How to apply and achieve the 17 SDGs in a world where the evolution of technology is exponential and where nearly all social and economic models are disrupted?

19 Mar 2018 14:30h - 16:15h

Event report

[Read more session reports from the WSIS Forum 2018]

The session was moderated by Mr Philip Koenig, Mr Mohamed Balghouthi, Mr Raymond Morel, Mr Bob Bishop, and Mr Peter Major and based on the purposes of global goals for greater good.

The panel discussion was introduced by the first speaker, Professor Jacques Dubochet, Nobel Prize Winner 2017 in Chemistry. Recalling achievements in the electro crypto-microscopy field in the last 30 years, he recalled the importance of information availability and the role of knowledge for humanity. He argued that society has moved from scarcity to excess: climate change is an example of how humankind is destroying the environment. Dubochet stressed the power of knowledge, underlining that knowledge without consciousness is but the ruin of humankind’s soul and could lead to damage. In his conclusion, he stressed the importance and need for people and scientists to do more and to have more humanity.

Introducing the second speaker, Balghouthi stated the need for durable developments, and the need to rethink the circular economy. Recalling Ricardo and Smith’s economic theory, he argued that the current situation can be located at the end of the model which requires the need to rethink the supply chain and calls for the re-implementation of corporate social responsibility. In line with this argument, the second panellist Ms Juan Liu-Dong, a sustainable purchasing specialist and manager of a Franco-Chinese investment fund, stressed the equality equation between distributed information and a distributed economy while raising the question of the future of know-how, ethical values, and the reconsideration of the role of scientists for the purpose of the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

The third speaker, Mr Dirk Helbing, professor of Sociology and Informatics at the ETH in Zurich, recalled that the main issue to address is sustainability. His argument focused on big data and the use of the information it provides. Thus, he touched on the following points:

  • He raised the issue of artificial intelligence (AI) in complementing and fixing incorrect correlations in big data while pointing out that whoever leads AI will lead the world. Through such a lens, he emphasised the Chinese totalitarian strategy and argued that technological totalitarian approaches were already present in the West. Nudging, platforms like Crystal, and the concept of neuromarketing are examples of this trend.
  • He proposed Digital Democracy 4.0 as a way to put human dignity at the core of the process, followed by the necessity of implementing the ‘informational self-determination’.
  • He introduced Finance 4.0 with the concept of ‘democratic capitalism’.
  • He then mentioned peace rooms, and the case of Cambridge Analytica creating a new scenario for war rooms. He pushed for their shift into peace rooms, featured by more transparency, democratic frameworks, and a broader inclusion of scientists and civil society.

In his conclusion, Helbing stressed the need for ethics as a value of pluralism. Thus, the paradigm should move from the control of people to co-empowerment and co-operation. The solution seems to be structured around a self-organising, sustainable, and resilient society, built through the Internet of Things.

The fourth and final speaker was Mr Andrea Bassi, extraordinary associate professor at Stellenbosch University, who structured his speech on the book Tackling Complexity: A Systemic Approach for Decision Makers. He shared the view of systemic approaches and actors as the solution to implementing the SDGs into national and local strategies. He proposed System Thinking as the only pattern in which humankind has the capacity to create. The system is based on three underlined features – feedback, mechanisms, and non-linearity – and it creates coherence between the policy level, scientific analytics, and policy implementation. This would be driven by the following pattern, structured in five phases:

  1. Problem identification
  2. System characterisation
  3. Strategy/policy assessment (ex ante)
  4. Decision making and implementation
  5. Monitoring and evaluation (ex poste)

The session concluded with a call for collaborative efforts to achieve and implement the 17 SDGs.


By Stefania Pia Grottola