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Open Thread for Night Owls
Frank Pasquale writes:
Among the billionaires at the vanguard of global capital, Terry Gou of Hon Hai (also known as Foxconn) deserves special recognition for his honesty. "Hon Hai has a workforce of over one million worldwide and as human beings are also animals, to manage one million animals gives me a headache," said the chairman. His company has also begun building "an empire of robots" to replace a whining workforce. [...]
When workers are already treated as machines, perhaps their replacement by robots should be a cause for celebration. But the question then becomes: what do the displaced do for a living? Is there an alternative to exploitation?

Writers in the more rarefied precincts of technology studies tend to praise the fading boundaries between man, machine, and beast. However, it's by no means a foregone conclusion that animals' interests will be vindicated by the legal order, or robots treated with the simulacrum of respect that their simulacrum of humanity merits. To the extent the bulk of humanity is being recognized as "dependent rational animals," those in authority tend to agree with Gou's approach more than Alasdair MacIntyre's.

Expect more speed-up in the developed world, as thought leaders decree that Americans must become "ten times more productive" if they dare demand wages ten times higher than those prevailing among the bullied and battered workers at the bottom of the supply chain. That's our future, unless we can continue to rally around a sense of social minimums due to each person qua person. That motivates my interest in positive rights, and the fantastic discussion that followed this post on the topic. Richard Posner once said that "Most of us would think it downright offensive to give greater rights to ... computers than to retarded people, upon a showing that ... [they have] a greater cognitive capacity than a profoundly retarded human being.” Similarly, global priorities are troublingly scrambled if the construction of a "robot empire" is more pressing than the establishment of humane and secure living conditions for those whose work created the wealth that makes the "empire" possible. [...]


Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2008:

[...]This incident — I can recount a dozen others I’ve witnessed in the 21st Century — made me ponder a great deal the theme I’ve heard so much of recently, on-line and off, that race and racism have been transcended in America. That we no longer need to talk about these matters because, well, because talking about them only engenders bad feelings about something that is fixed except in a few backward locales by people who will be dead soon anyway. That, 45 years after the summer day Reverend King made that soaring speech on the Washington Mall, his dream is wholly achieved.

Nobody can deny that tremendous progress has been made. Progress that is a testament both to the message of universal legal equality in the nation’s founding document and two centuries of fierce and costly struggle by people of color and their white allies to transform that message into reality. A testament to people’s willingness to change themselves, to surrender their prejudices and fears, to recognize injustice and do something about it, even to give up their lives if that’s what it takes. That progress cannot be sneered at. It reflects an America and Americans of all colors at their best.

Racism nonetheless remains a chronic influence in our lives. Yet many white people say they don’t want to talk about race. They say they’re sick of talking about it. That stuff is all in the past, they say, and wonder aloud why we can’t talk about something else. I think what most are really saying is that they don’t want to listen to talk about race.


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