Mankind and the Year 2000

V. Kosolapov


CHAPTER 5

LABOUR PROCESS IN THE FUTURE

The attitude to labour indicates the level of development of social relations. The more human labour is honoured and esteemed in a particular society the more progressive that society is. Indeed, everything we see around us in the way of material culture is the result of man's labour. A class-divided society based on antagonisms has perverted the essence of labour, converting it into a burden everyone shrinks from. The society of the future will emancipate labour completely. It was no accident that the first Marxist group in Russia, which raised the banner of struggle against tsarist autocracy, was called the Emancipation of Labour Group. The organisation of labour, its social purpose, creative labour as a moral force and an essential human need—these and other questions are of paramount importance for the future of society.

LABOUR, CREATIVITY, PLAY AND HOBBY

Labour is the natural form of interaction between man and nature, resulting in an exchange of substances and energy between the social environment (human society) and nature. The basic elements of the labour process are people wielding professional habits, and also tools and objects of labour. As a social phenomenon, labour has a dual significance: pro-

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duction of material and cultural values and the form of man's life activity. It has been said that labour created man. Few people will disagree with this. However, there is little unanimity when it comes to a discussion of the future of labour. Many futurologists believe that in the society of the future labour will be devalued and will lose its significance as man's primary occupation.

Some futurologists predict that under the developed technological civilisation of the future man will no longer be striving towards creative goals, but instead will concern himself with personal comfort and, as a result, progress will deteriorate into regress, while the world, devoid of creative labour as man's primary need, will be a conglomeration of philistines, egoistic consumers, dying of boredom and shorn of worthwhile ideals and aspirations. Other futurologists maintain that labour will become a form of hobby. Robots will run production and will see to it that people have enough of everything they need, which situation of affluence will leave little more for man but diversions and hedonistic orgies. Finally, there are futurologists who believe that labour will be a process of unrestrained creativity, a flight of fancy and imagination, a play, a form of "mental gymnastics" for the individual. These latter back up their arguments by referring to the scientific and technological revolution which calls for a continual improvement in the educational and professional levels of all workers. Indeed, the current trend in the development of the productive forces is towards replacing the partial worker qualified in some narrow field, as Marx put it, "by the fully developed individual, fit for a variety of labours, ready to face any change of production, and to whom the different social functions he performs, are but so many modes of giving free scope to his own natural and acquired powers". [1]

The current scientific and technological revolution which involves an increasingly broader application of science in

1 K. Marx, Capital, Vol. 1, p. 458.

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production, makes it necessary to effect a change in labour, its transformation into a creative process. But does this mean that labour, when it becomes a form of creative activity, will be placed outside the framework of organised social effort aimed at socially relevant objectives? No, it does not.

The work of a scientist is highly specific. The scientific and technological revolution has exercised a profound impact on scientific research which was the province of separate individuals and was akin to the work of artisans. Today, scientific research has become a form of industrial labour with its characteristic mass scale and mobilisation of large collectives to achieve a common goal, and with a detailed division of functions among scientists. Thus we see that scientific research is subject to the overall laws governing man's labour activity.

Under socialism labour is organised above all with a view to meeting the interests of society and the individual needs of its members. Efficient social production is the way to achieve these aims. In communist society labour will be a creative activity, man's primary and vital need. But it is wrong to regard labour in the society of the future as mere play or an enjoyable experience. Marx rejected Fourier's prediction that labour would at some future date be turned into an amusing play. Labour will never become that or a form of sport. It will continue to be a well-directed activity aimed at transforming the world, it will continue to be the basic duty of every individual to society. It will acquire a greater "use value", a value in and of itself, and will increasingly become a self-stimulating process. But even in this case labour in the society of the future will continue to be an aware necessity, a purposeful activity aimed at producing material and cultural values, a means of sustaining human existence. But under the communist forms of distribution according to needs the centre of gravity in assessing labour results will be shifted, insofar as labour will become a natural form of self-assertion for the individual, his desire and passion.

For labour to become a free self-activity it is necessary to

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attain a level of labour productivity high enough to allow a reduction of the working day to a point where everyone will derive pleasure from his particular occupation without getting tired or bored. Marx in his Capital considered the reduction of the length of the working day to be basic for individual freedom. He stressed at the same time the need to constantly raise labour productivity by accelerating scientific and technological progress and developing production in every way.

Labour, as the free self-activity it will become in the communist society of the future, will be part of the all-embracing rational organisation of material and cultural production throughout society. The individual's labour activity in a communist society will be based on self-discipline and a full realisation of his place and role within the social organisation. In other words, it will be based on a conscious and purposeful participation in the overall process of socially useful labour. To a member of the communist society, labour will be his primary, vital need rather than a mere hobby or uncontrolled pursuit. Labour will always be a necessity, though a conscious one. At the same time it will no longer be arduous physical labour or routine monotonous mental occupation, to become instead a field of man's creativity. It will be wrong, however, to think that in the future society labour will be totally free of physical exertion. Nor need it be. Already medical experts are warning against what they call the "disease of civilisation", a disease arising from monotonous work operations typical of assembly line production, nervous exhaustion, emotional and nervous stress, noise pollution, etc. It has been established that people in sedentary occupations are three times more likely to develop myocardial infarction than those whose work involves physical exertion. Hypokinesia (from hypo—deficiency and kinema—movement) is increasingly becoming a hazard for all of us, leading to a reduction in muscle elasticity, and similar adverse changes in human muscles caused by the lack of physical exercise.

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Creative labour in the future society will be an organic blend of mental and manual forms of work, in an atmosphere devoid of routine monotonous brainwork and physical overexertion which are still current today.

*     *     *     *     *

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[THE FACTORY OF THE 21ST CENTURY]

Bourgeois futurologists, in analysing the prospects of technological advance under capitalism, forecast the increasing enslavement of man by technology to a point where at some stage the future of mankind will be decided by the machines created by man rather than by man himself. Where they go wrong, however, is in claiming that this trend will involve the socialist countries. In their predictions they ignore the essential distinction in the way technology is applied under socialism.

In bourgeois society the creative energies of the human personality are increasingly stifled by the fear of, and lack of confidence in, the future. Man is being bombarded by all manner of predictions about the "demonic" power of technology.

The technocratic idea about the progressive degeneration of mankind, about man's impotence in the face of self-multiplying "thinking" machines and the rise of computerised cyborgs runs through the forecasts of Western futurologists.

The well-known British futurologist Arthur Clarke describes a gloomy prospect in his Profiles of the Future. According to Clarke, by the year 2040 animals will become rational with man's help, in the year 2060 artificial life will be created, while in the year 2080 a machine mind will be created more perfect than the human mind. Arthur Clarke who wrote the screen story for the science-fiction film 2001: a Space Odyssey showing the drama of human astronauts fighting for their lives against rebellious, artificial and intelligent computers which have turned against man, seeks to prove the thesis that although man will probably win the battle with computers he will suffer the inevitable loss in the shape of losing something of what makes him human. Man will not be saved from his inevitable conversion from a creative and conscious being,

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aware of the umbilical cords linking him with the rest of mankind, into a lone wanderer in the infinity of the Universe.

In recent years the idea that scientific and technological progress destroys man as a harmoniously developed living being, and that the future society will be dominated by cyborgs has been increasingly recurring in science-fiction novels, futurological constructions and sociological studies in the West.

The idea of the cyborgisation of mankind as presented by bourgeois futurologists is anti-human, being a reflection of the anti-human essence of capitalism which regards man as an object of exploitation and a source of superprofits, which of course reduces man to the status of a living machine. This idea is based on an insidious illusion that mankind's social problems can be solved by technological means.

One other illusion that futurologists and science-fiction writers are seeking to put about is that the sophisticated computers of the future will be in a position to solve just about every social problem facing mankind. At EXPO-70 in Tokyo, visitors could see a 86-metre tower characteristically called "Computopia". The Japanese organisers of the world exhibition made up the title from the words "computer" and "utopia apparently with reference to the "ideal society" of the future which supposedly will be created by sophisticated computers. Inside the tower computerised robots were on show, some of which were capable of obeying verbal commands, composing music, creating visual compositions of light and music, telling fortunes and doing and performing all manner of "wonderful" stunts.

The theme of "man's disappearance", of the death of civilisation under the impact of scientific and technological progress is just as popular in futurology. The futurologists have clearly borrowed this theme from the science-fiction writers. The works of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells were full of mankind's romantic confidence in science and technological progress. But as the bourgeoisie gradually lost its progressive

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role in society, as class antagonisms between labour and capital sharpened science-fiction writers who were once optimistic about social progress changed their theme turning more and more to anti-utopian subjects. H. G. Wells in his The Time Machine (1895) predicted the complete degeneration of mankind by the year 8701. Wells described two races: the Morlocks, who lived in subterranean caves, owned all the technology, and took to cannibalism, and the Alloys, who led a carefree existence being supplied by the Morlocks with everything they needed and who filled in their time with merry-making until the day when they were slaughtered by the Morlocks for consumption in much the same way cattle are slaughtered today.

In Karel Ĉapek's War with the Newts (1936) human-like relict salamandras created in man's image developed an underwater civilisation and undertook a destructive war against mankind. In his play R.U.R. (1920) Ĉapek describes mass produced biological robots which at first relieve man of arduous manual labour and later cause his degradation. The play ends with a scene of armed struggle between the robots and the humans.

In some of H. G. Wells' novels and especially in his script for the film The Shape of Things to Come (1936) the idea of mistrust in science runs throughout, developing into abject fear of the coming of the "machine age" which will degrade man intellectually and later destroy him physically.

The novels of the English writer C. Lewis, as well as those of the American science-fiction writer K. Vonnegut, are full of doom-laden predictions about the future of mankind. The authors take unequivocal anti‑utopian positions and describe mankind's future as grim and uncertain.

In the 1930s the Russian idealist philosopher N. Berdyaev provided nightmarish descriptions of the "demonic" power of technology in the society of the future. The main danger that Berdyaev saw was that technology was threatening man himself. Man had created an organised society and was making wide use of technology to consolidate his domination over

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nature. But paradoxically man was turning back into the slave he used to be before the advent of the machine, becoming the slave of the machine society which he had himself created and which was gradually ousting him. Berdyaev wrote: "I am haunted by nightmares: the time will come when machines will be so perfect that they will act without any human help. Machines will master the Universe, cars and planes will develop boundless speeds, and radio will populate the air with the voices of people long dead. The final generation of people will become useless: people will be unable to breathe and live in this technical medium and finally disappear, having left a new Universe they themselves have created." [1]

Similar ideas are echoed by Western futurologists today.

F. Klenner, an Austrian sociologist and economist and a member of the executive committee of the Socialist Party of Austria, thinks that it is not capitalism with its tendency towards totalitarianism and military dictatorship by the monopolists that is the main threat to mankind, but rather technological progress. He writes: "As modern technology and economy develop democracy and personal freedom will appear irrational and reactionary". [2]

Klenner believes that the sort of future society described by Aldous Huxley in the Brave New World is not an impossible fantasy.

The futurological myth about the impending age of "computer demonism" is no more than an attempt to substitute a bogey of a non-existent enemy for a genuine criticism of the anti-human social system based on the exploitation of man by man. Whether the machine serves good or evil depends on the social methods of its application and not on the machine itself. The radical change of capitalist social relations followed by the creation of a comprehensively automated pro-

1 N. Berdiaeff, L'Homme et la machine, Paris, 1933, pp. 39-40.

2 F. Klenner, Planpost Freiheit. Programmierter oder menschlicher Mensch?, Wien, 1966, S. 108.

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duction organism will provide the essential material and technical basis for communism which will liberate man from direct participation in production as its agent. It is not computers, however sophisticated and human-like in terms of thought processes, but man that will be shaping the future of mankind. This future belongs to man.

OUTER SPACE AS AN AREA
OF HUMAN ENDEAVOUR

For mankind in the 21st century outer space will be a familiar and routine area of activity. Industries geared to space exploration and the use of space for the benefit of society will undergo such intensive development that forecasts predict the creation of a cosmosphere which will be as important as the technosphere (the totality of technical means and the conditions ensuring their functioning) and the biosphere are today. A considerable proportion of the able-bodied population will, in the next few decades, be occupied in the rapidly developing "space" industries.

The exploration of outer space is a breakthrough of human knowledge into the unknown, a breakthrough which is so dynamic that its social consequences are extremely difficult to predict at this date. We must be witnessing the dawn of cosmic civilisation when the majority of once earthbound industries will be placed outside the terrestrial atmosphere.

Satellites have allowed significant improvements to be obtained in communications, weather forecasts, navigation techniques and the exploration of the world ocean. Novel materials, technological processes and management techniques which take account of discoveries in space exploration are helping to transform the face of many "earthly" branches of production. The transmission of pictures and sound signals from satellites to radio and TV sets in the home offers new prospects of universal education for one and all throughout one's lifetime. Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and other

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natural disasters will be less of the threat they are today. Miniaturised gadgets and devices, products of the space effort, are now increasingly becoming part of industry and daily life. They include computers based on integrated circuits the size of a pocket-book for the automatic processing of information and for control in various fields of human endeavour.

As scientific and technological progress gathers momentum social development accelerates. Alvin Toffler in his Future Shock has suggested measuring the fifty thousand years of history with the number of successive generations of men that have existed on this planet, making the lifetime of each generation equal to 62 years, the average life span in the 20th century. If we adopt this method of measurement it appears that the bulk of the material values surrounding us today has been created within the lifetime of the present, 800th generation. The exploration of outer space spurs on the progress of mankind, marking the latest stage in the ongoing improvement of society's productive forces. Homo sapiens has existed on this planet for some 40,000 years. However, it was not until 8,000 years ago that man began to travel. It took him another 5,000 years to discover America. The space age was ushered in by the first Soviet sputnik launched in 1957, a mere 19 years ago. But already man has more than once taken his space walks, walked on the Moon and brought back samples of Moon rock. Already space probes have photographed Mars, "landed" on Mars and Venus, flown past Jupiter and in circumsolar space. According to the forecasts, man's conquest of outer space will continue at an increasingly accelerating pace (Table 3).

Already our lives are connected with space exploration in many different ways. This is only to be expected since the Earth is but a speck at the edge of our Galaxy rushing at a headlong speed in the Universe together with the Sun and the planets of the solar system. Our lives are more dependent on what happens in outer space than is commonly supposed. In antiquity astrologers used to tell fortunes on the

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[Table 3: Forecasts of Future Trends in Space Exploration up to the Year 2030]

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basis of the relative position of planets and stars. Since then astrologers have been convincingly shown to be no better than cheaters, but the argument should not be allowed to rest there.

Indeed, to what extent is astrology a collection of complete nonsense? Undoubtedly, much of it is indeed nonsense just as alchemy is. But both were something in the nature of a scientific quest for false goals. Astrology represents a tortuous course of human thought in its search for links between what happens on Earth and what happens in outer space.

Outer space is increasingly becoming a vital area of human activity and habitation. Many forecasters in noting the doubling of energy output every 20 years predict that two or three centuries hence the biosphere will be threatened by atmospheric overheating. One possible way out of this predicament will be placing energy generation facilities in terrestrial orbit beyond the Earth's atmosphere. The US physicist Dyson offers the prediction, which seems doubtful, that in the future mankind will be in a position to reconstruct the solar system

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by surrounding the Sun with a giant spherical screen composed of dismantled planets. The inner surface of this screen will be inhabited by the teeming billions of the future mankind who will absorb the total solar energy. The Soviet astrophysicist I. S. Shklovsky predicts that "after developing the solar system a highly organised civilisation will diffuse beyond its boundaries and inhabit the neighbouring stars. . . . It cannot be ruled out that a process of diffusion following a unified plan may involve the whole of our Galaxy". [1]

Konstantin Tsiolkovsky used to say that space technology could bring mankind "infinite power and mountains of food". Already space technology is doing many useful things in such areas as communications by satellite, meteorology, prospection for minerals and cartography, control over farm production, the preservation of water bodies and forest lands, etc. The well-known US physicist F. Dyson thinks that when man has stepped beyond the Earth's atmosphere the problem of the disposal of industrial waste which is now polluting the biosphere may be solved satisfactorily. [2] But in itself space technology does not make man happier nor does it solve any of his social problems here on Earth.

Space exploration is not only a matter of carrying out scientific and technical projects. It also represents a massive social action whose direction depends on the nature of social relations.

Which is not surprising since under capitalism a consumer attitude to space exploration derives from the monopolies' drive to make superprofits at the expense of the tax payer.

We disagree with McRedmond and McLuhen who claim that space exploration by itself may improve bourgeois so-

1 I. S. Shklovsky, "Multiplicity of Habitable Worlds and the Problem of Establishing Contacts Among Them" Nauka i zhizn, No. 1, 1965, p. 65.

2 See F. Dyson. "Human Consequences of the Exploration of Space", Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, No. 7, Vol. 25, September 1969, pp. 8-13.

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ciety and will offer broad possibilities for overcoming many of its economic and social ills. We tend to be more in agreement with Etzioni who says that "no findings in outer space—unless some space capsule returns filled with singing angels—could have a comparable effect on man's conception of himself and of his world." [1]

Space exploration is a major aspect of the scientific and technological revolution. In the years ahead scientific and industrial complexes geared to space exploration will play an increasingly greater role within national economies. The realisation of specific forecasts in this area, as in others, depends on the progress of society's social transformation, not only on the amount of finance pumped into space programmes.

The whole solar system will be the cosmosphere of the future generations of men. Venus, Mars, Jupiter and other planets will one day be settled by colonists from the Earth who will transform them. In the future work of transformation the Earth will act as a staging base and cradle of the human race, while man's home will be the whole of the solar system. In the 21st century man will at last step beyond the confines of his cradle to create a developed cosmosphere in the circumsolar space for his activity.

[p. 179: Table 4: Trends in the Development of Transport Facilities]


SOURCE: Kosolapov, V. Mankind and the Year 2000, translated by Y. Sviridov (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1976), Chapter 5, Labour Process in the Future, pp. 148-180. (Russian: 1973) Excerpts: pp. 148-152, 167-176.


Leon Trotsky on H. G. Wells as Philistine

Chapter VII: The Conflict of Languages
from Anticipations by H. G. Wells

H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine: Selected Bibliography

Revisiting Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle by R. Dumain

War with the Newts (Excerpt on the Language Problem) by Karel Čapek

Science Fiction & Utopia Research Resources: A Selective Work in Progress

Futurology, Science Fiction, Utopia, and Alienation
in the Work of Imre Madách, György Lukács, and Other Hungarian Writers:
Select Bibliography

Salvaging Soviet Philosophy (1)

Marx and Marxism Web Guide


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