“If I like to herd sheep, can’t I do that all day? Does everyone need a payed job?” That is what one of the participants in the discussion about the transition to the BINC-age asked. This question was directed at the scientists who have been brainstorming all week about how to make a smooth transition to this new era. On thursday, the general public was engaged in the discussion.
In last week’s workshop at the Lorentz Center in Leiden, scientists from many fields have started a movement to inform the public about the way the world is changing. The scientists also realized that the general public must be engaged in order to prepare society for the future.
Participants were especially interested in the decrease of jobs that is currently occurring. Per Ödling, professor of telecommunications, explained that the current dogma that consumption creates jobs is no longer correct: “When the computer game Minecraft was sold for $14 billion, it employed only 40 people. Even if our kids play Minecraft twice as much, we create zero jobs.”
This topic was an eye-opener for many participants. “Is there anything we can do about it?”, one of them asked. Everyone can play a role in raising awareness according to physicist Steen Rasmussen. “People in politics are not informed about science as much as we are and don’t know what’s going on”, he stated.
Regarding the narrative of the BINC-age, the scientists and public agreed. Susan Stepney, professor of computer science, explained that we use narratives to tell each other how the world works. “A complex world ask for other narratives.” A participant emphasized the importance of clearly stating new narratives. Dr. Rinie van Est of the Rathenau institute agreed. “In order to keep up with developments, we need to give them a name.”
Though the public realized that the BINC-age is coming fast, they are not as afraid as some scientists expected: “If I see an old lady cuddling a robot in a retirement home, that doesn’t scare me. It’s the way the world is right now”, someone explained. “And if the new world is a place with jobs for only a few, we shall cope with that.”
Waiting for the BINC-age to arrive is important in the transition towards the new era, the scientists agreed. “But we should not sleepwalk into the future”, Stepney added. It is important to prepare ourselves for the future to prevent being surprised. To do so we must carefully look at the changes that are occurring today. This is not easy, Ödling explained. “We are like fish, trying to design a world for birds.”
By Mark Bakker