Human inventions have always carried the desire for a machine to do the work for us. From the windmill that made millers dream of a nap in the sun while the latest technology did its work, to the washing machine that was seen as liberating women. We all know by now that these wishes have not really come true. It is true that some tasks, often hard work, are taken over by the latest technology, but this does not give us less work and more free time, rather we fill this free time with other work. Some call this efficiency, we call it stupid.
But apart from that, there is another phenomenon to discover. Instead of dreaming about the liberation of work through technology, people have become increasingly afraid that this technology will replace them. Not so Amber Husain! In her intelligent and lively essay Replace Me, she explores how late capitalism is guided by fears and fantasies of replacement. 'Power and replaceability have long constructed each other,' she writes in an early passage. But she not only explores the construct of replaceability that is meant to keep us small and in fear, she also explains the futility of engaging - let alone competing - in a replacement economy.
This book was published in 2021, before the introduction of ChatGPT and the like, and yet it could not be more current.
02 August, 2023