"New technologies and approaches are merging the physical, digital and biological worlds in ways that will transform humanity to its very core," that's what the "Fourth Industrial Revolution" is all about, says Klaus Schwab, economist and founder of the World Economic Forum. of Davos.
At its extreme, the "Fourth Industrial Revolution" (4RI) promises to increase human capabilities through new technologies, and even to be able to "cure" aging, leading to a new and controversial "post-human" species. Nanotechnology, biotechnology, robots, artificial intelligence, energy storage systems, so-called clean energies, Big Data, drones, virtual reality will play the leading role in this revolution in which we are entering very quickly. and augmented and 3D printing.
Parallel to the announcement of the Davos Forum, channel # 0 gave a voice in the Spanish-speaking world to José Luis Cordeiro, whom it presented as a founding professor of the Singularity University, “to try to find out how many steps is the science of reaching that utopia called immortality ”: The death of death, organ fabrication, cryogenization, planet colonization, exocortex, telepathy, artificial food, quantum computing… A curious list of possibilities that seems to come out of science fiction, in particular, from The Saga of the Heechees by Frederik Pohl.
The new industry 4.0 would be highly automated and robotized, so it is foreseeable that many jobs linked to traditional industry would be lost or made more flexible to unsuspected limits
Indeed, José Luis Cordeiro not only recreates a classic science fiction work in his speech, but also is not recognized by the university to which he claims to belong: a fairground charlatan? In any case, with these credentials, it is illustrative that his speech is legitimized by one of the most awarded journalists in Spain, Iñaki Gabilondo, broadcast on the channel of the most important telecommunications company in Europe, Telefónica, whose main shareholder –even by Above four of the major European banks - is the world's largest investment management company, BlackRock. Why put such financial, communicative and legitimizing force at the service of someone of dubious credibility? Is it that the 4RI story requires a “storyteller”?
Another modern tale
Although it has been a recurring theme so far this century, it was in early 2016 when the World Economic Forum announced to the world that we were entering the 4RI. Since then, its presence in the mass media has multiplied to say that it is already here, that its impact on our world is inevitable, and that we must prepare for it.
In Spain, the Government has launched a web platform to promote it and some large corporations have already launched themselves to proclaim it as the next step in our natural evolution. However, despite the fact that those who announce it recognize that its implementation will cause, in the coming decades, a radical change in the social and economic structure of our societies as well as in the very essence of individuals, most of the citizens and of our institutions do not seem to recognize too much relevance.
The 4RI is presented as the solution to the crisis in the global economy that, since the financial crash, has shown serious difficulties in continuing to grow. With it, productivity and flexibility would be gained –two of the characteristics of the economy most affected by the crisis–, new jobs will be created and, in addition, the production system would be much more respectful of the environment. In short, a change that would help us move towards an economy with sustainable growth and a new phase of prosperity that new generations can enjoy.
To do this, the 4RI will radically change the form of globalization modeled in the last decade, now entering a new phase where long-distance trade flows will be replaced by more regional ones. A great macroeconomic change that will take place from the reindustrialization of the richest countries, which will now seek to produce close to consumer markets.
However, its promoters also assume that its implementation could entail risks and threats, the main one being that of increasing inequalities and exclusion processes, both within and between countries.
The new Industry 4.0 would be highly automated and robotic, so it is foreseeable that many jobs linked to traditional industry would be lost or made more flexible to unsuspected limits. Likewise, as highly qualified men are in greater demand, less educated people and / or other genders will continue to be less competitive and will have fewer professional opportunities. Furthermore, they tell us that only countries that are capable of bold transformation will be able to take advantage of growth that will not be available to the entire population.
And who is to manage these risks and threats? Societies and their rulers? Will the use of technology for social control continue to be reinforced without addressing the precariousness of our societies? Can societies that call themselves democratic enter into a revolution of such caliber without even discussing whether that is the direction they want to take?
The 4RI story responds to the need of this world oligarchy to entrench itself in the face of the decline of its old industrial power
Still further, in line with the critique of transhumanism and hyperindividualization, would that hypothetical “posthuman” species leave as members of an inferior and useless species those who could not or would not join that revolution?
What seems clear is that the 4RI can only be presented as an opportunity if the ecological unsustainability of economic growth - in a context of depletion and degradation of material and energy resources - and its social undesirability are made invisible, taking into account the processes of inequality. , expulsion and social exclusion that would accompany it.
Phenomena such as the world peak of oil extraction, the massive loss of biodiversity and climate change are already announcing to us a future without global economic growth determined by the growing scarcity of those strategic material and energy resources to sustain the capitalist system and civilization. industrial.
In this sense, space exploration or the exploitation of the seabed, although they are presented as an alternative in the search for those essential resources although, due to their high techno-energy cost, they better represent a forward flight or a massive diversionary maneuver , than a real possibility in the current context of increasing scarcity.
And, even if it were feasible from an energy and materials point of view, we could suspect that the 4RI would be at the service, once again, of an oligarchic minority formed by the industrial, technological, financial, media and political elites that promote it. Many indications suggest that it may be more of a deception and distraction maneuver that ensures a certain social peace, while other less enthusiastic sociopolitical strategies are put in place (eco-fascist governments and wars to conquer resources) that ensure the logic of privileges and exploitation of the current socioeconomic order.
In fact, it seems correct to suggest that the 4RI story responds to the need for this world oligarchy to entrench itself in the face of the decline of its old industrial power and, in the face of the threat of an increasingly unequal and polarized society, to launch a strategy that strengthens, in times of uncertainty, its hegemonic story of unlimited economic growth. In this way, it would maintain its benefits through a more efficient use of material and energy resources and an improvement in productivity; it would facilitate the management of industrial production centers, by eliminating the power of a working class now replaced by robots and, finally, it would strengthen control over the population through the incorporation and widespread use of new technologies.
The importance of making the collapse visible
An end of the cycle seems inevitable, however, who leads it and where is still to be decided. For this it is not the same that society is aware or, on the contrary, remains oblivious to the civilizational collapse in which we are entering. While the first scenario gives us the possibility to open an urgent debate in our democracies and explore new ways to rebuild the resilience of our territories and populations, based on caring for people and nature, strengthening the common and democracy. radical; the second leads us, hand in hand with the 4RI, to the creation and strengthening of eco-fascist regimes or, further, to eco-suicide.
We still have time to fight for a desirable and sustainable society: we can still make a basket with these wickers. Let's abandon the dystopian fantasy of limitless progress. This is not our revolution.