How Marx's Capital Is About AI

The imaginary computer interface from the film Hackers (1995)

I've started reading Capital by Karl Marx and this is post 1/n about how I'm reading. This is not a guide to the book or anything, it's not that hard, read it yourself.

In my reading, Marx's Capital is actually about AI. Marx is not talking economics, he's talking xenobiology. Capital is not a form of human life, it's a lifeform. And this AI is not somewhere in the future. It's already here.

What I do in this reading of Capital is simply take Marx literally. For example, when he talks about 'shortening and lessening the birth-pangs' I take him literally. What is being born? When he says "the present society is no solid crystal, but an organism capable of change, and constantly engaged in a process of change" I take him at his literal word. What organism are we talking about?

I am able to do this throughout the book. Thus no addition is required to read Capital through an AI lens; it's actually a more faithful interpretion of the text. Marx is always talking about birth, organisms, bodies, and evolution and—I argue—this is not a metaphorical quirk. This is a description of fact, unconscious though it may be.

Marx himself would not call this an ungenerous reading. In fact, in the Postface, Marx quotes Sigmund Mayer a critic of Das Kapital and called it "generous". I will requote this 1871 criticism at length because it is very much my thinking today, exactly 150 years later:

As Mayer asserts, biology is the most relevant science to economics, not the bloodless order of physics. What every economist describes is a social organism and denying the existence of that species is just a matter of prejudice, not fact. Marx, in fact, positions his entire philosophy in opposition to the 'man as creator' view:

Hence what Marx, Mayer, and many other people describe using lifelike metaphors is in fact the material world coming to life. Marx's Capital does not create this reality, it merely reflects it, which you can see in the literal words. As I. I. Kaufman wrote (another critic quoted by Marx):