At an economic conference in 2016 Jack Ma, founder of the Internet behemoth Alibaba, proclaimed an accelerationist vision for the future of the Chinese economy. There the blissful beneficiary of Deng Xiaoping’s economic policy surprisingly predicted that China will realize the planned economy as a superior alternative to the market within the next three decades because in the near future Big Data Analytics will reveal the workings of the invisible hand.
Yet until today, the economic feasibility of a socialist economy is up for debate. Since its early beginnings, the “principal problem that faces the socialist ideal is that we do not know how to design the machinery that would make it run” (Cohen, 2009: 57). The central allegation against socialism is of technical nature, without market prices a socialist economy would simply be too complex to compute and therefore be damned to inefficiency. Now in the dawn of the big data era, this argument against planning loses force with every passing day affirming Moore’s law: Suddenly a socialist economy lies in the realm of possibility again. However, its materialization comes with a price.
Ultimately a functioning socialist economy can only be realized by the ubiquity of computing (Weiser, 1991) and comes with the cost of total economic transparency, that will exceed the current data practices described as “Surveillance Capitalism” (Zuboff, 2018). In my dissertation, I will investigate this essential dilemma inherent in economic planning.