5 ways to face the present and the future

Humans think in terms of storytelling, and the simpler it is, the better.

In the twentieth century there were three great narratives: the fascist one, the communist one and the liberal one. The first was wiped out by the Second World War, at the end of the eighties the communist one collapsed, the third, which had remained the only one to dominate, has disappeared now: people no longer believe that guaranteeing full freedom for all represents the solution. of all evil.

The liberal narrative has created great expectations, which have been respected in the past, but today young people can consider themselves lucky if they manage to maintain the current living conditions. Without a narrative that explains the future, we are confused and led to think in apocalyptic terms.

Added to this is an increasing inability to keep up with technology, even in the delicate financial sector. What will happen when artificial intelligence makes it impossible for most people to understand finance? What political repercussions will there be when a country’s budget has to be approved by an algorithm?

Globally, the masses feel they are losing relevance and we can see the will to have a global narrative diminishing by looking at Trump who proposes the return to an isolationist America, to England that chooses Brexit, to China that rediscovers the original historical tradition .

It is time to work on a new narrative, capable of managing the dual revolution, computer science and biotechnology, which will gain momentum in the coming decades and will have an impact on the lives of all of us. To do this we must go from panic to perplexity: we must admit that we do not know what is happening in the world.

Design new models to face the change in the world of work

Humans have two types of skills: physical and cognitive.

In the past, machines were competing with humans on the physical plane, today (and increasingly) they are also in the cognitive field: scientists are able to  hack  humans and artificial intelligence is able to overcome human performance in many areas, including in fields traditionally linked to the use of intuition.

In addition, while humans are individuals and act individually, machines can easily be connected and integrated into a flexible and powerful network. It would be madness to be against automatic driving: 90% of the accidents that cause 1.25 million deaths a year in the world are attributable to human error: driving in a state of drunkenness, distraction, speeding. In other words, self-driving vehicles could save a million lives a year.

Artificial intelligence can cancel many jobs, especially those that require repetitive tasks, but also create new ones: think of drones. The US military has replaced some pilots with drones, but 30 specialized technicians are needed to manage a single Predator, and 8 analysts are responsible for analyzing the data it produces.

The problem is the level of preparation that requires occupying these new jobs: in 2050 a cashier will not be able to quickly become an analyst. We could witness the birth of an army of useless workers, a condition aggravated by the lack of stability: there could be millions of people forced to “reinvent themselves” periodically to stay on the job market.

It is necessary to anticipate the problem and try to design new models for an “after work” society. A hypothesis that is gaining consensus is that of the universal minimum income, combined with a rethinking of what we call work: applying this definition to activities such as helping neighbors or taking care of children.

In Israel, about half of ultra-Orthodox Jewish men do not work, but devote their lives to the study of the Holy Scriptures. Wives work, but it is the government that assists them with subsidies and services. Lay people often say they are against this form of assistance, but the affirmation of artificial intelligence could push us to overturn the paradigm and recognize that this is the correct model to follow.

The ultra-Orthodox are poor and unemployed, but their level of personal satisfaction is very high. A room crowded with Talmud scholars is full of joy, a textile factory full of exploited workers certainly not.

The advent of artificial intelligence could help us change for the better.

Artificial intelligence will have to build a bridge between online and offline

Where can Big Data take us? The computing power that allows you to examine every possibility before making a decision can create algorithms capable of choosing for us.

But if we completely pass the authority to Google Maps, we can end up in the water, as happened to the Japanese tourist Yuzu Noda who in 2012, during a trip to Australia, ended up in the Pacific because the GPS had said that he could reach his goal, a island by car.

On the other hand, algorithms can make ethical decisions, not clouded by stress, prejudices, selfishness. Think of a job interview done by a computer programmed not to take sex, race, religion into consideration.

In terms of data and freedom, we are on dangerous ground. Already today, when a Palestinian travels, telephones or publishes on Facebook, he is checked and his “traces” are collected and analyzed. This allows Israel to detect and neutralize potential threats, but it can create serious problems: in October 2017, a Palestinian worker published a photo of him alongside a bulldozer with the word “good morning”, which for an algorithm error was read as “Kill”, and the man was arrested. What Palestinians in the West Bank are experiencing could be what will happen to the world in a few decades.

The history of the twentieth century is the history of reducing inequality between classes, races and genders. The 21st century has not followed this path, today 1% of the world’s population holds 50% of the wealth, the 100 richest people in the world own more than 4 billion of the poorest combined.

And the situation can get worse: AI  (Artificial Intelligence) can increase biological inequality. The wealthy may be able to buy talent, health, length of life and beauty thanks to biotechnology. In the 21st century, data will eclipse the earth and machines as a strategic resource.

Whoever holds them can violate the deepest secrets of life. Today we are happy to give our data in exchange for free mail and nice videos, but it may become impossible to escape the network, it may even be forbidden: just think about the battle between health and privacy.

Zuckerberg announced that “the project to re-found human communities is Facebook’s mission”, and that he has started working on an  AI  that can help people join significant communities. To succeed, he will have to be able to build a bridge between online and offline, because a real community is physical: if I’m sick, a friend in California can talk to me, but only a neighbor can bring me a cup of broth.

 Religion, ultra-nationalism and racism

The thesis that describes the clash between civilizations actually pushes towards xenophobic policies and local identities: if it accepts that it will never be possible to integrate Muslim minorities, the West will have to close and the European Union will have to abandon its multicultural dream.

The reality is that there is only one human civilization, which is undergoing constant changes: being German today means having to deal with Nazism, and it is the evolution that led Germany from Nazism to democracy to define the German identity today .

A thousand years ago, there were dozens of different political models in the world, from European city states to caliphates, while today the world is organized into 200 states and the model of political regime is only one.

Even the Taliban have sought international recognition as Afghanistan’s legitimate government. National anthems and flags are actually profoundly the same: at the Olympics the most significant spectacle is not the race between nations, but the planetary agreement: an athlete wins, the anthem plays and the flag flies. We must be proud of the fact that mankind is capable of organizing an event like this.

Men are naturally inclined to be loyal to small groups, from the family to the football team. National collective ideals have been “invented” to respond to dangers too great to be managed by a single tribe. The problem arises when we move from patriotism to ultra-nationalism.

To push in the opposite direction to nationalism, there are two global dangers: the nuclear threat, impossible to avoid without an international cooperation system, and the ecological catastrophe.

The Holocene, the geological period we are experiencing, is substantially stable from a climatic point of view and has allowed human life as we know it, with agriculture, cities and complex societies. The change in climate will cause events that we have never had to face before.

Where does nationalism fit into this picture? The Republic of Kiribati, an island nation in the Pacific Ocean, could bring its emissions to zero and be submerged by the waters due to the melting of the ice. Unfortunately, if nobody can ignore the tangible threat of an atomic bomb, many can still put national interests ahead of global interests when it comes to global warming.

Lay people are a minority. Traditional religions are important for identity-related problems, but not only do they not have answers for technical or political problems: they contribute to the problem, contrary to what happened in pre-modern times. The great religions divide “us” from “them”.

Diversity is considered favorably only in the abstract, broad views do not stand up to the test of facts. Skin color still matters a lot, especially in America. Europe, in its desire to break down the borders between nation states, is experiencing serious problems in the management of migrants: there are Europeans who want to close the borders, despite the founding values ​​of the Union.

If Europe manages to find a solution to the debate, an intermediate path may have identified the formula to be applied globally. If 500 million wealthy Europeans cannot assimilate a few million refugees, what chance does the rest of the planet have of winning this challenge?

Man and wars in the 21st century

In the 21st century it is in fact impossible to undertake victorious wars, due to the change suffered by the economy: today intangible assets, like technological knowledge, are the most important, and do not tear themselves away from the enemy with a war of conquest.

Despite this, human stupidity should not be underestimated, and a growth in humility is essential for peace. Most people think that its culture is the beacon of the world, and that of others is irrelevant. Presumption, ignorance, religious fanaticism: men often use their God to dominate arrogantly, although humility is considered an essential virtue.

The social order in the past has been supported by religions, but if today we accept ethics as the guide of society, we can not visit temples and believe in no divinity, yet live a morally dignified secular life.

For the laity, truth and compassion are fundamental values, non-dogmatic lay movements tend to make modest promises, are aware of their imperfections and seek to make incremental changes.

The roots of man, the narrative and the future

Confidence in human rationality has led us to where we are, that is to face the problem of group thinking, which has a power so tenacious that it is immune to any kind of contradictory, even to a practical demonstration of error, based on data, studies and analysis.
The sense of justice also has ancestral roots, and unfortunately it is no longer adequate for the world in which we live: justice requires an understanding of the cause-and-effect relationships, and none of us is able to know exactly where its food comes from, who sewed his clothes, how does his bank invest money?
Homo sapiens is a creature that depends on its ability to create narrations and believe in it. As long as we all believe in the same stories and respect the same laws we are able – the only mammals on Earth – to cooperate effectively in very large groups.
In narration, truth is not the priority factor: when thinking of Coca Cola, do you associate it with obese people? Or rather to groups of young people who play and have fun together? Truth and power do not always travel side by side: truth must be clothed with narratives when seeking power, and this is true of priests of the great religions, emperors, communist dictators.
Humans control the world because they are capable of cooperation between strangers and are capable of cooperation between strangers because they believe in narratives. Peoples go to war and build cathedrals in the name of God, and poets and artists have always been important authors of narratives.
When we ask ourselves about the meaning of life we ​​ask that we be told a story. What is reality? What is my role? Having one gives meaning to my past and future experiences. Many narratives are linear, like the Muslim, Zionist, communist one. There is a way to go to reach a goal of happiness and redemption, life tends towards a single goal.
Narratives provide us with a sense, and we believe it thanks to rituals, not only religious ones: in the military field, discipline and rituals are inseparable, modern soldiers, like those of antiquity, spend hours cleaning their shoes. Napoleon said that a soldier will fight without saving for a piece of colored tape. Consider how the Marseillaise evokes France in everyone’s mind, and how for many two pieces of wood glued on the cross are God.
Predicting the future of a child born now is even more difficult than in the past: technological changes are unpredictable.
We have no idea what the world will look like in 20 years. The information we have is many, too many, yet it does not help us: what we know (and teach) today may be irrelevant.
The almost certain thing is that we must have the ability to accept changes: resilience will be the winning weapon in a world where stability could be a luxury for the few.

Lascia un commento