Will Machines Replace Humans?
For the final part of Cultural Ecology 2017 we used anthropological work to speculate on big questions about the future of life in the Anthropocene. A big question: Will Machines Replace Humans?
The two readings were
- An essay by Tim Ingold, “Tools, minds and machines: An excursion in the philosophy of technology” in The Perception of the Environment: Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill
- Anna Tsing pp.1-26 in The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins
Recent advances in automation and robotics have reinvigorated the question of “will machines replace humans?” To understand this question, Ingold revisits Heilbronner’s classic 1967 article “Do machines make history?” as well as investigating interpretations of Karl Marx’s analysis of capitalism. This takes us into the long history of efforts to define tool, machine, and technology. What is a tool? What differentiates a tool from a machine? Since all humans use tools, does that mean all humans have a technology? Unpacking these previous ideas regarding technological determinism will enable us to better answer the question of “will machines replace humans?”
Resources for “Will machines replace humans?”
See Devaluing Human Labor by Shuang Frost (August 2017). Frost argues:
This newest wave of displacement is not necessarily a bad thing. Like technological innovations of the past, advances in AI have the potential to free us humans from certain repetitive tasks and enable us to focus on more creative work. However, it is important to consider how the benefits of technologies are distributed and to recognize the value of the knowledge and skills that ordinary workers bring to this socio-technological transition.