Info platforms, biotechnology, and brain research change our lives as we can not imagine.
Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari promises 21 lessons for the 21st century. But at the end of the book, it turns out that it’s all about answering one question: do we have enough time to master the achievements of digitization and the biotechnology revolution, or will we just become more executive organs of remote-controlled ones in the foreseeable future? Be algorithms? This question affects every single individual as well as the whole society. Where the thinking in nations or otherwise like isolated communities is illusory. The algorithms controlled by the many data we constantly disclose do not care about national borders.
Does that sound like utopia? What has become of the once-revered service society is described in detail in today’s KURIER. Not only that every consumer becomes a freelancer for banks, airlines, and supermarkets. While we work diligently for these companies, we also give them our most valuable, our data. That’s just the beginning.
So far we only use our data to convey our behavior, but the technical development continues – soon our feelings will also become transparent. What that means for the economy, but above all for liberal democracy, we can only speculate about today. But the misuse is predetermined when computers not only understand but also anticipate our emotionally controlled behavior.
The good news is that after millennia of heavy physical labor – since the invention of the plow – people can transfer it to the robots. New work is created, but this requires very good training and even more flexibility. According to a new study in Germany, around 2.9 million skilled workers are missing by 2025. Nurses are also missing, graduates of some higher education programs, however, are unemployed, computers are often better than lawyers. Unfortunately, our schools and universities are not prepared for the great upheavals.
And certainly not our democracy. For global challenges, nation-states only look helpless. However, the man became so successful because he can abstract and tell stories and also believes them. Especially in times of uncertainty, stories about national pride, honor, and traditions can be sold better than concepts for the uncertain future. The daily appeals to our feelings, also in Austria, and the play with our fears shows the way how liberal democracies become emotion- controlled “emotional craters”. We will then be able to master these just as little as the algorithms governed by the data.
Perhaps the most important sentence in Harari’s book hides in the chapter on secularism: “Questions that you can not answer are usually much better than answers that you can not question.” Most of all, we have to be wary of those on all these complex challenges have quick answers. And who wants to seduce us with a bit of entertainment, so that we no longer ask questions.
China shows us the way how the state controls, rewards and punishes every individual through data and algorithms. Right-wing populists here want to lead us into the nation states of the 19th century with fear of strangers. Anyone who believes in a liberal democracy must harness the new techniques and learn to live with the consequences, through more understanding and more education. Harari is not a pessimist, mankind can do it, but only a few years remain, at most a few decades.