INNOVATION & THE PROFIT SYSTEM

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The rigidly established economic regime of the modern world system is excessively focused on profit, at the expense of almost everything else. This includes human life itself! If truth be told, the world of capital has never been in tune with the world of humanity. Organized capital, as a non-living construct of social existence, has no conscience, therefore does not have much respect neither for life nor the general notion of sustainability. Capital’s systemic and brutal domination of collective existence came into being after the awarding of personhood to its operational arms, namely the corporations/companies. This status of ‘legal personality’ facilitated the expansion as well as the penetration of capital into the once sacrosanct spheres of life, collective or otherwise!
Today, transnational capital in its various forms; finance, industrial, etc., rule the world. The techno-sphere, which has taken over traditional labor-intensive realm, fully depends on the largess of capital. Without capital, modernity will come to a complete stop. Herein lies the problem! On one hand, capital wants continuous profit for its reproduction, by all means necessary. On the other hand, the techno-sphere, which leverages capital, has to take into consideration, at least to a large extent, the needs and desires of the larger human population. To be sure, the techno-sphere itself is also driven by obsessive self-propagation. Often times, these two objectives come to a deadly clash. We believe, the disaster that has accompanied the newer version of Boeing 737 (Max) stems from the above hardly complimentary goals! Boeing engineers could have built a very reliable equipment, had it not been for the constraints imposed (on them) by finance capital, spearheaded by the bean counters. Finance capital has become a formidable predator. Instead of its usual intermediary role, it has become the final arbiter of what is good or bad for society. Without the tech marvel itself, i.e., the flying machine, high finance wouldn’t have been able to intervene, let alone wickedly manipulate innovation. Of course, the global market, as dictated by finance capital, continuously compares prices and operational expenses of various flying equipment. In most cases, as innovative projects progress, the pressure of finance takes a life of its own and tends to dominate the engineering portion of the whole innovative concoction. Anyone raising valid technical reservation about design, manufacturing, operation, etc. of a proposed new equipment would not be regarded as amongst the favored, particularly if the proposed rectifications entail more costs. The result: equipment that look relatively cheap, but not very reliable. See the articles next column and on page 44.
When such huge organizations like Boeing, which are engaged in the manufacturing of critical equipment as passenger aircrafts, fall for short-term gains at the expense of long-term credibility and reliability, consequences can be non-forgiving, just like the accidents that visited the two unfortunate aircrafts in Indonesia and here in Ethiopia. When it comes to Boeing 737-(8, 9, 10) Max, there were and still are plenty of unanswered questions, criticism and outright objections from informed sources. Boeing tried to fit the bigger engines of the Max, which is more fuel efficient, on the old 737 frame; so to speak. This necessitated the moving of the engines a bit forward, which created aerodynamic instability. To rectify the major instabilities of stalling and nose-diving, Boeing engineers installed instruments, which depended, rather significantly, on computer software and sensors. It is this ad hoc measure that is now attracting attention. If truth be told, without excessive dependence on modern computers, this aerodynamically unstable plane would not have been able to see the light of day, as it would be vary dangerous to operate it manually!
Almost all countries in the world decided to ground these aircrafts as soon as the demise of ET 302 was known. There were compelling reasons to do so. Communication between the Captain and the tower was one. The crash site and witness report was another. The flight captain requested for an emergency landing as soon the aircraft was airborne, citing problems with the flight control system. Nonetheless (and initially at least) FAA (Federal Aviation Administration USA) and Boeing were reluctant to ground the 737-Max series, even after the widespread opinion about the similarity of the two deadly accidents. (Indonesia and Ethiopia). It took the president of the USA to finally halt the operation of these aircrafts in the US. The real issue behind such maneuvering is the consistent tug of war between profit and safety. This is one phenomenon that is happening all over the modern world system. Big Oil, Big Pharma, the giant Food & Beverage industries, etc., are some of the huge global entities that can easily sway opinions or even influence legislations in favor of their interests, i.e., profit, against the health and safety of collective humanity!
“Planes are becoming far too complex to fly. Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT. I see it all the time in many products. Always seeking to go one unnecessary step further, when often old and simpler is far better.” President Donald Trump. Good Day!