Farewell to work hands - but what about the head?
The most important and powerful myth of capitalism is that only job and hard work can take people out of poverty. In fact, this may not sound like a cynic mockery of truth unless the reality proves the contrary. Rising inequality, stagnating wages, growing precariat, fostering corporations’ dominance - all the evidence indicates that poverty is irrelevant to the efforts people make working. However, worst of all is that another new problem has joined the old ills of society. Propagating like wildfire, the fear of robotization powered by the mighty Artificial Intelligence taking people’s jobs occupies not only workers engaged in manual labor, but also the “white collars” nowadays.
The fear has every reason once the actual development of AI makes such business bigwigs as Elon Musk predict up to 50% unemployment in the next decade. It seems wise and necessary to ponder over the real background of the fear as well as about the methods capable to immunize the society against the negative effects of automation.
To work or not to work?
In general, there are three basic ways to earn money for people. The first way is the one about which capitalism is so persistent. It means working for some company as an employee or having one’s own business as an entrepreneur. The way is legal and appreciated by society praising the self-made persons (for example, Arnold Schwarzenegger) who bootstrapped the elite level working really hard.
Another way is illegal connected with criminal activities. Thieves and robbers prefer not to work but make a living by committing crimes. This method of earning money does not differ in principle too much from the first legal one because in the contemporary world the national and international criminal syndicates (aka mafia) behave like corporations hiring and firing their criminal employees. The differences lie in the wages as well as in the methods of rewarding and punishment.
The hierarchy, business plans, strategy, marketing, competition, negotiations, - almost everything in the so-called organized crime is similar to legal commercial activities. The lion share of the criminal “work class” i.e. the low-position staff of mafia has to work as hard as their legal prototypes do. Besides, as many experts throughout the world state, today the line between the legal and the “black” business and markets is blurred so significantly that oftentimes it is impossible to distinguish them definitely. So it goes, the glory days of righteous burglar Robin Hood are long gone…
The third method how to earn money is quite distinct from the first two. This is the Paris Hilton-like fortune of inheritance when a gift from the Past allows denying oneself nothing while a couple of billions in a bank account is available. For the first sight, this method cannot be considered as a personal choice once this relates to rather fate or fortune. However, when it comes to the rental income from the intellectual property or natural resources, this source of wealth does not look so spontaneous.
Rentier Capitalism constrains the development
Thomas Jefferson used to say that ideas should not be a matter of property. We would probably have to use the fixed-line dial-type telephones instead of our precious gadgets up to now if Albert Einstein was more grasping about the copyright of his discovering in physics. The rental income from intellectual property has become a super lucrative business for many corporations. Often, some innovation or idea is kept away from public access without being implemented in the actual equipment.
Even more often, some rich and powerful corporation hold the intellectual property rights for a technology in order to stay a monopolist in a particular segment. Such practice, by the way, breaks another myth of capitalism about the equal opportunities and fair competition provided by free market. How does the rentier capitalism align with social justice? What can provide the equal business opportunities for those who are denied the rental income? Which promise can encourage people to look for other cases to apply their creativity and passion?
The Universal Basic Income
Since the mid of 1980s the experimental implementations of the Universal or Unconditional Basic Income (UBI) have being conducting in different parts of the world. Finland, Namibia, Switzerland, Canada, Brazil, India, Netherlands, and the United States (a partial type of UBI has practiced in Alaska since 1982) are testing UBI sporadically in order to adopt it later at the national level. Being a type of social security, UBI can potentially untie income from work in order to eliminate poverty. The decoupling people’s income from work addresses the following three main issues:
- altering the wealth distribution system to provide social security for families despite the amount of income each has;
- eroding the basis of revolt, which is becoming more and more possible due to the anger accumulated by the growing precariat;
- providing unemployed people with the basic human essentials allowing them to find other activities from which they can derive meaning or to retrain for other jobs.
Is relearning affordable?
The contemporary technological pace makes the retraining and relearning practice compulsory for numerous staff in different business segments. Trying to meet the requirements of the rapidly changing working environments, many people have to spend their free time to retrain for other jobs or upgrade their present skills. When it comes to high-tech industries, any graduation is not able to guarantee a specialist’s relevance to the position or qualification one is going to occupy now. The mere challenge lies in the transitory nature of education – the knowledge apt for today can become obsolete tomorrow.
The pace of alterations happening with the modern digitized industries pushes companies to either employ new talents or retrain the available employees. Often, an employer realizes the convenience and profitability of its own staff retraining instead of looking for new talents. In this case, a company provides the financial compensation for those specialists who accept the necessity of acquiring the new knowledge.
However, in many cases people are left to themselves figuring out which new skills they should acquire to be competitive in the labor market. Sometimes, a lack of an objective analytics about the relevant market demands along with the developments too rapid to be traced makes people just guess about what qualification will be popular in the short term. Besides, any retraining or relearning requires both time and money.
There cannot be so many can afford to leave their current jobs providing them with the only income. As a consequence of such a situation, the one who is really passionate and creative cannot get a new specialty to offer oneself as an effective and up-to-date worker in the labor market. Often, this result in low productivity while the employees unengaged and frustrated with their current jobs do not clear the way for more relevant and motivated job seekers. The low efficiency overall loss comprises about US$ 500 billion/year in the USA. The amount seems sufficient to provide anyone who wants to be retrained with both the basic income and the new skills tuition.
The Global Automation will require programmers. Wait. What?!!
However, Indeema may state that the notorious total robotization will not proceed without programmers able to code and recode different industrial microcontrollers. The programming engineers who understand the working agenda and functions of the industrial equipment included in different automatic production lines have to be familiar with Assembly and C languages and even with the machine code. Besides, they should be able to understand how to deal with analogous signals handling such troglodytic equipment as an oscilloscope.
Let’s face the truth
A vast variety of modern IT developers is focusing on HLL and VHLL coding that is a well-paid specialization now. Nonetheless, the ability of anticipating the upcoming changes distinguishes a wise and visionary approach from the rest. What is the point of following the hyper-futuristic and muddle-headed preconceptions with 100% digital human-like robots doing everything without any people assistance including repair and maintenance? The contemporary Internet of Things and especially the Industrial Internet of Things is composed with microcontrollers and sensors above all.
See also: THE SMART HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT
The current automatization allows speaking about rather augmentation of working environment with IT components than about the pure artificial workflow. Indeed, the robotization is gaining momentum with new achievements and innovations in the IT industry. However, the one who can recognize an opportunity to serve the automation movement with a low-level programming of microcontrollers will hardly be ignored by the global trend of the robotization in the nearest future.
Summarizing all abovementioned, Indeema urges IT developers to consider the realistic methods how to keep pace with the unavoidable total automatization. As long as the Universal Basic Income remains rather desirable than valid, the advanced and responsible employers should support and motivate their staff to get retraining and relearning if this contributes to both the marketability of organizations and the social security of employees. In addition, it is worth suggesting the global leaders of automation not to go too far in losing their human capital.
The wealth of employees means the wealth of consumers after all. Firing 50% of Foxconn Company’s staff in favor of robots the digital giants probably lost sight of the fact that due to growing unemployment far fewer customers would afford to buy the new iPhone 8 while trying to make ends meet.