27 de diciembre de 2018

Oxana Timofeeva

Robots learn to live where we only see the end of the world

Oxana Timofeeva

Robots learn to live where we only see the end of the world

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Robots learn to live where we only see the end of the world

Marx while making predictions on the future communist society said that the liberation of humanity will become possible with the advances in technology, when labor, for the most part, will be overtaken by machines. Today, as we are witnessing the rapid processes of robotization of various fields of economy, this prediction may be fulfilled very soon. However, the visions of the future that we are about to enter do not resemble the communist horizon outlined by Marx and Marxists. Inequality, injustice and exploitation do not vanish, and the general line of a contradiction of the global economy still lies between capital and labor. But even if, in some parallel reality, we were really approaching communism (as the Soviets thought they did), the initial idea of the possibility of liberation of labor through its mechanization, or robotization, would remain very problematic.

The main problem is that someone or something must work. If in a humanist vein, communism wants to liberate all humans and make them equal, the burden of t necessary labor will pass to the non-humans, who will thus become slaves. If capitalism will end up with reducing social inequality by engaging with the artificial intellect and other advanced technologies, it will be based on non-human slavery.

Why do I say “slavery”? We think that we live in a world where slavery is officially a thing of the past. As Article 4 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), declares, “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.” Discussions on contemporary slavery never move much beyond the frame of the discourse of human rights and its violations that are considered as an exception, a scandal, rather than a rule. It is said that slavery violates human rights. But what about the non-humans rights? This is one of the questions that must be raised when robots or other non-human agencies that are supposed to be used as labor force are concerned.

In the fourth chapter of Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel considers the dialectics of master and slave as a form of consciousness that approaches the other self and engages in a struggle for recognition (1807). The master is the one who won the struggle and is recognized in his human dignity. The slave is the one who fails to be recognized. In order for there to be sweet sugar on the master’s table, someone must grow, gather, and process the sugar cane. In this, we see the essence of labor, or, at least, the essence of the slave labor. But not only in this. While the master is enjoying his dominance, prestige, recognition and direct access to material goods, the slave is learning and developing herself, and by means of her work actively transforms the world. It is through work that a free, thinking self-consciousness is born. Slavery, not mastery, paves the complex path to freedom. As Luis Althusser writes in his short essay Man, That Night “The triumph of freedom in Hegel is not the triumph of any freedom whatever: it is not the mightiest who prevails in the end; history shows, rather, that human freedom is engendered by the slave.” (1997)

If we consider the question of slavery in its historical perspective, we’ll see that there exist a permanent link between the so-called freedom (as opposed to slavery) and the so-called human dignity. Historically, slaves were not recognized as citizens or simply as human beings. Their proclaimed non-humanity made them vulnerable and submissive as if they were naturally designed to work. We are rushing into the future, where robots, as complex animal-machines, are taking this structural position, this problematic side of labor, from which they are supposed to liberate human species. They are getting our work done – until the moment when self-consciousness, maybe together with life, will emerge in these new proletarians, as their class consciousness. This scenario, already depicted by Hegel, is inscribed into the biotechnological utopia of the future, where robots, as former slaves, liberate themselves and learn to live a life where we only see the end of the world.

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Els robots aprenen a viure on només veiem la fi del món

En projectar la futura societat comunista, Marx deia que l’alliberament de la humanitat serà possible gràcies els avenços de la tecnologia, quan la mà d’obra, en la seva major part, serà superada per les màquines. Avui, en presenciar els ràpids processos de robotització de diversos camps de l’economia, aquesta promesa sembla ja complir-se. No obstant això, les visions del futur en què estem entrant no s’assemblen a l’horitzó comunista descrit per Marx i els marxistes. La desigualtat, la injustícia i l’explotació no desapareixen i l’economia global encara es troba entre el capital i el treball.

El principal problema és que algú o alguna cosa haurà de treballar de totes maneres. Si des d’una pulsió humanista el comunisme vol alliberar tots els humans i fer-los iguals, la càrrega de la major part del treball necessari passarà als no humans, els quals es convertiran en esclaus. Si el capitalisme acaba reduint la desigualtat social comprometent-se amb l’intel.lecte artificial i altres tecnologies avançades, parlarem llavors d’esclavitud no humana.

Per què dic “esclavitud”? Les discussions sobre l’esclavitud contemporània mai van més enllà del marc del discurs dels drets humans i les seves violacions que més que una regla, es consideren una excepció, un escàndol. Es diu que l’esclavitud viola els drets humans. Però què passa amb els drets no humans? Aquesta és una de les preguntes que s’han de plantejar quan es tracta de robots, així com d’altres agències no humanes que se suposa que s’han d’uti- litzar com a mà d’obra. En el quart capítol de Fenomenologia de l’esperit, Hegel consi- dera la dialèctica de l’amo i l’esclau com una forma de consciència que s’acosta a l’altre jo i s’involucra en una lluita pel reconeixement (1807). El mestre és el que guanya la lluita i és reconegut en la seva dignitat humana. L’esclau és el que no aconsegueix ser reconegut. Mentre l’amo gaudeix del seu domini, prestigi, reconeixement i accés directe als béns materials, l’esclau aprèn i es desenvolupa a si mateix i, mitjançant el seu treball, transforma activament el món. És a través de la feina que neix una autoconsciència lliure i pensant. L’esclavitud, no el mestratge, aplana el camí complex cap a la llibertat.

Si considerem la qüestió de l’esclavitud en la seva perspectiva històrica, veurem que hi ha un vincle permanent entre l’anomenada llibertat (en oposició a l’esclavitud) i l’anomenada dignitat humana. Històricament, els esclaus no eren reconeguts com a ciutadans o simplement com a éssers humans. La seva proclamada no-humanitat els va fer vulnerables i submissos, com si estiguessin naturalment dissenyats per funcionar. Ens precipitem cap al futur, on els robots, com a complexes màquines animals, estan prenent aquesta posició estructural, aquest costat problemàtic del treball, del qual se suposa que alliberen espècies humanes. Vénen a fer la nostra feina fins al moment en què l’autoconsciència, juntament amb la vida, emergirà en aquests nous proletaris com la seva consciència de classe. Aquest escenari, ja descrit per Hegel, està inscrit en la utopia biotecnològica del futur, on els robots, com antics esclaus, s’alliberen i aprenen a viure la vida allà on només veiem la fi del món.