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.

there will not be a solution

…for a problem that does not yet exist, if we are bound to the behavior of a free capitalistic economical framework.

Normally the establishment does what the establishment is expected to do; they flood the media with arguments that undermine change by highlighting the yet unresolved problems that that change will bring to the light.

Here we go with all the doubts casted upon the management of battery recycling. Or with the question of where the electric power was generated and at what environmental cost. These two problems, aren’t quite yet problems, and therefore we haven’t yet solutions for them. There is no economical incentive to tackle those problems yet. But this does not mean that they cannot be solved nor that they will not be solved, come the time they need to be solved.

Staying put with internal combustion engines is preventing new problems to endure in the old ones, yet at a high cost. A mortgage for future generations.

Whilst the automotive industry is doing its best to slow down the transition to electrical mobility, other industries, with a smaller financial baggage, face problems head on. Once, a company told us we had a new huge, much bigger that electric vehicles, problem; we all want to have internet in our pockets. And do you know what? They even had a working solution on their way to the shelves!

factoring nature

Since the beginning of time, the environment was a threat that had to be tamed. Rivers had to be bridged, mountains meant death, floods and droughts too. Humankind scrapped a life at the most benign patches of the world, in the interludes between natural catastrophes.

With mechanization and later into the digital age, the ability of humankind to penetrate former inhospitable places and exploit natural resources has seen an unprecedented explosion. So large that nature has to begin to be considered in the equation of most human activities. Yet nature has no rights or protection other that a few NGO’s. Only very large corporations can mind nature in a honest move or a gimmick, in the best case the mindfulness of very few CEO’s or the opportunism of marketing strategists.

In the 50’s you would have possibly needed half of humanity working in the Amazonas to achieve the same level of deforestation that has been relentlessly achieved in the last few years. What a few years ago was unthinkable or practically impossible, is now only a matter of finding investors.

Now, we know that nature is not unlimited. We know that nature is a very complex network of influences and balances. We know that our survival depends greatly of this myriad of balances that we are beginning to understand.

In this manner, humankind faces nowadays a dilemma that may decide the fate of our planet. Some would posit that this is how it ought to be and humankind has to move out to other planets. Others will posit that a new economy can be envisioned that considers nature as an actor in the model.

our society is dying at the push of a buttton

Back in the first years of Apple, a paradigm change started a revolution. The term User Experience was coined. And with it all the complexity of a computer would be made invisible to the user in a turn of events that would give raise to the User Centered Design.

The User had only to bother pushing a button and a number of agents would take action to handle a complex amount of transactions between hardware and software to provide a response. In a sort of way, that was the end of computer programming for everyone. Nobody needed to bother doing that anymore.

But we are no longer just using computers. We are using computers to use the world. The obscured and complex code and engineering now engages with people, resources, civics, communities and ecosystems.

Kevin Slavin

The success of this model—at the time confined to a personal computer—has in the last few years spilled out of it and in our society. The User has only to push a button and a number of people, together with hardware and software, are magically set in motion. Very likely not in a way we would consider as honorable, would be know of it.

A cook, a bicyclist, a warehouse worker, a cab driver, a courier, a growing list of people are becoming a piece of living hardware connected to a button in our smartphone. A list that one day may include us all, in a huge “Amazon Mechanical Turk” that may turn our society into a dystopian nightmare.

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.

marshes corp.

The increasingly complex environment of today’s business life, together with the economical growth of the last years, has set the grounds for an unprecedented demand of middle managers in advanced countries. These have to be either recruited outside the corporation, with uncertain results and risk, grown inside (but it takes time), or in many cases picked up from the staff as being hopefully the least bad choice.

This poor fellow finds himself in a tight spot and in most cases it will quickly evolve into a blockade to the bottom and a desperate run upwards before the mess becomes too obvious. Thus leaving a trail of demotivation, bad decisions, and desolation.

In any corporation level there are four possible states where people will find themselves. The person itself can be either ambitious (fire) or calm (water). The environment can be a blockade (earth) or supportive (air). 

An ambitious person in a supportive environment will become a rocket and will make good use of her fire through the air. Yet in a blockade environment will burn like charcoal. A calm person in a blockade environment will find her way to survive and do as good a job as possible like a battleship entangled in marshes. Yet in a supportive environment she will roam the seas and be the launch basis for her colleagues, the rockets.

the United Cities of the World

Looking at the accounts of the referendum and elections in 2016 in UK and the USA, you can observe clear indications of the poignant division of vote between populations in large cities and populations in the countryside. Not a new behaviour, but due to the significant global impact of these two instances I come to think that the time to tackle this situation is now due.

Considering that dwellers of large cities around the globe seem to have more in common than with each of their countrymen, a possible political development where cities bundle in a (UCW) United Cities of the World state of sorts seems not far fetched. In this scheme, country boundaries would be drawn around cities and not around countries and airports bridging large cities would not any more be international but domestic airports.

Incidentally we see an emergence in the significance of Mayors of large cities as being more autonomous, having more political impact and possibilities to cater to their citizens that national presidents have with their countrymen.

With these premises in mind, it strikes me that the governance of an hypothetical UCW ought to be more effective and more coherent than the governance of the USA or the EU. Ultimately, would enable a parting from partisanship and the raise of a government that executes closer to its citizens.

Such a new world order would mean a new division of wealth and infrastructure. We may come quickly to the impression that this would create a new global over wealthy state and let a near bankrupt countryside behind. Yet this does not necessarily have to be the outcome. Cities need all goods be imported from the countryside, but also need to sell high value products and services to those people outside the boundaries of the UCW.

Is it perhaps henceforth the next empire in earth one made of dwellers of large cities, with a common English language, a common libertarian and democratic ideology, and a mingling of all races and backgrounds? Distributed all over the world but all being a single ‘us’.