July 2024 Forums General discussion ChatGPT

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    I am trying to work why all those experts in AI and the bosses of the giant tech companies are warning against the potential threat to humanity from AI. Even science fiction speculation about intelligent machines taking over the world and make humanity extinct. Since that would be a long way off, even if technologically possible, there must be some other reasons for their campaign.

    I can see, too, that it will be a threat to so-called “intellectual property rights” (which are entirely artificial) and that people in that field will want to slow it down. But it’s not them that are kicking up a fuss about it. It’s the tech companies themselves.

    The only ulterior motive I can think of is that it’s a publicity stunt to get everybody talking about AI with a view to them selling more of it.


    I’m sure there are lots of sci-fi examples of AI.
    My favourites are E.M. Forster’s, The Machine Stops.
    Brian W. Aldiss, Comic Inferno and HAL (IBM) the sentient computer in 2001 a space odyssey.
    Do Asimov’s Robots fall into that category?
    Would workers be classed as Luddite for resisting the implementation of technology which was rather more clever than the self service payment points in supermarkets?
    If more and more workers are sacked and machines or AI replace them where does surplus value come from?
    Has there been an article explaining all this?


    If more and more workers are sacked and machines or AI replace them where does surplus value come from?

    Being a product of labour, a machine like every other commodity contains value in addition to its use-value. That value is determined by the amount of socially necessary labour required to produce the machine. During the productive process, the machine wears out, and has to be replaced in the course of time. It follows then that the machine cannot pass on any more value than that which is contained within it in the first place. The machine is used in the production of commodities, and it gradually by stages, perhaps over years or decades, comes to the end of its working life. But during its working life it has added value to the particular commodity for which it was designed. Each of the commodities, therefore, has consumed part of the value of the machine, and consequently the machine has transferred its value to the products.

    Socialist Economics: 4 – Do Machines Produce Surplus Value


    There is also this more recent article:

    Cooking the Books 2


    Last June’s Socialist Standard was a special issue on AI in which the point, among others, was made that

    “The idea of the whole working class being replaced by intelligent robots is also a fantasy. AI equipment, like all machines, does not create any new value (transfer any new labour to the product) and so no surplus value; it just transfers gradually the labour expended from start to finish to make it. If production were fully automated, no surplus value would be produced, so there would be no profits and capitalism would no longer exist. Not that there is any chance of capitalism evolving into a ‘fully automated’ economy. This could only come into being if, at some point in the future after the abolition of capitalism, socialist society were to decide to go down that route (not an evident decision) and establish ‘fully automated luxury communism’. At the present time, given the low level of productivity compared to what it would need to be for that, this is science fiction. Humans are still going to have to have a substantial direct input into production for a long time to come, even after socialism has been established.”

    There is nothing wrong with AI as such. Any danger will come from capitalism’s misuse of the technology as it has done over nuclear energy and drones.

    If the AI scientists are concerned about the threat of human extinction they’d be better concentrating on the less remote possibility that one of capitalism’s inevitable war ends up being nuclear. That could happen now while their imagined extinction of humans by intelligent robots would be centuries away.

    No. 1414 June 2022


    Here’s a more measured approach to Artificial Intelligence than that of those who say that research into it should be paused because it could lead to the creation of a superintelligence capable of making humanity extinct;

    Of course research into AI should continue even if we know that under capitalism it is likely to be misused (as it already is, as in the drone war in Ukraine). The same machine decision-making technology would be of great help in a socialist world in making decisions about the production and distribution of wealth without buying and selling.


    Just looking at the quote from the last June´s SS and this in particular:

    “If production were fully automated, no surplus value would be produced, so there would be no profits and capitalism would no longer exist.”

    It strikes me that a more potent pressure on surplus value than automation and the changing organic composition of capital might be the growth of unproductive labour versus productive labour. I recall that Marxist economist, Fred Moseley, has written something about this but has anyone come across any comparative studies on the relative effect of these two factors?

    I agree though that there are always counteracting tendencies to the tendency for the rate of profit to fall. The more it does so the stronger these counter tendencies. As so often happens it’s a case of water finding its own level under capitalism….


    Won’t it rather be the other way round, ie more surplus value as it grows being diverted into unproductive (of more surplus value) activities rather than the growth of these putting pressure on surplus value? Or maybe that’s just saying the thing from a different angle.

    This was also discussed in two book reviews on the February 2021 Socialist Standard. Both authors reach the same conclusion that the increased productivity brought about by automation has not resulted either in more for everyone nor in mass unemployment but in more low paid and precarious jobs (sone of which of course will be productive).

    Benanav writes as a declared socialist (in our sense) arguing at the end for a society of common ownership and free access. He used to be a member of the group Endnotes (

    Capitalism and Automation: Progress Perverted

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