Prof. Dr. Markku Wilenius
Senior vice president, Allianz SE
Member, Club of Rome
Vice President Advisory Board European Futurists Conference Lucerne
The last 12 months have proved true the old Karl Marx proverb laid out in the Communist Manifesto: “all that is solid melts into air”. We have experienced turbulence all around the world in capital markets, in commodity markets, and particularly in energy markets, showing us a glimpse of the next era we are embarking on. And believe me, this is just beginning. I believe that coming generations will call this emerging era an era of transformation. We are pushed towards a very different world, a world where, to once again quote Marx, “men are at last forced to face with sober senses the real conditions of their lives and their relations with their fellow men”.
Because this is how it will be. The next ten years will show the shifting balance of global systems. Moreover, it will lead us to an age of scarcity. The increase of food prices, as well as soaring energy prices, will call us to take a part in the new game that will show us that we need a totally new understanding of global forces. The credit crunch has shown us how vulnerable our financial markets have become. If anything else, it has proved that at the end of the day we need to understand the systems we are using. In this particular case, the instruments of risk reallocation in the financial markets have developed to point of becoming immensely opaque.
Of course, as always, the challenges will be very different depending on which part of the world we are looking at. The demographic change will hit Europe like a hammer during next ten years. The aging population will put tremendous pressure on governments as they try to find means to tackle the problem of human capital. On the other hand, fast developing countries like China and India are taking on very different roles in the global scene. While China is taking the role of a global economic powerhouse, India is quickly becoming a global back-office for knowledge intensive services.
To summarize: four different transformations are attacking as quickly as we are heading towards next decade. In addition to demographic change, climate change - a token for humanity overtaxing our biosphere’s capacity - will move us towards new energy infrastructures that will lead us, faster than we may now imagine, towards a post-carbon world. This change, coupled with a technological revolution that will truly bring renewables to the marketplace, is shaking our understanding of the kind of infrastructure needed for the long term survival of our species.
All this change calls for an immense amount of innovation. Governments will enforce it with all the means available. NGO´s will increasingly bring their expertise to the table to find solutions. And last but not least, private companies will have a crucial role in investing in the new products and services that will steer the system into a more sustainable direction.
We need to feel a certain sense of urgency. The world is waiting for solutions and they better come fast. The economic paradigm as is needs to be replaced with a new one in which externalities become internalities. As the stakes are huge, there are also new opportunities we need to identify. This is why we welcome all of you to participate, to find new solutions and landscapes, to pave our path for the next ten years that is not only greener but also more human. Please feel welcome to attend our conference to discuss the roadmap to our future.