Olivia Goldhill in Quartz:
One hundred and sixty years ago, at a time when the light bulb was not yet invented, Karl Marx predicted that robots would replace humans in the workplace.
“[O]nce adopted into the production process of capital, the means of labor passes through different metamorphoses, whose culmination is the machine, or rather, an automatic system of machinery,” he wrote in his then-unpublished manuscript Fundamentals of Political Economy Criticism. “The workers themselves are cast merely as its conscious linkages.”
Gradually, in the century and a half since Marx wrote those words, machines have taken on more and more jobs previously done by humans. The 20th century political movements that attempted to make Karl Marx’s ideas reality may have failed but, 200 years since the philosopher’s birth on May 5, 1818, his analysis and foresights have repeatedly proven true. We are, in many ways, living in the world Marx predicted.