[OPE-L:3257] robots and value

From: JERRY LEVY (jlevy@sescva.esc.edu)
Date: Thu May 18 2000 - 09:59:09 EDT

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Re Paul C's [OPE-L3252]:

I get the feeling that we have exited the domain of political
economy and entered into the territory of science fiction ....

> A universal robot, capable of any type of labour, is an
> abstract labourer, its labour would be productive of value
> in the same way as human labour.

Steve K, are you listening? Paul is agreeing with you that, at
least in this special case, means of production can be productive
of value!

What then becomes of the distinction between dead and living labor?
With the development of the "universal robot", will it cease to
be a useful distinction? Should we then consider money capital
invested in the "universal robot" means of production as
constituting variable capital?

> other contemporary workers such as dogs and horses <snip>

Should money invested in dogs and horses which are put to
productive use in the capitalist-controlled labor process
also be counted as variable capital? Do these dogs and
horses also create value in capitalist society?

> If artificial ones existed [i.e. universal robots, JL]
> they would be class allies.

Wow! So, when (if) there are universal robots, we should enter
into a class alliance with "them" to overthrow capitalism?

Can you imagine a scenario where the robots otherthrow the
capitalist class without human (working-class) allies?
What makes you think that the robots, which would have been
created by capitalists and designed to obey, would have the
capacity to break with their owners and join forces with
the working-class? Isn't it even more likely that "universal
robots" would be under the command of capital and could be
used to kill workers? Indeed, aren't workers (since robots
can create value from your perspective) entirely redundant
when and if there is the diffusion of universal robots?

Speulation along thiese lines makes for interesting literature
but what conection it has towards understanding political
economy remains to be seen ... and indeed I am rather
sceptical of its uses. This kind of speculation, btw, seems
rather inconsistent with your loud protests against idealism.

In solidarity, Jerry

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