Capital’s Artificial Intellect Becoming Uber’s Means of Autonomous Immaterial Production

in Historical Materialism
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?

Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.


Have Institutional Access?

Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?



The global path of capitalist development is continuously transformed as a result of the production and integration of advanced information and communication technologies (ICTs) within various forms of production. The first half of this paper conceptualises ICTs as capital’s appropriation and objectification of the productive forces of the general intellect in ‘the general artificial intellect’, a category that refers to the total processing power of networked ICTs in global society. The second half of the paper analyses Uber’s development of the elements of capital’s artificial intellect as the cybernetic means of real subsumption in its immaterial production process. The paper concludes that Uber’s development of autonomous vehicles is an example of the global trend in transport automation that could raise the organic composition of capital of the transport industry, which I suggest would advance the stage of real subsumption toward a third and final stage of autonomous subsumption.

Capital’s Artificial Intellect Becoming Uber’s Means of Autonomous Immaterial Production

in Historical Materialism



  • AllmerThomas 2012Towards a Critical Theory of Surveillance in Informational CapitalismFrankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

  • AlquatiRomano 1963Composizione organica del capitale e forza-lavoro alla Olivetti’ (Part 2) Quaderni Rossi3.

  • AmorimHenrique 2014Theories of Immaterial Labour: A Critical Reflection Based on MarxWork Organization Labour and Globalisation81: 88103 .

  • BeerStafford 1994Brain of the FirmChichester: Wiley.

  • BenigerJames 1989The Control Revolution: Technological and Economic Origins of the Information SocietyCambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

  • BernsteinAndrew and Ted Sumers 2016How Uber Engineering Increases Safe Driving with Telematicsuber.com29 June available at: <> accessed 13 February 2017.

  • BI Intelligence 2017Uber Builds Out Mapping Data for Autonomous CarsBusiness Insider14 February available at: <> accessed 15 February 2017.

  • BlanchetteJean-François 2011A Material History of BitsJournal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology626: 10421057 .

  • BravermanHarry 1998Labor and Monopoly CapitalNew York: Monthly Review Press.

  • CassanoJay 2016How Uber Profits even while its Drivers Aren’t Earning MoneyMotherboard2 February available at: <> accessed 15 February 2017.

  • CohenNicole 2008The Valorisation of SurveillanceDemocratic Communique221: 522.

  • CongerKate 2016Uber Begins Background Collection of Rider Location DataTech Crunch28 November available at: <>.

  • CookJames 2015Uber’s Internal Charts Show how its Driver-Rating System actually WorksBusiness Insider11 February available at: <> accessed 11 February 2017.

  • CrankAshley 2016COMMENT: O’Connor v. Uber Technologies, Inc.: The Dispute Lingers – Are Workers in the On-Demand Economy Employees or Independent Contractors?American Journal of Trial Advocacy39: 609634.

  • Crowdability 2016‘2017’s Uber IPO’Investing.com22 December available at: <;s-uber-ipo-200170565> accessed 20 February 2017.

  • DeanJodi 2016Big Data: Accumulation and EnclosureTheory & Event193 available at: <>.

  • Dyer-WithefordNick 2013Red Plenty PlatformsCulture Machine14: 127.

  • Dyer-WithefordNick 2015Cyberproletariat: Global Labor in the Digital VortexLondon: Pluto Press.

  • EtheringtonDarrell 2016Uber’s Self-Driving Cars Start Picking Up Passengers in San FranciscoTech Crunch14 December available at: <> accessed 18 January 2017.

  • FarrellDiana and Greig Fiona 2016Paychecks, Paydays, and the Online Platform Economy: Big Data on Income VolatilityJPMorgan Chase and Co.February available at: <> accessed 20 February 2017.

  • FranksBill 2014The Analytics Revolution: How to Improve your Business by Making Analytics Operational in the Big Data EraHoboken, NJ: Wiley.

  • FuchsChristian 2013Political Economy and Surveillance TheoryCritical Sociology395: 671687 .

  • HaddadEinas 2015Service-Oriented Architecture: Scaling the Uber Engineering Codebase as We Growuber.com8 September available at: <> accessed 13 February 2017.

  • HardingSimonMilind Kandlikar and Sumeet Gulati 2016Taxi Apps, Regulation, and the Market for Taxi JourneysTransportation Research Part A88: 1525 .

  • HardtMichael and Antonio Negri 2000EmpireCambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

  • HeinrichMichael 2004An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx’s CapitalNew York: Monthly Review Press.

  • HuetEllen 2015Uber Tests Taking even more of its Drivers with 30% CommissionForbes18 May available at: <> accessed 8 February 2017.

  • KenneyMartin and John Zysman 2016The Rise of the Platform EconomyIssues in Science and Technology323: 6169.

  • KitchinRob 2014The Data Revolution: Big Data Open Data Data Infrastructures and their ConsequencesLondon: SAGE Publications.

  • KlineRonald 2015The Cybernetics Moment: Or Why We Call our Age the Information AgeBaltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

  • KrumeichJulianDirk Werth and Peter Loos 2016Prescriptive Control of Business ProcessesBusiness & Information Systems Engineering584: 261280 .

  • LazzaratoMaurizio 1996Immaterial Labour’ in Radical Thought in Italy: A Potential Politics edited by Paolo Virno and Michael HardtMinneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

  • LesageJohn 2016Uber Loses $1.27 Billion as Driver Subsidies and Competition Take Their Tollhybridcars.com26 August available at: <> accessed 2 February 2017.

  • LozinskiLucie 2016a ‘The Uber Engineering Tech Stack, Part I: The Foundationuber.com19 July available at: <> accessed 12 February 2017.

  • LozinskiLucie 2016b ‘The Uber Engineering Tech Stack, Part II: The Edge and Beyonduber.com21 July available at: <> accessed 12 February 2017.

  • MarxKarl 1973Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy translated by Martin NicolausHarmondsworth: Penguin.

  • MarxKarl 1976Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volume One translated by Ben Fowkes Harmondsworth: Penguin.

  • MarxKarl 1978a Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volume Two translated by David Fernbach Harmondsworth: Penguin.

  • MarxKarl 1978b ‘The Value-Form’ in Appendix to the 1st German Edition of Capital Volume 1 available at: <> accessed 22 May 2018.

  • MarxKarl 1981Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volume Three translated by David Fernbach Harmondsworth: Penguin.

  • MarxKarl 1994Results of the Direct Production Process’ in Economic Works of Karl Marx 1861–1864 available at: <> accessed 2 February 2017.

  • MathewBiju 2015The Neoliberal Form and Nested Subsumption: Labour Process Transformations in the NYC Taxi IndustryUrban Studies5211: 20512071 .

  • Mayer-SchonbergerViktor and Kenneth Cukier 2013Big Data: A Revolution that Will Transform how we Live Work and ThinkNew York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

  • MeaneyMark 2002Capital as Organic Unity: The Role of Hegel’s Science in Marx’s GrundrisseDordrecht: Kluwer.

  • MedinaEden 2006Designing Freedom, Regulating a Nation: Socialist Cybernetics in Allende’s ChileJournal of Latin American Studies38: 571606.

  • MostermanPieter and Justyna Zander 2016Industry 4.0 as a Cyber-Physical System StudySoftware and Systems Modeling151: 1729 .

  • NatarajanMrina and Naveen Somasundaram 2016Streamific, the Ingestion Service for Hadoop Big Data at Uber Engineeringuber.com29 March available at: <> accessed 2 February 2017.

  • NewcomerEric 2016Lyft is Gaining on Uber as it Spends Big for Growthbloomberg.com14 April available at: <> accessed 26 February 2017.

  • PasquinelliMatteo 2014To Anticipate and Accelerate: Italian Operaismo and Reading Marx’s Notion of the Organic Composition of CapitalRethinking Marxism262: 178192 .

  • PasquinelliMatteo 2015Italian Operaismo and the Information MachineTheory Culture & Society323: 4968 .

  • PetersMichael A.Rogrigo Britez and Ergin Bulut 2009Cybernetic Capitalism, Informationalism and Cognitive LaborGeopolitics History and International Relations12: 1140.

  • PosenHannah 2015Ridesharing in the Sharing Economy: Should Regulators Impose Über Regulations on Über?Iowa Law Review101: 405433.

  • RanneyMatt 2015Scaling Uber’s Realtime Market video 4 July available at: <> accessed 15 February 2017.

  • RobinsKevin and Frank Webster 1988Cybernetic Capitalism: Information, Technology, Everyday Life’ in The Political Economy of Information edited by Vincent Mosco and Janet WaskoMadison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.

  • RogersBrishen 2015The Social Costs of UberThe University of Chicago Law Review Dialogue82: 85102 available at: <> accessed 10 January 2017.

  • RosenJody 2015The Knowledge, London’s Legendary Taxi-Driver Test, Puts up a Fight in the Age of GPSNew York Times20 August available at: <> accessed 16 January 2017.

  • RosenblatAlex 2016The Truth About How Uber’s App Manages DriversHarvard Business Review6 April available at: <> accessed 11 February 2017.

  • RosenblatAlex and Luke Stark 2016Algorithmic Labor and Information Asymmetries: A Case Study of Uber’s DriversInternational Journal of Communication10: 37583784.

  • SrnicekNick 2017Platform CapitalismCambridge: Polity Press.

  • TeixeriaRodrigo Alves and Tomas Nielsen Rotta 2012Valueless Knowledge-Commodities and Financialization: Productive and Financial Dimensions of Capital AutonomizationReview of Radical Political Economics444: 448467 .

  • Uber 2015How the Uber App WorksYouTube6 August available at: <> accessed 13 February 2017.

  • Uber 2017 available at: <> accessed 8 March 2017.

  • VercelloneCarlo 2007From Formal Subsumption to General Intellect: Elements for a Marxist Reading of the Thesis of Cognitive CapitalismHistorical Materialism151: 1336 .

  • Williams Margaret Griffith 2015 ‘Cabs Community and Control: Mobile Communication among Chicago’s Taxi Drivers’ 3 1: 3–19 .

  • WisniewskiMary 2016Uber Says Monitoring Drivers Improves Safety, but Drivers Have Mixed ViewsChicago Tribune19 December available at: <>.

Index Card

Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 185 185 184
Full Text Views 25 25 25
PDF Downloads 20 20 20
EPUB Downloads 0 0 0