This article mainly draws from multispecies anthropology and the body of work on the social contract, to which it also contributes. It is also a contribution to the literature on the Anthropocene, on the nature/culture divide, anthropocentrism, etc. I would also argue that this article contributes to science fiction studies, as a reading of Children of Time, by Adrian Tchaikovsky
The main text of Ant Network Theory is composed of three SF stories, whereas the endnotes are the notes of "two time-traveling scholars writing from an unspecified far future, at a time when other beings rule the planet. They are using references from STS scholarship and SF that are more familiar, from our own time, in order to speak to us, even if the necessity to traverse multiple temporalities through simple language to express the Ant Network Theory (ANT) on occasion produces spatiotemporal anomalies." (26) The two time-traveling scholars, reflections of Chattopadhyay and Bowker, draw from and contribute to multiple bodies of literature, including that of SF. They are inspired by SF thought experiments featuring insects, for instance, also those where "species" is an even more blurry concept than it already is. Concerning the STS literature, they indeed allude to the Actor-Network Theory but this is not an ANT text by any means. Instead, this is a text that plays with "networks" based on the premises of non-anthropocentrism and planetarity. Therefore, I would argue that it contributes to multispecies STS, the literature on anthropocentrism and the Anthropocene.
* Not all the references in the text are "real" by current academic standards––some of the literature that this text draws on and contributes to is (science) fictional.
The article responds to the modern "pluralistic" attitude as exemplified by social constructivism (here in the work of Barry Barnes). By "pluralistic," Gad means an attitude upon reality that seems it as a stable and singular ontology upon which there are multiple perspectives or, conversely, a stable perspective against which there are multiple ontologies. Pluralism is based on "the existence of constants: distinguishable perspectives, or an objective reality." (53)
The article builds a "post-actor-network theory" using Marilyn Strathern's critique of pluralism (as "merographic connections" (56)) and her notion of post-pluralism using Annemarie Mol's discussions of ontological multiplicity and ontological politics. This is all framed within a Foucauldian approach that sees post pluralism not as a epoch that follows pluralism but as an attitude in relation to pluralism.
'Science and technology studies' approach and literature: She mainly draws her idea from this interdisciplinary project and knowledge system. It helps her to move beyond the constraints of rigid subject boundaries. She argues that most of the techniques and theoretical paradigms used to understand technology in STS is non-conventional and kind of neglected by its parent subjects. Even though the STS has done a great effort to understand technological determinism, she cautions about the casual and oversimplified understanding of it. She argues that keeping aside the blunders such as technological development outside of the social sphere, the people who study the STS should be more serious about technological determinism like they look into the technology. This study calls attention to one of the important challenges of STS "to conceptualize the dialectical relationship between the social shaping of technology and the technical shaping of society"
i. The theory of technological drama: It is a discourse of technological "statements" and "counterstatements". There are three processes, technological regularization, technological adjustment, and technological reconstitution involved in this discourse.
ii. The literature on socio-technical systems: The socio-technical systems understanding is considered as a more inclusive method and tool. The roots of this can be found in the writings of Thomas Hughes. The author quotes Hughes (45) who "shows how Edison sought to supply electric lighting at a price competitive with natural gas (economic), to obtain the support of key politicians (political), to cut down the cost of transmitting power (technical), and to find a bulb filament of sufficiently high resistance (scientific)".
iii. History of artefacts and technology: The author contests the idea of necessity as the meaning and logic behind any artefact we decode. He argues that it’s false to understand that there is a unilinear progression of simple to complex tools and evolution of technologies. It is our perception around an antique tool, that we transates as its usage. He substantiates this by arguing that "an enormous amount of human knowledge about building socio-technical systems has been utterly and irretrievably lost" in the history. He also pleads that according to the sociotechnical systems model, no such thing as a "traditional society" exists. Every human society is a world in the process of becoming, in which people are engaged in the active technological elaboration, appropriation, and modification of artefacts as the means of coming to know themselves and of coordinating labour to sustain their lives".
I. The hypothesis of routine-biased technological change (RBTC): these conceptualisations are working hypothesis of Acemoglu and Autor (2011) gives a picture of how job polarisation is happening and ultimately leads to overcrowding at the low skill level of the labour market. The author hugely draws from this hypothesis.
II. Second most important literature this paper can contribute to is regarding the gig economy and especially the process of 'uberization'.
III. The third part of the literature he already referred and going to contribute is upon the policy domains. He argues that there are several policy domains to be identified and explored and reviewed to get a better picture of the correlation between technological progress and labour... for example, An understanding of "first policy challenge is higher investment in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education but also in non-routine social, motivational, and interaction skills that will remain difficult to automate in the near future. Importantly, these non-routine skills exist across many different occupations requiring different levels of education, including a growing number of low-paid service jobs mainly done by unskilled workers.
The author focuses on three sets of literature.
I. The first one based on how profiling of poor and working class is happening. For which, she checks out secondary data from different newspapers about relevant issues that affected the poor in the United States. She even did great research to find out how poor houses emerged and how they were maintained during the nineteenth century. for example, she quotes 1879, the New York Times report, which alleges a 'poor house ring', who were selling bodies of the deceased residents of the house of the industry to country physicians for dissection"
II. The second set of literature is based on contemporary databases and its socio-political consequences. She calls them ‘digital poor houses'. According to her deep research on this, she asserts that “the digital poor house denies access to shared resources. It asks invasive and traumatizing questions. It makes it difficult to understand how government bureaucracy works, who has access to your information, and how they use it".
III. The third set of literature looks into the historical connection of poor houses, eligibility, blame and modern databases about poor and working class. Through this historical analysis, she explains how the poor and working class are always kept suspicious about being potential roads and criminals. She gives plenty of examples of how the poor and the marginalised, who mostly belongs to black off Latin races, being systematically kept apart from the welfare schemes and benefits through the rigorous, stigmatising process of proving themselves that they are poor.
I. Theory of automation and technology: The main arguement and ideas for this article stems from the ideas of Autor, who studies tremendously about labour and technology. He is the one who emphasised the heterogenous impact of technology and automation upon heterogenous labour force and production. The author mainly draws the ideas of polarisation of labour and wages, from Polanyi's paradox and its implication on technology from David.H. Autor.
Studies on technology and socio-political structures. The author's emphasis on the influence of other social-political processes derive from the studies he referred to. Levy (2018), "talks about the ultimate impact of new advances will depend on the policy choices of governments, the production choices of firms, the labour supply and consumption behaviour of workers and consumers, and their voting behaviour as democratic citizens".He asserts that over a period, some technologies ability, efficiency and speed along with people’s reactions will determine how the economy evolves
The author mainly derives the concepts and ideas mainly from his own previous essays, articles etc.
I. “Acemoglu, Daron, David H. Autor, David Dorn, Gordon Hanson, and Brendan Price. Forthcoming. “Import Competition and the Great U.S. Employment Saga of the 2000s.” Journal of Labour Economics.
II. Autor, David H. 2013. “The ‘Task Approach’ to Labour Markets: An Overview.” Journal for Labour Market Research 46(3): 185–99.
III. Autor, David H. 2014. “Skills, Education, and the Rise of Earnings Inequality among the ‘Other 99 Per cent.’” Science 344(6186): 843–51.
IV. Autor, David H. 2015. “Polanyi’s Paradox and the Shape of Employment Growth.” In Re-Evaluating Labour Market Dynamics, pp. 129–79. Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
V. Autor, David H. Forthcoming. “The Paradox of Abundance: Automation Anxiety Returns.” In Performance and Progress: Essays on Capitalism, Business and Society, edited by Subramanian Rangan. London: Oxford University Press.
VI. Autor, David H., and David Dorn. 2013. “The Growth of Low-Skill Service Jobs and the Polarization of the US Labour Market.” American Economic Review 103(5): 1553–97 “
These are few of works he cited in his essays and articles and in the references. These form the base of his arguments. From this and his own theoretical premises, he is trying to connect broad literature and theories on automation, social philosophy of Polanay's paradox to the theories of labour polarisation.
i. Theories of automation: Through the literature review of this particular aspect, which is an alarming phenomenon across the world, he finds out that the popular notion of automation as an evil is a bubble or myth than a reality. But he has never refused the impact of such panicking or automation anxiety. Few examples of the literature he reviewed to substantiate his point are,
I. “The National Commission on Technology, Automation, and Economic Progress: Volume I.” Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office.
II. Brynjolfsson, Erik, and Andrew McAfee. 2014. The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies. New York and London: W.W. Norton & Company. TIME. 1961. “The Automation Jobless. “February 24. “
He argues that only routine tasks will be automated. Even though the humanisation of automated technology is taking place tremendously, it is difficult to modify the technology, by making it understand as we understand things. The biggest failure of technology comes from its actions which are solely oriented towards codes and patterns. The algorithms and artificial intelligence are getting better day by day. Like Virginia Eubanks argued, the technology is more grasping and improving its knowledge system on every second of data adding. But the question she raises is about 'automating inequality'? she gives plenty of examples of how machine algorithms or artificial intelligence is unable to discrete which one is a fraud and which one is genuine. The automation can detect 1000's of fraud cases in a fraction of seconds using data analysis, which a human will take one hour at best. The patterns emerging from a fraudulent account and a family with regular issues will be the same. It is the human discretion that solves the issue rather than ' red flagging ' the desperate needful people from poor sections of society (Eubanks, 2017). Autor argues that technology should not always be regarding substitution, it should be more about complementing the labour ().
ii. The social philosophy of Polanyi's paradox: This paradox is named after the philosopher, economist and scientist aka chemist Polanyi, whose valuable observation on the contradiction of human knowledge gathering and ability to express it. He observed in 1966, “We know more than we can tell” (Polanyi 1966; Autor 2015). "When we break an egg over the edge of a mixing bowl, identify a distinct species of birds based on a fleeting glimpse, write a persuasive paragraph, or develop a hypothesis to explain a poorly understood phenomenon, we are engaging in tasks that we only tacitly understand how to perform. Following Polanyi’s observation, the tasks that have proved most vexing to automate are those demanding flexibility, judgment, and common sense—skills that we understand only tacitly". When we follow the logic of Polanyi, it suggests that high-level reasoning is going to be computerized whereas certain sensory motor skills attached to the manual jobs are not.
“Autor, David H. 2015. “Polanyi’s Paradox and the Shape of Employment Growth.” In Re-Evaluating Labour Market Dynamics, pp. 129–79. Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.” The author already spent much time in understanding this paradox and its consequent phenomenon through another of his own book.
iii. Theories of polarisation as a consequence of what I have explained above, the Polanyi’s paradox leads to the polarisation of labour and polarisation of wages. The former stems from the automation of middle-skilled employment and people either focusing on high skilled empirical ones and lower skilled manual jobs. Autor explains that this polarisation will seize to exist in the immediate future. One of his argument is regarding how there is unemployment’s related to manual, low skilled ones and how their wages are increased after a short interval of deprivation. He also explains how abstract jobs are reduced into small circles after a prosperous period before the 1980s. He also points out to the empirical reality of how certain middle-class jobs survived the ‘onslaught (as it is perceived in the popular imagination) of automation. He assumes through his empirical analysis that these jobs like that of radiologist, nurse and other works were human sensibility is more important in decision making becomes a barrier to automation. This does not mean that these areas of employment have escaped from the grips of technology. In a different way, this section of work and its labour is complemented by technology rather than substitution. The pieces of literature that he referred to know about the process of polarisation and its impact are mentioned below;
I. “Kremer, Michael. 1993. “The O-Ring Theory of Economic Development.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 108(3): 551–75.
II. Foote, Christopher L., and Richard W. Ryan. 2014. “Labour-Market Polarization over the Business Cycle.” Public Policy Discussion Paper 12-8, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, April.
III. Goos, Maarten, and Alan Manning. 2003. “Lousy and Lovely Jobs: The Rising Polarization of Work in Britain.” Center for Economic Performance Discussion Papers DP0604, December
IV. Goos, Maarten, and Alan Manning. 2007. “Lousy and Lovely Jobs: The Rising Polarization of Work in Britain.” Review of Economics and Statistics 89(1): 118–33.
V. Autor, David H., Lawrence F. Katz, and Melissa S. Kearney. 2006. “The Polarization of the U.S. Labour Market.” American Economic Review 96(2): 189–94”.
The text mainly draws its ideas from the areas of
1) Sociology of immunity: beyond considering immunity as a concrete scientific 'object', the author explores behind the social conditions which are actually defining what immunity is in different time and spaces
2) Body, flexibility and work: one of the important contribution this book is into the area of flexibility and work. Today’s neoliberal policies are defining the work on the basis of flexibility. It is not the mass production, but what author called as 'tailored product with all its flexibility and specialization in production is defining the work. For example, Lilly Irani in her book argues that in this neoliberal era, it is not the reserve army of workers who are outside the perimeters of capitalism but those uncertain temporary workers coming and going out due to flexibilization of work is the real victims of it. so the defences of those who work in such unjust environment can be understood from one aspect of how the body is used as a weapon and how biopolitics of the elite is questioned can be better explained by the ideas put forwarded by Emily Martin.