parallel economy and purpose

We do not quite grasp yet the ways infotech and biotech will shape humanity by the middle of this century, and we are already struggling to find a political model for the world of today. Those two observations taken together, project a somehow alarming view of our immediate future. It sounds like we are walking over a narrow railway bridge and we already see the train coming round the hill towards us.

The most shocking foresight confront us with a near future where most of humankind will be of no use to society. Where all we will need will be procured by thinking machines. And at best only few of us will be needed to get that wave started and moving. A world with an almost full unemployment is something no known culture, religion or political system is able to envision and to cope with.

If liberalism, nationalism, Islam or some novel creed wishes to shape the world of the year 2050, it will need not only to make sense of artificial intelligence, Big Data algorithms and bioengineering–it will also need to incorporate them into a new meaningful narrative.

“21 Lessons for the 21st Century”, Yuval Noah Harari

A world with almost full unemployment will also face the need to redefine currency; exchange will lose meaning if no one can be of use to society. If all everyone needs is provided for by a horde of autonomous machines, we will have nothing of value in our hands to exchange for those goods. Some higher authority will decide at some point what we get and what we do not get. 

So here we are, the last generation of a worldview that endured many millennia, saw many wars, reached unparalleled prosperity, and finally, was left in stupor looking at a future for what no explanation was available. No wonder we stick our heads under the ground—in diversion. In this state of bliss, let me adventure a model of economy for the end of the century.

Human centric professions and jobs will likely be needed, at least until we can develop affection with machines and we can be fooled to believe they correspond us. But apart of those, it is difficult to think of what professions may be required thirty years form now. Our needs satisfied, yet not clear how are we meant to pay for them, but restless like an early retirement nightmare that starts at the end of our education, if we need such thing any more.

Yet we will, once more, adapt and survive. We will start creating with our hands again. Craftsmanship will be reborn. And all that what we will do with our hands, rescuing wisdom of old, recreating old technologies and old methods long forgotten, will become value, will become currency. And our work will once more become our source of pride and will produce us pleasure. We will exchange once more goods. Goods in a parallel economy with an inherent value equivalent to the time and the energy we will put in our creations, but most importantly yet, the passion and love that we will put in them too.

scaffolding the corporation for the 2030

in still many corporations, young arrivals would, after a time, come to realise that the only way to make a career is to work up the ladder towards management. Yet not everybody can be or ought to be a manager. This is not new hence unfortunately many who today are shouldn’t be.

In the down of AI, many jobs that today still exist and busy thousands of people, (e.g. moving data from one excel sheet to another, from one database to another) will be one day no more. When a text line will suffice for AI to do all we need with data. And those people who have been shifting cells and making graphs for the last fifteen years won’t have it easy to still be able to add value to their organisations. Yet we find them in ageing swarms in our offices nowadays.

At the same time, we loose young talent because they see no ladder other than the management one. But eventually they would see themselves fitting in the role of an specialist, however no career scheme is today set for those.

Come the time of AI, will be those specialists who will be able to add value to their organisations, and will be those we regrettably miss, and even more regrettably we let go of them when we could have kept them, and grow them inside and in time.

Now more urgently than ever it is time to build the scaffolding of what our organisations will be in 2030. Otherwise we will find ourselves where now traditional banks start to find themselves: rapidly rendered inefficient by FinTech.

A career path moving toward specialisation that will grow towards mastery and end in a position not of management, but of organisation core competences, strategic growth and newcomers nurturance for a new generation of mastery.

This builds into an organisation with less people but more specialised and thus expensive people. Yet those organisations who choose to save money on their people and not foster specialisation, will soon have to close entire divisions out of asphyxia and with a high social cost. Still we have time to make a choice for the future, foster talent and be agile.

cities meeting the AI behind the steering wheel

We face a lengthy journey of thirty years until technology will be able to guarantee autonomous driving at SAE level 5 (no steering wheel, no pedals). This forecast set by Chris Urmson is as of today probably an accepted source at large in this matter. 

We recently witnessed a feat that was projected for a decade in the future, and yet it is now history: the defeat of man vs. AI in a game of go.

Even if we may very soon reach level 4 (human may be required to take control), still the ultimate challenge for AI on the road is the complexity of the urban landscape, mostly of its dwellers. This will likely limit the scope of autonomy in vehicles in the next decades. Or… maybe this is precisely the fact that will spur the speed of evolution… Harken to me now!

Will people still want to take the steering wheel to drive the last bit of their journey deep into the city? Or will they prefer to stop at a park-and-ride and do the last bit in the subway. Or on foot.

Could it as well be that cities and autonomous vehicle AI will meet at a near point in time and in convenience, such as traffic being funneled throughout only a few streets leaving all others free to citizens on foot?

Not even bicycles allowed, on-food isles in cities would be the final dream of urbanists, a paradise in earth for citizens and an utopia that can be real, just by the power of convenience. 

Picture credits: SAE International