Re: [OPE-L] fully automated economy and capitalism

From: Ian Hunt (ian.hunt@FLINDERS.EDU.AU)
Date: Wed Nov 28 2007 - 18:50:49 EST

Dear Paul,
The cogs of abstract models turn but without engaging anything. I
agree that we can construct models- the problem is their
interpretation. What rights would members of a society accept as the
basis for social cooperation? I simply question whether the structure
of rights characteristic of capitalism could be agreed as the basis
of cooperation in a society where industry process are fully
automated. I doubt that full investment of returns could the basis of
a system owned by a society of human beings. In the model, you just
have maximum growth of a mechanical automaton. Whose interests would
that serve? If all resources are ploughed back into the growth of the
productive mechanism, would the human bystanders of this process live
on air?

I agree there is some mathematical interest in the models. I agree
also that one could approach close to the science fiction case of an
economy with only the labour of supervision. But I find it hard to
conceive how the juridical (and practical) categories of a capitalist
system of distribution of rights and duties, burdens and advantages
of social cooperation could get any purchase in the situations
envisaged. You can't just simply assume that they do. I they do not,
then the model has some mathematical affinities to a model of
capitalist production but it cannot be interpreted as such,

>I agree that it has nothing to do with the study of capitalism
>I think though that we can at a very abstract level model a
>large number of growth processes via i/o tables. These have
>an implicit maximal growth rate. As a particular example of
>an i/o system a capitalist economy has a maximal growth rate
>which corresponds to the maximum profit rate.
>However one could also perhaps model a commodity producing
>slave society in a similar way.
>Paul Cockshott
>Dept of Computing Science
>University of Glasgow
>+44 141 330 3125
>-----Original Message-----
>From: OPE-L on behalf of GERALD LEVY
>Sent: Wed 28/11/2007 2:14 PM
>Subject: Re: [OPE-L] fully automated economy and capitalism
>Hi Paul C:
>How are you defining 'profit' and the 'rate of profit' below?
>If we take the  formula s/c+v  to be the rate of profit, in a
>fully automated economy v = 0 and this implies that s =
>0 unless you think that c can create surplus value.
>I suppose one could define 'surplus' (NB: as distinct from
>'surplus value') in a different way,  such that it could exist in
>your fully automated society.  But, it would be difficult
>because in pre-capitalist (or post-capitalist) societies a surplus
>refers to an amount of the total product produced beyond the
>necessary reproductive requirements  of the direct producers.
>But,   there are no direct producers in a fully automated society
>unless you take the robots to be the 'producers'.   [If so, then
>the (non-labor) costs associated with maintaining and
>reproducing the robots could be seen as 'socially necessary'
>and a pre-requisite for the reproduction of the system.]
>Who would be consuming the output, you ask? Well,
>I guess that would be the human (or non-human) parasites
>who live off of the product produced by the robots,
>What any of this has to do with real economies is unclear
>to me. I don't think such an abstract, ahistorical model  has
>*anything* meaningful to say about capitalism.
>In solidarity, Jerry
>I agree that without wage labour you could not speak of capitalism
>in the normal sense, but
>That does not follow that all prices would be zero, since the firms
>might still be
>Aiming to maximise profit.
>More unclear would be who or what was consuming the output?
>One could assume all was reinvested and the rate of profit would
>then the the rate of growth as analyzed by von Neumann

Associate Professor Ian Hunt,
Dept  of Philosophy, School of Humanities,
Director, Centre for Applied Philosophy,
Flinders University of SA,
Humanities Building,
Bedford Park, SA, 5042,
Ph: (08) 8201 2054 Fax: (08) 8201 2784

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