Slave Morality vs Master Morality. This was, in my opinion, one of the most fascinating concepts that the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche gave us. Nietzsche was fascinated by the moral ideals of the different classes in ancient Greece.

What he noticed was that the slave class would talk about morality in terms of what we shouldn’t do: don’t steal, don’t kill, etc. To them, keeping themselves chaste and pure was the highest goal in being a good and moral person.

The aristocracy, on the other hand, would talk about morality in terms of achieving greatness, and contributing greatness to the world. Yes, surely Aristotle would see himself as a highly moral person for having contributed such profound works to the ages, and for being remembered thousands of years later.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I wholeheartedly agree that we should abstain from killing each other and all that, but when I look at the overall course of my day, I can confidently assert that I spend much more time in trying to achieve greatness than I do trying to keep myself from having lots of sex with hot women. I’m sure that many of those reading this will agree with me in that respect. The only thing troubling with this notion is that it also seems to imply something quite insidious.

In ancient Greece, you would be hard pressed to read about anyone who wasn’t born an aristocrat. Every philosopher, every mathematician, every politician was born an aristocrat and died an aristocrat. The aristocracy of ancient Greece existed on the backs of the slave class, and it was because of the hard work of the slaves that they had the time and resources to achieve such greatness in the fields of philosophy, math, politics, medicine, and so on.

Furthermore, when you look into all of the great civilizations throughout history, you will be hard pressed to find one that became great without depending on slavery, or at the very least a greatly oppressed lower class. Slavery is America’s original sin, and such is true of many great countries.

Even today, the biggest and most successful companies rely on the globalization of labor, which, while not technically slavery, allows them to be very productive without having to spend too much out of pocket. I would be willing to bet, in fact, that in many cases sweatshop labor is much cheaper than slave labor, since companies don’t have to pay for a sweatshop laborer’s food and housing.

For me at least, this presents quite a moral dilemma. Surely, achieving greatness means controlling high productivity with low costs. But how can we do this without trampling on anyone? I thusly propose Automation Morality.

The state of current technology has become such that we can now delegate more and more complex tasks to machines – that is, to automated pieces of hardware and software. More fantastically, a machine can do the job of a human more efficiently and effectively. Merely by having the birthright of being born into the era in which we live, we can now achieve greatness to levels not even imaginable by the men of ancient Greece by being a master, not of slaves, but of automata.

We can put massive amounts of workload and productivity on the shoulders of our robot friends without one concern for the morality of them. I’ve created chatbots that could talk to people for hours without giving away their synthetic identity. I’ve seen robots that could pick up on facial expressions of humans and mirror their own emotion back at them. Not one of these machines could feel bad, or used, or abused. Even if they could, the feeling would be nothing more than a number stored in a variable, which could easily be edited by the automaton’s programmer.

Perhaps we are on the cusp of a new economy, in which those of us who push every day to achieve greatness can do so easier than ever before, and at the same time sip wine with those who might, in a different time, be members of the slave class, who themselves may now have the same opportunity to reach farther than was ever thought possible.

Published by Seth Turin

1 Comment

  1. As a programmer, I am very fascinated by the thought of this software.

    This article is a very insightful look at history and the role that programmers have in changing things. Deep…

    The flip side is that automation puts people out of work that need those manual labor jobs. Some, NOT ALL, but some are unwilling to better themselves to use their brain instead of their backs. Those are the ones that will be left behind.


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