If an increasingly automated Fourth Industrial Revolution economic system demands an abundance of poverty data to keep global capital markets moving, it makes sense that those in power might seek to increase births resulting from unwanted pregnancies. I do not believe it is coincidental that provisions for home-visits, widespread ACEs screenings, and early childhood investments are hitting state legislatures at the same time as bills that restrict access to abortion. In a world where abortion is restricted, more pregnancies = more health outcomes data to track. More “at-risk” babies = more children to be channeled through “evidence-based” early childhood interventions.
The impact economy thrives on trauma (see this post on ACEs). The more trauma, the more opportunities to demonstrate “impact,” gamble on life outcomes, and generate profit from privatized social services. According to the twisted logic of late-stage capitalism, there is a real financial incentive to increase traumatic pregnancies. That trauma can be physical, emotional, economic or some combination. Legislation that denies a person bodily autonomy and limits their ability to choose whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term will create tremendous stress, and thus many humans (adults and children) who will likely be identified as needing some type of “evidence-based” intervention.
In the cold, calculating world of social impact investing, the poor, even those still in the womb, exist on a continuum of potential criminality and need. Their perceived value to the system lies less and less in their productive labor, but instead in their willingness to be pre-emptively “fixed” by bureaucratic systems that do not see their innate humanity, just data, data on a dashboard.
Providing unconditional support to those in need is seen less and less as an acceptable option. Instead, society is adopting a mindset where the worthy poor will be separated from the unworthy; where ubiquitous surveillance and Internet of Things tracking will monitor compliance, algorithmically assess a person’s risk profile, and award assistance, or not. In this future, social supports will be ephemeral and conditional. Rights, privileges, and value will exist as data, tied to a digital identity, on a phone (or eventually embedded in a chip), ready to be erased on command.
Data-mining is the next frontier of predatory resource extraction. Just as experts began to postulate capitalism cannot expand further, it jumps the shark into the digital realm, seeding itself in virtual worlds, claiming private property on Blockchain, colonizing the cloud. As rivers were for the fur trade and railroads were for lumber and minerals, so too will broadband, 5G, smart phones, wearables, and data dashboards be for the human capital / Internet of Things impact economy.
Maternal, fetal, and child wellbeing have become the focus of intense electronic data collection over the past decade. Mobile health or mHealth is a practice increasingly imposed on Black and Brown communities to monitor behaviors and deliver digital nudges via SMS text messages. Such interventions are grounded in behavioral economics and are intended to manage vulnerable populations. While they may ameliorate some degree of harm, the neoliberal policies enacted place the burden to change on those with the fewest resources to do so, and simultaneously maintain systems of resource inequality and oppression that must remain in place to keep the game going.
Such protocols have been developed as a disruptive force by US business interests and delivered, often through global aid programs, to cement austerity in healthcare, pressure patients to conform to prescriptive regimes of self-care under challenging circumstances, and generate data profiles that can be then used to justify successful “results” payments.
It is telling that the rise of mHealth, starting around 2009, corresponds to the rise of global impact investing. The timing also aligns with adoption of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. That legislation pushed adoption of e-health records, systems that are now paving the way for a shift to value-based payments from fee for service. It is these digital platforms, once they can be made interoperable with data across other social sectors, that will channel massive private investment into public health outcomes; that and IoT preventative health monitoring. Once that happens, people will become the batteries-just like the Matrix.
The plan of the one percent is to maximize human capital profit extraction capturing data starting in utero and using it to predict risk and track the relative worth of a given life within globalized financial marketplaces. You get a sense of what they have in mind reviewing screen shots taken from the Global Education Futures’ 2015-2035 foresight map.
In the end, digital life is about lean production and data harvest in service of financiers desperately trying to find ways to make money off poor people, even as the poor have less and less money to spend. Unwanted pregnancies are a mechanism of social and economic control.
It is important to understand that the legislative changes limiting access to safe, legal abortion will undergird this perverse system of social impact capitalism, an enterprise predicated on perpetual poverty of the masses. As we move towards a world dominated by surveillance, digitized public services, and predictive profiling, we must recognize that powerful global interests are attempting to turn our lives into a petty game, a game for their entertainment, for their profit.
Kevin Werbach, a Wharton professor and expert in gamification and Blockchain, closed a 2012 talk on Lifelong learning with the following assessment.
In any game:
1) rules matter
2) rules can be surprising
3) players must respond to the rules the game designer has set up in advance
4) be the one who makes the rules.
We must wake up and realize we’re in their game. We’ll never win if we play by the rules. Time to flip the table.