How big a crisis?

Crisis are cyclical, and the global financial crisis dated 2008 left scars in our social tissue that are still far from healed. While the top 1% recovered almost entirely in a fairly quick fashion, the larger part of western population’s wages keep shrinking in terms of real purchasing power, now contributing to the rise of right wing populism, the resurgence of racism, white suprematism, sovranism and protectionism.

This scenario ignited a race against time where automation is challenged by the risk of authoritarian drifts within our society.

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Migration vs Automation

A lot of the western public debate is currently revolving around forms of protection to shield our economies from emerging ones.

The shield can take the form of a trade war, of a brexit, or less metaphorically, that of a wall at the border.

While we fight with our fear of migrants however, we are neglecting the rise of a much stronger workforce that is bond to eventually end the concept of work as we know it: Robots.

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Financial techlash

When 2018 started, not many analysers had realised that the “sentiment” around the I.T. industry was changing.
By the time the year ended, what happened was before everyone’s eyes:

  • Amazon went under scrutiny for the workforce treatment,
  • Facebook was investigated for the mess surrounding many recent elections, fake news and privacy invasion,
  • Google was criticised from multiple angles, from sexual misconduct, to cooperating with dictatorships, to links with controversial technological projects

While some of these points weren’t entirely new, they reached a new magnitude.
Under the changed climate, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Netflix all suffered losses between 25% and 50% of their respective stock value. 

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Evil Genius

We are in the age of geek pride, an age where “nerd” is not supposed to be an insult anymore, and where we acknowledge that being smart is more desirable than having large biceps or long legs.

Why are villains constantly depicted as the cliché evil genius? Extremely smart, they often portray a view of the world that is at the same time at odds with ours, and yet intriguingly difficult to defy.

Villains are the destabilizing narrative element that brings chaos, but doing so by the means of cleverness, is a narrative choice that contributes to the message delivered by the story.

In an era when intelligence is one of the highest and most desirable characteristics, what does it do to our society, being exposed to infinite variations of idea that villains routinely outsmart heroes?

Distorted Reality

Everything you believe is false.
Not a conspiracy theory.
Not the revival of some anti systemic website motto from 2005.

This post is more trivially an observation on how we perceive reality in a world that’s been dominated by mass communication for about a century.

The impact of this on how we perceive reality is a much bigger distortion than we’d be willing to admit.
While this can be a great boost for ambition, it’s probably not the best for self-esteem.

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Physiognomy and A.I.

Physiognomy is often described as the pseudo-science of inferring character from facial and physical characteristics.

What is fascinating about it is the idea that as we age, we bring with us the signs of who we are. Our wrinkles hide the story of our predominant facial expressions through the decades. Our posture says a lot about our employment and status. Our mouth shape and mandibular position are significant of how we wanted to portray ourselves through time, menacing or friendly for example.

There are however also concerning aspects to this pseudo-science, and in particular as our ability to process Big Data enhances, physiognomy is going to play with the edge between good and bad science: the more we store images and videos of faces, expressions, and human interactions, the more opportunities A.I. will have to examine training material and learn prejudice and discrimination.

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Hybrid Democracy

Political fluidity, the cultural replacement of Opinion Leaders with Influencers, and the need for a faster democratic paradigm have brought me to the conclusion that our century will see some rather major restructuring of our institutions.

One of the possibilities that are discussed time and again is the shift from representative democracy to direct democracy.
Among many reasonable and voiced complains about such approach, people may not be interested enough or simply not have enough knowledge on selected topics to be able to express an informed decision.

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To UBI or not to UBI?

Spoiler alert: to UBI!
The fact is: sooner or later setting up some sort of Universal Basic Income (i.e.: free money for everyone, working or not) will become cheaper than maintaining social order.

This may happen within just over a decade or take a lot longer, but as the technology advances, it will make automation ubiquitous and lower the costs of goods further and further.

If this sounds like just a crazy socialist-ish utopia without fundament, let’s go through the numbers!

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Blockchain – A ledger

Blockchain is the technology behind bitcoin, however there’s growing awareness around the fact that it has an immense unexplored potential. It is essentially a public, non (easily) counterfeitable ledger, and just as it works for digital currencies, it could work to record any other transactions.

Have a cow you want to sell? Make a digital ID for the cow (name, colour, weight… whatever information is relevant). Make an md5, then butcher it in fourth and make an ID for each quarter that links to the original cow’s ID, then split it into smaller pieces down to your own steak at the supermarket. Each steak with it’s own ID that is the last leaf of a blockchain rooted to the original cow’s ID.
You will know exactly where it comes from, what farmer, how old it was, etc.

Want to buy a pair of jeans but don’t know if they are ethically sustainable? get a blockchain for the jeans linking to other blockchains for where the fabric was made, which country, what are the workers’ conditions, etc.

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