Why Nobel Prize winner is betting on social entrepreneurs

"We created a civilisation based on one basic principle; profit maximisation," he says.

"With profit maximisation, we become money-making robots. We are no longer human beings and that is why we created global warming, wealth concentrations and everything else."

He says money has made the world intoxicated.

"We want to create a civilisation based on human values and not on profit maximisation," he says.

The 2006 Nobel Laureate is in the country for the first East African Social Business Forum on Youth Entrepreneurship themed 'Unleashing the entrepreneurial spirit in East African youth'.

The summit is being held at Tangaza University College this week.

Prof Yunus founded the Grameen Bank, a micro-credit institution that provides capital to the poor and self-employed. It is this venture, which started in 1976, in a village in Chattogram district in Bangladesh that earned him the Nobel.

And he is determined to replicate this across the globe.

Global warming

He says while scientists have predicted doom with the prophecy of global warming, politicians on the other hand are assuring the world that things will be okay. That the situation is in good hands. Their hands.

He says this world is not going to survive.

"That is very clear," he says. "Who should we believe? Should we believe our politicians who are promising that everything will be okay or believe in scientists who say everything is not okay?"

Prof Yunus likens global warming to the house burning but the inside world is still partying. He says it is up to us to take action.

"We make beautiful speeches. We have COP26, COP27; God knows how many COPs we will be happening," he says adding that these meetings are filled with promises with deadlines like 2030, 2050 or maybe 3000 which more often than not are not accompanied by action."

One such is a recommendation by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that in order to avoid a climate catastrophe, global emissions should be reduced by half by 2030.

"By 2030 or 2050 we will not see anybody here. They will be all gone. It is so close. We are not talking in terms of centuries but decades if we are lucky," he says. "If a new generation will be there in 2050; or will there be a generation? We don't know. Today is 2023, not far from 2050."

New civilisation

Prof Yunus says it is time new roads and new ships are built to steer the world into the new civilisation.

"What will be the new civilisation? Zero global warming, zero unemployment, zero wealth concentration. The latter is more dangerous than global warming but we do not realise it," he says.

"All the wealth we create in the world within our own country always goes to the top. That is the economic machine we built. We work for the entrepreneurs, they make the money, we wag the tails and we go home."

He predicts that this system will collapse with the dawn of the new civilisation.

And in his fight against the system, he makes his stand known on the extremes of a digital revolution.

He states that while technology has made life bearable for many, there is a line that should not be crossed.

While his initiative of three zeroes is pushing for zero unemployment, advancement in technology on the other hand is rendering individuals jobless.

Artificial Intelligence

Prof Yunus says when artificial intelligence came to the fore, it was celebrated by many, particularly economists, as they saw a quick solution with applications like ChatGPT and its variations. To him, this presents a world where no one will work.

"And I keep raising the question that if we are not doing the work who is going to feed you? The people who are in support of AI, the economists particularly, have a quick solution that doesn't worry about your food; we will provide you universal basic income," he says.

"Is this the fate of human beings to live on universal basic income? Meaning someone will give you food every month? Is it what we are looking for becoming universal beggars, and we do not do anything?" he poses.

He says a human being is the most creative of all creation. And your life becomes meaningless if you do not create.

"Even then for the sale of argument, I agree that the state will provide food, where is the state? Who runs the state? Smart machines will run the state. Why should they care about you? In any case, do you have to depend on the decision of the machine for your life?" he poses once again. "My simple conclusion is no, we don't want artificial intelligence."

His unconventional view is that a line must be drawn and technology divided into parts.

"Technology can be a blessing for human beings, which it has been for very many years, and it can be a curse which has happened in the past, very marginally, but it is coming in a big way," he says.

"We must decide now before ChatGPT and all those things being bigger and you lose control of everything. You lose that you are not going to get back, that's for sure. It is a one-way traffic."

He says the power of decision-making and creativity belongs to human beings. And not machines.