BRICS Business Magazine English Edition No.2(23)

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Throughout the XX century, Homo Sapiens has turned into Homo Technicus. This transformation has now gone far enough for the B-20 (Business Twenty) to raise the concept of  ‘Society 5.0’ at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, i.e. a technology-driven society, which includes everything from the Internet of Things and blockchain to 5G mobile communications and robotics. It is still unclear to us how this society will be organized and how the roles in it will be allocated, but we do know that technologies have long been changing the rules of the game – albeit not only removing barriers but also erecting them. An old example is the bridges on Long Island. Once they were made too low for buses to pass under them, creating an expensive zone that was ‘closed’ from the public, but allowed car owners free passage.
Pessimists have warned mankind about the threats of segregation and dehumanization that technology carries with it since the Second World War. The strength of ‘Society 5.0’ is evident in its name: this concept and development strategy is not going to separate the economy from people. Developed in, and for, Japan, it relies on human capital, and now, not least because of its successful name, almost every country has tried this model’s set of ideas. It is not only about the proverbial competitiveness, productivity and efficiency, but also about solving social problems and improving the quality of life. And the result of such a widespread penetration of technology will be a new cultural system.
It is safe to say that such a restructuring of the economy and society will transform private life, but it is very difficult to predict what the informal logic of human interaction will look like. Despite the humanistic pathos of such ideas, we must be prepared for unintended consequences. The bridges on Long Island once reduced the horizon of possibility for many people. In the notional tomorrow, the difference in the pace of development can block access to modernity for entire countries. This will not sound too peremptory if we consider not just the quantitative but also the qualitative aspects of the lag. There are no universal solutions, but we can give one piece of advice to ourselves and to anyone else who might need it. A society that wants to get closer to ‘5.0’ needs to make a long-term investment and reconfigure its national education system, otherwise, in 30 years’ time, the cultural rationale of outsiders will finally stop lining up with the rationale of the leaders. And here I specifically say ‘society’, not ‘state’, because in the XXI century the decisions made in the highest offices are less meaningful than the sum of private initiatives.

Authors & Experts

Dominique Fruchter
Dominique Fruchter

Economist for Caucasus, the CIS, Western Balkans, Switzerland & Ukraine in Coface

Yanis Varoufakis
Yanis Varoufakis

former Finance Minister of Greece, Professor of Economics at the University of Athens

Hector R. Torres
Hector R. Torres

Senior Fellow with the Centre for International Governance Innovation’s International Law Research Program

Jayati Ghosh
Jayati Ghosh

Professor of Economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, Executive Secretary of International Development Economics Associates

Kaushik Basu
Kaushik Basu

Former Chief Economist of the World Bank, Professor of Economics at Cornell University and Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution

Richard N. Haass
Richard N. Haass

President of the Council on Foreign Relations

Branko Milanovic
Branko Milanovic

Visiting presidential professor at City University of New York Graduate Center; former lead economist in the World Bank’s research department

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