We are once again standing on the cusp of a revolution in human civilization. 10,000 years ago, humans discovered how to do intensive agriculture using human and animal labor to grow cereal crops, creating enough food-energy in a small region to sustain the world's first cities. This was the Agricultural Revolution and it led to the development of written language, mathematics, regional empires, and much more In the 1800s, humans discovered how to harness chemical energy to create steam-powered machines, leading to the Industrial Revolution. This greatly enhanced economic productivity and wealth but was not equally shared by all. It resulted in a form of economic slavery for poor factory workers. More recently we have been experiencing an Information Revolution and an explosion of robotics and computing power. The next revolution will take civilization off the planet and into space. This is made possible by robotics and artificial intelligence. Creating industry on the Moon and Mars and in space with asteroids is not rocket science; it is industrial engineering where we need to adapt existing technologies to a new environment.
So far in 2019, nearly 9100 stores are slated to close and more closings are expected in 2020. When I look at some of the studies it’s not a good situation in the US. There´s been some excellent research that says that half of Americans could not afford a $400 unexpected expense. So, imagine you are going to go out without a month´s pay, two-months´ pay …or a year. And then imagine you want to put savings toward a course to redevelop your career. People who still have jobs can´t afford to take time off of work. They don`t have a cushion, so this lack of economic stability, married with the disruptions in people´s careers is a really toxic mix. This is not a futuristic challenge; this is something that’s happening today in a large numbers in clerical jobs, in offices, HR department, payroll, finance. In our data when I looked, women disproportionately hold the jobs that today are at highest risk of automation. And that’s not really being talked about, and that’s in part because women are over-represented in some of their marginalized occupations, like a cashier or a fast-food worker.
Within a few decades, advances in machine intelligence will make the robotics more autonomous, reducing the cost of labor to control the robots from Earth. The marginalization of labor from economic production is already a concern for terrestrial industry. Robotic industry has potential to grow according to its “metabolism”, its throughput of matter and energy, without the usual economic and social controls. This can rapidly widen the gap between capital and labor, or between privileged and under-privileged following the lines of those who can participate and those cannot. Studies suggest this can occur as early as the middle of the century. While the rift is already big today, it is seriously nothing compared to what it will be when industry grows to massive proportions, unless steps are taken during the startup period. This would be an economic revolution greater than the industrial or agricultural revolutions. As with every economic revolution, there will be winners and losers including the potential for abuse unless and until social structures adapt to the new regime. In the case of technology, the extremely rapid scale-up and the extreme imbalance this produces could make it extremely difficult for social justice to be recovered once it is lost. Unless steps are taken to promote parity before it is too late, this economic revolution will also amplify the existing disparities along national and racial dividing lines. Those who have privileged locations in society and the world can get the better educations and jobs and can be involved now, at the start. They can gain shares of equity that scale as the industry scales, maintaining their economic and political relevance. Those who are underprivileged today are not taking part in this revolution. This involves the vast majority of the world where there is either no program or too small for the number of citizens. As the economic revolution proceeds, they will be reduced to political powerlessness far worse than their conditions today. After ignition of AI industry, it is too late to gain equity, because Earth’s buying power will be trivialized. By then it will also be too late to seek imposition of new social controls. Also, because the industry grows exponentially, the gap will forever widen. The only opportunity to solve this problem is during the bootstrapping period while human labor is still needed in the industry. Humans will be needed to design the robotics, build and test prototypes, teleoperate them, and evolve the industry until ignition is achieved. I became convinced the solution to our global problems must involve educating/involving the citizens, creating a movement that understands, expects, and demands that we do the right things.
Here, I describe my twelve years operating a nonprofit school in Venezuela and the experiences with the school as a case study. I found most of the children have very little hope for advancement in jobs or careers, and they do not see how education will change that. Part of the problem is that the parents also do not see the value of the education, so they do not encourage their children to continue, or they actively encourage them to quit. I also found systemic problems in the community due to inadequate community support for education. This was reflected through members of the community repeatedly breaking into the school to steal all the computers, or worse, to simply destroy the computers because the school is seen as a threat because it will take children away from working in the production of illegal drugs, so the children had to be transported to the campus secretly to keep its location unknown. In the midst of this situation, I introduced new Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) educational programs that are hands-on, fun, and utilize inspirational stories of successful people to provide a demonstration that education has real benefits. I created an electronic platform to deliver the content, freeing the school from particular locations that could be vandalized. These changes were highly successful. Some days where the power is out all day long and is restored only late at night, the students go online to complete the lessons at those late hours because they cannot wait to continue. Space exploration has been an even stronger motivator than standard STEM topics, I hypothesized this can be greatly expanded to further enhance the program and eventually can be merged into a program that expands ownership of space industry. So, I formulated our program around these themes: (1) motivating students in education, (2) creating a pipeline to jobs and a community of citizen technologists, (3) supporting local economic development, (4) expanding global participation and ownership of space industry, (5) and fully integrating this with the entertainment community to spur social change. Furthermore, the crowdsourced technological advancement has proven to have high value.
In the near term, the development of these programs is already affecting the communities by strongly motivating students to continue education. Our efforts are also affecting economic development of the communities in nascent ways. A company in a South American country was seeking employees to work in mechatronics, and I was able to recommend a graduate of my school for the job. After he was hired, he began sending back financial support to his family, which demonstrated to their community that education has value. This is helping change social values in the region that will have long-term effects. Furthermore, the hired student was able to recommend several of his friends from the same region, who now also received jobs. Thus, it has created a multiplier effect in this very poor region.
It started as a project to get people in underdeveloped regions involved in the technology of space industry to promote social justice and economic welfare on Earth. From the strong response we are now introducing BABYLON Mini and making our program available through an open source platform to everyone, anywhere.
In a world that will only grow smaller and more interconnected, I am thankful for all the amazing people who have lifted me along the way so I can stand here today, I am convinced that it is possible for us to be united by our ideals, instead of divided by our differences. As I said before, from that mother who decided to pay for my chemotherapy, to my doctor, all the nurses, my amazing team and all the incredible acts of kindness you have given me, lifting others is the best way I have found to honor you. THANK YOU
Happy New Year everyone!
The best is yet to come… and I can’t wait!!