What is technocapitalism?
Technocapitalism is an evolution of market capitalism that is rooted in technological invention and innovation. It can be considered an emerging era, now in its early stage,
which is supported by such intangibles as creativity and new knowledge.
Intangibles are at the core of technocapitalism. Creativity and knowledge are to technocapitalism what tangible raw materials, factory labor and capital were to industrial capitalism. During industrial capitalism, tangible resources acquired the greatest value, as factory production, repetitive labor and massive output ruled the day. In the emerging technocapitalist era, however, those material resources are becoming secondary in importance.
Intangibles are therefore vital for technocapitalism. Creativity and knowledge are the most valuable resources of this emerging new era. They, for example, already account for as much as three-quarters of the value of most products and services in existence, and that proportion is bound to increase over time. In contrast, the material resources that were most valuable for industrial capitalism are losing value relative to those intangibles in most every product or service.
New economic activities are emerging that are representative of technocapitalism. Biotechnology, nanotechnology, bioinformatics, software design, genomics, synthetic bioengineering, molecular computing and biorobotics, for example, are likely to be hallmarks of the twenty-first century, as electronics and aerospace were of the twentieth. This new ecology of activities and sectors is more reliant on creativity and knowledge than any of the old industries of industrial capitalism.
The organizations that are typical of these new activities are research-intensive and highly dependent on new discoveries for their survival. Continuous or systematized invention and innovation are very much a part of their reality, and are vital for survival. Unlike the factories of industrial capitalism, where production was paramount and research was often a marginal endeavor, the organizations and firms typical of technocapitalism are, first and foremost, oriented toward research and discovery.
The old industries typical of industrial capitalism are also feeling the impact of this emerging era. The sort of continuous invention and innovation found in activities typical of technocapitalism are spreading to old sectors, such as automobile manufacturing, apparel and the mechanical industries. Service activities, including some of the most mundane ones, are also being affected. It seems that no economic sector or activity can be considered immune from the dynamics of the new order and its emphasis on novelty.
A major question that remains to be answered is whether the new technologies symbolic of technocapitalism will be mostly controlled by oligopolistic corporations. The pricing power of oligopolies may prevent those new technologies from having the impact on human wellbeing that they would otherwise have. Oligopolies that take over the new sectors may also erect substantial barriers to entry that prevent new and highly innovative firms from developing. Most new firms that are created may thus end up being taken over by powerful oligopolies in control of their sectors, thus stifling invention and innovation along with new enterprise creation. At the same time, the pricing power that oligopolies typically command may place the new technologies out of the reach of many of the people that could benefit from them.
To prevent this from happening, many of the new technologies symbolic of technocapitalism may need to be considered a public resource. Specific laws may have to be created to prevent oligopolies from being formed, or from taking over the new sectors and technologies. Such laws might also make it possible for small, innovative firms to be created, and to allow them to survive as independent enterprises. A lack of oligopolistic pricing power may make the new technologies symbolic of technocapitalism more affordable, allowing them to reach the people who may benefit most from their introduction.
The various sections of this website will provide an overview of the phenomena that support the rise of technocapitalism. Many of those phenomena became obvious toward the end of the twentieth century, with the decay of longstanding economic and social structures that had previously been vital for industrial capitalism.
Two basic types of phenomena will be considered in the other sections of this website. One typology includes phenomena that have been mostly involved with long-term accumulation, and are therefore macro in their scope and dynamics. Those phenomena operate at the societal level, they are structural and are usually beyond the control of individuals and organizations.
A second typology will consider phenomena that involve diffusion and generation of knowledge and creativity, and usually have a micro scope. Those phenomena operate mostly at the level of organizations and individuals. They can therefore be affected by decisions and strategies taken by various entities, such as firms, institutions and groups of individuals.
Some of the effects and supportive elements of both the macro and micro phenomena will be given additional consideration. For example, the importance of continuous invention, innovative capacity, and of networks for the activities that are typical of technocapitalism will be considered in separate sections. Similarly, the rising importance of a new type of organization---the experimentalist firm---found in the sectors that are typical of technocapitalism, will be discussed separately. For this purpose, readers will be referred to content available in book form, separate from this website, to expand upon the information presented here.
The intent of the components of this website is to provide an overview of the phenomena supporting the emergence of technocapitalism, based on currently available information.
What makes the contents of this site different from other discussions of technology and capitalism?
Discussions on the relationship between technology and capitalism are as old as capitalism itself. In fact, the terms “technology” and “capitalism” have been among the most commonly used words in the social sciences for many decades.
What makes the contents of this site different is that they provide a conceptual framework that is flexible and open-ended, to which discussions can be added, debated or documented with evidence. Technocapitalism is an unfolding phenomenon, a new era whose boundaries and dimensions are largely unknown. At the very least, however, we can try to understand the phenomena that point toward a paradigm shift or that indicate change.
Second, the phenomena and developments discussed in this site can be verified empirically, with existing quantitative data, or with qualitative evidence. It is not enough to talk or speculate about an emerging phenomenon. At some point, thoughts must be grounded in evidence if they are to carry any weight. In this regard, therefore, the contents of this site take the reader beyond any philosophical discussion of the emerging era, to consider concrete phenomena that can be observed and documented.
Third, the conceptual framework is open to diverse viewpoints. Hardly anything today is, of course, value-free. However, it is important to understand the phenomena behind the rise of technocapitalism on their own terms, setting aside as much as possible any biases that distort the value of evidence.
Fourth, this site attempts to provide a big-picture---or macro-panoramic---perspective on technocapitalism. Bringing together in a broad way the various phenomena that support this emerging era can provide an immediate understanding of its dimensions and challenges. This approach can allow us to build a research platform upon which additional study, evidence and details can be built.
Fifth, no attempt is made to predict or forecast the future under technocapitalism. The record of forecasting in the social sciences is a very poor one, by any standard. It is therefore best for readers to decide and project on their own the potential consequences of the phenomena discussed in this site. Most, if not all, of the changes being introduced by technocapitalism have potentially profound implications for humanity, and for the sustenance of societies, economies and cultures.
For publications on technocapitalism and related topics by this author, please see the Publications section
of this website.
Copyright © Luis Suarez-Villa