Note — Oct 07, 2018

The Automation Charade

Seen in → No.52

Source →

After tryborgs last week, this time we have fauxtomation. Both are reframing tech narratives to take into account the perspective of overlooked or purposefully ignored segments of the population. This one is quite fascinating for its historical perspective on the language and promise around automation vs what it has actually represented and how we should use that perspective to re-evaluate our expectations of automation and our understanding of the business forces behind it. (Fauxtomation refers to things presented as automated where in reality labor is “simply” hidden.)

Automation is both a reality and an ideology, and thus also a weapon wielded against poor and working people who have the audacity to demand better treatment, or just the right to subsist.

We must also reckon with the ideology of automation, and its attendant myth of human obsolescence. […]

The gap between advertising copy and reality can be risible. But fauxtomation also has a more nefarious purpose. It reinforces the perception that work has no value if it is unpaid and acclimates us to the idea that one day we won’t be needed. […]

We are more important and powerful than we have been led to believe—and the we in question here is no longer the marginalized ranks of women performing reproductive labor, but increasingly the postindustrial precariat at large. […]

Fauxtomation must be seen as part of that tendency. It manifests every time we check out and bag our own groceries or order a meal through an online delivery service. These sorts of examples abound to the point of being banal. Indeed, they crowd our vision in virtually every New Economy transaction once we clue into their existence. […]

The phrase “robots are taking our jobs” gives technology agency it doesn’t (yet?) possess, whereas “capitalists are making targeted investments in robots designed to weaken and replace human workers so they can get even richer” is less catchy but more accurate. […]