Tomorrow's Politics

Political Editor Patrick Sullivan takes a look at some of the coming problems that the government will have to deal with, after Brexit!

Patrick Sullivan, Political Editor
On 22 October 2019 07:34

The end is near. These words are positive rather than negative, for it is the end of the Brexit process which is near. The Brexit debate has taken up the bandwidth of much of our national political discussion since the referendum in 2016. Little else has been reported on. The political debate regarding a number of forthcoming crises has not had a chance to really begin. 


The Fourth Industrial Revolution will soon be upon us. If you think that the technological leaps forward of the past two decades have revolutionised the ways in which we communicate, socialise and work; then the scale of the changes ahead will astound you. 


Many jobs that currently exist are going to be replaced by A.I. - Artificial Intelligence, within the next 15 years. Even jobs, such as that of an accountant, will be done by A.I. 


The Fourth Industrial Revolution is the coming crisis, yet those in our government have been too busy with Brexit to give it the attention that it deserves. 


It is not only crisis management time which our government has been missing out on due to the singular focus on Brexit; there is also a huge opportunity cost. 


New technologies give us the ability to truly reform the public sector. It is on us, to seize the opportunity. Our public services, even today, are Blockbuster Video in a Netflix world. And even in a Netflix world, Netflix is facing competition from new, dynamic streaming services. Maybe even that analogy will soon be outdated. 


If we are to win the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it is a matter of urgency that we reform our system of Higher Education. In terms of Higher Education, we should be looking to organisations such as online education not-for-profit, Udacity. As Sebastian Thrun, Chairman and co-founder of Udacity has said; one of the main problems with Higher Education in the West is that we have great institutions such as Oxford and Cambridge, Harvard and Yale but the percentage of the people able to study at such universities is limited. 


The size and cost of these institutions have created barriers to entry for the vast majority of citizens. In a world where most old manufacturing jobs have been replaced by automation and an increasing number of service sector jobs and what were once considered automation; we must have a system where we can re-educate the vast expanse of the population at such a speed as would be currently impossible with our current Higher Education system. 

The rate of technological change has made it so that skills learnt in one decade will need to be sharpened up on, or entirely new skills learnt, in a subsequent decade. 


A job is no longer for life and if we are to acknowledge that fact, we must understand that in order for us to keep up with our own technology, education must be viewed as lifelong. 


Uber has created new jobs by tearing down the barriers to entry in the taxi industry but that which technology gives, technology can take away. What will become of the Uber driver when self-driving cars arrive? This is only one example of the pace of technological change creating new jobs and then within a generation rendering them obsolete. 


This change will not only affect the labour market but also how we travel. Self-driving cars do not mean that companies such as Uber will go out of business. It just means that there will be less of a need, or no need at all, for Uber drivers. It is companies such as Uber who will most benefit from the move towards self-driving cars.  


It is likely that the business model pursued in the transition towards self-driving vehicles will be that of transportation as a service. It means that people will be using apps to order driverless cars to get them from A to B. This will create less of a need for them having their own personal means of transportation – having their own car. This should lead to a significant reduction in carbon emissions.  


The climate crisis is going to be a crisis that is solved through our technological advancement. However, the musings of such climate change activists such as Greta Thunberg or those taking part in Extinction Rebellion are counterproductive to efforts to find real solutions to the problem of climate change. Just because these people have the loudest voices and are the darlings of the mainstream media, at present, does not mean that they have real solutions to the problems that they are protesting. 


There is more than a small amount of the luddite in the preaching of Extinction Rebellion. However, if we are to look at the facts, as that actually are; the cost of renewable energy is plummeting and electric cars are becoming increasingly affordable. It will not be long until electric cars become the norm. 


Those that have invested in renewable energy and electric cars are primarily private business interests. These private business interests were motivated by economic growth and profit. It is the same capitalism that Extinction Rebellion wants to send to the ash heap of history; it would be much better if we called Extinction on Extinction Rebellion.


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