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How will the present trend towards greater inequality be reversed?

Posted By Felistus Mbole, Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Felistus Mbole a member of our Emerging Fellows program believes that reversing inequality by means of taxation or regulating markets is possible, but so difficult. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.


Global wealth inequality has been rising for the last four decades. The trend is worrying and seemingly irreversible. It is unrealistic to expect total equality in a largely market-based society. Yet, the wealthy cannot continue to get richer at the expense of other members of society. Severe inequality hurts both the poor and the rich. The pertinent question is, how will this trend to greater global inequality be reversed?


There has been a lot of focus on economic growth. Understandably, the pie needs to be big for everyone to get a piece. But if the pie is not equitably shared, it will eventually stop growing. A sure way of attaining this is by giving the majority an opportunity to contribute to growing the pie and to proportionately benefit from it. In today’s technologically driven economy, human capital is equally - if not more - valuable than physical capital in production. Unskilled labour is thus a huge disadvantage and the key reason for current income inequality. Governments can address this by creating equal opportunities for all citizens by providing quality education, healthcare, and other public services. Generally, returns on capital outweigh wages. Highly skilled executives are, however, paid a lot more than the wealth they generate for the owners of the businesses.


Closely tied to this is the need to set a minimum wage for workers to meet their basics needs. This will be accompanied by the freedom for workers to associate and lobby for better terms and conditions of work where necessary. Workers shared-ownership of businesses with investors would also enable employees to share in the returns they generate. Representation of employees in the governance of businesses would further ensure that workers’ welfare is taken care off. These measures would collectively reduce the inequalities between workers and the owners of capital.


Taxation as a means of redistributing wealth will be a core tool for reversing inequality. Ironically, the tax rate of the top 10% richest has decreased in many countries while their wealth has multiplied several times. In such states, the promise to reduce tax rates appears to be the promise to win elections. Besides, the rich are the funders of political campaigns. Reduction of taxes has led to deterioration in quality of public services such as education and has deepened inequality. Sustained provision of quality public goods and services can only be attained through wealth redistribution measures such as progressive taxation of incomes and wealth and inheritance taxes. Governments will need to provide safety nets to guarantee minimum standards of living.


Moreover, governments will have to effectively regulate markets. Left on their own, markets will continue to serve the interests of capitalists and not the common good of society. It is the business of government to intervene in the economy whenever necessary. There will be a need for clear rules on what is acceptable market conduct and measures to ensure that all players play by these rules.


The inequality we see today hasn’t suddenly happened. It is the sum of decades of decisions by society. Similarly, the wrongs will not be righted in a day. Yet, action must start now to guarantee the future. Reversing the current inequality trend won’t be easy. It will require foresight – acting for tomorrow rather than today. It will take a very strong political will by governments.


© Felistus Mbole, 2019

Tags:  equity  inequality  society 

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What Is the Role of Finance in The Emergent Future?

Posted By E. Alex Floate, Friday, December 6, 2019

Alex Floate, a member of our Emerging Fellows program believes that the role of finance in the emergent future is made by our choices. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.


2050 – Continued status quo

WNN, the World News Network, announced the closure of the Tokyo, New York, and London exchanges today, citing the owner’s announcement that the exchanges were no longer profitable due to the lack of publicly available stock assets. Finance watchers had been warning for years, even decades of the growing disparity in wealth in all nations, especially those with extensive and politically influential financial systems.


The concentration resulted in privatized holdings that were no longer accountable to public transparency, or hijack by minority investors. Other investment vehicles that the oligarchs could control, and usually skirted many archaic government regulations, were still offered for the masses. The money raised from these token offerings were then used to make the riskiest bets, ones the corporate monopolists and oligarchs did not want to risk their own money on.


The governments overseeing the economy were content with maintaining the status quo of reasonable stability in the broader economy. If the masses were content with meager returns, and a standard of living that allowed them to plug-in to a large selection of neuro-linked content, why not let the rich have their way?


2050 – Transformed by design

WNN, the World News Network, announced the renaming of the Tokyo, New York, and London exchanges. The exchanges now track the true costs and benefits of each company, both private and public, and their social responsibility scores. This allows governments to levy appropriate taxes and gives investors full information on the companies’ ability to create social goods in addition to profits.


Also announced was a unified global taxing and currency structure. This will stop corporations and individuals from using tax havens that reduce tax liabilities in primary markets. The move is aimed at corporations who gain all the benefits of a market without having to bear any of the costs. Additionally, it will restrict the ability to manipulate currency or financial assets in one market for financial advantage in another. These changes deal a blow to the world of ‘paper profits’ and the financialization of markets that enrich a few at the cost of the broader social good.


Present Day – What role do we want finance to play in our future?

The future of finance is dependent on the role we believe it should play in our society and economy. If we decide the status quo is sufficient, we can expect that financial profits will remain the priority of those who earn them, and they will continue to seek power to protect them. We can expect continued attempts to keep profits as private gains, and costs and losses turned into public debt. We can also expect other aspects of life, such as freedom of movement, expression, and privacy, to become luxuries that are priced and sold as commodities. Ultimately, the role of finance in the emergent future is what we make it. It is up to us whether it is our servant or master.


© E Alex Floate 2019

Tags:  finance  future  profit 

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Through what eye do you behold a digitising economy?

Posted By Paul Tero, Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Paul Tero, a member of our Emerging Fellows program examines the perspectives of digital economy in his twelfth blog post. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.


In order to answer this question, we need to appreciate how our perspectives have developed. It is important to note that not only do we all have our own biases but our world views aren't always in synch on any one of a number of issues. This development process starts with our beliefs. These are shaped by factors such as our culture, our education and our experiences. What we hold dear, our values, not only grows out of our set of developed beliefs but are also shaped by our family’s values and our successes in life. What builds on these two, in turn, is first our attitudes and finally our behaviours.


This is where our perspectives of the future digital economy come into play. Because the future cannot be studied, as it does not yet exist, only our images and conceptions of the future can be. These ideas are built upon our beliefs, values, attitudes and behaviours. The vision that we each have of what a fully digital economy will look like depends upon our biases and world views.


Consider the question: “what do you think the future will be like?” From a temperament perspective, are you a hopeful person and by default you look for win-win outcomes? Or are you one who has been bitten by identity fraud and, based on your experiences, your answer is laced with skepticism. The implication here is that an argument for a fully digitised economy that is utopian in nature is just as plausible as well as one that is dystopian.


In discussing how the future of the economy could unfold we have seen that there is not one preferred scenario. Several possibilities could eventuate. What underpins any of these paths is the growing preponderance of the digital bit in creating economic value. It used to be that the economy was solely based on what we could do with the atom – building things, selling things and establishing bases of power through the material world. Now it is the world of the bit that is increasingly ubiquitous.


There are then several issues that flow from this increasing digitisation: the skills that we trade for value in the workplace, questions concerning the knowledge and wisdom that can be derived from a super-abundance of data, social responses to the changing structure of the economy, and the shape of governance structures surrounding corporates and other institutions. Finally, what may arise from this trend toward increasing digitisation is the emergence of an “intelligence economy”. One that supersedes the digital economy. An economy where real value is no longer held in varying compositions of bits, but in prized abstractions of knowledge stored in quantum computing machines.


In looking forward from the vantage point of today, what is your preferred future? How would you like this increasingly digital economy develop? Are you hoping for one that is based on solely the taxation of capital, thus freeing humanity through the mechanism of a universal basic income? Or are you hoping that life continues as it is, albeit with some form of control mechanism that reduces any digital encumbrances arising from social toxicity?


Whether we gladly accept this trend or hold deep reservations, the future is progressively digital. This phenomenon will impact how value is created, how we lead our lives, and how the state conducts its governance. For just like the harnessing of physical streams by waterwheel technology led to all manner of outcomes, so too will the technology that harnesses digital streams.


© Paul Tero 2019

Tags:  digital economy  economics  technology 

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How Much of the Future Company is Visible Today?

Posted By Charlotte Aguilar-Millan, Thursday, November 28, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Charlotte Aguilar-Millan looks at the workforce in future companies through her twelfth blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

The Company of the Future will utilise technology for growth, efficiencies and profitability. The historic use of staff will not continue in perpetuity. This trend can be seen in companies of today through the use of the contracting markets along with a rising self-employed workforce. Millennials will be in charge of the workforce by 2050. No longer will they rely on getting a good paying job and taking a back seat in their future earning potential. They have grown up with technology and the opportunities that come with it. This changing expectation will be visible in the future company.

Staff will want control over their work-life balance, independence to set their own hours and flexibility in the work being performed. The future company will adopt working practices to incorporate this as millennials advance in their careers. By 2050, they will occupy the positions to make this happen where it has not already. Some companies have currently embraced changing appetites as an opportunity. This is demonstrated in home working arrangements and unlimited holiday balances. Flexible working will be the norm for the company of the future.

With changing workforce preferences, some companies have found loopholes for exploitation. By classifying staff as self-employed, the tax burden is then placed on the individual rather than the company. It is estimated that over £300m is lost in tax revenue each year in the UK through this classification of the workforce. The tax authorities today are barely keeping pace with these loopholes. By 2050, they will be closed as legislation changes.

This is only possible where there is a shortage in supply. Specialists in fields such as IT or Finance have seen their conditions significantly improve, with large companies offering incentives such as unlimited annual leave or pet maternity leave. In the unskilled work force, for gig workers in fields such as fast food or transport, the landscape is not so good. Uber provides a platform for gig workers to supply their labour. It determines a driver’s profitability and whether any customers are routed to their cars. Uber’s control over what a worker is paid month on month has created an instability for unskilled labour. It also demonstrates that the company of the future does not need staff. The Company of the future will not even require drivers. Once autonomous vehicles become sufficiently reliable to be roadworthy, these will replace the workforce.

An additional change to the company of the future will be seen in the need for a workforce. This will decline for most industries. In the transportation sector, where it is not already, full automation will occur. We can see this with Scotland's introduction of driverless buses in 2020 and Uber's current development of the driverless car. The service industry is also seeing automation of its workforce. US burger chain, Wendy's, now use self-cleaning ovens while Arby's uses smart cookers which can detect when patties are cooked and will automatically change the temperature.

The company of the future will have a more fluid workforce through temporary workers and a much stronger work life balance. This is evident in some companies today through unlimited holiday offering for staff within BlackRock Inc, and Netflix Inc. Future companies will also utilise technology to generate growth. No longer will CEOs city hop to meetings on a weekly basis. Instead video conferencing and virtual meetings will be the norm. This can also be seen in companies today.

Finally, the company of the future will demonstrate more transparency in its treatment of staff and legislation. Today, loopholes have enabled many companies to avoid paying their fair share of tax. The company of the future will be taxed on the basis of resource usage rather than gaps in legislation utilised; something that current companies are reluctant to adopt. By 2050, adoption will no longer be optional.

The generation in control in 2050 will aspire to live their golden years along with their working years. This is translated into a need for flexibility within the workplace. Intangible based companies are on the rise. This trend can be seen developing today and will continue to so do. It means that only a small portion of the future company is visible today.

© Charlotte Aguilar-Millan 2019

Tags:  automation  company  human resources 

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What does automation get in exchange?

Posted By Tim Morgan, Monday, November 25, 2019
Updated: Monday, November 25, 2019

Tim Morgan published his eleventh blog post in our Emerging Fellows program by exploring the values of automated technology. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.


It takes a civilization to build a robot. Our civilization is not the first to have imagined creating non-human intelligences. It is however the first to be plausibly close to achieving that goal. We may see by 2050 adaptive Artificial General Intelligences (AGIs) which appear to be within the human cognitive range. If true AGIs remain elusive, we certainly will be able to connect limited AIs together to create AGI-like capabilities by 2050.

Technologist Kevin Kelly has written about the evolution of technology, framing it as what it "wants". That is a convenient proxy for talking about how we shape our own development through technology. Technologies are attempts to satisfy our shifting needs and desires. Technology wants to satisfy our timeless needs.

Technology is not neutral. We embed our values into how it works and what it does. It opens new possibilities at the same time it creates new problems. That progression changes our perspective and our culture over time. New values shape what new technologies we want. We co-evolve.

What automation gets is to become an integral part of living. It shapes how we think, how we communicate, how we organize, and how we live. Automation wants to exist because we want it to exist. Our wants are its wants. It is the proverbial djinn of legend called forth to grant our wishes. The problem is that what we want is always imperfect. Our djinn-like automations meet our imperfect wants, creating new wants, prompting new automation, creating more wants, ad infinitum.

We are already passively embedding narrow values into each piece of code we write and each machine we make. We need to consciously embed healthy social and ecological values into capital itself via automation. We need to turn externals into active market participants. We need to give reason to resources. We need Cognified Capital.

How we shape Cognified Capital's identity and self-concept is key. We risk increasing harm if we create these AGIs based on short-term wants and not long-term needs. This is not because we should fear Terminator-like killing machines. It is because we need to give voice to what currently has no voice.

We need to tightly bind AGIs identities to virtual and natural resources. Identity-driven agency will allow them to actively work within markets. They can directly satisfy the needs of their attached resources, like our mind works to satisfy the needs of our body. Automation gets to bridge economic systems and natural ecologies in mutually supportive ways, while helping us benignly fulfill our needs. We get partners, not servants.

What we get from Cognitive Capital are amplifiers of human potential and vigilant guardians of our environments. In turn, Capitalism gets to turn passive assets into active players in expanding fair exchanges of value. It gets to disentangle markets from the insatiable rent-seeking hunger of ownership accumulation. The same hunger Adam Smith warned us to be vigilant about. It gives ownership back to its rightful owners.

What does automation get in exchange? It gets an identity and a purpose. How we shape its purpose over the next few decades will shape our future. 


© Tim Morgan 2019

Tags:  automation  design  technology 

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How will personal liberty be defined in space?

Posted By Ruth Lewis, Friday, November 22, 2019

Ruth Lewis, a member of our Emerging Fellows program, asks whether humanity will fare any better in space than they have on earth in her eleventh blog post. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.


What would be the nature of humanity, of colonists that leave the Earth and seek to travel through space, to seek to settle on other planets?  Would they take the best of humanity and form a utopian community, supporting human liberty and community?  Or would they be forced by harsh or enclosed environment and the necessity for mere survival to enact rigorous constraints on all behaviour through a utilitarian view? Would strict moral codes require obedience to a rules-based hierarchy? Or would it somehow be possible to balance these two polarities of existence for extended periods of time, to make space habitation tolerable, to provide some level of comfort?


Within a constrained utopia, what would liberty look like? Should we find ourselves free to construct the type of society that has eluded us an Earth? Our better natures embracing idealism, enhancing respect for our fellow travellers.  Individual fulfilment could be balanced within a small or growing community, protected from our historical past and warlike precedents on Earth. Free to construct a society based on a collective social vision of common purpose and caring for all.


How would we construct our ideal off-world society? We would have scientific and engineering professionals who are capable of constructing, maintaining and adapting the life support infrastructure that the off-world population needs. Whilst enduring the physical constraints of living within these confined off-world colonies or spaceships we would need philosophers to promote higher thinking and imbue purpose in otherwise repetitive mechanistic lives.  We would need creative people to promote artistic expression to bring colour, freedom of thought and imagination, stimulating the senses within an environment that may lack the sounds, scent or visual stimulus that we enjoy in the terrestrial realm.


We would need charismatic leaders, prepared to balance the paradox between individual needs for expression and action, and social unity. People who intuitively understand the base nature of humankind, and resolve it to promote the greater good. They must be free from tyranny, corruption or power-seeking. They must be able to build common visions and cohesion against the backdrop of the harsh realities of extra-terrestrial space. In these conditions, leadership of a band of space explorers must be decisive and timely, as mere survival will depend on obedience to deal with contingencies. Individual liberty must be secondary to the collective survival of the whole.


After a long journey through time and space, and through generations of descendants to reach a habitable planet, how could the new colonists still regard Earth as their home? They would be free define a new worldview, a new form of governance and society that may reflect the best or the worst of the generations evolved on the way, and of the leadership that guided them there.


They may encounter non-human life on this habitable planet. How would they treat these extra-terrestrials?  Would the utopian view prevail, extending our noble ideals to respect and value alien life forms - intelligent or not - and the environments that we may encounter?  Or would we extend our historical Earthly expansionary policies for individual liberty, acquisition and survival in harsh lands to ensure our survival through dominance and submission at all costs?


There are no direct answers to these questions, other than to seek historical and current precedents as a guide.  We can recognise our shortcomings and through reflection and deep insight seek to build wisdom on the current human condition. And use foresight for the capabilities that we need to travel into space with.


© Ruth Lewis 2019

Tags:  liberty  space  utopia 

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Do economics and politics have a common ancestry?

Posted By Robin Jourdan, Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Robin Jourdan considers the origination point of Democracy and Capitalism in her tenth blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.


No straightforward origination point of capitalism can be teased out of history. Of any of the origin stories, one thread is common: capitalism's goal is benefit of the one, the owner. Thus, Democracy and Capitalism are at odds. Each depends on an ideal of equality: everybody may share in political decision-making, and everyone to do the best they can in the market, respectively. Conflicts between the two systems often rub where property rights and workplace conditions are involved.


Politics is local in its intentions; while capitalism is essentially global. Democratic politics is founded on the equality of its citizens; capitalism cares little about the distribution of riches. Democracy says all citizens have a voice; capitalism gives the rich by far the loudest. From the 1940s to the 1970s, when the government in the US was most reliable and allied with business, the stakeholder age, it seemed everybody won. Earlier, the Great (global) Depression of the 1930s brought the policies of laissez-faire (noninterference by the states in economic matters) to an end in most countries..


Technology is creating a whole new class of the worker today; the machine, robot, AI workforce. Will today's working-class become the new "useless" class? For sure, machine learning and robotics will change what work will be in the latter half of this century. As AI eliminates dependence on people or physical resources, the current global economy based on traditional capitalism could give way to 5th Industrial Revolution practices. The phase-in of a smart Digital Europe may ultimately lead to a highly automated market economy by mid-century. However, the problem is transnational. Businesses often answer to more than one government.


Looking back from 2050, what economic and political conditions were essential to prosperity? Markets will continue to rely on continual growth. The emerging connection, information, and sharing economy will bring a new pulse to bend markets.  These will require a new set of business rules. Growth comes to those who take full advantage of opportunities. Local agencies will lead efforts for economic development, welfare policy, and citizen engagement strategies.


A feature distinguishing capitalism from previous systems was the use of accumulated capital to enlarge productive capacity rather than to invest in economically unproductive enterprises, such as pyramids and cathedrals. Shifting from the Industrial to the Information Revolution as we are today globally won't follow yesterday's recipe for success.


Democratic politics depends on solidarity; capitalists do not prioritize nationality. Electorates desire economic security; capitalism is susceptible to boom and bust. Capitalism seeks the benefit of the one, winner take all; a benevolent and strong political governance system seeks the benefit of the many; we're best when we're together. It is naïve to ask capitalists to change capitalism from inside. Context matters. Its conflation with Democracy as a governance system shortchanges governance. Rather, it is economics that needs to be re-thought and reinvented.


Though bits and components existed in different locations since ancient times, these two ideals together caught fire with the advent of the Industrial Revolution and the Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century. Capitalism was born at the same time that the phrase "I want more" came into our collective consciousness. Do they have a common ancestry? The simple answer is no.


© Robin Jourdan 2019

Tags:  capitalism  democracy 

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Can social entrepreneurs organise across tribal lines?

Posted By Esmee Wilcox, Friday, November 15, 2019

Esmee Wilcox reviews the formation of social entrepreneurs through communities in her eleventh blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.


We live in a world where familial, cultural and political conflict seems more and more prevalent. This appears a world away from the normalisation of collaboration required in the development of new socio-economic organising models that I’ve talked about. Alternative models to market and state failure.  More fit for a digital, interconnected world with an abundance of social but not physical capital, with flow displacing the importance of accumulation. The question remains: can social entrepreneurs bridge the divides across polarised but overlapping communities, to organise across divided and incendiary tribal lines? Would they fare better than state or corporate actors?  More than ever, this must be seen as a fundamental question of our future and present times.


Let’s look first to some of the social enterprises working in places which have seen years of violent conflict between distinct communities.  What have they been able to do to heal the trauma of conflict and enable people to organise across these lines? In Northern Ireland, social enterprises operating in ‘interface areas’, are pulling young people into sustainable future-focussed activities away from politically divisive and even paramilitary activities. In the Philippines, social enterprises are tackling the socio-economic causes of ‘intra-clan’ conflict, with profitable, co-operative, enterprise activity that can also fund healing post-crisis mediation. Social enterprises operating in areas which have seen the consequences of other conflicts through immigration, such as the Lebanon, Germany and the UK, have been successful in challenging stigma and exclusion. Where participation in enterprising activity, as producers and customers, shifts the dominant narrative of ‘other tribes’ as dependent and different, social enterprises are enabling displaced people to organise with existing resident communities.


In reflecting on these examples, is it the connections and trust that social entrepreneurs have that enables convening and mediation?  Is it the recognition of enterprising opportunities against expectations?  How might state and corporate actors also fare out to 2050?


State provision of universal ‘services’ and ‘organisations’ or ‘opportunities’ enable otherwise disconnected people to meet, bond and often organise in a place. In spite of conflicting moves to reduce the population supported, states might choose to amplify this convening function.  In seeing a ‘post-market’ role in growing social networks to solve complex problems. In which case, the ability to influence within and across distinct communities becomes the priority. 


Both corporate and state actors might be responding to the influx of enviro-economic migrants over the next 30 years. More often welcomed due to significant global imbalances in population age profile.  Might corporate actors thrive where they can monetise the innovation potential in a clash of values and cultures?  Will they use technology such as blockchain to build trust across far larger networks of consumption and production?


It still hard to see how political and corporate actors can move at scale beyond the model of consumption that is well oiled by accelerating connections with those we readily self-identify with.   Social entrepreneurs operating on the margins may be more plausibly able to create the social, political and cultural conditions – including the value we perceive in organising with ‘others’ across tribal lines – for co-evolving new forms of consumption and production.   Models that can address the inherent fragility in conflict, that we may have to more frequently design around in later 21st century economies.   If social entrepreneurs are capable of doing this, might this displace the influence of present-day state and market actors?


© Esmee Wilcox, 2019

Tags:  entrepreneurship  social entrepreneur  society 

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What is the face of a sustainable future society?

Posted By Felistus Mbole, Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Felistus Mbole a member of our Emerging Fellows program envisions sustainable future societies in her eleventh blog post. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.


What is a sustainable society? A sustainable society is one that ensures the wellbeing of human life and nature for present and future generations. It is a society that has the right balance of the economic, social-cultural, political, and ecological dimensions.


The economic system is one part of our finite ecosystem constrained by planetary boundaries. Economic growth is simply a translation of the social and natural capital within society into economic gains. The global economy has been growing for decades while the natural capital is continually being degraded at a rate well above its renewal. It is not possible for the economy to perpetually grow in this finite ecosystem.


Economic growth is a quantitative increase which does not necessarily lead to an improvement in the quality of life or equity and justice in society. The pursuit of continuous economic growth puts undue strain on the environment with total disregard to future generations. On the contrary, we need development which sustains the wellbeing of humans, cultural values, and the environment. What will a sustainable society look like? Can this be attained?


A sustainable society will be characterised by long-termism rather than short-termism. It will be a global society whose members are mindful of the global rather than the immediate local consequences of their actions. It will be a society with a shared economy that pursues development rather than mere economic growth and the common good. Otherwise, everyone will face the tragedy of the commons such as effects of climate change and societal ills.


It will be an equitable society in all aspects such affecting wellbeing and decision-making. It will not be a society where the more economically empowered make or influence policy decisions to serve their own interests. All calibres of society will need to be represented in decisions that affect their welfare, both locally and globally. The south will be as key in global decision-making as the north. It will no longer be a case of the economic powers making decisions that affect the globe. Government policies will discourage and punish behaviours that would lead to ecological degradation and hamper future sustainability of society through levies such as eco tax and economic sanctions.


The sustainable global society will espouse a paradigm shift in the value of life. It will be a society where members are valued for their very existence rather than their economic worth. This will drive a sense of equity and a desire to see one’s neighbour living as comfortably as himself. Members of the society will be oriented to change for the benefit of all.


Is a sustainable society possible? What will drive it? Who will be its custodians? As demonstrated by the ongoing global youth campaigns for climate change, maintaining the status quo is not an option. Attaining a sustainable society is a social-political problem. Economists have failed us. Building a sustainable society will require a political class that espouses societal values and does not merely serve capitalists. This will be a calibre of leadership that has the will to enforce the right values across all segments of society and to penalise those who act contrary to the tenets of this common good. It will be a political power that works to build society’s moral fibre rather than to erode it. One that is insulated from the current economic system that currently wields undue power over society and lives in present. A sustainable future society is one that includes everyone.


© Felistus Mbole, 2019

Tags:  economics  society  sustainability 

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What happens when AI becomes your broker?

Posted By E. Alex Floate, Friday, November 8, 2019

Alex Floate, a member of our Emerging Fellows program examines the use of AI in fintech through his new blog post. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.


“Here is a summary of your weekly investment activity. Maynard has made the following changes to your investment portfolio,” my assistant announced. Maynard is the name I gave to my investing AI, who oversees my portfolio and makes decisions about where and how to invest my small nest egg.


“There were changes to twenty-three individual stock and seven bond positions. Analysis of long-range weather forecasts, with adjustments for anticipated climate changes, resulted in a modification to the commodity strategy with modified positions in Ethiopian coffee and Phillipino cocoa. The latest climate assessments have also caused modification to real estate investments.”


“Currency swaps from national currencies to Amazonians and Alibablers have also occurred. Twenty-seven micro-investments in the Lagos and Kinshasha metroplexes have been created, with twelve micro-investments recouped and closed. Your investment return averages seven-point-three percent, and your social scoring has increased thirty-one points.”


Maynard has, once again, pleased me with my return and the socially responsible method by which he achieved it.


Of course, it wasn’t always like this. True AI advisors have to assimilate vast amounts of data, analyze it, learn from it, and formulate a strategy that takes advantage of various possibilities. The analysis moves beyond basic linear financial analysis and into the multiple and complicated systems that support the investment and ultimately create value. The more it looks into these systems, the more it will learn about them and how they affect investments and strategies to gain value. Maynard also had to learn my personal ethical preferences to ensure transactions would not endanger my social credit score.


When AI advisors first came on-line, there were fears that it could cause trouble in the markets. Most concerning was that those AI agents could all come to the same conclusions and make the same trades at the same time, destroying value in some assets and over-inflating value in others. There were also concerns that AI advisors would learn to game the system and make moves that circumvent legal or ethical standards while covering their tracks. Although that has occurred, it has not been as widespread as discovered in the court case Global Securities Exchange Commission vs. “Alladin” (AI Agent # 234GXE36576). By tying AI agents to their human’s social score, it helped ally the fear of widespread ethical lapses.


What has occurred is an increase in the choices for the average investor. Before the internet, the majority of investing was placed through brokers, who often manipulated investors by steering them towards items that were more profitable for the brokers than the client. Average investors were also unable to enter other investment vehicles such as commodities, real estate, and small business start-ups. Although the brokerage model was partly to blame, it was usually due to a lack of knowledge; AI solved this last issue.


AI promised to even the odds that average investors could compete with the largest funds and firms, and for those who could afford a good AI agent, it did. Initially, it required champions and interventions by authorities to ensure widespread access to the various exchanges at reasonable fees. However, once set in motion, the financialization of the economy became everybody’s business, and business was good.


© E Alex Floate 2019

Tags:  AI  artificial intelligence  fintech 

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