For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Labor automation for fair cooperation: Why and how machines should provide meaningful work for all"

by Celentano, Denise (2023)


By affecting work, resources, organizations, and people's lives, automation processes can be disruptive of the basic structure of society. Nonetheless, we may benefit from this disruption, as automation may offer opportunities to make social cooperation fairer. Just as philosophers have addressed the problem of which values and principles should regulate the distribution of goods, so we may consider the problem of the values and principles guiding technological change with regard to work. Indeed, automation is often addressed from a distributive perspective. A prevailing concern in the debate is about making sure that the technologically unemployed will not lose access to income through unconditional redistributive policies, while some have suggested policies like a “robot tax” to disincentivize companies' investment in labor-saving devices. While crucial given the massive increase in profits afforded by automation and the inequalities that go with it, concerns about income are not the only ones raised by automation. Without underestimating their relevance, in this article I leave aside problems about income to focus on automation from the perspective of work. That is, my concern here is on social cooperation from the perspective of contribution instead of distribution, within a framework that may be called technological contributive justice. If UBI advocates expect everyone to benefit from automation in their income, the contributive perspective postulates that everyone should benefit from automation in their work. There are three main reasons behind this shift. First, even in a world in which income were unconditionally accessible to all, there would be the problem of how to fairly organize the unautomated socially necessary labor (e.g., waste collection, care work, etc.). I call this the Received: 14 November 2022 Revised: 27 July 2023 Accepted: 7 August 2023


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Meaningful Work, Automation

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