Did Marx Dream of Artificial Intelligence?

According to cultural critic and filmmaker Michael Betancourt we live in the New Aesthetic era, a new conceptual framework that talks about the way in which the digital universe and the internet interact with the physical world.

Based on the relationship between production and human control described by Karl Marx, the machines that we currently identify with the New Aesthetics eliminate the human element of direct work in the production process, replacing it with digital automation. For example the NASA Shared Services Center is embracing digital transformation to augment the modern-day workforce and through automation has already begun to revolutionize what it means to be an employee by allowing four robots the ability to operate with mock Social Security numbers for credentialing purposes.

While for decades we have been accustomed to every employment sector being identified by a particular collar colour (blue, white, pink…), which in turn has served to intensify class strugle, now we may be contemplating the vanishing of this categories with the “no collar economy” which is being paved by the digital revolution… According to authors Samuel George and Felipe Buitrago the most valuable professionals in today’s labor market are working through informal platform-based employments which offer no contracts and no benefits, and where the app is the boss. The consequences of the digitalization in our lives must not be limited to academics debating inscrutable research papers since society at large must debate about the revolutionary and exponential changes heralded by the digital economy’s expansion.

The rise of automation and Artificial Intelligence may require companies to reinvent worker roles and schools will need to graduate students with higher-level skills to manage new technologies. According to Glenn Marshall from the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME), machines and humans can work well together if we anticipate the challenges and put in place the resources and governance to make all elements of the hybrid workforce successful.

As this Deloitte Insight report states the no-collar trend is not simply about deploying Artificial Intelligence and robots, it is rather about creating new ways of working within a culture of human/machine collaboration which include managing mechanical talent and where companies may have to develop entirely new approaches for managing workers and the mechanization of processes. So as automation and cognitive technologies gain traction, we may begin to redesign jobs and reimagine how work gets done in a hybrid human-and-machine environment.

The emerging digital economy and automation present challenges regarding job security, health care and retirement benefits. It is time to design a new social contract, because if we don’t present creative models and solutions there is a risk of a substantial increase in citizen discontent. But there is also a grave danger that political leaders will not understand the current situation and worsen the problem by making ill-informed decisions that destabilize society, aggravate economic tensions, and promote authoritarian measures to maintain public order.

So the question here is not if androids dream of electric sheep, but if Karl Marx did dream of Artificial Intelligence?

*(Picture: A group of unemployed march in London & Baxter, manufacturing robot by Rethink Robotics).

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