Marx on Artificial Intelligence

Concern about machines replacing humans have been historically documented at least since the Destruction of Stocking Frames Act of 1812, authorizing death for those vandalizing machines, the famous Luddites. Karl Marx later summed up these fears (1992 [1867]) by stating that “within the capitalist system all methods for raising the social productivity of labour are put into effect at the cost of the individual worker. (p. 799)” This meant that while technology might be beneficial statistically, when considering large populations, it was damageable to workers as persons and to their individual flourishing. It is worth quoting Marx in full here:

All means for the development of production undergo a dialectical inversion so that they become means of domination and exploitation of the producers; they distort the worker into a fragment of a man, they degrade him to the level of an appendage of a machine, they destroy the actual content of his labour by turning it into a torment; they alienate from him the intellectual potentialities of the labour process in the same proportion as science is incorporated in it as an independent power. (p. 799)

This description is still valid today if artificial intelligence is to simply replace human agency, especially because AI is expected to produce an intellectual work, more and more efficient as computer science develops it as an independent power.

Marx, K. (1992 [1883]), Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. London: Penguin Classics.

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