New Industrialization: jobs for people or for robots?


February 7, 2017 Valdai Discussion Club held the founding meeting of Club 2035, a partnership project of the Valdai Club and the Russian Venture Company. The club was created generate models describing the socio-economic and socio-political consequences of the implementation of innovative development scenario in Russia and around the world.

Deputy Director General and Program Director of the Russian Venture Company Evgeny Kuznetsov said that he believes that in the current chaotic world order, the creation of a clear vision of the future in the public conscience is a necessity. The modern vision of the future is crafted by American and, in part, Chinese experts, while the Russian view of the world is largely absent in the global agenda. Kuznetsov noted that the combination of technological and economic capacities of the RVC with the political expertise of the Valdai Club would contribute to the creation and promotion of the Russian vision of the future world order.

The agenda for the first meeting of Club-2035 included the question of social and political consequences of the new industrialization.

Dmitry Belousov, a leading expert of the Center for Macroeconomic Analysis and Short-term Forecasting (CMASF), noted that the task of the forecasters is to study key trends and not formulate predictions. One of these trends, in his view, is the growing problem of inequality within the context of robot-based automation.

"By 2035, a key issue will be the displacement of workers and financiers alike by robots, as well as the problem of genetically engineered inequality between people, which can be legally secure, in the conditions of a liberal state at that," he said.

Oksana Sinyavskaya, Deputy Director of the Independent Institute for Social Policy, in her statement noted that social policy late in the responses to the technological challenges that will have an impact on changes in the future.

"If we look at how much we spend on education and health care - we will understand that we are already far behind. If you look at our ratings in tests by school education - we are terribly behind. At the same time, we have lagged in life expectancy in the same way, and we have a model of the labor market, which is not conductive to economic growth, people investing in themselves or investment in them by employers," Sinyavskaya said.

Oleg Byakhov, Director of Business Development in Russia and CIS at IBM, outlined the issues with the expected phenomenon of artificial intelligence. One of them is the legal capacity, or who will be responsible for the actions of artificial intelligence if they are wrong.

Vladislav Shershulsky, Director of Technology Cooperation and Standardization at Microsoft in Russia, agreed with Byakhov. According to Shershulsky, the day is not far off when electronic devices, which are already endowed with intuition and ethics, will be endowed with legal capacity and free will. This raises the problem of training of lawyers to be familiar with issues regarding the legal capacity of robots.

Ruslan Yunusov, CEO of the Russian Quantum Center, pointed out the problem of defining the boundaries between human and artificial intelligence, which is being seen even today. According to Yunusov, the development of brain–machine interfaces complicates the issue of legal capacity, as human thinking and artificial intelligence are becoming more integrated. It can change the process of thinking, which the Internet has already contributed to, as it has allowed people to delegate knowledge to the external environment through instant access to knowledge bases and search engines.

"We will come to the point where artificial intelligence will merge gradually with natural intelligence, the boundaries between human and non-human will be blurred. <...> Here’s a simple example of how we apportion your thinking right now: many in the younger generation have trouble remembering information because they rely on Wikipedia, and Google. And this is a part of delegating intelligence, if not to artificial intelligence, then at least to the external environment. <...> This trend of combining the living with the non-living will probably also begin working by 2035," Yunusov said.

Evgeny Kuznetsov said that in a hundred years, artificial intelligence may have its own rights and possessing it will be considered the same kind of offense that slavery is today. Furthermore, the dominance of artificial intelligence in genetic engineering could lead to the fact that genetic modification will be beyond human control.

Igor Remorenko, Rector of the Moscow City Pedagogical University, touched upon new trends in education. According to Remorenko, there has been an increase in the number of "infantile" students who perceive university as an extension of high school. In recent years, this has included average and poorly performing students, as well as high-performing students. Another category is people who do not consider it necessary to pursue higher education and are looking for an application of their practical skills. The third category is those who do not know what career they will pursue and go to the university to expand the horizons. The fourth is people who do not seek a career and are satisfied with the prospect of underemployment and playing computer games in their free time. To integrate these groups of students among each other, the Moscow State Pedagogical University carried out educational programs that allow students build bridges with people who have different views on education.

"This team-based story and the system of training and vocational education and training is a natural reaction to the anthropological crisis in which we try to sew into the overall social fabric these very different worldviews,"- Remorenko said.

Andrey Zotov, Managing Partner at ADJConsulting, added that it is necessary to create a new system of continuous education and self-education. According to Zotov, society needs a system, which allows one to change their qualifications. In this sense, a minimum basic income, an idea suggested in some developed countries, should be what society pay individuals to take part in retraining.

Mikhail Remizov, President of the National Strategy Institute, stressed the importance of acknowledging human agency during the development of technology. According to Remizov, the future should not be looked at as trends that one must conform to.

"It is important to think about how to remain a master of technology and not enter into the world in which machines bring one to his knees. The challenges of future technology should be considered from the point of view of human agency and how to avoid a ‘post-human’ future," Remizov said. In this context, Remizov pointed to the issue of Russia’s own agency.

"We can say that it is possible to finance our innovation-based model at the expense of global consumers and marketing improvements. However, we are a large and mostly undeveloped country. We need to solve two simple tasks: extending radius of settlement in the country, which also means improving transportation, and low-rise urbanization. This would lead to the sustainable population replacement without immigration," he said. In creating an agenda for the future, Russia must look at its own needs and not at fetishized technological trends that one must fit into, he added.

Summing up the discussion, the moderators, Valdai Club Research Director Fyodor Lukyanov and Evgeny Kuznetsov, proposed to discuss at future meetings of the topics of education, law in the era of robots, the responsibility of science for the consequences of progress, export of talent and technological optimism.

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