The Age of the Abundance. This is the expression Elon Musk utilizes to define the AI Era that experts expect to come in the next decade.
A belief accepted as dogma by the niche of individuals aggregated by a sort of AI Religion, with a strong desire for automation driven by the “Labor Shortage” media phenomena and by shifts in stress tolerance and living standards accelerated by the pandemic.
This is the direction going forward, and chances are that the situation will never be the same again. For the average working person this means only a simple thing: is highly likely that will become “useless” in the next future.
I utilize the term “useless” since this is the system we live in, I do not intend to offend anybody, but instead, I want to reflect on how necessary it is to utilize a “utilitarian” cognitive framework in a society where most of the people soon could potentially belong to the “useless” class whenever the AI will be able to overperform most of the cognitive tasks.
The fact is that the training capabilities of each individual are dependent on the IQ and the neuroplasticity of the brain, and this does imply that once specific AIs will start to replace corporate functions and operations, will be very hard to convert workers into new sectors/industries since this type of shift will be not anymore about the know-how but instead will demand an intensive utilization of a different structure of thinking and envisioning (that is what it makes the marginal difference against the AI productive capabilities).
And this is not reachable with simple training, at least not in a scalable manner.
This exposes countries with less welfare to potential internal warfares: the absence of labor and social protections will expose people to a higher risk of poverty and high-stress levels, driving toward potential social crises. If the transition is managed with lay-offs it will translate into political conflicts, while if managed with internal or cross-industry transfers it will be driving the rise of what David Graeber would call “Bullshit Jobs”, low-paid (since less productive and no value-adding) meaningless Jobs, that will freeze social mobility and decrease hope across the middle and lower class.
This process has already been initiated, and the managerial rationalism, as enhanced by the top managerial institutes and Business Schools, is on the verge of creating a hostile financial environment: as we know intentions don’t necessarily correspond to the results initially assumed, due to limited information and cognitive biases, and taking a decision to maximize the financial performances could not necessarily involve understanding the non-linear impacts on the geopolitical landscape in the mid and long term.
The market is composed primarily and indirectly of people and any decision that affects the demographics of a country will bring unexpected and unintended consequences, that private corporations are not necessarily aware of.
This path is conducting our societies to a choice that needs to be made: do we want to strengthen the control of the financial elites or prioritize the wellness and leisure of each individual?
In the United States after the beginning of the 90′ the corporate profit initiated a disconnection process from the wages, and the trend will absolutely not stop: with the rise of automation and AI usage, the profitability will only increase, meaning that the middle and lower class will only lose relative power and accessibility to financial mobility.
The biggest issue is also when this profit is translated into higher damage to the society: the disconnection of the wealthy decision-makers from the average individual will only drive to dangerous social consequences. A clear example is the phenomenon of the empty houses: high cash and lower interest rates allowed funds and super-wealthy individuals to buy a significant amount of residential houses, that are kept empty to not deal with renting laws and to speculate mostly on the increase of the prices YoY (only in San Francisco the empty houses represent at least 10% of the total houses, in a city with huge homeless problems).
This increases the living expenses, reducing the possibility to own a house and forcing the younger generation to rent and as a consequence limiting the financial independence necessary for new entrepreneurial initiatives.
Instead in some North European Countries, as in the case of Finland for example, we observed successful social policies that completely eliminated homelessness and house unaffordability issues with success without impacting the Capitalist economy: this type of flexibility makes countries with high social policies more resilient to global changes that are not directly measurable via the financial statements.
I think is time to question the “utilitarian” framework we live into since this could bring dangerous unintended consequences, and instead, we should prioritize the individual wellness recognizing each one as a human instead of a financial resource. This could for sure raise financial sustainability issues, but is up to policy decision-makers to find a realistic solution to diversify the population’s sources of income: we should start to think about wages as only a part of the average individual income and not as the main/only source of it.
This doesn’t imply that people should be classified as “lazy” or “parasites”, as someone likes to define who receives welfare benefits: it is necessary to recognize that in a highly automated economy, there will be no marginal benefit of pushing individuals into operative processes.
The time at our disposal is finishing, and a decision needs to be made, the process of transformation can’t be stopped and is out of the policy maker’s control, what can we instead decide is if we want to be dependent on an elitist cognitive techno-aristocracy disconnected from the average individual or accept the reality of what the future can be and shift the paradigm of thinking and of envisioning national policies starting today, putting the individual experience and happiness at the center.