Degrowth in the age of artificial intelligence

Salvador Pueyo

Tuesday 3rd July, 12.00-13.30, Cerbère

Hardware performance has increased a trillion times in a person’s lifespan, and software is not falling behind. Both have contributed to the recent breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI). The degrowth movement needs to take into account that, in coming decades, when the alternatives that it promotes could ideally become mainstream, the technological landscape will probably be radically different, including much more advanced AI. This is strategically relevant. AIs are not mere tools to execute some people’s decisions, since AI also permits the automation of decisions. The fact that this automation of decisions is occurring in a capitalist context might have irreversible consequences. We will explore future implications of AI in capitalism, and alternative paths. Will increasing efficiency in resource use solve environmental problems or magnify them? Will natural resource limits pose limits to AI? Will AI, perhaps, keep developing but be applied more selectively? If machines become much more capable but are resource-expensive, will they still perform repetitive tasks while more sophisticated tasks are left to people, or will it be the other way round? Will thus the jobs of elites, including CEOs, disappear? Will new forms of automated labour management imply even more precariousness? Will anybody be able to resist advanced forms of targeted advertising? Will anybody be in command? Will people count as anything else than human resources for automated firms competing to grow? Will anybody benefit, or will a technologically advanced capitalism harm the interests of everybody including capitalists? The latter question opens a window of hope. Could capitalism become worse than anticapitalist alternatives even for the economic elites? If so, do social movements now have a unique opportunity to overcome resistances to social change along the lines of degrowth? Which are the best strategies to benefit from this opportunity? Everybody’s feedbacks will be welcome, especially about the last question.

Recommended readings

Pueyo, S. In press. Growth, degrowth, and the challenge of artificial superintelligence. Journal of Cleaner Production. DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2016.12.138 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2016.12.138>