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22 August, 2017

Give jobs to all robots!

Theories about the "onslaught" of robots that will take our jobs, flood the media. A new form of "Futuristic Communism", however, comes to overturn what we have learned about automation.

A humorous video that has been released recently by Boston Dynamics, showing a robot that turns things upside down by trying to put a box on a shelf, has fueled dozens of almost identical newspaper headlines around the world: "Robots will not get our jobs ... yet." Humanity seemed to break out with relief as some of the most nightmare scenarios for the end of human labor took a short delay.

Among other dark (though often controversial) predictions, in recent years we have read that: 47% of US jobs will be covered by robots in the next 20 years, 60% of all jobs on the planet can be automated by at least 30%, and, works that are currently cost $15 trillion will soon be carried out by robots.

Science fiction writer Peter Frase, in his book Four Futures, puts forward the "robo-revelation" scenario a step further by introducing the idea of 'exterminism': in the not too distant future, the waves of the unemployed who have lost the latest tools of labor demands, such as strikes, would be a direct threat to the survival of the rich who will control the robots.

Then, the owners of the new means of production will consider the mass extermination of the unemployed by techniques that will refer to Hitler's holocaust.

As is often the case in similar situations, moderate supporters of the capitalist system, or moderate detractors of it (depending on whether you see the glass half-filled or half-reformist), respond to these nightmarish scenarios with equally nightmarish simplistic solutions.

The Socialist, former candidate for the French presidential election, Benoit Hamon, has proposed the introduction of a special tax on robots, through which the state will achieve redistribution of income for the weaker economic layers. This is the same line of thinking that previously gave us the Tobin tax on the taxation of financial transactions - another moderate attempt for a capitalism with ... a human face.

Fortunately, much more optimistic messages are coming in recent years from the so-called "luxury communism" movement, which found shelter in organizations such as FALC (Fully Automated Luxury Communism).

Through repeating a vision, expressed with different phraseology for at least half a millennium, FALC members speak of an automated "post-work" society with a 10-hour working week, guaranteed minimum income, free health, education, housing, etc. "Take Uber", Aaron Bastani told to Guardian. Bastani is co-founder of Novara Media, which is associated with the movement: "Its idea is that by 2030 it will have this huge global network of driverless cars. That doesn't need to be performed by a private company. Why would you have that? Why couldn't we have something like Uber with driverless cars provided at a municipal level without a profit motive?", Bastani wonders.

The Plan C group, also evangelizing "luxury communism," states that it derives its ideas from Marx's "Capital" and "Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy (Grundrisse)," in which, however, the group is adding ideas from the science fiction trilogy "The Red Mars" by Kim Stanley Robinson. In this novel, a socialist society is being created on planet Mars.

So, against the terrifying predictions that "robots will get our jobs," the supporters of FALC and Plan C respond: "let them come ... and soon."

Of course, what all sides seem to forget, is that the absolute automation of work does not only threaten workers, but in some cases also the owners of the means of production, who lose the basic means of profitability - the misappropriation of workers' surplus value.

For that reason, in several production sectors, owners prefer not to use robots, but large numbers of low-paid and consumable workers. So the economic system itself can cancel, or postpone, the evolution of technology in order to preserve the old forms of exploitation, in a peculiar Luddism from the above.

Besides, as the American economist, Dean Baker, explained, the theories about the onslaught of robots, simply come to hide other major factors that increase unemployment which are not related to the automation of production.

If there is a serious problem, Baker explains, it is not that robots take the jobs of the workers, but that in the existing economic system they act as tools for the greatest concentration of wealth in the hands of a few. While they should be cheap and help people increase their productivity, due to the patent regime and the monopolies controlling copyrights, their production remains very expensive and continue to be controlled by a small group of people.

Therefore, the solution is obvious - though not at all easy to be applied: Give work to all robots, socializing all stages of production and eliminating profit, in order to allow man to live creatively, free from all forms of alienated work.

Article by Aris Chatzistefanou, translated from the original source:


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