Time Beyond Basic Needs Builds Human Capital

The Importance of Time Beyond Basic Needs

As indicated in my previous posting, The Realized Value of Unpaid Time, our time on the planet can be divided into paid or unpaid in a monetary sense. Society tends to value paid time and discount or ignore the value of unpaid time even though we acknowledge it to be significant. As a consequence, the majority consume much of their daily routine in a continuing struggle to earn enough from their paid time to meet their basic needs at the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy.

Nonetheless, there is a substantial overlay of unpaid time people consume interacting with technology in parallel to paid time to accomplish important activities at higher levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy. Among these activities are:

  1. Provide more services to their fellow members
  2. Develop professional skills
  3. Expand personal interests
  4. Engage in co-learning partnerships with technology

The value of “time beyond basic needs,” when realized, can deliver substantial benefit to themselves and their communities. And those communities that invest in the technologies and adaptive social structures that promote this inversion of Maslow’s Hierarchy among the majority will enjoy a notable increase in Human Capital:

Human capital is a collection of traits – all the knowledge, talents, skills, abilities, experience, intelligence, training, judgment, and wisdom possessed individually and collectively by individuals in a population. These resources are the total capacity of the people that represents a form of wealth which can be directed to accomplish the goals of the nation or state or a portion thereof.

What If We Don’t Invest?

What if the rules of the prevailing socioeconomic systems favor meritocracy and competition? What if advanced technology threatens to eliminate the need for human labor and the opportunities for paid work along with it?

For many there are limited paid time slots spaces available for community members to have “time beyond basic needs” and the system does not adequately realize the value of unpaid time. Consequentially, the system not only pits its members against one another, but members against technology as well, in an effort to secure desirable, but scarce, paid time positions. As a result, the potential to increase human capital among the majority is compromised. Instead, we consume our time either fighting the fear of sliding into a dark hole of economic obscurity and unmet basic needs or fueling the greed of beating nature, fellow community members, and technology to land an exalted position near the top of the social pecking order.

The Human Enigma

On the one hand we have strong potential to expand human capital and tap its creative energy for the betterment of all. On the other, we have a millennia-old tradition that uses the carrot (greed) and stick (fear) approach to raise human capital for some at the expense of others which benefits only a select subset.

The diagram below portrays this dichotomy. A point-down triangle showing most of our time playing out in the upper levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy overlays a base-down triangle representing a majority of our time spent at the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy.

We can envision a world – a Utopia – that could exist if we functioned at the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy. But we can anticipate dire consequences – a Dystopia – if we indulged our baser instincts in the first level of the Hierarchy. Our Current Reality covers a full complement of behavioral choices that stretch between Utopia and Dystopia. Therein lies our enigmatic nature as humans.

What If We Do Invest?

What if we partnered with technology? Where would that put us on the Utopia – Dystopia scale?

Artificial Intelligence – Utopian, Dystopian or Heterotopian?

Are there new principles of design that are likely to emerge for technologies such as AI that are designed to not just manipulate data but actually learn from users? It is clear that designers and data scientists have to learn to work together, given the critical role both will play in the machine learning and data heavy future.

Fabien Girardin says, in his paper, ‘When User Experience Designers Partner with Data Scientists’, ‘In particular, we are witnessing a new practice that requires a tight partnership between designers and data scientists, as systems with feedback loops can only be imagined, built, and improved with a holistic view of the how users’ experiences are affected by interactions between data, algorithms, and interfaces.’

He also lists an interesting set of objectives for user experience design when working with these new technologies, such as –design for uncertainty, design for peace of mind, design for time well spent, design for fairness, design for conversation, etc.

What if we could share the abundance of no unpaid time? Where would that put us on the Utopia – Dystopia scale?

Autonomous National University of Mexico (UNAM) – Lecture 3: The Robotic Future

A fully robot economy means that the owners of the means of production (robots) would have a super-abundant economy of things and services at zero cost (robots making robots making robots). The owners can then just consume. They don’t need to make ‘profit’, just as the aristocrat slave owners in Rome just consumed and did not run businesses to sell commodities to make a profit. So a robotic economy could mean a super-abundant world for all or it could mean a new form of slave-type society with extreme inequality of wealth and income. It’s a social ‘choice’ or more accurately, it depends of the outcome of the class struggle under capitalism.

What if we regarded the partnership with technology as the principle means by which we expanded human capital? Where would that put us on the Utopia – Dystopia scale?

Robots must work for the good of humanity, the Pope tells Davos

In a prepared speech read at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos 2018, the pontiff urged:

“Artificial intelligence, robotics and other technological innovations must be so employed that they contribute to the service of humanity and to the protection of our common home, rather than to the contrary.”

Echoing the theme of the Meeting, Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World, the Pope said:

“It is vital to safeguard the dignity of the human person, in particular by offering to all people real opportunities for integral human development and by implementing economic policies that favour the family.”

More topics to unpack in future posts…

Vectors of Disruption and Sea Changes

A colleague of mine is working on a white paper about various trends affecting agriculture over the next 10 years. These futuristic endeavors are fraught with peril because who really knows what the future will hold – no one. But clients and colleagues are constantly looking for ways to talk about the future with sufficient clarity and confidence that their audiences go away having more insight than otherwise.

What can one say about the future that holds true beyond the simple inevitability that the world will end and life on this planet will cease? Not much, it seems, if one is searching for specificity. But in general, there are several points that can be made which offer a framework for consideration when looking at the future.

My previous posting discussed “push” and “pull” business models. The embedded diagram illustrated a progression from individual products / services to integrated product / service combinations.

In the diagram below, this same progression forms a backdrop to highlight an increasing integration over time characterized by solutionizing and convergence.

The objective is human equivalence as introduced in an earlier posting. The balance of this diagram sets up two critical relationships that supplement increasing integration. First, developments in nanotechnology, genetics, and robotics continue to displace people from making things. And second, as artificial intelligence becomes more robust and capable of emulating human problem-solving, human intelligence is pressed into service to address an expanding awareness of the enormous complexity within the whole of creation. In other words, human intelligence leads artificial intelligence into areas of greater sophistication, ambiguity, and choice. This accelerates the advances in artificial intelligence hastening the day when it effectively achieves human equivalence.

Between now and then, the trends to watch are directly influenced by technology operating at the molecular, atomic, and sub-atomic levels, recombining DNA, and merging the biological with the mechanical. Whether related to care and consideration for the environment, applying agricultural practices to the production of food, feed, fiber, or fuel, or raising the quality of life, all are overshadowed by developments in these three areas. In general terms, to watch the evolution of technology as it shrinks to the barely detectable, rearranges genetic structure at will, and creates androids that eventually replace us will be exhilarating, unnerving, and perhaps traumatic, but inevitable. These then, are the primary trends. All others are of secondary importance. More later…

Originally posted to New Media Explorer by Steve Bosserman on Monday, April 24, 2006