The wealth generated by robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be owned by the companies which exploit it, exactly the same model which has exploited human workers since the Industrial Revolution.
We have been sold a myth that robots will free us from work and provide us with more leisure time. The reality is that robots make human workers redundant who are then excluded from the only, traditional, way we have of generating any income at all. There is no hint coming from government or business that the current polarisation and privatisation of worker generated wealth will be addressed, which robotics will only exacerbate. Talk of a universal guaranteed income is still a fringe issue and so far does not appear to be being considered or discussed by government. Inequality, poverty and social exclusion have rocketed under the Tories, the notion of the poor sharing in a ‘common’ wealth would never occur to them. The very idea that the poor have a right to live is one that is repugnant to the Tories, they are, after all, the party which wants to scrap the human rights act and replace it with a bill that tells us what our duties are, although this has been quietly shelved until after Brexit when they look forward to doing whatever they like.
To be clear, the problem isn’t technology, AI or robotics, the problem is how wealth is, or, more correctly, is not, being shared and the structure and meaning of work itself.
It is a common idea that we, people, work to live but it has never been clearer than under the present regime that the view from the top is that we live to work, which is exactly what is behind the Tories striver/scrounger rhetoric and the demonisation of anyone needing social security in order to live and the present culture of depriving people of the means of survival in order to force them into any bullshit job regardless of whether it actually pays people enough to live on. Once in whatever precarious, insecure, employment people are forced into, if their income is inadequate to live on, the DWP will hound and sanction workers to take on extra work or jobs and force them into attending ritualised bullshit courses in job seeking.
The government knows exactly how the job market operates and is intimately aware that work is becoming ever more precarious because they are instrumental in making it so, whether by commission or omission. Zero hours contracts and the enormous rise in self employment supports the ‘Gig economy’ which Damian Green thinks so much of. Green described escalating job insecurity with no ‘stable hours, holiday pay, sick pay, or pensions’ as ‘exciting’, but the lived reality of which is clearly not something he’ll ever have to bother his little head about.
In the growing world of robotics the reality is that machines are better treated than workers due to ownership. Companies must ensure that the maintenance and care for robotics is adequate for continued trouble free operation, not so workers, who, once they leave their place of work, are left to their own devices regardless that they may not be being paid enough for their own maintenance and care. Technology can be replaced with impunity, it has no rights, scrapped or recycled, it’s just technology. Workers thrown on the human scrap heap are demonised for not trying hard enough to stay in work or finding new work when the entire structure of work is loaded against them by design and policy.
Workers generally are participants in wealth creation and are the engine that drives profits but are excluded from participating in the wealth they create because the fruits of labour and the wealth labour generates is privatised and ‘belongs’ to the company or business employees work for. Whatever rights and protections workers may or may not have at work they have never included a just share in the wealth they generate, whilst there is legislation for the insult that is the minimum wage (which is not even enough to live on), it is being systematically undermined in the Gig economy which is driven by corporate greed.
In the world of work, technology and robotics is a gift to any business which can use it to replace human workers, who they can discard with impunity. The company can continue to generate wealth for itself and even increase it through the exploitation of technology, whilst human kind become redundant as a viable source of labour on which they are forced to depend, with nothing to fill the vacuum left by technology which serves to deprive workers of even the meanest survival.
If ever there was a time to revolutionise the entire meaning of work and humanity, this is it. If work is increasingly becoming redundant for millions of workers the answer is not to punish people and drive them into penury and death through starvation or despair and suicide. The question ceases to be whether there are enough jobs to go round but is there enough wealth? Should we not all become share holders in unearned wealth, a situation currently exclusive to company share holders and stock market casinos? The entire world should be our common home and it’s resources common to all not the exclusive property of corporations. But first we need a revolution in thinking. We have become hide bound in our ideas of the nature of work, and exploitation, accepting it as just the way things are when clearly work is no longer an adequate means of securing our survival.
Profit is such an easy word for the exploitative use and abuse of the labour which creates it, whether human or machine. Britain is lauded as one of the richest nations on earth, but the wealth of the nation is in the hands of a very few people and from which the vast majority are excluded, presently and historically. Profits are and always have been put before people, the very people who create it, and it is completely ass backwards. It may seem a silly, even, crazy question but it needs to be asked, which is more important, people or money? Life or wealth? If wealth does not support life, what is it good for? Hoarding in tax havens? Polarised and gathered for the benefit of the few whilst the many are simply excluded and abandoned? Because that is the current situation and which the Tory government is dedicated to maintaining in a ‘free market’, which is anything but free for the majority of real, actual, living people.
Sanctioning the poor is simply insane, we should be doing the currently unthinkable, sanctioning wealth. The corruption in government is that it allows the wealth takers to dictate policy in which inequality and poverty are entirely beneficial to the interests of those for whom the accumulation of wealth is their only interest along with the privileged living it enables and the continued exploitation of the poor as servants to power and privilege. Killing us off may be expedient, something the Tories have a very casual attitude towards, but it is bestially immoral in practice. The reality of the accumulation of obscene wealth is that it is a crime against humanity, a crime against life and the lives, past and present, of those who actually slog their guts out to generate it.
Those who exploit the planet and life are complicit in genocide. According to Poverty.com, “It is estimated that a person dies of hunger or hunger-related causes every ten seconds… Sadly, it is children who die most often.” That is 8,640 people a day (minimum) or 3,153,600 a year. Hunger is not an individual or even a community human failing, it is always a sociopolitical failing. People are abandoned to death in a world of plenty from which we, ordinary people, are being increasingly excluded.
The Tories are entwined in unholy matrimony to obscene wealth and are complicit in death though poverty every day. Yes, even globally. They are incapable of reform or thinking any other way and that is why the only solution is to continue to work to expose them and rid ourselves of them. Poverty is good for ‘business’ and the Tories are in the business of creating more poverty and punishing the poor and further depriving us all of the means of survival. Their existence is a stain on humanity and they deserve no better from us than we get from them, a big ‘Fuck off!’