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Thread: Automation and the future of work.

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  1. #1
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    Default Automation and the future of work.

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/201...hoes-from-2017 - "Adidas to make shoes in Germany again - but using robots"

    I read this at the same time as I was reading "Inventing the Future" by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, which I'd recommend to anyone. The basic thesis of the book (ridiculously simplified) is that 'the Left' needs - desperately quickly - to come up with a universalist proposition that stands in opposition to neoliberal capitalism, if the future is not to be progressively harsher neoliberalism all the way. A large part of the book discusses the changes that will be wrought as many industries become automated, but how this needs to be seized as an opportunity to free people from work, rather than used by neoliberals to achieve the dual purpose of (i) impoverishing yet more people and (ii) terrifying those currently in work into utter subservience. So Srnicek and Williams talk a lot about universal basic income as one of the cornerstones of such a Leftist universalism (of course, incidentally, Switzerland is holding a referendum today on universal basic income, which is very heartening in a way, though the fact that no prospective level for the UBI has been set, suggests that the proposal is not as radical as it initially seems).

    So, given Adidas's decision, which no doubt has been taken/is about to be taken by many other companies I don't know about - it seems that automation and the future is pretty much upon us. Any thoughts?

    [And presumably Adidas's decision also acts as a kind of nationalist coup of 'bringing industry back home' (except without the jobs)]
    Last edited by baboon2004; 05-06-2016 at 10:43 AM.

  2. #2
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    bump

    cos the EU and Trump are getting all the attention

  3. #3
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    This is indeed a fascinating subject, and really does deserve to be called a new industrial revolution. It will probably have similarly seismic effects on humanity. With the ever growing population, ever increasing productivity and imminent mass obsolescence of human workers, how could it fail to?

    John Lancaster writes about it in this book review http://www.lrb.co.uk/v37/n05/john-la...ots-are-coming

  4. #4
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    UBI is opposed by large portions of the left.

  5. #5
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    Thanks for the Lanchester article link, Corpsey, I'll look at that now.

    Droid - could you say a bit more about that? Certainly, UBI could be implemented in such a way that it is nowhere near enough for people to live comfortably on, and also involves the cancellation of other benefits, and then it could easily be a tool of an oppressive regime. But are there people on the left opposed to any form of UBI, no matter how well its implications are considered?

    I'm still unclear about the wording of the Swiss referendum (clear enough about the result tho... :/ ). Some news reports suggested that there was a specified level of about £1800, while others suggested that any such level would have to be thrashed out in the event of the referendum returning a 'yes' vote.

  6. #6
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    yeah, sorry, I think the basic idea is that UBI will be used to break down unions, the public services and the welfare system. Good article here:

    While left-wing proponents believe a basic income will strengthen the hand of labour, right-wing proponents back it for exactly the opposite reason. Libertarian economics commentator Steve Randy Waldman argues: “Supplementary incomes are a cleaner way of increasing labour bargaining power than unionization. Unionization forces collective bargaining, which leads to one-size-fits-all work rules and inflexible hiring, firing, and promotion policies, in addition to higher wages.”

    Here, basic income is not only a subsidy to employers; it is a union-buster.

    After all, why would any contemporary government, as beholden to global capital as governments are today, introduce policy that would strengthen the hand of labour?

    If labour had the strength to enforce the introduction of a good basic income, it would also have the strength to revive the project of full employment. And while even the best basic income policy only sets a floor below which poverty cannot fall, full employment strengthens labour’s hand to demand ever-greater wages.

    The unemployment we see today is not primarily caused by technology but is a deliberate product of fiscal and monetary policies introduced in the 1970s and 1980s, intended to discipline labour after the abandonment of the full-employment strategies of the previous three decades that had produced stagflation, a declining share of national income going to the capitalist class, and – worst of all for the rich and powerful – militant unions.

    Van der Veen and Van Parijs devised their capitalist road to communism in the mid-1980s as a shortcut to less poverty and more leisure time amid the defeat of organized labour and the political left. Thirty years later, do we still expect governments to offer up these policy outcomes in the absence of a robust and militant labour movement?
    https://briarpatchmagazine.com/artic...l-basic-income

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