Founder Editor in Chief: Octavian-Dragomir Jora ISSN (print) 2537 - 2610
,
ISSN (online) 2558 - 8206
Contact Editorial Team RAFPEC The Idea
Worrying about Wetware

Worrying about Wetware

There is a silent revolution taking place in robotics, and automation in general. It is related not just the capabilities, but also the accessibility and affordability of the new means of production. Greater productivity is one of the results and the one most robo-evangelists cling to. The other is uncertainty. Our entire social and economic systems are predicated on working for income. This affects not just the life rhythms which human redundancy purports to improve, but also social status, consumption capacity and self-esteem. We will have to see if the revolution actually delivers on its promises, but even a partial result could lead to a hair-raising social upheaval, regardless of whether the final result is a net positive or not. In discussing past industrial revolutions, we often gloss over decades of labor unrest, migrations, community destruction and uncertainty in a few lines, with an intellectual carelessness more appropriate to Communist rationalizing of the piles of dead than humanist interest in the general welfare. More

No. 3, Jan.-Feb. 2017 2017


Robots and Empire(s)

Robots and Empire(s)

Few concepts have ever been as tightly related to the notion of technological advancement and the future in general as that of artificial intelligence. The idea of highly intelligent, even sentient robots permeating various facets of human activity and society has been a staple of science fiction since the past century. Though the term “robot” itself was introduced to the English language and the world by Czech playwright Karel Capek in 1920 (“robot” meaning “work” in Czech), robots and artificial intelligence were developed most prominently through the works of such authors as Isaac Asimov (one of whose novels lent its title to this article), Arthur C. Clarke and Philip K. Dick, while Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has also been viewed as another example of artificial beings appearing in fiction. The concept has been heavily featured in several blockbuster science fiction films and TV series as well, either as the main theme or as part of the technologically advanced future. Prominent examples include 2001: A Space Odyssey, Aliens, Star Wars, Terminator, The Matrix and more recently, Interstellar and Ex Machina. More

No. 3, Jan.-Feb. 2017 2017


On taxing the robots

On taxing the robots

Bill Gates, a pioneer in computer innovation, recently opened the gates to a debate that will become mainstream in the coming decades. He suggested that taxing robots would be a perfectly acceptable policy to defray the losses stemming from automation.His assumption is based on the correct fear that the advancements of high-tech industry threatens a large number of low to medium skilled jobs, of mostly equivalent income. This would lead to a high rate of unemployment in areas where automation may replace human labour. One wonders which sector is safe from the replacement of its labour force and the substitution of human capabilities. This is accompanied by reassurances of increased labour demand in the “caring sector” or other interpersonal service jobs. There is a growing need for caregivers for older people, people with special needs, helping children in education. It is logical to focus on areas that manifest increases in needs to reorient employment and then rely on innovation and automation to create wealth and increase productivity wherever possible, but there are some underlying assumptions which are left unchallenged, with regards to ease of reemployment, quality of remuneration and so on. More

No. 3, Jan.-Feb. 2017 2017


Protectionism: “Fairness” Is the New “Freedom”

Protectionism: “Fairness” Is the New “Freedom”

Lately, the media and the Parliament have triggered debates on adopting protectionist measures: granting subsidies, “51% Romanian goods” quotas in supermarkets, restricting the selling of land to foreigners, closing large shops during the weekend, etc. The arguments rely on the need to support domestic capital, to secure food and/or energy, bailing out even loss making companies and avoiding unemployment. More

No. 2, Nov.-Dec. 2016 2016


Growth-at-All-Costs vs. Democracy – What Kind of Globalization?

Growth-at-All-Costs vs. Democracy – What Kind of Globalization?

A few centuries ago, Teilhard de Chardin had spoken about the two sides of all matter: a “within” and a “without”. It has been proven many times that it is vital for the outer world and the inner world to move together at the highest level of harmony in order to achieve balance. One can say that a globalized society reaches to an overdeveloped “without” but, unfortunately, to an underdeveloped “within”. For others who speak about the crisis of meaning, it has become necessary to take into consideration that the world of matter, materiality, science, and technology, even though all of them are good in themselves, do not possess meaning in and of themselves, or none that can satisfy “man’s search for meaning”. They are tools, not ends in themselves. The year 2017 is one in which both scientists and decision makers must understand the difference between challenges and opportunities and to find optimal solutions to the first and the best use of the latter. As was proved during the debates in the framework of the World Economic Forum, the key words for every debate in the landscape of ideas and the actions are: uncertainty, opportunity, resilience, prosperity, democracy, populism.  More

No. 2, Nov.-Dec. 2016 2016


“The Future Ain’t What It Used to Be”

“The Future Ain’t What It Used to Be”

Among other memorable utterances, American baseball legend Yogi Berra once said “it is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future”. I would counter this and say that there is nothing easier, since most predictions will be long forgotten by the time they should be checked to see if they have stood the test of time. It is for the best, since many experts would be anything but expert, should we make it a point to check their forecasts for accuracy.  More

No. 2, Nov.-Dec. 2016 2016


The More Things Change…

The More Things Change…

The future emerges from the interplay of countless factors. Any reasonable scenario will have a chance of happening, but some scenarios merit more advancement with regards to their likelihood of coming to pass. 2017 will be not only an extraordinary year but the beginning of an extraordinary period as compared to the last three decades. The key issues brought forth by the new political developments all over the world will be a return to the rhetoric of national interest. It will be a revival of bilateralism and realism, defined as power (or threat of power) politics.  More

No. 2, Nov.-Dec. 2016 2016


What Is Needed Is a “Stiff Upper Lip”

What Is Needed Is a “Stiff Upper Lip”

We do live in interesting times, as the old saying goes. And no, this is not a blessing. Let us hope it is not going to be a curse either. If we look around us, 2017 is shaping up to be an interesting year for democracy and the Western world. 2015 and 2016 have not been very good either for Europe and particularly the European Union due to the terrorist attacks, the economic crisis in Greece and the waves of refugees coming from the Middle East and other areas damaged by war or sunk into the morass of poverty and dysfunction. All of these events have led to a rise in populism across Europe and many feel that this is the beginning of the end for the European Union. And we cannot forget that the EU is about to lose one of its key members, the UK, which chose to exit the European Union through a referendum. More

No. 2, Nov.-Dec. 2016 2016


Living the Change

Living the Change

Rohit Talwar, futurist, strategic advisor, author and editor of “Fast Future, Accelerating innovation”, and a personal acquaintance in whose opinion I put great stock, used to say: “The next 5-10 years could bring about a greater level of change for individuals, society, business and government than the last fifty”. Robert M. Goldman, World Chairman of the International Medical Commission, among others, also advanced a similar vision by saying that: “Software will disrupt most traditional industries in the next 5-10 years”. More

No. 2, Nov.-Dec. 2016 2016


Musk v. Hawking

Musk v. Hawking

2017 will be a landmark year for discerning the direction for the Planet’s economies, politics, military strategies and its social and ecological paths.The United States has placed itself at the beginning of a new road which appears to be reconfiguring the international status-quo of the last decades on many levels. From an economic and financial perspective, we should not discount the strength that Washington’s new strategies will lend to the dollar. More

No. 2, Nov.-Dec. 2016 2016


A Crystal Ball and Some Econometrics

A Crystal Ball and Some Econometrics

The global economy decelerated to 3.1% growth in 2016, the slowest pace since 2009, according to the estimates published by the International Monetary Fund in January 2017.In the United States (the main economy in the world, with a contribution of around 25% to the global GDP), the economy increased by only 1.6% YoY in 2016, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports. The worst performance since 2011 was mainly caused by the deterioration of the fixed investments, given the accumulated effect of several challenges. However, the investment climate stabilised at the end of 2016, an evolution influenced by the euphoria of the financial markets after Donald Trump won the Presidential election. More

No. 2, Nov.-Dec. 2016 2016


Present and Future Tense

Present and Future Tense

According to “numerology”, 2017 announced itself as a “universal 1st year”, a year that marks a new beginning and a chance to plant the seeds of intention for the forthcoming cycle. It will definitely be a start, but what the start signifies bears closer scrutiny! A turning point for Europe. With elections in France, Germany, Italy and Netherlands and with Brexit trudging along, the EU will be a battlefield in 2017, where nationalist and populist discourse will provide opposition to dialogue regarding the protection of the liberties of minorities, tolerance, and compassion. More

No. 2, Nov.-Dec. 2016 2016


PRINT EDITION

SUBSCRIPTION

FOUNDATIONS
The Romanian-American Foundation for the Promotion of Education and Culture (RAFPEC)
THE NETWORK
WISEWIDEWEB
Amfiteatru Economic

OEconomica No. 1, 2016