Does Disempowerment Cause Crime?
I recently saw a series of videos by Yuval Harari on YouTube about the future of humanity. Just before that, I watched a documentary about Compton, the capital of crime in California. I saw some interesting parallels between the two subjects which I would like to share.
In his video, Harari talked about how artificial intelligence will create a new class of people which he calls “economically useless.” This is a class of people who will lose their jobs to artificial intelligence and computers; they will have difficulty reinventing themselves and finding new jobs. An example Harari gives of someone who might fall into this class is the professional driver: the driverless car will transport people much more cheaply and safely than a human can. Once replaced by the driverless car, those professional drivers will have difficulty finding new professions because, at their age, they might not be retrainable.
Harari says that as these drivers lose their economic value, they will lose their sense of power. While they are driving, professional drivers can visualize their power. They can unionize. Once they lose their profession, they lose their power. They become disempowered.
Now, let us look at the documentary about Compton. As I was watching the young people the filmmakers interviewed talk about their experiences, I noticed a common denominator: a kind of bravado with which they spoke about killing, robbing, and punishing others. Even in their rivalries, power played a central role. Those poor, unemployed, and disempowered youngsters found their power in gangs, robbing, and murdering.
I believe every human being needs to feel a sense of power. If a person feels disempowered, they will find a way to exercise their power, even in a dysfunctional way. I believe this does not apply only to humans. The more powerless is a dog, the more it bites. Note the dogs that bite the most and bark the most are the small poodles. The Dobermans only show you their teeth. That is enough. I suggest that the Compton gangs are driven by their sense of powerlessness. They have no power in a society dominated by white people. They are marginalized. To feel some power, crime is a great vehicle. I believe the solution for the crime level in Compton is not incarcerating or even re-educating those young people but finding a way to give them power in a positive, constructive way.
Imagine the impact of introducing the youth in Compton to a youth movement like the Boy Scouts, a movement in which they can experience power by helping other people rather than by robbing and murdering them. Imagine the impact of an incredible sports complex in Compton that could bring those young people together to compete with each other and the establishment in a sporting environment. Imagine what that could do for the youth’s sense of empowerment and thus their need to be criminals.
Granted there are many other reasons for crime like poverty, lack of opportunities to better one’s life, broken families, etc. I am focusing here only on one factor.
Now back to Harari. If artificial intelligence takes over the world, there is a danger of millions of people finding themselves unemployed and economically useless. Disempowered. (What a terrible idea it is to be useless while you are still alive and breathing). If that happens, crime will mushroom in every possible way because people cannot feel disempowered, useless, and vegetative while they are still in a physically productive stage of their life.
The solution to this potential crisis would be to expose the population to leisure activities that make them feel powerful, such as sports, music, or art.
Yuval Harari correctly says that the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century replaced one of human beings’ two greatest strengths: machines rendered human physical strength obsolete, leaving them only their mental strength. Because the Industrial Revolution introduced machines more physically powerful than humans—because combines, harvesters, and tractors can perform better than human beings can with plows—people moved from agricultural fields into intellectual fields.
The rise in artificial intelligence is a new kind of industrial revolution—it is an informational revolution. Artificial intelligence and computers are replacing the mental strength of humans, rendering them economically useless and disempowered.
But, I would claim that there is a third type of strength unique to human beings: emotional strength. Empathy. Connection. Team-building. Community-building. We support each other. Sense each other. Feel for each other. (While animals also have empathy, human empathy is much more powerful).
I believe that this is still a field of society that artificial intelligence will not be able to penetrate, at least not yet. Artificial intelligence cannot deal with emotions, cannot replace humans in the spheres of social work, community-building, and team-building. I believe the future for those disempowered by artificial intelligence lies in emotional professions. This economic sphere is already growing. Psychotherapy, family therapy, life-coaching—these professions have been growing and are the fad of today.
I believe that in order to prevent an increase in crime among those disempowered by the rise in artificial intelligence, the government should expand the training and opportunities in the emotional sphere of service as much of possible. Even today, a person in Compton can be a community–builder or a team-builder—it all depends on how we direct them, train them, encourage them, motivate them, and pay them.
Ichak Kalderon Adizes
Founder of Adizes Institute Worldwide