The video below is of robots at work at a Mercedes factory in Stuttgart in Germany. Intervention has captioned it as “From ‘Men @ work’ to ‘Robots @ work’ at a Mercedes factory in Stuttgart in Germany. What message does it send to everyone?
Students of global security are busy studying climate change, terrorism, energy politics, migration, urban militarism, global health and so on. They call these ‘new security challenges’ as opposed to old security challenges such as nuclear armament and great power violence. It would now seem they have missed out a key threat: the reality of robots and the threat to human labour. With employment already a marker of the crisis of capitalism, it would be interesting to know the empirics of the threat.
It should take some time for the side-effects to hit Africa but, in an interpenetrating world, who can be sure of what geographical shape the robotic inferno would assume? As the giant of Africa, Nigeria ought to be the country whose think tanks, research outfits, universities, the labour centres, the Nigerian military and even the Nigerian government are engaging with and reflecting on the potentials, dimensions, risks and related issues around robotics. Might this already be going on quietly or we are still sleeping slumber, (apologies to Chief Zebrudaya) until the consequences begin to manifest in this though completely pre-industrial economy? Such researches and reflections are no secrets but issues to be shouted at the roof tops because it is our funeral.
The interaction between human beings and technology remains a complex issue. So complex that a domain has been carved out for it in scholarship. Man and machine do not have an interfacing relationship. Machine, technology or materials have yet to develop the capacity to negotiate terms with humans. Yet, they can overwhelm man, such as when an air crash kills the president of a country. Such can be unsettling of the order. Now, robots have been put in place to take jobs that human beings took for granted. What might be the implications? Are there intervening variables that would mediate all these or we should just prepare for the worst, taking it that human labour is finally doomed, first in the centres of global industrial economies, followed by the global borderlands such as the poverty stricken, unstable polities in Africa? Is capitalism finally set to destroy the world as Marx predicted? Or, is it capitalism that is finally on the bend to self-destruction?