Saturday, 18 March 2017

Zero Work Theory

The original Zero Work Theory (ZWT), under a long title: “An ALTERNATIVE to Marxian Scientific Socialism – The Theory Reduction in Working Hours - A Demand 6 Hour Working Day”; was published in the year 1981.  The objective was, to present an alternative to Marxian Socialism or Communism. It claims that the world working class movement needs a new theory because the Marxian Socialism/Communism utterly failed them as it completely ignores THE FOUR FUNDAMENTAL ASPECTS OF LABOR EXPLOITATION on the working population, which wreak havoc in their everyday life, including the underemployment and unemployment.  Moreover, Marxism could not foresee the rapid development of science and technologies of the future especially the exponential growth in the field of Artificial Intelligent (AI) ROBOTS automation that going to replace most human labor, the development of the “productive forces” or the labor productivity will be making it. He could not envisage that the great progress in the “productive forces” or in the labor productivity could make the human labor or his favourite working class all redundant or obsolete within a couple of centuries.

Having the opportunity to access this historical perspective in the 1980’s, this theory foresaw that the historical mission of the  laboring class" is to gradually reduce the working hours in the day step by step, when it finally reduced to zero, there will be no more need of human wage-labor in the social production therefore, the society requires new system to distribute the economic income. That is why my theory at this point also professes that every citizen of the world must receive a Guaranteed, Adequate Universal Basic Income  in order to lead a healthy, comfortable, secure life. Thereby, the historic compulsion of the labor servitude on the majority laboring population to obtain their basic needs, in the form of wages, salary will be completely abolished. My revised name for this theory is "Zero Work Theory" (ZWT).

Why does the Zero Work Theory want to abolish paid (wage) labor?
According to the theory, “The basic relationship of workers to their LABOR” comes from the COMPULSION" in order to obtain the “means of subsistence”, in the form of food, shelter, clothing, health, education, comforts etc. Humans MUST work, it is not a choice but a necessity. The need to work originally imposes by nature on humans which then allows a strong minority of the population to exploit (oppress, subjugate etc.) the weaker majority of the population to work for them due to various reasons, mainly the private property. It enables the powerful, to obtain a portion of the products or “value” of the majority’s labor and become rich. This is the root-cause of most social injustice: poverty, crime, etc. Therefore, as the labor productivity rises and the NEED for labor decreases, the society as a whole should engage in a step-by-step reduction in work hours to continually re-balance the labor value distribution to prevent the widening the income gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots”.  It should all finally end into the Zero Working Day.  It is the REAL FREEDOM or liberation for the entire human race from its historical compulsion, adversity; the drudgery of the Wage- Labor servitude. The complete elimination of the last remnant of historical human labor bondage or SLAVERY.  Thereby, to establish a truly Democratic, humanitarian and equitable socio-economic system.

Why ZWT consider Labor as "COMPULSION"?  Aren't the workers free to make their own choices?
It is true that the workers are free to do labor but they are not “really” free,  NOT TO DO IT. Otherwise, they will be deprived of their income. Without the basic income one can’t afford their needs, wants, decent food, clothing, shelter, health, education and other comforts in life. They will be forced to undergo immense suffering, starvation, homelessness, left to die or reduced to BEGGING. One may call it as a “free choice” but I consider it as the most degrading kind of labor (job, profession?) next to prostitution, which existed since the dawn of human species. Therefore, like the human labor, if the prostitution and begging forced genuinely by their economic conditions, it can be completely eliminated with an Adequate UNCONDITIONAL Basic Income Guaranty, popularly known as the Universal Basic Income (UBI) which I see as the early manifestation of the ZWT.

The fundamental difference between the ZWT "Wage-Labor Exploitation" and Marxian “Working Class Exploitation”
According to the ZWT, throughout the human history, till the present day, humankind has undergone four basic labor exploitation. 1. Subsistence Sustenance Exploitation  2. Relative Labor Exploitation 3. Productive Labor Exploitation  4. Absolute Labor Exploitation (the book explains, each of it in details). These exploitations are, primarily responsible for most of the social injustice, inequality, poverty, repression which exists both in the capitalist and socialist systems in the world today. The concept of "Labor Exploitation" in Zero Work Theory is fundamentally different from Marxian socialist concept of ruling (capitalist) class exploitation of working class, founded on the “Private Means of Production”.
Marxism claims that LABOR-EXPLOITATION exists mainly due to the social "class" system, which results in the constant "class struggle" between the minority ruling "capitalist class" and the majority working class. It classifies the  human history so far, into three main social systems: 1.Slavery, 2.Feudalism, 3.Capitalism. In all these three systems the “property owning” minority rich class primarily exists on the labor exploitation of the poor majority class. Therefore, Marxism claims that the private ownership of wealth or property is the fundamental reason of the exploitation on the working class, which is responsible for all kinds of social evils like injustice, inequality, poverty, repression, crimes which exists in the human society. Therefore, it proclaims that there is a 4th system namely the socialist or communist system which will abolish the labor exploitation mainly by the ABOLITION of the private ownership of the means of production, commonly known as the Private Property.

Marxist fundamentally claim that the human society will have social, economic and political equality if it abolishes the “private ownership of means of production”, which in turn will abolish labor exploitation of the working class, thereby ushering in a "classless" communist society. But today, all of it have been proven completely wrong. Another Marxist basic concept, that only human labor creates value and wealth in society also proving to be absolutely wrong  as the Artificial intelligence robotic automation making the human labor redundant.  One of Marx's most famous quotes is, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs." This means that you need to labor according to your capacity, and then society provides everyone with everything they will need. It is like the science fiction movies we see today, where all of the humans in the future still engaged in labor, despite the high tech world they live in.

ZWT agrees with the main Marxist theory that the capitalist basically exploit the labor of workers in the form of Relative Labor Exploitation.  Nevertheless, it thoroughly denounces Marxism for failing to recognize the rest of the labor exploitation, which makes it unable to address the labor exploitation on the underemployed, unemployed and self-employed. Moreover, ZWT does not accept that the abolition of “private property" will end any of the Labor Exploitation in the society. Irrespective of whoever runs/manages the means of production (factories, industries, companies, business, corporation etc.) as long as the compulsion of labor exist for workers to earn their livelihood exists and the entire chain of labor exploitation will continue. Only the overall reduction in working hours will reduce labor exploitation. A two-pronged approach can achieve this goal, first by directly reducing working hours, and secondly (and most importantly), allowing a significant number of people (especially the unemployed) to quit their labor or jobs by opting for the Zero Work with the support of an adequate Universal Basic Income.

How does the ZWT view the new generation of  AI ROBOTS?
Robots are basically the descendants of the tools used by primitive humans as an extension of their body parts to perform functions that increase the productivity of their labor. We have now achieved such a high degree of technological sophistication that the robots can (or soon will) SUBSTITUTE nearly any function of the human body, including our cognitive BRAIN function.

As per the ZWT, at the  early human historical developmental stages, the primitive man made tools (knives, scrapers, hammers) that substituted the human body functions, was an extension of their hands and legs etc., to improve the labor productivity. The second stage was centred around the industrial revolution of the 18th century. Human/animal muscle power was replaced by steam engines and later by the gigantic electric power. These powered tools or machinery, tremendously increased labor productivity but it always needed the human brain intelligent power in the loop to make them to perform the work.

By the second half of the 20th century, we entered the third stage of labor productivity. The silicon integrated-circuit microchip the cybernetic revolution. Calculators, software programmed computers and the sophisticated AI machine/deep learning robot automation. It can replace most of the functions of human brain cognitive power, intelligence. These sophisticated humanoid robots can do most of the jobs that humans perform, making most of the human wage-labor completely redundant.

Today, the new autonomous AI machines, incorporated with DEEP/MACHINE-LEARNING (self-programming software, algorithms of various types), in combination with web-based cloud sharing, can already do things that are beyond any human capacity and with every generation of software will become faster and better, superior to human intelligence in many significant ways. The emerging QUANTUM computers can bring in new paradigm shift in the field, in the very near future; say in 10 to 20 years, it will completely remove most of the needs of the human labor in the manufacturing and most importantly in the service sector like it happened in the agricultural sector. Even the professional jobs like doctors, lawyers even judges can be efficiently replaced by the AI robots Therefore, a gradual reduction or even a complete end to working hours (zero work) with the empowering UBI will become a necessity for human society. This is the historical perspective of the ZW Theory, in contrast to Marxist Historical Materialism, which I described earlier.

How did readers respond to your book when it published?
Except for one or two positive book reviews in the popular Kannada News Papers in 1981 (which still remain popular today), there was not much response. I think my book failed to get the "response" it needed, to become a book that made political changes, because of my situation of that time.

Why my Reduction in Working Hour  (RWH) theory book failed to get the response that needed?
Imagine some unknown young guy with no academic background or any credentials, proposing this theory of Zero Work with Basic Income Guaranty in 1981 as an alternative to Marxian Socialism. No one will believe it would be possible; even today for many people. No sensible publisher at that time would even look at it. It had to be self-published by my small workers group. We tried to distribute it to well-known academics, but outside our group no one was interested. With hindsight, I see that I was the wrong person to deliver this message, I was underprivileged and disadvantaged, (a description that still applies). I wanted to achieve an impossible task, exposing a fundamental flaw in Marxism, a philosophy followed by hundreds of millions of people and for a century. No matter what I did, I would never convince the world socialist/communist leadership (who, in India, are leaders of most organized workers) to abandon their socialist revolution ideology for my reduction in working hours demand. If no one would listen to me, I had to wait for history to prove which theory was right.

Since 1980, the working hours of the working class not reduced significantly as it should be as per the ZWT, as a consequence, the overall “value of the labor power” has decreased. The technological progress has wiped out the large portion of industrial manufacturing jobs, shifting the large portion of employment into the service sector jobs. This has declined  the strength of the working class nearly to a collapsing point. On the other hand, the  strength of Capitalist or “ruling” class had grown many folds. Paradoxically, Instead of the working class demanding a reduction in working hours, the ruling class has begun to offer a reduction in working hours. The corporates giant of the “Silicon-Valley”, have even begun to promote the idea of UBI, which will allow the laboring class to completely escape wage labor. I see this as an early manifestation of the ZWT. Today I am more confident that history will prove that ZWT is right. I warned about the rising threat of robot driving unemployment and proposed a scientific solution, the gradual Reduction in the Working Hours (my theory in 1981). Sadly, however, pundits in the field even today have not yet recognized or very reluctant to accept this important historical message of ZWT.

In 1980 the "working class" meant industrial jobs, manufacturing, and factory jobs. As per ZWT, these jobs have dwindled away around the world, even in late developing countries like South Korea. As working class jobs shrink down, countries are examining Universal Basic Income (UBI). Office and professional jobs, which were formerly "ruling class", have been demoted to the new "working class", and they are following the same process of dwindling away. Against the wishes of the Marx and all his predecessors, almost all of the Communist/Socialist countries are gone. All capitalists nations did not become socialist, and no socialist country evolved into a Utopian paradise. They went back to being capitalist. Since no socialist theory said, "we will become socialist, then go back to capitalism, then become socialist again, and THEN become a Utopia", we can safely say that history has spoken, and we can forget about traditional socialism.

 ZWT written in 1981 in India. What is the relevance of it to the rest of the world today?
ZWT is more relevant to the world today than ever before! It applies primarily to industrially developed nations, rather than developing countries like India, but as any nation develops the theory has a greater impact. My writing definitely applies to the United States, the world's leading industrial superpower as the ZWT model. The majority of economists say that China will soon be the world's #1 economy. China and a few smaller nations were very late to develop (much of Africa has still to develop) and their Industrial base is still growing. ZWT predicts that as China develops, they will follow the same pattern of massive industrial unemployment, followed a few years later by growth and then decline in white-collar work. China will seek relief through some form of UBI, as will India. In the developed world, Sweden is testing UBI, Finland had a vote on UBI (but lost), and in the US there is a lively discussion of the minimum wage, which is a bit different than UBI, but overlaps on the idea of a "basic income".  

I don't expect the academics to read my theory or mention me or the theory by name but I do see them expressing their concerns and the solutions now that I spoke back in 1981. Nations need to realize that "Technological Unemployment", created by the AI deep-learning robots, will make human labor redundant, requiring the implementation of an adequate Universal Basic Income (UBI).Therefore, the need of the human wage-labor in the society can be completely done away with.

Does this theory apply just to the rich, or equally to the poor countries? How would it be applied in India vs. America?
Even though India is still a developing country it will quickly follow the world, particularly the US. The IT and Knowledge Industry in India will be impacted the first. I am not sure to what extent we will see the entry of self-driving vehicles on Indian roads or Wal-Mart robots in our supermarkets in the next 5 to 10 years. However, the most important thing to know is that developing countries like India, seeking a place in today's Globalized world, will be HELPLESS to do anything other than following the technological trends in industrialized nations.

If robots take over all work, what happens to today's jobs?
Past industrial revolutions created far more jobs than they replaced. The intelligent robot revolution will be different, wiping out all jobs performed by humans today. This is the first time that there is a potential for NO net job creation. These robots are capable performing not just existing jobs, but new jobs that are created by technology changes. Robots are always more efficient and cost less than human alternatives. Every year, the best robot gets better. The best human, the absolute best in the world at doing a job, doesn't get better but does want to be paid more. Don't we all expect to get a raise, especially as we become experienced and perform better? Robots get cheaper as they improve. The robot revolution will create new jobs, such as robot service technician. But new jobs can be taken over by robots, just like old jobs were.

When most human labor becomes redundant, and there are far more people than work, the majority of people will have no employment. However, humans will still fill some jobs, those that robots are not yet ready or not allowed to do. This could be less than 30% of the jobs today. If there are only 30 jobs for 100 workers, no amount of effort or perseverance on the part of workers will result in more than 30% employment. The 70% unemployed can start their own business. A few may have the skills to run a restaurant, make jewellery, write a book (that sells), or even invent something. In America today, 90% of new businesses fail in a good economy. Self-employment and small businesses might add 5% to 10% jobs... at best. For everyone else, the vast majority, we need an adequate Universal Basic Income (UBI).

However, some people will demand a job. They may have critical skills, such as doctors and scientists, that strongly benefit society should be kept employed. Other individuals will outright reject a government stipend. To address these social issues, we need to reduce the number of hours in a typical working week. The reduction in the work week to 30 or fewer hours is probably a good starting place. For every nation, their formula for an UBI and for a reduced work week will vary and may change over time. It is for the people of every nation to DEMOCRATICALLY decide these details.

What needs to happen to implement the ZWT and when? Who needs to take action?
My present position is that rapid AI robot automation will cause massive job losses and immense unemployment problems. Public opinion, mass demonstrations, social media etc. will compel Governments to implement "Universal Basic Income" (UBI) or something of that sort, more so in the industrially developed countries. It fundamentally differs from classical poverty/welfare programs. When Governments implement and UBI, it will provide an "escape valve" for people who cannot find a job and do not want to work anymore. My interpretation of the UBI today is that it is an early manifestation of ZWT, a visible sign of society adjusting to the overall Reduction in Working Hours Theory.

Why the UBI essential part of the Zero Work Theory?
A Universal Basic Income or whatever the name may be, will provide an alternative to a socially destructive level of technological unemployment. Realistically, when most jobs go away, they won't go away evenly. Robots will quickly replace clerks and truck drivers, but heart surgeons will take longer. America already has tens of millions of adults who do not work, for one reason or another. If everyone was not financially required to work, parents would spend more time raising their children or taking care of their elderly parents. That's what adults want to do, that what their children want, and it's what THEIR parents want. It is also what governments say are good family values and they want.

Will implementing UBI be difficult? Yes, tremendously difficult. But what is the alternative? Governments are just beginning to realize the extent of the disruption that will be caused by robots. Will America outlaw technology? Can that be done if China and other countries continue to use technology to dominate the global economy? We have seen in the global financial collapse how difficult it is to deal and "cure" unemployment to 8-10%. How will governments deal with robotic unemployment of 50% or more? Will they offer training programs for jobs that do not exist, or are about to be replaced by robots? What is the alternative to a UBI that offers any dignity to the millions who cannot ever re-enter the job market? For a dislocation in the job market this big, it takes a solution that is equally big. To survive the AI Deep-Learning robot revolution we need the UBI to reduce the total number of workers in the labor force, and then we need to share the remaining work through a reduced-hour work week.

The historic progress of science and technology has created smart machines... robots and artificial intelligence. Deep learning is a technology with the capability to understand and duplicate human labor functions, and then instruct robots how to independently produce goods and services in abundance. Little if any human wage-labor will be needed. In the past, asking to be paid without working for the money was considered lazy, or greedy, or dysfunctional. In the age of the robot, instead of compelling everyone to have a job, people who are not willing or capable of performing jobs should be allowed to withdraw from the job market through the UBI and reduce the unemployment level. They can be free to do whatever they like. Millennial might like it the most!

What is the ZWT Proposal to Finance the UBI?
Many proponents of Universal Basic Income suggest that the UBI can get enough funds by replacing or cancelling the existing Govt. Entitlement, Welfare Programs. However, the cancellation of these programs will mostly affect the poor, weak and the underprivileged. It will face strong resistance, protest from many quarters of society including the interest lobby groups like pensioners, women, etc., making it a highly sensitive issue in the mainstream media, some of it can be very genuine.  Providing a meagre amount in the name of UBI with the cancellation of the popular Govt. welfare programs would be unethical and unacceptable. Therefore, let explore some new avenues, alternatives to finance an Adequate UBI.

Zero Work Theory which considers UBI as the part and partial of its overall program has a very important proposal to fund the UBI. There should be a Universal or Uniform Income Tax (UIT) to fund the UBI.  Under which the Government should implement a flat rate (Uniform) Income Tax on every income earning that the people make or receive. More of it explained in my blog: ZWT Proposal: Uniform Income Tax To Fund UBI” :

Also see the Part-II Zero Work Theory in:

Copyright 2016.-Valerian Texeira

Revised on 19-3-2017 (India time)


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