Karl Marx should have been born a Millennial
Our automated future is coming. In fact, under most of our awareness, automation has already begun to negatively impact the middle and lower classes’ economic viability. This is to be expected. Karl Marx speculated this one hundred and fifty years ago. He was just a bit early that’s all.
If Karl Marx had been born a Millennial his theories would evolve with what humanity is seeing as the “elimination of work”; eliminated through the automation, the robotization of all human labor. He would have been witness to the fulfillment of what I propose is the much maligned dream of humanity — Communism.
Communism … As the development of the productive forces end scarcity, goods and services are made available on the basis of free access. … The result is communism: a stateless, classless and moneyless society, structured upon common ownership of the means of production.
The “development of the productive forces.” Or in other words, full on robotic automation of all labor.
If you read more of that segment found on Wikipedia you’ll realize that Marx theorized that capitalism was a transition component in the development of humanity’s ultimate economic state; the state of equality. How prophetic his thoughts seem today. But during Marx’s era the possibility that labor could be automated, releasing all humans from the drudgery of work-a-day manual toil was only a dream. Any attempt to circumvent automation and jump straight to Communism was doomed. Work had to get done and back then humans were the only source of labor for such work. Yet, humans are greedy. Most people would work but some wouldn’t. Some would rather oversee than work. Greedy humans in positions of authority in a communist state are destined to corrupt the economic machine (just as humans in a capitalistic state are also destined to corrupt — to their benefit — their own economic machine.)
But if Marx were, oh, say 25 today, he could bear witness to the burgeoning disassembly of labor. A disassembly orchestrated and funded by capitalism. For what fundamental tenet governs capitalism but the drive to increase profits through the maximization of productivity and the minimization of costs. And the greatest cost to capitalists is — labor. And what means of the elimination of labor is favored by all? Automation. “All” you say? Why yes, we all ache for the elimination of labor. Labor that we each cringe from, labor we all dread (farm, yard, industrial, cleansing, preparation, etc.) labor no one enjoys, labor that we do because we must not because we want to.
So human labor is destined for elimination. This is a good thing, eventually. The transition from here to there however, is going to be fraught with unrest, and there is a possibility that humanity fails to make the full transition. But for the sake of argument, let’s say we do…
Let’s jump forward to a time when our Millennial Marx is now 75 years old, what might he see?
- Raw foods are grown, harvested, processed, shipped and used in automated end product food factories producing breads, cereals, cheeses, juices, sauces, meat substitutes, and fresh and frozen entrees of every cultural origin — which are delivered to your doorstep, free of charge.
- Every community is clean and manicured, every domicile is cleansed and vacuumed, every transportation hub is spotless as are all the roads, buildings and public spaces — all sanitized and purified for free.
- Transportation to anywhere is free.
- Materials to create anything you might fancy with regards to the arts or creativity — free.
- Your health, monitored and maintained all at no cost.
All this and more provided for by the complete automation of human labor by the creation of a multi-billion strong robotic workforce. Created by the capitalists, true, but unbeknownst to them created for the benefit of all. And the only contention still held by humans is where and for how long they live. The old adage, location, location, location, can never fully be equalized. But a lottery with timed stays can solve this without too much strife.
What our Karl might observe is a society where there truly are no “have-nots.” Where resources are shared without the need for social stratification based on wealth. Where, aside from the location x 3 issue, the only other conflict is the political squabbling regarding issues driven by weather or environmental calamity such as hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes.
This world, that our now old Marx might smile over, certainly looks a lot like Communism.
However, the vast and ugly missing piece in this bucolic scene looms as an ominous storm cloud over the whole story; why would capitalists ever surrender their ever increasing profits as automation expands and eliminates the need for human labor? Is this Marxist premise not the exact opposite of what capitalism represents? That is, profit above all, profit for profit’s sake? I agree. Our Millennial Marx may never experience humanity’s vision of equality, its communistic future for the indomitable greed of humans. But I ask you, when half or more of the world’s people are jobless, wageless, homeless and starving all due to the robotization of labor what else can society do but to complete the capitalistic rainbow and evolve into Communism?
The evolution of human economic systems may indeed drift toward Communism by this very simple eventuality: the automation and robotization of labor.
What happens when 50% or more of all work is being done by billions of laborbots? When the picking and cleaning and processing and packing and shipping and handling of most stuffs is all done by a workforce built by capitalists in the name of productivity and cost reduction — what happens to the billions of people who no longer work? Indeed when all food stuffs are grown and harvested and shipped by robots who is to benefit? Should food then be free? And what of all the other necessities and sundries? When the clothing bots, the shoe bots, the tool, toys and gadget bots; what happens when all of these bots produce all of this stuff for the industrial production owners? What shall the people do to earn a wage to buy such stuff? Should these items too be free?
When the means of production are robots — who shall benefit? The capitalists who own the production? But to whom can they sell their stuffs without a populace with working wages to buy it? Or should the people benefit having the means of production passed to communal ownership for the benefit of all? There may not be a choice in the end.