Machines and the end of work?

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Economic Geography Specialty Group, Development Geographies Specialty Group, Socialist and Critical Geography Specialty Group, Careers and Professional Development
Poster #:
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM (Eastern Standard Time)
Room: Riverview I, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 41st Floor
Organizers: Aman Luthra, Clayton Rosati
Chairs: Clayton Rosati


The contemporary press is continually peppered with reports of artificial intelligence destroying the landscape of work as we know it (digital and traditional). Some estimate that 30-50% of existing jobs might be lost to automation. Indeed, for over two hundred years, the Luddite fallacy—that machines would replace labor—continues to capture the imaginations of many. Exacerbated by increasing levels of automation, and progress in artificial intelligence, fears of machines taking over the world abound in literary, cinematic, and even academic accounts of an apparent ‘societal’ march towards an impending and inevitable dystopian future. The scholarly and activist enthusiasm of a decade and more ago about “Fragment on Machines” from the Grundrisse present a utopian version of this. Yet, Marx’s insights into the tendency for capital to reabsorb productivity gains from technological innovation into creating more work—in quantity, intensity, and increasing precariousness—hold true now perhaps just as much, if not more. Bill Gates, among other scientists and corporate leaders are already contributing to public discussions about how to maintain the capitalist process during and after this disruption. This session is dedicated to exploring many questions that machines pose for the political economy of contemporary labor processes in diverse contexts across the globe. Some of these questions might be:

How are new kinds of ‘machines’ changing the nature of work in new ways?
What is the role of organized labor in this new landscape of work?
What kinds of radical possibilities do ‘machines’ hold for imagining alternatives to capitalism?
How will (or not) promises of a universal basic income gain political momentum or stand up to the perennial fear of inflation?
What is the relationship between a post-work world and (inter)nationalism and sovereignty?
How will the cultural changes brought by new forms of automation encounter property, culture industries, and leisure?
Are there trends that might suggest machines will or will not become crucial to social justice movements, transforming conflict, and the spatial organization of everyday life?


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Aman Luthra*, Kalamazoo College, Domesticating responsibility: Segregation at-source, reproductive labor and the waste management machine in urban India 15 5:20 PM
Discussant Kafui Attoh CUNY Murphy Institute 20 5:35 PM
Presenter Jamie Peck*, University of British Columbia, On the road to Robotistan? 15 5:55 PM
Presenter Matthew Thomann*, Kalamazoo College, PrEP as machine: The biomedical turn and the end of HIV prevention labor 15 6:10 PM
Presenter Clayton Rosati*, Bowling Green State University, Cylon Troll in the Revolutionary Council: Spectacle, AI, and the "Autonomous Movement of Non-Life" 15 6:25 PM
Presenter Adrienne Pine*, American University, and the Deskilling of the Professoriate 15 6:40 PM

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