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Soziologe Guenter und Robot H1 („Heinz“) begrüssen sich an der TU München. Foto: Laura Voß

Arbeitende Roboter – Arbeitende Menschen

Neben dem Abschluss noch laufender Projekte bin ich seit etwa einem Jahr mit einem völlig neuen Thema beschäftigt, dass mich fasziniert, aber auch sehr in Anspruch nimmt. Es geht um neue hoch automatisierte Technologien und dort vor allem um Robotik.

In einer kurzen Beschreibungen des Vorhabens auf Researchgate (auf englisch, weil ich meinte es müsse so sein auf RG ….) wurde das Vorhaben vor einiger Zeit so angekündigt und dann mit updates aktualisiert:

I am just starting to develop ideas on the question: „Are robots working“? It will be a contribution to a techno-philosophical reader and, for me personally, is the beginning of a longer process.
I am asking: What sort of work is it that Robots are perfoming, if we look at some of the latest developments in robotics (social robotics, emotional robotics, deep machine learning, human-machine interaction)? What is the specific quality of activity und qualification that they will (as some scholars predict) ’steal‘ from a lot of us in the near future, on an until now unknown scale of automation? Is there, on the other hand, a specific quality of activity that will remain a genuine domain of humans, giving us living non-machines a real chance in the new ‘race against machines? My thesis is that we will face a dramatic change of our understanding of „work“. In other words: the category of ‘work’ will (and must) once again change fundamentaly – as it did, i presume, in nearly every historical era of technological change. And with that it will become much more ‚open‘ or ‚wide‘ than it became in the last years (as some lament, mainly men).
Even more: It will be some sort of an anthropological or evolutionary task to discover (or develop) new spheres of genuine human attributes in our species, that we can uns“?“ unfold to compete with our new working mates or (if you prefer) companions. I get the feeling (Iuse that word with definitive intention) that these attributes will be others than those seen (along with most of the philosophers of the enlightenment) as the core qualities of our race. And it will supposedly not be our famous capacity to make rational ‘plans’ (before we work = as Marx said, making his bighaeded joke about bees and spiders) and it will not even be our beloved instrumental ‘rationality’ or ‘reason’ we are so proud of (in spite of all the trouble we caused with that in history). Robots will very soon be much better at that than our needy and lazy organic humanness. And that will confront us with the inconvenient question: Damn, who are we

Stand Dezember 2016:

Work on my paper is ongoing and it needs more time than planned. I’m reading a lot on philosophical anthropology. Mostly german stuff of the 1930s – 1950s (Scheler, Plessner, Gehlen, Popitz) plus Marcuse, Horkheimer/Adorno … and again the early writings of good old Marx (even Schiller, important source of Marx). Do you know Oskar Negt/Alexander Kluge „Geschichte und Eigensinn“ – an important book on my topics (only in german i presume)? I’m looking for further ideas on my thesis, that we „humans“ have to concentrate in future on our liveliness (correct word?) as natural beeings and generate with this a new idea of „work“ and „labour power“, if we want to have a chance against all those „subjectivated“ new „Machines“. I wrote a short paper for news paper purposes (added – in german, draft! Please don’t circulate – if in doubt, please ask). Comments are welcome.

download paper: „Wenn die Roboter kommen … was wird dann aus uns“

Stand Mai 2017:

The paper on „working robots“  I have been working on since October 2016 is now almost completed – after some more or less substantial changes of ideas and extensive editing in reaction to editorial remarks The main thesis is that we currently face the emergence of a „subjectivated“ form of machinery (not only at work, but nearly everywhere), that will mean an anthropological challenge for us humans eventually. The only reaction we can hope for is that we will be able to remember what we are: we are living beings – robots are not. A renewed focus on us as „lebendige Arbeitsvermögen“ and even more as „Gattungswesen“ (Marx) may be the only chance to develop the potential for humankind  to confront the technological changes. In other words: we have to perform a new quality of subjectivation of ourselves, going far deeper than that what Foucault has seen. It goes back to our biological basis as a species. For this purpose the paper unfolds some ideas on a category of „ursprüngliche Subjektivität“ (original subjectivity?) and discusses some philosophical concepts on „play“ as a counterpart to formal rationality with roots (as some say, e.g. Schiller) in human naturalness.

I got now a final „OK“ from the editorial board. The paper („Arbeitende Roboter – arbeitende Menschen. Über subjektivierte Maschinen und menschliche Subjekte“) will be published at the end of 2017 or in early 2018 in:
Friedrich, A./Gehring, P/ Kaminski, A./Nordmann, A./Hubig, Ch.: Jahrbuch Technikphilosophie 2018 – „Arbeit und Spiel“, Baden Baden: Nomos/edition sigma.
I do not feel at liberty to give away the final text, but may offer a draft – but for your personal use only (in german, sorry). If you are interested please send me a message.