The market-science alliance



The transfer of responsibilities from the State to the Market, which consolidated its alliance with Science


This text is a modest development of the idea that we are witnessing a shift in which parts of activities historically associated with the entity “State” are being taken over by private agents associated with the entity “Market”, with special attention to placing the entity “Science” in this shift . Especially since the second half of the 20th century and continuing into the 21st century, as Yanis Varoufakis never tires of denouncing, the so-called independent Central Banks (from whom?) have reduced the room for maneuver in national economic policies.[1] We recently saw Elon Musk “admit having suspended satellite services to prevent a Ukrainian attack” (on a Russian base).[2] These are examples of different calibers associated with a shift in what could be crudely called “global governance”.

I divided the text into three parts. The first part focuses on the emergence of a “new object” in the 21st century: body identification devices.[3] Since the attack on the twin towers in New York on September 11, 2001, there has been a great political-technological (scientific) effort aimed at the prompt identification of terrorist bodies. This paved the way for today (but who can?) to identify “online" is on "real-time” a classified body, terrorist, foreign, immigrant, criminal, sick, vaccinated, mixed race, “minority”, heretic, illiterate, or indigent, when it appears in the space and time of the global.

The second part recognizes a spirit of the time in which Science, currently translated into technosciences, is openly present in the formation of the options for the destinies of States.[4] Algorithms (computer science) from large companies enter the scene, which are capable of classifying individuals into groups in the formation of which these same algorithms participate interactively, facilitating or hindering the same individuals in recognizing their possibilities, with the ability to make them appear or let us forget proposals (always political) for new ways of living.

The first two parts outline a picture of consolidation of a gradual alliance between Science and large private corporations, which common sense refers to as the Market. It is true that some would prefer to refer to a capture of Science. But if the relations between the State and the Market have received long-standing attention in economics, sociology, political science as well as in the history of Euro-American modernity, it is time to “situate” Science as the third most sacred entity of what Eduardo Viveiros de Castro referred to as the Holy Modern Trinity: the Father State, the Son Market and the Holy Spirit Science.[5] Thus, today it can be argued that the Market-Science alliance is better equipped than States, which today are still called democratic, to access, interfere, build, obstruct or destroy, “collections of things and people”.

Finally, the third part brings from outside the West a critique of countries that claim to be “models”, with the highest levels of development, not only economic and technological, but also political, that is, as full democracies: Europe, United States United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Chinese voices point out what they consider “genetic defects” of Western democracies.

To conclude this introduction, it is worth clarifying, and this is crucial, that the direction that the text highlights – the transfer of powers from the State to the Market that consolidated its alliance with Science – is not something that was previously given in history. This direction is not natural at all. You Science Studies they teach us that disputes over the directions that stories take, in miniscule or very long durations, are not guaranteed once and for all and always involve disputes between collectives that intertwine things and people in a “seamless network”.

The direction highlighted here is not natural, but rather the result of a persistent commitment by groups who, in situations of great asymmetries and immeasurable realities, mobilized enormous resources that end up making it mandatory even for those who oppose it. The purpose of this text is precisely to be a very modest stance against the naturalization of the trend we are witnessing, making a contribution so that what will be configured here is problematized and does not come true as a “self-fulfilling prophecy”.[6]

From dirty fingers to “double-clicking”

The construction of the modern world is associated with a parade of new objects and new subjects. We learned from colonization that the construction of knowledge about the “objects” that inhabit the “world of things-in-themselves”, Nature, must be separated from the construction of knowledge about Society, the world of “humans-between-themselves”. . This is what we learn in modern school. But a new nature, a nature plus new objects, does not enter the scene without a new society. It is a nature-society, a “co-construction”.

For example, upon emerging in so-called nature, Pasteur's new object “microbe” acted and created a society that corresponds to it, with new identities that disrupted previously established hierarchies. A different kind of solidarity... emerged when the son of a very rich gentleman could die because his poor servant was a carrier of the typhoid bacillus. (Latour, 1989/1996, p. 191).

Contagious patients, healthy but dangerous people carrying microbes, immunized people, vaccinated people, etc. affected body hierarchies as previously created by the social categories “rich” and “poor”.

A new object creates ∕ modifies hierarchies and builds, together with people, a new nature-society added to its existence. Influential historians of science state in a laudatory style to the march of Euro-American modernity that “[t]he only ingredient of modernization that is practically indispensable is technological maturity, with the industrialization that accompanies it; otherwise, what you have are adornments without substance. appearance without reality. … It took the Industrial Revolution for tea and coffee, bananas from Central America and pineapple from Hawaii to become everyday foods. The result was an enormous increase in the production and variety of goods and services, and this in itself, more than anything else since the discovery of fire, changed man's way of life: the English citizen of 1750 was more closer to Caesar’s legionaries, in terms of access to material things, than to his own great-grandchildren.” (Landes, 1994, p. 10).

The history and Science Studies of recent decades have robustly shown that, just like the microbe, new objects, be they bananas or Russian caviar, sugar or synthetic drugs, or even the Apple or Motorola cell phone, create and modify, make and undo hierarchies .

In the first decade of the 11st century, a new object dedicated to the identification of human bodies emerged, the device that we are now accustomed to seeing at immigration counters in ports and airports around the world. Like all devices, it arises from a demand. In this case, the demand arose from the irresistible interest in identifying a terrorist body after the terrorist attack of September 2001, XNUMX in New York.

What does this new device do? It tightly ties and joins together what previously marked the traditional and “natural” limits of human bodies (such as skin, facial features, fingerprints, irises, etc.) and the “social” databases of institutions (such as name, addresses, professions, financial, medical, school and police histories, institutional affiliations, etc.) to the point of composing a new body. This junction, once spread throughout the world, makes the venerable human body, the ancient fortified citadel of our identities and privacies, obsolete.

The new device took a further turn in the movement towards a world of, let's say, cyborgs themselves, where bodies immediately – or mediately – affect and are affected by institutions' databases (Latour, 1991/1994). The police, the military and other institutions, whether medical, commercial or industrial, become an integral part of our bodies, no longer metaphorically, as we used to say, but literally. Just like Pasteur's microbe, this new object displaces and redefines what could be called “contact zones” between the body in nature and the body in society in the world (nature-society).

Figure 1 corresponds to a body and a territoriality where the transition from “natural” elements (fingerprint, iris, DNA) to “social” elements (nationality, criminality, access) was slow, precarious and relatively expensive. In terms of communications engineering and computer science, this was a narrow “passage lane” between nature in the body and society in the body.

Figure 2 illustrates the increase in this passage range by replacing the inked tablet with a sensor electronically connected to a computer which, in turn, is integrated into the set of files that store social information.

Figure 3 highlights that traffic through these widened lanes is controlled and regulated by large institutions, public or private, in the police, military, medical, educational, financial areas, etc. Individually, we move through these lanes with our passwords, which we are prosaically accustomed to due to the convenience they offer. But who has access and controls the structure where our passwords travel?

Figure 4

Figure 4 invokes new territorialities in which new bodies appear affected and brought by new identification devices, suggesting the dilution of the old border between Nature and Society, as they were understood in modernity, replaced by an interactive flow still without very stabilized forms.

The devices that bring to the world (“perform”) this transformation from dirty fingers to double clicking are the result of a process of negotiation (research) between what collectives with resources (State, Market) desire and what things lend themselves to. do (Technoscience) (discovering this is precisely the work of engineering hired by companies). It turns out that science resides in the market, in the form of teams of experts employed by companies and the intellectual property of developing companies, which constitute the collective of things and people providing the device.

Governance: from the State to the market combined with science

The forms that new objects acquire, be they payslip cards, human body identifiers, ballistic missiles, video cassette recorders or “social media” management devices, result from a process in which collectives with different worldviews or, let's say, different options of devices, dispute the possibilities of what engineers can materialize.

Disputes over the directions of science take place on very varied scales, from tiny laboratories or departments at universities, to gigantic institutions. They can mobilize huge resources and be very asymmetric, involving very disparate collectives, such as intellectual currents, social movements, companies and countries.

We recalled above that more precise ballistic missiles came into existence in the world based on the worldview of powerful military collectives in the USA and the USSR during the Cold War, collectives much more powerful than those that pacifist movements were able to mobilize. On a smaller scale, for example, there was a dispute over the standardization of videocassette technology in the 1980s. Sony defended the technical superiority of the BETAMAX standard, but the popular VHS (“video home system”) from JVC (Japan Victor Company) ended up winning.

There was a phase of enchantment with the new objects brought by corporations typified by Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple. These corporations were seen as fairy godmothers, bringing previously unimaginable facilities and amenities, vehicles for new ways of living everyday life. Even in Brazil, where the availability and quality of new amenities vary enormously and do not always materialize so well (for whom?), they enjoyed and still enjoy great prestige.

The fact is that, despite this, as soon as it became clear that they institutionally assumed themselves as private corporations and their leaders revealed their ideologies, some difficulties arose. From admired brands, dream oases in which to work, they also came to be seen as a threat to internet neutrality, people's privacy, labor and consumer rights and the sovereignty of States. They practice tax evasion; they subject workers to inhumane conditions; they invade privacy; they sell your information; they have monopolistic practices; they influence elections, etc.

States can and are reacting. The working conditions imposed by them can and are denounced and from there some improvements are achieved. They will and are facing lawsuits under antitrust laws. It is clear that the sale of databases, as well as election advisory services, can be better regulated. There can be and is being greater disclosure, intelligible explanation, and awareness of what you are increasingly allowing them to do with your data when you, for convenience, agree that these companies may make “lawful use” of your information, which can be defined in way to be quite different from “ethical use”.

Yes, all of this is true, or at least partially true, with variations between one corporation and another due to the types of products they offer. However, it is not just about the enormous volume of financial resources mobilized by these companies. The scale, scope and unprecedented capabilities of creating relationships and linking information stored in the global computing machinery and considering/directing/inducing relationships and links in social networks show the specific advantage that science has gradually gained for those who hold it.[7]

Especially since the end of the 2020th century, the State's difficulty in adapting to the digitalized world is greater than that of the market and science, which seem to already know which new positions to seek. The ideology of Thomas Watson and Valentim Bouças a hundred years ago is strictly the ideology of an entire block of capital that operates around the world in the name of the Market: “thinking 'internationally' is in no way different from thinking 'only' about business or money .” (Perold, 29, p.XNUMX)

The market does not act alone and, as already said, it is not morally against associating itself with the State. If the market needs help to build a reliable internet, or if the State understands the value of effective computing machinery for its own control purposes, as in the case of controlling the movement of bodies, then the State helps to develop and consolidate the science that will be owned by the market and will reside there, that is, it will be incorporated into the administrative structures of corporations.

 Corporation engineers define and hold knowledge of the hardware-software architecture of the global information machinery installed on the planet and the State begins to depend on the Market to compose the frameworks in which to place its actions, after the time when the Market needed the State to build the launch pad for its own information machinery.

The architecture of hardware-software The information machinery does not only determine what can and cannot be done in terms of collecting and processing information. The architecture of hardware-software It also determines which behaviors can be easily monitored and policed ​​and which behaviors require difficult and expensive research to discover and identify. Perhaps the best-known example of difficulty in tracking is the incorporation of racist biases into Google's artificial intelligence devices, since the concern of identifying and tracking these behaviors was not part of the architecture of Google's machinery that operated the application product that organized the photo albums (Vincent, 2018; Cafezeiro et al., 2021).

The contemporary times of the 21st century brought another important difference in relation to what prevailed in the 20th century: much of what needs to be regulated concerns cyberspace and not the space of laws and regulations of the modern State of the 20th century, which revealed a demand for a new legal regulation for more than two decades: “The emergence of an electronic medium that ignores geographic boundaries disarticulates the law by creating entirely new phenomena that need to become the object of clear legal rules, but cannot be governed satisfactorily by any sovereignty currently based on territory”.[8]

When interested, private corporations can enter the legal system on an equal footing with states or governments, but they are not subject to the same limitations. Allied to Science, they can act and profit by mobilizing the most diverse so-called technical-political interests, in communities and services for people around the world. The market and science found ways to escape the restrictions of being tied to a single State. The border between the State and the large private corporations that build science has lost its clarity. Decisions made in the private sphere of large corporations and their codes of ethics decisively influence political destinies.

At the same time, markets and science are becoming more qualified entities than states in some of the main components of modern governance. For the most part, they sell their products, their reputation, and the ideology (way of life) they defend more effectively than the state's constituent politicians or political parties. Big companies, where markets and science merge, are also able to claim loyalty in a way that used to be the province of the modern nation state.

Brand loyalty is not entirely new, and people may identify as an “IBM citizen” or an “Apple user.” Market and science are finding, through social media, new ways to offer identity, community and services largely disconnected from geography, which, for digital nomads, makes more sense than the territorial bureaucracies of States.

In 2012, the acronym GAFA emerged in France to refer, usually in a critical tone, to the North American multinational corporations Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple (Chibber, 2014). The market and science provide these corporations with the ability to act beyond the capacity of States, by providing them with a crucial additional difference, that is, the ability to act “back” on collectives that are distributed in “bubbles”. on the social networks. In this way, the actions of these corporations go beyond their so-called “technical” (scientific) capacity, which precedes the capacity of States to know the population through collection, classification and mining of information. Corporations have “technically” (scientifically) trained themselves to act on the “bubbles” that are distributed throughout society, which is a properly “political” action.

The universality, neutrality and objectivity of science have been questioned for decades by Science Studies. The core of the modern State-Market-Science trinity is tensioned by ideologies. In the West, the accumulation resident in the planetary information machinery provides capabilities superior to those of at least the majority of States and is embodied in a very small number of giants with identifiable ideological stances: GAFA (Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook), to which one can add Microsoft and SpaceX. Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt (Google), Travis Kalanick (UBER), Peter Thief (PayPal), Elon Musk (Tesla/SpaceX) have “libertarian” ideological stances that resonate with Ayn Rand’s “Objectivism” that directly influenced Steve Jobs, Alan Greenspan and Donald Trump (Paraná, 2020, p. 102-121).

The basic social principle of “objectivist ethics” is that, just as life is an end in itself, so every living human being is an end in itself, not the means to the ends or well-being of others — and, therefore, that man must live for his own benefit, not sacrificing himself for others, nor sacrificing others for himself [...] Objectivist ethics proudly advocates and defends rational selfishness... the values ​​required by human life are not the values produced by desires, emotions and “aspirations”. (Rand, 1991, p. 42)

Voices from outside the West

EIn the midst of the political project typified by GAFA, there is, outside the West, something apparently still to be deciphered, the Chinese State. The BATX name (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, Xiaomi), a list that could be added by Huawei, has already been indicated as mirroring the western GAFA (Chevré, 2019). Dissonant Chinese voices have become more audible, especially when it comes to information machinery on a planetary scale.

5G infrastructure is not a simple generational upgrade compared to 4G. Not only is 5G communication faster and the latency of each transaction is much lower, which allows remote control in real time (online, real time) of processes that require quick responses (such as remote surgeries). Batteries also last much longer, and this is also a major transformation, regarding the possibilities of components in the information machinery that allow much longer intervals between maintenance interventions.

5G infrastructure supports a dynamic decentralization of the so-called “cloud”. In other words, transactions around one place will generate a local cloud support point. This allows for a virtually unlimited amount of cheap sensors plugged into virtually everything, from automobiles, factory and office equipment, medical and surgical devices, household appliances, etc. even bus seats. Without a doubt, the fifth generation infrastructure of cyberspace, 5G, will not only radically change the daily relationships of many people with each other and with things over some time, but it will also be a literally fantastic source of information about the population.[9]

It is precisely this literally fantastic source of information about the population that has mobilized the West, led by the USA, against China, currently better positioned as a supplier of 5G equipment. According to the BBC, for example, the accusation is based on the following logic: “if the entire society is interconnected using equipment from a Chinese company — which would include traffic, communication systems or even “smart” appliances inside our homes — we would all be vulnerable to spying by the Chinese government. Huawei is a private company, but a security law approved by China in 2017 allows, in theory, the Beijing government to demand data from private companies, if the need is classified as important for Chinese sovereignty.[10]

I can't resist provoking by saying that I see no reason why we Brazilians should feel more vulnerable to Chinese espionage than that of GAFA or the American government, although coloniality in Brazil will, I believe, cause them to disagree with me.

To finish and complete this provocation, I reproduce a Chinese voice that questions the political ritual and the capacity to reform the government system of our main metropolis, the USA.

Zhang Weiwei is a former advisor to Deng Xiaopeng, the former Chinese premier. He is a professor of international relations at Fudan University, a highly prestigious public university in Shanghai, and a senior researcher at the Chunqiu Institute. He is the author of the influential bestseller The China Wave: Rise of a Civilizational State initially published in Mandarin (Zhang, 2012)

Let’s look at the points that Zhang Weiwei calls “genetic defects” of the Western model:

(i) The (Western) assumption that human beings are rational presupposes that they can exercise reason to make rational choices when voting. But so far, all relevant scientific studies have proven that humans can be rational and irrational and even ultra-irrational. “The rise of social media has provided fertile ground for the spread of irrationality.”

(ii) The exaggerated concept of individual rights and the decline of individual responsibilities are also a problem. There are so many rights, each of which is exclusive and absolute, often leading to a conflict of rights.

(iii) The belief in procedural importance in Western democracies is admirable, but in practice it has undermined the government's ability to function. Western democracy has evolved into a procedural democracy, and once the procedure is considered correct, it does not matter who comes to power. “Western democracy has been bogged down by procedural importance.”[11]

American director John Pilger interviewed Zhang Weiwei in his documentary film, The coming war on China,[12] 2016: “If the BBC broadcasts something [about China], it is happy to always mention this communist dictatorship, this autocracy. In fact, with this kind of label, you cannot understand this China as it is. If you watch the BBC or CNN or read the Economist and try to understand China, you will fail. It's impossible".

He challenges anyone to name a country that has carried out more reforms in recent decades than China did with a single party. In the USA, he provokes, there are two parties, but there are no real reforms because the economic always overlaps the political and this prevents reforms from birth, which does not happen in China because the party prioritizes the political over the economic.

The next section summarizes a selection of the debate held shortly after the author's lecture on the topics discussed above, held at the Aeronautical Technological Institute.[13]

The debate – desacralizing the modern holy trinity

[court hearing] The author Zhang Weiwei, whose theses you presented to us, contrasts China with the West. But isn't his criticism of the West covering up the problems of the Chinese model of society? Wouldn't he be apologizing for the Chinese model?

[Ivan] Zhang Weiwei certainly supports what is happening in China. And we certainly shouldn't write in stone what he's saying. But what interests us Brazilians is mainly what he says about the West, about Western democracies, the metropolises that we never tire of imitating. The West can no longer reform itself, he says. The West is stuck in a linearized vision of progress. The West has a way of living and is not willing to change that way of living, and this implies a way of organizing the world (its own and that of others). The West has certain hypotheses, one could say they are the hypotheses of the Enlightenment project, and what Zhang Weiwei says is that these hypotheses are flawed.

Basically, the West places the so-called Reason, which is a historical reason, a European reason, a qualifiable and non-absolute reason, as the means, the device, it becomes the mechanism that par excellence will resolve how humans will live among themselves. , how we are going to organize ourselves as a society and as a world. This is because, previously, it was religious thought, it was the scriptures, it was the Bible that organized the world of men among themselves. With the Enlightenment project, God leaves and Reason enters. God ceased to be the organizing social element and began to inhabit the intimate forum of each person. I have my religion, you have yours. But our children's school will not teach either my religion or yours. Look at today's French secularism, which does not tolerate symbols and clothing of religious identity in schools.

Then life in the West gradually began to be organized by Reason, and this Reason was presented to us, the colonized, as a universal thing, inherent to all humans, all men and, later, all women. This project has been going on for a few centuries and has built admirable things. It took man to the moon. But this Reason is not the only reason nor necessarily the best to exclusively organize our lives. The Enlightenment project was subject to criticism from Zhang Weiwei. Of course, he is also advocating what is happening in China as inspiring alternatives.

He says, if you hear the with the BBC, or if you read The Economist, You don't understand China, you won't understand China. You can read as many times as you want. The West sees China as a dictatorship that can also be seen as an inverse caricature of the democratic image it cultivates of itself. Weiwei provokes by stating that it is very difficult for Westerners to say that a so-called democratic model may not be good, and that is why they are wrong. Westerners have hypotheses that they are “genetic defects”. “We are doing,” says Weiwei, “a lot more reforms than you are.” His book follows this line of argument.

[court hearing] How would you evaluate the Chinese model, under discussion, in relation to elements of Marx's historical materialism, the experience of totalitarianism and dictatorship?

[Ivan] All of these views, both Marxism and liberalism, and the idea of ​​totalitarianism, of democracy as opposed to dictatorship, are views of the Euro-American way of existence. This does not mean that they are just cunning constructs, that they do not construct a “reality”, or that we cannot take advantage of a part of everything that was built in Euro-American modernity. This is a caustic topic. You Science Studies teach us that “all knowledge is situated”, that is, when you know something, this something you know is never absolute, universal, neutral and objective, as European colonization tells us, especially in relation to scientific knowledge.

In contrast, the Science Studies show that all knowledge is always situated in certain references, certain frameworks; It is as if knowledge had a “territory” (here meaning not only space, but also time) of validity. So knowledge depends on your time and where you are – Paulo Freire also says this. This approach to Science Studies contradicts the teleological hypotheses of Marx's theories based on the idea of ​​a natural and even necessary development towards a certain communism.

But on the other hand, in the field of Science Studies, a critique with a Marxist connotation located in today's spaces and times can be fully valid. In short, there are parts of Marxism that, in some situations, are robust and mobilize great transformative potential, but in others they do not have the same appeal. And it seems to me that you could analyze the China-Marxism relationship there.

[court hearing] His speech mediates between Science, Technology and Society, and this topic is very important to us. Many of us teachers work with this. When you talk about monopoly capitalism, and the power of large conglomerates, it is a discussion that dates back to the 2008th century and was updated throughout the 4.0th century. Ernest Mandel, among others, shows how capital is intertwined in the State and has a huge influence on political decisions. We can think about the XNUMX crisis, we can think about the hypothesis that today we are experiencing a new productive restructuring of advanced manufacturing. So we have the aspects of bringing technological income and a deepening of competitiveness and those who have done this are precisely the most developed states, Germany with industry XNUMX, the USA, China.

You spoke about Artificial Intelligence and this group of technologies that we consider advanced today and the power to develop them. And here in Brazil we notice the national movement to mimic these developments, something we have always done. But on the other hand, we hear a voice here or there saying that we have singularities and that we can take advantage of them for our development. How can we build an alternative path, both technological, scientific and epistemological, looking at our singularities? Is it possible to do this, to take this leap, without imitating what we do on a daily basis?

[Ivan] Of course, I am unable to answer this question in a way that is even remotely satisfactory to anyone who expects an answer that is anything other than a bet. And then I would start by saying that this bet-answer cannot come from one person. Yes, it could come, and my bet-answer is optimistic, the inclusion of Brazilian diversity in multiple situations, from small and personal to the scale of public policies. To give an example that directly concerns academia, the institution of quotas. We have to put the Brazilian population, the majority of whom are poor, in education, at school, at university. Access is certainly part of the answer. But why do I say it's a gamble? What is the danger of this?

The more educated we are, the more potential victims of the colonizing project we can become. The school, as it is today, is the great instrument for reproducing coloniality. So, access to school, yes, but which school? Which university? Not one person will say it. The bet is that the chances of transformation will increase if the direction taken is that of inclusion in order to have all Brazilian diversity with a voice in the construction of knowledge. This is where we will, perhaps, get closer to a response to development that is not the uncritical imitation of the West, but that takes into account what we have here.

At this point, another caustic issue, but certainly necessary, is related to criticizing (self-criticism) the Brazilian intelligentsia, which has not yet been able to dignify popular local knowledge that could propose, even without guarantees of success, partial alternatives to the project enlightenment. Development is not necessarily synonymous with economic growth. Science and technology do not need to be studied and understood in the straightjacket of the “diffusion model” that places us in the position of “followers”.

There are rebellious Brazilian intellectuals who do not submit to this model of understanding what development is or could be. They look for and propose alternatives, but unfortunately they are not usually the ones who speak loudest to the most people. To cite an example, Paulo Freire. He is a person who says that knowledge is situated, that you think from where you are.

Part of the optimism of the bet-response is the expectation that the contributions of indigenous and black intellectuals will prosper, which we can see increasing – hopefully as a result of the spirit of the time that also brought quotas. They are perhaps best situated to bring the elements to break the mimicry imbued in our coloniality.

[court hearing] It is clear that we, in Brazil, need to focus on our own singularities. At the same time, mimicry and reverse engineering have always been strategic means of development for all countries. So Switzerland did it with the pharmaceutical industry, imitating Germany and France, Korea did it, Japan did it, importing things from China and later from the West, and then reproducing the same modified and improved things with its own brand and national identity. How do you see this potential in Brazil today, to reinvent imitations, beyond the foreign versus genuinely Brazilian dichotomy?

[court hearing] Power projects, as currently in China, do not only involve technology or capital as forms of power. They involve the question of culture, how much culture matters and how much it is a form of power. Due to everyday issues. And the history of mentalities. And China has a mentality, a way of thinking and acting very different from ours. This, many times, we cannot understand. China is opening Mandarin schools around the world, following the example of colonial powers, France and Germany.

China is making bilateral agreements with Brazilian universities, sending qualified university professors to learn and teach Mandarin within the Universities. When we work with Culture, we know that the harvest comes over a longer period of time, this harvest is not immediate. And there are a series of other projects there, for the dissemination of culture. I understand China today as a power, and it has been directing itself through this cultural policy. What is your reading on this issue?

[Ivan] My favorite metaphor regarding the first question, which has everything to do with reverse engineering, is anthropophagy. It's swallowing the foreigner to absorb what's good about him. There is no way, and it would even be impossible, to throw away all the knowledge that is foreign, especially that which makes up the gigantic edifice of Euro-American knowledge that resulted from the Enlightenment project, and even more specifically the Euro-American sciences and technologies. Americans.

I believe that the contributions of the traditions of indigenous and black people are essential for overcoming coloniality in Brazil, but I recognize that in the construction of new Brazils it would not be possible to live solely based on knowledge arising from these traditions. I think Ailton Krenak, for example, takes a stance on this issue when he says “I don’t want to live in a locked apartment in a vertical building… I don’t want to have an exact schedule”. He says everything he doesn't want from the West. And he has a lot of wisdom, he has a lot to say to new Brazils, but I think we have to eat the West, extract what is good from it and reverse engineering provides some silverware for this anthropophagic feast.

Reverse engineering leads to relationships between technoscience and law. If you want to do engineering without resorting to a certain “legal engineering” you are doomed to failure. At universities, for example, engineering schools and law schools should establish common areas. There's no point in bringing together thirty engineers here at ITA and creating a project for a Brazilian cell phone. You won't be able to manufacture it, because your project will be prosecuted on charges of breaking this law here, breaking that law there with components that you couldn't use, etc. You have to have this techno-legal-political capacity, otherwise you will find yourself in the water!

On the issue of culture, what I hear is that the Chinese have a very different approach to the West, because the West has historically always had a colonizing impetus, both economically and religiously and culturally. The West did the catechesis. Upon arriving in America, Europeans discussed whether the Indians had souls or not, whether they were human or not. If they had a soul, then they had to be catechized, they had to be “saved”.

The Chinese, on the other hand, do not have a history of exporting a civilizational claim like the West. What I hear is that they don't do that. They have no intention of interfering in the way of life, except for commercial intent. They want to trade. But they don't want to convince you to be Catholic or Protestant, or Buddhist, there is no Chinese policy in this regard. Even in Africa where they are building a lot of infrastructure, there is no interference in the way of life, in the way of thinking. Now, teaching Mandarin, you can do this for different purposes.

I also think the following. China, no matter how much Weiwei supports China, I think things are not defined there. It seems that there are a large number of Chinese millionaires who are in the Communist Party. We don't know where China is going. But on the cultural side there seems to be a very big difference between this Western civilizational impetus and the way in which the Chinese approach other cultures.

[court hearing] You who studied here at this alma mater, the ITA. Humanity's organizational system seems to be running out. And if a system is exhausted, we learned that here, and very well, it will be replaced by another. And thinking about Brazil not as a State, but as the Brazilian nation, that is, we who live here and produce and generate here in this global context. The Iteans have shown this for decades, they go out there and do it, an example of impressive delivery. But also a challenge. Is there room for Brazil to be a protagonist in the world?

[court hearing] I would like to make a provocation, in the naughty sense of the word. In Brazil, we have been experiencing a process of reversal. At the end of the 1980s, Brazil's industrial park was larger than that of China, and larger than that of Korea. Today China is launching space stations. And we are transporting soybeans to feed Chinese pigs. How is it possible to sustain a development and reverse engineering project in a country where the Brazilian ruling classes prefer to throw money on the interest wheel of fortune, and drill for oil in the Amazon basin to transform the Amazon River into a stream. And not investing in science, education and technology.

Or does a French Revolution need to happen here? Because there was no revolution in Brazil. While the Spanish republics in Latin America were declaring independence through revolutionary means, and the most modern model at that time was the United States, Portugal's old regime came to Brazil from Europe and settled here. The Portuguese crown is the old regime. We have to remember this. We never had a revolution, not even a democratic one, much less a social one.

[Ivan] Starting with your provocation, I think many people would say that we need not a French Revolution, but a Brazilian revolution. Because the French Revolution is the one that is dying. We are living in the rubble of the French Revolution. It was she who directed the idea of ​​Western science and technology, Western philosophy, the separation between the world of men-between-themselves (society) and the world of things-in-themselves (nature). It is the French Revolution that created this Western way of being, of living, of existing. There are also people who will say, look, the Brazilian revolution as a revolution is impossible.

We have an elite with enormous powers. She is very skilled at disrupting any more inclusive process. More or less, every 30 years, when a more liberating movement begins, there is a violent interruption in this process, even if we don't know very well where it is going, or perhaps because of it. Or at least an attempt to interrupt it. Until now, historically, interruptions have not stopped happening.

So there is a possibility, I think, of another response to the revolution, in a very Brazilian, and naughty way, of “eating the porridge on the edge”. But this will require something from the Brazilian intelligentsia that I think it has not yet done sufficiently. This something is to face head-on the cognitive issue, properly ontological, of questioning, of “antrophagizing” the concepts, theories, facts, objects and subjects that we receive from the metropolises. It means putting everyone in school, yes, but not to learn how to be European. If this is not done, you will not make a great transformation, much less a revolution. Yes, we have to send everyone to school, but we have to discuss which school.

In this sense, I think Brazil has a contribution to a new common world. It's interesting how now, for example, with the war in Ukraine, if you open the newspaper, a newspaper in Brazil, or if you open an American newspaper, an English newspaper, even a French newspaper, they will say that the world is against Russia. I'm not going to get into the merits of the matter here, Russia invaded another country. But what world is against it if the majority of countries, and the majority of the world's population, are not against Russia, have not spoken out, do not have a position? But they will say that humanity is against it. So there is a lot of manipulation in the use of this great attractor – humanity.

Regarding the question of whether there is room for Brazil to be a protagonist in the world, I think there certainly is! We are 200 million! It all starts with us stopping wanting to be Americans, Germans or Japanese. The ideal of a Japanese person is not to be American. He wants to be a Japanese person capable of reinventing himself with hybridization, without losing his identity and his future projects situated in his context.

As the ideals of the French Revolution succumbed, one contribution that Brazil has would be precisely to come up with new utopias. And these utopias will come mainly from indigenous people and black people. Yes, they are the ones that are different. They are not like us, who are here in this room. They have different desires, they have different ideas, and they sometimes sound very strange.

And then I'm going to use the word worn out, which can be criticized, but I believe that Brazil's contributions to the world have a better chance of flourishing in a democratic process. It's not just a country of 200 million people. It is a very rich territory. But colonized. We have to stop being colonized. We have to stop having the ideal of being an American, being a German, a Frenchman. Let's be anthropophagous, let's eat the foreigner to absorb what's good about it and reject what doesn't serve us. This is where Brazil’s contribution to the world can come from.[14]

*Ivan da Costa Marques, He is a professor in the postgraduate program of History of Sciences and Techniques and Epistemology (HCTE) at UFRJ. Book author Brazil: opening of markets (Counterpoint). []


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[1] “An election cannot change a country’s economic policy”! – for eloquent denunciations and criticisms of central bank interventions, see Yanis Varoufakis’ lectures available on YouTube.

[2] The New York Times, September 8, 2023.

[3] A history of Euro-American modernity can be told from an “unchained Prometheus” who introduced into the world the railways, the electric light bulb, photography, the telephone, the automobile, the cinema, the radar, the airplane, the television, missiles, the atomic bomb, semiconductors, etc. Landes, D. S. (1994). Prometheus unchained – technological transformation and industrial development in western Europe, from 1750 to our time. Rio de Janeiro, Editora Nova Fronteira.

[4] Although it may sometimes sound strange, here I use the word “Science” to encompass the multiple and inseparable actions of both disciplined “sciences” (in the lower case and with “s”) and “technologies”.

[5] As we are in Brazil, it is essential to remember that, although this text is focused on global processes, the Science Studies, undoubtedly originating in the metropolises as a field of study, immediately highlighted and problematized the actions of science in colonization: “If a small country wants to doubt a theory, reject a patent, interrupt the propagation of an argument, develop its own laboratories, choose its own priorities, decide what controversy should be initiated, train its own staff, publish its own magazines, create its own database, speak its own language, will find it impossible... the country that has a small scientific system can believe in the facts , buy patents, import knowledge, export personnel and resources, but you will not be able to question, disagree or discuss and be taken seriously. When it comes to constructing [scientific] facts, a country like that has no autonomy.” (Latour, 1987/1997:274-275).

[6] For example, during the Cold War ballistic missiles gained precision from the worldview of powerful military-industrial collectives in the USA and the USSR, collectives much more powerful than those that pacifist movements could mobilize. If the view prevails that the construction of increasingly precise missiles is a natural process, people are less mobilized against the construction of these weapons. “Although the obstacle to achieving greater accuracies [with a given technology] cannot be overcome, it can be overcome by adopting new forms of targeting. Those who wish to halt the increase in missile accuracy could focus their efforts on preventing these new forms from becoming a reality. But they will not do this if they believe that missile accuracies will naturally continue to increase.” (Mackensie, 1990, p. 169) In this case, in the end, the existence of these weapons appears as a natural result of what Donald MacKensie called “a self-fulfilling prophecy”. MacKensie, D. (1990). Inventing Accuracy – A Historical Sociology of Nuclear Missile Guidance. Cambridge, MA, MIT Press.

[7] “Trump in the hands of Zuckerberg”, “Facebook Committee maintains veto on Trump, but asks for standard punishments”, Folha de São Paulo, Thursday, May 6, 2021, p. A12.

[8] Johnson, David; Post, David. Law and Borders – The Rise of Law in Cyberspace. Stanford Law Review, v. 48, p. 1367-1375, 1996 apud Lessig, 1999, p. 24.

[9] In the industrial area, there is already research and talk about the 6G generation!

[10] BBC News 21/10/2020 – Huawei, Trump, Bolsonaro and China: what does Brazil have to gain and lose if it gives in to the USA in 5G?

[11] CGTN, The three “genetic defects” of the Western model, March 13. 2018.

[12] The Coming War on China – Official trailer –

[13] Ivan da Costa Marques' lecture was part of the 4st Cycle of Debates Engineering and Society of the Department of Humanities, IEFH/ITA, with the title Desacralizing the Holy Modern Trinity: The Father State, the Son Market and the Holy Spirit Science. It was held on October 2023, XNUMX at ITA, São José dos Campos.

[14] I would like to thank my friends Marcelo Sávio, Edemilson Paraná and John Kleba for their collaboration in preparing this chapter. With Marcelo I was able to better see the panorama that the information machinery could build with the 5G communications architecture. Edemilson brought new elements and confirmations to my perceptions of the idealized world in the GAFA clouds, especially its direct connection with Ayn Rand's philosophy. I would like to thank John Kleba for his numerous comments and the opportunity to present and debate these ideas at ITA. Of course, what I wrote is my sole responsibility.

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