My five minutes with the leaders of Europe

Here’s a transcript of what I said, when given five minutes to talk directly to the leaders of the European Union and it’s member states. I tried my best to send a message of hope, and to emphasize that we can use the new opportunities we’ve created for ourselves to solve the big challenges that so urgently needs to be addressed. But it requires that we’re prepared to reorganise our entire society. The short speech was given at the Social Summit 2017, hosted by the Swedish Government, and located in Gothenburg, Sweden.

“This important summit takes place in a time when humanity is at a crossroads.

Cities are growing, flows of people, goods, ideas and information are growing rapidly, and with them the environmental and social impacts of these flows. We understand therefore that we need to transform our society, our cities, welfare institutions, supply chains and consumption patterns into something sustainable, and that we are in a hurry to do so.

Right now, we’re in the early but critical stages of that transformation, and how we handle this change will directly impact the lives of hundreds of millions. It’s a huge challenge, but one where we now have opportunities that we didn’t before.

Thanks to digitalisation and automation we can now organise resources more efficiently than ever before. All kinds of resources, varying from materials and vehicles to people and knowledge. We’ve seen the impact in media and retail, and we’re now beginning to see an equally transformative impact on everything from utilities and finance, to transport, health care, education and the work force as a whole.

For instance, Google recently launched Google jobs search, an initiative aiming at indexing all the job posts in the world, including data on what skills are required and what salary is offered. They then apply their world leading AI skills at analysing what jobs and skills should match, regardless of what the title of the job is. Such initiatives will further increase transparency in the work market. It will also increase the mobility of a millennial work force, already the most globalised generation in human history.

The fact that we can now digitalise and automate how we assign jobs and tasks, is fuelling a growing gig economy. We ask ourselves what that means to workers’ rights? To social insurances? These are valid and important questions, as long as we also acknowledge that jobs distributed through platforms are not necessarily unfair and bad. A digitalised work market can also provide transparency and fair terms, but needs to be organised differently.

We also see an increase in automation. No longer only in industry, now lawyers, doctors, teachers and economists all face increasing automation. Many fear a jobless future. But we should remember the industrialisation of the 19th century. At that time, basically all jobs in the previously manual textile production where lost. All of them. Still, the total growth of jobs increased for 200 years, as long as demand increased. Before industrialisation there was no retail as we know it. No marketing jobs. No supply chain specialists. Now there are, and that has given us fantastic increase of health, wealth and well-being. We understand that this time around new jobs will be created too. Value is a social construct, and humanity continues to invent new things to value.

But we should be asking ourselves what sort of demand will keep growing for the next 100 years? What demand should be stimulated to fuel transformation to a sustainable society? How about health? Human interconnectedness? The stuff we need to build emotional resilience in a time of constant change and information tsunamis.

We also need to act on the fact that most growing demand will require solutions that build on our new raw material; data. Data must be available, interoperable and accessible to innovation.

And finally, remember that while many jobs will disappear, most professions will still be around. It’s the tasks. in those professions, the tools and work processes that change.

This fact brings us to the most important challenge to address here: Differences are now growing, between the individuals, organisations and nations that are capable of harnessing these opportunities into skills, productivity and increased quality, and those who are not. Bridging that gap is our most important task in the years ahead.

So lifelong learning isn’t something for our young generation, it’s critical for us to start learning. People born in the 60- 70-ies 80ies should be learning new things every week.

How can we set incentives and opportunity to learn in a way that compels individuals, employers, institutions to maximise and optimise the flow and penetration of knowledge?

We now have access to a new digital dimension that allows us to access and share knowledge with the speed of light, anywhere on the planet. That’s far more impactful than the printing press. We can use that to increase our learning, as a society, in an order of magnitude.

We can do that. We should do that.

So I’m very glad to see all these EU leaders here to discuss how to distribute opportunity fairly. And, may I add, as abundantly as only a digital world can allow.”

You can also watch a video of the talk here: