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At the École Nationale d'Administration

14.11.2019

Dear graduates!

Please accept my sincerest congratulations!  In a way, here today you are coming to the end of your formal education path – postgraduate studies.

Therefore, it is apt to look how this educational path you followed, matches the need of you yourself and the future of our society. And what might need to change for the next generations, to make them best prepared for the challenges they face.

Curriculae have always been prepared from the perspective of the past. We all have acquired an education our parents thought would prepare us adequately for the challenges of our generation.

Of course, as all loving parents, they have got some things right and missed some opportunities. Similarily, we are sending our kids to the schools today, to prepare for the challenges of the early 21st century, but not for the II half of it. How might our educational proposal look 25 years from now?

We had noticed that technological cycle is shortening. We did foresee, to certain extent, that the 21st century would see birth and death of much more inventions than the 20th century. After all, only petroleum lamp and horse cart truly expired in the 20th century. Most inventions just got more efficient, but survived.

We did not foresee that the digital disruption to our societies would be so profound that many of our kids will be able to work very differently from us.

We did not foresee that geography becomes meaningless for many professionals while seeking jobs. We did not foresee that many of them would not need to do what economists for a whole century thought inevitable – gather into enterprises in order to, through specialization, work in the most productive manner.

We did not foresee that the proportion of people in developed economies working in industry would fall from about 30% 25 years ago to 19% today here in France when you graduate and maybe to 3-5% of the whole workforce by the time our kids will graduate.

We did not foresee that the next generation would be the most powerful generation of history, free to work where they want, when they want, with whom they want and able to reconsider as often as they wish.

We give on the freedoms we ourselves love – the four freedoms of Europe, Eurozone and Schengen. However, digital disruption is giving our kids much more we ever could.

They will enjoy an absolute freedom globally, determined and defined only by their own imagination – and alas, our regulation, allowing or restricting these new freedoms. Our kids can work in different enterprises, even different countries, simultaneously.

They will not need to demand flexible working hours; instead, they will define them yourselves. Our kids will not accept to sit in one house, one city or one country while they work. They will insist that even, should they work as a controller of an assembly line; they should be able to do so from a Mediterranean beach or from the top of the Alps.

They will not accept long-term contracts, stipulating the working hours or competition clauses, as they will definitely be able to sell their specialized skills independently and to many enterprises simultaneously.

We did not prepare them for that from the day one when they entered école maternelle. Nevertheless, I know that we have also got something right. We have trained our kids in human rights and liberal democratic values.

These values and freedoms remain under constant pressure globally both from outside as well as from inside of our societies. It is up to our children to uphold them.

The values they carry are much more important for the future than any technical skill we did or did not provide our children with.

We have seen our society disrupted by the development of the digital technologies. However, we have not yet been able to adapt the society to the new reality. This work is for our children.

The way they will live and work does not even fit our categories of employee, employer, self-employed person or unemployed person or a person on parental leave. They can easily be all these at the same time.

We have not yet figured out how to change our social systems to this new reality. Our current social model shadows the industrial working model.

However, if the old industrial work model is gone, the society built on the river of taxes flowing in from bigger and smaller enterprises, and being spent according to the social contract on people with certain home addresses cannot survive. If we want our social market economies to survive, we must meet the demand of our children to provide all the redistributive services globally.

They will want healthcare wherever they find yourself. They will seek native language tutoring for their own kids even far from the language environment itself. They will want to participate and vote in the state they feel closest to, and pay the taxes to the state they feel provides them with the best support scheme for them, the new generation of the globally working and living citizen.

I know we should have thought of it earlier and present you with solutions already. However, it is only dawning on us now that we should. We are not ready and therefore we risk losing your taxes, your participation in our social systems and your trust towards the state as the provider of security network. In principle, you in this room can just go private. You are well educated, you will have high salaries, and you can afford it. However, it will be the end of the social Europe.

It is urgent to figure out the new, free social contract between a state and a citizen, where the state takes responsibility to continue providing services to their citizens wherever they work and wherever they live. The citizens, in exchange, can contribute to the state`s resources according to their income, whichever and wherever its origin.

Without this new model, our society, which is able to provide the security networks we are so used to, is gone. Income differences will get difficult to bear if basic services like education and healthcare would stop being available to all. Social mobility will die. In addition, it all will happen at this crucial period when we need resources to help those more vulnerable in our societies to adapt to the change we are currently living.

You will also need to adapt the education system to the needs of your kids the way we never did. Your kids will be entering school much more literate, much more knowledgeable than you did. They have the world at their little fingertips from the age they learn to swipe the screens. Educational programs available for kids are already bringing into school children who have skills in math or language or geography far beyond the level their school program expects. You have to adapt their teaching accordingly.

As the technology gets more and more smart, our kids will live in the world where learned machines operate among them and do so more independently. Machines will be smart in what they are trained to do, yet not have the general, unlimited intelligence of a human being. Our world is not adapted yet to this change. You must also take care of that.  We urgently need international agreements, control and monitoring tools for truly autonomous, singular AI. If we can adapt our laws and standards for that level, all lower levels of technology will be simultaneously covered and we would not need to readapt at every new achievement designed to gradually rise the intelligence of the AI in various sectors. And this new regulative environment has to be cross-sector, tech neutral.

You see the problem. However, please do not be scared by the technology development. At personal level, please do not restrict your kids` interest to gadgets but make good use of their curiosity. At national and international level, please be better than us in smartly creating the national and international legal space for technology development, use and control. Then you will reap the full benefits for the society and control the associated risks an prepare the world for your kids better than our generation could for our children! I wish you all the best in exceeding the accomplishments of all the previous generations of policy-makers and society changers!