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Cyber Slavery

The transformation of the Roman Republic into a hereditary dictatorship was directly related to the increasingly important role slaves played in the Roman Empire. The military expansion of the Roman Empire was accompanied by a dramatic increase in the number of slaves in Roman society. The pivotal role plebeians (members of the Roman working class) played in the expansion of the empire became less important as the number of slaves the patricians (ancient Roman nobility) acquired as the Roman Empire expanded during periods of military conquests.

Faced with restless unemployed plebeians who were willing to resort to violence to maintain their role in ancient Roman society, Roman nobility was forced to provide subsidised housing, subsidised food and distract the growing numbers of unemployed plebeians by organising public entertainment to fill in their time. At the height of the Roman Empire every second day was designated a public holiday. The term “bread and circuses” is used to describe this period in ancient Roman history.

Wind the clock forward 2,000 years and the world faces a similar dilemma. The beginning of the cyber age has brought the question of employment to the fore. Today increasingly complex machines are taking over more and more jobs. It won’t be long before robots will play the same role slaves played in ancient Rome. As population growth increases, automation becomes more sophisticated and artificial intelligence becomes a reality, the need for labour will dramatically decrease. Income will only be derived by those members of society who own the means of production, distribution, exchange and communication. Those who use their labour to earn income will no longer be needed.

The issue today isn’t jobs, jobs, jobs, the issue is how income will be distributed in a society that does not need all its members to be involved in the productive process. Limiting income to those who hold paid employment is a recipe for social dislocation, violence and civil war as more and more people find their labour is no longer needed. Faced with this situation, today’s ruling classes can either use the monopoly on the use of force they exercise through their control of the state to violently put down the growing number of citizens with no future in this society or they can introduce significant reforms. The provision of a living wage for everyone irrespective of whether they work or not is a fundamental necessity today. The introduction of a living wage in the 21st century is the only way to guarantee social cohesion in an increasingly volatile era.

Dr. Joseph Toscano

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