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The next socio-economic revolution: communication instead of transportation

Society is living in constant change and is in continuous transformation. This is especially true for the present and the recent past, ...

Society is living in constant change and is in continuous transformation. This is especially true for the present and the recent past, and will certainly be true for the future as well. Scientific and technical progress is constantly transforming the economy and society.

This change is not externally managed or planned. It is determined by the current development of science and technology and the current needs and acceptance of society. Progress is continuous, but goals can be recognized, levels can be noted around in what the change is organized. The most obvious sign of change is when functions are created in society without which society can hardly or at all can function. Society is organized around these new functions. Previously, these functions did not exist or operated with much less efficiency and were therefore of lesser importance. The consequence of this change is that in a short time, types of work are created that did not exist before.

We can talk about a revolution when the development of science and technology causes rapid economic and lifestyle changes, which results in a rapid and profound social transformation affecting a wide range of people. Today we are living in a virtually continuous economic and social revolution. Earlier several generations lived in the same way, today there are multiple lifestyle changes in the life of a generation.

The digital revolution is currently happening underway. The transition to a digital society affects the whole life of society. The digital revolution is creating new types of work, and the digital switchover is creating new functions in society around which society is organized. The digital revolution was founded by the advent and development of the digital computer hardware and software. The computer, computing, and digital communication that came with it are not just a simple tool for us, but an increasingly inseparable part of our lives.

The driving force behind the new social revolution that is currently taking place as a result of the digital transformation is machine learning, which began only a few years ago. The scientific-technical breakthrough, often referred to as artificial intelligence, is better termed as machine learning. It is more appropriate to use artificial intelligence to denote a level of machines' ability similar to human intelligence. The ability of machine learning is an extremely important development, but it is by no means a function comparable to human intelligence, even if machine learning has already beaten the best human chess, go, and quiz players. Yet machine learning, however, is an extremely important scientific and technical development that will bring about revolutionary changes in the life of society.

The point of this revolution is not just about peoples are losing jobs because machines are taking it, and machines are working in increasingly complex tasks instead of people, but this development is transforming people’s lives. Human labor will continue to be needed, just not the way it is now and not where it used to be. Machine learning as a technology will be deeply embedded in the life of society. We are still at the very beginning of this process. It does not necessarily show its significance, but machine learning has a similarly profound effect as any other scientific and technical-economic revolution.

In the life of mankind, the background of economic and social development is provided by the development of data, information, and communication. Acquiring, capturing, and communicating information is the backdrop to all social change. The information has always been generated. Communication has always existed, but the current level is significantly different. We have come to the point where everyone and everything is able to communicate the information it creates, to be able to share it instantly. This information technology background also provides, creates, and lays the foundation for the next revolutionary change in the life of society.

What is the next qualitative change, what is the new direction and goal created by scientific and technological progress that affects the whole of society? What revolutionary change is the current development of information and communication creating? The next great transformation will be created by the revolution of personal presence, the economic and social transformation created by the widespread use of remote presence. Communication takes over the role of personal transportation.

What does remote presence mean? During a remote presence, the activity of a given person, and the object and effect of that activity, are in different locations, even geographically far apart.

Remote presence is not a new thing, enough to mention the leading fields of science, space exploration, and military technology. However, the remote presence is already deeply embedded in everyday life in some areas. Shopping online is perhaps the most mature, most common remote presence feature we use. Online shopping is starting to fundamentally transform the form of commerce.

Another widely used remote presence feature is distance learning. The spread of distance learning, like online shopping in commerce, will fundamentally and profoundly transform education. The process is already underway.

We also increasingly maintain our personal relationships using the means of remote presence. The development of communication also plays a fundamental role in changing the form of personal relationships. In personal relationships, the distant presence has already begun with traditional letter writing and sending. Today, with the help of Internet communication, the emergence and spread of social interfaces, we can have countless human relationships on the Internet with another person that we have never met.

An increasing part of our social life takes place on these social platforms. Remote presence does not have to be limited to writing, spoken words, pictures, video. In virtual spaces, with the help of avatars, social remote presence can take to a whole new, qualitatively different level. The development of technology in this field is also continuous.

The teleworking form of remote presence is also becoming more accepted and becoming more widespread. Especially nowadays, social distancing is playing an increasingly important role in this obligatory time. Digitalization is also the driving force behind teleworking. Teleworking is currently spreading primarily in office work, but it is taking over not only computer-based, data-handling tasks, but also teamwork and group communication.

However, teleworking is not just about doing an office job in the form of a remote presence. Automation has long been a method used in production and manufacturing. Automation is a tool to increase economic efficiency. Even though, automation does not make human role, presence, human supervision in the manufacturing processes unnecessary. Nevertheless, automation, complemented by remote sensing, makes even the remaining human tasks possible in a remote presence manner. The development of robotics and remote sensing, complemented by the increasing efficiency of digital wireless communication, the development of manufacturing technology cannot only affect manufacturing operations and manufacturing efficiency, but can also be a means of the human presence still needed. The factories will not only be automated, but the necessary human work will also be realized through the remote presence. There will not be people in the factories, but not because they will be fully automated, it may never be realized, but because the remaining human work can be accomplished with the remote presence.

Remote presence transforms all areas of human work, including industrial, agricultural, health, social work. Practically any job can be done using the remote presence method. As long as machines have only the function of machine learning, as long as we do not find truly artificial intelligence, where machines will be able to make decisions on their own and work with independently created goals, human work will be needed, machines will be people's helpers, and will not be our substitute.

However, the remote presence completely transforms the life of society. By using remote presence, the function of personal transportation takes over by communication.

Transportation is already undergoing a transformation. The appearance of self-driving cars' importance is not because we don’t have to drive the car in traffic. With the spread of remote presence, the role of transport is diminishing, but for certain transportation tasks, the driver will still be needed long after self-driving cars are in use. The significance of self-driving cars is that it creates the possibility that the driver does not have to be present in the car when he or she still needs it. A driver can be involved in the control of several vehicles with the remote presence.

The spread of remote presence will affect the whole area of people’s lives and fundamentally change the way society functions.

Cities will be transformed. As personal transportation decreases, traffic in cities decreases. The reduction in traffic will bring many favorable lifestyle changes, from a reduction in environmental pollution to safer transport. The role of city centers will decline. Congestion will be diminished. Nature will move back to cities. If the effects of general remote presence are handled properly, more livable cities will be created.

However, the most significant change in cities’ life is the decline in the urban population. As the remote presence does not require the location of housing and the workplace to be close to each other, cities become depopulated, and the role of the countryside increases. People can move back into nature. The reduction in the need for transport will help make this lifestyle change in harmony with the environment in a sustainable way. The increase in physical distances between people motivates a self-sustaining lifestyle.

Of course, machine learning, automation, teleworking can also work against society. If society’s leaders do not find a way to deal with people who become unemployed en masse in the changing needs of the economy, all positive change can be wiped out by the negative effects, rising poverty, the spread of crime, violence and violent repression will become an everyday experience. Society must be prepared for this. The intellectuals (not necessary politicians) must find meaningful answers to foreseeable problems, such as the problem of growing inequality and, most importantly, the question of how to select the right leader in society.

Remote presence takes full advantage of the methods of machine learning and robotization. Remote presence uses these technologies as tools. Fewer people will be needed to get the job done. Societies need to deal with the liberated workforce until the population drops to the level of the needs of the economy. If societies come up with a reasonable solution to this, to solve it so that the masses can make a living from less work, then a golden age, a flourishing of science, arts, the freedom that has not been experienced since ancient Greek times can come in the life of mankind. At that time, the institution of slavery created social welfare. Now all this would come true in a more humanistic way. If, on the other hand, exploitation, greed, and selfishness remain and become the driving force of the economy, the transformation of society will be accompanied by suffering, violence, control of power and oppression.

We are approaching the scientific advancement and wide-ranging application of technology, where remote presence significantly transforms the way we live our life. When widely used, it defines the form of life in society. This change is also preparing us for the emergence of a general form of artificial intelligence in our human life when machines can completely replace man. It is up to us what fate awaits us when we get there. We remain a species in harmony with nature, or the natural fate of extinction comes to us.

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