Christoffer Rudquist for WIRED, 2017

The future of work – and some would argue the future of the world – depends on the myriad ways we use and implement technology. The machines humans have created – in a lot of ways an image of themselves – are eager creatures, as some would fear, to surpass and replace us. It is the stuff of blockbuster movies and for blockbuster companies. Steve Bezos presented this walking giant of a robot in 2017 at the company’s MARS conference, which stands for Machine-learning, Automation, Robotics and Space exploration. It is four meters tall, made of aluminium and translates the movements of the person standing in the cockpit into movements of his own. When the human lifts an arm, the machine lifts an arm. The use for this could be nuclear waste or other cleanup efforts. A machine to undo what machines and technology have done.

Socio-Economic Transformation

Towards an economy that serves social well-being within planetary boundaries.

Our economy must serve our social needs and respect planetary boundaries. But this is currently not the case: we are on an unsustainable path. Our economic activities have contributed to societies growing more unequal across various dimensions, depriving some of fulfilling their basic human needs and putting the political systems under stress. Our economic activities are also responsible for progressing climate change and the loss of biodiversity, putting the earth’s natural capital at high risk with catastrophic consequences for our lives. Our future depends on our ability to transform our economic system – to take stewardship in transforming the system in accordance with our collective goals.

This programme is about the socio-economic transformation. We will explore how we can transform our current economic system in a way that meets human social needs without undermining the integrity and stability of the environment.

This requires reliable measures of progress so that we can evaluate if we reached our economic, social and environmental goals. Businesses also have a responsibility for reporting their contribution to society and the planet, and not to shareholders. In our fellowship programme on the Measurement of Prosperity, we will develop a normative dashboard of indicators for the economic, social and environmental domains. We will also collect disaggregated statistics that fall within these domains. As a result, discussions about the normative framework of a dashboard will be connected with the actual provision of indicators.

Against the background of the rapid proliferation of digital technologies, it is an urgent task to ensure that the rules of the digital economy are more directed to the broad interests of humans, not just businesses and governments. Our programme on Digital Governance will bring new concepts and diverse international partners to an increasingly complex digital governance agenda. The programme assembles pivotal policy makers and institutions of influence to develop a humanistic model of digital governance

An economic transformation that serves social well-being within planetary boundaries requires an investigation of New Paradigms for Economics. Orthodox economic theory is based on characteristics that stand in contrast to these goals: e.g. individualism, socially disengaged behaviour, utility-based well-being, or progress as economic growth. In a workshop series, we will explore alternative paradigms.

Through our collaboration with the Global Solutions Initiative and engagement with global policy advisory processes for the G7 and G20, other aspects pertinent to the economic transformation agenda will also be tackled in this programme.

The following questions will be addressed:

  • Can we create dashboards with regular and consistent measures of economic, social, and environmental prosperity?
  • What are effective policies for promoting economic, environmental, and social prosperity that are consonant with the dashboards?
  • What are the measures of policy effectiveness that should guide the politics on wellbeing?
  • Where do prime barriers of the implementation of long-standing ideas for sustainable economies lie and how could they be overcome?
  • Which social and environmental challenges will digital technologies create in the future?
  • What policies do we need for the digital economy to serve broad interests of humans, and our planet, not just of businesses and governments?
  • What should new paradigms for economics look like?
  • Which scales and actor coalitions seem most promising for a systemic rethinking and implementation of innovative economic models?

Where do we currently stand and how to become involved

Together with the Programme Director for Economic Transformation, Dennis Snower, we are currently in the process of conceptual clarification for a fellowship programme. The first cohort of fellows is expected to take up their work by October 2022. Fellow work will start with a focus on issues of measurement, taking up suggestions by policy-makers, and will also take into consideration concepts of a well-being economy. If you are interested, please refer to our section How to join for further information. If you wish to be informed about outcomes and new developments, we suggest that you subscribe to the THE NEW INSTITUTE newsletter.

Dr. Dennis Görlich, Proragmme Manager



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