A year that fundamentally transformed us as the primordial beings of this planet
“I saw a rattlesnake… gave it jelly cake, er… and a bellyache” the little kid was wide eyed, full of innocence as she was trying to recite an English rhyme sitting alone on a plastic chair whilst the sun-rays from the window behind her bathed her face with a white glow. It was a midterm exam for the kindergarten kids unfolding on a mobile screen in a small nondescript town in north India. It had now been a year since she had met any of her schoolmates, all of them merely faces on a screen that logged in every morning to attend “school” on a mobile app built on the wildly successful Zoom platform for video conferencing. Many of her friends lived nearby, in the same town or in some of the surrounding villages, yet she couldn’t meet any of them because of what she described in a single word explanation known as “corona!” with a hint of dread in her eyes.
About a year ago, if someone had described this positively dystopic scene, it could have only meant one thing, that it was an unfolding sci-fi movie on one of those umpteen video streaming apps. Merely a year later, it is now an accepted routine. Literally billions of kids the world over have transformed themselves into pixels on screens, even as millions of teachers grapple with technology to remain relevant in an education ecosystem where they are nothing but biological redundancies. It is the great ‘Retraining’ experiment that is now devouring the length and breadth of human occupational landscapes. In fact, tens of thousands of older students preparing themselves for more competitive portions of modern education system vouch for this new App-based learning and many may never fully return to the old way of physical schooling even after the world gets out of its Corona fear.
As technology keeps growing there will be a shift in what skills are in demand, but if workers can adapt to these newer environments by training themselves with newer skills, then they can still find some gainful employment. This has been one of the core tenets of the three R’s philosophy proposed by Kai-Fu Lee in his now international bestselling book, “AI Super Powers China, Silicon Valley and the New World Order”. In fact, he goes on to explain that many thought leaders in Silicon Valley have been advocating the combining of “online education” and “lifelong learning” as one of the ways forward for humanity to constantly update their skills and move into new professions that are not yet subject to automation. “In this envisioned world of fluid retraining,” Mr. Lee argues “whenever a job becomes automated, (workers) can use the online tools to retrain for a new position”. This is a world where human workers are constantly playing a cat and mouse game with technology, trying to stay one step ahead every time until eventually they run out of jobs completely. As Mr. Lee himself explains frightfully in his book, “I fear workers will find themselves in a state of constant retreat, like animals fleeing relentlessly rising flood waters, anxiously hopping from one rock to another in search of higher ground”.
The second R of the three R’s hypothesis is built upon ‘Reduction’ of work week. Larry Page, the founder of Google, in a 2014 interview elucidated his now famous ideas about four day weeks. “You just reduce work time," Page said. "Most people, if I ask them, 'Would you like an extra week of vacation?' They raise their hands, 100% of the people”. One favourite version of this Reduction theory doing the rounds of Silicon Valley is the idea of splitting one full-time job into several part-time jobs and sharing them with multiple workers over a week for lower wages. This has been the core argument of Keynesian economic theorems about eventually building a world of 15 hour working weeks. A near utopian idea of humans not working even as their basic needs are fulfilled indeed sounds exciting on paper, but like all communist fantasies it essentially kills the very core of our existence. Human beings are hard wired with desire and greed to move beyond their existing states and achieve greater purpose, if you take that away, all that are left are monochromatic zombies who will never question the vagaries of the world.
The third R propounds the lofty ideal of ‘Redistribution’. Many of the Big Tech leaders realised a few years ago that merely Retraining for newer skills and Reducing work would not do the trick, so they have been actively working at building another of their “magic wand” solutions. Big names like Sam Altman, the president of the prestigious Silicon Valley start-up accelerator, Y Combinator and Chris Hughes, Facebook co-founder, have been experimenting with many pilot studies developed from the two core ideas of Universal Basic Income (UBI) and her more attractive cousin, Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI) as the final cure for the coming age of technological unemployment. At the heart of these income distribution schemes lies the fundamental plan of “taxing” the winners of the AI (Artificial Intelligence) race to provide basic income to the jobless masses so that they do not turn their ire against the billionaires and trillionaires of the tech industry. This plan may be old and even simplistic in parts, but it is deviously fiendish in its approach to humanity. The very idea that a handful of corporations who stand to gain trillions of dollars at the end of a mad technology race would then throw a few crumbs at the vast majority of the populace to quietly acquiesce to their leadership can be described as nothing but fascism in its truest form.
Throughout the past decade of 2010’s, these three R’s hypotheses had been discussed, analysed threadbare and even implemented among small groups of people to ascertain practicable results. For instance, a research organisation “funded” by Silicon Valley ran a pilot program in Oakland, California wherein they paid a stipend of a thousand dollars every month to a thousand families for a period of up to 5 years and then compared their results with a control group of a few families that received only 50 dollars a month. Similarly, since the 2008 financial crisis, many states in the US implemented work-sharing arrangements to avoid mass layoffs even as businesses dried up and local governments then compensated a part of the wages of those workers who had been working at part-time jobs. Yet, mostly all these measures have been few and far between, a mere blip on the larger global socio-economic canvas, until the world was turned upside down overnight.
So then, 2020 happened. The entire human population of planet earth (except China of course) ended up becoming a part of the three R’s experiment for almost a full calendar year. Billions of people all over the world, including entire generations of kids have now adopted to this new online fluid retraining world without much fuss. Hundreds of millions of workers from all over the world have quietly accepted part-time jobs, work-sharing environments, work from home etiquettes and reduced wages as a normal way of life. Globally, all the governments are involved in paying tens of millions of families some trillions of dollars worth of income support which is nothing but UBI and GMI operating at scale. In fact, the big debate in the US political circles over the last few months has been around whether a family should get 600 or 2000 $ cheque every month as part of the relief package and nobody is even discussing the profligate ways of the treasury’s printing spree.
Why and how did a whole planet load of people so quickly and without any critical analysis adapt such life altering changes, at scale, overnight?
The ‘why’ of that question has a straight forward answer, that the world suddenly went through a near death experience and was forced to adapt or perish. It is the ‘how’ of that question that should interest all the remaining thinking animals of our species.
There are four pillars on which the 2020 experiment was built on; RT-PCR tests, absolute control of narrative nodes, governments of all hues and colours all over the world along with their predictable reactions and finally the biological reality of death. Let us now tackle each of them one by one. While we do so, please keep an open mind no matter what you have been told or what you believe as absolute truth or what you think is ‘Science’ or whatever ideological position you subscribe to. Also, at the very outset, let us be clear that COVID-19 was a Corona Virus that did produce flu-like symptoms in some people and let there be no denialism about it.
First things first. A Reverse Transcription – Polymerase Chain Reaction test (RT-PCR) is the single most used medical diagnostic procedure in human history to have ever been implemented at such short notice over such a short span of time. In India, for instance, 194 million COVID tests have been conducted so far (till Jan 30th) and more than three quarters of them are RT-PCR tests. The worldwide number of total COVID tests stands at nearly 1.44 billion and a vast majority of them were the ubiquitous RT-PCR tests again. Among this tested populace of the world, about 9.9% of them tested positive at roughly 103 million individuals who are part of what is known as “Corona Cases”. And thereby lies the story, in understanding how these RT-PCR tests are done.
Using a swab, a lab technician collects RNA from an individual’s nasal cavity. This RNA is then Reverse Transcribed into DNA. Then, through Polymerase Chain Reaction, specific sequences of genetic codes that are characteristically present in COVID virus are first identified and then amplified because invariably the viral genetic code in any sample would be very tiny. PCR essentially amplifies that tiny bit of genetic code in a series of cycles over and over again, until there is enough code that can be detected in a laboratory – this is a standard procedure for PCR tests across a wide spectrum of diagnostic measures. Simple logic then follows that higher the traces of virus in a sample, lesser are the number of cycles of amplification that are needed to detect a virus. The number of “Cycles” (of amplification) needed to detect a viral genetic code is known as “Cycle Threshold” or CT. A CT of 17 – which is 17 cycles of amplification of a viral genetic code – is generally considered as a gold standard in the PCR testing universe. The higher the CT, the greater the risk that insignificant sequences of viral DNA end up being magnified to the point that the test reads positive even if your viral load is extremely low or the virus is inactive and poses no threat to you or anyone else. It was universally accepted that any PCR test with more than 35 cycles is scientifically indefensible. Indeed, as recently as September of 2020, a study in Clinical Infectious Diseases done by eight Oxford scientists showed with utmost clarity that when you run a PCR test at a CT of 35 or more, the accuracy levels drop to 3%, resulting in a mindboggling 97% false positive rate!
Yet, WHO in its infinite wisdom, recommended RT-PCR tests for COVID-19 detection with a CT set at 45. In the US, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and the CDC (Centres for Disease Control & Prevention) recommended running PCR tests at a CT of 40. The world over, including here in India, the RT-PCR test regime for COVID-19 has been set at an average of 35 or more. If the CT were to be set at say 17 (or even maybe under 25), then detecting real COVID cases would have been like looking for a needle in a haystack, only the haystack would be the size of a planet. The logic behind this usage of high “Cycle Thresholds” as a way to detect as many cases as possible was apparently aimed at fighting a pandemic by detecting as many vulnerable people as possible, even if an overwhelming number of those positive individuals were “false positives” in medical terms.
Furthermore, the RT-PCR test has an inherent flaw built into its very design. It can only detect small traces of unique genetic code of an organism – in this case, the SARS-CoV2 virus – and is not built to distinguish between inactive viruses and live reproductive ones. This is an important distinction, because “inactive and reproductive viruses are not interchangeable in terms of infectivity”. In simple words, if you have an inactive or dead virus that cannot reproduce, then you will neither get sick nor will you spread the disease to others despite of the fact that a lab test may find the unique genetic code of the virus. To summarise, a highly-amplified RT-PCR test with high number of false positive individual cases where a majority of individuals were merely carrying dead nucleotides became the statistical foundation of what can only be described as “Casedemic”. The world, instead of supposedly fighting a pandemic gave rise to a Casedemic.
While the PCR test was amplifying the Corona genetic code in the diagnostic laboratories, the algorithms controlling the narrative nodes were amplifying the Casedemic numbers in the laboratory of the world. In the first few weeks of the pandemic era, spanning March and April of 2020, all we heard from everywhere was that more tests need to be done. Any country or state that was not reporting enough “cases” was literally declared a rogue entity. So, every government was forced to ramp up their testing regimes. As more and more tests were conducted, the Casedemic grew into gigantic proportions. Every day, the number of cases was hammered on to the hapless population on Facebook and Twitter and WhatsApp and Instagram who all are still running special “COVID” trends on top of their usual services. Traditional media did not want to be left behind, so every newspaper on earth has been running front-page headlines with Casedemic numbers while every news channel has a running colourful ticker box for almost a year now. The world was simply forced into submission.
Anybody who differed from the narrative became a pariah overnight. Even the most powerful men and women were not spared, including the then President of United States of America, notionally the most powerful man in the world. The entire chain of events of 2020 were cast in stone. The pandemic, the lockdowns, the social distancing, the adoption of new work environments, the testing methodologies, the eventual vaccine that would cure it and save the world were all neatly mapped out and no divergence from that set path was tolerated or allowed. What about Ayurveda, that thousands of years old experiential knowledge that prevents pathology rather than curing the disease? It was declared as quackery immediately. What about Vitamin D which boosts immunity and could have possibly been the single most important element in battling any kind of viral attack? It was belittled as pseudo-science at best. What about Hydroxychloroquine, that cheaply available, non-patented anti-malarial drug that was effectively helping deal with severe cases? It was virtually declared as a criminal procedure. What about opening-up small businesses and schools so that a sense of normalcy can return? Such ideas were deemed just a step short of mass genocide. Finally, perhaps most importantly, what about those scientists who wondered why such mass scale testing and publishing (of those results) was needed? They have all become persona-non-grata and chances are that you and I will never hear from them again as they have been simply deleted from the world’s internet databases.
Then there was the third pillar, that of governments all over the world. We have all grown accustomed to this notion that the state is the most powerful entity around us. This is where the 2020 experiment will go down as the great leveller, or even as that inflection point when the balance of power changed for the first time in centuries. No President or Prime Minister or Governor or Chief Minister or any elected representative had the strength or the capacity to deviate from the set plan. Those who tried would simply cease to exist. Every positive PCR test was a statistic that was imprinted on the consciousness of a nation state so that no government could afford to escape the planned chain of events of 2020. This is how an AI-algorithm controlled screen loop of feedback works. Information travels from one screen to another seamlessly to reinforce the same narrative again and again. What you browse on your laptop screen and search on Google travels on to your Twitter screen on your mobile and then enters your social networks of Facebook or WhatsApp and then becomes a headline on your TV screen which then gets unleashed on to your morning newspapers. Those millions of newspaper headlines then become fodder for the search engine algorithms of google and then they get amplified on your mobile screen on Twitter and social networks of Facebook or WhatsApp which then hop on to the headlines on the news channels on your TV screen and eventually travel to newspapers. This cycle went on and on for the whole of 2020 until the ever-increasing number of COVID cases became the single most quoted statistic in human history, a number that was mostly built on an RT-PCR test with possibly 97% false positive results. Yet, every positive Corona case became an albatross around the neck of every government of the world. None could escape it. No government could have acted differently, for otherwise the entire narrative universe would have branded them as ‘Genocidal’ with a capital G. This is how in 2020, the balance of power had shifted from the political state to the technocratic oligarchy.
Of course, the number of positive cases was not the only statistic that frightened the world, for there was the undeniable reality of death. After all, more than 2.3 million people have now been reported to have succumbed to the deadly SARS-CoV2 virus, haven’t they? It is only when you scratch the surface of that statistic that you start to see the biological realities. This is exactly what Genevieve Briand, assistant program director of the Applied Economics master’s degree program at John Hopkins university did in her study titled “COVID-19 deaths, a look at the US data”. Her study showed that not only the overall number of deaths had remained similar, but also the number of deaths among older populace (the most affected subset of the cohort) had remained remarkably stable when compared to previous year’s pre-COVID data with the data of COVID era, spread between mid-March to mid-September. Essentially, what her study showed was that older people were not dying in hordes as we were told to believe, but that similar number of older people were dying as in any set of previous years.
While every death is a personal tragedy for the near and dear ones, the fact of the matter is that death is an undeniable biological reality. Every year millions of people die. Approximately 57 million people died in 2019 (while another 140 million odd babies got added to the planet by the miracle of birth). Roughly 26,000 people die every day in India. What was different about 2020 was the branding of those deaths using statistical lies. As early as August 2020, CDC had classified only 6% of the COVID-19 deaths as unrelated to any comorbidities which meant that as many as 94% of those who supposedly died due to COVID (at least in the US) could have died anyway due to other underlying causes like cardiovascular diseases (which causes 48,742 deaths worldwide every day with or without COVID) or cancers (26,181 deaths/day) or respiratory diseases (17734 deaths/day) and many other systemic ailments and chronic illnesses. It was the constant hammering of number of deaths through the feedback screen loop without talking about percentages that was the real pandemic of disinformation. For example, in India, at least in the initial months, there was tremendous pressure on civil hospitals from the kith and kin of the deceased to declare COVID-19 as the cause of death because many state governments had declared hefty compensation for such casualties.
In fact, the statistical summaries of 2020, if and when they are fully imported, would be great eye openers. Overall deaths in 2020 would show that the great pandemic was nothing but a case of severe flu, and flus have been known to get worse once every few years, circulating and affecting larger subsets of population. Consider the fact that the world renown virus hunter and one of the foremost scientists in the field, Peter Daszak has estimated that there are around 1.7 million unknown mammalian viruses in the world which could spill over to humans with just a few mutations. Already in the 21st century the world has contended with at least four major outbreaks of SARS, H1N1, MERS and Ebola before COVID-19. With millions of undiscovered viruses lurking around us, the world can perpetually live in pandemic eras, all that are needed are ‘high Cycle Threshold PCR tests’ and narrative nodes that can be manipulated. This is what unfolded in 2020. Some 2.3 million deaths (over 90% of which were unavoidable in any case) were systematically branded with fear, slowly, at the rate of a few thousand every day, for a whole year, to ensure that the whole world complied without a whimper.
The world has complied without a whimper. As we have already seen with the global scale of the accelerated three R’s experiment, the world is now primed to accept fluid ‘Retraining’ for new skills to keep pace with the constantly changing job market even as the world has quietly accepted the ‘Reduction’ of gainful employment as a way forward while at the same time the governments and their citizenry are now fully open to the concept of Redistribution (albeit of small crumbs of wealth) through UBI and GMI. So far so good. Where do we go from here, now that 2020 has already come to an end?
Most of us humans are conditioned to visualise any phenomenon that has a global scale through a prism of grandiose gestures which makes us susceptible to conspiracy theories of all kinds and hues. Therefore, decades after the 2nd world war, many are still susceptible to wild theories of a Nazi or fascist takeover of the world (media and intelligentsia also play their part in fanning such fears by easily branding any politician who does not fit into their centrist or liberal worldview as a “fascist”). This is the primary reason why many explanations of the happenings of 2020 are either mired by conspiracy theories or are too simplistic in nature.
No, the entire 2020 experiment was not aimed at merely defeating Donald Trump, for that is too simplistic a goal to achieve when the stakes are so high (although Trump’s defeat was a nice bonus because he was too much of a disruptor with nearly no control and his continued presence would be a huge pinprick at the very least). Neither is 2020 a conspiracy of China to win the new cold war – global order is too complex and convoluted to be altered just to cater to the fancies of one nation state, no matter how powerful that state is. Sorry to disappoint many of you, but also 2020 won’t mean that the tech oligarchs will take over the world in one swift motion (not so soon at any rate), for such tectonic shifts of global governance cannot be achieved so easily and so quickly – thus the politicians and their political powers are not going away anytime soon. Finally, there is also no immediate danger of an AI power taking over our planet like a sci-fi movie unfolding before our eyes, for we are still at the infancy of AI powered economic evolution.
What is the real prognosis then?
Real world experiments like the three R’s kind are constructed to achieve real world goals rather than catering to extraordinary conspiracy theories which would have too many variables to have realistic chances of succeeding. What 2020 has achieved is far greater in reach and depth, to fundamentally alter us as human beings and the way we perceive ourselves as primordial units of this planet. One of the best explanations for this avowed goal comes from Klaus Martin Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum (WEF) which has emerged as the ideological fountainhead for the business leadership of the world and what is termed as the “fourth industrial revolution”.
In his book, “COVID 19: The Great Reset”, Klaus Schwab enlightens us with absolute clarity and I quote him, “When confronted with it (the phenomenon of The Great Reset), some industry leaders and senior executives may be tempted to equate reset with restart hoping to go back to the old normal and restore what worked in the past: traditions, tested procedures and familiar ways of doing things – in short, a return to business as usual. This won’t happen, because it can’t happen. For the most part ‘business as usual’ died from [or at the very least was infected by] COVID-19”.
This admission coming from the very top of the elite ruling class of the proverbial “new world order” is an important hint at where we are heading as a world. In the end, if we ever get to record our current history with reasonable fairness, then 2020, COVID-19 and the Three R’s experiment shall all be classified as the harbingers of the “Great Decoupling”. We have been hovering around the edges for some time now, but the year 2020 will be that moment in time when we would have truly ushered in the great decoupling which would have finally ended the industrial era and the great reset would be unleashed. Over the next few years, the initial three dimensions of this great decoupling exercise would take a grip over the world with tremendous force.
Productivity decoupling itself from wages is the first dimension of this great global reset. Throughout the industrial era there was an unwritten economic contract which ensured that wages were logically tied to productivity on the whole. As productivity increased, so did the wages over time. It was not perfect or proportionate, yet it worked in practical terms and ensured a semblance of fairness in distribution between capital and labour which in turn ensured that the overall economic activity remained dynamic. This is how mankind saw unprecedented progress over the last three centuries. This economic contract has now been voided.
To be sure, since the dawn of the ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) industries, there has been some tension between labour and capital as processes got increasingly digitally disrupted to empower capital and make labour increasingly redundant. This tension had increased by manifold over the last two decades even as internet expanded into a community-machine that acquired many functions of the real-life world. Consequently, over the last two decades, there has now been a serious lag in wage development when compared to productivity all over the world. Even that lag is now a thing of past. The 2020 experiments have so thoroughly accelerated these processes that now wage growths are completely and perhaps irrevocably decoupled from productivity. The Three R’s experiment built on the COVID platform has now taught billions of people in the world to accept reduced wages as a way of life irrespective of how productivity advances.
This part of the great global reset was an essential first step to prepare mankind for this decade when massive productivity gains would be made through automations that would not only not lead to wage growth but in fact usher in large scale technological unemployment. Within a decade or so, one out of two human occupations all over the world will be under threat in the AI economy. The competition for the remaining jobs would be so intense that wage de-growth will have to become a standard policy across industries. Between 2020 and 2030, the only obstacle to a low-wage, high-productivity economic trajectory is government action through regulatory frameworks. But are governments really equipped to resist these changes?
As it turns out, the 2020 experiments also taught us important lessons about how governments can be cowered into acting in ways that would help reset the world catering to the interests of the Big Tech industries rather than securing the interests of the masses because governments are easily scared by narratives that can be affected at scale. Disease and death have proven to be highly effective narrative scares which would tie the government’s hands whenever strong regulatory action is needed. Let us consider the simplistic example of road safety, for instance. Every year around 1.35 million people die in road accidents across the world and almost all of them are due to human errors. In India around 1,50,000 people die in road accidents every year and 97,000 of those are due to over-speeding. Furthermore, another 3,00,000 Indians suffer injuries in these accidents, again mostly due to human errors. Once autonomous AI disruption ensues and self-driving cars are a reality with Google’s Waymo, Uber’s Aurora and Tesla’s Autopilot becoming fully available, the efficiency debate would overwhelm government’s regulatory frameworks. If these autonomous vehicles do indeed achieve near zero fatal errors, then every injury and every death caused by a human driver driven accident would become equivalent to the RT-PCR tests and COVID deaths of 2020, an albatross around the government’s neck. If over a period of 10 years, 1.5 million deaths and more than 3 million injuries can be prevented while some 20 million Indian drivers lose their jobs, the choice for the Indian government would be straightforward – to choose to save lives rather than jobs, which is what global governments did without blinking an eye in 2020. Efficiencies would always defeat inefficiencies in the long run.
More efficient processes lead to more profits and greater valuations which then brings us to the second decoupling dimension of the great global reset, that of valuations decoupling from the underlying economies. Stock markets all over the world crashed last March (in 2020) as the Corona scare swept through the world, leading to lockdowns that brought the globe to a standstill. The entire world then went through one of the worst economic downturns ever witnessed as all the economies contracted in double digits – India, for example, has witnessed a de-growth of -9% this year. Almost no middle-class, lower middle-class and poor family has been spared from financial distress this year. Millions of businesses are yet to reopen and billions of kids are yet to fully go back to their schools. Marriage halls, movie theatres, public gatherings, restaurants and hotels are still either closed or working at half their capacities and may take another year at the very least to become operational again in the truest sense. Yet, in the same period of time, stock markets not only recovered but have now reached historic highs, doubling from their March-2020 lows. In fact, many market players are vividly describing this as the greatest bull-run ever, for never has the market doubled in valuation in such a short period of time. At the same time, many economists are at their wits end trying to make sense of this dichotomy of gravity defying new highs in the stock markets and never-seen-before economic contractions.
This is the brave new world of valuations that defy the economic activities. Markets are now filled with exotic derivatives and instruments built on algorithms that see a different future for big corporations and small human beings. In order to understand this future, let us continue with the same example of autonomous vehicles (cars, buses, trucks, trains and drones all put together). Today, Uber, for instance, is valued at roughly 80 billion dollars. In the classical growth model, it may double its market cap say in 5 years by adding more vehicles, more cities and towns to its operations and increasing bottom-lines. Thus, in the latter half of this decade, Uber’s valuation should grow to about 150 billion dollars, or maybe even 200 billion dollars if one uses more optimistic metrics of growth. The coming AI disruption though could potentially upend all these calculations. Today, Uber shares 85% of all its revenues with its driver partners all over the world, but if there are no drivers in a few years as self-driving cars become common, the company could retain all the revenues for itself. The value unlocking for Uber in such a world could be almost stratospheric. What would be the fair valuation of Uber in such a scenario? 800 Billion dollars perhaps (4 times more than the normally expected growth trajectory)?
This bull run of 2020 is just the trailer of things to come. At some point in future, if history is allowed to make a fair assessment, 2020 would go down as the year when the highest ever wealth transfer from the bottom 99.9% to the top 0.1% was unleashed. The big 9 Silicon Valley giants – Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Tesla, Netflix, Uber and Twitter – are valued at around 9 trillion dollars which is more than three times the national GDP of India and these big 9 corporations are even sitting on over 500 billion dollars of hard cash which is equal to India’s foreign exchange reserves. Even as the world economy suffered a near total collapse in 2020, these big tech companies attained historically high valuations. For instance, Tesla alone has seen a valuation quantum leap from 80 billion dollars in March 2020 to 825 billion Dollars in February 2021 – a rise of over 1000%. (To be fair, Elon Musk is the rarest of the Big Tech entrepreneurs who has been openly advocating that his company, Tesla, is highly overvalued).
As more and more human beings become redundant, the larger economic activity may stagnate, but the valuations of top corporations will keep rising along with their increasingly automated productivity. Within ten years the gap between the haves and have nots would be so large that we would actually exist as two different planets. One earth where the overwhelming majority of humans would be residing – the socio-economic earth – and the other earth where the elite ruling technocracy would be residing – the valuation earth. Make no mistake, 2020 has already shown us large glimpses of these two earths as a part of the great global reset.
Of all the three dimensions of decoupling trajectories for the great global reset, the one that is going to have the most profound impact is that of intelligence decoupling from consciousness. We are already in this uncharted territory. To be sure, we are not yet anywhere closer to surpass or even mimic human intelligence or even any other forms of higher biological intelligences. For example, even a decade from now, in terms of everyday engagements, your pet dogs would be far more dextrous and intelligent than the most advanced robots or machines of that era. Although nobody can be fully sure, it would be safe to assume that we are at least a few decades away from AGI – Artificial General Intelligence – which could truly surpass human intellectual capacities. (Yes, I am a sceptic of the Ray Kurzweil hypothesis proposing a technological singularity by 2045 because it would be simply too early). Yet, AI is already having deep impact on humanity even in its infancy. Ever since Geoffrey Hinton propagated his artificial neural networks to the world nearly a decade ago, deep learning algorithms have made rapid strides into the global efficiencies industry. The early phases of artificial intelligence disruptions would alter our world of structured environments involving low motor dexterity and high information optimisation which spreads to nearly 40-50% of human activities.
As Mr. Kai-Fu Lee theorised in his book, deep learning neural networks are creating four waves of AI that will sweep the world, of which we are already in the midst of the first two waves – the Internet AI and the Business AI – while two others – the Perception AI and the Autonomous AI – are just about to be unleashed in full force. Once these four waves of AI disrupt the global economic landscape, by as early as 2030, nearly 50% of all jobs in the world would be lost irrespective of whether they are white collared jobs or blue collared jobs. From radiologists and insurance workers to factory hands and drivers, almost every segment of the economy will suffer huge technological unemployment while at the same time witnessing unprecedented productivity gains. Furthermore, the remaining workers would then be subjected to downwardly mobile wages as AI would have created unbeatable monopolies across economic silos.
“The positive-feedback loop generated by increasing amounts of data means that AI-driven industries naturally tend toward monopoly, simultaneously driving down prices and eliminating competition among firms”. Mr. Lee had warned in 2018 and we readily witnessed the first stages of these monopolies unfolding in front of our very eyes in 2020. Hundreds of thousands of small businesses, mom-n-pop shops, stand-alone restaurants and Dhabhas all suffered massive amounts of losses and many would probably never return back to business because of the COVID reset in 2020, while Amazon and the big tech gained market share and even increased hiring of low-wage delivery boys as the next step towards building their monopolies.
Even as these monopolies increase the already unbridgeable gaps between the top 0.1% and the bottom 99.9% of the world, the AI superpowers would gain unprecedented political, economic and militaristic leads over the rest of the world. As per one PwC study, the AI economy could add 15.7 trillion dollars to the global GDP by 2030, but the catch is that almost 7 trillion of that would be accounted by China alone while another 4 trillion could come from the Silicon Valley. The rest of the world will be left to pick up small crumbs here and there. The global AI economy would be extremely lopsided in favour of China and the US which are currently home to the largest and most robust deep learning innovations in the world. India which has already suffered an era of dark age in the 18th and 19th centuries owing to its inability to adapt to the Industrial Revolution is poised to be one of the big losers of the AI race despite being home to the second largest data repositories arising out of its more than 700 million internet users.
These are all just decadal changes that we shall potentially witness over the next ten odd years in the infancy stage of intelligence being decoupled from consciousness. No doubt many of these technological trajectories are irreversible already, yet the lack of any debate at any level is positively disheartening. Biological life as we have known it has entered a whole new domain, but we are not even discussing it. Anybody who raises a contrary voice in this era is branded as a luddite or a proponent of pseudo-science or a conspiracy theorist and is eventually silenced by the narrative controls of Silicon Valley. This applies to all walks of life and does not spare even the most powerful of human beings. Even as powerful a voice as that of J.K. Rowling, arguably the biggest selling author of a generation, is not spared for having ‘politically incorrect’ views about the new unwritten gender codes that the ‘progressives’ have enshrined as constitutional law on the social media universe (which practically controls the real human universe). Someone as powerful as the president of United States has been silenced and erased from the global communication ecosystems in one mighty scoop by Silicon Valley and the world has simply accepted such a power quietly. Similarly, millions of ordinary people in the US have been de-platformed for even discussing the possibility of election fraud in 2020 – for months preceding the US election, many newspapers, the New York Times being the chief among them, ran dozens of stories talking about how the presidential contest would be one of the most fraudulent exercises ever, but all that is forgotten now.
Many such unwritten codes are imposed on global narrative standards in today’s world. In fact, in 2020, a whole new industry was created around what is the “accepted” truth of COVID-19 and what was nothing but a “foolish conspiracy theory”. All sorts of “gospel truths” about Corona have emerged out of this “accepted” truth experiment on COVID-19, like, for instance the global acceptance of RT-PCR test minus any inference about the CT value.
For the last few years, internet algorithms (Internet AI, if you will) have been training the world to adhere to a set of principles and laws from which no deviation is acceptable. Thus, as we move forward, there shall be no whimper of protest against the great decoupling of any kind. The decoupling of intelligence from consciousness is a ‘once-in-a-civilization’ event that will have enormous repercussions over entire mankind and it cannot simply be left in the hands of Silicon Valley (which is intricately tied to the profit motive) to decide the fate of our civilization. We must therefore turn to the metaphysical world of the richest repository of knowledge to try and make sense of the path forward for humanity.
इन्द्रियाणि पराण्याहुरिन्द्रियेभ्यः परं मनः |
मनसस्तु परा बुद्धिर्यो बुद्धेः परतस्तु सः ||
Indriyaani paranyaahurindriyebhya param manaha |
Manasastu paraa buddhiryo buddheyh paratastu saha || 42 ||
Chapter 3, Algorithm 42, The Bhagavad Gita
Our senses above matter, mind above the senses, intelligence superseding the mind and the consciousness reigning supreme, above even intelligence, is the simplistic hierarchical algorithm that the Bhagavad Gita teaches us. Fortunately, nothing about the Gita is simplistic by any chance. One of the time-tested ways of interpreting the Gita yourself is to recite the Shlokas again and again over a period of time until newer layers of meanings start to become apparent. It is an art of exploring the inner self to translate the meaning of the universe by feeding the sounds of mantra to nurture your intellect. Once you do this exercise, the profound sense of the above Shloka starts to unveil itself and one begins to marvel at the layers of knowledge hidden in such few words. (By no means is the interpretation complete, for it is usually a lifelong exercise of reciting the Shlokas again and again to keep exploring the inner self until true enlightenment).
Contrary to what we are taught to believe, that we, the post-modern scientific beings are the only ones who can comprehend the technological complexities of creating and functionalising intelligence through non-biological expressions, the Vedas, the Bhagavad Gita and the Mahabharata stand as testimonies to the ancient experiential knowledge of the impact of decoupling intelligence from consciousness on mankind.
Consciousness is the binding principle of the eternal essence that connects and gives meaning to existence, intellect is merely an analytical tool as an extension of a subset of the consciousness. For instance, quantum physics is only now theorising that two particles which are thousands of light years apart can instantaneously respond to each other’s motions while the Gita had already underscored this cosmic connect of the consciousness thousands of years ago. The triad of Dharma, Karma and Atman are also hardwired to consciousness to impact the function of intelligence. Intelligence remaining tethered to consciousness is therefore a conditional vortex on which the world of Dharma is built. Hence the battle between Dharma and Adharma in Kurukshetra was not just a war for the righteous Pandavas to acquire a kingdom from the Kauravas, it was, at the heart of it, a battle to restore the primacy of consciousness over intelligence. This substack, Algorithms of Bharat, is primarily a journey aimed at exploring these layers of ancient knowledge from our civilization, but today let me conclude by very briefly retelling and reinterpreting a conversation from the Mahabharata.
Before the commencement of the great war, Bhagawan Krishna tries to persuade Suyodhana to avoid the conflict and the bloodshed, to which the latter responds in the negative, not because he believes he is right but because he simply cannot bring himself to follow the right path. “I know what is right but I am incapable to practise it; I also know what is wrong but I am incapable of avoiding it. I act as per the guidance system that is guiding me to act in such a way”, said he. And thus, Suyodhana transforms himself into Duryodhana, for the intelligence feedback loop that he has developed is not in control of his conscience. Krishna is aware of Duryodhana’s helpless state of being, in fact, His avatar in that cycle of birth is precisely aimed at this predicament, for He has a larger objective.
In the end, all but 18 of the great warriors survive the Kurukshetra war. The other ‘atirathis’ and ‘maharathis’ (great warriors) are all killed irrespective of which side they fought on; whether on the Pandava side or the Kaurava side. This is the larger objective of Krishna’s incarnation, to rid the world of these powerful men who have mastered the art of weaponization of intelligence. This is how He restored Dharma, by restoring the primacy of Consciousness over Intelligence.
The inference we can draw from the metaphysical world of ancient knowledge comes in the form of a warning about the hazards of liberating intelligence from Dharma, Karma and Atman. Thankfully, we are still in very early stages of this path in our present day and even then, the near-term trajectory is quite bleak. At the very least, the world needs to be aware of which way the black-box AI algorithms are taking us. The year 2020 has accelerated the processes of decoupling by a factor that was not foreseeable even a year ago, forcing the world to digest changes over the next 10 years which otherwise should have taken 15-20 years. At least two great thinkers of our times – Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk – have warned against an unbridled race to unshackle intelligence from consciousness that the Silicon Valley giants and China have embarked upon. A lot more needs to be done.