The Future of Society and new ways of learning - Lecture at the University Of Life Sciences in Oslo, Norway

Here's a professional recording of my lecture at the University Of Life Sciences Oslo, Norway, on The Future of Society and new ways of learning.

In November 2013 I held three lectures while he was in the Oslo area. The one on the video was at The University of Life Sciences at Ås (UMB) arranged by StartUMB. The other lectures were held at 657 Oslo: Coworking, communication & purpose, and the last at Chateau Neuf: The Norwegian Student Society arranged by Das Kapital (Radio Nova) and Foreningen for Ressursbasert Økonomi (FRØ).

The pace of technological innovation is speeding up at an ever increasing rate. This is bringing unprecedented and incredibly rapid changes to the economy and society at large, particularly in the job market.

Automation is removing jobs like never before, while comparatively few new jobs are being created by the new digital economy. This might be one of the greatest challenges that we've ever faced, but it could also represent our biggest opportunity. What can people and companies do right now to avoid being swept away by the exponentially increasing technologies that are coming to the market? What can governments do to provide for their people? What will be the future of work and of society? What will the transition look like, who will benefit from it, and who will be left behind?

I think there is hope for the future, as new technologies for learning and sharing knowledge are becoming more accessible, ubiquitous, and people are engaging more in collaborative, open projects. Years of research, discussion, and activism have shaped my worldview and gave me clarity about how I want to positively impact hundreds of millions of people.

I first wrote a book, "Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That's OK", which I released also for free on my website and started a global discussion on the topic, and more recently I founded a startup, Esplori, to enable the sum of human knowledge to be made available to anybody, via online video courses, regardless of their language, geographical location, or financial status.

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Interview on Russia Today by Abby Martin

Monday I was interviewed by Abby Martin on Breaking The Set, Russia Today in New York. We spoke about jobs, state surveillance, and solutions.

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Video: The science of well being

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Sources cited
Democracy, technocracy, the free market or the scientific method for social concern?
Does the world produce enough food to feed everyone?

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On the last video I began to explore the issue of the utilisation of the scientific method for social concern, comparing it to other forms of governance and decision making, such as democracy, technocracy and how the market forces influence those.
The video received an overwhelming positive response from many of you, and I was really surprised. As expected, there were also a few questions and critiques, and I thank you for those, we shall explore each of them individually.

One of the criticisms raised was that there is no universal definition of well being, therefore we cannot possibly address the issue in scientific terms.
OK, let's examine this statement with the help of a graphic. Imagine we have two persons. The one on the left is in the quintessential perfect well being. Now, we do not know what that looks like, but we can imagine a hypothetical scenario where such a person in such a state exists. On the opposite side, you have a unfortunate individual in the worst possible misery, both physical and mental. If you can imagine something going bad in your life, it's there. And if you can imagine something worse that, it's also there. Between these two conditions there are millions of degrees of variation, from left to right.
Somebody here, for example, may have the following scenario:
- she never gets sick
- she never broke a bone in her body
- she can run a marathon and finish up with ease
- she is generally very happy with her life and never displayed signs of depression or mental illnesses
- she has a stable and balanced diet, as well access to proper nutrition
- she follows her interests with passion and is intellectually stimulated
- her social relationships are strong and healthy
- her sentimental life is more than satisfying and she enjoys it thoroughly
Clearly, these are not all the best traits one person can have, and it's far from being the ideal situation of well being. It's just a point of reference.

Similarly, a person here is in the following condition:
- she was never fed properly, due to a lack of access to food. As a result, serious growing deficiencies affected her body and her mind
- she is crippled and underdeveloped, both physically and mentally
- she is constantly being abused sexually
- continuous tortures and harassment have worsen her conditions over time
- she is in a constant state of pain. Whenever her body adjusts to a level of suffering, new pain is added, and the torture continues
- due to the enormous amount of physical and psychological abuses, she was never able to create any social bond
- she developed psychoses and she is mentally unstable
I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Now, it is true that we don't have a univocal and universal definition of well being, but that doesn't stop us from recognising that there are certain positions on this line that are more desirable than others. And these can be evaluated objectively and scientifically.
But we still don't understand everything about the human condition, you might say. We don't understand everything about aerodynamics, either, but that hasn't stopped us from building airplanes and move across the skies of the world.

One could make a similar argument about life. Nobody really knows what life is. Yet we can safely say that a rock is not alive, but a squirrel is. What about corals, and viruses, and artificial intelligences? Yet again, there is degree of possibilities within the line, and it’s an open discussion. But when somebody stops breathing, grows cold and starts to decompose... well that might be a sign that the person is not alive anymore. Surely in the future we might discover that we got it all wrong, that rocks are alive and we are not, who knows. But at any given time, we have a context and a frame of reference, which we utilise to make an argument. This is not a philosophical discussion about the nature of Truth in the realm of platonic ideas. This is a very practical argument, where we pose a question: can we try and maximise well being, and can we use a scientific approach to achieve this goal? The answer is yes, in both cases. And given the disastrous results that politics and modern economics have given us, it would be utterly irresponsible not to do so.

It really saddens me the fact that, even though we have an abundance of food and medicines in the world, millions of people continue to die. This is completely unnecessary, and avoidable. We let economics and politics deal with this problem for far too many years, and they have failed. On 9-11-2001, 2,966 died in US soil. People still talk about how this could have been prevented. There is an intense debate about that. Today, 23,987 people, mostly children, died of hunger. There is not debate about that. We can prevent this holocaust that keeps repeating every fucking day of the year.

It’s time evolve.

Video: Democracy, technocracy, the free market or the scientific method for social concern?

This video is an attempt to show how the various forms of government and decision making work, what are their advantages and their problems.

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Sources cited in the video
The scientific method made easy
Scientists and engineers in the 111th U.S. Congress
Only two scientists among the 535 member of the U.S. Congress
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Full transcript of the video
One of the most misunderstood topics among the people I encounter is the application of the scientific method for social concern. There is an old belief that was propagated throughout the centuries, possibly due to an evolutionary cultural baggage that our species has, apparently very difficult to drop, according to which you can’t use science or the scientific method to figure out how to run a society.

Made Easy Series

A few months ago I stumbled across a rare and pleasant event.

YouTuber potholer54 created a series of videos explaining the history of our universe, the origin of life, the Earth, the scientific method and much more, all with a clarity and intelligence that is as appreciated as rare in these days. A truly remarkable piece of work that I think everybody should see.

The material is released under a Creative Commons License (CC-BY-NC-SA) and anyone is encouraged to use it under those conditions.

The original series was uploaded at a very poor video quality, so after a brief exchange of messages with Peter (AKA potholer54), he uploaded the whole series at 720p on a dedicated YouTube channel, and I offered this space to manage the subtitling process.

You are welcome to participate, we use the Free and Open Source platform Universal Subtitles. If you wish to download the episodes, use one of the many Chrome and Firefox extensions or one of the many sites that exists with that purpose.

Guidelines for transcribers

  • Try to keep the subs under ~70 characters, so the the languages that use more characters for a sentence can keep their subs in two lines in the screen.
  • Partition the subs in semantically sensible places in the sentences (i.e.: in final periods; in commas; before an 'and'
  • Try to keep subs longer than 1.5 seconds (minimum comfortable level used in TV show's subs

Have fun! :D

1 - The History of Our Universe (Part 1)

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