PM on risks of curtailing freedoms and manipulating people

On Tuesday, the 8th Moscow International Forum Open Innovations took place, themed Intelligent Economy: Three Dilemmas for Digital Nation. Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev addressed its plenary session, government’s web page reports.

“The rapid digital transformation is shaping the new economy. Russia has made tangible progress when it comes to innovative potential. Over a period of the next few years, RUR 1.6 tln ($25 bln) intended for the development of the digital program have been allocated,” Medvedev said. “However, not all problems can be solved by means of using money although it is important. It is necessary to come up with answers to the questions facing us as well as to overcome the serious challenges that exist.”

“The first thing is digital security. From the moment of its creation the internet has become a synonym of openness. Rapid cross-border exchange of any amount of information creates enormous opportunities for the development of the individual, cultural ties and businesses. In fact, there are opportunities there for whole states. But any phenomenon has a reverse side. Openness is fraught with tangible risks. Therefore, the notion of digital security has many aspects,” he noted. “It is necessary to ensure the national interests of this country. Not a single hacker should have an opportunity to bring down the national banking system. If we adopt e-voting it is obvious that that this system must be protected from any outside influence.“

According to the Prime Minister, “Just as any other country, Russia is seeking to enhance its national cybersecurity system, including in the digital economy. Unfortunately, there is a flip side to the efforts to ensure total security in the digital realm. In fact, the risk of compromising privacy is the price one has to pay for this kind of security. Today, the line separating private and public spaces has become so thin that sometimes it cannot be measured or even felt. Devices surrounding us account for every step humans make, and every economic or social transaction they carry out. This creates risks of curtailing freedoms and manipulating people. We need to find the fragile balance between security and guaranteeing privacy.”

“Security, including digital security, is always about control and responsibility. When it comes to personal data storage and privacy protection, it is up to the state to ensure that they are safe and protected. At the same time, this is also a matter of people making choices on what kind of a trace they are willing to leave behind. This depends on what we aspire to, and what we believe our place to be in the world. There was a time when only celebrities and popular figures were in the spotlight. Today, this has become relevant for everyone without exception. You have to decide on your own what kind of information you are willing to share, be it photo images, geotags or contacts. It has become commonplace for people to disregard all these aspects entirely. At the same time, the internet has made the world transparent such that practically any person can be promoted to a celebrity status through social media,“ he stressed. “The second challenge is how robotics reshapes the labor market. All new developments tend to cause anxiety. What did the fear of having to compete against machines lead to in the 17th and 18th centuries? Workers sought to destroy machines so as not to face any competition. Four centuries after the industrial revolution, machines are still unable to replace humans, and odds are that they will never succeed in replacing humans. However, just a few years ago we felt the same fears and talked at our forum about what to expect. No one could guarantee anything in terms of employment. Today, researchers tell us that 133 mio new jobs will appear in place of 75 mio traditional jobs that will disappear. This does give ground for some optimism.”

As he further noted, “This kind of certainty is underpinned by processes on the labor market that are unfolding today. In fact, some 2.5 mio robots operate across the world, mostly in a few countries that made this choice and were ready for this transition in terms of technology and funding. These include Korea, Germany and Singapore. These countries have high employment rates. Nevertheless, we need to be ready to enable people to acquire new skills. We need to train professionals capable of working with automated technology and robotics. At the end of the day, robots will take over menial work, while people must master the so-called soft skills, such as creative thinking and prompt problem-solving. The third dilemma is regulation, which should not stand in the way of innovative development. Laws are never able to keep up with technological change, which is a good thing, since otherwise technological change would have been impossible. Laws are intrinsically conservative, and without experiments no discoveries can be made or new technology developed. However, it is not uncommon that tests fail to conform with the existing norms, which can lead to unpleasant consequences. We need to move faster when it comes to bringing new technology to the market. For that, the regulatory model should be reversed so that we enable change rather than prevent it.”

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