From: Ian Wright (iwright@GMAIL.COM)
Date: Fri Apr 08 2005 - 16:25:33 EDT
Hi Jerry > 1) robots are (currently) a machine tool -- part of the means of > production. My thought experiment, e.g. autonomous robot taxi drivers, referred to a future scenario. > 2) robots are privately owned. Not in the thought experiment. > 3) They are designed and produced by capital (and, in some cases, > also by the state). As opposed to humans? > 4) So long as you have capitalism, we can expect that robots (no > matter how sophisticated) will continue to take the commodity- > form. The aim of the thought experiment is to try and push concepts to their breaking point and reveal their contradictions. Here you are saying that the scenario described in the thought experiment couldn't occur. I think given enough sophistication robots could lead an autonomous existence and be hired as wage-labour. If you are willing to accept the premiss of the thought experiment then I believe it shows that we can quickly dismiss the idea that there is some essential property of humans that explains why their labour and their labour alone can cause surplus-value. I wanted to get away from that common-sense humanism I mentioned. If that is accepted, then we can devote attention to what kinds of economic behaviours can cause surplus-value. It seems to me that what *kind of thing* does the work that causes surplus-value is unimportant. It is what *kind of work* that causes surplus-value which is important. I have previously mentioned that I think an explanation of surplus-value in terms of social relations alone is insufficient. I am looking for an explanation that embraces both the forces and relations of production. I am looking for a satisfying answer to that obvious question asked of labour theories of value. > If you insist on an analogy, then slavery is a far better analogy, > imo. It is interesting to note that the term 'robot' was first used > by Carel Kapek in the 1921 play "RUR" to describe a mechanical > man and that the term comes from a Czech word meaning slave. > (See a post I wrote on 1/21/04 for more references.) I agree with you, and this is something I've learnt from the discussion. The problem with introducing AI and robots is that people will get hung up on the science-fiction aspects, which obscures the issues. I think slavery is better for this purpose, as you say, because it is real and is economically and politically more important than those robots waiting around the corner. I am interested in what other listmembers may have to say about (i) why non-labourers are not a source of value, and (ii) the relation between surplus-value and slavery. -Ian.
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