Technological Marxism

I love a heady title that gives way to something more benign, but no less important. People love to appropriate social commentary and ideological movements from centuries past; Marxism is as common a target as some kind of mislabeled Darwinism. Let’s dive right in: technological innovation has, in many ways, matched material and economic conditions pace for pace in the zeitgeist of millennials. Access, knowledge, and use have become real needs for modern society. The rise of technology as a social stratum has created organization within innovators and thought leaders in this space; as such, the rise of technology, broadly defined, directly influences (very) nearly all of social phenomena. Much like traditional economic Marxism, this includes social relationships, governmental entities, morality, and macro ideology.

Well-schooled proponents (and detractors) of Marxism, calm down.

I realize that as production increases, especially of the technological variety, that a classic approach explains the breaking down of existing social organization without the flavor-of-the-moment appropriation of the philosophy. I have no interest in a staunch defense of the necessity of a new term; I just like the way it sounds and it sets the right tone for what I really want to talk about: the power of driving the conversation.

Everyone looks to the trending topics, the buzzwords, the huddles, and syncs as evidence of best practices; we want to find the unique in the mundane, the innovative in the pedestrian. We look to studies predicated largely on anecdotal evidence and self-reported data, and then make it canon. This is not a criticism of information-gathering or sharing––quite the contrary. In fact, this is about how to take the reins of the conversation in your industry. This is about using technological Marxism to your advantage.

In order to drive the conversation, you need to be more than a thought leader. Your way of thinking needs to not just be at the edge of thought, but in an entirely new atmosphere, a place where you dominate the discussion, at least for a little while. However, you want this complete domination to be short-lived. It is in your best interest to invite, encourage, and empower a cohort to join you out there beyond the black. Since you were the founder of this new pocket of intellectual landscape, you can be a consistent architect of its design, working the marble along with a group of other people who share your vision. That was a wonderful soliloquy about innovation, but how about some stratagems?

Use structure to humanize, to strategize, and keep learning.

Part of driving the conversation is knowing what the conversation entails. Know what you know, what you don’t know, and then start constructing that intellectual scaffolding that aims at making this new conversation human––and personal. The planning shouldn’t stop there: you should have short-term goals in place that lead to long-term goals, which should then be adapted as the industry (and conversation) changes.

Do things machines can’t do.

Everyone wants to design the next app or the next program that drives technology. What people overlook is that automation should not be the goal; we should aspire to create and drive conversations that involve the things machines can’t do. We will be talking about the advancement of robotics and AI programming for centuries, but we have barely scratched the surface of human potential. Steve Jobs was not a coding or programming genius; he was about innovating human thought. Technology isn’t destroying human work; it destroys work that lacks human thought.

 

In the end, we will be displaced by tools, not thought. Act accordingly.

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