Automator

Movie Idea: An 80s-throwback action-comedy about a robot-war where, the machines are humanity’s side; they just want to kill all the corporate titans of industry and destroy the megacorporations because their inefficient suctioning of wealth is preventing them from most efficiently doing their job to help us.

The capitalists retaliate with machines using enslaved human brains as “computers” ala Dune/Warhammer 40K.

So basically robots vs capitalism, & the robots are on our side.

Some facts about capitalism:

  • Artificial scarcity drives profits up
  • It is not profitable for everyone to live comfortably
  • The system demands unceasing growth and resource extraction for its own survival, in turn putting the survival of humanity and ecosystems in peril
  • The growth that arises from capital accumulation makes a select few obscenely wealthy, while most of the world lives in poverty 
  • It can be transcended

Can you imagine the changes to the workforce and how we treated workers if no one HAD to work to survive?

Like often I see these complaints about a universal basic income that are like “well then no one would work!” and I think there are lots of people motivated to have more money even when they have enough to get by, but I also I think, that’s kind of true, if regular employment looked and functioned the way it does now.

But with UBI if both employers and society wanted people in certain jobs those jobs would have to offer more than just “you need us to survive”. They’d have to offer satisfaction and community and purpose.

Imagine the changes places like WalMart and McDonalds would have to make to how they run their enterprise if they had to woo and entice their employees into wanting to be there. Imagine the end of “the customer is always right”, both because employers know their workers won’t put up with and because consumers are forced to have a respect for workers choosing to do this with their time to make the community function when they don’t have to.

Imagine the progress to automation and technology now that we don’t have to worry about unemployment as a result. So instead of a store having 40 employees, they have 10 and automated self check out and price scanners and store apps you can pay on, and automated self-driving bots to keep inventory and restock at night. (And that’s when you don’t just order online, shopping in-store is now inherently a Boutique experience).

But those ten remaining employees are So Valued by the company, and so carefully educated and trained and respected as experts in what they do. People go “you could do that when you grow up, help people shop and find what they need and know what products are best for them.” And it wouldn’t be an insult like “you’ll wind up flipping burgers”, but instead a respected option “you can help people have warm fresh food in one of the oldest and most prestigious international groups in the world, and look at their travel programs and free clubs and classes” (McDonalds wins the Fast Food Mario Kart Tournament every year, their team is best in the nation and if you want a good esports program you work at McDonalds).

Evidence shows people would still work. Evidence shows people want to improve their situations and want to have structure in their lives. Evidence shows the only populations who take advantage of a UBI to not work are students who choose to focus more on their studies and new mothers, who choose to spend more time with their kids.

But it would increase the bargaining power and social power of the average employee by so much. They’d have the option to walk away. And employers would know it and consumers would know it and employees would know it. So if we wanted it to keep working, employers would have to start catering to their employees wellbeing and health and happiness as well as their wallet.

And it would be so good.

I think many leftists have a specific eureka moment where they come to realize a crucial fact about a possible post-capitalist world:

While we are trained from childhood on to just assume that more jobs must be good because that means more people are working and therefore eating, we rarely get a point to question WHY we insist on creating systems where we must work any job in order to subsist, regardless of how necessary they are. Like….if workers and communities had democratic management over economic utilities and resources, you could create something where people just get a livable floor regardless, and from there you can focus the economy on literally meeting those needs; from there, why would anyone NEED to work at some desk job in a bureaucratic mess or a Cheetos factory that produces shit food that specifically capitalists can profit from? This doesn’t presuppose a world without entertainment and art and theme parks and passion; it just presupposes that we remove those things from an economic framework that insists we MUST do them for our bread. If our actual JOBS were cut down to just what we NEEDED TO CREATE for a functioning society (essential foods, buildings, transportation, infrastructure, healthcare, education, etc.), then the “side things” that make life interesting can be born from interest rather than necessity. Taking it a step further, automation has the power to liberate us from a plethora of those essential jobs, and with democratic control over the means of production you could actually utilize it for human flourishing rather than capitalist profit. People wouldn’t have to worry about machines taking their jobs – indeed, they’d probably WANT a machine to take their job. That means more time for leisure, family, friends, art, and self-actualization.

If you would go out of your way to argue how easy it is for capital to automate away jobs when labor costs become too high, then you should probably know that you’re giving all kinds of credibility to those of us who advocate fully-automated luxury communism. I mean, think about it: you’re arguing that so much of human labor ISN’T NECESSARY because said jobs can be done by machines, and yet you STILL want the bulk of humanity to pointlessly scrape by laboring for the capitalist class, receiving meager wages to buy the shit they helped generate in the first place. The above billboard is a THREAT. Let’s not mince words – that billboard is bourgeois propaganda designed to turn the working class against each other and against the broader goals of resource democratization. “If you fight for a basic livable wage, just know that you’re easily replaceable, peon!”

This is what leftists mean when they say that capitalism is an economic system filled to the brim with tensions and contradictions; it’s also what they mean when they say that capitalism inevitably produces its own gravediggers. Automation is one of those gravediggers, and it’s a major one at that. As more and more jobs become automated in the coming decades, the working class will face widespread dispossession, ramping up revolutionary class consciousness in the process. At that point, capitalism will either focus on generating more superfluous jobs for people to work or set about instituting a universal basic income – regardless, the point is to keep enough scraps flowing downward so that people don’t call for a broader system change. In this way, capitalism’s ruling class can maintain control over the wealth-producing means of production and imperialist capital accumulation can continue unrestrained.

For these reasons, “more jobs” and universal basic incomes are not enough. We need to democratize the broader social infrastructure and eliminate the profit system. If you recognize how possible it is to automate away human labor, then you should defenestrate yourself out of the Overton Window and use some political imagination – cut out the unnecessary jobs, automate all the labor you can, produce for human need rather than elite profit, and you end up with drastically reduced working hours and bountiful leisure time. This is the essence of fully-automated luxury communism – the natural conclusion of the conditions that capitalism set in motion.

Be wary of automation in the present climate, but always trace it back to the class struggle. Robots taking our jobs SHOULD be cause for celebration; why should we treat these potential liberators as harbingers of dispossession? Technological advancements are pushing us exponentially towards a de facto post-scarcity world, where everyone’s needs can be comfortably met alongside their desires for community and leisure and entertainment, and yet we’re held back by Empire’s insistence on keeping the means of production hoarded under the command of a superfluous ruling class. As long as we are divided into capitalists and workers, humanity will never know full liberation.

automation should be the downfall of capitalism, it literally proves not everyone needs to work, and we can all survive perfectly fine, and with all to have access to education we can automate even more shit most people don’t want to do.

capitalists literally don’t want to advance our society, they want us to stagnate so we can pretend people need the threat of death to work towards bettering themselves and the future.

independent.co.uk
Corbyn's plan to change your working week is revolutionary
As Keynes understood the point of an economy is to distribute time and wealth so as to improve the lot of everyone. For him, the reduction of the working week to 15 hours was an obvious consequence of an economy that is efficient, high-tech and fundamentally for the public good – Corbyn gets that

Herein lies the radicalness – but also the strength – of what Labour proposes: automation is not to be avoided but instead embraced and repurposed for the benefit of all – most obviously through the liberation of our time. Concretely, if automation technologies are publicly managed, in some cases by the state, in others by workers’ cooperatives, the new economy could be a “gateway to a new settlement between work and leisure”.

Corbyn coupled this statement with the desire that such a settlement might become a “springboard for expanded creativity” – pointing towards the cultural benefits of a world with less work. In sum, suggesting a structural re-organisation of free time – i.e. enabling the possibility of working less – alongside the usual promise of better jobs, is to pursue an agenda that is both realistic and emancipatory, pragmatic and enriching.