We Think Money Is Real

Alan Watts

  According to a McKinsey & Company report, Australia’s Automation Opportunity, Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems is set to increase GDP by between $170 and $600 billion a year. ¹ At the same time the report predicts that somewhere between 3.5 and 6.5 million fulltime equivalent positions will be displaced over the next decade. ²

The government appears singularly unconcerned about the predictions. The first reference in its Safe and Responsible AI in Australia Consultation interim report, ³ is the McKinsey projections on GDP, butdealing with the millions who will have their incomes disappeared barely warrants a mention. Instead, the main concern seems to be about making sure AI is politically correct.

An example of elite double-think can be found in the proposition that AI will spawn sufficient new opportunities for paid employment. Automation eliminates the necessity for human labour, that’s what automation means. This being so we can expect a large swathe of the population, through no fault of their own, to join the poorest part of society. Unable to adapt to the technological demands of the AI economy many will slip backwards as consumers into hand to mouth living, irregular work patterns and reduced economic security. Historically, this phenomenon can be observed whenever automation is expanded since at least the Industrial Revolution and the displacement of the rural population in England. Carol Quigley in Tragedy and Hope writes about those unable to meet the demands of a technological economy in the period following the Second World War:

Most crucial have been the demands of the modern industrial and business system, because of advancing technology, for more highly trained manpower. Such training requires a degree of ambition, self-discipline, and future-preference that many persons lack of refuse to provide, with the result that a growing lowest social class of the social outcasts (the Lumpenproletariat) has reappeared. This group of rejects from our bourgeois industrial society provide one of our most intractable future problems, because they are gathered in urban slums, have political influence, and are socially dangerous.

There is no reason why this broadening of the economically disenfranchised should occur except there is no appetite amongst our rulers for a proper distribution of the increased goods and services that accompanies automation. Automation increases production and eliminates the need for human involvement in its generation, yet the hidebound position of the elites will remain ‘no work, no money.’ I expect a great deal of ingenuity in the proliferation of bullshit jobs.

This contradiction has plagued industrial economies for over a hundred years. On the one hand we have the quasi-moral position of the politician and the banker who will never admit a legitimate, stable claim (i.e. money) to goods and services which is not linked to work. The business person, on the other hand, who provides the goods and services, and is primarily interested in increasing productivity (sales divided by hours worked), is doing everything he can to shed employment just as fast as technology will allow.

Assuming the substantial parts of this shit financial system stays in place it is to be expected that the integration of AI will hasten the process of economic and class restructuring already well-advanced. The remaining working and middle classes will increasingly be leaned on to pay for the enforced leisure of those unable or unwilling to function in an increasingly complex, rigid, dehumanised working environment. The advantages of scale, technological uptake and financial and political access will continue to favour the international corporation, and as small and medium-sized firms are squeezed out their markets will be absorbed by these remaining giants.

But the scepter which haunts this system is the growing dissatisfaction of the unemployed poor described by Quigley. Overt and covert population control has been with us for decades,and uncontrolled migration will make resistance along national lines very difficult, but the planners are hard at the happiness problem as well, ie. making people love their servitude. Sedation, chemical and digital, is very much part of the mix. We are to be neutralised, reduced tonon-threatening spectators. Most of us don’t know it. Many seem to enjoy it. Terence McKenna writing in the early nineties:

And the effect of having vast narcotized masses of people hooked on a drug whose content is culturally sanctioned and institutionally controlled is certainly debatable. The creeping shit-for-brains disease that seems to have become endemic in America has been blamed on TV by some. However, on one level television and now virtual reality are nothing more than the latest instances of neotony, the carrying over into adulthood of infantile physical or behavioral characteristics. Lets face it, the world is a complicated place; if millions of people choose to retreat into an electronically reinforced state of semiinfantilism it may end up making the total system ultimately easier to pilot into safe harbor.

The success of this coup will depend largely on us being kept in our climate-controlled boxes, watching our rectangles, not talking, not imagining and definitely not thinking for ourselves. With the parameters of acceptable thought beamed directly into our softened brains and our electronically stimulated neurological reward system pinged to exhaustion, resistance is futile. Or so the theory goes.

There is nothing inevitable about this slide into dystopia but a better outcome is not going to magically land in our lap. Perhaps the first thing is to simply denounce once and for all “the endeavour (a successful endeavour) to exhibit “unemployment” as a symptom of industrial breakdown, rather than, as it should be, a sign of economic progress.”

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McKinsey & Company. 2019. Australia’s Automation Opportunity. Available from: https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/mckinsey/featured%20insights/future%20of%20organizations/australias%20automation%20opportunity%20reigniting%20productivity%20and%20inclusive%20income%20growth/australia-automation-opportunity-vf.pdf. Accessed: 20.01.24




Australian Government, Department of Industry, Science and Resources. 2024. Safe and Responsible AI in Australia Consultation, Interim Report. Available from: https://storage.googleapis.com/converlens-au-industry/industry/p/prj2452c8e24d7a400c72429/public_assets/safe-and-responsible-ai-in-australia-governments-interim-response.pdf. Accessed 22.01.24


Quigley, C. 1966. Tragedy and Hope, A History of the World in our Time. The Macmillan Company, New York, p. 1221.


McKenna, T. 1991. The Archaic Revival. Harper Collins Publishers, New York.


Douglas, C.H. 1933. Social Credit. Eyre and Spottiswoode, London p. 10.

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