Re: [OPE-L] Complex and simple labour: English trans. of French Capital I?

From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Tue Jun 05 2007 - 05:26:19 EDT





Pauls Adler and Cockshott are probably best positioned to address this
simple point.


A PC can be bought cheap today relative to prices three decades ago.
Why? The main answer: the rising productivity of microprocessor
engineers as a result of both design automation which has drastically
reduced the time required for checking speeds and gates and computer
simulations which have eliminated hours and hours of wasted labor on the
development and actual production of failed models and design


I am in general agreement with the passages from Hilferding that you
quote. I think that Hilferding had long before

Mises provided a response to Mises assertion that calculation in labour
time was in principle impossible because of

Non commensurability of skilled and unskilled labour.


On the role of design automation, this is one factor, but probably a
secondary one in the fall of PC prices. More important is the role of
copying technologies, which Babbage long ago identified as a key factor
in raising productivity.


PC chips are produced by a variant of printing technology, the printing
is photographic and on a very small scale, but it, like the printing
press bebore it, allows standardised flat objects to be replicated with
an amount of labour that is relatively independent of the detail


In consequence, more and more of what were once distinct chips - of the
order of a hundred on original models of PC, are now integrated into
just a few large chips. Both todays chips and 1980s chips are produced
by photographic processes but the improved detail achieved by modern
photo lithography allows far fewer components to be used. The labour
input to production is proportional to the number of chips placed on the
board times the labour input that goes into each chip. The latter - for
large chips processor chips at least, has not fallen drastically and may
even have marginally risen. On the other hand the design time per
transistor of the processor chip certainly has fallen thanks to the use
of high level design tools. This rise in productivity measured in
transistors placed per working day, has largely been consumed by
designing more an more complex chips, since the numbers of transitors
per design has grown exponentially.


The final think to take into account is the amortisation of the designs
across much larger production runs.  This is particularly noticeable in
the other mass market for processor chips - mobile phones.



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