, Volume 62, Issue 1–4, pp 43–52 | Cite as

Labour, Justice and the Mechanization of Interpretation

  • Larry LohmannEmail author
Thematic Section


The biggest frontier of mechanization of the past 10 years has been the automation, broadly speaking, of interpretation. This includes recognition (for example, image recognition technologies used by security services), translation (Google Translate), searching for information (search engines), understanding (‘predictive algorithms’ that learn what books or movies you will like or what kind of propaganda will appeal to you, as used by Amazon, Netflix, or the Donald Trump campaign), trust (blockchain technologies such as Bitcoin), and negotiation (‘smart contracts’ as pioneered by firms such as Ethereum). This article explores how these technologies benefit business and why they have come to prominence now, the ways they degrade and exhaust the work of both humans and nonhumans, the parallels with earlier uses of machines to discipline and extract value from labour, and the implications for social movement strategy. The article also suggests some directions for research.


Labour Mechanization Technology Interpretation Translation Energy Bitcoin Blockchain Internet Contract law Algorithms Climate change 



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Copyright information

© Society for International Development 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Corner HouseSturminster NewtonUK

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