Juliane Kästner: You refer to the “empowered individual” in your studies Technology as an enabler of sustainable well-being in the modern society. Why are we as individuals more empowered in these days?
Risto Linturi: We are empowered as a customer, as a citizen. As customers we are very powerful in comparing prizes and searching for features. We are also very powerful as a citizen. I heard about a teenager at London. She has written software to empower all those people in New York and London who had been fined for wrong parking. 250.000 people used that software in the last three years to contest their parking ticket. And 160.000 times it succeeded at court.
Many products, processes and services become useless. I read about a small device that is able to produce medicine, to synthesize biological substances like insulin. Other low-cost devices analyze components in food. Why would we than need country- and Europe-wide organizations to do that for us when it is way cheaper to do the analysis at home?
Devices for blood or DNA analysis or for medical self-diagnoses at home become ever cheaper. One does not need to consult a physician for these services any more.
These kinds of developments change the relationship between the individual and the physician. Even research in rare diseases is changing. Patients join networks, analyze themselves, experiment with themselves and then share the information with the network. They seem to produce results that are equal to those attained by laboratories.
You mention a change of relationships. What do you think about the relationships within traditionally managed major companies, between subordinate and superior or between peers?
I think, that an Internet strategy game environment is so much better than any ERP system in major companies. Because it shows how each member of the group affects the others, where each of them is most helpful and what ones own behavior and actions towards personnel or clients results in. In this way they were able to communicate and to learn from each other.
You can compare it with the self-organization of ants in an anthill. Major corporations do not achieve this kind of flexibility and empowerment of the employee. They do not use the brains of their employees; they use their employees as robots. They just do not have software that is sophisticated enough for a strategy game environment, they do not have the vision and they do not understand how an anthill works. I think most managers do not even understand that an anthill is self-organized, that is has no boss, and that it still organizes more swiftly and economically more efficient than an army does.
But the question remains: Who is responsible for what the organization does, for accounting purposes and responsibility management? The ants encoded in their DNA to make positive sum games, that the sum of outcomes of negative and positive decisions and behavior is positive.
Maybe it is not a natural development to change from a dinosaur to a network system. And it may be very difficult for major corporations to change their production lines and cultures to suit the new paradigm.
If the change to the new paradigm is so difficult for major corporations, do you think that they are able to survive in the long term?
Well, what does surviving mean? You can compare a major corporation with a car. You can take out all the inner components, only the shell remains the same. And then you put a new engine and new components in it and say it is the same car. The major corporations might survive as brands. But the paradigms and the structures would need to change, like IBM did.
I think most companies need to reinvent themselves. Let us take car manufacturers. In 20 years they might end up renting the car per hour instead of selling it. And they will insure themselves. If you own one million cars, then you already share the risks. There is no need for an insurance company.
The models are changing and the governments find it quite hard to deal with these kinds of development.
You also explain in your studies that technology will allow us to produce energy, food, clothing or machinery locally in each town with the help of robots. With this the local identity and social cohesion will strengthen.
Since we are empowered more and more, we end up doing things for our neighbors and for ourselves. Things we were incapable of doing earlier, because we did not have the knowhow and the tools. And now the tools become abundant like 3D printers or robots preparing food.
If I would have a robot that could paint The Last Supper, I could lend it to my neighbors and it would paint great art to their walls or their car. And one of my neighbors would lend me his robot designed to lay bricks and build me a garage. We become professionals to dozens of new jobs due to our robots. And if we share them, a small village could do everything, just borrowing each other’s robot.
And this does not require money, because the robots are relatively cheap and their usage creates no marginal costs. The only costs that occur are those for the raw materials.
This near zero marginal costs economy, coined by Jeremy Rifkin, is really powerful. The challenge for the governments will be that they get no money out of it, no taxes: The robots are shared and no monetary transaction is taking place. The governments will get their only funding by the old dinosaurs.
What other impacts might this development have on today’s globalization?
Robots become more capable and more flexible, enabling small local communities to manufacture products locally with low or no transportation costs. The high capability and flexibility of the robots also results in shorter production runs. Products can be adapted to changing needs in the market very easily, quickly and cheaply. Communities within a nation specialize and their products are tailored to their local needs.
The physical trade of products between nations will go down. The trade with raw material will remain, but it will be much lower than today.
Summarized, the development of technologies will enable communities to manufacture locally, giving emphasis to cultural differences and a local identity. The sharing economy – based on trust – will strengthen the cooperation and therewith also social cohesion of small communities.
Thank you very much, Mr. Linturi, for this interview.