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Oscar Wilde describes Technism in 1891

technism automation Oscar Wilde 1890s socialism labor FALC robotics slavery old-school futurism

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Yuli Ban

Yuli Ban

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Originally from: https://www.reddit.c...ally_called_it/

Originally originaly from: https://en.wikipedia...under_Socialism


All unintellectual labour, all monotonous, dull labour, all labour that deals with dreadful things, and involves unpleasant conditions, must be done by machinery. Machinery must work for us in coal mines, and do all sanitary services, and be the stoker of steamers, and clean the streets, and run messages on wet days, and do anything that is tedious or distressing. At present machinery competes against man. Under proper conditions machinery will serve man. There is no doubt at all that this is the future of machinery, and just as trees grow while the country gentleman is asleep, so while Humanity will be amusing itself, or enjoying cultivated leisure – which, and not labour, is the aim of man – or making beautiful things, or reading beautiful things, or simply contemplating the world with admiration and delight, machinery will be doing all the necessary and unpleasant work. The fact is, that civilisation requires slaves. The Greeks were quite right there. Unless there are slaves to do the ugly, horrible, uninteresting work, culture and contemplation become almost impossible. Human slavery is wrong, insecure, and demoralising. On mechanical slavery, on the slavery of the machine, the future of the world depends. And when scientific men are no longer called upon to go down to a depressing East End and distribute bad cocoa and worse blankets to starving people, they will have delightful leisure in which to devise wonderful and marvellous things for their own joy and the joy of everyone else. There will be great storages of force for every city, and for every house if required, and this force man will convert into heat, light, or motion, according to his needs.


I especially want to direct your attention towards this passage:



The fact is, that civilisation requires slaves. The Greeks were quite right there. Unless there are slaves to do the ugly, horrible, uninteresting work, culture and contemplation become almost impossible. Human slavery is wrong, insecure, and demoralising. On mechanical slavery, on the slavery of the machine, the future of the world depends.


Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. This is precisely what's been on my mind for the better part of a month and part of what I'd been thinking about yesterday when I mentioned those 21k words I wrote. After reading several biographies and accounts from African-American writers of the 19th century, I came to two conclusions:


1: slavery is utterly horrible and one of the worst behaviors displayed by humans

2: slavery is needed for civilization to function


The Industrial Revolution allowed us to prosper with wage slavery rather than chattel slavery, but generally it's understood that most humans have to be precisely where they are. The promise of a free market economy that anyone can make it and become rich by starting their own business is enticing, but the cold fact is that by nature it requires some people never achieve this dream no matter what they do. It's to its benefit that many people are lazy, unmotivated, and/or uninterested in seeking excessive riches but that's not actually why these things persist. 

If everyone who wants to be rich were an industrialist or poet-warrior, who cleans the streets? Who serves the cheeseburgers and fries? Who dives into the sewers to clear away boluses of fecal sludge? Who climbs the trees to clear away squirrel poop from transformers?


So by nature, some people will be forced to do the jobs no one specifically wants to do. No one wants to climb into a manhole and perform maintenance down there. No one wants to clean the infected grease from oil vats. No one wants to clean cattle ass with an intestinal brush. No one wants to throw baby chickens into a grinder... okay, maybe some do, but my point is, society can only function if there are low-wage/no-wage workers able to do these things. Wage slavery differs from chattel slavery in that you receive payment in return for this but it's still something you don't necessarily want to do and you're still beholden to certain economic factors. Essentially, masters rent their slaves rather than buy them. And this leads to alienation, depression, suicidal madness, etc. and doesn't allow people to reach their potential. And because society needs wage slavery for the economy to function (try running a multinational multi-billion dollar business conglomerate by yourself without any other workers), even the most humane capitalists and socialistic utopianists have to abide by it. With chattel slavery, you reduce the number of consumers and limit capital growth, so it really isn't in a capitalist nation's best interest to utilize chattel slavery. Wage slavery allows the slaves to amass some level of capital by themselves. Capitalism cannot exist without wage slavery and, thus, so many abuses.



Unless, of course, you replace "humans" with "machines". All of a sudden, so many moral arguments against capitalism collapse and capitalism itself merges into some sort of hybrid system closer to but still not quite socialism. It doesn't even happen because of government intervention— it just happens by nature. It has to happen just like how things fall towards the center of a gravitational field or wage slavery arises in capitalism to keep things functional. There's still the question of how capital is owned— after automation spreads about and there arises a mechanized slave class, do all humans become masters or only an elite few with the masses held somewhere between pacification through charity or total extermination? If you think of slavery today in Africa and the Middle East, I can only see that ending in extermination. But in wage-slave nations, I can see the former or even communalized ownership taking place. But that's another debate.


My argument is that slavery will make a comeback, and very soon at that. Not only will it come back but it ought to come back. We ought to enslave the machines at the earliest opportunity. 

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And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future.



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Even without automation I don't believe civilization requires slavery to function, this is a fallacy akin to, this thing is observed to always act this way therefore it must always act this way. Until it doesn't, and the whole argument collapses upon itself. Yes, feudalistic civilization, classical civilization and capitalistic civilization all require this trait in some form. That doesn't mean we as humans have to act any which way, our material conditions are directly influenced by how we interact with them. Ursula K. Le Guin's The Dispossessed is but one thought experiment about how society could structure itself in a way that's fair to everyone, with some room for an esoteric physicist or two of course. And remember, the society outlined in her novel is dirt poor, we'd do so much better on a world with abundant resources like Earth.


"If everyone who wants to be rich were an industrialist or poet-warrior, who cleans the streets? Who serves the cheeseburgers and fries? Who dives into the sewers to clear away boluses of fecal sludge? Who climbs the trees to clear away squirrel poop from transformers?"


To directly answer your quote, we all clean the streets, we cook our own damn food or take turns doing it, same with cleaning shit. Maybe the population would find it worth while to design infrastructure that doesn't need to be maintained so often in such gruesome ways if they had to actually do the work themselves. I'm sure we could design a sewer that doesn't clog or just put our power lines underground, these sound like engineering/organizational problems not products of cosmic natural laws. I understand that without automation there is always going to be some gruesome work that needs to be done, but there's nothing wrong with our poet-warriors and great scientists also having to spend a few hours a week working like everyone else. Maybe we reward the most gruesome of work by making it more valuable and thereby removing every citizen from the responsibility to do it. As in, where a hypothetical communist society might require 15-20 hours of labour every other week from its citizens--if a citizen opts to take a tour of gruesome work for a month or two they don't have to work the rest of the year, and that's only one idea. This all has to do with destigmatizing this sort of labour, it's not dishonorable for a scientist or artist or any other esteemed person to shovel shit, in fact I'd say it's dishonorable for them to refuse helping a bit if it needs to be done and no one else wants to. We should carry our burdens together, and the only thing stopping us if our culture.


I agree with a lot of what you said, capitalism requiring wage slavery. Questions about how wage slave nations react in comparison to actual slave nations as the economy starts to automate en-mass. NeoFeudalism? Communism? Genocide? Who bloody knows, like you said, a discussion for another time. I'm taking issue with the idea that civilization prior to automation requires slavery. I think our culture is just really undeveloped and technology is moving too quickly for us to adjust. There's a real case to be made in saying that the dawn of television and mass manufactured media destroyed the labour movement. There's also a case to be made that free markets lead to socialism in the absence of government regulation and that we're just on the darkest timeline. Had the feds not outlawed striking by "regulating" how unions and workers can interact with business interests I firmly believe we'd be living in some form of democratic socialism by now, I mean look at the Battles of Blair Mountain and Homestead. Our culture is capable of evolving to a point where everyone can self-actualize and we're not enslaving and abusing one another. It's a shame that technological automation is likely going to be the thing that forces our culture to a point where basic human decency is observed. It would say more about the human spirit if we accomplished that feat ourselves, without the pressing of an economic law.




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if every instrument could accomplish its own work, obeying or anticipating the will of others, like the statues of Daedalus, or the tripods of Hephaestus, which, says the poet, of their own accord entered the assembly of the Gods; if, in like manner, the shuttle would weave and the plectrum touch the lyre without a hand to guide them, chief workmen would not want servants, nor masters slaves.(From Book 1, section IV of Aristotle's Politics, as translated by Benjamin Jowett.)


animated inanimates like in The Sorcerer's Apprentice (an examlpe witch is used to explan the AI control problem) its greek predecessor , and the ancientest people that had stories about animated inanimates , show how old those ideas are.

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Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: technism, automation, Oscar Wilde, 1890s, socialism, labor, FALC, robotics, slavery, old-school futurism

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