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Signals of an unsustainable future coming from Davos

Hyper-automation impact on unemployment rise - further shrinking of the middle class - creation of a working elite - substitution of saturated Western consumers with other emerging consumer tanks


The general conclusions from the report The Future of Jobs, of the 2016 World Economic Forum, leave little room for optimistic thoughts about the future. They reflect what already most of us have realized: that the combination of the current socio-economic model with the rapid hyper-automation of production, lead to further imbalance and inequality in favor of the very few.

As Stephen Hawking mentioned recently: “If machines produce everything we need, the outcome will depend on how things are distributed. Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution. So far, the trend seems to be toward the second option, with technology driving ever-increasing inequality.”

Some key points from the study:

Recent discussions about the employment impact of disruptive change have often been polarized between those who foresee limitless opportunities in newly emerging job categories and prospects that improve workers’ productivity and liberate them from routine work, and those that foresee massive labour substitution and displacement of jobs. Academics, chief executives and labour leaders hold strong and diverse views on the debate, as do policymakers. It is clear from our data that while forecasts vary by industry and region, momentous change is underway and that, ultimately, it is our actions today that will determine whether that change mainly results in massive displacement of workers or the emergence of new opportunities. Without urgent and targeted action today to manage the near-term transition and build a workforce with futureproof skills, governments will have to cope with ever-growing unemployment and inequality, and businesses with a shrinking consumer base.

Overall, our respondents seem to take a negative view regarding the upcoming employment impact of artificial intelligence, although not on a scale that would lead to widespread societal upheaval—at least up until the year 2020. By contrast, further unpacking the bundle of technological drivers of change in the mould of the Fourth Industrial Revolution yields a rather more optimistic picture regarding the job creation potential of technologies such as Big Data analytics, mobile internet, the Internet of Things and robotics. [...] Our respondents expect strong employment growth across the Architecture and Engineering and Computer and Mathematical job families, a moderate decline in Manufacturing and Production roles and a significant decline in Office and Administrative roles. [...] Conversely, 3D printing, resource-efficient sustainable production and robotics are all seen as strong drivers of employment growth in the Architecture and Engineering job family, in light of a continued and fast-growing need for skilled technicians and specialists to create and manage advanced and automated production systems. This is expected to lead to a transformation of manufacturing into a highly sophisticated sector where high-skilled engineers are in strong demand to make the industrial Internet of Things a reality.

The expected global decline in total Manufacturing and Production roles is driven by labour-substituting technologies such as additive manufacturing and 3D printing as much as by more resource-efficient sustainable product use, lower demand growth in ageing societies and threats to global supply chains due to geopolitical volatility. Some cautious optimism is warranted due to increased manufacturing demand for advanced materials and comparatively favourable expectations around robotics, pointing to the latter’s potential for labour-complementing productivity enhancement rather than pure job replacement.

The study estimates that there will be no “widespread societal upheaval—at least up until the year 2020”, due to the takeover of jobs by artificial intelligence, but is this realy a reason not to worry seriously? Think about it: 2020 is only four years from now! Say, at the end of the new US presidency.

Secondly, the study actually confirms the trend for a limited working elite between the top 1% (or less) and the bottom 99%. The 99% (or more), which will be equalized in poverty due to the gradual elimination of the middle class. This is expected to have a major impact on the socio-economic stability, even of the most advanced societies.

As already mentioned in previous article: “In the middle of the pyramid, a restructured class will serve and secure the domination of the top. Corporate executives, big journalists, scientific elites, suppression forces. It is characteristic that academic research is directed on the basis of the profits of big corporations. Funding is directed increasingly to practical applications in areas that can bring huge profits, like for example, the higher automatization of production and therefore, the profit increase through the restriction of jobs. The base of the pyramid will be consisted by the majority of workers in global level, with restricted wages, zero labor rights, and nearly zero opportunities for activities other than consumption.” [fa.ev/a-more-simple-model-in-favor]

However, by far the biggest expected drivers of employment creation are demographic and socio-economic in nature; in particular, the opportunities offered by young demographics and rising middle classes in emerging markets and the rising economic power and aspirations of women. [...] The Consumer industry is likewise reducing its Manufacturing and Production roles but anticipates at least stable overall demand for Sales and Related jobs, as rising middle classes in emerging markets, changing consumer values and, in particular, the rising economic power of women, are significant drivers of job growth in the sector.

As also mentioned: “The consumption-saturated and aging West, cannot longer contribute to the rise of profits of the global economic elite and therefore, through the economic crisis, the middle class is systematically eliminated so that its consuming power to be "aligned" with that of the majority of the huge populations of developing countries.” [fa.ev/a-more-simple-model-in-favor]

There is a huge potential of consumers due to unprecedented human population. Once wages will further rise in China-South East Asia, to be aligned with the shrinking Western wages, there will be plenty of consumers to buy more products. However, this is probably only a transition phase. It's not a matter of money, they can print as much as they want. It's a matter of power and control. Once the elites reach the point to control all the resources and the means of production, the model will change from capitalism to global feudalism.

Where it is mentioned, the artificial intelligence and machine learning driver is expected to lead to negative employment outcomes in job families such as Education and Training, Legal and Business and Financial Operations. However, it appears our respondents do not believe that these technologies will have advanced significantly enough by the year 2020 to have a more widespread impact on global employment levels. [...] current trends could lead to a net employment impact of more than 5.1 million jobs lost to disruptive labour market changes over the period 2015–2020, with a total loss of 7.1 million jobs — two thirds of which are concentrated in the Office and Administrative job family — and a total gain of 2 million jobs, in several smaller job families.

Despite that the mixture of all above is quite explosive, there is no intention by the governments and forces of the market to change the current model. On the contrary, there is a tension for further privatization of public property and businesses, and further deregulation of the market in every level. Which means that the only way for the elites to control the growing instability of this system, is by absolute suppression:

Having secured the new labor force through fully automated machines, what has left for the dominant elite now, is to take all the resources. Big corporations are grabbing huge cultivable areas especially in the developing countries in order to control food production. [...] We see a rise of private armies that act in various battlefields, like in Ukraine, exactly because in the absence of the nation-states and the national armies, someone has to protect the natural resources and the new means of production for the dominant elite. But when the arms industry will fully automate the new weapons, private armies will only serve as assistance to fully automated war machines. We already see the test fields of the weapons of future˙ the drones in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. It's not accidental that the arms industries demonstrate new weapons designed to be used inside urban areas for suppression of potential riots. There will be no "outside enemy" in the future. The threat for the dominant system will come from the interior, the big urban centers. Soldier-robots will protect worker-robots and resources.” [fa.ev/the-dominant-elite-ready-to-break.html]

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