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Artificial intelligence, or the mechanization of work


AI is supposed to be a scientific research program for developing and analyzing computer-based systems that mimic natural psychological processes. I argue that this is a mere fiction, a convenient myth. In reality, AI is a technology for reorganizing the relations of production in workplaces, and specifically for increasing management control. The appeal of the AI myth thus serves as ideological justification for increasing managerial domination. By focusing on the AI myth, critics of AI are diverting themselves from the very important task of preventing this increasingly dangerous threat to deskill and dehumanize large sectors of the workforce.

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Personal history Edward S. Reed was educated in Philosophy of Science at Boston University, and in Psychology at the University of Edinburgh. He directed the project in Cognition and Action at the University of Minnesota, Center for Research in Human Learning, 1980–1982. At present he is an assistant Professor of Philosophy at Drexel University, and a Research Consultant for the Drucker Brain Injury Center of Moss Rehabilitation Hospital, both in Philadelphia. His biography of the psychologist James Gibson,Revolution in Perception, will be published by Yale University Press in 1988.

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Reed, E.S. Artificial intelligence, or the mechanization of work. AI & Soc 1, 138–143 (1987).

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  • class struggle
  • deskilling
  • division of labor ideology
  • manual and intellectual labor
  • worker's control