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Researcher Mika Aaltonen sees the future from a different angle

Second renaissance scraps hierarchy

In his new book, futurist Mika Aaltonen, together with Rolf Jensen, presents his views of the restructuring of Western society. If the theory is correct, in the future we will have a completely different way of organizing ourselves and millions of one-man factories

First of all. According to researchers, there are a number of reasons for the need for change. Western societies need to be reorganized if they want to maintain some kind of welfare society. The current structure is unsustainable, both economically and environmentally.

“The public sector's share of GDP has increased steadily over the last 140 years. Depending on the country, it is on a level of about 10 percent to 50 percent. The problem with this trend is that the budgets of most countries have been in deficit for many years,” says Mika Aaltonen, Research Director of Aalto University.

“On the other hand, the way we live and consume is also unsustainable. For example, last year we had used all the resources allocated for the year by August 22. At the end of the year we were living “on credit" using our children’s and grandchildren’s natural resources,” he continues.

Dr. Aaltonen is one of Finland's most internationally renowned thinkers and futurists. He and his Danish colleague Rolf Jensen reflected on changes in society in their book The Renaissance Society, published in New York on May 3rd. A publishing contract was also signed with South Korea. According to the researchers, we are facing a phase of restructuring society on a par with the Renaissance in terms of impact.

Horizontal dialogue

“Although people are freer and more educated than they were in the first Renaissance 600 years ago, our corporations and society are still organized from the top down,” Aaltonen notes.

Change is furthered by a change in values: trust in the establishment and leaders of large corporations has decreased. The globalization of production is moving jobs from west to east, and the Western governments are seen as powerless because they are unable to prevent the loss of jobs. The unusually long economic crisis has exacerbated the general uncertainty. We do not trust governments and big businesses to improve the situation. According to an American study, in the 1960s three out of four people trusted the traditional authorities. Now the figure has dropped to one in four.

“Research shows that trust in the establishment has eroded. At the same time, the desire to network with the same kind of people as ourselves has increased. We believe in those who are like us. This creates a horizontal dialogue, which is very different from the traditional vertical top-down model. The dialogue is supported by the Internet and social media.”

According to the researchers, companies and governments must be involved in horizontal dialogue, because that is where the information that they need in their operations is flowing. They should be involved in a more democratic, horizontal dialogue, so that they can understand what people think and want. Dr. Aaltonen gives an example of the power of social media.

“The Arab Spring and the rise of the current new biggest political party in Italy are based on horizontal dialogue. Companies need to think seriously about their own business management principles and their way of being involved in this society. It means, for example, a lower hierarchy,” he suggests.

The third industrial revolution

In the new model, manufacturing practices will also change. “Within ten years, the 3D printer will transfer production from huge conveyor belts to one-man factories, of which there will be millions.” Dr. Aaltonen describes the change as the third industrial revolution. “First came factories, secondly, production lines, and now the third will be one-man factories.” Dr Aaltonen does not consider that the second Renaissance was a revolution, simply a new way of organizing society. It is the result of a combining our dreams with technology. “During the Renaissance, people were liberated from a strict religious way of looking at the world, and the impacts were tremendous. Equivalent consequences will be created if we give up an industrial vertical leadership style. This will give rise to a more diverse society, which allows people to pursue their dreams and be happier.”

The thoughts of futurist Mika Aaltonen have been heard by leaders of major corporations and he has acted as advisor to governments in many countries. Before starting his career in research, Mika Aaltonen played soccer professionally in Italy, Germany, Switzerland, and Israel.

 

Researcher Mika Aaltonen
Although people are freer and more educated than they were in the first Renaissance 600 years ago, our corporations and society are still organized from the top down