Drawing on the Immense Resources of Human Intelligence
Faced with these upheavals, wait-and-see attitudes and self-interest would only exacerbate the disturbances, hardships, violence, imbalances and dissensions. Each of us must do everything in his power, at home, and through broad economic cooperation, to guarantee that progress will be a factor for peace and prosperity, to avoid its producing, as the case has been in the past, unemployment and recession. I offer you five propositions for reflection and action.
1. Achieving full employment while controlling the content of work.
Technological progress cannot spread in a context of high unemployment, which creates a pessimistic environment, incites isolationist patterns, and destroys confidence. This is why the fight against this scourge, by our concerted economic policies, is a top priority matter.
Many fear that progress only aggravates the unemployment that assails us. After due consideration, I can assure you of my medium-term optimism.
Progress is only a danger for those who cannot dominate the transition which it implies between declining activities and new ones. For those who can, it is an opportunity.
It is certainly true that the quantitative effect of progress on employment is difficult to assess. The technological revolution, which creates jobs through the development of new sectors and the preservation of older ones, also destroys jobs, through the automation of certain activities.
By 1990, twenty percent of mass production will be carried out by automatic assembly machines, eliminating many industrial tasks, especially the most tiresome. Tertiary activities such as banking and insurance will also be affected. On the whole, several million jobs could be destroyed by 1990 in the industrialized countries alone.
We must therefore devise the means to manage this transformation, to make sure that technology will not destroy jobs at a faster rate than it can create them. We must reduce the period necessary for that unavoidable transition.
If we are prepared, the new technologies will induce the creation of as many jobs, if not more, than they eliminate, not only by the production of new industrial goods, but also by related services (marketing, engineering, consulting, training, leisure activities, etc.), provided we succeed in organizing them, and through the repercussions which they undoubtedly will have in sectors such as metallurgy, iron and steel, mechanical engineering and chemicals.
Therefore the problem we face is the orderly and rapid substitution of new jobs for old. I shall make a number of suggestions about this matter.
This substitution cannot be only quantitative. It will be accompanied by sweeping changes in the substance and organization of work. It will impart a new meaning to the reduction of the workweek. An economic, social and cultural need, this reduction will become one of the instruments of economic policy, a counterpart to the gains in productivity.
We know that the risks of a loss in professional qualifications, of a uniformization of the tasks, of isolation, are worrying the workers, and these fears are quite well-founded. Should we fail to elucidate the means by which our societies will adapt to the technological transformations, we risk keeping our nations in a state of chilled rejection of progress, as shown by the slowdown in our investments.
This is why we must invest together in anything that affects the work environment and the adaptation of knowledge, in order that social progress can accompany technological progress.
In this perspective, I feel that each of us should observe three guidelines.
-- Sustaining demand to stimulate the growth of markets for the new consumer goods and services incorporating these technological advances.
-- Stabilizing interest rates and exchange rates. I shall not dwell on this, because this will be the essential subject of the rest of our discussions.
-- A greater effort for professional training and mobility. The organization and content of work will, as I have said, be determined by the spread of new technologies. The practice of several occupations during a working life will be one of the salient features of our future societies.
On this level, however, nothing has yet been accomplished. In the most developed countries, the growth of the number of trained engineers and specialists has declined considerably. In 1980, public and private professional training expenditures failed to account for even one percent of our joint Gross National Product. What seemed adequate in a context of sustained expansion and of steady work organization is now unsuitable for organizing the mobility of the work force and the spread of knowledge.
This effort is a prerequisite for the undertaking and acceptance of progress by all the working categories.
Without this immense training effort, from which wage-earners of every sector, of every age group, men and women alike, from the top to the bottom of the scale of professional qualifications, must benefit, only a select few will be able to understand and influence the world, at the cost of a prodigal waste of the creative capacities of the rest.
We must therefore launch a vigorous policy of training and adaptation of our know-how.
The content of work will change qualitatively and quantitatively, in the direction of improved working conditions, provided we develop the means to achieve this, especially by furthering and developing cooperative action with the workers and their organizations.
This movement is only feasible if education, culture and the environment accompany scientific and economic progress, by giving it a soul, a plan, a meaning.
2. Stimulating the dynamics of industry.
The basic foundations exist. It is becoming possible to overcome the recession, to staunch the loss of productivity, and to open new markets.
-- In 1990, the central activities in the technological revolution (integrated circuits, office automation, robotics, new telematics applications, new mass consumer goods, space, biological engineering, offshore [sic], energy and new materials) will treble their relative share of production in our countries.
-- Simultaneously, the high technology industries (telecommunications, aerospace, medical and pharmaceutical products, energy, chemicals, transport) will account for nearly a third of the industrial production of the Seven. They will constitute an important growth factor, together with all the activities involved in the operation or utilization of the goods and services produced by these sectors (training, research and development, marketing, planning, etc.).
-- The rapid automation of industrial production should help to achieve productivity gains of over ten percent per year. These gains are a prerequisite for the success of anti-inflationist policies.
To accomplish this, the conditions for a new industrial dynamism must be satisfied: an investment effort and guaranteed competition.
(a) Revitalizing the industrial investment effort.
Whereas the so-called austerity policies hinder technological progress by discouraging long-term investments that generate new demand, we must now respond to the technological revolution by encouraging private and public industrial investments.
-- We have to bring about an unprecedented mobilization of capital for industry and research; this investment effort will mean a very large additional annual levy on the available resources of the international capital market. Our monetary and financial markets will have to comply. It is therefore essential for international interest rates to be reasonable in order to allow this investment to take place, and for our exchange rates to be stabilized by cooperation between the chief currencies, so that an orderly international monetary system can be rebuilt. This matter will certainly occupy our discussions, and we shall deal with it again this afternoon.
-- Owing to their scale and the fact that they can rely on a national plan, public investments and contracts (communications, transport, energy) will play a driving role. We shall exchange our points of view and can set up a cooperative scheme on this subject.
(b) Ensuring competition.
Competition is an essential factor for growth and technical progress. However, the problems it will raise are quite different from those with which we are familiar today.
In the field of biotechnologies, for example, since more than one-third of products are manufactured by firms enjoying a world monopoly, the imbalance will become more pronounced.
Similarly, in the field of advanced electronics, eight firms control seventy percent of the integrated circuits market. This concentration is to be intensified.
Technological innovations are nevertheless essentially produced by small and medium-sized companies, and this is a good thing. But they fit into an increasingly complex production system, and since the traditional conditions of competition are altered, the flow of trade becomes a source of greater stresses, and power relationships between companies, between regions of the world, and between markets, are exacerbated. We must consider this matter closely, and I shall volunteer a number of proposals for action.
3. Fighting against North-South imbalances.
The latest technological discoveries must serve the nations of the South. Like the biotechnologies, which I dealt with earlier, they will help materially to reduce their energy and food dependence.
We certainly cannot hide the fact that they will also raise new dangers in these countries, generating other forms of instability and dependence.
Biotechnologies, for example, will develop substitutes for traditional raw materials and energies, incurring the risk of aggravating the condition of poor commodity-producing countries. The development of new materials, and the future mining of polymetallic nodules (cobalt, nickel, manganese, copper), in the absence of a fair distribution of the seabed, will threaten counties which are heavily dependent on ore exports. We must therefore accelerate the transfer of technologies to the countries of the South, while perfecting the organization of world markets.
We must consider not only the means to transfer our technologies to them by suitably adapting them, but also the creation of conditions to encourage the development of technologies that focus directly on their own realities; it is on this condition that the independent development of their agriculture, their industry and their services is possible.
Lastly, although it is in the interest of the industrialized nations for the immense markets of the countries of the South to open up to the technological revolution, science and technology must provide these countries with the conditions for survival in dignity: by protecting and mobilizing their natural resources and their environment; by boosting national energy output; by halting the spread of untillable zones; by stopping the disappearance of plant and animal species and soil depletion; and by fighting against the dramatic causes and effects of an urban concentration which is accelerating at an unprecedented rate.
To achieve this, the resources of the multilateral agencies for aid to technological research must be oriented towards the needs of the South.
I shall suggest the means to enable the countries of the South to accommodate new technologies.
In brief, it is possible for us to make use of scientific and technological research for the full and global utilization of the common heritage of the nations of the North and South.
4. Overcoming isolationist temptations.
As world trade slows down, products incorporating high technology are occupying a growing share of this trade. We must overcome this contradiction.
Technical progress will offer new opportunities for trade. However, the very nature of high technology products affords protectionism new forms of expression (standards, licensing procedures). Technological development as a whole could, in the short term, trigger withdrawal and isolationism, which oppose the medium-term interests of all countries. It is essential to cooperate to guarantee that protectionism will not eventually triumph.
5. Building a new civilization.
A new civilization begins at the point where the greater availability of resources serves to liberate mankind from the twofold constraint of time and distance, affecting interchange and communication. The interrelationship of networks will lead the most diverse societies to communicate with each other, to know and to understand each other better.
The impact of new technologies on urban civilization is still unclear. We shall ensure that the expansion of the means of transport, the proliferation and interdependence of information systems, the laying of cable networks and the implementation of new housing techniques, will make the cities more attractive for all and break the isolation of the countryside.
Herein lies the great adventure, because in the absence of a powerful current of interchange and communication, all cultures and languages will be threatened with uniformity.
In actual fact, communications are becoming more concentrated in all countries. A handful of firms have taken possession of the electronic distribution infrastructures. By dominating them, they influence the traditional media, cinema, press and television. The major part of the new activities in which most of the firms are engaged (information production, storage and processing) implies very large investments, and therefore encourages intense concentration. Already, the two leading image banks supply nearly all the television stations worldwide, more than three quarters of all press news is supplied by five agencies. If this natural tendency spreads further, by the end of the decade it will mean the control of the world communication industry by some twenty firms.
By cooperating, we can prevent the accumulation and processing of information by a small number of firms and nations possessing the most highly and rapidly developed processing and storage systems.
More generally speaking, the dissemination of information processed and largely controlled by a small number of dominant countries could cause the rest to lose their memory and sovereignty, thus jeopardizing their freedom of thought and decision.
This is why I should like us to reflect on a possible Charter of Communication.
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