What Will Be the Society of the Future?


How social relations will change under the influence of new technologies and what features will be appropriate to the "society of the future"? Can we catch them now? These and other issues were discussed  by the participants of the panel discussion, titled " What Will Be the Society of the Future?", organized on March 15 by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) in cooperation with the Valdai Discussion Club in the framework of the VII Sociological Grushin Conference.

Moderator of the discussion Andrey Bystritskiy,  Chairman of the Board of the Foundation for Development and Support of the Valdai Discussion Club, spoke about an attempt to look into the future with the help of the VTsIOM and the Valdai Club initiative. The key task of the "Future Preparedness Index" (this is the name of the project) is the preparedness forecast of the leading countries of the world for the future challenges. And one of the key factors is to predict what will determine the success of states in the medium term.

Valery Fyodorov, General Director of VTsIOM, presented to the audience the structure of the Index, which is based on ten main criteria to assess the states. Among them he highlighted technologies, economics, security, governance system, education, cultural communications and society. When studying these areas, it is planned to use combined methods, including analysis of statistical data, expert assessments etc. Talking about the future, Fyodorov expressed the opinion, that the national state will not die in the future, but will remain the main organizational form of the modern world. In his opinion, such directions as education continuity, search for talents, level of literacy of the population will play a special role in the society of the future.

Alexei Firsov, RUSNANO Communications Director, drew attention to the surge of public interest in the future. At the same time, he noted the catastrophic nature of most modern forecasts. According to him, such "predictions" are often influenced by the so-called researcher factor, when the author's personal vision is transformed into the forecast itself. Firsov believes, that creation of the image of the future is possible only by comparing the generations of the future and generations of the present.

Dmitry Avdienko, Advisor to the VTsIOM General Director, touched the problem of automation, which resulted today in noticeable jobs cuts. According to one of the forecasts (which may well be called "catastrophic"), in 20 years the reduction of jobs will reach 47% and work will cease to be the main occupation of a person. Robots replace young specialists, and the process of people entering the labor market will slow down, education will become one of the ways to conceal unemployment. Because of total automation the model of life of the people of the future can dramatically change: at a young age they will receive funds from the state, and they will work without retirement until a very old age.

Igor Zadorin, General Director of ZIRCON Research Group, noted that the factor of deterrence which ensures the uniformity of the evolution process is important for the harmonious development of society and a comfortable transition to the future.  According to Zadorin, it is impossible to become suddenly a new person or create a new person without violating the continuity, which is also an important element of development. Zadorin believes that in some situations the technological development should be suspended in order to give the society an opportunity to change naturally.

Dmitry Ivanov, Professor at the Department of Theory and History of Sociology, St. Petersburg State University (SPSU), spoke about the projected worldwide decrease of the number of cities with a population exceeding 5 million people. He drew attention to the existing confrontation between megalopolises and countries. As an example, he drew attention to the victory of Donald Trump in the US elections, as well as Brexit, when countries "won". In his opinion, such competition is necessary for the development of society and humanity as a whole.

Denis Terekhov, Managing Partner of the "Social Networks" Agency, suggested to look at the future from the point of view of advertising and market communications. He urged to treat the Internet not as an abstract computer network, but as an integral element of life, like air or electricity. The future, he said, will come at a time when humanity will cease to think about the essence of the Internet.



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