Alternative-2035: Surrender to Robots or Formalize Fundamental Human Inequality?

The development of robotics could raise the issue of enshrining the fundamental biological inequality of humans in the near future, and humankind is not yet ready to deal with this challenge, Dmitry Belousov, leading expert of the Center for Macroeconomic Analysis and Short-Term Forecasting, said in an interview with Club 2035 (joint project by Valdai Club and the company RVC).

Belousov highlighted four challenges developed countries will face in the coming decades. The outlines of the first one can already be seen today. It has to do with the rebalancing of the economic model, whereby the United States, by taking on more and more debt, enjoyed high levels of consumption and carried out more than half of the world's research and development projects, while China engaged in production and made ample use of US research and development achievements.

“This model is unraveling right before our eyes, because the Chinese are moving away from the export economy,” Belousov said. “The situation does not suit them, because it does not address issues such as sustainability of growth or achieving social results.”

In a situation where Chinese society could grow old before it gets rich, the government decided to channel production to meet domestic needs, which made the United States aware of the dangers of excessive dependence on Chinese imports both in terms of keeping jobs and ensuring national security. As a result, we need a convention to formalize the new order, the expert believes.

According to Belousov, the second set of issues concerns the fact that the new technological process is becoming unmanageable. “It’s acquiring a logic of its own, but it’s not very clear how it’s being managed and where it leads,” he said. “We are close to a situation where human progress begins to affect the foundations of human life and humans themselves.”

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Information systems have become something more than just a tool, and discussions about providing robots with a certain amount of legal capacity are not far off, Vladislav Shershulsky, Director for Technology Cooperation at Microsoft, said in an interview with Club 2035 (a partnership project of Valdai Club and the company RVC).

The anthropological challenge is the third problem. “The problem stems from the fact that employment is excessive in developed countries,” Belousov said. “There’s at least one billion redundant workers: perhaps, up to half of all employed people are redundant.”

Further development of this process can lead to jobs freeing up in a major way across the entire spectrum, not just low-paying jobs. Belousov cited economic analysis as a case in point. “Any event on the financial market largely represents a battle between financial robots,” he said. “I personally know someone who wrote a program drafting templates for economic analysis articles. It was developed to facilitate analysts’ work. After reading some tongue-tied economic analysis articles, I think that this product has become quite successful. This process will continue.”

Finally there is the robotic revolution, which is a long-range issue. “This is about a situation where either the machines will begin to make critical decisions, or we will try to do something with humans,” Belousov said. “However, in the current economic situation, it contains the threat of a new inequality emerging and never going away.” Currently, people are anthropologically equal and enjoy equal opportunities, and someone from a poor family, through talent and diligence, can make it to at least the middle class. However, this may change if a policy is adopted to develop human capabilities that are significantly above average and to do so for a small group of people. According to Belousov, such a prospect may be the most dangerous and unpredictable turn of events.

“Twenty years from now, the agenda may come to include the issue of society creating a market of abilities, which, in turn, will perpetuate inequality in the form in which it will have taken by that time,” Dmitry Belousov said. “We are not prepared to deal with biological and social inequality. By the same token, we are also not prepared to deal with a robotic revolution that hits the middle class hard.”
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

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