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The editor asked that this delivery of the Blindspot column cover something related to labour relations. In response, it can be indicated that this request set several trains of thought in motion, simultaneously, and hence the product constructed around fragments below…

I–Memories of embodied human labour

If it was possible to sweep in with a high altitude eagle-eye perspective on broad sweeps of recent human history (say, looking at the past five hundred years) it would in generalised terms be possible to argue that the evolution of state, economic, and human-societal systems (whether it is the British Empire or the pre-colonial Zulu Kingdom) have been shaped by labour. Labour, of course, understood as both physical and the mental efforts necessary to push forward the boundaries of, for example, traditional healing practice, natural and social sciences, or the building of railway tracks and associated train systems.

From that perspective, evidently, one cannot posit the concept, labour relations, without remembering and paying homage to millions upon millions of historical human victims of vastly violent, and pestilence-ridden histories. Think how supposedly sophisticated European Kings and Queens treated their slaves and feudal serfs, or how Industrialists, Mining magnates, and Mega-Corporations exploit and work their ‘worker minions’ into early graves. Human history is also a story of labour in Salt Mines and Metal Foundries that suck humanity out of humans living on nothing but slave wages, as supposed ‘consenting citizens’ of some Capitalist and/or Socialist/Communistically concocted dystopia. So-called Capitalism and Communism/Socialism are opposite ends of the same philosophical coin, with the coin being post-enlightenment Western Modernity.

However, in the twenty-twenties of the twenty-first century, human labour, both as action and as concept, stands challenged on multiple fronts. Some of the hopefully less obvious blindspots and battlefronts faced by labour, therefore, need exploration.

II–Science fiction and cyberpunk futures

To set the scene. What was considered science-fiction up until relatively recent times, has in manifold shapes, forms, and sizes morphed themselves out of the realm of the imaginary into what we perceive as a tangible 3D embodied reality. For example, what was seen as something of the distant future, by viewers of 1970/80s ‘Star Trek’ shows, being touchscreens, are by now an all-pervading presence in the global economy and society.

A genre of literature that came to be known as Cyberpunk (emerging in the 1970s, with authors such as William Gibson) imagine and write about a techno-society in the near future that, when one reads those novels today, could make the reader think William Gibson and co were writing the ‘emerging now’ reality of the world in the 2020s.

The 1970s cyberpunk phantasmagoria of a ‘just over the horizon world’ showed how bio-technological interventions, genetic manipulation, and biological wars can be executed at sub-molecular and genetic levels. They posited augmented humans and fully immersive virtual realities: non-physical digitospheric spaces of ‘entertainment’ where most embodied humans tend to, want to, and most likely will keep themselves and their minds/psyches plugged into, for as long as the body and bladder can take it. Think Meta and the metaverse. Cyberpunk had the idea of immersive VR worlds long before Mark Schmuckerburg popped a head into the digital domains.

Cyberpunk also talks about a world of advanced robotics and labyrinthine mega-corporations that bio-hack, gene-edit, and vaccinate to consequently transform living flesh through multiple advanced bio-medical interventions. In the cyberpunk universe one encounters AI-powered actors, musicians, and such mega-personas that garner millions of followers, while being pure non-human, post-human manifestations: they are AI, they are synthetic life.

Cyberpunk posits a world where unthinkable boundaries that used to separate ‘human from machine’ are not only obliterated, but consciousness is proposed as something that can be uploaded into and/or onto a silicon based computer platform: the Matrix’s uploading of consciousness into the ‘machine’ comes to mind. Now, for a moment, think of our current world where the so-called fourth industrial revolution is autogenerating, in real-time, the Internet of Things, concepts like the ‘Internet of bodies’ and Neuralink interfaces that can be implanted in a head, close to you, to plug the ‘you’ into digitospheric domains of nascent cybernetic consciousness? Thus the boundary between human and machine is not merely crossed, but provides a starting block for further human-machine mash-ups to occur.

The now of the turbulent twenties of the twenty-first century manifests a world where ChatGPT and other such Artificial Intelligences are already living among humans, not as ‘exterior/foreign’ creations, but as manifestation of the human (the organic embodied being) imaginary, and its techno-scientific prowess to dream-up and then proceed to create such magical human-coded manifestations in the Digitosphere.

III–Back to labour…

Seeing that we’re in the month that celebrates ‘Labour/Workers’ Day’, in a world ostensibly rushing towards ever higher levels of automation, robotisation, and AI-driven systems, it is relevant to ask what a concept like ‘labour relations’ means. By celebrating ‘Workers’ Day,’ an implicit assumption is exposed. This assumption holds that the labour exerted by a worker, somewhere in both planetary space and time, is that of an organic human being (some would see this as an anthropomorphic statement). The latter (the physically 3D instantiated organic/meat human being, to be very specific), however, is exactly the manifestation that is being put under erasure by forces driving the development and generalisation of synthetic life, artificial intelligences, and robotised systems, into planetary economic and socio-political reality.

Is it necessary then, to augment and extend the concept of labour, to draw its parameters wider to accommodate non/post-human systems? Systems that may be synthetically coded, play an ever increasing role in governments and corporations’ productivity. As human labour’s share in the economic processes of production dwindle (roles taken over by, or functions overtaken by automation, robotisation, and AI-driven platforms) the challenge is how to keep fair, humane, and legally regulated systems of labour relations in place, for the (limited) human workforce of the future?

For example, Amazon, in its warehousing and logistics/supply chains, is on a continual quest for increased efficiency via the application of advanced robotic, AI, and unmanned vehicle systems. While human technicians and troubleshooters will always be needed, it is a foregone conclusion that human labour, blood, sweat, and tears are gradually removed/erased/airbrushed from the production, warehouse, or factory floor equation. Take another example, the number of human hands needed to mass produce motor vehicles in the post-World War II boom decades of the 1950s and 1960s (especially in the USA), versus the highly integrated and advanced assembly plants of the 1990s, moving into the 2000s. The latter require a fraction of the 3D meat-instantiated human labour (cost) elements on the factory floor, if compared to the assembly plants of the mid twentieth century.

Meaning, human labour is typically one of the main casualties of technical, technological, or computerised/cybernetic advances on the front of productive efficiency. It is possible to ask; Quo Vadis labour relations in the age of erased human/organic labour meat?

IV–Beware of Autopilot’s Disease

Blindspot deliberately leaves a whole host of questions up in the thin digital air. But, in order to snake towards the end of this MayDay column, the issue at stake pertains to our current understanding of the appearance of the post-human. AI, robotics, human-machine hybrids, bio-engineered and cloned beings, are all manifestations of how humans, quietly, and by sleight of techno-scientific hand, drifted from being humans, to post-human manifestations, in the 20th century.

One of the manifestations of this drift towards post-humanism Buiteboer identifies in his book, ‘Searching for Madness in the Method’, banned by Amazon inc (more on that in a moment), is the symptomatic appearance of what he labels as, Autopilot’s Disease.

But what is Autopilot’s Disease? In broad terms, Buiteboer defines it as such: Autopilot’s Disease is about a techno-cultural obsession with removing the meat (the person/human) from the equation (of the future). As journey notes, this book … first has to be establish that Autopilot’s Disease festers in techno-utopian conditions. It manifests in a sheepish surrender to what is believed to be the inevitable irrelevance of organic meat instantiated humans. Autopilot’s Disease has persons believe that their meagre abilities, and frail bodies, are bound to be surpassed and eventually supplanted, by the power of the digitosphere, and the mega machine-monsters of metal driven by self-conscious AI.

Blindspot would also like to share with his honourable editor, that Amazon had recently conducted a so-called ‘content review’ and found said book (and author/Buiteboer) unfit to breathe digital air on their platform. Thus ‘Searching for Madness in the Method’ got banned, booted, and bungled out the door by invisible jackbooted digits. Nevertheless, the book is still available as an eBook on

While this may seem to be an inconclusive Blindspot column, the editor is requested to allow Blindspot/Buiteboer one more chance. Next month, the editor willing, Blindspot will publish a follow-up, to share a chapter from said book banned by Amazon, with readers. This chapter details how Credo Mutwa, in Indaba my Children, issues a bone-chilling warning of the dangers of Autopilot’s Disease through his telling of the ancient story of the self-driving hut that existed, like a Tesla self-driving car, in the most ancient and first human civilisation of the Murire/aMurire. Until then, it remains a mystery, over and out, from Bunker 42. 

Dr Petrus de Kock aka Buiteboer is a prolific writer, researcher, and commentator. He is the author of ‘Searching for Madness in the Method: This is not a survival guide to autopilot’s disease and the turbulent twenties of the twenty-first century’.

By Editor