~1 hour of audio is here
(Invited talk for the Oxford Communist Corresponding Society given on Nov 26th 2020.)
A popular objection to Marx’s labour theory of value is that human labour alone doesn’t create profits: labour must be mixed with capital and land to produce useful output; and, anyway, machines can replicate many tasks that humans perform — there’s nothing special about human labour. Take a human taxi driver. Replace them with a robot taxi driver (some future version of self-driving cars). There’s no difference. The robot passes a Turing test for being a taxi driver. And the company still makes a profit. Hence, human labour is not the sole cause of profit, and the labour theory of value is false.
In this talk I explain why this view is wrong, but nonetheless gives us a useful entry point for gaining a deeper understanding of Marx’s theory of surplus-value, and why the origin of profit is human labour alone.
In the talk I (i) briefly review Marx’s theory of surplus-value, (ii) explain why materialists accept that, in principle, all human capabilities can be automated, (iii) describe a Turing Test for Marx’s theory of surplus-value, (iv) emphasise the importance of understanding that Marx’s theory of surplus-value is irreducibly dynamic in nature, (v) discuss the ideological inversion that causes people to think that machines can create value, (vi) discuss the macroeconomic data that reveals a clear empirical signature that labour creates profit, and (vii) close with some speculations on what may happen when humanity, driven by the blind imperatives of the alien demiurge, is finally forced to abolish itself.
Have a dark but merry Christmas!