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Eureka: The fifth industrial revolution
by Joseph Gatt
2018-07-29 07:37:21
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Some thoughts on where the fourth industrial revolution is headed and where the fifth industrial revolution might take us. Some open-ended thoughts on transportation, education, agriculture, and water management.

-Philosophy of transportation: if you're going to make driverless cars, you might as well build a transit system that covers entire cities and the entire country. The advantage of cars is that they can take you from point a to point b, that you can drive yourself and other people, and that you don't need to wait for a train to come or for someone to pick you up. Some drivers know where they're headed, others just drive around with no plan in sight. If you've ever driven a car, you know that you get off work, intend to drive home, but half way through realize you might as well drop by the shopping mall, then get a call from a friend telling you to meet them at the restaurant, before your child tells you that they want a lift from their buddy's place.

revol01_400Driving is a set of reflexes. It tends to be reactive rather than intended. You instinctively know what lane to drive in and what lane to avoid, where to avoid the traffic jams and what shortcuts to take. Sometimes you like to drive around an avenue because you like that specific avenue, when you could really take a shortcut. If people really thought driving was a drag, we would all be taking public transportation. Plus assume everyone gets one of these driverless cars, where the hell are they going to park them?

So the real question is, what philosophy do you use with transportation? As a free market kind of guy, I wouldn't force anyone to buy a driverless car, nor would I ban cars and force everyone to take public transportation. People tend to know what they want and need. Those who like to walk to work tend to look for work in their neighborhood, those who need cars to transport their family around tend to buy cars, and we need roads for ambulances and firefighters and policemen and everything else.

What technology would I include in a car? Sensors telling you where parking space is available. Sensors reminding you of traffic law and traffic law violations. Sensors telling you when you're getting too close to a car or when there's different mechancal emergencies that you might face. Cars with engines that would not fail or that would slowly fail so you don't get stuck. Cars with tyres that don't fail and cars that tell you when you need some gas and where the nearest gas station is. Cars that can help you find places when you kind of know the name of the place but are not sure where it's located. But cars on autopilot? People might as well take the bus, a taxi or the subway. You can't get cars on autopilot because you will always have those slow drivers and those fast drivers, those patient drivers and those impatient drivers, those anxious drivers and those light as a feather drivers. A bus on autopilor? You might as well install tracks and have an overground train system. My two cents.

Education: We're still using a 20th century education system with a group of kids who have 24/7 access to the world's biggest library. And we have teachers who use 20th century methods with a group of students who have 24/7 access to the world's largest library. So the philosophical question is, how do you redesign the education system, one that meets the fact that students have 24/7 access to the world's largest library.

Now kids are sometimes paying a fortune for access to information (and slave labor) when they could get the exact same information online, absolutely free, and with no slave labor needed. I'm not angry at students who spend a fortune on education, I'm angry at the employers who validate the education system. That is employers in many was discriminate in almost every field, and will not hire anyone who does not have said or said diploma and degree. As I said before, until 1986 you needed nothing to teach at a Korean University. In 1986 you needed an associate's degree. Around 2000, you needed a bachelor's degree. In 2012, you basically needed a Masters degree. In 2014, you needed a Ph.D. This could be said about any field. To work for a bank, the post office, the police, a trading company etc. you needed nothing. Then they started asking for a bachelor's degree. They are increasingly demanding masters degrees. This massacre has got to stop.

I believe in free markets and believe that if employers want degrees as conditions for hiring, so be it. But I also believe in the free press and in a free flow of exchange of ideas, so I believe it would be interesting for a question of this caliber to be a topic that is all over the press. Nothing is more important to people than their jobs, except perhaps for their families, and nothing matters more to people than their employability. I don't want employers harassing employees into spending their free time getting more training and degrees.

As for on-the-job training, I believe you learn more from water-cooler conversations than you learn getting formal training on the job. I believe training should be casual, buddy teaching another buddy how to get the job done. 

Agriculture: the secret to understanding agriculture is that you have big farms that employ farmers and small farms with few or no employees, and farms either sell to the food processing market or to the market for direct consumption. The problem with big farms is that you have CEOs too busy counting money to care what goes on in the farm, and small farms can't really afford precision agriculture techniques. Farmers and ranchers rarely get together or have farmer's conventions, and farmer's conferences are something for agriculture specialists with Ph.D.s who lock themselves up in their offices but never really directly meet with farmers or ranchers.

So precision agriculture is something for farmers who care about saving money and are willing to revolutionize their farming methods. They need to understand that by automation, their farmers will no longer need to be exposed to toxic chemicals or pesticides, that their farmers will be farm proctors and will have considerably reduced hands on work on the farm. Precision seeding and fertilizers, precision irrigation and sensors to detect areas that need work will make farmer's work more coherent and less speculative. And the harvests tend to be bigger, but that's something that needs proof and evidence Note that most big farms are in North America, Europe and East Asia, and that each country has its own cultural and political specificities regarding how farms are managed.

Water conservation and management

A lot of water conservation and management techniques involve storage, recycling and reducing water consumption. We might get scolded by our mothers or wives when we use too much water while brushing our teeth or take showers that last too long, but the truth is that usually 70 to 80% of the world's water consumption is for agricultural purposes. So when a country says that it's recycling water, it's not toilet water that is being recycled, a lot of the recycled water is actually water that was used for agricultural purposes.

With the growing world population you need more food, by needing more food you need bigger farms, by having bigger farms you use more water. But how do you convince profit-seeking farmers and ranchers that they need to watch their water consumption and use irrigation techniques that both reduce water use and recycle water? The catch is that just like when I was in an office and we were told that we had to recycle paper, most people printed way more stuff that they needed just because they knew they could use each sheet of paper twice. Water isn't that expensive in most countries and the water bill is not what's killing farm owners, it's worker's wages that really hurt their budget. So how do you convince them to save a few pennies by carefully using water and recycling it? This is where capitalism comes to the equation. Water becomes scarece, water prices go up. Water prices go up, farmers want to cut their water bill.

This is where the developing world becomes interesting. In the developing world water is scarce but cheap. There are lots of water shortages because authorities mismanage water use. So you need to do two things: work with water management authorities in those countries, who are often public servants who don't really give a damn about how water is being managed, and find a way to reach farmers and to give them more autonomy, way more autonomy is their water use.

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