Every time I think about the problems we will have to spend our time solving in the next few decades, I go back to two looming questions –
1. How will we deal with the displacement of 70%+ of our workforce when machines take over most of our jobs?
2. How will we prevent human extinction by figuring out sustainable solutions to co-exist with the environment on this planet?
The onus on the first question lies more with policy makers and governments. The second, on the other hand, is in the hands of researchers and entrepreneurs. As with all complex questions, these two looming questions throw out plenty of symptoms that threaten to occupy our attention. But, attacking symptoms will not help us solve these problems. In fact, they probably get in the way.
For example, the root of political unrest and the hateful sentiments against fellow humans in most “developed” economies right now is due to the displacement. The blue collar factory worker’s job has gone away and will never come back. It is hard to come to terms with that reality. And, the politics around it don’t help. “Vote for me and I’ll get your jobs back” is a simple, if untrue, message. These simple messages win the day in the short term. True progress, unfortunately, is built on tough discussions. And, these tough discussions will not occur until we accept that this is the reality we face.
So, perhaps, the first step should not be to discuss our solutions to the problems we face. Our solutions will be very different depending on our biases.
Maybe the first step is simply to agree on the questions…