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Which states feel ready for a post-industrial society? What should they do to ensure a smooth transition to this type of society, i.e. to information economy?
High-tech Development

High-tech Development

Analytics

06.11.2010
Are we ready for information society?

Are we ready for an information society?


The inevitability of changes


It has been 20 years since we've been reading articles by analysts, politicians, sociologists on a post-industrial society we are to enter in the nearest future and the advantages that such society shall offer for the economy and social life. The question is, how prepared the modern states are for such revolutionary changes. What do the governments of these countries do to ensure a fast and smooth transition to information society? It's apparent that the countries to pioneer the establishment of a post-industrial economy shall have colossal competitive advantages over the rest of the world. To answer these questions, we should have a clear idea of what an industrial society is and what changes are awaiting us in the overall economic structure of society.
In fact, one of the bases of the eponymous post-industrial economy is the fact that the labor efficiency in the industrial manufacture sphere escalates a dozens, hundreds, and even thousands of times with introduction of modern technologies. It will lead to releasing dozens and hundreds of millions of people, employed in the manufacture sphere. This might sound unrealistic at first sight, but in one of the spheres such revolutionary changes have already taken place long ago- it concerns the sphere of electronics. If we imagine a computer designed in accordance with the 60ies technology, with a power equal to that of your notebook, it would have occupied several buildings, consumed energy equal to that of a small town and cost dozens of billions of dollars. It would have had several billions of bulbs, a multitude of studs, and the construction of one such computer would have required a labor by dozens of thousands of workers: metallurgists for melting tons of metal, glassblowers for producing special glass for bulbs, technicians for assembling and maintaining the device, etc.  Moreover, the latter might as well be likely not to operate at all, since one of those many million bulbs would continuously blow out. Thanks to technologies, the speed of computers has increased tenfold, compared to that of 60ies. At the same time, the cost price of computer productions has considerably decreased: there is no longer such wide-scale need for workers, metal, glass and energy.  A similar revolution is underway in other spheres of economy.  For example, the gradual transition to electric cars we're witnessing nowadays will contribute to the simplification of the car construction, which will result in the car becoming more reliable and the reduction of price cost. This will lead to the extinction of many branches of industry, such as the manufacture of engine oils and engines proper. The electronic systems of the car will thus become extinct. Another example is the aircraft construction - the quintessence of high technologies. In modern airplanes hundreds of km of wiring is used, yet the transition to fiber optic in management system will reduce for dozens and hundreds of times the need for this cable.  The transition from metals to composite metals will dramatically simplify airplane construction, contributing to the reduction of production price and production cycle length. Such revolutionary changes are to take place in the forthcoming decades in practically all branches of economy in developed countries. This will lead to releasing dozens and hundreds of millions of people, employed in the sphere of manufacture to be left jobless and bereaved of their livelihood. The fact may be fraught with colossal social protests, political and economic instability. It is therefore important to start preparing the country's economy and its social infrastructure to the inevitable transition to a post-industrial economy, not only to avoid social instability but also to create competitive advantages of switching to post-industrial economy. 


Transition period


We should bear in mind that the occupational pattern in a post-industrial economy will be totally different from that of nowadays. In the same way as the industrial revolution led to and changed the ratio of employment in agriculture and industry (before the industrial revolution 80% of the countries' population were employed in the sphere of agriculture versus the 10% of those employed in agriculture in developed countries nowadays), similar dramatic changes shall be expected in the forthcoming decades to mainly concern staff reduction in the field of manufacture. And a question arises: what should hundreds of millions of people, dismissed on grounds of redundancy, do? It's obvious that the service sphere, no matter how developed, cannot provide employment for all those people. That's why the first thing countries should get prepared for is the change in the occupational pattern of the population.

  1. Education. In post-industrial information society the main driving power is the innovative, knowledge-based economy, which means that the key determinant of a nation's/country's competitiveness isn't the existence of a large-scale manufacture but a person's creativity, his ability to create innovations in science technologies and art. In post-industrial society the major part of the population will be engaged in intellectual labor, which implies that the education system is to address completely different issues and undergo radical changes to be able to address the modern challenges and prepare specialists of the future. The main criterion of the system should be the ability to prepare specialists, capable to think creatively, independent of dogmas and stereotypes, and to introduce innovations. Only in this case will a person be able to find a job and feel comfortable in a constantly changing society. Thus, with radical changes in the educational system we can prevent the social explosion in the near future and will prepare the society for gradual transition to information economy.
  2. Environment. Another critical change awaiting us is the necessity to radically change the environment.  It must be incomparably more comfortable and eco-friendly than it is now. To be able to have a competitive economy in the post-industrial world it is necessary to create a favorable environment for mental activity, i.e. a comfortable milieu for the person to efficiently apply his knowledge. In fact, the comfortable, ecological environment is the production area that the factories had once been in the industrial era. Thus, everything that surrounds a person- the house he lives in, the park he strolls in, the cinema he goes to with his family and the supermarket he shops at, become the areas of production. It must be clear that production area in the post-industrial intellectual economy is the human environment, and not just the office he works at, many of which will be subsequently laid on the shelf.  This trend is discernible in many developed countries, where a considerable number of workers employed in a non-industrial field work from home. Modern communications enable the creation of virtual offices. Such work organization is much more efficient, for the employee doesn't spend time on traveling to and from work.  At the same time, it has a favorable influence on traffic, spares money of rent and purchase of a big office, a great economy for the organization. The tendency will only grow in the near future. Most people will cease officially going to work, and work hours will become a mere formality, for one cannot think only in work hours. That's why it is necessary to implement radical reforms in the construction of norms and rules to start creating the environment which will comply with the needs of a post-industrial society. Our cities must be buried in verdure; they should be quiet and comfortable. The ecology must play a central role not only in the sense of purity of the air, water and the environment, but also the purity of vision, i.e. the surrounding world must be pleasant to the eye. The grey, impersonal architectural forms, oppressive to human's psychology and thought, create a discomfort that must be extinguished. Thus, those countries that are definite in their decision to smoothly switch to a post-industrial society and economy must presently start implementing radical changes in ecology and environment.
  3. Public Health. Another state system necessitates radical changes to prepare society for transition to post-industrial economy- the system of Public Health. For a person to be efficient in one's mental performance and work in a post-industrial economy it is important to organize a productive and accessible public health system, available for the whole population. Even in developed countries the modern public health system may be slow, inconvenient and oftentimes awkward. Moreover, a steady tendency towards a rise in the cost of medical services in noticeable. It's obvious that this tendency cannot last forever. It is also clear that the problem lies in the modern system of public health itself. To comply with the requirements of a post-industrial society, it is necessary to organize the system on totally different criteria to provide for its quality and efficiency.   A constant health control should be administered for the whole population. To achieve this, a program of mass health examination is to be introduced with scientifically grounded terms for regular check-ups depending on age, health state, and other factors, with regard to each individual case. The method of telediagnosis must be applied on a wider scale. We should get rid of the oppressive atmosphere of queues at clinics, often associated with seeing a doctor, which discourages people to take a regular care of their health. A creation and introduction of an electronic database on patients' health would enable the doctors to have an instant access to the individual data of every patient. The whole concept of medical equipment in clinics must be changed, to enable complete abandonment of paper document circulation and increase information receipt efficiency to ensure its mobility. Another essential initiative is breaking from paid medical services to free medical care, no matter how grounded the former may be. The truth is, paid medical services reduce the competitiveness of the state and society for it doesn't allow a part of its population to fully receive medical aid. This part of the population is artificially deprived of health and becomes economically inactive, a vestige of feudal society, where the care about people's health and freedom was an issue of by far the least importance for the government.  For that reason, to be a competitive and a healthy nation, we should get rid of such feudalistic remnant as paid medical care is.  Thus, the public health system in a post-industrial society must be high-tech, smooth, preventive and, what is equally important, well-wishing towards a patient. It should ensure lifelong health control for the patients, from birth to extremely old age, hence determining high quality of life.


Thus, for the modern state to ensure its smooth transition to a post-industrial economy type, it is necessary to amend a lot of systems, providing for the state's vitality. In many cases these changes may be stressful and require a lot of financial expenditures, but they're unavoidable. The elites of the states that will realize this first and initiate reformations will receive tangible advantages in the future. There's one problem, though: the post-industrial society is a society of thinking individuals, which means, that it will be thereinafter impossible for politicians to manipulate social opinion with the help of mass media as is currently the case with almost all countries around the world. People will start asking questions, most of which may be unpleasant for the politicians. This will doubtlessly pose a threat to personal interests of political and economic elites in these countries and eventually, the social stability of these states. In this sense, a transition to a post-industrial society will serve as an indicator of the actual freedom of the residents in that country and independence of mass media. Thus, the elites of these modern developed countries must decide whether to support the reforms leading to social and economic development in their countries or to hinder them for the sake of personal, group or clan interests. In the latter case the countries will inevitably lose their competitiveness, i.e. their economic and political power. In the forthcoming two or three decades we shall witness dramatic changes in international relations, the breach of the old system inherited since World War II and Yalta conference, that has long ceased to meet the modern requirements and proves highly inefficient, and the construction of a brand-new relationship model for countries keeping abreast with times. As for Armenia, surprising though it may seem, small countries with suchlike population and territories will also have advantages with transition to post-industrial economy. Since the small size of its economy implies its minor inertia, reforms within the country will be taking place at a faster pace with minimal expenses. In case of countries like Armenia, we can speak of establishing new systems from scratch rather than reforming the old ones. In fact, in this situation serious drawbacks in the country's economy and social infrastructure become advantages, for it's much easier and less costly to create the new than reform the existing. The only issue is whether the elite of the country will understand the necessity and vitality of real reforms and the transition to an innovative track. It is otherwise impossible to solve both home and foreign issues of Armenia. Moreover, without these changes Armenia will be further falling behind the rest of the world, with the distance will soon growing unattainable. Thus, it is vitally important for the government to switch from imitating reforms to real and essential changes in the economy and social life of the country, since the future of Armenia depends on that...


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