When you're big, you may not have a profession.
This quote from the book “21 lessons for the 2018st Century”, by Yuval Noah Harari, published in XNUMX with Portuguese edition of August of the same year, introduces the chapter Work one of the 21 lessons explained, which begins as follows:
“I have no idea what the job market will be like in 2050. It is relatively consensual that machine learning and robotics will change almost all professional areas - from yogurt production to yoga teaching. However, there are divergent perspectives as to the natural change and its imminence. Some believe that, in a decade or two, billions of people will become economically redundant. Others argue that, even in the long run, automation will continue to generate new jobs and bring more prosperity to everyone ”.
1. The first part of the book, The Technological Challenge, where lesson 2 fits, Work, deserves reference in a text commenting on the “Strategic Vision for the Economic and Social Recovery Plan for Portugal 2020-2030”, proposed by António Costa Silva (Lisbon, July 5, 2020).
The Technological Challenge, in turn, is anticipated in terms of content in this sentence: “Humanity is losing faith in the liberal narrative that has dominated global politics in recent decades, precisely at the moment when the fusion between biotechnology and information technology confronts the greatest challenges that humanity has ever faced ”.
2. I find some harmony in António Costa Silva and Yuval Noah Harari in the themes of liberal narrative and technological challenge.
The Strategic Vision, in chapter 2 - The systemic crisis and lessons for Portugal - addresses the vulnerabilities of the current economic and social model “the strategic error inherent in the neoliberal world view that minimizes the role of the State and exalts the market, leaving the strategic sectors of the economy in its hands” and, in several other points, develops the role and impact of the technological process on Portuguese society and on the country's future economy.
3. Yuval Noah Harari and António Costa Silva anticipate, in this context, several possible conjectures for the future of work and the economy, from the technological changes (and not only) that are on the way to implanting themselves at various levels and rhythms in our societies, institutions or companies.
António Costa Silva goes further and combines the evolution of technologies, the geostrategic and geopolitical framework of Portugal, the characteristics and structural constraints of the economic and social fabric of the country, traces with some mastery six possible futures for Portugal.
But we can ask ourselves: will the technological revolution underway in a time of fusion of biotechnologies and information technologies not have more profound impacts, due to the different qualitative nature of the previous ones? Or is it just the "tremendism" of massive unemployment that is always present in the technology changes that are boiling ?!
In fact, since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, these “terrifying cataclysms” have been present in technological changes. Despite the tremendous and painful discomfort that represented for many workers the loss of a job, the conversion of functions or, more harshly and unfairly, the misery for many and their families, how many times suicide, the balance, in global terms, it has been positive, because for every job lost, at least one new job was created and a qualitative leap in improving people's lives was consolidated.
Machines in previous technological revolutions competed with man in terms of physical ability, not penetrating domains such as learning, communication and, above all, understanding human emotions. With new technologies, cognition itself begins to be affected and will be affected more and more. We have already started to see this, namely in Artificial Intelligence. On Facebook there is so much information that is received, the simplest being friend requests. This means that Facebook's algorithms are in continuous information processing and at high speed, given the millions of existing users.
We get the feeling that the messages reach us at a very determined time to see if they have the desired effects: influence, persuasion, acquisition of goods, manipulation of the whole order, including politics.
But, if we think of other domains such as autonomous vehicles (without a driver) that are appearing there and others of greater sensitivity such as health, the situation is much more complex and the prospects somewhat more uncomfortable or very uncertain, as a large part medical appointments without a doctor and with good results.
In the case of the driverless car, Harari reports that there were (2012 million) people killed in 1,25 due to automobile disaster, resulting from human error. With the use of a driverless vehicle, the reduction in mortality will drop by 90%, in other words, the life of one million people / year will be saved.
And the dilemma is the confrontation of the number of deaths against that of jobs. And it won't be absurd, says Harari: “boycott automation in areas such as transport and health just to protect human jobs?"
There are those who argue that not all jobs will be dismissed and to support the huge fleets without drivers it is possible to create many other jobs with different qualifications for other complementary functions such as IT operators and planners, managers ... Let us admit that possibility. Will the dismissed drivers easily acquire the new skills for these new functions or will it be more realistic to consider that many will not achieve it, and here, two problems arise, unemployment and / or reforms.
Young people will come in, positive, no doubt, and with another qualification, more adaptable, but, socially, the situation of those who, in fact, were dismissed, remains to be resolved. The reality that is presented is, therefore, increasingly complex and uncertain for a large part of humanity, since the activities affected will be increasingly extended.
But something more disturbing may still happen when information technologies and biotechnologies tend towards a perfect marriage, and "in certain areas of activity it may be worth replacing all human beings with computers". Probably not everything will be bad, but there will have to be major changes in the background, mentality, planning, adjustment to a new economic model and social organization.
The speed at which the new technological revolution is taking place or, perhaps, more precisely, the various technological revolutions will require complex responses on the part of the human being that no one has.
4. Covid-19 is proof of that. There are no solutions à la carte. They were created.
Humanity is not prepared for so much turbulence, although some prospective, sustained and dynamic work would help to equate and program more quickly the problems that were / will arise, because it would provide accumulated thinking.
Of course, a technological revolution does not arrive in the same way as a serious pandemic, but sometimes it also brings unexpected surprises. Who tells us that, in the near future, we will not have to think about the flattening the speed of these technological revolutions, a teaching to combat the pandemic, so that the different institutions and companies can accommodate themselves, prepare themselves in a more adjusted way to the fundamental changes, namely in human resources?
The beheaded prospect
The European Union has already had a Foresight Cell that, at the very least, is dying. Several countries had prospective institutions and even Portugal started some experience in this field. The liberal narrative that has dominated global politics in recent decades has secondary to all this type of intellectual work, as the two authors well recognize, reducing it to a pro-forma. Planning departments still exist, but working for other purposes!
According to the liberal narrative, these works are unnecessary because the markets are there to promote “equilibria”. And with this background where Work, Technology and Economy met, we move forward with some comments to António Costa Silva's “Strategic Vision” (ACS)
5. A previous comment, moreover, in line with what I have already written on one or another site, including the Jornal Económico, and which I reproduce:
“Reading in the newspapers, watching and hearing on TV that the transformation of the Portuguese economy will take place with a plan under the responsibility of the Manager / Professor António Costa Silva is a pure daydream. It is feeding the noise of a political battle without content.
This or another government must recognize the right to be able to hire advisers, above all, if quality, for certain tasks. All the more reason when, in this specific area of Scenario / Prospective, there is no "critical mass" in the state apparatus.
This area was beheaded, in people and structures, a few years ago for reasons of various kinds, such as its “unnecessary” [studies should be given to teams from abroad], and never redone. And so, when necessary, there are no structures or qualified technicians to commission strategic thinking from ”.
There have been previous crises of confidence in the liberal narrative at earlier times in history. In the second half of the XNUMXth century, after the First and Second World War, crisis situations also followed, which seems that only with a calm sea the liberal narrative navigates without difficulties. The problem arises with the storm, because with it the discredit of its solutions is sharpened, because it is not convincing.
I also wrote and it is my deep conviction that the responsibility for the final product will never lie with ACS: “the Plan is the entire responsibility of the Government and only it will be judged by the competence it demonstrates or not in its implementation, the results it obtains and the transparency of the its management ”.
Brief notes on the document presented
6. We need to clarify the type of document we have.
Indeed, we do not have a plan. We have a Strategic vision on which a Transformation Plan for the Portuguese economy can be worked. In some areas, such as Industry and Infrastructure, the document even goes a long way because it advances with proposals for policy measures.
We are dealing with a reflection document that articulates interesting and well elaborated ideas, namely in the domains of the geostrategic and geoeconomic framework and, in some way, arising from these two and from resources detected in the Azores, the great idea of the Atlantic University. For me, the most innovative of the document.
This idea needs to be well fed and refined, otherwise it will die before the age of nine months. And incorporates itself the sea economy that so much is said and little practiced (the cluster of the sea). A far-reaching and very dreamy idea that needs to be well sliced. Here there was also damage in the past, shipbuilding, fleets, sea routes, fishing ... There are slices in different ripening stages, some that can be executed with some speed, others there a hundred years ago ...
The 10 strategic axes, correlated with nine objectives, I understand, they are too many. They could be arranged differently and sometimes better formatted. Others are not really axes, but a junction of areas without great connection. As an example, I am shocked by the mixture of Culture, Services, Tourism and Commerce, as a strategic axis.
It seems to be the tenth that, for whatever reason, it would be missing to talk about those activities and so the solution was to “box them” on the same axis. In fact, this need may arise from the “philosophy” of the Ministries which, in many cases, leads to “bending” well-aligned ideas. I would bet on a strong autonomous strategic axis of Culture, sustained above all in creative and performing activities. It deserves to be so because of the potential for dragging the economy and even for the various quality considerations that ACS makes about Culture in the document.
Why do I say that ten axes are too many? Many fronts are difficult to grasp, and with five or six selective axes it is possible to go very far and transform the economy.
Having made these general observations, I look at the document as a well thought out product, of good quality and which proves in itself the vast knowledge of those who prepared it.
Despite this recognition, I feel two gaps in reflection. On the one hand, the almost absence of the demographic vector, albeit with one or another less traditional touch, and a certain “escape” from touching existing structures (state and para-private).
In the latter, there is a reality quite different from that of the early 1990s. It is difficult to accept the absence of reflection in a Strategic vision on an instrumental component existing on the ground: that of the various technological centers spread throughout the country working with companies in technology transfer and innovation. They are instruments to be streamlined with a decisive role in the success of an Economic Transformation Plan. Its articulation with the State's central laboratories is important.
I cannot fail to mention two axes that I understand are decisive: health, which learned great lessons in combating the pandemic and there is much to be done to expand this area with very well defined functions between public and private and the industrial sectors to be developed. Second axis, physical land and sea infrastructures, many of which should have been executed long ago.
I notice another gap, which management structures for implementing the Plan, efficient and unbureaucratic, and of high rigor, will depend on whom? I like mission structures. Only for the “industrial revolution” (reconversion and reindustrialization) one of the well-characterized areas, articulated with the various types of resources in the country, is pointed out a structure, say a kind of PEDIP, I hope, more operational and with well-defined strategic lines clear, necessarily intertwined in this Strategic Vision.
Finally and it should be before: how is the Government going to slice this Strategic vision in three or four parts (working groups) in order to embody a Global Operational Plan based on subplanes, where culture cannot fail to be present. I do not appreciate a country that does not bet on its culture comprehensively. The culture providing inputs other sectors.
Final note. Portugal never had, in democracy, an approved global strategic plan.
The author writes according to the old spelling.