The Future of the Poor

How Will Technology Affect the Poor?

February 14, 2017

 

robot on wall

 

In a future imagined with Transhumans, smart machines, and designer babies, how does the poorest of society fit in?

 

An article on The Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, called The Reality Principle, by Marc Roux, co-founder of the French Transhumanist Association Technoprog, realistically describes what the future might look if greed and the desire to dominate continues to drive our society.

 

The Reality Principle mainly addresses transhumanism and the poor, but a scenario in which a technology could allow the affluent to have a leg up or even absolute control over the lower classes also applies to designer babies, nootropics (brain enhancing drugs), and artificial intelligence.

 

Designer Babies

 

Technology will soon allow for parents to choose common genetic traits such as eye and hair color. As gene editing techniques advance, higher intelligence, better hearing, even night vision may be possible using synthetic genes or genes from other organisms.

 

Nootropics

 

As in the movie Limitless, brain enhancing drugs could increase memory and focus for those that can afford it, while the less fortunate are left searching for the remote.

 

Artificial intelligence

 

Artificial intelligence is poised to replace a high percentage of workers from almost every sector, including well-paying jobs like accountants and lawyers. As unemployment increases, well educated workers might look for lower paying jobs, leaving it harder for less educated workers to earn a living.

 

Indifference in Venice

 

Under Pressure

 

About the time (2030+), that these disruptive technologies reach their stride, the total population will have increased by more than a billion. Food and water will be in higher demand, with less of it to go around, and countries will be less willing to share resources.

 

What can help reduce the economic and technology gap?

 

Some have suggested that a Universal Basic Income (UBI) could aid a society where a rising number of people will be out of work due to automation and artificial intelligence. UBI is where all citizens of a country regularly receive an unconditional sum of money, in addition to any income received from elsewhere.

 

poor children with laptops

 

There are people and organizations trying to help narrow the digital divide.

 

One Laptop per Child has a mission to empower the world's poorest children through education. They provide each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop.

 

Close the Gap is an international non-profit organisation that aims to bridge the digital divide by offering donated computers to developing countries.

 

Internet.org and Project Loon are two projects that plan to bring affordable Internet services to less developed countries.

 

The Cold Reality

 

Realistically, the odds are stacked against the poor, unless they can effect change before technology leaves them behind. That begins by looking beyond the day to day struggle, and by learning and speaking out about the technologies and issues that are changing the world we live in. It ends with a society that is more compassionate and sharing.

 

 

Resources

 

Digital Divide: The Technology Gap between the Rich and Poor - Digital Responsibility

 

How technology can help us eliminate, not alleviate, poverty - World Economic Forum

 

Can Technology End Poverty? - Harvard Business Review

 

To Really Help the Global Poor, Create Technology They’ll Pay For - Harvard Business Review

 

Global Citizen - a social action platform

 

You might think that technology is the solution to poverty – but here’s why you’re wrong - Independent

 

Let's talk: How can technology change the lives of people in poverty? - PRI

 

Stephen Hawking warns that great technological advances can leave most people miserably poor. - CNN

 

Poverty Doesn't Need Technology. It Needs Politics. - The Concourse

 

Is Technology Widening Opportunity Gaps Between Rich And Poor Kids? KQED News

 

We Fight Poverty - The Borgen Project

 

How will future technology affect the poor? - Quora

 

Technology and Inequality - MIT Technology Review

 

Science, Technology and Innovation for Poverty Reduction (PDF) - The Institute of Physics

 

Technology for the Poor Should Help, Not Hurt - Smithsonian Magazine

 

Using technology to end poverty - The Tribune Trust

 

Promising uses of technology in education in poor, rural and isolated communities around the world - EduTech

 

Information and Communication Technologies for Poverty Alleviation - Wikibooks

 

The tech economy raises wages for everyone but the truly poor - Quartz

 

Lawyers could be the next profession to be replaced by computers - CNBC

 

Digital Divide - Standford University

 

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Financial Services for the Poor program

 

Apps for the Poor: They're Not What You Think - PC World

 

 

 

 

 

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Image credits

 

Painting on wall of Grosvenor Hotel in Torquay, England. from Wikipedia

 

Indifference in Venice by Son of Groucho via Flickr

 

OLPC classrooom image by RudolfSimon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

 

 

 

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