Leading on from Part 1……….
In the meantime, perhaps we should take the proposals of The Great Reset one by one and examine them in both pragmatic and ethical terms……..
No. 1 – Thanks to the pandemic, there has been a great increase in the use of teleconferences, using Skype, Zoom or other new platforms. The World Economic Forum welcomes this as a trend. Is it bad for that reason? To be fair, this innovation is positive in enabling many people to attend conferences without the expense, trouble and environmental cost of air travel. It does, however, have the negative side of preventing direct human contact. This is one of the simpler issues, where positive points seem to prevail.
No. 2 – Should higher education go online, with professors giving courses to students via internet? This is a vastly more complicated question, which should be thoroughly discussed by educational institutions themselves and the communities they serve, weighing the pros and cons, remembering that those who provide the technology want to sell it, and care little about the value of human contact in education – not only human contact between student and professor, but often life-determining contacts between students themselves. Online courses may benefit geographically isolated students, but breaking up the educational community would be a major step toward the destruction of human community altogether.
No. 3 – Health and “well-being”. Here is where the discussion should heat up considerably. According to Schwab and Malleret: “Three industries in particular will flourish (in the aggregate) in the post-pandemic era: big tech, health and wellness.” For the Davos planners, the three merge. Those who think that well-being is largely self-generated, dependent on attitudes, activity and lifestyle choices, miss the point.
“The combination of AI [artificial intelligence], the IoT [internet of things] and sensors and wearable technology will produce new insights into personal well-being. They will model how we are and feel […] precise information on our carbon footprints, our impact on biodiversity, on the toxicity of all the ingredients we consume and the environments or spatial contexts in which we evolve will generate significant progress in terms of our awareness of collective and individual well-being.”
Question: do we really want or need all this cybernetic narcissism? Can’t we just enjoy life by helping a friend, stroking a pussy (just checking you’re all awake), reading a book, listening to Bach or watching a sunset? We had better make up our minds before they are made up for us.
No. 4 – Food. In order not to spoil my appetite, I’ll touch lightly on this. In brief, the tech wizards would like to phase out farmers, with all their dirty soil and pollutant animals, and industrially manufacture enhanced artificial foods created in nice clean labs. This might go down a storm with Aljr, but is anyone else getting a distinct Soylent Green vibe here?
No. 5 – Human work
“In all likelihood, the recession-induced by the pandemic will trigger a sharp increase in labour-substitution, meaning that physical labour will be replaced by robots and ‘intelligent’ machines, which will, in turn, provoke lasting and structural changes in the labour market.”
We all know that this replacement has already been underway for decades. Along with outsourcing and immigration, it has already weakened the collective power of labour. But clearly, the tech industries are poised to go much, much further and faster in throwing humans out of work. The Covid-19 crisis and social distancing have
“suddenly accelerated this process of innovation and technological change. Chatbots, which often use the same voice recognition technology behind Amazon’s Alexa – software that can replace tasks normally performed by human employees, are being rapidly introduced. These innovations provoked by necessity (i.e. sanitary measures) will soon result in hundreds of thousands, and potentially millions, of job losses.”
Cutting labour costs has long been the guiding motive of these innovations, along with the internal dynamic of the technology industry to “do whatever it can do.” Then socially beneficial pretexts are devised in justification. Like this:
“As consumers may prefer automated services to face-to-face interactions for some time to come, what is currently happening with call centres will inevitably occur in other sectors as well.”
“Consumers may prefer…”! Everyone I know complains of the exasperation of trying to reach the bank or insurance company to explain an emergency, and instead to be confronted with a dead voice and a choice of irrelevant numbers to click. Perhaps I am underestimating the degree of hostility toward our fellow humans that now pervades society, but my impression is that there is a vast unexpressed public demand for LESS automated services and MORE contact with real persons who can think outside the algorithm and can actually UNDERSTAND the problem, not simply cough up preprogrammed fixes.
There is a potential movement out there. But we hear nothing of it, being persuaded by our media that the greatest problem facing people in their daily lives is to hear someone exhibit confected confusion over someone else’s confused gender. In this, I maintain, consumer demand would merge with the desperate need of able-minded human beings to earn a living. The technocrats earn theirs handsomely by eliminating the means to earn a living of other people. Here is one of their great ideas.
“In cities as varied as Hangzhou, Washington DC and Tel Aviv, efforts are underway to move from pilot programs to large-scale operations capable of putting an army of delivery robots on the road and in the air.”
What a great alternative to paying human deliverers a living wage. And incidentally, a guy riding a delivery bicycle is using renewable energy. But all those robots and drones? Batteries, batteries and more batteries, made of what materials, coming from where and manufactured how? By more robots? Where is the energy coming from to replace not only fossil fuels, but also human physical effort At the last Davos meeting, Israeli intellectual Yuval Harari issued a chilling warning that:
“Whereas in the past, humans had to struggle against exploitation, in the twenty-first century the really big struggle will be against irrelevance… Those who fail in the struggle against irrelevance would constitute a new ‘useless class’ – not from the viewpoint of their friends and family, but useless from the viewpoint of the economic and political system. And this useless class will be separated by an ever-growing gap from the ever more powerful elite.”
No. 6 – The military. Our capitalist prophets of doom foresee the semi-collapse of civil aviation and the aeronautical industry as people all decide to stay home glued to their screens. But not to worry! “This makes the defence aerospace sector an exception and a relatively safe haven.” For capital investment, that is. Instead of a tourism industry, we can look forward to space wars. It may happen sooner rather than later, because, as the Brookings Institution concludes in a 2018 report on “How artificial intelligence is transforming the world,” everything is going faster, including war:
“The big data analytics associated with AI will profoundly affect intelligence analysis, as massive amounts of data are sifted in near real-time … thereby providing commanders and their staffs a level of intelligence analysis and productivity heretofore unseen. Command and control will similarly be affected as human commanders delegate certain routine, and in special circumstances, key decisions to AI platforms, reducing dramatically the time associated with the decision and subsequent action.”
So, no danger of a soft-hearted officer hesitating to start World War III because of a sentimental attachment to humanity…………. Hellooooooooooooo Skynet…… when the AI platform sees an opportunity, go for it.
“In the end, warfare is a time competitive process, where the side able to decide the fastest and move most quickly to execution will generally prevail. Indeed, artificially intelligent intelligence systems, tied to AI-assisted command and control systems, can move decision support and decision-making to a speed vastly superior to the speeds of the traditional means of waging war. So fast will be this process especially if coupled to automatic decisions to launch artificially intelligent autonomous weapons systems capable of lethal outcomes, that a new term has been coined specifically to embrace the speed at which war will be waged: hyper war.”
We all have a choice. Either continue to quarrel over trivialities or wake up, really wake up, to the reality being planned and do something about it. Each Puffin must decide for themselves their course of action. After all, human affairs are not an engineering question and cannot be “solved” like an algebra problem. The physical world is made up of atoms and energy, but the social world is made up of human beings and the incomprehensible complexity of their interconnected lives. To date we haven’t got Asimov’s thinking machines to assist — instead, we’re up against Facebook, Twatter, & Alexa.
Where are we going?
Glad you asked. IMNSHO, in some ways, we’ll be reverting to les événements of the mid 19th century: populism and agrarian agitation, bitterly partisan media, some pretty terrible ideas about monetary policy, raging sectional divides, distrust of the major political parties, hostility toward trade — and a general lack of faith in institutions from the state and local levels to the national and international levels. It was ugly and disruptive then & it will be again. In many ways, that ugliness and disruption — and not the brief liberal post-1945 consensus – is normal: the real normal, the normal normal. You Lucky People!
(And if you don’t understand the significance/relevance of this last photo, ask someone really old about Tommy Trinder)
© DJM 2020
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file