Lately I have posted the following statement and picture below on LinkedIn, some of you might have seen it, others not.
One is about the global world and the impact on our lives, mapping that ‘imaginary’ to the Pyramid of Maslow, the other one is more related to the effect share-holders and their requirements have on our life.
So yes, basically I’m mapping two times what we see around us in the industrial environment towards the Maslow’s Pyramid of needs.
Indeed, I’m afraid the whole Pyramid is at risk. “Work” has been a stabilizing factor for most of us to support and build upon: from physiological needs over safety and belonging to esteem and self actualization.
The world is changing, ever faster and our companies are trying to keep up, sometimes leading, sometimes trailing. It’s never good unless one catches the right wave, remembering Nokia Mobile Phones… We’ve all heard about the developments we’ve had and the solutions which were turned down in the 90s being big hits in the early years of the 2000s. Whilst we currently look backwards on all our attempts, successes and failures, with mixed feelings, we see a lot of people wondering what’s in it for them in the next (r)evolution. Bold statements are put forward with regards to the development of AI, automation and robotics… All will be so much easier, safer and more correct, but little is being done on the preparation of the real future, the future of the people. Where will the next change hit, will it hit globally or regionally and who will profit, the community or individuals?
Lately in Belgium, there was a big (small) storm on the internet purchases around year end. Our country and businesses were missing out. Lots of orders were going towards the bol.com / amazon.com / etc. and not to our local vendors. Indeed they were kind of too late with their development or growth and they wanted to have that turned around. So now we have some buzz from our politicians supporting our local companies with promotion and regulations: more night work is allowed to grab back business from the Netherlands and US, right? Everyone happy… but will that really help or are we late again? Yes, we are late and moreover we are yet again riding the wrong wave. Alibaba and Amazon are light-years ahead and their 24/7 workforce is already being automated, a video here.
So as we get to see the first developments of AI and Automation on a bigger scale, we notice that it’s being driven from a perspective that all will be better if we can reduce first the repetitive work (and later nearly everything else), cutting out the low value work so to say. However what nobody seems to realize is that for a huge mass, this perceived low value work offers meaning to their life. People are able to keep up their family: feed, house, protect, grow. People are able to make it meaningful. Not everyone is having the same look on life as tech-savvy people.
My partner is working with a variety of people who are currently giving up on the world as it exists and who retreat in their comfort zone. Not because they do not want to join the ride, but because they are unable to join the ride. They have tried, but had to stop, even with all support provided so far, they give up. Mental capacities were OK for the 90s, but are not helping them anymore right now… and that hurts big time, it creates frustration and can trigger worse. The feeling of being excluded is hard to accept. People don’t understand why things need to go faster, faster, faster with reduced workforce as they all had a job, had their issues, but had something to care for, to discuss with friends, to fight for. It’s the first community to be totally & negatively affected by the changes implemented, but expectations are it won’t stop there. When technology takes away self actualization, takes away the belonging to the working class (blue / white collar workers) and takes away the safety one can ensure his/her family, what’s then left? Poverty? Aggression? Frustration? Revolt?
There are many more issues to watch out for, amongst them I would flag the globalization of the new solutions. As solutions might be deployed only regionally, what will happen to the wider world? In case China develops a solution where only 10% of the population needs to keep working to keep the country running and all others get “comfort” benefits, what kind of impact will that have on migration? Just imagine you live on the other side of the border where no automation is available and you work day/night to earn a living, constantly under pressure of the price setting by the Chinese through their automation?
In my personal opinion, it will be crucial to ensure that there is a compensating factor – that a meaning of life towards all community members, is ensured…