Welcome to the brain economy: Technology will change the way we look at labour, capital and skills

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Source- The post is based on the article “Welcome to the brain economy: Technology will change the way we look at labour, capital and skills” published in “The Indian Express” on 26th April 2023.

Syllabus: GS3- Employment

Relevance– Changing nature of employment

News– The article explains the emergence of brain economy and its impact.

How has the nature of labour changed?

The nature of labour has changed drastically since the mid-19th century — from body to skill to brain.

Physical labour required no education, skill-based labour required higher education, training and expertise. Brain-based labour is about rapid innovation and creation, driven by technology.

No industry will be immune from technology in the global brain economy. Retail, agriculture, automobile, finance, energy, manufacturing, healthcare, education, sports and entertainment will be driven and reshaped by technology and brain power.

Technology will not be limited to software, artificial intelligence and data analytics. It will spread rapidly across brain sciences, quantum computing, genetic engineering, 3D printing, nanotechnology and combinations.

The search for perfection in technology and its related issues is an illusion. Technology will keep evolving and the new generation of technology will solve the problems of earlier generations. First generation vaccines saved billions of lives from Covid.

What is the way forward for the success of the brain economy?

There is a need to abandon outdated stereotypes of evil corporations, sinful profits and inhuman technology.

The myth of man vs machine needs to be ended. Technology doesn’t destroy jobs. It creates jobs, liberates people and drives social progress.

Advances in technology in the brain economy will always be a couple of steps ahead of politicians, bureaucrats, policies and laws. We will have to learn to deal with it.

There will be issues of concern like market dominance by corporations and exploitation of legal loopholes. There will be ethical dilemmas regarding technological choices. Regulation and oversight are essential. But these need to be pragmatic, not dogmatic.

There is a need to widen the definitions of progressive, intellectual and civil society. These definitions can’t remain confined to a closed group of liberal arts professors, activists and NGOs.

Technology illiteracy impedes understanding, perpetrates falsehoods and obstructs progress. A clear understanding of technology is an important issue.

Scientists, technologists, businessmen, entrepreneurs and corporations must also be present at the discussion table. Collaboration is the key.

The education architecture of the country needs to be revamped. Students and teachers in primary and secondary education need to be equipped with technology. Failures in experimentation and creation in schools should be celebrated.

Multidisciplinary research universities should be created on a war footing. Courses in different aspects of technology must be made mandatory for all liberal arts programmes, just like liberal arts courses should be made mandatory in all science and technology departments.

What will be the nature of the brain economy?

The concerns of the employees in the body economy revolved around low wages, job tenure and exploitation. The concerns of the employees in the skill economy are skill relevance, flexibility and work-life balance.

In the brain economy, they will question the company’s impact on the environment, gender parity, wealth sharing and other social issues.

There could be many failures. Every successful innovation is built on a graveyard of failures. We will have to get used to it.

Many corporations will be a combination of brain, skill and body. Amazon, for example, has brains that create new offerings, skills that maintain their vast data centres and bodies that deliver packages to homes.

The focus will be on the complete elimination of the body and the gradual replacement of skills through technology. The accompanying job losses will have to be offset by the creation of new types of jobs.

Many brains will operate outside the ambit of corporations. The scale and scope of open-source innovation will continue to expand. It will give rise to a “societal brain”. India’s digital public goods revolution is an example of this.

The relationship between capital and labour will change. Capital exploited physical labour and invested in skills. It will now partner with the brains.

The balance of power between capital and labour will become more symmetric. But markets will create inequality by assigning exponentially differential values to body, skill and brain.

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