Post-automation: grassroots innovation democratizing the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

A new open access article in the journal Futures by Adrian Smith and Mariano Fressoli contrasts grassroots subversion of some of the technologies of automation with the way automation is embedded in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In place of automation’s foundations in capital accumulation, managerial control, and labour productivity; post-automation commits to more plural relations with technologies, rooted in human creativity, conviviality, and care.

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Abstract: Tremendous research, policy, and investment is directed towards a new wave of automation in modern societies. Most notable within discourse for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, but also in radical ideas for Fully Automated Luxury Communism, automation appears essential to the future. Advocates claim it will renew capital accumulation, boost labour productivity, and extend managerial control in sustainable systems of production and consumption. Noting criticism about future essentialism in this automation advocacy, this essay will turn to innovations in marginal industrious spaces within industrial societies. Here people are hacking, subverting and appropriating ostensibly automating technologies for purposes of creativity, collaboration, and care. Social capabilities in post-automation are being cultivated. Perhaps greater attention to the politics implied in post-automation can help open our futures to more democratic deliberation?