APRIL 2017 ANNUAL CONFERENCE – HAMBURG GERMANY APRIL 21-22 2017
The world in which we all live, work and do business is about to change!
But how & with what impact on cities, our social economy and (geo-)politics?
While turmoil has ravaged most parts of the world, Western developed countries have largely operated within the same framework of political and economic institutions that were established after World War II. The blessing of seventy years of peace and prosperity has, however, a downside: there has been no major X-Events (e.g. world wars or widespread plagues) to burn away the deadwood of half-functioning institutions, out of date practices and unfair systemic dominances that have built up.
In recent years, the complex geo-economic and political structures developed since 1945 have started to creak, provoking one minor X-Event after another (e.g. the 2008 financial crisis, the Eurozone debt crisis, the mass migration of a million people to Germany in a single year, Brexit…). The creaking has created an air of uncertainty, in which the perception has spread that “the elite” has established a “system” that serves only itself, and that the supposed complexity is just a cloak to hide their self-enrichment. This is reflected in the discourse (e.g. “post-factual” public debates), in the resurgence of nationalism in Europe, and in demands for new types of “social” business and new forms of public involvement in politics. Even among more moderate observers, there is recognition that the political institutions, procedures and behaviours are slow, ponderous and unable to keep up with the technological and social changes that are going on around them, let alone address the challenge of the ecological unsustainability of our economic system. As a result, we see the emergence of political forces that do not just promise to change the political party in power, but to break the system, both domestically and internationally. This makes the future even more difficult to anticipate, as the likelihood of additional X-Events seems ever greater.
This begs the question: what will life look like after the change has taken place – how will we live, work and do business? Even if we cannot predict which X-Event will be the trigger of change, we can sketch some parts of the geopolitical, economic and ideological landscape as it is already visible. For a start, more than half of mankind already lives in an urban area. Cities will therefore be the key places where new forms of governance will need to emerge, and where citizens will want to experiment first with new forms of democracy. Also, the staid and dull model of domestic political and international political relations is predestined for an up-set, with the ancient diplomatic formulas and party resolutions being challenged by tweets, mass migration and climate change that recognizes no borders. Finally, the social-economic system is undergoing a radical change, with new business models emerging through the platform economy, automation and artificial intelligence replacing ever more jobs, and new forms of money, finance and exchange emerging.
In this context, this years conference will explore how governments, business, civil society and scientists should behave, both to make themselves more resilient and to ensure that the resulting changes lead to transformation and system improvement.
4Sing GmbH has established the X-Center Germany as part of the Global X Center Network. The Hamburg-based consulting and idea-generating company invites others to participate in joint development of scenarios and identification of alternative futures. It offers a place to exchange on methods and tools for dealing with “unpredictable futures”.