Humans, robots and values

Cockshott, P. and Renaud, K. (2016) Humans, robots and values. Technology in Society, 45, pp. 19-28. (doi:10.1016/j.techsoc.2016.01.002)

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Abstract

The issue of machines replacing humans dates back to the dawn of industrialisation. In this paper we examine what is fundamental in the distinction between human and robotic work by reflecting on the work of the classical political economists and engineers. We examine the relationship between the ideas of machine work and human work on the part of Marx and Watt as well as their role in the creation of economic value. We examine the extent to which artificial power sources could feasibly substitute for human effort in their arguments. We go on to examine the differing views of Smith and Marx with respect to the economic effort contributed by animals and consider whether the philosophical distinction made between human and non-human work can be sustained in the light of modern biological research. We emphasise the non-universal character of animal work before going on to discuss the ideas of universal machines in Capek and Turing giving as a counter example a cloth-folding robot being developed in our School. We then return to Watt and discuss the development of thermodynamics and information theory. We show how recent research has led to a unification not only of these fields but also a unitary understanding of the labour process and the value-creation process. We look at the implications of general robotisation for profitability and the future of capitalism. For this we draw on the work of von Neumann not only on computers but also in economics to point to the {\em real} threat posed by robots.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Cockshott, Dr William and Renaud, Professor Karen
Authors: Cockshott, P., and Renaud, K.
Subjects:B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
T Technology > T Technology (General)
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Computing Science
Journal Name:Technology in Society
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0160-791X
ISSN (Online):1879-3274
Published Online:27 February 2016
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2016 Elsevier
First Published:First published in Technology in Society 45:19-28
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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