Two pieces (1 and 2, part of a bigger package on the future of work) in Nature this week focus on the battle between past and future catalyzing into a confrontation in our times. Ian Goldin, Oxford University Professor of Globalisation and Development and Director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Technological and Economic Change, says science has an important role to play in documenting the opportunities, along with the downsides of, new technology. Based on frank dialogue, science can suggest policy and novel options to address the disadvantages of innovative technology. Goldin writes:
In my view, many parts of the world are now in the middle of a second Renaissance. This one is seeing even faster change than the last, and across the entire globe. History tells us that it will be disruptive. It will bring immense benefits and it will be highly destabilizing. We should expect more extremism and the rise of potentially catastrophic risks.
Yuval Noah Harari, the author of Sapiens and Homo Deus, suggests we need to reboot society using artificial intelligence. He writes:
To make use of the new opportunities, people will need radical, lifelong retraining. The AI revolution won’t be a single event after which the job market and the educational system will settle into a new equilibrium. Rather, it will be a cascade of ever-bigger disruptions. Even today, few employees expect to work in the same job for their entire life (see go.nature.com/2ymdvjs). By 2050, not just the idea of ‘a job for life’, but even the idea of ‘a profession for life’ might seem antediluvian. It will become increasingly difficult to know what to teach schoolchildren and university students.
The challeng here is trust. Experts have fallen out of favor with ordinary people who are often treated as though they are too uninformed to ever understand modern technological and economic change. A collaboration of science, the humanities, and the people aimed at finding common ground — a mutual narrative, in which the negotiation of costs and benefits can take place — is much needed today.
Ultimately, we are entering an era of ongoing change. There won’t be a new normal, just newer questions to explore. That’s a great story.