There is a new wave of research and development in the technological advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AI). The birth of ChatGPT appears to mark a milestone in this wave.
ChatGPT as the Generative Pre-trained Transformer programme chat program is generally called, is ready to answer any human question and carry out any discursive task according to its proponents. As some of them say; “just ask it anything.”
As activists in the working-class movement, and as youths who seek to win a better society, we need to understand technological development in its multidimensional relationship to labour. First, whatever the height of development in technology is today or at any time, is the result of physical and mental human labour.
Machines have been created by humans at every stage of our social development to aid the material production of our economic needs, starting from providing food, shelter, and clothing to producing other machines.
Technological development is central to expanding the productivity of humankind as a whole. But in class society, the dominant classes always do their best to monopolise the benefits as much as they can, including by using new technology to deepen the exploitation of the working classes.
For example no matter how crude it was, the development of bows and arrows, as well as spears and other primitive hunting weapons made it easier for the early women and men to hunt down wild animals for meat. But humankind was at a primitive stage in those times. Early slave society was the first form of class society. The slave masters possessed the slaves as property. Their physical and mental labour power became instruments to expand the wealth of the slave masters.
Through the stages of feudalism till today, the exploitation of human power has not stopped. The modern-day wage-slavery of capitalism represents both the height of technological and productive development on one hand and the deepest exploitation of the working people on the other.
The development of AI is indeed a great leap in the advancement of human knowledge even in preparation of greater exploits in the future. But what have the working people gained?
Freedom of expression on sale: the Twitter example
AI, to use the latest ChatGPT as a reference, is on the one hand monopolised by the bosses in the tech industry. This is the same way the likes of Elon Musk monopolise tech production at SpaceX by virtue of their ownership and control of these technological means of production with their wealth. They call the shots and sell tech services at prices they so wish.
We can see this in the commercialisation of Twitter to the point of selling verification badges for $8 per month to millions of people across the world. It also charges thousands of dollars to verify business organisations.
Because a few monopolise Information and Communication Technology, our simple communications with each other as human beings are not even free. it does not really matter that these rights are provided in freedom of expression laws.
‘Excesses’ of ChatGPT in an unplanned economy
One can see the worries expressed by experts in the tech and education sector about the potential of ChatGPT to enable examination malpractices among students. Since AI can answer any question for me and write the best essays, why should I research for my class assignments?
Mass job loss
Besides the academic worries, workers providing customer service that machines could be programmed to provide, are liable to job loss with such technological developments. Banks have been the fastest to sack workers due to the development of apps and other software and hardware that can attend to customers.
This goes at prices for even the customers as they are charged for all sorts of maintenance.
Content writers, graphics designers, and others who feed from basic skills now feel threatened as they compete with AI that might get the job done faster, even though how this pans out remains to be seen.
Contradictions in capitalism continue to unveil
Tech, AI, and continuous development of labour is good. However, the hoarding of knowledge by pricing quality education out of the reach of many leaves advanced knowledge in the hands of a few while the vast majority of the population, comprising working people are competing to barely survive.
Employers who also benefit from the capitalist arrangements will blame “tech-limited workers” for their “illiteracy” when the availability of such new knowledge is costly, especially in a situation where people only learn to get employed and survive the harsh economy.
The essence of education which is to lift and liberate the human mind has now been redefined to mean getting jobs, while society continues to crumble. It is even worse in Africa where public education is not only antiquated but in ruins.
Part of this contribution is also the fact that undemocratic tech knowledge and advancement is capable of spelling doom on both the capitalist class and the oppressed masses.
The hoarding of knowledge for money has led to the development of hackers and rising cyber frauds, where scammers spare neither the rich bosses nor the working people.
The mass retrenchment that the development of technology will lead us to under capitalism will further push society into barbarism where even the rich will not be safe, as people must survive by one means or the other.
What can we do?
Working people across the globe must fight relentlessly for universal access to quality public education, including on technology in all its ramifications, towards enabling equal access to knowledge. This will contribute to taking the control of tech knowledge out of the control of greedy capitalists who put everything on sale.
But that is not enough. Machines must work for humans and not control humans. The commercialisation of technology must be rejected because capitalists are on the verge of setting up even robots to repress human beings. We must thus see the fight against job losses as a result of the rise of AI as one for the control of the means of production.
The time to further organise against the blood-sucking capitalist system is now!
by Gbenga VON