Technological progress: who will benefit?

By July 23, 2018January 24th, 2019technology

Technologies are evolving at an astounding pace. «Automation allows us to generate major gain from minimal work. I think this is a good thing.», saysKathryn Myronuk, «but where this will go and how the people will benefit from is not a technological choice. It’s a social choice.» Myronuk is a Synthesis and Convergence teacher at Singularity University. Her role is to analyse the exponential trends and to place them in our time. In this enlightening conversation we imagined possible scenarios for the upcoming future.

Below you can read the trascript of the video:

CRISTINA: In these times of exponential technologies many jobs are going to be replaced. What scenario do you see?

MYRONUK: I see a scenario where some places are going to be surprised by job losses. And other ones they see that fifteen or twenty years from now certain jobs aren’t going to exist, and they start planning early on. For example, you might not tell your children to become dentists if you understand that there’s going to be a vaccine against cavities. I mean, society overall is better off if we don’t have as much tooth decay and existing dentists can retire, but what we’re saying is maybe don’t have quite as many going into that job. It takes a lot of foresight and planning. I see it happening in the schools. I think parents who see what could be changing will start asking the schools to teach children what they need for the twenty-first century and not for the twentieth century. I see that politicians could start having difficult conversations about how can a society adapt to what would be considered the higher rate of unemployment, but is also a higher rate of people having time for other activities. I mean we—automation allows us to be able to generate more wealth for less labor. I think that is a good thing. Where that wealth goes to and how people benefit from it that is not a technological decision. That is a social decision. A hundred years ago, many people worked sixty or seventy hours a week. Now, many people work forty hours a week for thirty-five hours a week. We could overall decide that we’re going to go from an expectation of forty hours a week thirty or thirty to twenty-five. This isn’t necessarily a problem. Again, if it’s something that we talk about ahead of time. What we don’t want to happen is where some people are working fifty hours a week and other people are working twenty hours a week.

C: Could technologies have an impact on that, or is it more a moral issue?

M: It’s both. I mean, how you use the technology—if you have a video tape, you can use video tape to fight against human right abuses, and to educate and to teach, or you could use it for trivial or even harmful activities. How we use technology isn’t necessarily one way or the other. We have to make choices about how we’re using it and what we emphasis.

C: What makes you most excited about the future that lies ahead?

M: My greatest point of optimism right now is that this decade is a decade where we can have a dialogue of all seven billion people on Earth. And I don’t mean this in a poetic sense. I mean it in the sense of that our ability to talk to with each other, which means you have to have a connection to talk; you have to be able to have a cell phone; you have to have access information. Access to the cloud has gone from less than a billion people to nearly or even more than half of the population of the Earth depending on how you measure it over a relatively short period of time. Now we’re able to get translation software and other things which democratize the ability to talk to each other. Slightly in the future we will be able to start having a dialogue where when we’re talking about a place, people in that place will be joining in the conversation. They’ll be the one starting the conversation. I’m excited about science projects where there’s going to be no gaps between a researcher and the people who are doing the research. And if people are looking at a local river, which was polluted, they don’t necessarily have to wait for a government official or a science lab to come and test it. They will be able to do the testing themselves. They’ll be able to find people who analyze the data themselves. They will be able to put a report together and get it out to the world and talk about themselves. This is an amazing set of developments that we have huge problems, but living in a world of seven billion people are working on the problem rather than living in the world where only 5,000 or 10,000 or 100,000 people are working on the problem is a very abundant world.