[Marxism] Technological optimism (was peak oil)

Rod Holt rholt at planeteria.net
Sun Oct 16 10:11:12 MDT 2005

I appreciate comrades taking the time away from their usual studies to 
investigate the problems of nuclear power. I would like to say, however, 
that the central problem we must address is the social-political 
problem. Technological questions are "how do we do it" problems and our 
first concern is "what to do." I feel that Marxists should put the 
burden of proof on those who accept Malthusian concepts. It's up to the 
negativists and those like Heinberg who reject the prospect of 
technological progress to show that it can't be done. Marxists are 
proposing that society should (and must) flex its collective muscle, and 
its up to those who reject a socialist society to prove we can't reach 
the goals society envisions.

Pessimism it their problem, not ours.

The research and engineering needed to expand nuclear power by two 
orders of magnitude is incomplete; there is important work to be done, 
and there will always be more to do here. What has been accomplished so 
far has been done only because of the Bomb. All the rest of the 
accomplishments in this field has been done with the left hand, as it were.

On nuclear power, the capitalists' goal is to figure who much he can get 
away with. Society's goal is to figure how much can be done. And this is 
true of every branch of science. Monsanto is figuring how much they can 
get out of doing; Roche is figuring what they can slip past the 
gatekeepers next; Chevron is busy figuring the technological lower 
limits and their trade-offs between profits and public protest. Every 
segment of capitalist enterprise knows how to do things better; 
capitalist science--that is, as employed by capital--wants to know how 
to do things cheaper.

I am NOT saying that science can do anything and everything. Part of our 
job is to discard the wild dreams of science fiction in the same fashion 
we discard the imaginative schemes of utopians. Just as a small example, 
I used the enormous energy output of a nuclear power plant to purify 
water, but there is a limit to how much water can be treated with a 
given amount of energy. This limit is found using the laws of 
thermodynamics. We would be mad if we were to ignore these laws. As 
well, I'd like to know what the limits might be on the energy needed to 
separate CO2 from the rest of the atmosphere. I haven't seen this 
discussed, although I'm sure the answer is "out there" on the Internet 
somewhere. I have a host of similar questions. Technological optimism is 
part of socialist optimism.

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