Artificial intelligence, tech workers, and universal income: An interview

 Artificial intelligence, tech workers, and universal income: An interview

What are the possibilities for artificial intelligence to free us from the drudgery of work? How about the class outlook of those developing those technologies? Read and find out.

What follows is an interview with a friend of mine, Ron, who’s a software engineer. Although we didn’t meet through politics, I did come to discover that, with his fellow tech workers, Ron spends a lot of time considering, discussing, and theorizing about artificial intelligence and its potential for human liberation. As someone who’s basically technologically illiterate, I find this all very fascinating. I also came to find out that Ron’s interested in Universal Basic Income, which he views as the “best prevailing theory for the path forward.”

I should say, at this point, that I fully expect most regular libcom readers to have some real disagreements with Ron. Throughout the interview certain assumptions - about capitalism, politics, the economy - are taken as given. I have deep criticisms of Universal Basic Income, myself. However, I think it's fair to say that most UBI advocates have their hearts in the right place.

Those of us with liberal arts/humanities background are seriously overrepresented in the anarchist movement – especially when it comes to the theoretical end of things. Reaching out to and engaging with politicized technology and computer workers can only benefit the movement. If we're lucky, it might even help to inject a bit more of a class analysis into the UBI milieu.

More to the point, tech workers hold an incredible amount of power in the modern economy. Militant, organised tech workers could provide an invaluable choke point in any company or industry. And while, at one point, high-tech workers may have enjoyed certain ‘white collar’ benefits, as the economy becomes increasingly digitalized, digital workers are becoming increasingly proletarianized.

By understanding how tech workers view their position within the economy and what they envision for a more just world can begin to understand how to better link up with those same workers in our own workplaces.

Sum up the general attitude toward UBI amongst supportive tech workers.

The support, as I perceive it, seems to be primarily from the fact that if you assume the AI/robotics revolution is inevitable, there’s no good way to handle this. If compensation is based on a measure of productivity, and most productivity is by owners of AI/robots, then most compensation will flow in this direction. The simplest solution, in a broad sense, is to take this compensation, using the power of government, and redistribute it back to the people. There’s some ancillary appeal in the fact that it could replace other welfare programs, but these details are irrelevant to the idea. The perception is that there’s no other mechanism that can work, since the concept of “working” for “pay” doesn’t exist in a world where robots can do any human job.

How do most people in the UBI movement see UBI coming about?

The most common thinking is that it’s marketed as a replacement for welfare. This is thought to appeal to both sides of the political spectrum. On the one hand, you’re reducing the moralizing that often goes with government welfare programs. On the other, you’re meeting people’s needs in a simple and straightforward manner. Strategically, things like solving in problem of inequality, or raising the minimum wage, or changing the ratio of worker pay to executive compensation all serve to inch society towards the goal of UBI.

If people get used to the idea that they deserve a living wage - regardless of education or “skill” level - then as more people realize that we are all uneducated and low-skilled compared to an AI/robot, they too will feel like they deserve a living wage. If there are no jobs available, then maybe this wage can come from a social program? Since the framework of the economy would otherwise be intact (Apple/Google/Walmart still wanting our money), then maybe people won’t feel this scheme is the Communism of the Cold War era we as a society fear.

Does it play out practically on the job? In other words, are UBI-oriented tech workers more likely to raise issues at work?

Currently, no one talks openly about this in the broader tech world. The exception is people directly working on AI. AI researchers are not shy to talk about the political implications of their work, although few have yet to go into great detail. In the past 6 months, there’s been a massive uptick in the amount of mainstream news articles regarding AI taking human jobs, and possible rising unemployment as a result. Incidentally, there’s been several reputable studies that show, I believe accurately, that increased robotics and automation hasn’t costed jobs up to this point, because the increased productivity allows companies to expand and grow. These same studies haven’t addressed wages however, which we know have not kept pace with worker productivity. I would hypothesize that at least part of the wage suppression is due to increased automation over the past 25 years.

However, people in this field are more likely to support higher wages for workers across the board, which could be due to a conscious or subconscious realization of what technology might bring. The issue is still in its infancy, and I’m sure as time goes on, there will be battle lines drawn around these issues. The “sharing economy” is a good idea, when it’s actually about sharing.

Why is the sharing economy important to a UBI discussion you might ask? Because no matter what form of UBI gets implemented, if any at all, it still wouldn’t be enough to match the incomes needed to maintain our current quality of life; this means humans might find other things to do. Might it be the case that 20 years from now, we all work a few hours a day, sharing our skills/talents by means of a smartphone app?

When a computer can write computer programs better than me, maybe there will be a service that lets people hire me to do handyman work, or help with lawn maintenance, or drive them around, or any number of things that other humans might prefer a human to do for them, that could supplement a UBI.

More generally, are other economic or labor issues discussed on UBI forums? What's the general perspective – political, social, or otherwise – in UBI circles?

On UBI forums, there are three main camps: those that believe computers/robots will be humanity’s salvation, those that believe the AI/robotics automation will never happen, and those that believe AI/robotics revolution will lead to new industries and jobs that only a human can do. If you believe AI will be the salvation, then the other problems solve themselves-- robots build all the cool stuff we love (iPhones and Netflix), food is cheap and readily available, healthcare is high quality and cheap or free, etc. There’s not much reason to talk about other political/social issues, because once we pass the initial upheaval, we have nothing to worry about. These people believe that once robots start taking white-collar jobs (programming, lawyers, doctors, teachers, etc.), UBI must be inevitable, right?

People that believe AI won’t happen I think are completely wrong, but they too have no reason to think about other economic or labor issues, because we can do what we’ve always done and make minor tweaks to business/tax policy and “let the markets sort it out.”

People that believe new industries and jobs will arise also have no reason to delve more deeply into other economic or labor issues either, because we can mostly keep doing what we’ve been doing. So from my perspective, other than do-nothing-much, or UBI, there’s not much serious discussing into alternatives.

Why do you think tech workers in particular are attracted to UBI as an idea?

Fundamentally, it’s simple and easy to think about, potentially very efficient and effective, no one has been able to get any alternatives to gain traction, and it does seem politically viable eventually.

Imagine eliminating most of the anti-poverty programs and replacing them with UBI? Musicians and artists can pursue their crafts while having a way to support themselves. Tech geeks can form the startup they’ve always dreamt about and still be able to eat. Even the lazy pothead can sit around playing Playstation all day, if they just got fed up with having to work. All because robots can still maintain economic productivity.

What's the most common objection to UBI you hear from other tech workers?

That it’s too costly (which is why you often hear it tied to winding down most of the welfare programs and using that money) and that it’s “socialism”. “Socialism” in this context meaning that people don’t want their tax dollars going to the aforementioned artists/musicians/potheads because they’re lazy and should have to work, somehow, somewhere.

Alright, have some fun with this last one: take us on a little journey to a time when technology is used to its full liberatory potential. What does that world look like?

This is something i think about a lot, and my opinion is constantly changing. I once had an argument with a friend concerning this, and he is convinced that Facebook and Google, et al, are amassing the power and technology to know everything about everyone, and will use this power to manipulate us and there’s nothing we can do. I don’t disagree that this is possible, and a recent research project showed how merely changing the ranking of top-10 search results massively influences people’s opinions. My argument however was that the same predictive, intelligent software that lets Facebook know you better than your own mother (as another study has demonstrated), could also be used for social good. What if AI allowed us to identify neo-nazis or immediately fact check politicians and policy makers?

The other dimension is that smarter technology means smarter tools. There’s a video recently of a Disney artist drawing the Little Mermaid in 3D using virtual reality goggles and it’s very impressive. There’s similar videos of people sculpting in 3D using motion control wands (like the Nintendo Wii). Today, if I wanted to sculpt something bigger than a lump of clay, i’m out of luck. With these new technologies however, anyone with even minimal talent can use them, and create works of art presently only achievable by the very luckiest of artists. Right now, you have YouTube millionaires, who make their living by ad revenue on their home-made YouTube videos, completely and entirely outside the sphere of the traditional media monopolies. TwitchTV allows video gamers, who are very dedicated to their crafts, to support themselves playing games and having people watch them and donate money directly to them for doing cool/entertaining stuff. I don’t think I have to describe how the Internet has impacted people's ability to organize and share ideas. Every new technology brings with it a wave of creative new uses, and I don’t see this changing.

When you order a pizza, rather than a person bringing it to your door, a self driving car brings it to you, and you just go outside to get it (or a robot walks it up to you). When you buy a new toothbrush, a flying drone drops it off at your house the same day-- no human needed, and you get your order right away. Or, after you’ve cooked your dinner, you might have made too much, you can just package it up, an autonomous car comes to your door, and drives your extra dinner to a homeless person or someone in need. Maybe you don’t even have to be poor or homeless, you might just want a home cooked meal and are just lazy, and someone near you has extra, and they don’t mind anonymously and easily summoning a robotic drone to deliver it you, all arranged via a smartphone app. Since robots now do all the cleaning and maintenance, maintaining public shelters for the indigent isn’t a big problem anymore.

However, this all precedes the era known as the “Singularity”, based on the concepts of “superintelligence”. The thinking goes that once a computer can surpass a human level of intelligence, it’s impossible to predict what will happen after this point-- similar to the “event horizon” of a black hole. You can have a scenario where the robots destroy us all and evolve to become humanity’s legacy to the universe, you could have a situation where we live our lives in bliss and harmony. Computers will cure cancer and aging. People who want to be farmers can have their own farm, people who want to drink all day and have sex in virtual reality can do that. If you like to hike mountains, you’re free to do that as well, and if you fall, a robot will catch you. Nick Bostrom details the ins and outs of this idea in his book “Superintelligence”, you can also read a more positive take on this in “Engines of Creation” by a leading nanotechnology research K Eric Drexler. Solutions such as UBI are thought of as stop-gaps or transitions to this Singularity era.

Posted By

Chilli Sauce
Oct 13 2015 03:19

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  • Even the lazy pothead can sit around playing Playstation all day, if they just got fed up with having to work.

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Comments

Khawaga
Oct 13 2015 04:29

Thanks for posting this Chili!

Flava O Flav
Oct 14 2015 13:05

This is a great read Chili. Cheers.

Chilli Sauce
Oct 14 2015 13:25

I'm glad people are enjoying it.

I've got a little idea for a follow-up - a friendly debate between libcom and "the singularity". If folks would be interested in reading that or participating in the debate, do let me know.

Khawaga
Oct 14 2015 15:31

I'd be interested in that, and actually in participating in the debate, but sadly I don't think I'd have time. But let me know in any case.

GREGORYABUTLER10031
Oct 14 2015 17:36

Ron appears to be an acolyte of what some are calling the California Ideology - the reactionary techno utopianism common among professionals in the technology industry

http://www.metamute.org/editorial/articles/californian-ideology

http://www.imaginaryfutures.net/2007/04/17/the-californian-ideology-2/

As for the fantasy of robots doing all the work, it's simply not feasible, economically or technically.

I wrote a short essay explaining why on my blog

http://gangboxnews.blogspot.com/2015/10/jetsons-revisited-or-do-we-have-...

Even if it was - it says volumes about Ron that he sees that life of idleness and sloth as a utopia rather than a hell on earth

As for Chili Sauce's thesis that:

Quote:
Reaching out to and engaging with politicized technology and computer workers can only benefit the movement.

I'd have to say no to that

It's not "tech workers" that hold the power in society - it's workers in industry, in the manufacturing, transport and circulation of commodities

If you're looking for "choke points" in industry, look on the loading dock or in the warehouse - that's where the flow of commodities can be stopped.

Of course, that's why the techies fantasize about an all robot workforce - no class struggle, no strikes, no workplace resistance, no organized "collective laborer" workforce who are liable to see their common class interests

They'd rather see us become atomized consumers, sitting at home waiting for the "Basic Income" welfare check to be delivered by the robot mailman.

That's a Silicon Valley venture capitalist's daydream - surplus value without workers - but it's not realistic and it sure as hell isn't a utopia

Flava O Flav
Oct 14 2015 17:47
GREGORYABUTLER10031 wrote:

As for the fantasy of robots doing all the work, it's simply not feasible, economically or technically.

Er, it is. It's pretty much happening. That's pretty much like saying a few hundred years ago that the steam engine would never catch on

Khawaga
Oct 14 2015 18:06
Quote:
As for the fantasy of robots doing all the work, it's simply not feasible, economically or technically.

While I agree with you that right here, right now your statement is correct and that it is much cheaper to simply shift production to even more low-level income countries (Africa will likely be the last bastion of human labour being cheaper than tech in the future), even Chinese factories are heavily automated. More and more jobs we though were unique to humans have been completely automated, even the cushier (though boring) jobs of paralegals (simply replaced by algorithms).

And yes, what the interviewee is taking as predestined given--strong AI--is simply not possible now, and from what I can gather will remain impossible. But while it is a fantasy, it does not mean that some future breakthrough won't make it possible or at least makes it possible to automate more and more human work.

Quote:
It's not "tech workers" that hold the power in society - it's workers in industry, in the manufacturing, transport and circulation of commodities

But that's not what Chilli is saying, he is saying we should reach out to such workers. Like we should with all workers.

Quote:
If you're looking for "choke points" in industry, look on the loading dock or in the warehouse - that's where the flow of commodities can be stopped.

Sure, but these places are getting automated. Consider Amazon's kiva bots (although just for picking, not for packing, which still requires human hands and a mind), or the AGV's used at some terminals at the port of Rotterdam. And those examples are just the beginning of what could turn into complete automation.

Quote:
That's a Silicon Valley venture capitalist's daydream - surplus value without workers - but it's not realistic and it sure as hell isn't a utopia

Yep, that's is indeed their dream, and yes it would be more like hell than anything else. If we don't work, how do we eat? Life would be nasty, brutish and short. But where did anyone say it is a utopia here? I think you are confusing an interest in these issues with agreement; Chilli was quite clear on his position in the introduction.

BTW Gregory: did you read Fred Turner's From Counter Culture to Cyber Culture? It's a much better take on what Barbrook's refers to as the Californian Ideology.

Chilli Sauce
Oct 14 2015 21:29

Thanks for that K, I would have been tempted to be a lot less polite.

ETA: Greg, instead of making sweeping assumptions about what tech workers believe, feel free to post any questions on this thread. Then you can see what a jackass you look like when you state that Ron envisions a world without strikes and class struggle.

Flava O Flav
Oct 14 2015 21:41

Just to put things in context, in 2004 Frank Levy and Richard Murnane, in their book, the new division of labour, wrote that computers would essentially be able to perform jobs where simple rules needed to be followed, but when it came to pattern recognition, complex tasks in a changing environment, they said, and seemed to prove conclusively, that human labour would always be superior. An example they gave was driving. Eleven years later and self driving cars have been road tested and in Japan, a driverless taxi service is hitting the roads. Up until recently a robot on a production line would have to be reset for each task that involved a different pattern, that was supposedly never likely to change, but now there are ones that can be trained to perform multiple different tasks without reprogramming, at a 2008 conference on AI in Barcelona, the consensus was that simultaneous localisation and mapping would not be possible for AI any time soon. Two years later the kinect for xbox came along and did pretty much that.

One thing that I think is interesting is that up until about two years ago, most articles on robotics asserted that increased automation would just create new jobs that robots couldn't do, from a year ago you see a split between ones who still maintained that and others who claimed that automation would swallow up all the jobs, and this year, you have book after book, article after article saying, listen, automation is going to wipe out most jobs, we'll need a way of dealing with that - and they mostly suggest UBI.

Khawaga
Oct 14 2015 21:45

Flava, could you post some references to the texts you draw on? I'd like to read more on this sometime in the future.

Flava O Flav
Oct 14 2015 22:29

Well most of that stuff was just from a book I am skim reading at the moment called "The Second Machine Age". I'm skim reading because even that book, that was primarily researched in 2012 is a bit out of date. I'm going to start reading the more up to date The Rise of The Robots by Martin Ford when I finish this but couldn't tell you if it is any good yet. A lot of other info I get from new scientist, I have an online subscription. Paul Mason kind of skims the subject in Postcapitalism, but oddly, given the importance of technology for his theory he doesn't go into any depth. This was a recent opinion piece, presume it's paywalled so I'll c&p here:

Quote:
As tech threatens jobs, we must test a universal basic income
Paying a basic wage to all could hold society together if automation destroys swathes of work, but we need more trials to be sure

As tech threatens jobs, we must test a universal basic income
(Image: Andrzej Krauze)

THE idea that technology would destroy jobs and dramatically increase unemployment was considered a fallacy not long ago. Economists believed technology always created new opportunities and hence new jobs.

Today, with the rise of machine-learning algorithms and advanced robotics, many have changed their view. It’s possible that within 20 years almost half of all jobs will be lost to machines, and nobody really knows how we are going to cope with that.

Those who still have faith in technology’s power to create jobs fail to recognise the shift to a “superstar economy”, where a handful of companies disrupt markets, make billions and employ very few people, while the rest fight for the scraps.

So how would the millions whose jobs are at high risk of being automated survive in this landscape? One of the most interesting proposals, that doesn’t rely on the fanciful idea that the market will figure it out, is an unconditional basic income (UBI).

It’s a simple concept with far-reaching consequences. The state would give a monthly stipend to every citizen, regardless of income or employment status. This would simplify bureaucracy, get rid of outdated and inefficient means-based benefits, and provide support for people to live with dignity and find new meaning.

Perhaps the biggest UBI experiments, involving a whole town in Canada and 20 villages in India, have confounded a key criticism – that it would kill the incentive to work. Not only did people continue working, but they were more likely to start businesses or perform socially beneficial activities compared with controls. In addition, there was an increase in general well-being, and no increase in alcohol, drug use or gambling.

These results are promising but not conclusive. We don’t know what would happen in other countries, or whether the results would apply on larger scales. New experiments may give a clearer picture. The city of Utrecht in the Netherlands has started a UBI pilot, with a view to extending it to 300,000 residents; Finland is poised to do the same.

But for now, any country implementing a nationwide UBI would be going out on a limb. There are so many variables that if it goes well, it will be difficult to analyse and understand exactly why it worked and how it can be replicated elsewhere. If it goes wrong, it will deter further research and experiments.

It would be better to test it on a random sample of 1000 towns of 10,000 people each than in one country of 10 million. A network of such experiments in many countries is the perfect set-up to learn and prepare for larger-scale projects, right before the wave of automation hits us hard. We need to be ready.

This article appeared in print under the headline “Money for nothing”

By Federico PistonoFederico Pistono, a computer scientist turned social activist, is author of Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That's OKWant more? Read the extended version of this article.Magazine issue 3041 published 3 October 2015

Joseph Kay
Oct 14 2015 22:42

I've literally just started with Ford's Rise of the Robots - he's been talking about how advances in 3d machine vision mean that's now prototype packing robots which dramatically outperform humans. I think he also thinks UBI is necessary to sustain a mass consumer market once the McJobs that have hitherto absorbed labour power become automated.

Khawaga
Oct 14 2015 22:44

Cheers, Flava.

Chilli Sauce
Oct 15 2015 01:20
Joseph Kay wrote:
I've literally just started with Ford's Rise of the Robots - he's been talking about how advances in 3d machine vision mean that's now prototype packing robots which dramatically outperform humans. I think he also thinks UBI is necessary to sustain a mass consumer market once the McJobs that have hitherto absorbed labour power become automated.

So, fwiw, this is sort of why I think it's worth engaging with UBI/AI folks - I mean you're dealing with social democratic ideas but not necessarily social democrats. As opposed to dealing with Leninists or whatever - and I'm never one to really advocate arguing or debating politics in general - I think there's real scope to put forward a larger critique of capitalism.

Incidentally JK, you were one of the people I had in mind if we go ahead with that friendly debate...

Hieronymous
Oct 15 2015 05:03

Gregory A. Butler, why do you have two libcom accounts: GREGORYABUTLER10031 and Gregory A. Butler?

I ask because your posts often make baseless assumptions about others and you regularly attempt to put words in people's mouths. And you do it under both identities. What gives?

Joseph Kay
Oct 15 2015 09:31

Chilli - I'd be up for that in principle, though I'm on deadlines for about the next month (one of which is I've been asked to write something on Srnicek & Williams' 'Inventing the Future', which also makes a full automation/UBI gambit).

I think the general argument is 'this time it's different'. Previous waves of automation laid off workers, who were then reabsorbed by an expanding service sector (well, at an aggregate level, unemployment in ex-industrial/mining areas is still high). But now, you've got robots coming online that can produce bespoke burgers in much quicker time than people, and which cost just a few multiples of a single burger flipper's annual salary (and don't unionise, or sleep, or shit). Hasn't McDonalds responded to 'fight for $15' with automation?

Generally automation creates new jobs (e.g. programmers, technicians), but not necessarily in a similar quantity, and not necessarily immune to partial automation themselves. And generally there's still plenty of things robots can't - or we don't want them to - do, like health and social care (though Robot and Frank doesn't seem that far off). But these are also the things being starved of public funds and largely done as unpaid work, so not an alternative source of mass employment either.

In my job, a big admin thing in universities is sorting and distributing coursework submissions. We used to get hundreds of submissions each week, two copies of each, which needed to be separated into two piles, put in candidate order, split into batches for each marker, signed out, signed in, marks entered, marks checked...

Now we have e-submission. The student uploads a file. The marker sees only the students they need to mark, annotates directly onto the screen, enters the mark, the academic in charge of the module sees an instant summary, can check the means and standard deviations are consistent across markers, and release. The admin overhead has been slashed to just setting up the system at the start of term - a small part of one person's job rather than 50% of two or more clericals.

Then in the library, checking out and returning books is largely automated. An RFID-scanning conveyor belt sorts returned books, and every member of staff just has a certain number of hours per week trolley quota to reshelve the sorted books in the right sections (rather than employing dedicated staff to stamp books out and sort returns). So a lot of traditionally 'safe', entry-level white collar jobs like clericals and library assistants are getting pretty automatable, as well as the warehouse pickers, packers, and burger flippers.

That's millions of people - if that's all being automated at the same time, unless there's some kind of major public works program (loft insulation or renewables installation?), it is hard to see where millions of new jobs are going to come from, when the major corporations of our time are tech and IP giants who employ a fraction of the staff e.g. General Motors or Ford did at their peak.

Khawaga
Oct 15 2015 14:05
Quote:
Chilli - I'd be up for that in principle, though I'm on deadlines for about the next month (one of which is I've been asked to write something on Srnicek & Williams' 'Inventing the Future', which also makes a full automation/UBI gambit)

How transhumanist is "Inventing the Future"? It was quite well hidden in the accelerationist manifesto, which for all their attempts at epistemic acceleration was quite backward looking in its modernity and enlightenment hard-on for and desire to command nature, life and death (also a staple of transhumanist thinking).

The manifesto was also strangely contradictory on some central issue (climate change, but let's fix that by thinking we can bend nature and the environment to our will through terraforming; abolish the value-form, but let's keep financial infrastructures intact).

Do any of these things pop up again the in book?

Joseph Kay
Oct 15 2015 14:28

The accelerationist language is more or less entirely stripped out, they say to not distract from the argument. Iirc it comes back strong in the conclusion but I can't remember how transhumanist it was without checking (was reading it with my ecological hat on). There's also loads of caveats which seem to go against the thrust of it, so e.g. 'Progress' is defined as the possibility that things could get better... or worse, 'Modernity' is affirmed but more or less emptied of content, with the project being to define it, etc. I guess those caveats could be taking on board criticism, or a means to deflect it. The first couple of chapters will piss off anarchists as it more or less defines prefigurative direct action as a TAZ that changes nothing, but if you read it, worth pushing on to the more propositional bits.

Khawaga
Oct 15 2015 14:58

Cheers, JK. If the H+ stuff was hard to find, they're hiding it in the same way as they did in the manifesto (not that I think their "hiding" it has anything to do with some nefarious agenda or sneaking that in Schmidt style). IIRC there was a few mentions about overcoming the limitations of human biology, (perhaps morphological freedom, though that may have been from another text in the accelerationist reader). So no overt H+ language, but "coded" so that if you've read a bit of Kurzweil, Kaku or any of those you'd notice it. To some degree I consider Srineck and Williams manifesto to be a leftist version of transhumanism, in the same way that we talk about how Trots etc. are the left-wing of capital.

Quote:
There's also loads of caveats which seem to go against the thrust of it, so e.g. 'Progress' is defined as the possibility that things could get better... or worse, 'Modernity' is affirmed but more or less emptied of content, with the project being to define it, etc.

Interesting, maybe they have taken on some critiques then. But the manifesto was pretty old-time Enlightenment IMO. But seems like a cop-out with emptying progress and modernity of content, especially in the light of the manifesto where their thinking about these things are clearly an epistemic deceleration especially in its affirmation of Man standing outside of and against nature (IMO I'd say ecological thinking of the Jane Bennet variety is more of an example of epistemic acceleration than the accelerationists!). And given how much progress has been critiqued by the likes of the Frankfurt School, Paul Virilio (with his accidentology that has a dialectic of progress, and his general critique of the propaganda of progress as an accident of thinking) and Jacques Ellul, it seems like a strange thing to do indeed. But from reading the manifesto, I'd say they are very much beholden to the propaganda of progress (apres moi la deluge!).

But thanks for your comment, now I am looking forward to reading their book a bit more (I was lukewarm before). For all the faults I found with the accelerationist manifesto, it did provoke a lot of thinking so I am hoping the book does the same.

GREGORYABUTLER10031
Oct 15 2015 22:18

Same guy, two different email accounts - I've had login problems.

I see you're still a fan of ad hominem attacks when you can't challenge the validity of my arguments on their merits

GREGORYABUTLER10031
Oct 15 2015 22:23

On the question, I think folks are drinking the Silicon Valley Kool Aid about the feasibility of automation of all work (it's not realistic).

I'm also struck by the general pro robot sentiment here - that you all seem to think that replacing human labor with machines would be a step forward. I see it as a giant leap towards barbarism, an eternal dictatorship of capital and the final historic defeat of the working class.

If it ever did become possible to automate all production, I'd lead the charge to smash the robots and to crush and destroy the techies who program them - to save the world for humanity. (that's the one thing I'd ever agree with anarcho primitives on)

Khawaga
Oct 15 2015 23:05

Where on earth do you get that impression. As I said, interest in these things does not mean acceptance. Please stop trying to ascribe these ideas to people that don't hold them. That's the second time already in this thread. I was polite above, but frankly, if you continue and don't start discussing in good faith you can just fuck off. And rather than engaging with what I wrote above, you are again just stating that people have drank the kool-aid.

But in any case, some of us are actually thinking about capital's event horizon. In a communist society I would want drudgery to be automated. Why keep fucking boring tasks when you don't have to? And also, that capitalist are actually trying to work towards this future means that we have to take this seriously. But it seems like you think that we should not even entertain these ideas, at all. That's just fucking idiotic.

Then again, from reading your posts you strike me as someone who wants to affirm labour, work and the working class rather than striving for abolishing these things. And that you believe that is pretty much clear from this

Quote:
If it ever did become possible to automate all production, I'd lead the charge to smash the robots and to crush and destroy the techies who program them - to save the world for humanity. (that's the one thing I'd ever agree with anarcho primitives on)

It would do you some good to read Krisis' "Manifesto against labour".

Chilli Sauce
Oct 16 2015 02:48

Greg, might I suggest you take your own advice and actually attempt to understand the arguments put forward in the interview, its introduction, and the subsequent discussion? It would do you a lot better then operating under the frankly asinine strawman that what's being promoted is the wholesale automation of production under capitalism.

Even Ron - who's far less radical in his suggestions - stresses his desire that having some semblance of societal control over automation would allow us "all to work a few hours a day, sharing our skills/talents" by engaging in "any number of things that other humans might prefer a human to do."

I mean fucking seriously, do you really think the regular posters of libcom are cheerleading jobs being automated? Do you think that we're fucking idiots and don't understand that AI under capitalism would lead to untold immiseration? Thanks for that great insight, Greg, I can't imagine how we would have realized that without you...

Joseph Kay
Oct 16 2015 07:09
Khawaga wrote:
Interesting, maybe they have taken on some critiques then. But the manifesto was pretty old-time Enlightenment IMO. But seems like a cop-out with emptying progress and modernity of content, especially in the light of the manifesto

I think the charitable reading is that their main claim is 'the left needs to struggle to define modernity and hence the future', and their contribution to that is the manifesto/concluding chapter. But logically you could accept their main claim while criticising their particular vision of modernity, and that discussion would be part of what they're calling for, i.e. a discussion of what the future should be. Maybe it's even deliberately provocative (it is a manifesto, after all) in order to provoke that discussion.

Flava O Flav
Oct 16 2015 09:22
GREGORYABUTLER10031 wrote:
If it ever did become possible to automate all production, I'd lead the charge to smash the robots and to crush and destroy the techies who program them - to save the world for humanity. (that's the one thing I'd ever agree with anarcho primitives on)

What does your vision of libertarian communism look like? I'm baffled because for me a huge part of it is the abolition of wage labour and freeing up humanity to concentrate on creative work and work that interests the individual - or to do nothing if they so wish. Automation, for most classical communists was the key to this and for me, our current level of technology makes communism a distinct possibility in the here and now, providing we can successfully organise for it and overthrow capitalism. I'm not intetrested in a steampunk revolution to be honest.

Spikymike
Oct 16 2015 10:34

UBI and it's associated justifications in terms of the growing significance of information technology and robotics on the evolution of the capitalist economy is very much up Paul Mason's street in his book on 'Post Capitalism' so this thread could usefully be linked in to that as well. Just finnished reading that book so might make some critical comments there.

Flava O Flav
Oct 16 2015 10:47

I'm in the middle of writing something about it too. Will sumarise my thoughts on it here when I'm finished.

Chilli Sauce
Oct 16 2015 11:59

Yeah, I had Mason's new book in mind too when I wrote the blog. I even considered mentioning it in the intro. I'm certainly happy for folks to make their comments about it here - or on another thread if folks prefer.

GREGORYABUTLER10031
Oct 16 2015 13:12

"The Singularity" is a techie fantasy, so is the idea that robots will do all the work for us

http://www.salon.com/2015/10/15/calm_down_artificial_intelligence_is_not...

Any politics based on that misanthropic fantasy are not a way forward

Flava O Flav
Oct 16 2015 13:49
GREGORYABUTLER10031 wrote:
"The Singularity" is a techie fantasy, so is the idea that robots will do all the work for us

http://www.salon.com/2015/10/15/calm_down_artificial_intelligence_is_not...

Any politics based on that misanthropic fantasy are not a way forward

Not only is that a really awful article, but it also has nothing to do with the automation of labour. Automation of labour is not a fantasy, it has been happening for quite some time and is accelerating. You don't need self awarw AI for that to happen, you just need robots built for specific tasks - and even now there are multitasking robots.

Once again I ask what your vision of a communist society is, because you aren't going to interest many people with a vision that includes drudgery.