Today's New York Times Sunday, 11/25,/2012, John Markoff
“Using an artificial intelligence technique inspired by theories about how the brain recognizes patterns,technology companies are reporting startling gains in fields as diverse as computer vision, speech recognition and the identification of promising new molecules for designing drugs. The advances have led to widespread enthusiasm among researchers who design software to perform human activities like seeing, listening and thinking. They offer the promise of machines that converse with humans and perform tasks likedriving cars and working in factories, raising the specter of automated robots that could replace human workers.”
The article goes on to acknowledge that “misplaced enthusiasm” followed by “equally striking declines” have been regular occurrences over the past few decades (“In the 1980s, a wave of commercial start-ups collapsed, leading to what some people called the “A.I. [artificial intelligence] winter.”)
But what researchers have called “deep learning” has reached a new stage characterized by growing speed and accuracy of so-called “neural nets” for their “resemblance to the neural connections in the brain”.
These developments are coming on the heels of animportant body of work by economists, which demonstrate that in a deviationfrom earlier post-World War II trends, an outcome of the 3 recent recessionssince the 1990s (and their aftermath) has been automation and thus eliminationof middle-class jobs. See for example: Henry Siu, Nir Jaimovich, 6November 2012, Vox:
“Structural change in the labour market is clearly manifesting itself in the business cycle. The long-term decline in routine occupations is occurring in spurts - employment in these jobs is lost during recessions. The reach of job polarisation is wide. Automation and the adoption of computing technology is leading to the decline of middle-wage jobs of many stripes, both blue-collar jobs in production and maintenance occupations and white-collar jobs in office and administrative support. It is affecting both male- and female-dominated professions and it is happening broadly across industries –manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, financial services, and even public administration.”
Recent discussions on this list have included the relevance of Keynesian theories and polices in the current economy, such as full-employment goals.
Perhaps, given the historical data that has been coming to light, these goals have become utopian. In contrast, a reexamination of Marx’s “mature critical theory” (Postone) may be more relevant, in which, “Free time -- which is leisure time as well as time for higher activity -- transforms its possessor into a different subject and he then enters into the direct production process as this different subject” (Grundrisse).