Today's New York Times Sunday, 11/25,/2012, John Markoff
“Using an artificial intelligence technique inspired by theories about how the brain recognizes
patterns, technology companies are reporting startling gains in fields as diverse as computer
vision, speech recognition and the identification of promising new molecules for designing
drugs. The advances have led to widespread enthusiasm among researchers who design software
to perform human activities like seeing, listening and thinking. They offer the promise of
machines that converse with humans and perform tasks like driving cars and working in
factories, raising the specter of automated robots that could replace human workers.”
The article goes on to acknowledge that “misplaced enthusiasm” followed by “equally striking
declines” have been regular occurrences over the past few decades (“In the 1980s, a wave of
commercial start-ups collapsed, leading to what some people called the “A.I. [artificial
But what researchers have called “deep learning” has reached a new stage characterized by
growing speed and accuracy of so-called “neural nets” for their “resemblance to the neural
connections in the brain”.
These developments are coming on the heels of an important body of work by economists, which
demonstrate that in a deviation from earlier post-World War II trends, an outcome of the 3 recent
recessions since the 1990s (and their aftermath) has been automation and thus elimination of
middle-class jobs. See for example: Henry Siu, Nir Jaimovich, 6 November 2012, Vox:
“Structural change in the labour market is clearly manifesting itself in the business cycle. The
long-term decline in routine occupations is occurring in spurts - employment in these jobs is lost
during recessions. The reach of job polarisation is wide. Automation and the adoption of
computing technology is leading to the decline of middle-wage jobs of many stripes, both blue-
collar jobs in production and maintenance occupations and white-collar jobs in office and
administrative support. It is affecting both male- and female-dominated professions and it is
happening broadly across industries –manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, financial
services, and even public administration.”:
Recent discussions on this list have included the relevance of Keynesian theories and polices in
the current economy, such as full-employment goals.
Perhaps, given the historical data that has been coming to light, these goals have become utopian.
In contrast, a reexamination of Marx’s “mature critical theory” (Postone) may be more relevant,
in which, “Free time -- which is leisure time as well as time for higher activity -- transforms its
possessor into a different subject and he then enters into the direct production process as this
different subject” (Grundrisse).