World Trends Forum organizer: by forecasting the future, we can change the present
Normunds Štāls, chairman of the World Trends Forum organizing committee
We risk getting stuck in a never-ending present and becoming its prisoners if we let current problems completely dominate our consciousness, thereby making us lose our outlook for development.
“Don’t you see what is now going on around you? How can you have any futurological forecasts of social and economic processes, how can you discuss the direction of global growth?” this is the kind of question the organizers of the World Trends Forum have been getting directly and indirectly. Maybe we are trying to hide something behind the analysis of the outlook for health care, urban development, energy and transport, maybe we are thereby trying to divert the attention of society from contemporary priorities? Certainly not! Instead, we are discreetly saying, “don't hide your head in the sand.”
Political crises, especially those on an international scale, have a fantastic ability to get absolutized and make the information space, the agendas of parties and governments – often forcing people, nations and states to believe that in the face of such cataclysms, the cultural, scientific, economic and social processes that form our growth have truly become insignificant. But as a result, we both fail to come with the crisis itself, but also create new problems that have been “swept under the rug” and burgeon in neglected areas. On the other hand, by analyzing, modeling and planning our possible future, we can, at the same time, constructively correct, prevent or pre-empt present-day problems and crises.
The WTF two-day (April 10 and 11) expert discussion program contains the following themes: “Preparing for the Future”, “Future Energy”, “Sustainable Urban Development”, “Regulation of Intellectual Property in the Digital Environment”, “The Era of New Economy”, “The Silk Road of the 21st Century”, “The European Investment Climate”, “Health and Wellbeing” “New Age – New Requirements For Professional Education and Science” and others. These are all significant issues for the development of Latvia and society is aware that some are distinctly problematic – the most acute example is energy dependence. The forum organizers are convinced that the suddenly emerging “background” events – the confrontation between Russia and the European Union (EU) in connection with developments in Ukraine and Crimea – categorically demands these kinds of analyses and the necessity of public discussion. It increases the international impact of the event and the value of the solutions offered, guaranteeing acclaim for the name of Riga and Latvia.
The EU-Russia conflict threatens with serious economic and social problems for the entire world, touching not only the parties directly involved, but also countries and organizations outside of it, slowing the sustainable development of the contemporary world. Moreover, these problems cannot be fully solved or prevented, only by using the political means at the disposal of governments and international organizations. Neither globally, nor locally. Consistent economic action and planning are necessary, but even more – intellectual solutions: the creation of new knowledge, the development of new technologies and their application.
The task of the WTF is to unite scientists, intellectuals, and business experts – representatives of the largest international organizations and multi-national corporations, chambers of commerce and industry, associations and venture capital and investment funds – in a common discussion. This promotes society’s – both in Latvia and the world – perceptions of the onward progression of social, economic and scientific processes, of the work that must be done by researchers, teachers, doctors and entrepreneurs. Society and the political parties that represent it as executors of state power have a completely free choice whether to adopt these expert recommendations and forecasts, or to ignore them. The forum has neither political goals nor any subtexts. Moreover, such are not even possible: neither the organizers of the WTF nor its supporters – the Latvian Academy of Science, The Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Riga City Council, nor the invited speakers, who are academic and business experts with international reputations – have a political mandate nor any ambitions to pretend to the authority that belongs to national governments. All that the WTF wants and can offer to its participants and society is wider knowledge of the world around us and about our future – and what we can do to make it more harmonious, prosperous and secure.
Latvia is a good place – geographically, and, if you wish, also geopolitically – for a discussion of the future of Europe and the world. This is a suitable and favorable moment, when Riga is the cultural capital of Europe. We are also aware that it depends on our own resolve and the knowledge we gain, how we shall plan Latvia’s future in the global economic space and how to create it. One doubts whether we – especially now – wish to sit with our hands folded and wait for others, who are “bigger and wiser” to solve everything and tell us what to do.