On the Pending Robot Revolution and the Utopia of Human Agency

Authors

  • Daniel Bodén Södertörn university

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.3384/cu.2000.1525.2018102208

Keywords:

robots, modernity, automation, capitalism, ideology, utopia

Abstract

A hallmark of modernist thought is the belief in science and technology as a socially revolutionary force. Consequently, new technologies have often been sequenced by pictures of another world to be. The birth of electronic data processing (EDP) was no exception. Provoking both hopes and anxieties, EDP and its subsequent process of automation has, ever since the launch of the first electronic data processing machines in the early 1950’s, been a cornerstone for countless extravagant visions of the future, such as the thought of an ever so impending “Robot Revolution”. This article builds from the basic assumption that visions of the future draw on notions of what at a given time is considered socially and politically desirable, unwanted or at all possible. It thus argues that the robot revolution could be studied as a form of reified anticipation through which possible social trajectories are made symbolically comprehensible. Focusing on the automation debate of the Swedish 1950’s, I argue that the robot revolution serves as a symbolic articulation of the social experiences of Swedish welfare society, and that it carries both ideological and utopian dimensions worth examining.

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Published

2018-10-30

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Section

Critical Future Studies