Economic language and economy change: with implications for cyber-physical systems

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The implementation of cyber-physical and similar systems depends on prevailing social and economic conditions. It is here argued that, if the effect of these technologies is to be benign, the current neo-liberal economy must change to a radically more cooperative model. In this paper, economy change means a thorough change to a qualitatively different kind of economy. It is contrasted with economic change, which is the kind of minor change usually considered in mainstream discourse. The importance of language is emphasised, including that of techno-optimism and that of economic conservatism. Problems of injustice, strife, and ecological overload cannot be solved by conventional growth together with technical efficiency gains. Rather, a change is advocated from economics-as-usual to a broader concept, oikonomia (root-household management), which takes into account all that contributes to a good life, including what cannot be represented quantitatively. Some elements of such a broader economy (work; basic income; asset and income limits) are discussed. It is argued that the benefits of technology can be enhanced and the ills reduced in such an economy. This is discussed in the case of cyber-physical systems under the headings employment, security, standards and oligopoly, and energy efficiency. The paper concludes that such systems, and similar technological developments, cannot resolve the problems of sustainability within an economy-as-usual model. If, however, there is the will to create a cooperative and sustainable economy, technology can contribute significantly to the resolution of present problems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323–333
JournalAI & Society
Issue number3
Early online date24 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018


  • Economic Language
  • Economy Change
  • Cyber-physical Systems
  • Industry 4.0
  • Industrie 4.0
  • Fourth Industrial Revolution

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