The World Ecology of Living Labour
Insights from Artificial Intelligence

by Larry Lohmann

first published 7 August 2023

One of Karl Marx’s most important insights was that, in the words of the Brazilian thinker Ricardo Antunes, the relationship between living human labour and the "dead" labour in machines and machine-like processes is the "condition upon which the capitalist system of production is maintained."

This presentation for the 2023 conference of the World Ecology Research Network suggests that it might be useful to think of that living labor as action situated in a “space of reasons,” or of being able to justify what one says and does.

Such spaces take a long time both for a species to evolve and for an individual to develop. They are "of the earth" in that they grow out of a long history of intra-action among the human and the more-than-human. And like other commons, they cannot be reproduced by capital, but only parasitized, degraded and "maxed out" along one frontier after another.

This understanding seeks to upend the non-ecological Cartesian tradition of understanding labor power represented by, say, Alan Turing, Noam Chomsky, or today's prophets of artificial intelligence. It proposes a new way of holding today's ecological and labour struggles within a single vision.