July 26, 2021

Technological progress: Thoughts for the consequences

Technological developments have always been a determining factor that marked significant changes in the course of humanity with multiple effects on people’s lives.

The older generations that are still socially and economically active have witnessed a series of developments that have had a decisive impact on our everyday lives. It is sufficient to consider that the revolution of personal computers began in the 1980s with their evolution, but also in general the evolution of information technology, to move at rates of geometrical progress within four decades. The emergence of the Internet has shattered leaks in information and knowledge, whilst the spread of mobile phones and, more recently, of smart phones, has revolutionized communication and social networking.

In addition to this, technological advances are rapid in many areas of human creativity, from medicine, food technology to genetics, space technology, renewable energy technology, and so many other areas that a particular person could refer to.

The evolution of technology may appear in different areas of human life with different technical characteristics and applications, but its effects have some common characteristics. First of all, we notice that the pace of technological advancement accelerates spectacularly, literally at rates of geometric progress. We then see that developments in technology have a significant impact on the economy, either on the production side with Universal Robots or on changes in consumer behavior. In addition, social relations and attitudes are affected, and through globalization there are serious upheavals in terms of both political structures and state regimes. Technological developments also require rapid reflexes from regulators and legislators. Over time, however, we note that there is a considerable lag on the part of regulators in addressing the issues arising from the rapid developments in technology.

At this moment I believe that humanity is in a process of transition to the new post-industrial era where it will need to develop new models of economic and social organization that will respond to the new conditions. Issues arising from technological developments, and in particular from developments in the field of artificial intelligence, are becoming increasingly relevant to scientific bodies, businesses and authorities. The research department of a large corporation, exploring future developments, concludes among other things that in 2030 people’s dependency on machines will have evolved into a cooperative relationship, with people providing skills such as creativity, passion and entrepreneurship. On the other hand, regulators must plan the limits and rules on artificial intelligence in advance because it considers that we can lead to uncontrolled situations with significant negative effects on humanity.

In a longer perspective, we could see a substitution of more than 90% of the work done by people from artificial intelligence machines. A recent study shows that 70% of the work currently being done by humans could be done by robots, so the issues above will become more acute. If we have not already started tackling them at an early stage, then there will be a very serious problem. Most likely, we will not have been able to reach this stage if we have not already implemented a plan. Thus, in the long run, man will have very limited participation in the production process and will focus on highly specialized service sectors, especially around the IT industry.

In order to improve living standards by reducing the amount of inequality, it is necessary to significantly reduce working hours while increasing the pay of labor and developing the leisure sector, since leisure time will greatly exceed working time. Our society will be similar to the functioning of society in Ancient Athens, where most of the work was carried out by serfs dealing not with politics, but and with the arts and sports, with particularly impressive performance.

Finally, we note that there are also serious issues relating to the ethical treatment of the issues arising from the above developments that will require legislative regulation as well as the creation of new control mechanisms and regulators. History has shown that the results of any major technological development depend on the use for which it is made. So technology can radically improve people’s living standards, but also lead to disastrous developments in humanity. The example of the use of nuclear technology is typical of Hiroshima / Nagasaki and Chernobyl to remind many of us of the perils of unleashing technology¬† Let us hope that in the new wave of technological progress humanity will find itself more mature, leading the planet to the virtuous side of its exploitation, minimizing its negative aspects.