(Updated March 11, 2018: lecture in Zurich)
Prof. Dirk Helbing has published a remarkable set of constructive proposals for CHANGE to improve life on this planet and give society a shared vision to work on. I will post some of his publications below, but let me first give you my remarks on (1) the context and (2) why what Helbing proposes is urgent. (3) how my suggestions for structures, mindsets and ways to act & DO begin where Dirks leaves off.
(1) The Context
The winds are changing. Although it seemed until recently most people did not care much about political and social happenings, other than big catastrofies & memes with many deaths, certain events have triggered bottom-up movements of people “who do not want to take it np more”. Examples: #BlacklivesMatter , #WomensMarch and now #Emma4Change : in response to the school shooting in Florida. Other recent bushfires are the angry voter movements in Europe. These are labeled as ‘shifts to the right’ and silly successes of ‘Populist Politicians’ by ego-pumping media commentators, anchorpersons and the ruling establishments. But the angst and anger of the middle classes runs much deeper than that.
So why do people all over Europe vote for populist politicians?
Because these politicians are nationalist autoritarians, the Mussolini’s of our time, who promise to re-establish order under their strong leadership and a RETURN to the good old days of “industrial growth” of the 1970’s and STEADY JOBS with growth perspective (aka the American Dream). They can promise that, but those days are gone I am affraid. And even worse, both the LEFT communist/socialist parties ideologies and recipes for wealth creation and the right capitalist/ neo-liberal ideology of the Chicago Economics School and Reagan&Thatcher era; are NO LONGER WORKING. The financial crisis started in about 2008 is a social and economic crisis and we are still in it, And in a turbulent transition to a next phase which is by no means clear. The political establishments in many countries certainly have failed to have seen this coming and they are still react with useless old power measures. And they thought it to be clever in order not to be hunted out of their offices to put the blame for their failure on unexpected outside influences, reckless banksters (only those in Iceland where put in jail for their crimes) and …. foreigners and emigrants. Young non-brit professionals are openly addressed as Euro-Trash.
(2) Why are Helbing’s proposed changes Urgent?
Hate of foreigners feeds the populist slogans, but it does not solve anything if the NHS for instance is stripped of its foreign health workers. The problems with the crisis and jobs is based on much deeper changes in work, economy and technology. And finding solutions for those instabilities is very urgent.
Millions of people have angst for their jobs and accept that their effective pay has not grown (while productivity has grown) or even accept lower pay or temp jobs (NL: ZZPers) just to maintain their families. And they see their children struggle to get even temp jobs with low pay, even when they have a solid (but probably outdated) higher education. Robots, AI and IT system ‘digitalisation’ of business processes have and do replace a lot of repeatitive jobs in lower class but also in the middle classes. Think for instance of the huge amounts of office work with their dreadful meetings where millions of people now lead Dilbert like zombie workhours. Knowing that sooner or later their Kafka job will be replaced by computer systems. Not because they are inefficient but simply because many there add no value at all at their desk. And… they know it.
I have the blunt rudeness as a Dutchman to ask even very high managers and public officers, in the midst of their very time consuming and boring in-competence power-quarrels, : “Can you tell me what the added value of you personally and your department is ?”. Usually they react as if lightning has struck them. And then they do not invite me again, ever 🙂 Their problem!
So one of the key questions of our time is, beyond you and your power is: How can we re-connect people to make a transition to jobs with new and evolving ways of Value Creation ???
In the first article below prof. Dirk Helbing outlines what can be done.
(3) I am working on a presentation to design a future vision on society based on a pattern which is running through all the change proposals of Helbing and is based on the forthcoming book New Power, which I will review in a few days in these blog pages. That vision starts where Helbing ends and can be summarized as:
Key to value creation is to make CONNECTIONS between people with deep effective skills, knowledge and abilities AND with a very diverse tribal background and differing point of view. These synthesis connections must enable cooperation and collaboration to solve problems in a constructive way, and in a manner where all contributors benefit and learn from each other. Such constructions can scale up and create New Power. I call this Synthecracy. More about this in the coming weeks I hope.
Jaap van Till, TheConnectivist
=========================== Changes proposed by Helbing========
All of the changes below where published recently, as part of an BRAND EINS – issue about “innovation”, as a German language article; which is unfortunately placed behind a paywall, so I can not re-blog it here. For Euro 6,99 you can buy it as download at: https://www.brandeins.de/magazine/brand-eins-thema/innovation-2018/eine-kapitalistische-utopie
The same ideas are expressed separately in the following articles in The Globalist:
I About Jobs and new organization of Society:
Part I: The Moral Duty of the Elites
It is the moral duty of the elite to avert global disaster.
- We are running out of time to fix the problems of our planet.
- Global disaster is not inevitable — if we re-organize the world in a suitable way.
- A radical re-organization of major parts of our economy appears to be urgently necessary.
- Claiming that our problem is overpopulation of the planet reveals lack of imagination.
Faced with climate change, financial, economic and spending crisis, mass migration, terrorism, wars and cyber threats, it appears we are very close to global emergency.
Given this state of affairs, we are running out of time to fix the problems of our planet. Here, we present what should be decided during the UN General Assembly on September 23, 2017 and a reflexive preamble.
We acknowledge your efforts to improve the quality of life. However, these efforts have also caused a further increase in the consumption of resources and energy.
It appears that this is now driving our planet to the edge: Climate change affects the global water system, agriculture and the basis of the lives of billions of people. It causes environmental disasters, mass migration and armed conflicts. Moreover, it is estimated to threaten about one-sixth of all species on our planet.
There is still time
Nevertheless, global disaster is not inevitable — if we re-organize the world in a suitable way, as discussed below.
The lives of billions of people are at risk. It is the moral duty of politicians, religious, cultural, scientific and business leaders – in short: the elite – to avert likely disasters, humanitarian crises and ethical dilemmas as much as possible.
This requires bringing about the necessary changes of society on the way in a timely manner.
With the aim to “save the planet,” many have urged the world community to reduce carbon emissions drastically by 2030 and almost completely by the end of the century.
However, given that the world population has grown roughly proportional to global oil and gas consumption, such a drop would largely reduce the carrying capacity of the Earth for people — unless the reduction in carbon-based energy can be replaced by renewable energy in a timely manner.
New solutions needed
New solutions are needed not only for heating and transportation, but also for the chemical industry, because the production of plastic and fertilizer currently depends on oil. Altogether, a radical re-organization of major parts of our economy appears to be urgently necessary.
Even though philanthropy and engagement in responsible innovation have increased, this urgent transformation has not taken place to the required extent. To a considerable degree, this is because those who have “vested interests” in the old system have often obstructed change.
However, “vested interests” are no excuse for inaction or delays. Property and power imply responsibility. If this responsibility is not adequately exercised, power lacks legitimacy.
If people have to pay with their lives for “vested interests”, these interests clearly undermine the very basis of societies.
Human dignity, which underpins many fundamental values and human rights, is the imperative that all individual, political and economic action should be oriented at. It is the key value and central pillar of many modern societies and, according to many constitutions, must be actively protected by all means.
A final call to action
If humanity wants to bring a positive future or even a “Golden Age of Prosperity and Peace” on the way, we need to dramatically reform our basic societal institutions, e.g. the present financial and monetary system, our economy and society.
Even though it seems that the current organizational principles of our world have served us well for a long time, they are now often failing to deliver the right solutions early enough.
Within the current framework, time and again we got trapped in suboptimal solutions to complex coordination games, “tragedies of the commons” and problems of collective inaction.
In our highly networked cyber-physical world, linear thinking (the assumption that effects are proportional to their causes) and the ethics of small-group, face-to-face interactions in relatively simple settings are often leading us astray.
Fundamental change is inevitable. It seems that what needs to take center stage now is not how much money or power someone can accumulate, but how much he or she is benefitting others and the world. Apparently, our societies have largely lost track of this basic guiding principle.
A lack of imagination
Claiming that our problem is overpopulation of the planet reveals lack of imagination.
By now it is obvious that all traditional problem-solving approaches have failed to work.
Also, the attempt to revive historical forms of societal organization, empowered by Big Data and Artificial Intelligence, does not seem to work, as the recent experiences in various countries with technocratic Smart Cities approaches have shown.
However, if innovation within the current system is not sufficient, the system itself has to be reinvented and changed.
It seems paradoxical that – in times of an abundance of data and the best technology ever – centralized control attempts failed to boost our most advanced economies and societies to a new level of satisfaction and prosperity, sustainability and resilience.
The reason for this lies in the complexity of hyper-connected systems, in which processing power cannot keep up with data volumes and those cannot keep up with the combinatorial increase in complexity.
Such networked systems often behave in unexpected and counter-intuitive ways: Rather than the intended effects, one will frequently find side effects, feedback effects and cascading effects.
Artificial intelligence is not enough
Given these circumstances, centralized control attempts perform often poorly. Even the most powerful artificial intelligence systems will not be able to manage the overly complex and often quickly changing systems of our globalized world well enough.
As a consequence, a new, decentralized control paradigm is needed, which implies the need for modular designs, diverse solutions, and participatory opportunities.
Therefore, we need new ways of participatory decision-making as well as new designs of the monetary, financial and economic system. In the new framework we propose, co-creation, co-ordination, co-evolution and collective intelligence are the main underlying success principles.
The JOBS idea’s are linked to this Part IV and can be understood by quoting part of the German language article: ”
Other Helbing’s interesting contributions are: III, IV, V and VI. in the above Globalist online article. The City Olympics idea can be found here: http://futurict.blogspot.nl/2017/06/city-olympics-to-improve-world.html
His most recent publications and lectures can be followed on Twitter : @FuturICT
For instance This lecture is very relevant :
eGovernment der Zukunft – Auf dem Weg in die partizipative Gesellschaft
(Slide back to start of this video)