It’s hard to write about this topic without sounding like the synopsis of a Black Mirror episode. But the truth is, the impact that AI could have on the workplace may be as disturbingly dystopian as Charlie Brooker’s prophecies.
Introducing AI makes perfect sense, economically. They have no rights, they can work nonstop, and they require no pay other than intermediate maintenance. A boom in productivity and efficiency, without the hassle of labour and human rights. A capitalist utopia!
Placing AI within a capitalist system already based on exploitative labour will be disastrous to say the least.
So why wouldn’t today’s entrepreneurs jump on the bandwagon? Google, Microsoft, Apple; all the huge conglomerates currently dominating the market have been researching into the new technology heavily. AI is likely to start infiltrating the labour market and contributing to manufacture and services soon.
Now, this article isn’t just another baby boomer clickbait, stating that technology is making kids violent. Technology isn’t inherently evil. It is a neutral entity, and one that can be used for great good. Leaps in medical technology cannot be ignored. The potential for these new technologies, such as artificial organs, pose for saving lives cannot be ignored.
Yet context can usurp technology. Placing AI within a capitalist system already based on exploitative labour will be disastrous to say the least.
AI will take jobs, there is no lie in that. They are more efficient and require no pay or rest breaks, like their human counterparts. They will have a specific impact on lower paid jobs in manufacture and processing. These require no extra skill level and rest already on fragile contracts. This new labour force will appropriate these jobs, to the detriment of mass human unemployment.
More seriously, labour rights will suffer with the use of AI. Richer companies will be able to transfer their labour needs to AI, causing mass redundancy at the same time as increased productivity from their new ‘workers’. Richer companies will thus profit disproportionately from AI within the global marketplace.
A race to the bottom will ensue with smaller companies that cannot afford to buy or develop AI. If they cannot respond to heightened productivity with AI, they will have to resort to their current human force. If AI don’t need breaks or rights, neither do the people. Labour and environmental rights will plummet as companies attempt to compete with the most recent technological onslaught.
This is just the most recent development in a capitalist system in which cycles of great technological development bring greater human costs. However, AI may have the greatest impact compared to any other invention.
They are the closest we have got to self-sustaining technology. Once we achieve this goal, the need for human workers in any capacity will be made redundant. The impact this will have on global labour forces and their rights cannot be understated.