BRASILIA. KAZINFORM The Laboratory of the Future, part of the Alberto Luiz Coimbra Institute of Graduate Studies and Engineering Research (Coppe/UFRJ) at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, conducted a study in collaboration with the Millennium Project. The study envisages three scenarios for the future of work and technology up to 2050, taking into account current technological advancements and their potential implications.
In addition to projecting possible futures, the report provides insights into the perspectives of economically advanced nations as well as other countries. The first scenario depicted in the report is reflective of the current state of affairs: some countries are quicker to adopt new technologies than others. «Brazil falls into the latter category, where the adoption of new technologies tends to be slower,» explained Yuri Lima, the coordinator of the Future of Work research line at Coppe/UFRJ's Laboratory of the Future, in an interview with Agência Brasil.
In the first scenario, entitled «It's Complicated - A Mixture,» the continuity of the current reality is projected. Society faces difficulties in dealing with new technologies and does not develop long-term strategies to deal with them. This results in a technological impact that, while not enough to generate widespread technological unemployment, creates challenges for the labor market. In addition, the scenario is characterized by governments that fail to implement long-term planning strategies, which is already seen in Brazil today. In this context, large companies have increasing power, often surpassing government control, Agência Brasil reports.
Lima pointed out that some multinational corporations are already becoming more powerful than certain countries, with revenues exceeding the GDP of smaller nations. This scenario is particularly concerning, as it exacerbates the vision of how things will be in 2050.
The study Future Work/Technology 2050 projects a second, even more pessimistic scenario. It is called Political-Economic Agitation, a very similar scenario to the one Brazil is already experiencing, with high unemployment and the government finding it difficult to predict the impact of technologies on politics and to take into account the vision of science, said Yuri Lima.
The prospect is that automation will cause mass unemployment, as happened in the Industrial Revolution when machines replaced labor. According to Lima, in this more pessimistic projection, the automation of work is faster than one could imagine for a world that was not able to prepare itself. According to the report, in this scenario, of the 6 billion people working in the world today, 2 billion would be unemployed, 2 billion would be in the informal economy, and the remaining 2 billion would be split 50-50 between employees and self-employed.
Yuri Lima pointed out that the first and third scenarios do not have such a negative outlook. The idea, in scenario 1, is that things should stay as they are, and in scenario 3, which is more positive, that technology will create as many jobs as it will destroy, or will even create more jobs than destroy.
One of the ideas in the third scenario is that technology will create new professions and more demand in areas that were not imagined. He cited, as an example, the professionalization of people who take care of the elderly or children, for example, and of those who work in the healthcare field, such as nurses, doctors, and physical education professionals. There may also be an increase in professions linked to the arts, in the area of technology itself. «There are several possibilities. There are areas that are already known that can grow, others that are not even known to exist, and those that will be created in the future.»
In the third scenario, called If Humans Were Free - The Self-Realization Economy, the idea is that governments try to get ahead of the curve in terms of artificial intelligence (AI), especially general AI, rather than the restricted AI we see today. General AI is capable of solving whatever is needed, in terms of intelligence.
According to Lima, the government that promotes self-employment as a possibility for the individual's self-realization, with the capacity to survive without worrying about their basic needs, will have more advantages. This scenario signals digitalization, and automation, helping to produce with fewer costs.
The report presents 100 initiatives split between government, business, science, education, and culture that can be taken to address future challenges.
In terms of government, the study suggests the creation of a national agency for technological prospection and evaluation, which would be able to identify the next technologies and think about the impact they will have on society. This would serve for legislative or executive branch discussion for the creation of public policies, to encourage discussion with other sectors.
Yuri Lima proposed including the study of the future as a subject in education, similar to how history teaches about the past. «It's important to start learning to reflect about the future from a young age, at school,» he said. Another promising initiative in this area would be the integration of robots and artificial intelligence to enhance and improve education.