Mr. Carlos Slim participated in Geneva Conferences, organized by the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG) and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).
June 11, 2012. Geneva, Switzerland.
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Mr. Carlos Slim’s words in the “Geneva Conferences”, Switzerland, June 11, 2012
Carlos Slim Helú: At the time the last glaciations did melt, huge water volumes began to flow from the continental platforms down to the oceans; climate turned out milder and suitable for life, and men began to outstrip nomadic ways to adopt instead sedentary life in earthy paradises, which count as the very beginnings of human civilization.
We know for sure that benign climate, abundant water, flora and fauna earthy paradises did exist in Mesopotamia –the extensive valley among Euphrates and Tigris rivers–, the Yellow river in China, the valley of Nile, the valley of Mexico, and many other places.
These valleys began to be colonized by small hordes of about forty-fifty individuals, who did embrace a sedentary way of life.
With sedentary life, civilizing development began, being driven by innovation and technology, the driven force for human societies gradual advancement. Men’s first discovery is food reproduction (they already knew animal reproduction, for sure), which count for the basis of crops, shepherding and animal domestication. Newer technologies like irrigation, water control and plowing came along with agriculture.
During that civilizing stage, writing and arithmetic began too. Sedentary men learnt to making dresses and building durable dwellings.
The first tools were stone-made, and then come the bronze and iron ages, and ceramics. So men went advancing further steps because of technology and innovation.
Technology kept advancing. Men learnt to float on water and navigating on it, first on wood trunks for sure, and sail navigation later –a big technology leap forward because it allowed persons and goods transportation. Trade had begun before, of course, in the form of barter. Then coin and numerical trade operations were developed, so driving knowledge as well. All of these advancements benefiting early societies were technology-driven.
Sail navigation is at the origins of Mediterranean globalization and Western culture about 2,500 years ago. The Phoenician trade was the driving peaceful force for all of the Mediterranean cities, which developed themselves in a commercial environment. Obviously, ethnical mixes and cultural changes did occur in the process.
Then science, historiography, literature and the arts began to flourish. Buildings were monolithic then, until antique Romans did create the arch, which allowed them building vaults and aqueducts. They built roads, bridges, channels, and many other works because of such technology developments.
As it can be seen, science, technology and innovation are at the basis of social advancement.
During those ten thousand years or so, however, societies did depend on agriculture mainly. Most people were dedicated to primary activities, food production, stonecutting for buildings, and mining for exploiting precious and non-precious metals.
Societies kept evolving themselves, yet it had to last about nine thousand years for a whole revolution to occur. This was not a self-contained revolution within a given economic system, but a revolution transforming agriculture society’s paradigm and the whole ways of life as well: the Industrial Revolution.
The Industrial Revolution did occur through two big innovations and steps: first the steam-engine, which gave way to a fastest and powerful kind of movement, communication, and transportation in such a way that the world got transformed itself.
The steam-engine gave way to railroad, and steamship able to navigate autonomously, free of wind and oar.
Steam-engine gave way also to machinery and equipment for manufacturing textiles, cranes and farm tractors.
The inventor of tractor was McCormick. He created the farm tractor or “reaper” for extensive agriculture laboring.
The second industrial-revolution step came at the turn of 20th Century, and it was signaled by both the internal combustion engine and power. These technologies did transform the whole human life and translated themselves into civilizing changes.
Electromechanical equipment turned big industrial boiler obsolete. Both electricity and internal combustion engine functioned as big transformers for industrial production, so bringing forth a new industrial revolution.
It was during the 20th Century that many other sciences and economic activities, like chemical, optics and many others, began to develop. During that stage, most of the working force was employed in manufacturing activities.
At that time, men transitioned from agriculture society to an industrial or secondary one. These were big leaps forward.
Scientific progress was immense also, so allowing big changes in many other fields, yet a big obstacle did arose in the process.
The United Nations Organization has played an important role in trying to correct many unwanted consequences of the agriculture-industry transition during many years. That transition was too costly in social, economic, and political terms, and in human lives, above all.
Civilizing transformations do change political paradigms. Political paradigms of agriculture society in ancient Egypt, Japan, Europe and America were based on divinity’s beliefs, while political power was monolithic. Political, religious, economic and military powers were intimately mixed.
The Egyptian pharaoh, the Aztec tlatoani, the Inca ruler, and even the Japanese emperor until the Second World War, all of them claimed to descend from divinity. Medieval Europe was governed by church. Political, economic and military power was monolithic.
Disgracefully, human rights did not exist. Slavery and servitude stood as the accepted condition for the many. Environment care, freedom and education were absent. Social immobility and social-class division did function as conditions for political domination.
People did born and die in the same place, except in war time, when they were levied and taken to different places by armies.
The industrial society gave rise to fresh paradigms bringing out huge political changes. It was the French revolution which began to change old agriculture society models, and social evolution took place.
The industrial society did inaugurate a transition from monolithic power to democracy, yet to dictatorships, totalitarianism and fascism too. Instead of claiming divine origins, new ruling classes claimed to represent the public interest. Nationalism is at the roots of many political-economic models, two world wars, and many other conflicts related to the civilizing change human kind experienced during the last past century.
During the 20th Century wireless communication began to develop. Although Maxwell had discovered the mathematical formula for that technology, it was Marconi who did create the first device in England, not in Italy, his own country.
The Titanic shipwreck in 1912 did popularize this technology because it allowed the Titanic’s crew asking for help to a near ship.
Wireless communication became then an indispensable technology.
With industrial society comes the automobile industry, and urban life becomes dominant. Broadcasting, television and aviation became very important. Horse pacing gave way to the speed of sound; speed of sound speed gave way to the speed of light. That’s the way by which technology accelerates and diffuses industrial society progress.
The industrial progress did continue through the second half of the 20th Century in the developed countries, but it accelerated itself at the end of the nineties because of a sea-change technology: the digital revolution, which is already transforming the whole world in a more substantial and faster manner than the industrial one.
The big change that we are already experiencing is transforming the industrial society into a service society, a transition from secondary society to a tertiary one, from industry to services. Most of the advanced-world working population and increasingly that of the developing ones is already working in services.
Agriculture or primary activities and manufacture tend to employ lesser and lesser labor force nowadays. Technology-based machinery and equipment make the traditional jobs in a more efficient way.
We are already living in a service society. In fact, most of the United States labor force is employed in services since the 1950s. During the first half of the 20th Century, about 70 percent of the U. S. working population was employed in rural activities. Nowadays is about two percent.
If accountants and sellers are curtailed, about 12.5 percent of U. S. working population is already employed in the industrial sector. The goods-producing working population is less than 20 percent. That means that about 80 percent of developed countries working population are already employed in services.
That new society entails a big civilizing transformation. Thanks to technology progress, our society is being transformed. Such a technology progress is basically the telecommunication networks and computer technology which count for the circulatory system of that new civilization. All they function as brain, knowledge and human action support due to internet.
Internet development and other digital applications have created a new, all-embracing revolution –the service revolution. The big challenge, however, is how this change is to be led. Required leadership seems to be absent. That already occurring change needs to be known and diffused in order to avoid the big crisis which usually occurs along civilizing changes.
As we have said, the transition from agriculture to industrial society provoked two world wars, civil wars, violent revolutions, coups d’état and calamitous social and economic experiments for human race.
The distinctive features of the new civilization are generosity and virtue. It is generous since it is based on the wellbeing for the many, not on men and land exploitation.
It is based on knowledge access, education and abilities in making good things, so forming human capital to participate in modernity and economy, or in the market, to say it in common words.
I am going to make some remarks about the paradigms underlying that new civilization.
They are as follow: democracy against monolithic and absolute power; freedom for innovation, creativity and imagination; diversity, plurality, social mobility, human rights, environment care, globalization, competence, technology, and productivity.
It would be stressed that the accelerated development of that new civilization, being driven by internet and broadband access mainly, is being promoted by United Nations, ITU, and UNESCO in order to provide universal access to connectivity. The key words today are “connected” and “to connect”.
That means “to connect to be”, “to connect to compete”, “to connect” for learning and knowing, health, trade, making businesses, even entertainment, in order to have equal opportunities access.
These aims are at the core of ITU and UNESCO Broadband Commission. Universal access is the name of the game.
Universal access is an accelerating path forward. The U.S. government has recently inaugurated the “Connect to Compete” Program. We could envisage another one being called “Connect to Growth”, etc. The important thing is providing connectivity for the whole population in order to create equal opportunities for all.
Since Mexico and the rest of Latin American countries have not attained low computer prices for the poor yet, we are already creating free digital public libraries for everybody. Instead of encouraging poor people to visit traditional libraries and taking printed books on loan, we are offering them a for-free digital environment to navigate and taking on-loan laptops to take them home.
However, digital technology, associated productivity and produced goods and wealth are growing so fast that many people have become unemployed.
Growing unemployment is being caused by lack of deep structural changes to cope with it. Unemployment hurts the young mainly. Even developed countries, nonetheless their high development, are scoring growing unemployment levels among young people.
We should figure out the kind of jobs we will need in the next ten years, the fittest activities for coming job posts, and supporting them in order to create the needed job opportunities.
Information technology field is one of them, obviously. Even small and medium-size firms will fit into it. Fortunately, important innovations are on the making for them. They will not need computers, data centers, sophisticated equipment or expert employees soon. Through the cloud they will have access to telecommunication servers and data centers to fulfill their information needs.
Broad newer fields for these activities are already looming. Beyond information technology, entertainment will experience big developments, as it is clear since now. Disposable applications and contents can be counted by the thousands already, and they can be used by every connected user.
Moreover, digitally-trained people become ablest for better jobs. Today’s young people not only got trained to be employed as plumbers, carpenters, drivers, sellers or engineers; they can be trained in a diversity of fields to take advantage of many more job opportunities.
Entertainment and tourism activities will grow up too; digital technology will also improve cultural and educational opportunities through e-learning. That means that building many university campuses will be not needed in the near future. There already are many successful e-learning endeavors.
Labor ways and retirement will change. In the industrial society, workers used to retire themselves at a relatively early age because physical effort was demanding and wearying. In the knowledge society, instead, experience and knowledge become highly valuable abilities. Therefore, aged employees will be the ablest, so they could be fruitfully employed for added years. Such a change could reduce the weekly working days, as it was hopped during the 1960s. By instance, employees could work 10-12 daily hours during three days a week, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, while others could do Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Soy, they would work intensively just three days against four resting days. In that way we could create more job posts, while employees could retire at 70 or so.
There are many changes to introduce, many of them demanding structural reforms, but we should make them quickly to stop both social deterioration and many other problems we are already experiencing.
Civil society is called for assuming growing activities. During the agriculture society, monolithic economic and political power was all-embracing. In the knowledge society, instead, governments are called to allowing and promoting more and more particular endeavors, including public-private partnerships. As we know very well by experience, economic activities are not public callings.
Secondly, governments are usually tempted to using fiscal resources, financing and credit for electoral and popularity short-term aims. In Europe, by instance, many governments have used fiscal resources for financing unsustainable welfare states because of political, not sound economic reasons. Therefore, they have accrued huge deficits and debts which are at the basis of the current financial crisis.
In order to avoid political clienteles and wasteful public spending, we should open the way for both civil society and private investment. By private investment I don´t mean to say entrepreneur activity exclusively. I mean the productive use of big retirement funds being owned by many people. These funds should be used to promote development in many fields which governments are no longer able to finance because their scarce capital should be invested in other areas.
Well, I have talked too much; we are going to dialogue right now. I appreciate your attention much.
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