The first two episodes of this series told stories of technocrats who tied themselves to a muscular state. They believed the state could remake society, if it had the right expertise.
However, the state under neoliberalism doesn’t have the technocratic ambition it used to. This just isn’t a period of grand New Deal-style programming. There is still a state, but it increasingly outsources its functions. Is technocracy dead, then? No, technocracy is just moving into the private sector. More and more of our lives are governed by unaccountable private tyrannies—tyrannies that employ ruthlessly efficient technocratic systems, with even less democratic input than the technocracies of old.
For instance, many modern workplaces function like technocracies. The Amazon warehouse is the most technologically-sophisticated and totalizing manifestation of this. Their algorithmically-managed systems micro-manage workers’ every step, turning their bodies into machines. Alessandro Delfanti, author of The Warehouse: Workers and Robots at Amazon, takes us inside the new frontiers of digital Taylorism.
Plus, what is the future of technocracy? An emerging slew of Peter Thiel-funded neo-reactionaries want to install a Silicon Valley CEO as our new techno-monarch. Sam Adler-Bell of Know Your Enemy argues that this marks a shift in the right-wing of Silicon Valley. They were once crudely escapist libertarians, but now they want to run our governments like their technocratic workplaces. We discuss Bell’s latest New York Times essay on Peter Thiel and Blake Masters, their broader intellectual trajectory from seasteaders to techno-populists, as well as Bell’s New York Magazine article on the liberal technocrats who want to defeat the neo-reactionaries with policies addressing disinformation. (Programming note: we have a short video documentary version of the seasteading section, available now on YouTube).