A Brave New World


 

How beauteous mankind is!

O brave new world,

That has such people in it!

 

                                                                                Shakespeare in The Tempest

 Climber enjoys the view from the top of the mountain

“….We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs. Protection would lead to great prosperity and strength…. We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth.”

Donald Trump in his Presidential inauguration speech, 20th Jan 2017

***

“But there is simply no need in the 21st century to be part of a federal government in Brussels……… It was a noble idea for its time but it is no longer right for this country. It is the essence of our case that young people in this country can look forward to a more secure and more prosperous future, if we take back the democratic control which is the foundation of our economic prosperity………. We can control our borders in a way that is not discriminatory but fair and balanced and take the wind out of those who would play politics with immigration.”

Boris Johmson, British politician & “Leave EU” BREXIT campaigner, 2016

***

“We launched the Make in India campaign to create employment and self-employment opportunities for our youth. We are working aggressively towards making India a Global Manufacturing Hub. We want the share of manufacturing in our GDP to go up to 25 per cent in the near future.”

Narendra Modi, Indian Prime Minister, 2016

***

The signs are everywhere. Of Globalisation, the beacon that was destined to shape this century, suddenly dimming. Of ‘Walls’ being built to prevent the ‘Others’ read immigrants to come in and usurp work that rightfully is ‘Ours’. Of bringing back off-shored jobs. Of ‘reclaiming back’ what belongs to us.

fair-economic-system

Which brings us to Technology. Now technology has always been  synonymous with productivity and economic progress. From those early days of industrial revolution of the eighteenth century to the mass manufacturing assembly lines of the twentieth century to the global networks of the twenty-first. Over all this period, it has been technology that has created jobs.

Faced with falling economic growth and stubborn unemployment (and under-employment) levels, politicians have been quick to chase symptoms. So the big bad wolf behind joblessness and immigrant inflows is seen as the ‘open doors’ of Globalisation. The Close Sesame formula seems quite straightforward. Close the doors, bring back all the off-shored work and leverage all the right technology. And ‘Hey presto!’ the pathway to economic growth and job creation shall be ours.

So Globalisation, the job destroyer is out……… and Technology, the growth and  job creator is in. Or is it?

Globalisation is all about free flow of technology, talent and capital. So as we turn our backs to Globalisation, can we keep technology, talent and eventually capital on our side?

There is also the other paradox. Of how nations and people get to apply different yardsticks to Globalisation as applicable to oneself versus others.  So Donald Trump sees nothing wrong in the spread of American entertainment and fast food brands globally but hates work getting off-shored. And Britain, the creator of the Commonwealth group of nations worldwide, now prefers to go it alone within Europe. Prime Minister Modi and India cry foul when changes in work Visa rules threaten the country’s IT industry but simultaneously focus on ‘Make in India’ to reduce imports.

And finally there is strong evidence that technology in its present avatar of automation, networks, robotics and artificial intelligence no longer creates jobs, in fact quite the contrary.  It has become the destroyer of jobs!

global_technology

Countries are witness to jobless economic recoveries. The world overall has seen productivity and economic growths far outpacing job creation. What this means is that companies and factories are able to produce more and more goods and services without the need to have more workers. What is it that is balancing the equation? Technology of course!

A major reason for the huge upsurge in start-ups is the widespread access to technology concurrent with the vanishing of  the traditional entry barriers relating to capital, workforce, infrastructure etc. One needs to merely read the stories of millennial entrepreneurs and their creations  like Jan Koum of WhatsApp and Mark Zuckerburg of Facebook to appreciate this.

What technology is also doing is shifting the wealth creation away from the workforce as they lose their indispensability and towards the entrepreneur controlling the technology. So the rich become richer and the Haves and Have Nots disparity continues to increase. In the US, we thus see 1% of the population holding 25% of the national wealth!

Finally, we are witness to the phenomenon of ‘tolerating people at work’. Not because they are intrinsically needed but because they work out cheaper in maintaining status quo compared to technology. So warehouses postpone introducing robotics owing to plentiful labour being available to do the work at low cost. Supermarket checkout counters continue to use clerks even though automation is available to do the job. What this of course implies is that there are growing numbers of people (immigrants, laid off workers, new entrants to the job market etc.) out there who are willing to work at abysmally low wages. Even the otherwise technology-mouthing Governments like it as this sustains socio-economic status quo against fears of disruptions which out- of- work populations might foster.

There are however strong indications that going forward the above compromise may no longer work.

Let me explain myself. It is fairly well known that technology gets governed by Moore’s Law. What this law states is that for every dollar spent the computing power (and the corresponding productivity) doubles every two years. Doesn’t seem much, does it? But hang on a minute! Do you know what this does to productivity over a period of time? Over two decades, the productivity goes up a thousand times. Over four decades, it goes up a million times! And computers and computing power have been with us for more than four decades now. This is the power of the exponential law which all technologies tend to follow. Which leads to the technology cost curves coming down fast and over time tending to become zero!

Another change that is being wrought by raw computing power is the unleashing of Artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms on a scale unimaginable even a decade back. As you might have guessed, this is leading to machines performing complex tasks which have been the exclusive preserve of professionals. Like medical diagnostics on patients better than the best doctors. Or scanning and interpreting past legal judgments, written contracts and assess risks to make a legal recommendation better and faster than a lawyer. Over the next decade or so, no jobs could be considered safe from being taken over by machines.

Do you see what the above two aspects together would do? Cost of using technology for not only low end jobs but even complex work would keep on spiralling down towards zero. We can’t compete with zero marginal cost can we? The writing is clear on the wall. More and more of us are going to be laid off……. with jobs harder and harder to find. We humans are well on our way to technological obsolescence!

So as I gaze into the crystal ball, what do I see?

I see the process of human work obsolescence accelerating and societal structure changing beyond our wildest imagination. Due to key exponential technologies like the internet of things, machine learning and robotics converging together, wide vistas of traditional human activity have no longer the need for humans. Several projections indicate that over the next two decades, available jobs would decline by 50%!

I also see technology continue to remove money out of the equation by making products and services cheaper and cheaper. This in fact had been happening for a while. Did you know for instance that a one teraflop processor which used to cost forty six million dollars in 2000 now costs below fifty! And the smartphone which we take so much for granted has in fact replaced a plethora of stuff in our lives which would have cost nearly a million dollars a couple of decades back!

 The downward movement of the technology cost curve would only accelerate. So a ‘Car as a Service’ future populated by Uber, Ola and the likes would ensure beggars would also be chauffeured around. The best surgeons would be robots working 24X7 with precision and the records of million past surgeries, at negligible charge. Cost of Housing too would fall dramatically as more and more folks work from anywhere in the world with avatar co-workers in virtual offices. Most people would enjoy energy independence through roof top solar panels and energy stored in vehicles. Rather than spending on energy, they would be earning through trading with the grid. And of course most education and entertainment would be available online for free.

So the future that I see hurtling towards us is of a world of people having little or no work, rather not needing to do any work, with an abundance of products and services available at low cost or free.

As Morpheus says to Neo in the Matrix:

 “……This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill—the story ends, you…. believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill……. and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more….”

Our Brave New World too seems to be a story of the blue and red pills allowing us a choice of the path we could take.

brave-new-world-small-logo-623x261

One road leads us to a virtual utopia. Inhabited by people fully able to realise their creative and innovative potentials. A world where people are uniquely free to follow their passions and creative urges. Where innovations are exploding every other day and unimaginable wealth is getting created. Where products and services are plentiful and available to all. Where being wealthy or not no longer matters. A world that has finally come to realise the socialistic dreams of Karl Marx and Lenin, but in a warped way.

The other way is to the land of dystopia. Of people lacking meaningful work and condemned to exist on the lower rungs of Maslow’s hierarchy. With not a hope in hell of achieving the higher rungs of potential. Of folks condemned to live on a Universal basic income provided by the Governments of the day. Of large sections of society feeling increasingly dispossessed and spiralling down into drugs, gambling, terrorism and similar madness.

As the anti-globalisation clamour becomes more strident, I am left wondering about the pill that we as Mankind are about to take. What is the kind of leadership we need that would point us to the right pill? Is our current leadership upto that task?

In learning……

Shakti Ghosal

 

Acknowledgements:

 

 

 

 

 

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25 thoughts on “A Brave New World

  1. I need to clarify one of my comments….When I put ‘the light’ next to Trumps name, what I really mean is he is a move forward to where we are going where as the dark would have continued on as usual…Heaven help us all….Trump is in no way a perfect pick, just a better alternative to moving forward, even if only a step or two. VK

  2. Greetings Shakti….I wanted to leave off a comment regarding your post, but quite honestly, my brain is fried at the moment. The vile and venom being driven at people just now is shocking! The 24/7 non stop belittling and attacking of President Trump( the light)by the dark forces is beyond comprehension. I knew the downfall of the dark would be intense but never did I think I would be trapped inside this snow globe of hate. It is far more than what my heart and mind wish to endure much longer….The long and the short of it is I am very tired and reading long posts is just out for me at the moment(LOL).My mind is already beyond its capacity to take in more info. I have saved the post to read at a later date my friend….We are living in very angry times. May the light shine brighter very soon 🙂 I am here to add to the light as I know you are as well….May our deepest dreams become reality for us to witness….Happy weekend Shakti….VK.

    • Hi VK,

      I understand. I get the sense that you are not liking what is going on around you. My thought is to ‘Let go’, avoid getting attached and not allow emotions to bubble up. Mat be do a spot of meditation and determine what specific.Cause you might focus your energies on at this moment.

      I wish you all the best.

      Regards

      Shakti

  3. In mid 60’s, a thin 45 page book by a German(!) author, titled “In search of jobs” was circulating outlining something quite similar. The example given therein was loss of jobs in copper related industries in the eventuality of wireless communications. In sixties it was indicative of great vision. Towards the end it predicted that in not too distant a future, people will fight for jobs but only for occupying themselves and not for salaries.

    SUBHASH GODBOLE
    ( Lounge session forum)

    • Dear Sir ( Mr. Subhash Godbole),

      If in the 60s the author could envision a future in which people would be taking up jobs for self actualization and not for salaries, he was indeed prescient.

      The problem with future predictions is that while we could be fairly accurate with long term predictions, short term ones are usually off the mark. Just like AI and Robotic predictions have been around for the last sixty years and according to most experts should have happened a couple of decades back.

      Thank you for bringing in this comment.

      Regards

      Shakti Ghosal

  4. Dear EssGee,

    I feel forces of entrepreneur-ism which find even this whole globe small and which are trying to go out in the outer space will outweigh these petty minded politicians and state boundaries will be broken practically, for sure.

    If need be, there could be a war, may be between US n Others and frayed tempers will be normalized after a while.

    No government could stop Dhirubhai to use it’s machinery itself for spread of his business. So let Trump etc. keep on flexing their muscles, global business and beyond can not be prevented by them.

    Intermixing of peoples is inevitable in this world ruled by internet. People can’t go back in time. Technology will also give something to people which is even internet+.

    So there is no going back. It will eventually be moving forward, what come may !

    Prem Chandra ’73
    ( Lounge session forum)

    • Dear Prem,

      Great to see your comment.

      I could not agree more. History has been witness to the fact that technology and the changes it brings, have never been contained. Folks who remain agile and ride the change, survive and prosper. Others who try to ‘hold on’ to stuff that no longer serve perish and get washed away. And so it shall be as the world and Mankind moves forward.

      Regards

      Shakti Ghosal ’74

  5. Dear Shakti,

    Pessimist that I am, I foresee the third world descending into chaos.Hordes of jobless youth will go around killing and robbing.

    State police forces in India will battle one another over river water.Acute water shortage will lead to great unrest and disease.

    Make in India indeed!Ask any industrialist…he /she will give you an endless list of bribe takers.Doing business in India is so difficult-the entrepreneur does not even know who will suddenly pop up with a demand just when he/she thought that everyone’s demand has been met.

    Best,

    V.Anand
    ( Lounge Session forum)

    • Dear Sir ( Mr. V. Anand),

      What you say might just well be. Impossible to predict individual incidents. But we cannot afford to be negative about our and our children’s’ future, can we?

      India, like some other countries, is well on it’s way to implement some sort of ‘Universal Basic Income’ to combat joblessness. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act ( NREGA) was one of the early experiments in this direction. To me, the issue will really be how we as a nation and society can channel the energy and aspirations of the youth into creative and entrepreneurial paths rather than ‘killing and robbing’ as you have written. That to me is going to be the true challenge of our leadership.

      Regards

      Shakti

  6. My dear Shakti,
    What a wonderful post and one which hits so many spots right now across our global communities..
    Whether or not we end up in a world where we will eventually have more leisure time or not it appears we across the globe are moving towards automation and robotics which cuts down the work force tremendously..

    In a world where by there are many now in poverty and out of work. How will future governments of such societies help the growing population explosion when they are not sustaining themselves? We are already seeing governments struggling to balance the books!

    Already countries are drawing LINES.. Keep out.. This is Mine.. Not yours type of philosophy and are being yet more divided in opinions as what are the best practices to run their societies..

    As I look at the world now Shakti, I see a great Unrest that is about to be unleashed on a scale as yet no one has seen..
    We saw it happen within the Arab Spring.. Now it is happening under our noses in Europe and the USA also.. Small uprisings.. Not as yet to the scale we associate with the rebellions in the Arab states, but the frustrations are rising.. And are getting more and more heated..

    So too as we ourselves alter our energies Mother Earth is also reacting, moving screaming to be heard.. I agree with lots of what Bela has said.. And much more work could be found by utilizing those capable of working who are out of work to help clean up our environment
    And I agree too that Mother Nature is trying to get our attention, but we are not SEEING ..

    You and I have often discussed Balance as the Key.. And I feel if we do not balance our ways of being along with our ‘Emotional Baggage’ lol.. That we carry along giving fuel to such frustrations and debates.. Then this world will be in for a much darker spell before it gets better.

    Energy is Energy.. Its either positive or Negative.. We are energy BE-ings and Emotions are triggering these two points.. Which is the worry.. Frustrations are gathering momentum.. And Energy follows simple rules.. Like attracts like.. Which again comes down to Mass Consciousness.. The Media fuelling the fires..

    I feel perhaps Shakti that these times are meant to clear out the Old ways they are not boding well for the immediate future. Which is why I try to emphasise the need of LOVE and Compassion, Caring etc.. Emotions we’ve forgotten to feel for our countryfolk who are struggling.. For we have transferred our Love of People to that of our LOVE of Things.

    But I know that it is always darkest before the Dawn light , and these times of Changes are what we are going to all have to pass through before a New Dawn..

    Love and Light my friend and thank you for allowing me to express my own emotions and thoughts..
    Blessings
    Sue xx

    • Dear Sue,

      Thank you for your detailed comment. It shows that you not only hold the consciousness about the change that is taking place but also the compassion towards all those who are getting effected by the change.

      As I look at the underlying aspects which are leading to the change, I realise the turbulence arises because somewhere deep down, we remain unwilling to accept, rather somehow try to hold onto a past that no longer serves. This of course is nothing new; for each one of us familiarity does bring comfort.

      So what could be the way for us individuals and our societies to retain balance as disruptive changes wrought by technology accelerates all around us?I believe a way to do this is to “let go” of our possessive instinct for acquired “things”, vacuous responsibilities and relationships. And have the passion to stand for something bigger than our own-selves. And do this with integrity and authenticity. As we take this stand, we become Energy BE-ings. In this regard, Bela’s suggestion to move towards interdependent and sustainable communities is a great one. Incidentally this was also the vision that Gandhi had for India which sadly the country chose to ignore…….

      God bless!

      Shakti

      • Yes Shakti.. I agree with you my friend about Letting go.
        People are wanting control, over ‘their’ possessions.. And the reason I resonated with Bela’s comment so well was that Nature is challenging us all the time to learn the lessons of letting go.

        How many places around the world has there been with severe flooding.. I think most countries have been touched by them.. Here in the UK over the last several years many have lost everything in floods.. And those in other lands have also lost lives..

        Nature is teaching us to let go with every storm, every fire, flood, Tornado and Hurricane. Yet we are not Seeing this..

        I feel while also our world is changing as we refuse to let go of Old ways.. And as governments may well collapse and our monetary systems get put under huge strains .. Nature is stripping us also of our possessions .. And that may well be where the greatest CHANGE of all may well happen..

        And when or if it does.. It will mean the haves and the have nots will be plunged into the same whirlwind of extremes.. And to survive it will mean pulling together.. Pooling resources, skills, healing, and bartering out within communities.. This will also drive more to learn self sufficiency and grow and share food..

        Yes it may well sound pie in the sky right now.. Nothing happens over night.. But this is the way I feel the chaos will help cleanse and set into motion a new way of Being ..

        I live in Love and Hope.. My friend

      • Sue, thank you for these lovely thoughts.

        Indeed ,Technology even in its present Avatar of a ‘Destroyer of Jobs’ does allow for a great advantage.

        As I have alluded in my post, Technology is also a Demonetiser by taking money out of the equation as it keeps on driving costs down. Methinks this would be one aspect which would , over time, remove the divide between the “Haves” and “Have Nots”. Since money would increasingly go out of the equation, how would one differentiate between these two categories?

        I sense the future would throw up different yardsticks for gauging the ‘Haves’ and ‘Have Nots’. What would those be? Could they be based on Creativity? Could they be based on Sustainability?

        Whatever yardstick takes centre-stage, I sense that the world would be a more inclusive and a better place.

        Cheers

        Shakti

      • What ever the yardstick turns out to be Shakti.. I hope Creativity never dies in the hearts of men and women, but I hope more come to understand the importance of sustainability.. For we can not keep creating, to just throw it on the rubbish dump!… hoping it will disappear… We have to clean up our acts both in terms of pollution and our treatment of each other and our Earth Mother.. Or we may well find that Mother Gaia will be teaching us all a great lesson.. That of Survival..
        Blessings my friend and I loved our discussion..
        Sue 🙂

  7. Well, then. My somewhat disjointed thoughts:

    I am not a wall builder. Not by any means, nor for any reason whatsoever. Just have to get that one out of the way. We are One People.

    I think we can jump on the techno/AI bandwagon and outthink and outsource our human labor force and even our potential … OR. We can move toward sustainability, back to smaller interdependent communities and rein in global food markets, returning them to local soils from which are derived greater vital nutrients. There’s plenty of work in Zero Waste communities, recycling and repurposing what is recovered therein. Cleaning up the oceans and the land would take many hands, far beyond the capacity of robots. I’ve also not yet witnessed robots capable of setting up wind or solar systems, though they well might design same. Same with residential solutions. Designing by machines, ok. Implementation, I think, will still require human know-how and labor.

    I think Nature is attempting to balance things, always. But ‘we’ are not paying attention. Greed continues dominating world powers – as it has done thoroughout the centuries. And so, I presume it’s a human trait that keeps rising to the top, so to speak. Perhaps the human race as it has appeared on Planet Earth has begun to exceed its shelf life. Perhaps Raj is correct in positing the next stage of evolution as a race of Super Beings.

    What a time to be awake, alive and witnessing what we’ve yet to see evolve in upcoming decades. Aloha, Shakti! Wonderful writing, as ever.

    • Bella, as always, what you say are disjointed thoughts ultimately show up as powerful drivers of further thinking! So thank you for your presence.

      The vision of small interdependent communities you have articulated is in fact closer to fruition than we imagine. As Man moves further down the path of his eventual “technological obsolescence”, he gets a grand opportunity to stand for something bigger than himself. Standing for sustainability, environment, Beauty and Zero-waste could be such causes and to take a reference to my post, could be the right “pill” as we stand at this fork.

      Great comment and I believe you need to pursue this thought further through developing separate posts.

      Regards

      Shakti

  8. Very well analysed, Shakti. It is a scary scenario and governments everywhere are not even close to figuring out the turbulences in the emerging horizons. The politicos cannot be blamed because, after all, they are cross-sections of societies worldwide where people themselves are clueless of getting anywhere near viable solutions. One of which that is already part of the social discourse is the concept of universal basic income for all to subsist by as, at best, facilitators in the interfaces of a fully automated world. Probably humankind Is set to ascend higher into super-beings in what may well be the next stage of evolution. It may also be vice versa as you mention. But I like to look at it optimistically. Greetings of the season and best wishes…

    • Dear Rajagopal,

      Season’s Greetings!

      What a delight to see you back in this space. Indeed the concept of ‘Universal Basic Income’ is being bandied about in several places. In fact a few countries like Finland and India are trying out societal experiments to gauge the efficacy. So I suppose it would come in some form throughout the world as job quality and quantity go into a decline.

      Evolution of Man into Superman? Difficult to conjecture when that could take place. But I do like the ‘Way Forward’ vision that Bella has articulated in another comment. That to me is do-able. But to get there, what needs to be done in terms of effective leadership and bringing diverse concerns of different nations and communities on board?

      Cheers

      Shakti

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