For thousands of years, social inequality has been arguably the most important question in need of an immediate answer, yet it has resisted every attempt to solve it. It is one of the major causes of humanity’s integral problems like war, crime, disease, racism, irrationality, etc. Name the problem, and you will find inequality either at the root of it or in the fertilizer.
The inequality question is difficult not because of its ideological complexity; rather, it becomes the headache of our time, just as it was for our predecessors, because of its impracticability.
Civilizations in the past have either suppressed it, ignored it, or anathematized it. Yet, many regimes in modern times have learned, at one time or another, the bitter truth that empires begin to crack and then ultimately fail when the inequality among their subjects widens beyond the point of no return.
If inequality was not the major reason for the fall, then at least it was the weapon that incited the masses to fight for a better life.
The earth has stood still through several forms of government, economic theories, and even sheer stupidity. What has been constant through all these changes was, and still is, the biased arena: those who have a lot need little to win in life, while those who have nothing need almost everything.
This works not only for nations and start-up companies but also for each person alive today. Its impact is not limited to economic interactions and the business world; you can see and feel its iron shackle on education, environment, governance, agriculture, behavior, sport, and enlightenment.
Why inequality is so malevolent when combined with technology
Inequality is dangerous because the tech world tends to concentrate money in the hands of the few. From the beginning, wealth was concentrated in the hands of a few, but now technology will narrow the set of the few to the fewer.
Let’s take WhatsApp as an example. In 2014, Facebook closed the deal for a staggering USD 19 billion. At the time, WhatsApp only had around 50 employees. According to the deal, USD three billion of the purchase went to early employees, and the remaining USD 16 billion was sliced between the two founders, Jan Koum and Brian Acton.
This type of wealth distribution is not an isolated story.
There were 13 employees at Instagram when Facebook bought it in 2012 for USD one billion. Mojang, the creators of Minecraft, had 12 employees before Microsoft acquired it for USD 2.5 billion. At the time of Oculus VR’s acquisition, the company had 75 employees, and Facebook closed the deal in 2014 for USD two billion. Nest Labs had only 280 employees before it was acquired by Google in January 2014 for USD 3.2 billion.
One can list hundreds of tech companies that were sold for more than USD 500 million while having fewer than a thousand employees. There goes the archaic academic notion that a billion-dollar company feeds hundreds of thousands of people.
Technology may exacerbate global inequality
The age of giant companies and millions of employees is fading fast. Technological unemployment is going to be the new plague. Africa will surely suffer because of this technological unemployment.
The trend of replacement by machines (either software or hardware) clearly shows that the first line of work to be fully automated or robotized is that of low-level jobs. Under this category, you will find factory workers, clerks, chauffeurs, farmers, waiters, cleaners, and the like.
Unfortunately, Africa’s job market is characterized by low-level jobs, and the majority are engaged in such mundane tasks. It is not a big surprise why many Africans are not well paid for what they do; most low-level jobs are also those that pay the least.
There is hope in decentralized technologies
My belief is that decentralized technologies have the potential to level the playing field on a global level. When the community itself owns and governs the platform, there is no longer a single, centralized entity making the rules to benefit the few while extracting a slice of value at every stage of the process.
SingularityNET, a newly born tech company with a new path forward that combines progressive technology with a reduction in wealth distribution, provides a shield for a biased arena. One can see that the biased arena demands a lot from those who have little. Because of this, many companies (especially in Africa) find it improbable, if not impossible, to compete in the international market when it comes to industrial products. The organization provides AI-based cloud computing services in addition to a platform where developers can contribute AI tools and make a profit whenever someone utilizes them on SingularityNet.
While Africa struggles with unprocessed agricultural products, the remaining continents exploit Africa as their beloved destination for their goods. On average, 68 percent of the goods and services sold on the continent are imported from abroad.
The unchallenged answer to Africa’s impotence toward creating a competing industry is a lack of technology and skilled human resources.
With the addition of decentralized companies like SingularityNET, the biased arena seems a little bit weaker. Now, a little software company in the Central African Republic can access a top-notch AI tool at a price they can afford. Research centers, universities, and the defense sector in sub-Saharan Africa used to spend billions of dollars on these services.
Contributed by Hruy Tsegaye
(Hruy Tsegaye is the co-founder and product manager of iCog Labs.)