Except from the speech by Iryna Starovoyt

The challenges of the future

Except from the speech by Iryna Starovoyt at the discussion in Lviv

You said that today there is really such an acute illness when young people start to belong to a class of superfluous people. How do you think, which skills modern young people should have in order not to get to this class? Today it is considered that it is not enough for young people to have one profession, maybe in this case the solution would be to have more than one profession? Also, I am very interested in your opinion which remedy exists in this case?

Your question is delicate enough to me. I have a daughter who is at that age right now when she is considered to be a young person, and the last thing I would like to happen in this life is to breed another young person who will be needless. Recently, I thought of one thing and the question arose by itself – to what kind of generation did I belong to here in Ukraine in the 90s? I thought of two things. The first thing was, that we were that generation, which did not have a phase of rebellion against their parents in the classical sense, because when the Soviet Union collapsed, our fathers lost so much economically, socially and prestigiously, that in such situation they seemed to be like teenagers themselves. We felt sorry for them. Imagine that situation. And if we were motivated against them, then in most cases, I think, we would have for sure made them commit a suicide or they would simply die from a heart attack. I think that there was a moment when parents of my coevals felt absolutely superfluous people. The old system collapsed – they lost all of their savings, if they actually had them then, in a few nights; they did not know what their property rights would look like in the new situation, they did not know, whether these factories, where they were working for years still would exist, and if it was still enough to know languages, which they knew, to stay in the profession and so on. It was a terrible time, but we have come out since then, and I know that my generation has turned out to be more optimistic about those times. Then it seemed to us that everything was very bad, but in this world we were not there yet, and we can do everything differently – so that our parents will be living better 10–15 years later, as well as we ourselves and our future children; that we will build a normal new country with normal rules of life, and there will be a place for everyone in it. When I think about it now, I can only project it on people that are in a crisis or similar to crisis situation, and I personally think that the formula “here was everything, but not for us yet,” is important. I find it much sadder to be a young man in a country where everything is good, where everything is in harmony.

I love the story of the Irish laborers recruited in the middle of the 18th century from a very poor Ireland to a new continent, because there, in the big cities, the streets were covered with gold. And when the Irish workers arrived there, they only saw there a swamp, and that there were no pavements at all, and that they actually had to make the whole street by themselves. And it seems to me that in a metaphorical way, the young people of the modern global world have found the world in such a poor situation, that they really need to do everything from the very beginning by themselves. Just think of this – they come to a world right at that time when the ecological situation is the worst in the entire geological history of this planet, and we know that according to the current economic state thanks to the carbon resources the future is still going to be able to exist at the same condition as it exists today for the next 10–15 years, but then this formula will stop working, we are already exhausting good drinking water supplies, we are exhausting the opportunity to have a good quality non-genetically modified food for everyone, and yet some global processes are for the better even nowadays.

I would like to reference to a book I was a lot recommended to read by Volodya Beglov, our moderator. It is a book that was written by Hans Rosling. The main idea is that we think about the world in a much worse way than it is actually now. For example, when people from 15 well developed countries were asked: “How do you think how many young women from underdeveloped countries have possibility to get full secondary education?”, the revealed percentage was between 20 and 25%. In fact, the right answer is 60%, and this number is increasing every year. How do you think, the difference between the poor and the rich has increased or decreased in recent years? Yes, it is true that between radically poor and radically rich population it has increased, but another truth is that there also became less of poor people on the planet, just as well as the amount of rich people has decreased, especially among the middle class, so that the middle class “lined up and smoothed” during this time. But our world looks “united” – we are more or less the same. It is very interesting that in the countries of the so-called “Third World”, the number of people who can fly once a year somewhere by plane is steadily growing, and quite soon, literally in 5–7 years, the number of people from less developed countries, that are flying by plane once a year will exceed the number of people from well developed countries simply because in “rich countries” there are many people who can afford themselves travelling by plane, but they just do not like to fly f. e. So if we look at this picture of the modern world that we see in the media every day, it turns out that the world is very negative, mostly because bad news is making news, while positive news – does not. For example, we know about terrorist attacks in American schools, which now repeat for every 2–3 months, but the same day in ten thousand other American schools there is no journalist standing next to the entrance who says: “Today nothing happened in this school, everyone went home happily!” That is it, we hear what happened in this worst case and do not hear the rest of the things. And I think that actually today’s modern generation must surf and perceive the world and information about it in another way. I thought that the greatest achievement of my generation was not to fail exams. And now I am thinking of your new generation, and that your most important achievement will be to fail exams, but to get to right conclusions from your failure, to learn to lose. We were not taught to lose, to fail correctly, so not to be angry at the whole world, so as not to start hating everything around, so not want to take revenge. We need to appreciate personal borders of others and to be able to lead a dialogue. Now, thanks to gadgets, or perhaps the “third ear” that one day may be installed into us in 5–10 years, we will all speak all languages, almost like the apostles. Does this mean we will understand each other better or conversely worse? So the art of dialogue is something more than knowing one, ten or hundreds of thousands foreign languages. We are waiting for new challenges. It seems to me that your generation has a challenge to develop yourselves in those areas and those professions that can be called the professions of humanity. I think that you have something to learn from your grandparents, who have always had time for you.

I follow one page on Facebook that is devoted to Granny Dozya. She is half virtual, but the real woman exists, she lives in Lviv, Ukraine. As I know her page is led by her grandchildren, the stories they tell about her are real. One of those stories was about her and a small boy from the neighbourhood Ostap. One day Granny Dozya had a lot of things to do in her household – she was working in the garden, cooking and washing. Once Ostap came to her fence and asked to play with him. She turned everything off, and went to play with him. I think that we all claim that we do not have enough time. But biologically and psychologically, we all have 24 hours a day and 365/366 days a year, so we use our time incorrectly. And it seems to me that your generation will finally ask good questions the world and yourself, for example “What is important?”, so you will not be sitting in the old age looking back to different situations and regretting the risks you did not take and things you did not do, but you will build other relationships with the world. I was curious to know that Eskimos are now also connected to the Internet, and they do have accounts in the same social networks as you do. Now we can even watch the nest of the eagle online, and how he takes care of his little chicks! If we have such tools in our hands when we can see, hear, understand almost everything that is happening on the planet in real time – do we really understand other people? Therefore, I think that the professions associated with humanity will be very important, as well as things related to the search of meaning and correct answers to the right questions.

Yuval Noah Harari says, that the profession of a philosopher will still not be automated for the next 50–100 years, because philosophical questions become urgent ones every day more and more. For example, artificial intelligence will soon release a self-driving car to all the roads of the world. But the thing is that there must be the correct algorithms. Let’s consider the situation when it is necessary to sacrifice someone, and not someone else. So, there is a self-driving car on the road: the one who could be a driver is sleeping in the back seat, and at the same time two boys are playing with a ball, which is going on the road, so they are going on the road after it. They are meeting our car. What will this car do? It will do everything according to an existing algorithm. If the algorithm is made to save a person who sleeps in the back seat, it will kill these two boys. If the algorithm is composed so that when there are more than one person outside it, then the one in the car should die, so others will stay safe. And if we agree for a market to decide instead of us, then it will be the next way – “electrocar-altruist” and “electrocar-egoist”, and when buying a car you will know whether it is allowed to kill you or someone else. But the question remains – is it possible to give such things for the market to decide and do philosophical issues only come to our attention more every time we solve it every day and every week?