism, militarism, law and order regime and anti-intellectualism to the degree that science is subordinated to the “opinion” or “alternative facts” as Trump officials call it, the new populist president projected a business-style solution to government to fix all that was wrong with society. After all, if he was able to become a billionaire why would it be that difficult to turn the entire nation into a success story simply following the “Art of the Deal” method applied to government?

Like many in the Republican Party with a popular base among cultural conservatives and especially Christian fundamentalists, Trump and his team of billionaires and military officials reject cultural relativism and embrace “Nativism” deeply rooted in American history where racism, ethnocentrism, xenophobia have been an integral part of the political landscape. Resting on the populist wing of the Republican Party with roots in the early Cold War culture of political conformity, Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan and Tea Party populists, “Trumpism” has become the mainstream reflecting the direction of America’s political future deeply ingrained into the ideological frame and institutional structure. Even if Trump is impeached and the Democrats recapture Congress in the next elections, rightwing populism will become more ingrained in society because the structural causes that gave rise to it will remain.

Appealing to a wide range of people frustrated by chronic downward socioeconomic mobility since the 1980s and lack of prospects for their children achieving the middle class American Dream in a world of massive capital concentration in the hands of a few billionaires has led some of the more adventurist Trumpism devotees to lash out at everyone from Jews and Muslims to Mexican immigrants and gays. American Jews identified with the coastal socioeconomic liberal elites are on the radar of many within the Republican rightwing popular base, but not with the Republican establishment. While anti-Semitism has a unique history in Europe, in the US it has always been a part of the immigrant culture in which the media and politicians were and remain strongly committed to breaking class solidarity by accentuating differences of people along ethnic, religious and racial lines.

To explain the rise of populism that has taken hold as a reaction to globalization and neoliberal policies that helped to hasten downward socioeconomic mobility, many politicians, academics, and media analysts focus on the cult of personality that Trump cultivated and on certain high-profile and controversial individuals within his circle.  The multidimensional structural causes of the rightist political orientation are rarely if ever mentioned, especially the neoliberal structure that accounts for such immense inequality becoming worse as time passes. If one focuses on policies, it becomes very clear that there is wide consensus among Republicans no matter the populist rhetoric by Trump intended to distract and confuse the mass base of the party. Those policies negatively impact the very popular base that the Republicans claim to represent. To distract from that reality, not just Republicans, but Democrats, with few exceptions, and the media focus instead on personalities, procedural issues, and militarist policies where there is bipartisan consensus.

Deliberately ignoring structural factors suggests that the political, economic and social structures are not pertinent because the discussion would necessarily lead to framing the debate along the lines of class struggle. The media and analysts frame the debate and all issues as though only individuals in political leadership matter – cult of personality - as though those individuals operate above and separately from the institutional structure which they serve. By employing anti-elite, anti-immigrant and anti-establishment rhetoric, the populists capture that segment of the working and middle class, primarily white, that places all hope on politicians who deliver both the promise of better living standards and strong law and order regime that would give preferential treatment to whites instead of minorities and immigrants.

A cornerstone of populism, economic nationalism projects the illusion that capitalism can benefit the white and non-white middle class and workers if only the state adopted protectionist and “America First” policies. The contradictions of neoliberal and corporate welfare policies in the age of globalization and their negative impact on the middle and working class living standards, combined with the desperation of the conservative elites to retain a popular political base leads toward rightwing populism. Just as there was a rise of rightwing mass movements during the interwar era amid serious structural economic problems, similarly the downward socioeconomic spiral of the US and the West has reinforced rightwing political movements, including the popular base on which Trumpism is based. Considering that the neoliberal establishment under both the Republican and the Democrat party is narrowly focused on identity politics that deliberately refuses to address structural issues such as the decline of the middle class and working class living standards, a mass populist movement with a rightwing nationalist tilt was as inevitable as the rise in social discrimination.

As it becomes increasingly apparent that the populist billionaire business “Messiah” behind the mask of the “Trumpism” cult is merely in power to “Make America Great Again” by transferring even more wealth from the lower and middle classes to the top 1% of wealthiest Americans, the politics of rightwing extremism will intensify and even greater sociopolitical division is inevitable. Billionaires and millionaires behind rightwing populism represent a desperate effort to save the privileges that capitalists enjoy by driving a segment of society ideologically and politically to the extreme right even if this entails embracing even more austere police state methods, especially surveillance, than currently exist.

The Justice Department under Trump introduced harsher measures for petty crimes, loosening any safety net protections of minorities from police abuse, while easing up on regulations affecting white collar crime. Along with racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and misogyny, anti-Semitism is in the broader mix that characterizes a segment of Trump supporters that the Republican Party mobilizes. For the Republican Party to continue catering to the establishment while claiming to be anti-establishment, populism is a useful vehicle as it breaks the solidarity of the working class by advancing the policies of social discrimination.

The neoliberal establishment would have achieved the same goals of capital concentration with a Democrat president in power. This was the case under both Bill Clinton and Barak Obama catering to a different popular base distinguished by traditional Democrat identity politics – feminists, gay rights, and greater integration of minorities into the capitalist mainstream. While Republican rhetoric and policies project false hope to rightwing elements from Reagan Democrats, Evangelicals to neo-Nazis that the social contract will be anti-elite and focused on the white majority feeling threatened by identity politics, Democrats remain focused on reviving the old Cold War with Russia and catering to Wall Street, while promoting cultural and lifestyle issues with a greater commitment to balance the welfare state with corporate welfare. Ironically, Democrat identity politics is actually just as divisive because it refuses to address issues along structural lines, thus leaving many among the masses to be duped by the promises of populist rhetoric.

Trumpism’s Contradictions and American Jews, and Islamophobia

Although anti-Semitism has a long and ugly history, no minority group in US history has suffered greater discrimination and institutionalized racism than African-Americans. The white Anglo-Saxon majority has historically categorized ethnic immigrants in a hierarchy based on skin color, ethnic origin, and religion. American Jews were not exempt from ethnocentrism, remaining a favorite target of the KKK among other rightwing groups. Because class in some cases transcends ethnicity, race and religion, Jews that became capitalists or moved into middle class professions benefited from assimilation into the institutional mainstream much more than those of the same faith in the lower middle class and working class.

By the early 21st century, American Jews were well integrated into the mainstream, reflecting society’s diversity ideologically, politically, and socioeconomically. From 2000 until 2016, Jewish voting patterns indicate that between two-thirds and three-fourths supported the Democrat presidential candidates. Although these percentages are very similar to Hispanic Catholic voting trends, stereotypes deeply ingrained in society remain just below the thin façade of political correctness where saying the right thing in public is the only thing that matters. Many within the rightwing populist movement accept the stereotypes that Jews are in control of everything from Wall Street to the media, the political arena, higher education, and the entertainment industry.

Interestingly, it never even occurs to anti-Semites to ask why so many of the elites are Anglo-Saxon Protestant. This is indicative that American racists believe it is natural to be Anglo-Saxon protestant and be among the elites because national identity rests with this category of people since the republic was founded. While it is true that Jews are in every sector of society, just as are Christians, a larger percentage of Jews is integrated into the capitalist class in comparison to other minorities especially blacks and Hispanics. However, it is blatantly false that Jews control the entire institutional structure and use it to advance some amorphous “Jewish agenda”, as neo-Nazi and other conspiracy theorists propagate. On the contrary, throughout European and US history Jews have proved more loyal and more conformist to the institutional structure than any other minority.

Conspiracy theories about Jewish control of the institutional structure are the basis of anti-Semitism that has declined since the interwar era as much in the US as in Western Europe, though the same does not hold true for Eastern Europe. With the rise of populism in American politics during the presidential campaign of 2016, anti-Semitism assumed the spotlight once again, despite the fact that Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is Jewish with business and personal connections to Israel. Moreover, top administration officials in control of financial, economic and trade policy are also Jewish linked to Wall Street and specifically the multinational financial syndicate Goldman Sachs.

While it is true that all US presidents cater to Wall Street, and all presidents since Ronald Reagan have relied on former Goldman Sachs executives who have been invariably Jewish to conduct fiscal, economic, trade and foreign policy, it is especially noteworthy that Trump has long-standing links to Jewish billionaires. This in itself would not be unusual except that his has been using populist anti-big business, anti-elite rhetoric to appeal to populist elements among them neo-Nazis, KKK, and other varieties of racists and anti-Semites. The glaring contradiction that cannot be reconciled is that Trumpism symbolizes and emboldens ethnocentrism while the administration includes millionaire and billionaire American Jews who are in the awkward position of accepting rightwing populism so 
that they can advance neoliberal policies.

It is hardly surprising that some emboldened Trump supporters have engaged in anti-Semitic activities, assuming that their leader really represents the extremist white Christian masses rather than the multi-ethnic, including Jewish, capitalist elites. In March 2017, prominent Jewish-American groups demanded that Trump denounce anti-Semitism in light of a rise in documented incidents in different parts of the country. The corporate media exposed this issue, but like Jewish organization the media did not frame it in its larger context of rightwing populism where anti-Semitism is but one of many aspects of racism. Trump’s refusal to accept responsibility for his brand of populism giving rise to anti-Semitism was revealing and somewhat shocking to all people embracing pluralism but especially to Jews who assumed he would be friendlier because his daughter is married to Kushner.

Trump had no choice but to reject the suggestion that Trumpism entails anti-Semitism. Admitting that Trumpism leads to anti-Semitism would have forced the president to accept that his ideological/political movement is politically and culturally racist at its core and that his administration is driven by the politics of exclusion rather than integration in a pluralistic society. Even more alarming, the entire Republican establishment with few exceptions refused to denounce the racist core of Trumpism, thus demonstrating that the party clings to the rightwing populist base even when some within that base are neo-Nazis.

Contrary to how the media and many analysts who focused on the cult of personality see Trumpism, this phenomenon did not fall to earth from space. It has deep roots in both parties, but especially in the Republican Party going as far back as the 1920s. Despite “Trumpism” as an integral part of the Republican Party and American society, anti-Semitism has actually remained relatively low in comparison with Western Europe and especially Eastern Europe where it is only exceeded by Islamic countries. Of course, opinion polls and hate crime reports cannot possibly measure with any degree of accuracy the level of anti-Semitism across society. People conceal their attitudes toward Jews as they do toward Muslims and blacks because in a pluralistic society where political correctness takes precedence overt racism is unacceptable – politically incorrect and bad for business given that the American consumer base is multi-ethnic.

Some analysts were encouraged that anti-Semitism has been on the decline in the last two decades because of the rise of Islamophobia, a form of religious discrimination that spiked after the Iranian Revolution and assumed astronomical proportions after 9/11. However, the rise of rightwing populism, which includes Christians driven by prejudice against other faiths, has emboldened anti-Semitism as much in the US and across Europe in the past two decades when the neoliberal elites celebrated the triumph of globalization. Neoliberalism is the catalyst in the rise of globalization, the rise of rightwing populism and the rise of Islamophobia in the last two decades.

Combined with a persistently anti-Islam bias in the media that has been reinforcing Islamophobia and the rise of rightwing populism aimed at Islam in general and Muslim immigrants specifically, the war on terror has been a catalytic factor in the change of mass attitudes from anti-Semitism to Islamophobia. The fact that Israel has been pursuing apartheid policies toward Palestinians and pursuing a militarist approach to foreign policy has worked in its favor when it comes to attracting mainstream conservative and Cold War liberal elements across the US and Western Europe, thus transferring the historic focus of prejudice from Jews to Muslims.

France’s National Front under Marine Le Pen is a good example of a political party that has been focusing more on the Muslim enemy where all bourgeois political parties also focused rather than clinging to anti-Semitism that carries a political and social stigma. In an interview in June 2014, she stated: “I do not stop repeating it to French Jews. … Not only is the National Front not your enemy, but it is without a doubt the best shield to protect you. It stands at your side for the defense of our freedoms of thought and of religion against the only real enemy, Islamist fundamentalism.”  https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/04/marine-le-pen-national-front-jews-muslims/523302/

Ironically, the rising tide of populism across Western and Eastern Europe as well as Trump’s America has reinvigorated racists of all sorts, despite the official policies of governments to support Israeli apartheid policies and militarism while keeping Islamophobia in the forefront of the political dialogue. The fact that the US claims to support the war on terror while remaining a major arms supplier to countries like Saudi Arabia where most jihadists have originated and where the regime has been supplying jihadist rebels with weapons in both Syria and Yemen does not seem to register any more with liberals than with conservatives. While the US and EU arms manufacturers make billions in profits selling weapons to countries with a history of supporting jihadists, the Western media and governments continue to promote the myth about strengthening national security against Islamic terrorism, thus promoting Islamophobia and xenophobia.

Although anti-Semitism has deep roots throughout the Western World as does Islamophobia, many Christians learned anti-Semitism from their families while they learned about Islamophobia from mainstream media and politicians since the Iranian Revolution. Overt or subtle hiding behind political correctness, religious prejudice is convenient for opportunistic bourgeois politicians, for the media and pundits when there are serious structural problems in the economy as in 2008 great recession. Racists default the rise in unemployment, stagnant wages, and political polarization following 2008 to Jewish elites and immigrant workers rather than the political economy predicated on socioeconomic inequality and political marginalization.

The neoliberal system that creates greater socioeconomic inequality thrives on racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia because it distracts focus from the root causes of structural problems in society. Rightwing populism in the US and Europe finds a popular response from angry middle class and working class that are unable to discern the structural inequality that the political economy creates. Blaming Jews, Arabs, Hispanics, Blacks, and other minorities because the system does not integrate the “native majority” into the upward trajectory of the mainstream is simple and convenient because it also fulfills an emotional need to vent. Adolph Hitler’s belief that people need someone to hate rather than abstract systems and institutions beyond their comprehension works just as well today as it did in the turbulent 1930s.

Is Antisemitism on the rise?

In January 2017 there were 40 to 68 bomb threats (depending on the source) against Jewish community centers in 27 states, with Jewish cemeteries the most well publicized targets. When we consider that the number of anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses in 2015 were twice as many as in 2014, it appears that anti-Semitism had been rising under the Obama administration pursuing neoliberal policies. Statistics from public opinion polls indicate that anti-Semitic incidents rose immediately after Trump won the presidency, something that hardly surprised many critics who had been warning that such is the price of appealing to extreme rightwing elements for political support.

FBI statistics on hate crimes indicate that there have not been significant changes since the presidential election of 2012, but threats against Jewish centers and Jewish journalists did experience a spike in threats once Trump won the election. It is noteworthy that the reporting of anti-Semitic incidents is more accurate and prevalent than the reporting of racial, ethnic, or religious prejudice of other groups that the media routinely overlooks both at the local but especially the national level. Hate crimes motivated by religion have targeted Jews and Muslims since Trump’s election, although Islamophobia spiked sharply since 9/11 and it is under-reported in comparison with anti-Semitic incidents. While institutional anti-Semitism is very low partly because of the cordial US-Israeli ties but also because Jews are more thoroughly integrated in society, the same is not the case for institutional racism aimed at Muslims and blacks.

Because Trump won with a populist appeal, it was inevitable that xenophobia aimed at Muslims and Latin Americans as main targets, racism, sexism, homophobia, and chauvinism as main cultural traits would become even more acceptable driven by the politics of division. In very subtle ways, rightwing news organizations that have been supporting Trump have been promoting social discrimination; some daring to cross the line to attack Jews backing liberal causes and the Democrat Party. Although anti-Semitism finds no expression in public policy as does Islamophobia, America’s ideological orientation has become so rightwing than the Democrats find it necessary to attack the Republican president by reviving Cold War anti-Russia propaganda. Instead of remaining focused on specific allegations of corruption, collusion, money laundering, and above all Republican policies that worsen inequality and weaken the middle class and workers, Democrats committed to neoliberal policies are just as guilty as Republicans for avoiding the key issue of social justice.

Anti-Semitism among Liberals and Conservatives

Anti-Semitism is subtle even among those liberal elements that cling to political correctness often used to conceal real intentions. Leftist critics of Israel are driven by the apartheid conditions and Israel’s militarist approach to foreign policy and by the neoliberal orientation of the entire Western World that the Israeli business and political elites support. Critics are concerned that the Israeli government, not people, has come a very long way in emulating the Third Reich’s racism when it comes to treatment of Palestinians. This does not mean that all leftists are free of anti-Semitism and they are not using Israel’s horrific policies to justify racism. Because it is true that anti-Zionism can lead to legitimizing anti-Semitism, it is essential to denounce any form of discrimination and differentiate between government policy and ethnic or religious prejudice. Labeling any critic of Israeli anti-Semite merely for supporting peace in the Middle East is propaganda and a sign of using the pretext of anti-Semitism to suppress dissent.

Rightwing elements are more comfortable in anti-Semitism because it is an integral part of their ideological orientation. Besides the KKK, neo-Nazi groups and some new elements that emerged with the explosion of rightwing media, anti-Semitism as an integral part of the ideological rightwing has historical roots among Christian business and political elites that looked the other way during the 1930s when the Third Reich was systematically persecuting Jews. Anti-Semitism from the right has found expression from a number of social media outlets where the white nationalist ALT-RIGHT among others has increased their anti-Semitic attacks with hate speech. The anti-Defamation League reported 2.6 million tweets aimed at Jewish journalists in 12 months, summer 2015 to summer 2016. Although Trump does not use anti-Semitic rhetoric and he has long-standing ties to Jewish millionaires and billionaires, many of his working class Christian supporters assume he is talking about Jews in the liberal “fake” media when he speaks of ‘enemies of the people’. https://www.adl.org/news/press-releases/adl-task-force-issues-report-detailing-widespread-anti-semitic-harassment-of

As the latest layer building on existing ones of American rightwing populism, Trumpism is indicative of an ideological, political and cultural orientation, but also a reflection of one’s values as well as aspirations and illusions about what a populist regime led by a Messiah businessman can deliver to its middle and working class base. Deeply imbedded in Trumpism is anti-Semitism from the extreme right that has gained legitimacy because Trump is president, no matter his ties to Jewish business elites. While the liberal left as represented by Senator Bernie Sanders, the son of Jewish immigrants, has also criticized the financial and media elites that include Jews, there is hardly a comparison between the Sanders movement to pursue social justice for all people and the politics of hate and division that Trump and his Republican propagandists promoted.

Evangelical Christians: Friends of Israel, Enemies of secular American-Jews?

Ever since the preeminence of neoconservatives in the Reagan decade of the eighties, there has been a strange alliance between American Jews and Evangelicals. Besides their common distaste for Muslims, their common Cold War militarist foreign policy and their common conservative social values that brought these two groups closer together they seem like natural allies, using religious dogmatism to justify imperialist foreign policies and social inequality. Evangelicals have consistently remained in a military-solution mode when it came to foreign policy hotspots and viewed Israel as defender of the Christian West against the Muslims becoming radicalized after the Iranian Revolution of 1979.

The alliance between American Jews and Evangelicals began showing cracks in the presidential elections of 2008 and 2012, but especially in 2016 when many Jews backed Hillary Clinton while Evangelicals sided with Trump who promised them Reagan-style social and judicial conservatism, along with jobs and economic nationalism intended to “make American great again”, partly implying the integration of white Christians into the mainstream from which they had been excluded under the neoliberal regime of Bill Clinton and Obama. Besides the Evangelicals vote for Trump and the American secular Jews largely backing Clinton in 2016, the rift between Evangelicals and Jews was evident in the “liberal” vs. the populist rightwing media wars over the Trump administration’s policies and personalities such as Steve Bannon, former Goldman Sachs banker and Breitbart news executive and no stranger to racism, white nationalism, and anti-Semitism.

Israeli neoliberal and militarist elites continue to hope that they can have Evangelicals supporting Israel, just as they supported Trump win the election. The Israeli-Evangelical alliance appears on firm ground, but it is becoming increasingly problematic because Trumpism not only entails xenophobia, ethnocentrism and nationalism, but anti-Semitism among many of its voters, even some younger Evangelicals. The Republicans and the rightwing media have tried to identify liberal Jews as the enemy, but such rhetoric only reinforces anti-Semitism. Evangelicals and rightwing media have hammered at the close identification of the Democrats with Jewish billionaires like George Soros famous for his support of liberal causes. This association has reinforced anti-Semitism among the rightwing populists, largely because the rightwing media and politicians keep at it.

Ironically, the same criticism of Jewish billionaires and their liberal causes is also made across much of Europe, especially in Eastern Europe where the commitment to diversity and pluralism is a pale imitation of what exists in Scandinavian countries. The same criticism is never leveled against liberal Anglo-Saxon billionaires like Warren Buffet or others, projecting the impression that Jewish money somehow corrupts the political process more than Protestant money. The obvious hypocrisy on the part of right wingers including Evangelicals regarding Jewish money vs. Protestant money influencing the political arena extends to Israel treated as a friendly militarist state while Muslim militarist states are deserving of condemnation.

What if Jews lost support from Evangelical Christians?

Neoliberals from the Clinton and neoconservative leftovers from the Reagan decade have cultivated close ties between American Evangelicals and Israel but the relationship is showing signs of deterioration largely because the younger Evangelicals question the wisdom of one-sided US foreign policy. Although public opinion polls indicate that American Jews largely mistrust Evangelicals, Evangelical organizations remain committed to support of Israel as a frontline state against the Arabs and radical Islam. This ideological commitment is largely based on money pouring into Evangelical churches and their affiliate NGOs that are tools of recruitment and indoctrination. The highly organized Evangelical groups using the media, educational centers and Christian media remain a political force that helped to elect Trump while keeping the populist wing of the Republican Party strong. 

The irony of Evangelical support for Israel is that some of its members are anti-Semitic. Ever since the Reagan administration, rightwing Christian fundamentalist elements, which American Jews and the Israeli lobby have been trying to mobilize, are not just anti-Muslim but some are anti-Semitism as well. While the war on terror shifted the focus of American Evangelicals to the imminent Muslim threat as they understand it, this does not mean that anti-Semitism disappeared. On the contrary, as socioeconomic conditions deteriorate, and as a segment of the population perceives that Jewish elites from Wall Street to media and Hollywood are to partly blame for the elusive American Dream not trickling down to the masses, anti-Semitism will rise and support for Israel will diminish. Trump’s ‘America First’ economic nationalism and slashing foreign aid as part of neo-isolationism will eventually impact Israel, especially as the administration will drive budgetary deficits and the public debt to record levels because of corporate tax cuts and more corporate welfare at the expense of health and social programs. 

Regardless of who is in the White House, the US will always support Israel diplomatically because both political parties have done so since 1948 and they will continue to do so for many reasons. This is not only because of the very powerful Israeli lobby, but also the fact that Israel serves the convenient role of perpetuating destabilization in the Middle East that helps the defense industry of the US. Despite the apartheid conditions toward the Palestinians, Israel will remain a key US ally even if younger Evangelicals question US support and even if a segment of the rightwing Republican popular base becomes more anti-Semitic.

Conclusion

The political correctness rhetoric of liberals and conservatives alike notwithstanding, the socioeconomic effects of neoliberal policies on society gives rise to ultra-rightwing ideological and political movements. Through the media, the political and socioeconomic elites help to indoctrinate and mobilize the masses into the rightwing camp using it as the popular base of the Republican Party that caters to Wall Street, as much as the Democrats use identity politics to mobilize their popular base while also catering to Wall Street. Given that the two-party system represents the interests of the same elites despite ideological and political affiliations among the elites, the masses merely follow instead of breaking away to create a class-based grassroots movement that would bring social justice through systemic change. Rightwing populism becomes the grassroots movement and its followers are convinced that it is the vehicle to the fulfillment of the social contract; an illusion that conservative politicians, media and pundits constantly reinforce.

Mobilizing the remnants of the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party, Trumpism gained momentum because neoliberal policies exacerbated socioeconomic polarization under Obama. Although Trumpism will fade away along with Trump at some point, its imprint on society will remain as did that of Reaganism that helped to bring a segment of the population father to the rightwing ideological domain where discrimination assumes an unspoken legitimacy just below the surface of political correctness. The rightwing orientation of society as an integral part of deradicalization of the masses is essential to maintaining the political economy of inequality, although it comes at the cost of the absence of social justice and social discrimination.  

The bourgeois value system is based on individualism, but bourgeois institutions and policies have historically promoted discrimination on the basis of group identity disregarding the merits of the individual. Like all forms of prejudice rooted in ignorance, fear and social conditioning, anti-Semitism is no different. It is futile to assume that anti-Semitism can be mitigated in isolation of all other forms of prejudice separate from the larger issue of a socially just society. All social, economic and political indicators point not to greater social discrimination and prejudice in a society where the mass concentration of wealth at the expense of the middle and working classes has resulted in the search for enemies to blame, whether Muslims, Jews, Mexicans, etc.

As the US slowly creeps down the road of more authoritarianism and a surveillance state, becoming less tolerant of differences and diversity amid its inevitable decline as the world’s preeminent economic power, it will have a much weaker middle class and a working class with lower living standards. A segment of the population whose identity rests with the flag and the cross will become more open to the idea of a police militarized state that enforces conformity through constant surveillance and stricter laws that punish petty criminals while allowing the legalized corporate thieves to enjoy a privileged status in society. 

In the absence of embracing human rights and social justice there cannot possibly be an end to anti-Semitism any more than any other form of prejudice. If the political economy feed a culture of prejudice because it has an interest in maintaining the institutional structure, then it is hardly surprising that prejudice would be widespread. Under neoliberalism thriving under Trumpist populism, various forms of prejudice will manifest themselves because the promise of “Make America Great Again” will never filter down to the middle and working class.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: Socioeconomic, Political, and Ethical Dimensions


Introduction: Humanity’s Future in AI-Biosynthetic World
 
In a few centuries or perhaps a few decades, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and biosynthetic engineering will be perfected to the degree that androids will closely resemble humans and biosynthetically engineered humans will resemble androids. Despite the nightmares of such a prospect for some scientists, humanist scholars and theologians, AI will be a dream becoming reality for those espousing Max More’s philosophy of “transuhumanism”; a movement whose goal is to enhance the human condition physically and intellectually through the application of scientific and technological means. (Carvalko, Joseph, The Techno-human Shell-A Jump in the Evolutionary Gap. Sunbury Press, 2012)

Whether one agrees with transhumanism or finds it abhorrent because it is merely another means of promoting eugenics, the race to transform science fiction dreams into a profitable reality is picking up speed by corporations and investors. Multinational corporations see the opportunity for billions in profits and that is all the motivation they need to move forward full speed, advertising AI research and development even now to prove that their company is decades ahead of the competition.
Besides corporations, the potential power and wealth in AI has universities, government-funded research institutions and privately-funded labs working to realize the dream without worrying about the potential risks involved for society at large. Like the nuclear bomb developed in the 1940s, the AI genie is out of the bottle and it has been since the 1940s when scientists from different fields contemplated building an artificial brain thus giving birth to the formalize scientific discipline of AI in 1956.

British code breaker Alan Turing is known as the Father of Computer Science, also a pioneer in the domain of artificial intelligence, was only at the theoretical stage in the middle of the 20th century when he was conducting research. Contemporaries of Turing, Ross Quillian and Edward Feigenbaum followed by Marvin Minsky who co-founded MIT’s AI lab were all pioneers along with corporate giant IBM. By 2016 when Minsky died, AI was the hottest field that corporations, governments, and research institutions intensely pursued, some trying to beat the competition marketing robots for various tasks in the next few years. (George Zarkadakis, In our Own Image: Savior or Destroyer? The History and Future of Artificial Intelligence, 2017).

GOOGLE’s Peter Norvik, in charge of research made the argument that there is no turning back on AI which he views as the ultimate tool in solving problems, not considering the new problems it would create. “I don’t care so much whether what we are building is real intelligence. We know how to build real intelligence…—my wife and I did it twice, although she did a lot more of the work. We don’t need to duplicate humans. That’s why I focus on having tools to help us rather than duplicate what we already know how to do. We want humans and machines to partner and do something that they cannot do on their own.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/gilpress/2016/12/21/artificial-intelligence-pioneers-peter-norvig-google/#7dd2f52c38c6

In 2016, there were more than 650 business deals involving $5 billion in startups for AI research. With Google leading in patent applications, Microsoft, Amazon, INTEL, Facebook, and Apple became heavily involved in the domain of AI. The same companies involved in the web and cell phones are now competing for the lucrative AI market of the future with different venture capitalists backing research and development (R & D). With the advent of the web and cell phones, R & D in AI has moved rapidly since Turing’s era into the mainstream of government in a number of countries in the world, but especially US and China which are the main competitors in the field. According to some, AI is the global arms race of the future because of its potential in every sector including defense. https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/02/china-artificial-intelligence/516615/; http://www.nbcnews.com/mach/features/next-global-arms-race-aims-perfect-artificial-intelligence-n685911

Because of immense institutional interest in AI, there has been a great deal written and debated about what it would all mean for society. There are tens of thousands of scholarly books and articles on the subject covering everything from scientific dimensions to social political and philosophical, some enthusiastic, others skeptical, and still others condemning AI as the new danger to humanity, even worse than motion pictures and science fiction novels depict. While most scholars are neither pessimistic nor as glowingly optimistic as Norvik about the miracle of AI awaiting the human race, there are those who cautiously point to both benefits and possible risks and skeptics cautious about the possible unforeseen consequences, some already evident with the cybergeneration of infophiles addicted to cell phones, computers, and video games.

In the early 21st century, the cybergeneration growing up in cyberspace with mechanical toys, videogames, cell phones and computers relate to machines as their reality. Accepting cyberspace as parallel to experiences with people they come into direct contact, the cybergeneration is conditioned to accept alienation from empirical reality as the norm, separating existential reality they may dread from cyber reality in which they live because they enjoy the illusion of greater control from a distance. A cybergeneration individual may have dozens or even hundreds of “cyber-friends” across the country and across the world but few if any friends in school, in the neighborhood, or at work. These cyubergeneration individuals deem detachment normal because the cyber-community has replaced the empirical one where they cannot hide behind numerous masks that cyberspace permits and promotes. The conditioning of the cybergeneration is very different than the socialization of any generation in the past that was socialized in the real community rather than in cyberspace. If this is the condition of the current cybergeneration, what would the future look like with AI robotics? http://cyberikee.tripod.com/thinking_cyber_subjectivity_1.html

By the end of this century, the reality of children growing up with robots, holograms and bioengineered humans will be far different than it is for the generation of the early 21st century in every respect from individual to group identity. The wealthier families will have androids in their homes, most likely helping to raise and educate their children, conditioning them about the existential nature of robots as an integral part of the family like the loveable dog or cat. The less affluent middle class would be able to rent-a-robot for the ephemeral experience of it. The lower classes will feel even more marginalized because AI robotics will be out of reach for them; in fact they will be lesser beings than the robots whose intelligence and functions will be another privilege for the wealthy to enjoy. As we will see below, the sense of identity and community will be largely impacted by AI in ways difficult to conceive today for all classes.

AI, Population Explosion and the Job Market

Robotics and AI goes to the heart of how existing and new industries could widen the class gap between rich and poor, and between richer advanced countries and poorer nations. AI raises many public policy questions especially in the domain of economics and politics. This is largely because resource allocation will mean that the lower classes and less developed countries will be further marginalized in the world economy. Even in the advanced countries robots will be replacing humans in the workplace with grave social consequences in the absence of a strict regulatory regime and a social safety net for the working class.

In 2016, a White House report speculated that AI will result in higher productivity, but it will also leave millions without work while creating far greater wealth inequality than already exists. Just as the Silicon Valley has created a small wealthy class without absorbing the surplus labor force at a time that the rich-poor gap has been widening in the last three decades, similarly AI will exacerbate the trend. Apologists of the market economy reject all pessimistic scenarios, insisting that AI will deliver paradise on earth for all humanity. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4068986/Is-job-risk-White-House-report-warns-AI-soon-leave-millions-Americans-unemployed.html; https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jan/04/robots-future-society-drones

If world population reaches 9 billion by 2050 as it is expected (38% higher than in 2010), and assuming it climbs to 11.2 billion by the end of the century with 9 billion living in Africa and Asia, it is easy to envision the sorts of sociopolitical problems that AI will create in the name of solving others, mainly for the benefit of raising corporate profits. Considering that most people will live in the non-Western World, those in the West will use AI as the pretext to keep wages low and exert their political, economic, military and cultural hegemony. Xenophobic politicians and nativist groups will use AI as a pretext to keep out Africans, Asians, and Latin Americans. Heightened xenophobia with robots to the rescue of the Caucasian minority on the planet will be another dimension of those looking for a pretext to rally rightwing populists behind an authoritarian regime. http://www.visualcapitalist.com/animation-world-population-2100-region/

It is a given that AI will result in many benefits in every field from surgery to the auto industry, and to an estimated 700 fields according to an Oxford University study. Just as the internet has made possible the assistance of a physician in Cleveland providing live instructions and advice to a colleague carrying out surgery in the Philippines, similarly AI will result in such miracles. The issue however is the manner that corporations and government will use AI as leverage for labor policy. When the auto industry introduced robotics in the 1970s (MIT’s “Silver Arm”), auto workers reacted like Luddites in the early 19th century England because they realized that corporations used robotics as leverage to drive down wages and benefits, circumvent labor standards and policies impacting workers and their socioeconomic condition. http://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/downloads/academic/The_Future_of_Employment.pdf

In our era, fast food restaurants are among some industries that want to replace minimum wage workers with robots as soon as possible. Multinational corporations have been threatening government not to raise the minimum wage because robots are not far off replacing humans. Just as capitalists in early 19th century England were using the machine as leverage to determine labor policy, so do corporate CEOs in the early 21st century. Just as the British government sided with businesses against the Luddites in the era of the Napoleonic Wars, governments in the 21st century are also on the side of industry against workers.

From the perspective of the capitalist, an android can do a much better job in everything from serving food, to serving on the court bench as a judge without human prejudice which is the flaw that accounts human uniqueness. Although some argue that robots should not be used as health care providers or any area where human judgment of ethical considerations must be taken into account such as the judicial system, others insist that androids will serve humans better than people in every endeavor. As tools for human advancement and comfort, science and technology are a welcome development from a consumerist perspective, something that business and government use as an argument to fund R & D for AI.

AI could unlock immense potential for economic growth and development for the betterment of mankind, at least as far as its advocates are concerned. This assumes that the benefits of AI once fully implemented will be equally shared among all social classes across the entire world. Did all social classes and all nations advance equally because of the Scientific Revolution of the 17th century and the first Industrial Revolution in England in the 18th century? The rich-poor (northern Hemisphere vs. Southern Hemisphere) divide between northwest Europe, North America and Japan that were the core of the world capitalists system became more pronounced by continued scientific, technological, and industrial development. Scientific, technological, and industrial development under the capitalist system was hardly the solution for the lack of social justice, for widespread misery owing to poverty and disease, and lack of health and education among the poor. On the contrary, the advanced capitalist countries used technology as tools of exploitation of the Southern Hemisphere and AI technology will be no different.

Greater egalitarianism and the promise of creating a techno-scientific paradise on earth is the bait that corporations and bourgeois politicians and their apologists have been throwing to the masses for the past three centuries and they continue to do it when it comes to the AI revolution. There are studies warning about the greater gap between rich and poor people and countries that robotics will cause. “Oxford University researchers have estimated that 47 percent of U.S. jobs could be automated within the next two decades. And if even half that number is closer to the mark, workers are in for a rude awakening. In the 1800s, 80 percent of the U.S. labor force worked on farms. Today it’s 2 percent. Obviously mechanization didn’t destroy the economy. “

In Robot Nation, Stan Neilson raises the question of how a large percentage of the population will survive when corporations replace humans with robots on such a scale that half of the active work force will not be employable. Is the future of the majority of the people to serve robots serving the rich who own the robots? Will such conditions create the atmosphere for social revolutions because AI will create greater polarization than we have seen in modern history? After all, the contradiction of the AI revolution is the promise to make life better for all when it is entirely possible that it will make it much worse for the majority. While businesses and politicians are constantly trying to convince people that the AI revolution is a panacea, people will see for themselves that the benefits will accrue to the elites. Will there be a rise of a Luddite movement against robots and will the elites use robots to suppress revolutionary uprisings?

Advocates of AI insist that hyperbolic issues depicted in science fiction motion pictures and books have nothing to do with the practical reality of AI. The proponents of this new revolution believe that many new opportunities will be created by the new industry and robots will complement humans rather than humans competing with robots for jobs. The challenge for large corporations is to have the engineers to keep pace with the job demand. American companies have complained that government must do something to meet the demand shortage that forces corporations to recruit from India, China, Iran, Russia and other countries. India and China graduates 10 to 20 times more engineers (depending on the source) than the US where the field is not popular with students. On November 30, 2016, the computer sciences dean Andrew Moore testified before the congressional Subcommittee on Space, Science and Transportation that the US must have one million High School students now geared for engineering to maintain global competitiveness in AI. https://www.cmu.edu/news/stories/archives/2016/november/moore-senate-testimony.html

The engineering glut in Asia, India, China and Japan also points to the race for AI that is seen as another tool giving the competitive advantage to whichever country crosses the finish line first with far reaching implications for the economy. Considering that about half of US engineering graduates  (54% Ph.D. and 42% MS) are foreign nationals, corporations have been asking government in the past ten years to provide more incentives, everything from scholarships to R & D grants to universities graduating engineers. Because of the enormous potential to the economy and defense sector, AI has become an important element in international competition, leaving no room to question the nuances of corporate welfare for the AI industry and about what it would mean to the active workforce of the future.

Transhumanism and Identity

Resting on the works of “transhumanist” intellectuals, the corporate, political and business advocates of AI believe the evolution of culture and identity is inevitable with the advent of robotics. Welcoming tranhumanism, the advocates believe that human beings have always evolved under very different conditions throughout human history, and they will continue to evolve physically and mentally thanks to the advancements in science and technology. While Max More’s definition of transhumanism cited below touches on some risks of AI, it stresses the benefits and it is the kind of justification that AI investors, government and industry is seeking.
  1. The intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally improving the human condition through applied reason, especially by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.
  2. The study of the ramifications, promises, and potential dangers of technologies that will enable us to overcome fundamental human limitations, and the related study of the ethical matters involved in developing and using such technologies. http://whatistranshumanism.org/; Max More and Natasha Vita-More, The Transhumanist Reader, 2013)
Ever since British geneticist J. B. S. Haldane’s essay “Daedalus: Science and the Future” (1923), scientists advocating transhumanism have flirted with the idea of eugenics made possible by advances in science and technology. The idea of humans existing in a mechanical environment and approximating an android could be an anathema to a theologian or a humanist. For transhumanists, this is neither blasphemy nor perversion of the human condition; only its improvement. http://www.nextbigfuture.com/2013/03/data-driven-eugenics-genetic.html

Cyberculture that has created virtual communities raises philosophical questions about identity, relationships, values, the withering of real community culture, and lifestyles that will largely be determined by the AI industry. Robot companions and infophiles are oblivious to the unknown risks that AI could pose on society, arguing that a generation or two ago skeptics of the internet had similar questions. There are those who maintain that cyberculture is egalitarian and within it there is a counterculture movement validating its democratic nature and endless possibilities for individual and cyber-identity.

Others warn that there is also a criminal and “hate group” culture operating in everything from promoting narcotics to human slavery, from neo-Nazi elements to nihilistic cults promoting suicide, all of which could potentially become much worse with AI technology. “Social engineering, which refers to the practice of manipulating people into performing actions or divulging information, is widely seen as the weakest link in the computer security chain. Cybercriminals already exploit the best qualities in humans — trust and willingness to help others — to steal and spy. The ability to create artificial intelligence avatars that can fool people online will only make the problem worse.” https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/24/technology/artificial-intelligence-evolves-with-its-criminal-potential.html?_r=0

To apologists, cyberculture is not confined to the perimeters of the hegemonic culture of the elites simply because Silicon Valley is an integral part of corporate America. To skeptics, it has yet to be determined what role AI will play in shaping human and group identity if robotics is the domain of the business and political class. After all, large corporations and governments have a dominant role in cyberculture because they control cyberspace. Although we have no way of determining how AI will shape human identity, we do know something about the web’s influence in that regard.

In 2012, the British government commissioned a study directed by Professor Sir John Beddington on the manner the web was redefining human identity. Concluding that traditional identity based on community was becoming less relevant by web users, the study noted that there were both positive and negative influences resulting from the web community and users’ sense of identity. A segment of the population identifying with a particular sporting or cultural event could be mobilized through the web because individuals identified with that specific cause. At the same time, thousands of people could be called into political action as was the case not just with the Arab Spring uprisings, but also Occupy Wall Street and European protests. “The internet can allow many people to realise their identities more fully. Some people who have been shy or lonely or feel less attractive discover they can socialise more successfully and express themselves more freely online". http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-21084945

According to the British report on web identity, there was a sharp rise of internet users becoming members of social networks in the first two decades of the 21st century, along with the prevalence of social networks that accounted for changing identity of users. This is especially in the advanced capitalist countries, but the trend has spread rapidly to India, China and other parts of the world. Given the prevalence of social networks and the web, what will AI mean to human beings and their sense of identity and community once perfected to be almost indistinguishable from humans? If Fidel Castro and Ernesto "Che" Guevara used RADIO REBELDE effectively to undertake the Cuban Revolution in the 1950s, will future generations use AI robots for social change, for personal satisfaction, for both and much more?  

Infophiles are already becoming more like the machines they use, like surreal characters in a Franz Kafka novel or a science fiction motion picture. They crave virtual reality more than empirical reality; their relationship with their cell phones or computers outlasts any other they have with human beings. If we accept the assumption that environment shapes human nature to a large degree as empiricist philosophers ever since John Locke argued, then we must accept that a techno-science environment of AI robots used by bio-engineered humans will result in robo-humans and a world where transhumanism will be the norm.

Eager to have robots behave like the ideal human, scientists are trying to create the machine that can emulate human beings when in fact the infophile has evolved into a quasi-robotic existence. The robot can be programmed to mimic human behavior, but humans are already programmed by institutions to mimic robots. Obedience is what businesses want from employees and consumers, what government expects from its docile citizenry, what religious institutions expect of the faithful. Just as robots are subject to conformity lacking free will, similarly the masses have moved in that direction as well. It often seems as though society has moved closer to the science fiction world of Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS, but it is all in the name of 'progress'. Given the mechanical evolution of where capitalism is leading humanity, why should it be surprising that rich people who could afford the robot would have a problem with it as a lover or companion; after all it would be in the name of 'progress' and who wants to be left behind?

Future generations growing up in the world of AI will be conditioned into virtual reality as “more real” than the blood running in their veins, rejecting the real community which they cannot switch off and on like cell phones. It could be argued that the generation conditioned in infophilia has an identity not much different than our ancestors in the Age of Faith (500-1500 A.D.) who lived with the dream of achieving eternal life in Paradise. Nevertheless, the infophilia generation would be condemned to increasing alienation from the real community. As long as AI human-like robots and techno devices keep people content, at least for those with the means to afford them, humans will be aiming at techno-perfection.

To be human entails a myriad of contradictions, rational and irrational tendencies; instinctive spontaneous reaction and carefully planned; expressing free will and yearning for spiritual and emotional ventures; striving for self-improvement in every aspect of one's character, and above all the limitless boundaries of creativity rooted in the totality of life’s empirical experiences. The robot does not have these traits and is defined by programmed behavior, or operating within certain confines even when perfected at some point in the future to account for emotional reactions and creativity. Nor does the robot have the biological sense of empathy for humans even if programmed not to harm them. This makes a robot as much the perfect soldier and police officer as it does the perfect worker to obey. In short, through robotics, corporations are designing the perfect soldier and worker and one that would be a model for humans to emulate.

Erich Fromm’s theory of social necrophilia helps to explain human behavior increasingly emulating technical devices, not merely as a byproduct of science and technology, but of sociopolitical conditioning in a world where human values are measured by inanimate objects. There is a case to be made that identity with the machine and emulating it leads to a necroculture distorting human values where inanimate objects have greater worth than human beings – materialism in a capitalist society over humanism of an anthropocentric society is the norm. (Charles Thorpe, Necroculture, 2016)

While force, social and legal/criminal justice pressures, along with religious institutions kept people docile and compliant in centuries past across the globe, it could be argued that science and technology are substitutes to religion as the new conduits to keep human beings in a state of conformity. Existential alienation that Jean-Paul Sartre addressed in Being and Nothingness is vastly exacerbated by the cyber-world in which we live. We are wired to alienation by the dominant market-oriented culture, whereas the French peasant in the 12th century was presumably content in the illusion of connectedness to the divine and hope for eternal Paradise. Either our cyber-illusions could be as fulfilling as those of our ancestors 1000 years ago, or we are merely more delusional about a false sense of hope in our cyber-controlled lives. 

Beyond threatening human identity, artificial intelligence and biogenetic engineering intentionally and inadvertently will reduce even the elites into robots, affording them the illusion that because they have the means to buy the latest science and technology has to offer so they could manipulate their identity that entails control instead of subjugation to the machine. Human beings especially the wealthier ones treasure uniqueness money can buy. But instead of turning inward to develop their creative potential and build positive character traits, they turn outward to science and technology to achieve what they believe will afford them satisfaction. If the ancient Greeks created a pantheon of anthropomorphic deities to reflect the superego as well as the realization of their limitations, why shouldn’t our generation create anthropomorphic robots even if many people feel threatened by them in this embryonic phase of androids walking down the street next to humans and difficult to distinguish? Gods and heroes are a timeless human illusion and the AI industry is willing to oblige for a price.

AI Alienation and Sex-bots

Addictive behavior – drugs, drinking, gambling, etc. may become worse with the AI technology becoming more prevalent because of greater alienation from the real community and retreat into a cyberculture. Although narcotics use in the US has been an integral part of society since the Nixon administration created the war on drugs to punish blacks and the anti-war left, in our cyberspace era there is some correlation between the necroculture of which cyberculture has become an integral part and widespread use of drugs in the secular West. The culture of materialism and hedonism are certainly considerations as is marginalization and alienation of a segment of the cyberspace community. Will AI make people able to cope with alienation without resorting to narcotics and/or prescription pain killers, or will they become even more addicted because of alienation? (Fred Turner, From Counterculture to Cyberculture. 2006)

The population of the US is 4.34% of the world’s, but consumes 80% of the world’s opioids. The US also has the top spot in the use of a number of other narcotics, including cocaine and marijuana with heroin addiction infecting all communities in the nation.  It hardly comes as a surprise to most people in the age of cyberspace that human beings in much of the world are increasingly more alienated despite of the means of communications available. Symptomatic of the Industrial Revolution and rise of urbanization, alienation is hardly the result of computers and cell phones. The sense of community once enjoyed in the village, small town neighborhood, small social environments where people enjoyed personal interactions as in the place of worship have been replaced by cyberspace and they are about to become even more remote with the advent of robotic and artificial intelligence.

Those in the business of developing AI argue that their goal is to build robots more human than humans for everything from doing menial jobs around the house to satisfying the human in the bedroom. This raises many questions about the perimeters of human identity and uniqueness. Is the human mind more like a computer or is that only one of its many aspects? Some believe that sex robots will become widely used in a decade and by the middle of this century women will use mostly robots. Clearly, AI social robots, including sex-bots or companion-partners will be confined to those who can afford them, with much cheaper and crude versions for the broader rental market.  https://www.newscientist.com/article/2096530-why-grannys-only-robot-will-be-a-sex-robot/; http://www.express.co.uk/news/science/613337/Bionic-bonking-with-robots-will-become-more-common-than-normal-sex-claims-doctor

However, there are companies lining up to manufacture and market such robots, some which exist today even if in a crude form for the mass market. “Rent-a-robot” for a few hours, days or weeks when you go on that dreamy vacation to exotic islands and robo-love seems to be the acceptable trend. If need be, your hotel could make a sex robot available for you, or you can pick one up at the airport at the same location of the self-driving car rent-a-center. The sort of uninhibited sex without boundaries that science fiction films like Westworld depicted will become a reality and the lines between human and android could become as blurred as in the film Blade Runner. This eventuality will mean that teenagers could be experimenting with robots and viewing sex with the machine as normal thus encountering difficulty with humans that have emotions, thoughts, and free will that does not respond to commands.

A segment of the male population could be opting for a Stepford Wives type of relationship with a female, and for those who are into alternative sex lifestyles could be enjoying the freedom of relationships with a machine without any pressures or limitations that human impose. Everything from objectification of the sex partner to taboo sexual practices will be made much easier with robots that will change how humans view sex, emotional, and intimate relationships with other people. (Jason Lee, Sex Robots: The Future of Desire, 2017)

Therapists could be using androids to help individuals with psychological problems ranging from fear of intimacy to pedophilia and misogyny. At the same time, there is the potential that robots will be the facilitators for psychopaths to express their distorted desires that include everything from abuse to murder. The Pandora’s Box of sex robots has already been opened by many companies around the world. Nevertheless, it is still in its very early stage when very little is known about what emerges. Researchers are not in the position of determining what will emerge until it actually does by examining a large sample of cases.

At this stage, there is interest on the part of companies making crude versions of sex robots to capture the global market craving inanimate objects that are as close to human as AI permits for the relatively low price of a moderately priced car. It would hardly be surprising if Las Vegas style AI clubs appear throughout the world as part of the adult entertainment industry. Beyond the economics of the adult entertainment robot industry that promises disease-free, problem-free relationships, there is the issue of humans becoming intimate with machines, namely, robo-love/lust that reinforces proclivities toward necroculture. https://www.bustle.com/p/is-this-the-future-of-sex-robots-49207

Civil Rights and Police-State-Militarism with AI Robots

There is nothing inevitable about the polarizing impact of AI as some have argued any more than there was anything inherently polarizing for society with the invention of the steam engine or electricity, except in so far as technology is a part of a class-based economy bound to disadvantage the lower classes in the race for capital accumulation. The issue is how the new science technology will operate under the capitalist system as an instrument of capital accumulation and how politicians, from the populist right wing that may oppose AI to the progressive left that may favor it under a certain regulatory regime intended to benefit the broader population. https://rationalaltruist.com/2014/05/14/machine-intelligence-and-capital-accumulation/

Idealists and propagandists argue that there is no reason for the new science and technology to be the servant of big capital rather than of humanity. Under the existing political economy, there is little doubt that socioeconomic problems, which many scholars fear about the implications of the AI industry, will come true. Even worse, given the current trend increasingly toward an authoritarian system parading under a thin cloak of consumerist democracy, it is highly unlikely that governments will use AI for the progress of all human beings in education, the handicapped who are unable to afford special care, etc.

Government already plays a major role not just in tax breaks and subsidies to AI research and development. In the future, government regulation and the ability of intelligence agencies to use AI for surveillance as they currently use the web and cell phones will be major issues. “Machine ethics” will include the domain of civil rights and surveillance for those coming into contact with AI robots. Some social scientists are concerned that AI robots could be subject to abuse for the more thorough exploitation of citizens and consumers. This is reflected in books and science fiction movies reflecting human concern for machine rather than fellow humans. Liability for malfunctioning robots whether as security guards at the airport, or as lovers in the bedroom will be another major policy and legal issue that is currently unknown. https://www.21centurystate.com/articles/artificial-intelligence-to-play-bigger-role-in-policing/

In many respects, humans are already subordinated to machines in many facets of life. AI will only be an add-on. If the cell phone, computer, smart TV, even the headset are devices that permit government and corporations to monitor people, will civil liberties become non-existent in the future?  How would the AI technology enhance the existing surveillance society already here for Americans whose government and corporations have their citizens under watch? What would AI technology entail for the social contract when robots would have to be an integral part of that contract

While some believe that robots will need protection under the law as pets or even humans, in the last analysis the robot is no different than the vacuum cleaner intended for a purpose, even if it is highly intelligent one and looks like a human fashion model. Given that the values of society are such that objects are held in higher regard than human beings, it would make sense that robots are accorded special legal treatment that not even minorities enjoys in the hands of the criminal justice system. Some advocates of AI contend that all people, but especially women, ethnic and religious minorities would be better protected by androids in the courts and criminal justice system because robots would not have human prejudices. The flip side of this is that human dignity would suffer across the board for all people subjected to AI robot surveillance and supervision. Humans could wind up becoming servants of robots in the distant future; a scenario some scietists fear. In my view, it will not be because of a robot revolution and takeover but rather the dependence of humans on robots.

The police-state militarism regime is already here concealing itself behind the very thin veil of bourgeois democracy that lacks accountability to anyone other than the capitalist class whose representatives formulate policy. The Pentagon estimates that in another 20 years the US armed forces will be composed of both humans and hi-tech machines that will be more lethal than anything we have seen in the past. Of course, the drone warfare that became popular with the Pentagon and CIA under President Barak Obama set the groundwork for machines fighting humans, destroying many innocent civilians in the process when hitting military targets in Muslim countries. http://www.governing.com/columns/tech-talk/gov-artificial-intelligence-government-technology.html

The US government has contracted for autonomous robot soldiers with the ability to fight in the front lines and make spontaneous strategic decisions under changing battlefield conditions. Considering that drones have been largely responsible for indiscriminate killings of civilians, how would robo-soldier do in the battlefield against the amorphous “human enemy” of soldiers and civilians? Will AI create war crime conditions much worse than we have ever seen, or will it be discriminating killing and destroying?  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4068986/Is-job-risk-White-House-report-warns-AI-soon-leave-millions-Americans-unemployed.html#ixzz4ePxj71FR

The same companies working on “robo-soldiers” are also working on “robo-cop” technology. Police departments already have serious problems with their militarization approach to law enforcement, pursuing minorities with greater vigor in overzealous pursuits. Robo-cops could be an improvement or they could make police departments even more militaristic than they are already. Joergen Pedersen, the CEO of RE2 robotics and the chairman of the National Defense Industrial Association’s robotics division argued that:  “If these robots are used in manners for which they were unintended, we would expect that the officers who are there to keep citizens and themselves safe would use good judgment where the application of lethal force is a last resort.” http://www.defenseone.com/technology/2016/07/military-robotics-makers-see-future-armed-police-robots/129769/

Pedersen’s comment hardly inspires public confidence because it states that human officers will be making the decision on robo-cop conduct thus transferring human prejudices to the machine. Would the criminal justice system be any less racist than it is today in America because of robots if white racists are programming the robots? Considering that the robo-cops presence will make the officer feel invincible over citizens to a much greater degree than the real officers feel today, can the human power-hungry officer be trusted with a robo-cop by his side to keep order in a public demonstration against government policy about any number of issues? It is estimated that within the next two decades US police departments will be using robo-cops throughout major US cities. The combination of robo-cops and robo-soldiers could make society far more authoritarian than we have seen since the era of the Third Reich, prompting mass demonstrations against repression and polarizing society even more than it is in our time.

The universal presence of robot would mean the absence of self-determination and even the absence of humans collectively determining their own destiny.  If the robot will be more useful and smarter than any human with the ability to make countless calculations and decisions based on algorithms, then why not have robots and computers run society as they see fit so that people no longer blame social, business, religious, academic and political leaders? There is a very real danger that governments will program AI to manipulate public opinion even more than it is today where empirical truth is reduced to a relativist alternate reality amid a barrage of propaganda. Besides government manipulating public opinion to convince people that behind the thin veneer of democracy operates capitalist authoritarianism, why would corporations not be using AI to manipulate consumers and increase profits? The AI industry is itself a reflection of where capitalism is headed.

Scientific and Religious Opposition to AI
AI Skeptics claim that robots and computers cannot be programmed to account for relativism in domain of morality, ideology and culture, thus failing to best serve humanity because of the inability to account for nuances in human nature, human experiences and the unique conditions that may deviate from the pre-programmed mold. If indeed one of the great traits in human character is the capacity to doubt, to consider options, to change one’s mind, to dream and aspire, to feel torn because of dilemmas owing to moral and emotional considerations, the question becomes whether AI machines can be programmed accordingly and if so what would this mean for humans.

Two public opinion polls (2007 and 2016) indicate that the majority of Americans have no fear of AI robotics in the manner that motion pictures and science fiction books depict them. Understandably, respondents were more worried about their fellow humans that intentionally cause harm rather than programmed robots. Because living standards have been declining in the age of the internet whose proponents had been promising techno-paradise on earth for all people, many do not see how things could become worse with thinking machines. In a public opinion poll conducted in 2016, 53% of the respondents replied that it is important to proceed with AI research and development, while 15% agree with some scientists warning that AI is potentially dangerous. Another 20% see no need for AI, presumably because human beings are sufficient to carry out tasks of these robots. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-vanity-fair-poll-artificial-intelligence/

A public opinion poll conducted in 2007, asked: “Do you, for some reason, fear the current and/or future increase of artificial intelligence?” RESULTS: 16.7% Yes, I find the idea of intelligent machines frightening (1002 votes); 27.1% No, I don’t find intelligent machines frightening (1632 votes); 56.3% I’m not afraid of intelligent machines, I’m afraid of how humans will use the technology (3366 votes). http://www.thinkartificial.org/web/the-fear-of-intelligent-machines-survey-results/

To some degree, public opinion polls on AI actually reflect the concerns of scientists and scholars, including theologians and religious leaders. Most scientists are well aware of both the potential benefits and possible risks involved in the AI industry as it becomes a major segment of the economy. World renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has argued that AI has the potential of becoming the most worthy contribution to humanity but also the instrument of its destruction. Thousands of scholars have expressed serious reservations about AI but for different reasons, some for political, others for ethical, others for man’s inability to control his own inventions from taking over and turning against humanity. http://www.newsweek.com/ai-asilomar-principles-artificial-intelligence-elon-musk-550525

Some scientists estimate that by the end of this century AI robots will have superhuman intellectual capabilities. One key question is whether AI will make humans more intelligent or intellectually and creatively lazy because the machine will think and work for them. Some scholars believe that computer technology is actually making humans less intelligent, while others insist the computer will never be as smart as their human programmers and it is but a tool for human development. Advocates of AI argue that most likely humans will evolve along with robots, although it may take genetic modification for humans, those whose parents can afford it, to keep up with the robot. http://nautil.us/issue/28/2050/dont-worry-smart-machines-will-take-us-with-them

There is evidence to indicate that the average middle class child in the Western World is more intelligent in 2017 than a child growing up in the 1950s. At the same time, however, the average child of the early 1950s used her/his brain to solve problems, whereas today’s child resorts to the computer for everything from problem-solving and analysis to information and memory. The machine facilitates and speeds up research and communication, but it also makes the user intellectually lazy. Even worse, the computer can make the user cynical often unable to distinguish between what is useful and edifying and that which is useless or potentially destructive.

Although the cell phone and computer make it much easier to communicate and gather information, the web cannot think or make judgment for the individual about what is true and what has scientific, scholarly and ethical validity. This is where the vast “garbage” of the web enters into the picture, overloaded with all sorts of completely useless, untruthful, unscientific, and often harmful material that many people embrace as empirical fact; a reflection of a value judgment on the part of the web user. The ability to determine what is truly for the edification of humankind and what is useless or even harmful remains a human endeavor and one that the computer or AI robot cannot carry out in the absence of a program. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mr-personality/201305/is-technology-making-us-stupid-and-smarter

The debate about AI technology raises old questions about human nature. Viewed from the perspective of a neuroscientist, the debate about the mind goes to the heart of understanding consciousness (aware of one’s existence and surroundings) and whether that particular feature can be replicated in a robot. While some scientists and of course advocates of AI believe it is possible to create robots that are self-aware, others are skeptical. If one takes the view of the brain as another mechanical device and consciousness limited to the definition of memories, thought processes, then it is easier to see how AI proponents would conclude robots will be no different than humans.

If we accept the brain as a machine-like device, then we are not far apart from accepting AI in every aspect of human society, including as intimate partners. Politicians of the future could be consulting robots on how to make a policy decisions. Generals about to launch a military strike, or media editors deciding what news stories the public needs to see/hear and how to deliver such information could be carried out with the assistance of computers and robots. Because all of this in a primitive form takes place right now, we are already in the pre-AI phase of a robo-society where the hegemonic culture is conditioning robo-citizens into conformity.

Many theologians and philosophers believe that AI will simply make humans more like robots depriving them of their soul; a controversial position for those who doubt there is such a thing as a “soul”. One could argue that 17th century rationalist philosophers Rene Descartes, Baruch Spinoza and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz had a much more mechanical view of humans than philosophers before the Scientific Revolution when religion dominated everyone’s worldview. If the living body is an “automaton” and God the computer programmer, then why is AI so vastly different with humans playing the role of God as the Grand Programmer?

Critics, especially theologians, argue that humans are more than merely mechanical devices like a robot because they have a conscious, a soul for those who believe in its existence as either separate from or an integral part of the brain. AI technology may pose a very serious threat to religion; more so than Charles Darwin’s work on evolution that remains unacceptable even today for many yielding to religious dogma. Despite religious reservations about the new technology, houses of worship are among the first to use it to reach the faithful through computers, advertise and project their services online. If “tele-worship” is already here and now, how far behind would the houses of worship be when it comes to using AI robots in all sorts of ways, insisting they are instruments of God serving mankind’s path to salvation! Just as opportunism drives corporations to pursue research and development and government to want “robo-soldiers” and “robo-cops”, all other domains in society, including religion will adapt to the new AI technology, setting aside their dogmatic opposition. After all, what could be greater than using a robot as a model of an obedient servant to God in the name of redemption which humans ought to emulate? Isn’t blind robotic obedience what religion always expects of its faithful?

Conclusions

Regardless of what many critics warn about the risks once AI becomes commercially viable, the potential for immense profits and power are the sole motivating factors. Naturally, there will be a high-end market, and medium to low-end for the mass consumer looking to emulate the experience of the elites by renting these machines. Biosynthetic engineering fits into a similar elitist mold, despite the promise of providing miracles in human health and wellness for the sake of a ‘wellness society’.
Of course, the issue of scientific and technological progress goes beyond rich people having a robot as servant or an intimate partner (SEX-BOT), or deciding that their offspring must have blue eyes, blonde hair, and an athletic built. Nor is the issue about how cheaply robots in fast food restaurants can serve French fries to customers; how fast they can go in a self-driving car; or how doctors could be providing the option to those who can afford it of freeing their children from crippling hereditary diseases. AI raises a public policy debate with many dimensions for the entire social structure impacted by new science and technology in a very uneven manner. Because moral reasoning programmed into an AI device will have the inherent limitations of its programmer (s), this raises questions about social justice as a goal for society where the elites will use AI as instruments of exploitation.

AI also raises the issue of human evolution of the elites that will set themselves apart from the rest of humanity existing outside the world of AI; elites that will be able to afford the dream of super-race status; of techno-flawlessness as a way of life emulating their robot partners that would have either replaced or supplemented their human partners. This is not an issue of defining human beings so narrowly that they only fit the mold of pre-civilization hunter-gatherers, or even pre-industrial era peasant existing in self-sufficiency and immersed in religion and superstition. 
In a globalized economy and culture where the means of communication are instantly bringing people closer together than at any time in history AI will have profound ramifications working as much in favor as against the elites by groups using AI to change the status quo. Revolutionary movements, resistance, protest and dissidence will change because of AI. The dialectic will continue because AI cuts both ways, no matter what the corporate world and bourgeois politicians wish for their robots as their exclusive servants against society.

Creativity’s boundaries are as endless as the universe. While human creativity has resulted in the edification of mankind, creativity also extends to the domain of weapons of mass destruction for which there can be no possible defense for anyone with a modicum of social conscience; something that nuclear physicist Robert Oppenheimer discovered after realizing the atomic bomb's destructive potential to humanity. AI can be a useful tool that enhances the human experience but with it will come the destructive aspects used for by governments for wars and police-state methods. Realistically, no matter what ethicists, politicians, theologians and scientists argue, the voice that matters mostly in the AI industry is that of capitalists.

Among others, American billionaire Mark Cuban speculates that the world’s first trillionaires will be those with the ability to master all aspects of artificial intelligence and derivative industries. No doubt, such an appetizing dream has many companies investing in artificial intelligence research and development. The recognition that the new industry of the future will be operating under existing rules of capitalism is a tacit acknowledgement that AI will not solve any of the outstanding social, economic and political problems. http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2016/09/berg.htm

Just as advancements in science and technology operating under the capitalist system did not result in social justice, the AI industry is merely a continuation of scientific, technological, industrial development and hardly a panacea for society’s larger economic, social and political problems. Their hypocritical claims to the contrary aside, corporations will use AI to amass profits not to enhance the lives of human beings. This means exploiting everyone as a consumer, from small children to the elderly and the physically and mentally ill. Human beings will gravitate toward AI because they have a predisposition to acquire godlike qualities, a quest to experience even vicariously what it is like to remain forever young, immortal and as close to perfect as possible. AI will afford the opportunity to the wealthier class to enjoy the privilege of the godlike satisfaction.