Recently I took part in a conference on Industry 4.0. Without getting to technical, it talked about the linking of robots, AI and the internet of things to manage the whole manufacturing process with minimal intervention. Clearly the opportunities go far further than just manufacturing, but that was the one element that we focused on.
Views on the subject ranged from fear that this would lead to the loss of countless jobs to others that saw the exciting possibilities of remove mundane jobs from the manufacturing cycle. But that same technology could be used to eliminate human failings in many other processes.
What soon became clear was that concerns or not, this is another part of the speedy growth of technology within our world that will not stop and which provides opportunities for creative young people to exploit the technology.
What is not so clear is what governments and other responsible organisations are doing to prepare for it and to alleviate the possible problems, particularly in under-developed countries.
When I did research I discovered that you could not fault the developed countries for the aid they provide to the less fortunate. However, one has to question whether it is the right sort of aid.
For a long time now the developed countries have looked to the un-developed countries as a source of cheap labour. The mathematics of transport costs has been more than offset by the savings in labour costs. However, if transport costs can be eliminated and labour costs further reduced by the implementation of robot and AI systems where does that leave the workers from the un-developed countries?
When you make people unemployed and with no future prospects then you harbour resentment and rebellion. Witness the number of people that left from sink estates to join terror organisations.
It is no good the British Government spending £263 million on a renewable energy initiative if people cannot afford the electricity generated. Even worse, at the half way stage the project has only produced the equivalent of power to support the equivalent of 100 British households.
While I am not saying that climate change isn’t an issue for the planet, I also believe that the growing gap between the haves and the have-nots is also a potentially much bigger issue. As the developed world continues to exploit new technology, the have-nots are having what little they had taken away.
What will it take in the form of unrest and rebellion before people realise that aid is not about the percentage you give but what you do with it. Where are the plans to educate and encourage more entrepreneurship within un-developed and under-developed countries so that they can generate their own economy rather than relying on the transient financially beneficial crumbs from the developed countries.
Development aid needs a major rethink that attacks the potential damage that the developed countries are about to create. That requires people other than civil servants that probably couldn’t spell Industry 4.0/ This requires people with vision and an entrepreneurial attitude to develop schemes that will address these issues.
Surely it is not beyond the wit of man to define a metric that can be used to evaluate all projects to identify whether the project addresses the problems of the future. Alternatively we could just carry on fiddling while Rome burns and make sure that the last person to leave turns off the climate change generated light.