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Lucía Velasco: “Millennials are going to inherit or we'll see”

We do not know if an algorithm will retire us soon, but at least we can debate about it with arguments, the ones that Lucía Velasco has put on the table. This 39-year-old economist from Madrid with experience in Congress, Moncloa and the European Commission sheds light on the dangers and advantages of the matter in Is an algorithm going to replace you? (Turner).

Question. Do algorithms change us? Have they already done it?

Answer. They are influencing our lives more than we think and we must take care that they do not condition us. They are a tool that comes to take away our work.

Q. Are they already applied in human resources?

R. Yes. In the US, pre-selection processes are often carried out by algorithmic management, through programs that detect words. If you know what words to use you will pass the algorithm's filter. There are even systems that interview you, detect your facial movements, your tone, your pronunciation.

Q. Not in Spain?

R. There is no transparency in this. Nobody has a registry of algorithms and nobody communicates what they are using them for.

Q. And can that have a good result?

R. Obviously not for me, but a machine selecting based on parameters is more efficient than a person listening, and that is the crux of the matter. If those who speak with a British accent and a certain sociocultural level pass the filter, you are limiting access to a part of the population.

Q. Is digitization something we should fear or dominate?

R. We have to govern it, understand how it impacts people and detect if there is a source of conflict. That is where public policies should be. But well-governed and applied digitization is a source of prosperity. It takes away from us very heavy tasks that do not contribute and in which the machines are much better.

P. The feeling is that there are a few who benefit and many who are harmed.

R. Spain starts from a broken, dual labor market, with temporality and precariousness that increases in a context of technological change and crisis. This especially affects young people and hampers people's life projects and emancipation.

Q. Do you see danger in this gap between young and old?

R. I see danger in facing them. It saddens me that they insist on generationally confronting two blocks of the population. There are neither good nor bad here. I don't consider myself young anymore, but my entire millennial generation lives with that feeling that you can be fired at any moment and that you will never have a mortgage or savings. You have to inherit or we'll see.

P. We are going to divide soon between heirs and people who do not inherit. Who faces them?

R. There is a general discourse that older people have many advantages and young people are very bad. Does that mean that you have to take away the pension from those who have worked all their lives? We have to let people finish their quiet life and take care of the rest. Do not take away from one to give it to another.

Q. Is the best industrial policy the one that does not exist?

R. No. Spain must be reindustrialized in a digital key. Understand what we want to compete in, distribute those bets territorially and train the population. We can compete in cybersecurity, electric vehicles, batteries, digital education…

Q. Do we have sufficient digital training?

R. No. Digital training should be at different levels. Not everyone has to be a systems architect, data analyst, designer… there are a lot of new professions in the digital economy and we have enormous potential because we have Spanish on our side. Even the US is on its way to ending up speaking Spanish.

Q. Do you understand the massive abandonment of work, the Great Resignation?

R. People are quite fed up and on the limit. The pandemic and the post-pandemic have removed the fear of jumping into the void. We have realized that not everything goes. We cannot live like a hamster on a wheel. We have to take control of our lives and try to be happy.

Q. Paraphrasing your book: Is an algorithm going to replace you?

R. He is going to accompany us. Substitute is a very big word.

P. In your book you compare digitization with the atomic age.

R. The UN establishes this comparison because it impacts all areas of our lives and, if it is not limited, it can end up passing us over. Technology must be governed and ensure that it responds to people's interests.

P. Digitization is also excluding the elderly.

R. It worries me a lot. There always has to be someone who cares for another human being. Also, we have to make sure everyone is covered. Good quality internet access has to be a basic necessity. As the rate of last resort for electricity, to be paid to those who cannot. There has to be a computer or tablet per person and we have to have a connection to exercise our rights, because our life begins to be there.

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