One of the proponent arguments for capitalism, in the field of replacing human beings with robotics in manufacturing, is that the robot works more efficiently than the human being. The measurement of this efficiency is money. Where it’s cheaper per hour to replace an entire factory with robots instead of hiring human beings.
The logic for why this is a benefit to society is that this lowering of overhead cost to the manufacturer means that they can utilize that money elsewhere to manufacture more things or make other things more efficient.
Capitalists argue that incremental increases in efficiencies benefit all of society by giving more and more to the people while they have to work less and less for it.
And as a capitalist I believe this to be still true.
The problem is in the short-sightedness of just how efficient a human being is. Or any creature. The main difference between the robots and the humans that the robots replace is that humans are biological creatures while robots are synthetic (man-made) creatures. Duh.
But the main point of the capitalists is in the use of energy. Their argument supposes that when you replace humans with robots, the costs decreases. There is a loose direct correlation made here between cost and energy. It’s assumed that if something costs less but outputs the same, that means that it’s somehow using less energy in a more efficient manner. But are robots really more efficient than the biological man.
If you study the output of man’s technology, you’ll come to realize that the way man has been operating so far to change the world around us is through beat, treat, and heat. This is a phrase coined from some lady on a TED talk about design and biology, I’m too lazy to look it up right now. Beating, treating, and heating things require a lot of energy. Contrast this to biology that powers your body’s motion without an internal combustion engine. Or how hard seashells are formed without the need for baking, burning, heating, or bending anything. Wood is made through photosynthesis. That’s light, some air, and those thin soft membranes that we call leaves that produce the wood that has stabilized (and still does) man’s shelter for as long as man been on this planet.
So we have to admit that man’s synthetic process is in no comparison to how efficient nature is. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Where nature takes a little bit of energy and produces something that has more energy (usually potential energy) than what was put into it, man takes a HUGE amount of energy to produce such small little effects.
Take for example a creation that we assume to be, so far, the epitome of human invention. The computer. We believe, intrinsically, that this monitor that you’re staring at is probably not even as power-hungry as the light that’s powering your room. These days that’s probably generally true. But consider the amount of energy it took to produce each and every molecule of the synthetic product in front of your right now. Think of the factory that these were assembled in, the metallic arms and motors that move this factory along and think of the factories producing the machines in those factories. Think about the steal and plastics, the amount of energy to refine the ores and pull the oil from underground. The energy it took to melt it, form it, heat it, bend it, cut it, repeat, repeat, repeat.
And that’s only the energy to produce a product. What about to run it? It seems so simple, that hole in the wall that you can draw power from? That power is also a refined product. Coal, gas, oil, has been burned to heat water that moves through turbines, the spinning of which produces electricity. We transform these natural materials from one form to another and we get maybe a fraction of a fraction of the actual energy that’s in each particle of that material.
All this energy sums up to much more than the few pennies you pay for each hour of use of this laptop. We’ll probably find out very soon just how much it will cost us as the natural resources we have diminishes further and further.
The fallacy of thought is in assuming that when something costs less money, it means that it is using less energy.
But I’m still a capitalist so in tearing up one argument, I’ve thought of a better one for us to use against those communists. Instead of arguing that it’s more efficient monetarily because lower costs means less energy used. Lets instead argue that it’s true that human beings are FAR more efficient than robots. What we can argue is that the power of the human thought, which is probably one of the most efficient biological processes I’ve come across, far outstrips the efficiency of the human muscle. So it would be wrong to say that the same amount of force a human leg can produce is cheaper for a machine to produce. But it would be right to say that if that person was using that leg to walk to a library or lab to produce a truly efficient machine, where the energy put in produces more energy out, then it would be worthwhile to replace that human being with a machine.
Note: I understand that the law of conservation of energy doesn’t allow for systems where energy in doesn’t equal the energy out. What I was trying to say also takes into account entropy. So for example, the energy that it takes to move items into an ordered structure is the same amount of energy put into moving similar items into an unordered structure, the same amount of energy went in, but the result obviously shows that the ordered structure has more energy (in terms of entropy) than the unordered structure. This does not violate the principle of conservation of energy, it just is a matter of what type of energy we’re talking about.