Alison McDowell is an activist, writer and researcher who has carefully studied and documented the working parts of the World Economic Forum’s declared “Fourth Industrial Revolution” (4IR) and the commensurate global takeover of industries and public policies by the central banks, multinational corporations, big tech technocrats and billionaire-funded foundations:
“In this world that’s coming there will be a tiny group of billionaires, there will be a cohort of people who are the data analysts that run the dashboards, and manage the people that run the dashboards; and they will be essentially oppressing people. Their job will be to manage the oppression. And then there will be everybody else who will be the oppressed. As a parent, I don’t want to aspire for my kid to succeed by being in a position to be the oppressor.
“And I don’t mean to say we haven’t always lived in this situation where the privileged have been in positions of enacting certain levels of oppression. But it will be increasingly brutal and increasingly automated. And I think the mental health impact of that on everyone is going to be devastating.
“So, I’m just trying to think through, how do we build a world with no badges, with real knowledge, with reciprocity, in which the resources of the earth and the community are shared in ways that support humane relationships? And, you know, maybe humans are not that good at that – maybe I should just like throw it in with the robots. But, I just don’t want to be with the robots!”
[from 27:30 mins in Part 3]
Embedded below is an extended interview with Alison McDowell conducted by Jason Bosch in Philadelphia on May 17th 2020. Divided into five wide-ranging sections, I have tried (as far as it is possible) to provide a concise overview and guide to the topics covered in each.
Part 1: The revolution will not be funded
Alison McDowell got interested in researching the whole topic of global technocratic takeover and 4IR because of the privatisation of schools in her local area. With time on her hands she decided to follow the money. The trail quickly led to Bill Gates and other billionaire philanthropists and associated foundations that operate behind a vast network of often well-meaning groups including NGOs.
In this first part she discusses how the billionaire class has a long-term plan for our futures that involves the commodification of humanity as data, the automation of labour, programmable money, and the management of global systemic poverty. She points out that this whole agenda for building a post-war cybernetic world has never actually been hidden but now emerges as an entirely open conspiracy.
Specifically, McDowell believes that Social Impact Bonds (SIB) and Human Capital Bonds (HUCAP) are being introduced to enable a soft system of slavery that will operate though Blockchain or alternative ‘distributive ledger technologies’ (DLT) in parallel with digital identity eventually linked up under schemes of Universal Basic Income (UBI). She believes the approach has been taylor-made to appeal to the American mindset, and anticipates little to no resistance will come from the middle classes.
Reflecting upon how far this agenda has recently been advanced, she asks rhetorically: “what kind of world are we creating that you have to have two full-time parents working two jobs to sustain a family so that your kid can be on a surveillance play table for Goldman Sachs?”
Part 2: We don’t need no stinking smart badges!
The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is a concept advanced by the World Economic Forum. This envisioned future is fully digital. The Internet of Things (IoT) will increasingly enable us to interact with the world with everything digitally mediated through electronic sensors. New virtual environments will then be built around artificial intelligence with increasing use of biometric surveillance, synthetic biology and bioengineering as well as robots and automation. Already we have manifestations of digital work such as platform labour, telepresence, avatars, synthetic humans and humanoid robots.
In this second part, Alison McDowell talks about how the Fourth Industrial Revolution marks a seismic shift that will bring about our dispossession from the world and a wholesale clearing of the commons to the point that ultimately people will no longer have autonomy over their bodies or their mental states. In the near future, besides implementing UBI to keep a lid on things, a rising technocratic state is set to employ predictive analytics alongside automated policing with robot dogs and weaponised drones.
One of the great pioneers in this field and the father of cybernetics was Norbert Wiener who once claimed “as objects of scientific inquiry, humans do not differ from machines”. However later in life, Wiener became more critical and sounded the alarm on the dangers of ‘human systems engineering’ declaring for instance: “Let us remember that the automatic machine, whatever we think of any feelings it may have or may not have, is the precise economic equivalent of slave labor. Any labor which competes with slave labor must accept the economic conditions of slave labor”.
Part 3: People are not impact investment commodities
Getting to grips with a slippery lexicon surrounding Human Capital Bonds (HUCAP) and related financial structures can be tricky: “Oh, it’s not a ‘Social Impact Bond’, it’s ‘Pay for Success’; or it’s not Pay for Success, it’s a Social Impact Partnership.”. But the essential premise of this human capital financialised system moving forward is that based on ‘equations’ created by esteemed academic institutions and think tanks (e.g. the Heckman equation), it becomes possible ‘to cost out’ negative externalities.
So, for instance, what does it cost to incarcerate you? Or to provide special education? And what’s the cost of you being depressed and unfit to work? By analysing in this way, all social programmes will have money attached to them on the basis that pre-emptively we can fix someone (who may never yet have been incarcerated, identified as needing special education, or diagnosed with depression) by profiling them to determine the potentiality of these harmful outcomes – reminiscent of a pre-crime scenario – in order that ‘a cost offset’ can then be generated. i.e., if it’s going to cost society this much to fix you when you’ve been broken, then instead we can make a saving if just a fraction of that cost is required to fix you pre-emptively. It’s ‘in the space between’ where the new investment entities will negotiate a profit, and public-private partnerships and benefit corporations are instrumental in this system.
Since everything is about virtualising life and social relations and uploading it as data on a ‘dashboard’, it is important to understand who these dashboard entities actually are. And one of biggest players is Salesforce and Marc Benioff; there’s also Microsoft and Steve Ballmer.
Coming back to the new lexicon, Alison McDowell describes how “closing a gap” more literally means merging data from separate entry points in order to provide modes for engineering human and community behaviours via these ‘dashboards’. And she explains how this approach creates two immediate problems: first, once you generate a global market around tackling any problem (by “gap closing”) – say for instance, poverty management – then you also create a disincentive to stop the gap completely, because if the gap is ever fully closed, the original source of the market is eliminated and the game is over. Moreover, in what eventually becomes a securitised investment environment, there will be some players who will actually bet against each particular solution working! Bottom line: to make the game profitable, the logic of the market dictates that we always keep some amount of poverty (or other problem) in order to manage it.
Currently, finance to seed these kinds of schemes is derived from governments through taxation. So what will happen in future presuming large numbers are made redundant (due to automation of labour) and there’s less tax revenue to draw on? Well, there are already proposed alternatives to bypass government altogether. Alison McDowell puts it this way: “An investor can invest in an evidence-based programme with a performance-based contract in a non-profit, and if they achieve it they can be paid back by a foundation”.
Thus, corporations with parallel foundations will be able to maintain what she calls “the human capital battery system”: for example, Hewlett-Packard – and this is just conceptual at this point – may decide to invest in an early childhood intervention predicated on data where Hewlett-Parkard tablets, products, devices, wearable technology, brainwave headbands, etc are used to collect the data, with the aim of managing behaviour to make the kids jump through the correct hoops and hit a target they need to reach. And if this is achieved then they are paid back by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Or perhaps the Dell corporation is paid by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. Or Microsoft by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In this way the corporations can just circulate their own capital and ‘philanthropic capital’ round and round and round.
Part 4: We’re already living in a debt-financed matrix
The pharmaceutical giant Moderna that in January 2016 “entered a global health project framework agreement with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to advance mRNA-based development projects for various infectious diseases” also describes its own mRNA medicines as “the software of life”. Is this statement to be taken at face value, or should we regard it as nothing more than commercial blurb and hype: if we take it seriously, then shouldn’t we consider the possible ramifications: do we actually want to become genetically modified organisms?
On a related issue, Microsoft in collaboration with the University of Washington are now in the process of developing molecular-level read and write technologies built from DNA to boost storage capacity for digital information! And how concerned should we be about advances in RFID tracking or quantum-dot tattoos and upcoming nanotechnological developments including ‘smart dust’ by DARPA? Do we actually want to live in a QR code world?
Moreover, what are the inherent physical dangers of the new ‘smart’ technologies? The rollout of 5G technology had been so rapid that it has involved the circumvention of the precautionary principle. Latent dangers to human health are one problem, but what happens if this or future technology such as GMO and geoengineering irrevocably harms the ecosystem including adversely impacting our soils and even pollinators? Will we have to grow all our food hydroponically, aeroponically, and in labs?
Meanwhile, the overarching goal of this new model society with its financialisation of the commons, globalised data collection and mass surveillance is finally to isolate people and extract as much data as possible: “so when they talk about project-based learning, which sounds great, they don’t say oh, but it’s in a VR headset and you’re going to be in North Dakota collaborating with a person in New Mexico…”
The trouble is, Alison McDowell says, “The role of the media – the mainstream media, the social media and even the alternative media – is to have people not look at the thing. Because if we all looked at the thing and we saw it with clarity… we would be an incredible threat to what’s coming. And so we’re in the process of being managed though these platforms.”
She adds: “It feels like decisions are being made beyond the reach of the people, and that there isn’t space to weigh the possible risks against the consequences of the decisions as a whole community… You hear a lot about ‘Blockchain is trust’, like we’ve really eroded trust. Trust in our government; trust in one another; trust in the facts: like we have very little trust until these tech people sweep in with ‘Blockchain is your trust’.
“But if we lived in a world where we respected one another and we had authentic empathy towards one another, I think we could have more robust conversations about risks and benefits of how to deal with what’s unfolding. But that’s not how it’s happening and it’s not meant to happen that way.
“Clearly what’s happening is there are playbooks that are rolling out: region one does this; region two does that; it’s a very structured response – it’s not organic, it’s not like one community decides to do things a certain way, for the most part with community input.
“For me that is what is meaningful… people should have the right of free association, of their lives and their labour, and they should have an ability to have some control over that, and what their future is – presuming again, you’re not harming other people in the process. And we’re not there with this situation.”
Part 5: Heads we lose, tails they win!
‘Lifelong learning’ is another great idea, but what will it mean in reality for most of us? What if it entails just perpetual re-skilling for a global gig economy; i.e., to be constantly remade simply in order to function as human capital within an ever-shrinking labour market?
Trapped in such a system, and compelled to chase jobs that, as work becomes fully automated, are continually disappearing, will bring only misery and immiseration, desperation and destitution. But still it’s a game, one that necessitates continual retraining; and all the while, the hedge funds will be betting on the re-skilling part with ‘success metrics’ based on your pursuit and acquisition of the next badge – which means educational accreditation by compliance – rather than on enhanced employment prospects and a guaranteed income:
“You hear ‘eds and meds’ and you think we want a bunch of teachers and healthcare workers, right? That’s an economy of ‘eds an meds’. No, I’m pretty sure what they mean is we are to be processed by ‘eds and meds’. We’re not the processors, we’re the product. We will be managed as chronically ill people. We will be managed as chronically under-employed people through the educational systems that are being set up, through digital platforms and through digital systems that are telemedicine, and also teletherapy.”
In a future when labour is redundant, people will also be profiled from very early age and then encouraged to pursue directed pathways. Alison McDowell draws attention to the so-called “Dear Hillary” letter sent by Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) on November 11th 1992, in which he laid out plans “to remold the entire American system” into “a seamless web that literally extends from cradle to grave and is the same system for everyone”, coordinated by “a system of labor market boards at the local, state and federal levels” where curriculum and “job matching” will be handled by counsellors “accessing the integrated computer-based program.”
This planned workforce development model was proposed explicitly to better serve the interests of the US Chamber of Commerce. In lockstep, there has since been a bipartisan adoption of the Swiss Apprenticeship Model, which means limited options allocated on the basis of regional determinations, with emphasis on STEM pathways that will in turn enable the advancement of Fourth Industrial Revolution goals.
Which brings us to the ‘Sharable Content Object Reference Model’, aka SCORM, and to the related ‘Experience Application Programming Interface’ or ‘Tin Can API’ or simply xAPI; the next level in e-learning software that records and tracks all types of learning experience. Functioning as a web service, xAPI enables users to upload statements in the form “subject verb object” and thus essentially reduces education to: “I did this”. I read this book. I accomplished this level in the martial arts game. I caught three fish and I took a picture of it and uploaded the picture. Every experience is accordingly reduced to fit this same box of “subject verb object”.
Alison McDowell believes that the plan is to link these xAPIs directly to Ethereum ‘smart contracts’ both for payment processing and credentialing – I went to the rock climbing wall. I got certified that I got to the top. All of which then goes into your ‘learning locker’ and so the climbing centre gets paid, as your data is tracked and as the investor who is investing in your physical education also gets paid. And last (but not least), it’s all put on the ledger and so it’s all ‘very trusting’ and very ‘transparent’ as we operate like pawns inside a video game world!
Alison McDowell says: “This is being imposed by an anti-life, engineering, militarised force across the world. This isn’t US versus China. This is us in solidarity with the Uighurs, in solidarity with the Palestinians, in solidarity with the families in Boa Vista, families of North Philadelphia, the people who are being dispossessed off their lands in India. We’re all in this together against this system that would seek to reduce our lives to fit in the ‘I did this’ box to profit hedge funds.
“And knowing some of the hedge funds are betting against us. Betting against our health. Betting against our education. Betting against our well-being. Betting against our housing. Betting against all of it. They will say that they’re just betting for us, but for every person betting for us, there’s somebody else betting against us.”
Heads we lose, tails they win!
Final thoughts: How do we resist?
The technocratic goal, Alison McDowell says, is to reframe liberation as “we can sell ourselves”, and so by getting really good at personal branding we will be enabled to come out ahead of our neighbours. If we wish to resist this dog-eat-dog culture then we need to act in solidarity and, more specifically, we must oppose the introduction of digital identity systems, and the implementation of the Fourth Industrial Revolution that comes with the installation of 5G:
“We don’t need a world where humans are redundant. And we need to understand this not in a partisan way and not in a nationalist way. Right now, it is the masses of humanity against the billionaires.”
She says: “This system is coming after all people and we have a lot to learn from people who have been resisting these systems of domination for years and years. We need to stand in solidarity with one another and we need to understand that our struggle is the struggle of people around the world.
“And I’m sitting here as someone who has the benefit of mostly owning a home, having somewhat stable employment, but I can see where this is heading, and where this is heading is towards anti-life. So I think if we can be very clear about that – and I’m appealing to all the people who care for liberation and who care for the vulnerable among us… to put peaceful hearts forward in a very insistent and direct way and to challenge these authorities because I believe that our spirits together are very powerful things.
“I’m under no impression that it’s going to be some quick resolution – if it were we wouldn’t be addressing the actual problem – because this problem is tied to the doctrine of discovery and is at least 400 years or more in the making; so it’s not a quick fix. But, it’s the work that has to be done.”
Click here to visit Alison McDowell’s official website Wrench in the Gears.
Additional: What Silicon Valley has planned for public education
The following presentation by Alison McDowell entitled “Future Ready Schools: What Silicon Valley Has Planned for Public Education” was recorded on March 25th, 2017 at the Lake City Library in Seattle, Washington: