Re: [OPE-L] Why aren't non-labourers sources of value?

From: Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM
Date: Fri Apr 08 2005 - 07:26:21 EDT

Hi Ian:

Let's talk briefly then talk about your some of the concluding paragraphs
in a previous post which you think are still OK.

> Hence it appears to follow that future technical progress which
> transforms some fixed-capital maintenance costs into wage payments to
> self-owning machines will necessitate a revision of Marx's theory of
> value to include the possibility that non-human labour is the cause of
> surplus-value and therefore exploited when employed in capitalist
> firms ... would you accept this conclusion?

The futuristic scenario that you present seems to me to ignore what
I take to be some basic principles:

1) robots are (currently) a machine tool -- part of the means of

2) robots are privately owned.  They are overwhelmingly owned
by capital and the state now even though they are also slowly
becoming means of consumption (luxury goods now, perhaps means
of consumption for workers in the future).

3) They are designed and produced by capital (and, in some cases,
also by the state).

4) So long as you have capitalism, we can expect that robots (no
matter how sophisticated) will continue to take the commodity-

Given the above, there is no reason to think that robots would
_ever_ become autonomous 'self-owning' agents.  They are
the _property_ of humans -- they have no autonomous standing.

As I asked you before, why would the owner of a robot pay
the robot a wage?

Now you might claim that at some future moment in time robots
could become 'self-owning' and self-acting agents.  I recognize
that plot line!  It's a classic science fiction plot that usually
ends with the robots turning against their human creators.  The
mere fact, though, that these issues have been posed over and
again in science fiction should tell you that robotic designers,
programmers and maintainers will build into these machines ways to
prevent these scenarios from developing.  It's really not that
hard to program even an 'intelligent robot' what _not_ to do, is

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.)

In solidarity, Jerry

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