The comrades who wrote this article have opened up an important debate about the role of technology in communist society. We invite all readers to discuss this and write more about it. – RF Editorial Collective
Artificial intelligence (AI) and its sub-fields, machine learning (ML) and deep learning (DL) are buzzwords popular in corporate circles. There are promises of greater profits for shareholders. There is talk of even more leisure and disposable income for CEOs and Boards of Directors, freed of their “bondage” to the “nuisance” of underpaid, undertrained labor.
ML has been used in the last couple of years in everything from self-driving cars to frivolous shopping and music recommendation engines, from voice recognition to tumor recognition in medical imaging. ML means that algorithms can be taught a computing task based on training data. This allows the algorithm to “learn” from massive datasets and become better at the task.
As expected with capitalism, the motivation to use these technologies is not the benefits to humanity. Its falling computer hardware prices. It’s the expectation of higher profits by eliminating labor and selling more, unnecessary, stuff to unsuspecting consumers.
A communist society will use AI techniques (and the enormous amounts of computing and electrical power necessary to run them) for the benefit of all living beings. They won’t be used for warmongering and profits for the few.
AI will be used for repetitive, tedious and dangerous tasks that can indeed benefit from computing. These could include tumor detection and finding optimal mixes of bacteria in soil to grow plants suited for particular climates and geography. Robots will be used to aid differently-abled people or perform dangerous work.
The mathematical techniques for ML and DL have been around for decades. But their use was not profitable because they are computationally expensive. Hardware like multi-core chips, parallel processing cards and FPGA were not cheap enough. As hardware has become cheaper, capitalists are finding ways to make these techniques profitable.
ML techniques are statistical. They need to be combined with heuristics (“rules of thumb”). So, they are notoriously susceptible to the social biases of designers and the profit motives of investors. This is especially dangerous when ML is used to make bail, sentencing and parole decisions in courts. It can be deadly when routing algorithms send overworked truckers with heavy loads on dangerous “fastest” routes for the sake of profits.
AI in general relies on massive datasets from which to learn and make recommendations. This has spawned an entire industry of rogues dedicated to mining data and selling it to anyone that will buy it. When an eager consumer signs up for free email service or free social media or a free credit report, they are signing away access to every aspect of their lives.
Private companies like the notorious Palantir, mine and sell all this data to the capitalist security and corporate establishments from Washington DC to London to Riyadh. This is the well-oiled axis of war-mongering capitalism. Amazon just signed a $10B contract with the US Department of Defense to provide cloud computing power. This will enable the US military, among other things, to send autonomous drones to identify ‘enemies’ and make the decision to kill them.
Under communism economic planners will use AI to help allocate resources equitably. AI will help optimize production of the things needed to make life comfortable and sustainable.
Public transportation systems will benefit greatly from ML. Environmentally-friendly, optimized modes of free and safe, autonomous public transportation will ply the streets, and perhaps the oceans and the skies.
Data will be controlled and mined by rigorously and ethically trained workers. They will use and improve AI techniques to find better diagnostics and therapeutics for diseases, optimize environmentally friendly supply chains and make manufacturing and agriculture more sustainable.
A communist society using and improving AI techniques will modulate the inevitable, extreme effects of global warming and help more living beings survive.
Above all, a communist society aided by ethical AI and robotics, freed from the fatal burden of capitalist profits, will finally give everyone the leisure to relate to each other outside of crass, capitalist commodity consumption. It will allow everyone’s needs to be met and allow all living beings to lead dignified, sustainable and fulfilling lives.
Labor Creates All Wealth