Anatoly Chubais' Column

“This Thought Seems to Me Crazy Enough to Discuss It”. Anatoly Chubais about Fundamental Trends of Human Development. Speech at 13th STS Forum, Kyoto, Japan

07 October 2016

Dear Chairmen, esteemed colleagues!

My short speech on sustainable development I will try to divide in two parts: first is about the digital world and another on material world. I believe, sustainable development cannot be understood without understanding those two parts of the modern technological revolution. Certainly, I’ll not pretend for comprehensive analysis, but just for snatching out single trend in each of them.

Digital part, the ICT, is huge and comprehensive. Probably the most frequently discussed here is the topic of self-driving. Self-driving cars, self-driving tracks, self-driving ships, trains, helicopters, planes. What does it means in reality? That the ICT start to be able to operate in a very specific sectors of high human responsibility. I would say even more: on the previous stage of the ICT revolution computer helped human, but now it starts to substitute human. Reminds industrial revolution here, when machines, mechanisms, engines start to help and then substitute workers in what they were doing. But in that time, in time of industrial revolution mechanisms substitute human in physical capacity, and now it starts to substitute human in intellectual capacity.

This fundamental deepness on interference of ICT in human activities will have strong and fundamental outcomes on sustainability. In this context we are discussing a robotization, we are discussing a labor market, we are discussing a rate of unemployment, etc. But I want to ask myself, what will be the next sector of human activity, what will be the next occupation, which can be substituted by the computer, by the ICT?

Speaking about self-driving cars, I said that this is the sector of decision making with very high responsibility. So what next? What is the next sector of decision making with high responsibility? Being a manager myself, maybe the next sector where computer will start to substitute human will be… management?

I don’t think I am speaking about the years, but may be about the decades. Management, as we all know, is very comprehensive and diversified type of occupation, so maybe there are some less sophisticated management levels will be substituted first, and then stage by stage it will go further. If that’s true, maybe the next era coming and we will call it “Demanagerization”? If we are speaking now about unmanned driven vehicles, why we she’ll not speak about unmannedmanaged companies? Why not think about the next stage of ICT revolution which one may call “demanagerization of human activity”. For me this idea sounds crazy enough to be discussed here.

That’s the possible trend in digital part of sustainable development.

As we come to the material part of the sustainable development, one word coming to my mind is the word suggested by famous economist, philosopher, and writer Vaclav Smil: in his recent book he suggested the term “Dematerialization”. If this term meaning would be decline of global material and energy demand, based on new materials with upgraded physical, mechanical, electrical properties, it may present fundamental trend in material world.

On the previous STS Forum I was privileged to speak here about the nanotechnology, about nano-augmented materials. It is well known that if some nanoparticles, like carbon nanotubes, will be added in proportion less than 1%, to the plastic, cement and metal, they will strongly affect final material mechanical, physical and electric property. That is what we are doing in Russia. And one of our companies—OCSiAl—which is able to produce Single Wall Carbon Nanotubes in industrial scale technology step by step started to develop this market. So we are currently working with 5 of top 10 manufactures of lithium-ion batteries (increasing life-cycle of lithium-ion batteries), elastomer producer (making elastomer electrically conductive), with 8 of top 10 paintings and coating manufactures, with the drone manufactures, with the global chemical companies, with transparent conductive film producers, car and aircraft producers. All these huge markets are start to open stage by stage just last year. Situation strongly changed this year versus what I was able to speak about here last year. In the year 2016 we are tripling production and the sales of the company. And if we commissioned last year first in the world the 5-tonn of SWCNT reactor, now we are building the next with the 50-tonn capacity SWCNT reactor. Why? Because we believe, there is something that may really make basic material much lighter, much stronger, to reduce the amount of materials, to save energy and that will generate fundamental positive impact on the sustainability. There are three basic materials the human designed world consist from—metal, cement and plastic. If we will be able to produce them lighter and stronger, that is something what can bring strong upgrade on sustainability in a global sense.

Am I wrong or am I right speaking about the demanagerization? That’s the part where I just want to be provocative, following the instruction of our chairman. When I speak about dematerialization—new materials, nano-augmented materials—I’ve tried to go from hypothesis to facts and forecasts. That is something what we work on and I hope we will be able to share with scientists, business leaders, politicians, anybody of the audience. Anyhow, the trends for demanagerization in digital world and for dematerialization in material world may become point for discussion on this forum.

Текст выступления Анатолия Чубайса на 13-м Международном форуме науки и технологии в обществе (STS Forum) в Киото, Япония