Today, we are confronted with life-threatening challenges in the world, and I recently thought of a way to truly put them in perspective for anyone who is having trouble grasping them, and how extensive they really are.
To gain perspective on today’s changes, let’s look some distance back in history.
In 1381, there was a revolt in England that is now referred to as the Peasants Revolt, caused by what was perceived as unfair taxes and the treatment of peasants.
The revolt had numerous results, but a significant one was that peasants could no longer be forced to work on farms for free. This result impacted the landowners, who now had to pay their workers, so they had to borrow money from banks for this purpose.
Because of this cost, landowners began seeking ways to replace human labor—and thus began the road to the first Industrial Revolution. The invention of the plow replaced many farm workers, reducing the outlay of pay, and the amount of money required to be borrowed and paid back to banks. Goods such as wool could be processed by a machine, such as in the many textile mills that eventually built up in Northern England. Technology was also, in many respects, more efficient than humans—it didn’t make mistakes or get sick.
Relation to Modern Times
This socio-economic shift from several hundred years ago is reflected in today’s economic environment. In many quarters, automation has replaced human labor for the same reasons as before: cost, human error, frailty due to sickness, and the requirement for time off now enforced by regulation.
Automation is rapidly replacing humans for repetitive, labor-intensive tasks—but we now increasingly see technology replacing intelligent jobs as well.
These changes bring about feelings of insecurity in the workforce, much as the 18th-century changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution caused widespread worry. And as time moves forward and automation exponentially replaces humans in the workplace, it is perceived as a substantial danger.
Difference in Knowledge Transfer
One major difference between the historical and modern times we’re examining is the rapid spread of information.
For example, in the 18th century, a farmer with a large labor force might have been able to reduce it with the newest mechanical devices—but that farmer was relatively isolated, as was England on its island. Other countries on other continents wouldn’t hear about these advances for years. Conversely, there might have been inventions in other lands that were far ahead of what that farmer had, but that farmer had no way of hearing about them.
A prime illustration of the slow spread of knowledge at this time was gunpowder, invented in China and in use in the 10th century, but not reaching Europe until the 14th century.
Today, because of the internet and our networked society, knowledge transfer is instant and nearly everything is transparent.
This knowledge transfer can be readily observed when it comes to technology. Some 15 years ago, I predicted in my book The IT Revolution that open source would one day be the leader in tech development. Microsoft disagreed, saying that open source would never succeed. Fast-forward to 2018, and Microsoft totally turned about and purchased GitHub, the world’s largest open-source repository, for $7.5 billion. GitHub now has over 100 million programmers, working seamlessly, 24/7, on components, features, and environments. Transparent knowledge transfer now extends to technological advances.
This lightning-fast transfer of knowledge has led to unbelievable innovations. In 2015, Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, and several others founded the non-profit research laboratory OpenAI, dedicated to ensuring that AI benefits all of humanity. Since Musk departed the company, Microsoft and other powerful entities have invested some $12 billion into OpenAI. We already see results, such as PolitePOST, with which you type a few sentences and the remainder of the content will be composed for you.
Many fear AI will result in people no longer learning, as AI will perform all tasks for them. They won’t need to read or write, they will only need to talk. Yet we will have to embrace the changes that AI brings.
At Pipeliner, we’re utilizing AI tools that weren’t available just a few years ago for our explanatory videos. At first, it was just text—but now it’s voiceovers and avatars. The viewer would not know that they’re not watching a real person. AI has reduced our time to produce a video by almost 70 percent, and the cost by almost 80 percent.
The concept of efficiency today carries all the way forward from the landlords of the Middle Ages, who found efficiency and cost-effectiveness from the inventions they utilized to replace their human labor. Today we must embrace these advances and make things better for humanity. There is always a way forward, just as England became stronger.
Every way forward—from England on down—has led to some form of safety regulations. Elon Musk, in a recent interview, mentioned the air and car industries as having evolved powerful safety regulations and technology. He believes that AI should be regulated in the same manner, so that it isn’t manipulated and abused.
Cooperate in Peace?
The reason for today’s exponential progress in innovation is simply the number of people involved. There’s a great deal of difference between two people participating in an invention and 20,000, which is the case with open source. Technology for everything—face recognition, fingerprints, voice recognition—is rapidly improving. Where there once were a few brilliant individuals working side-by-side in a laboratory, today countless people contribute to iterations from all over the world.
Why, then, can we not understand that we all occupy this single lonely planet, floating out in billions of miles of dark, cold space? Why can’t we learn to live with each other in peace instead of engaging in conflict as never before?
It’s a question of education and creating jobs regarding these conflicts, especially involving young men in various regions between the ages of 15 and 29. When they do not have access to good education, well-paying jobs, or any path to prosperity or status within their societies, many end up in trouble and perhaps even prison. This is probably the biggest issue we face today.
In the U.S., if families averaged one son per household, most would never agree to send that one son off to war (it might be different if we were invaded and had to defend ourselves). But the population is rapidly increasing in other regions, especially in the Middle East and Africa. Families have four or five unemployed sons. According to the War Index created by Professor Gunnar Heinsohn, when an overabundance of young men grow up in a country with few to no places to employ them, they become easy to radicalize, and through that be mobilized.
Tragically, two European countries with declining populations are at war. In fact, Europe’s population is in decline, compared with Africa and the Middle East. Instead of solving the problem of a declining population, these two nations are instead engaged in conflict causing the death of many thousands. Because they already have declining populations, the replacement rate for those killed in battle will probably fall from 0.8, where it currently exists, to down around 0.5 – 0.4. The requirement for replacement should be between 1.5 and 2.1 for each person lost. It makes no sense for these countries to be at war.
Overpopulation, combined with poverty and unemployment, also leads to a tremendous desire to immigrate to wealthier countries. Where do they wish to relocate? To the West—Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Currently, almost 1 billion people are trying to immigrate to more economically sound countries according to Professor Heinsohn.
Focus on Real Issues
The Austrian School of Economics tells us that if goods and services are not crossing borders, soldiers will. In other words, conflict only occurs when trade isn’t happening. This is exactly what is occurring right now.
A relatively small handful of people is causing the major crises occurring in the world today. The majority of the world population would never approve of them.
As a society, we should examine the economics of our world, and realize that we have the technology at hand to truly solve our problems for the good of everyone. This is the direction we should be heading instead of thinking that one country can be better than another.
Being at war today is senseless, for we’re all sitting in the same boat. In a similar way, one nation can no longer solve an issue such as cleaner water or air while its neighbor is doing the exact opposite. The same is true in economics. We possess the technology to overcome all of our issues if the right people are in leadership.
This includes the responsibility of the media, as we recently saw with the Twitter files. If the information released through the media was 100 percent true, we would have a very different situation. We cannot hide and suppress facts any longer, with certain individuals believing that people are stupid and can be manipulated.
My strong desire for the future comes from the Austrian School of Economics. Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises once said, “We have no hymns. We have no uniforms. We have no flags. We have no weapons. We only have the better ideas, and one day these better ideas will prevail.”
Why are we doing this? Because we have a complete belief and faith in sales—we believe that salespeople are the wealth creators and the peace producers of the world. Everything begins with sales, all the way back to the Stone Age when trade began. Now, as then, sales and trade are the answer to the economic inequalities and turmoil of the world. Finally, as a salesperson myself, I promote trade because it has a peacekeeping component. This is my hope to face these enormous challenges today, coming together—throughout history, wars have never been the answer.
We are at a crossroads like never before, with the power to provide knowledge for the building of businesses, resulting in the empowerment of local communities. This means higher income, better healthcare, and many more benefits. Only if we bring a provable business concept, and not only to the emerging markets, can we stem the tide of devastating immigration and the ruination of the environment—and therefore survive as a planet.
With the incredible technology at our disposal, we can win, bringing education and creating jobs. We need to do this, and we should—no we must do this!