Preparing for the unknown

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

Jose M. Montelibano

Internet – a global system of interconnected computer networks that uses the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to link devices worldwide (Wikipedia). This is the Internet we know. Although it is about connecting computer networks, these compute devices and networks are essentially conduits to connect people. More and more in the already emerging future, this Internet will be more known as the Internet of People because it is essentially designed to connect people.

Internet of Things or IoT – the extension of Internet connectivity into physical devices and everyday objects (Wikipedia). I there are 7.7 billion people, the Internet of People will connect them, albeit through computer devices and networks. But the Internet of Things is intended to connect unlimited devices and physical objects – which, by the way, includes the human body.

Cryptocurrency – a digital asset designed to work as a medium of exchange that uses strong cryptography to secure financial transactions, control the creation of additional units, and verify the transfer of assets (Wikipedia).

Artificial Intelligence – in computer science, artificial intelligence (AI), also called machine intelligence is intelligence demonstrated by machines, in contrast to the natural intelligence displayed by humans. Colloquially, the term “artificial intelligence” is often used to describe machines (or computers) that mimic “cognitive” functions that humans associate with the human mind, such as “learning” and “problem-solving” (Wikipedia).

Genetic Engineering – also called genetic modification or genetic manipulation is the direct manipulation of an organism’s genes using biotechnology. T is a set of technologies used to change the genetic make-up of cells, including the transfer of genes within and across species boundaries to produce improved or novel organisms (Wikipedia).

These are a few, albeit crucial, developments that guarantee more radical changes by the day in volumes and speed that we cannot yet track and evaluate as to their impact of human life. I used short Wikipedia definitions for the purpose of keeping things as simple and short as possible. Those who have special interest or knowledge about any of the above-mentioned fields know that it can take a lifetime to explain, translate, create and apply these changes. Just so much volume, speed, and non-stop innovation.

What is my point? I hope that I can disabuse everyone’s mind that the future is predictable, that even with a reasonable level of predictability, our ancestors took the time and effort to prepare their youth and future societies. Today, the level of predictability for the next 50 years is little to very little. All the more then, greater preparation is critical. We may not anticipate every form of the invention that will be produced, but we know there will be and in what general direction. And the largely unknown future is already telling us that what the best of us is holding has a rather short obsolescence schedule.

The Philippines has this best-of-us in terms of human knowledge and materials, like every other society. But very worrisome to me is that this best-of-us is available only to a very few of us, maybe less than 10% of our population. Worse, in the lower third to half of our people, they will only hear the words defining the modern discoveries and technologies but will have little relationship with these, except as physical labor, customers who have to pay for what they can afford, or simply victims. Machines will be smarter and stronger in many industries, and the resulting unemployed will have to scramble for survival among themselves.

The prognosis is scary. That is a problem but not the worse. If we are left to ourselves to think ahead, to imagine from our almost primitive grasp of the unfolding reality, then all our preparation will be contained within that very limited perspective. And worst of all is that we cannot address our future or our fears as a whole people but as individuals, each one going about his or her way as best as possible. Imagine then, what the marginalized sector, the self-rated poor among Filipinos, can do for themselves?

I am confident that big businesses are deep into the preparation of that murky tomorrow because of their very existence as businesses depend on it. Big business is more interconnected to global business and technological developments. In our society, big business will have the most motivation and resources to build their capacity for the little that is predictable and what they are guessing will happen. After that will be the educational and training institutions that they support and support them – basically where their children go to school or where their key employees will have higher learning and training.

I am as convinced, as well, that the vast majority of Filipinos will be seriously prejudiced because there is an absent consciousness about that kind of future or any future. Yes, the government is building major infrastructure in a major catch-up move. That will allow the better flow of people, services and goods. When the new infrastructures are finished in the next three years, the new unfolding future would be much more ahead, and much more alien. Today, for the sake of our people who are already way behind, for even those who are not as poor but as behind in technology and what it stands for, I hope that societal leaders will move together to talk about the near future.

Our preparation must include beefing up our potential for businesses and services that are more personalized, more about beauty and leisure, more about hospitality and communication, more about being the best people for other people. That time may come when we as a people become the most sought after, not our technology, not our manufacturing capabilities. It may be because we are friendly, because we are honest, because are good at relating to others, taking care of them, and giving them the quality of life. I know more can be done but it starts with leaders in all fields coming together, planning together, and preparing together. Here is praying they will.

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