For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Robots and AI at work: the prospects for singularity"

by Upchurch, Martin (2018)


This paper seeks to address emerging debates and controversies on the impact of robots and artificial intelligence on the world of work. Longer term discussions of technological ‘singularity’ are considered alongside the socio‐technical and economic constraints on the application of robotics and AI . Evidence of robot ‘take‐up’ is gathered from reports of the International Federation of Robotics and from case vignettes reported elsewhere. In assessing the contemporary relationship between singularity, robotics and AI , the article reflects briefly on the two ‘tests’ of artificial ‘intelligence’ proposed by the pioneer computer scientist Alan Turing, and comments on the efficacy of his ‘tests’ in contemporary applications. The paper continues by examining aspects of public policy and concludes that technological singularity is far from imminent.

Key Passage

Apart from the effect on jobs, debate has focused on the disruptive and potentially transformative effect of robotics and AI not only on the world of work but society more generally. We have seen the introduction of new concepts fed by knowledge- based digital work such as ‘immaterial’ (Hardt and Negri, 2000) or ‘free’ labour (Terranova, 2003), as well as a description of a new form of ‘technological singularity’. Singularity refers to an end- point which, in the words of Good (1965) envisages a world where everything is done and made by an ultra- intelligent machine able to ‘surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever……..(so that) the intelligence of man would be left far behind’. The debate has entered popular journalism, with a vision of ‘post- capitalism’ introduced by Paul Mason to include a vision ‘whereby human labour becomes redundant, the long- term tendency of the rate of profit to fall is consequently made obsolete, and where knowledge- driven production tends toward the unlimited creation of wealth, independent of the labour expended’. (Mason, 2015: 136). (p.206)


Artificial Intelligence, New Technology, Technology, Robotics, Automation


Robots, Automation

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