There is a moment in Spike Jonze’s film Her (2013) when the main character Theodore, who is in a romantic relationship with an operating system named Samantha, learns that she is simultaneously conversing with 8,316 others and has fallen in love with 641 of them.
If you review the headlines of magazines such as the Atlantic, Forbes and the Economist, you will discover an obsession with the future of work. Will labor become automated, even beyond manufacturing? Will bots replace white-collar human resources workers? Will vehicles need drivers?
The term “robot” first appeared almost 100 years ago with the publication of Rossum’s Universal Robots (R.U.R), a science fiction play by the Czeck writer Karel Čapek. The play, a critique of emerging mechanization, takes up themes present in Marx’s The Fragment on Machines ([1857–8]1974).
“Chair of the Future.” Seventy years ago, Margaret Mead confirmed her futurist leanings by proposing that universities should promote the study of profound social transformations by appointing Chairs of the Future. Research on historical cultures and societies—“the Middles Ages and Classical Greece”—was already well established, she argued.