Towards a New World Order: Robotization
Written by Alfonso Elizondo
In order to get a view of this social phenomenon of global proportions that is happening right now I have turned to the brilliant ideas of Yuval Noah Harari, historian and professor at the University of Jerusalem, who thinks that as robotics and the digital world grow in coming decades millions of jobs are likely to disappear, disrupting economies and business networks around the world. Harari says that in the same way that the Industrial Revolution created the urban working class and twentieth century political history revolved around its problems, the new Artificial Intelligence revolution could produce a new unemployed social class for which the 21st century will be famous.
It is a fact that is visible to all that the political and economic models of the last century are no longer working in this new era. Socialism assumed that the working class was decisive for the economy and tried to teach the proletarian classes that without them the world would not function. Nowadays, these teachings have become irrelevant as the working classes have lost their economic value in the new digital world.
It is very likely, Harari says, that nowadays completely new models are required. One of them is Universal Basic Income (IBU), which suggests that the state tax billionaires and corporations that control the algorithms and robots and provide ordinary people with a stipend to cover their basic needs. That would give the poor a cushion against the loss of work and at the same time protect the rich from the fury of the people.
Not everyone believes that this Universal Basic Income is required in light of the fact that massive unemployment has never been created since industrialization began in the 19th century. Even now in the 21st century, robotization has only caused moderate job losses, although nobody knows what will happen when robotization increases in the next few years.
It is obvious that in the 21st century new human jobs will be created, whether in computer engineering or in the teaching of yoga, but they will require high levels of knowledge and creativity, and so the problems of unemployed workers and the unskilled will not be solved.
During the industrial period in 1920, a laid-off rural worker could find work in a tractor factory and even 50 years later he could work as a cahier in a supermarket after being fired. But now and in another 20 years an unemployed textile worker will not have the necessary skills to be employed in the new robotized and digital world, although advocates of Universal Basic Income hope to solve the problem by simply freeing the unemployed human from the economic worries he faces in surviving.
But the UBI formula has many problems because so far it is an initiative without global scope that is in effect only on a national and municipal scale in certain developed countries such as Finland, Switzerland and Holland. Globalization has made it possible for the people of a country to depend on the markets of other countries, but robotization could disrupt this global network and damage weaker countries and regions.
These problems can only be solved in the national and local domains so one no thought can be given providing stipends to people who do not depend on a specific nation-state, since nobody is interested in solving the domestic problems of unemployed people in faraway countries when they cannot even do it with their own domestic groups.
Another serious difficulty presented by the idea of establishing a Basic per Capita Income is that there is no universally accepted definition of what constitutes ‘basic needs’. The only agreement is that the average human being requires about 2,500 calories a day to survive, but every culture in history has defined additional survival needs that change over time. Basic needs in contemporary Europe takes account of education and health services, and there are those who include the Internet.
If the New World Order were to agree to impose taxes on Google, Amazon, Baidu Inc. and Tencent in order to provide a basic income for all human beings, it would be very difficult to define ‘basic’. Another case is that of education where, apart from learning to read and write, one would be expected to be able to develop information codes or be educated up to the point of obtaining a doctorate in some discipline.
It’s the same thing with health. If a few decades from now biotechnology allows parents to improve the lives of their children that will also become a basic human need and humanity would be divided into different biological castes with rich superhumans having skills that far exceed those of the poor.
Harari concludes by saying that the human being is not made just to achieve his satisfaction and that his happiness depends less on objective things than on his own expectations. When things improve, expectations rise and even if there were to be an extraordinary improvement in his situation, chances are that he would be as dissatisfied as before.
Addendum: This view of the behavior and intelligence of the human being throughout history as presented by Harari is not as negative as it seems, but it points to a fact of great importance in the history of humanity, precisely at the point when we have arrived at the beginning of a new stage when human beings are changing all their paradigms and there are reactionaries who are trying to stop these changes due to the simple fact that their brains are configured to be useful in another era and five generations have already gone by.
But there is no doubt that the human being will successfully survive this new stage and the power of the reactionaries will come to an end. Nobody knows at this point which social and ethnic groups will be the leaders in the New World Order.