Unchartered Territories ahead: Role of Culture and Human value systems

September 22, 2017

Famous futurist Gerd Leonhard in his book, Technology Vs Humanity says:

“As AIs (Artificial Intelligence) gradually then suddenly become scientists, programmers, doctors, and journalists, meaningful work opportunities could become so scarce that very few of us would snag a job-as-we-know-it today. At the same time, most items on the lower steps of the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs–such as food, water, and shelter–will become increasingly cheaper. Machines will be doing most of the hard work, making the provision of services such as transportation, banking, food, and media vastly cheaper. We may be heading towards the uncharted territory of economic abundance on the one hand, but the end of working for a living on the other. We will eventually need to separate money from occupation, and that shift will challenge some very central assumptions about how we define our own values and identities”.

He is not the only one to state that we would have jobless growth or we would have abundance of food but no jobs. Vivek Wadhwa, in his presentations and book ‘The Driver in the Driverless Car’ continues to state similar thing – we will have abundance of water and clean energy at very affordable prices even in the poorest parts of the world. But these developments would not create new jobs. We are heading towards jobless growth.

Almost every futurist has given predictions on these lines. And we don’t have to wait to long for these predictions to come true. We are already experiencing many of these things around us. Clean energy is getting available at lower prices, food productions all the over the world is touching record high, farming is happening in the dessert areas. Though few things are confined to developed parts of the world but with the exponential growth in technology and supply chain, we will see the gains of these abundance reaching every corner of the human population in less than 10 years.

The technology developments are reducing dependence on human power. The repetitive jobs are being consumed by machines and AI powered bots. When we call up most the service providers (AT&T, Comcast etc) most of the time we end up talking to AI powered software. Businesses are going to deploy more and more such software, algorithms and robots to carry out these jobs at 10X efficiency at 10 times lower cost of humans.

This also means that businesses would see huge growth in their profits. Rich will become richer and poor will become poor. The inequality will grow even further. Today 62 people in the world have wealth equal to bottom 3.5 billion people.! Just pause and digest this great discrepancy that exist today. Imagine what would happen in coming days !!

And then add a scenario that millions of people will not have jobs.

What will be social challenges? How will social structure look like, how will governance work? We don’t have answers to these questions. But one thing is pretty sure, that social fabric would be guided by the individual character, motivation and values. If we don’t have people with strong human values, with no foundation of cultural systems and strong sense of community, there would be anarchy. People would not know how to put their time to use. There would be full stomachs but empty minds. There would be material abundance but no meaning to life. People would have transcended today’s so-called definition of happiness as they would have achieved most of it – food, shelter, comfort – all material values. Now they would need more than that – which is ‘meaning’ or purpose of life. These full stomach-empty minds-souls would need to be channelized for the right purpose.

In such a situation, there would be a need to help people find meaning. Many researches have shown that people find the meaning to life from social acceptance, contribution to something more than ‘self’ and having a sense of belonging. People flock to social and cultural organisations to connect with one or some of these elements. People look for leaders and societies that can help them connect with ‘higher self. Thus, the work of social and spiritual organization becomes even more important. It would become even more important to institutionalize the system of inculcating these values.

-Sachin Dabir

 

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