Harald Sverdrup

Aug 13
In this episode, we have with us, Harald Sverdrup. Harald is a professor at Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences. He’s the World’s Bookkeeper, no one knows better what resources remain inside our planet. He’s been working and developed the World6 model. But Harald also, beyond the university, also runs a family recycling business. This has been a business that’s been around for 150 years and profitable every single one of those years. And far more importantly, he’s proud to say that it’s the cleanest recycling plant in the world. More broadly, he takes a strong interest in bringing environmental technologies from research to market, and he’s had a success on that school today. He’s a member of the Balaton group.
In this episode, we have with us, Harald Sverdrup. Harald is a professor at Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences. He’s the World’s Bookkeeper, no one knows better what resources remain inside our planet. He’s been working and developed the World6 model. But Harald also, beyond the university, also runs a family recycling business. This has been a business that’s been around for 150 years and profitable every single one of those years. Far more importantly, he’s proud to say that it’s the cleanest recycling plant in the world. And more broadly, he takes a strong interest in bringing environmental technologies from research to market, and he’s had a success on that school today. He’s a member of the Balaton group. Also importantly, if you do search for him online, you’ll find many results regarding the late oceanographer and Harald’s grandfather, Harald Sverdrup not the Harald we have with us today is the one who has developed the World6 model.

Podcast Transcript

Marek: Welcome to this series of podcasts. This series discusses the risks facing humanity over the next 100 years with leading researchers and we analyse these risks from the perspective of the 4Waves. You can find out more about us on 4Waves.org, four written as a digit. Okay. Today we have with us Harald Sverdrup. Harald is a professor at Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences. But he’s the World’s Bookkeeper, no one knows better what resources remain in our planet. He’s been working and developed the World6 model, which hopefully, we’ll hear more about today. And we’ll also share a link to some additional materials around that in the description. But Harald also, beyond the university, also runs a family recycling business. This has been a business that’s been around for 150 years, I believe, profitable every single one of those years. 

And far more importantly, he’s proud to say that it’s the cleanest recycling plant in the world. And more broadly, he takes a strong interest in bringing environmental technologies from research to market, and he’s had a success on that score today. And he’s a member of the Balaton group. And also importantly, if you do search for him online, you’ll find many results regarding the late oceanographer and Harald’s grandfather, Harald Sverdrup, not the Harald we have with us today is the one who has developed the World6 model. So, without further ado, thank you very much for joining us, Harald. I would like to go straight to our first question, if you don’t mind. 

Harald: Go ahead. 

Marek: Perfect. So, our first question is regarding the period of the next 100 years. So, we’re not thinking today about what’s exactly going to happen in 100 years’ time, how the world’s going to look in 100 years, but the process of getting to 100 years. So, in that move from today, through to next 100 years over this period, what do you believe are the most significant risks facing humanity and human civilization today?

Harald: Well, that’s a question with very many dimensions to it because we have the immediate ones and the obvious ones, two threats. And what we’re seeing is, of course, we are getting very many in the world. And with everybody -- And also we are also seeing an increase in standards of living across the globe. And this comes with a cost. Every little increase in standard living needs, resources, and a lot of them. And we have a traditional way of doing this where the costs are quite high. And we’re now so many that we -- the flow of resources that we take out of the planet are so large, that we risk emptying the resources we have. These resources are not endless, they’re actually quite finite, and we actually can come up with pretty good estimates of how large they are. What we’re seeing -- what is happening is that as we dig deeper and deeper into the pockets of the world, it gets harder and harder to get something out. We need to get deeper and deeper in. And the quality of what we get out is poorer and poorer, which means we need, when we get it up, we need more and more effort, more and more energy and more and more work, and more and more materials to get materials and energy out of it. So, the price goes up, so this increase in progress gets more and more expensive. 

This has been known to take place with oil called EROI, energy return on investment, but actually something exactly the same is going on with also all the other large resources we have. And there are also finite. Things we take for granted like aluminium, copper, or iron, we’re actually capable of running out of those two if we’re not careful. And what we see is during the next 100 years, we’re going to come to points in time where it gets very, very difficult to get them out. We’re going to get resource crises. You know, for one resource and another resource. And in the years between 2040 and 2090. There will be a congestion of crisis coming if we do business as usual. And actually, when we run different scenarios with our model which we made an instrument of looking into what could happen in the future. It’s like when you make weather forecasts, you know, in what kind of runs are there big storm coming. We see that in most scenarios. There is this congestion of resource crises coming if we follow our business as usual, let’s go on and see what happens approach. I think actually, it turns out that business as usual is one of the worst scenarios.

Marek: When you talk about the congestion, why is it that these resources will be running out or are getting very expensive to extract at a similar time? Is it just the way things are scaling in the economy or are there other reasons too?

Harald: It’s partly how things are scaling in the economy. That’s the demand, our demand for taking more and more out. We need to increase what we take out because we have more and more people, and more and more people with higher and higher demands. On the other end, it’s like the birthday parties I went to when I was small when a Coca Cola bottle was a limited resource, every kid got one bottle, and then you started sucking on it. And of course, at one point in time in the party, you heard that slurping sound when the straw sucked the bottle empty. And this is what we’re doing. What happened then was, of course, some kids realized it’s empty and party’s over. But there was always a couple of kids that started screaming, hoping that if you scream loud enough, it fills up again. Of course it never did. But I mean, humanity behaves like this with children at a party. And if we let it come to empty bottles, there is going to be somebody that gets very upset. And I think we need to, we need to change course before we end up there. Because when it is empty, and people start to get upset, they’re going to be difficult to argue with. It’s kind of too late.

Marek: On a previous interview, one of the things that we reminded ourselves of was that economists often like to talk about substitution. Is substitution something which is something that can avoid all this, will the economy not naturally respond to price increases by providing alternative substitutes for those resources? 

Harald: Well, substitution only work in economists offices. It doesn’t work anywhere else. So, have you been to an airport before, and your flight is cancelled because of technical breakdown of the airplane? There are lots of airplanes in the world, so why don’t they just substitute it with another airplane? Well, the problem is, they’re all booked. So, if you look at the copper or the indium, it’s booked. So, if you’re going to substitute a significant part it means if you’re going to get somebody else will not get theirs. You have to take it from somebody else, same as with the airplane. So, if you’re going to substitute the airplane, well, you have to cancel their flight and take their plane. So, in most cases, substitution will not work as soon as you get into volume. So, on single occasions, for small volumes, you can substitute. But substituting a resource, you can only substitute from a resource that is significantly larger, which means it has to be produced very much more of it than the one you’re going to substitute for, then you may be able to arrange something. But you can’t do it the other way because then the volume isn’t present for -- it’s booked and it’s not enough of it. So, substitution will not solve it. [crosstalk] I consider substitution to be a completely dead end actually.

Marek: I’m definitely going to remember the analogy. I hadn’t heard of it before. It’s a very clear one. I guess the other thing that people also like to argue is that current rates of growth will naturally slow down before we hit any kind of crisis. So, population is already decreasing in many countries in the world. Economic growth doesn’t grow at the same rate at early stages as an immature economy. So, is it not the case that we will avoid in a business as usual case this congestion, as you call it, simply by seeing a natural growth and decline?

Harald: Well, we’re already in overshoot. So, we’re already higher up than we actually can sustain. So, of course there is going to be a shortage. For very many resources, the shortage is going to show up in increased prices, significantly increased prices, which very often you’re going to end up with a situation saying, “Hey, wait a minute. If it costs that much, I’m going to go home and think about it. I’m not going to buy it today.” And this means that a lot of our behaviour will probably change, and a lot of the mass users will prohibit themselves through price. But there are also some resources already now, which are running into physical scarcity. And as we’re talking now, there is a large physical scarcity on palladium and rhodium. You can walk into the rhodium shop and say, okay, I want five kilos, put it on the table. And the guy will say, I just don’t have it. There isn’t five kilos in the shop. And you can scream, and you can say I’ll pay 10 times as much. And the guy will still say, well, there still isn’t that amount in the shop. It’s a shortage. It now happens in these rather exotic materials. But of course, as soon as it comes to the ones we take for granted, things are going to start looking differently.

Marek: Could you talk a little bit more about how you would expect it to impact our economy in society, these shortages? Because I think, on the one hand, yes, people can understand that that sounds bad. But I guess in the same way, you provide a very clear visual of the airplanes not being substitutable in those specific circumstances, when you need to fly somewhere. Here, I think it would be also to -- if you could provide a bit more detail of what that would look like on sort of a national or even global scale.

Harald: Yeah. We then have to imagine if a lot of the things that we now have become very much more expensive. And we’re talking of five times the price or 10 times the price, of course, our evaluations will become very, very different. And the price of things will change our patterns also, and how we also deal with those things. I think about a situation that happened actually before also, when a country turned to completely circular society many years ago. In 1914, Norway was invaded and there’s a book about it telling Norway in war times how bad it was and how there was a lack of everything. And they had to recycle everything. And the book has the tone of how terrible it is. I read the book from the point of circular economy. What happened was that all Norway’s imports and all Norway’s exports were shut off. We had to make do with what we had. The incentives were incredibly strong, that there’s no other choice. And within a year, Norway had become circular. They recycled everything they had. Also, the resources became very much more expensive, which meant they went back to repairing things, looking after them, their use and throw away mentality, which just had started, but totally part. 

Of course, when liberation came in 45, it was back to consume as usual and they were very happy to buy things and throw them out the window. The whole behaviour came back. But it shows that as a society if the incentives are strong enough, we can go circular. Of course, it’s very -- it’s always an advantage if you can plan about things in advance than having the circumstances force you, then it’s always less painful and you have more control. It’s more that you can deal with the problems in advance, or you wait until the problems deal with you. It’s a very different situation. When the problems deal with you, you don’t have a choice. If we deal with them in front, we have a choice, we can make choices and we can plan. And this is one of the challenges of long term sustainability is that we can define some goals about what the sustainable space would be like. But we also have to come up with that transition pathway which is also doable and survivable and not hurting anybody. It’s a complex problem that it’s not so easy to come up with a very simple metaphor for it because it maybe a whole story book full of metaphors that are needed.

Marek: I think already the comparison with a situation where people are forced to develop a circular economy as you call it or maybe we’re talking rationing and -- [crosstalk]

Harald: Like my grandfather did during the war, he wanted a new frying pan. He collected four kilos of bent iron nails, put him in his rucksack, went down to the steel hut and said, here’s the metal. And then they said oh, you have the metal, we can give you a frying pan. It was during the Second World War. Now that was a circular society. He actually, he paid with the hard currency which was iron then. And I think it’s not going to be like that, I think, but this kind of philosophy behind things need to be there. 

Marek: I’m going to now pass on to Alexander now for the next section of the interview. So, Alexander if you’d --

Alexander: Yeah. Harald. Could you describe a little bit the specific of a model of World6 because in 1972, the limits to growth was done on a model World2. And I think it was like one but 60 years -- [crosstalk] 

Harald: It was World3 and Dennis Meadows, which is a very, very smart man, he said that I had this great idea for how it should be done. And they wrote a thick book about it, not the Limits to Growth, but the book that came the year after, which is 900 pages long. And there he laid out all their ideas and he said this is what the model should have been like. But he said, on the computers available in 1971, the biggest mainframe in the world in MIT -- [crosstalk] Yeah. Our model took more than three weeks for a single run. He said I had to make some extremely painful simplification. He added all the resources into one pot; oil, iron, wood, water, phosphorus, everything. And it’s simplification like this. But that was the first model that connected the physical world and economic world and the social world. So, he created the basic philosophy that this needs to be connected. So, in World6, he said, okay, in the one we have now the computers are no longer the limitation. And actually, everything that we need to keep separate like Dennis did, we can keep separate. And we can link them. Because also, like yourself, I went to the sustainability meetings, and all these professors with white beards that talked about how everything is linked, and they hadn’t linked anything. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and then I went home and next year, new meeting, and they said the same again. And they hadn’t linked anything. And I thought, dammit, then I have to link it myself. And that’s when we started with the World6. And then what we did then is we said, okay, we need to link economy with the resources. 

Alexander: When did you start to do this? 

Harald: I started this in 2011. It’s now 10 years -- [crosstalk] 

Alexander: Ah, recently when we met. 

Harald: Yes, that’s when I started in serious building the model. But then we said we will start with the physical world first, what exists? And I did this from my background in precious metals. So, what were the first money? Well, the first money was gold. And it started 9,000 years ago in Bulgaria, what gold was the first time was money, and it has remained after. And then gold, silver and copper was money, it was physical, it was real, you could see it. And so we built a resource model. And then when you put value on the resources, they create money flows, and profits and costs and incomes, and that creates an economy. And then you can build an economy model from that. And you take, takeoffs from that to create the social economy. And this way, the economy becomes mass balance and energy balance consistent. This does something very specific to an economy model, because then you see what is real. And in order to do some of them, state finances, you have to add them and then it’s visible that they’re tricks. And this is very, very really -- it’s very pleasant for some to see. And it’s of course, very unwelcome for some to see as well. But this is the way we link the economy and the physical world. And then the said decisions are often based on social inputs as well. 

So, then both the economy model and the physical model needs to be decision and social consistent. So, we linked all these things together and then we did, since there’s not the computer limitation, we then went through all the different essential resources; what do we use to build the world, the materials, steel, iron, copper, concrete, aluminium, stone, sand, and so forth, all the oil and gas and coal and nuclear fuels, which actually provide the energy which is also kind of money, and linking all of this, and then bringing it all together. And then also the technology, metals, which are the small little ones that do the magic and processes like platinum, which is very important as a catalyst. If you take it away, three quarters of all the tech disappears. You know, all the magic of medicine goes away. Or there are things you know, indium or selenium or some of these, if you take them away, all the computers go away. And they’re not needed in large amounts. They don’t exist in large amounts, but we need to have them. And today, they’re also not recycled. We throw it all away. Indium recycling is 3%. [crosstalk] If we link all these things and then we see that, and then we talked about substitution. Some of them have very, very key technical properties, the small magic components, which means there is no alternative, or there’s maybe one, which there is less of.

Alexander: And I remember your napkin calculations when you explain to me that platinum is the crucial resource for the new electric cars. And you explained to me that you don’t believe that we could substitute our 1.3 billion passenger cars, oil cars, to electric cars, because we don’t have platinum. And I said, what about putting? I never thought this way and it explains --

Harald: Yeah. So, for fuel cell cars, you need platinum to be able to do them. And so fuel cell cars, yeah, we can build perhaps 20 million of them, and then we used up all the platinum, okay. So, there is no more. So, that caps that. Well, we can make cars based on electric batteries, lithium batteries. And theirs may be enough to build a fleet of 200 million cars, or we stretch it and make it more efficient, 3-400 million cars. [crosstalk] And then we used all the lithium, and it’s stuck in the batteries. Now if we recycle them, we can get it back. If we throw them away, like we do now, that’s it. And for every kilo of lithium, you need a kilo of cobalt. And there’s less cobalt, than there’s lithium. Well, we can substitute the cobalt with vanadium. But there’s half the amount of vanadium available as there is cobalt. So, it doesn’t really work with a substitution. And that means if we take all the vanadium instead of cobalt, well, then vanadium steel can’t be made. 

So, then we have to take it from where it’s booked, which means there has to be a real puzzle of different types of technologies combined, and it will still not do 1.4 billion cars, it will maybe make half a billion. And the same thing with solar panels. How many can we build? Can we substitute all the oil and the coal with solar panels? It’s a fantastic technology, it works very well and the efficiency is great. But it needs something called germanium and indium and gallium. Well the global -- [crosstalk] and rare, yes. The global platinum production is 180 tonnes per year, 180 tonnes. It’s not even in the thousands. The global indium production is 1,200 tonnes per year, the annual germanium production is even less. So, it means we need to be really careful when we use them. And we actually need to use them in such a way that we must be able to call it back when we need it. It will put us into a position where this use and throw away of many of these technologies isn’t really sustainable. It doesn’t mean that the world gets a worse place. But it needs more thinking and more care. The careless use cannot continue.

Alexander: But when we’re talking people from industries like from metallurgical industries, car industry and so forth, I understand that their maximum horizon when -- for what they are thinking about or worry about usually is, okay. I’m the owner or shareholder of our metallurgical company and maybe for the next 20 or 30 years, I want this business to prosper and I am looking, do I have enough resources for my metallurgical plans for 20-30 years? And after that, I don’t care.

Harald: I know. 

Alexander: And how we could change it and you said that people could manage by circumstances all by themselves by rational agreements. But I don’t see that rational arguments are working. [crosstalk] So, that’s the main problem: how to change the business as usual when you’re thinking to the more strategically orientated and sustainable way of thinking.

Harald: This is going to be difficult and challenging. And I see it in such a way I you know, I see myself as an entrepreneur too. And my basic attitude is you can look at things like problems, but the engineering attitude is to say problems are very good. They tell us where the challenges are. When you solve a challenge you’re a winner. It means also for business there are new challenges, there are new rules coming. And for the businesses that can realize what the challenges are, solve them under the future conditions, they will be the winners. The dinosaur industries, the ones that says I insist on making coal for the rest of this company’s life, they are really dinosaurs, and they will share that fate as well and disappear. There is going to be a big change. And I think we need to realize that this change is coming. Then we have different roles in society. Companies have a major role in innovating, doing things, carrying things out and making it profitable. But government has a specific responsibility for creating the environment for making this possible with legislation, environmental demands, the game rules of how businesses operate, actually lies a lot with the governments and governance, and the legal framework, but also maybe the cultural framework. I usually think like, if you’re going to make big changes in society, it’s very hard to convince the old guys. But the young ones, the recruitment, you can really work with them. It takes more time, it’s a test of patience, but they’re really open to new ideas, and they’re more adaptive. And so in many ways, I think, in order to change, we have to change in the younger generations and change attitudes and education. It’s a longer road to go, but I’m more and more thinking it’s maybe the one that gives the best results.

Alexander: My last question, and this section is, so you said that if we don’t want to meet the collapse for this resource scarcity, so we need to change and we need to create the new recycling globally new recycling approach, but it takes time. So, we can’t change the trajectory doing business as usual. And we can’t, like, go to the conference every year and say, we need to develop recycling, and in 10 years from now, we’ll see okay, the rate of result is still 1%. Oh. [crosstalk] How to organize it to create the 100 year plan? Because people believe in the invisible hand on the market. So, they say okay, don’t worry about it. Don’t ground us, don’t manage us. We know what to do. But how we could change everything because now we understand that we have a lot of global problems on the planet because the invisible hand of the market did it. [crosstalk] So, how to change this.

Harald: Yeah, because there are many things we need to change. It’s not only about recycling, it’s also about attitude, what is success, success in society; what is it? How is that measured? So, it’s also about use, use efficiency, use attitude, why I need things. If you look at them, curve of well-being versus GDP. So, when you have almost nothing, when GDP goes from zero to $5,000, per capita, has a huge impact on well-being. It has a reasonably impact between 5,000-9,000 on well-being. Above 9,000, per capita, the impact on well being from GDP as a thing is very, very weak. So, the increase in well-being from $9,000 per capita, and up to where we are, the dots spread. And the increase in well-being comes from something else than money. 

Now, we need to be far better in understanding what that is. Because if you look at it, in the United States, they consume three times as much energy, two times as much resources, solid resource as we do in Europe or in Scandinavia. Okay, three times as much. Are they three times happier? Have they three times better well-being? Absolutely not. They’re actually worse off than Scandinavia. So, all that extra is for nothing. They don’t -- they ask for it, they get it and it doesn’t do it. So, of course, it’s also focus on where well-being really comes from. So, we need to solve -- recycling is a technical thing. We need to work on social attitudes and how we relate in society to each other, and that having more and more stuff isn’t really happiness. We have to get more out of what we have. 

I’m old enough to think, to remember back to 1976, GDP of the world was 40% what it is today. Now, 1976 in my life was that bad year? That was fantastic. I had much less stuff, but life was -- I had a fantastic quality. And it was about other things than stuff. So, it’s also a mental liberation we need to go through. We can do some by technical means. We can do some by economic means. But I actually think we need to do something also by social means. We also need to be careful on this road. We don’t want to let it go so far that we get so many upset people that it disrupts our liberal societies, our democracy, and we end up in totalitarian societies which is not better off, which is quite important. It is a real risk, actually -- many challenges. So, you asked, is it correct to make 100 year plan? Yeah, there needs to be at least one. And there maybe should be five different ones. And there should be a 500 year plan too. And there needs to be one for resource, there need to be one for social too and its many aspects. And I think making the plans. Also, maybe what is equally important in making the plan is the process of making the plan and all the people it involves. When you’re actually sitting there with the issue of making the plan, it makes you really think through what works and what doesn’t work. And it doesn’t -- you don’t really think through it for serious until you sit there with both hands in the plan and have to participate in it. That’s when you realize that now it’s serious.

Marek: In that case, I think actually that’s a very nice lead on to Ainar’s section, which is about governance issues. But I’ll let Ainar go ahead. 

Ainar: Yeah, thank you, Marek

Harald: Oh there, my phone stopped, good. Ainar: Yeah. Transition this coming, yeah, Harald. No, same place. Okay. Harald, so you mentioned the point about to convince people, governments, companies, and societies, corporates, all these participants, stakeholders should be convinced to change, yeah. And how to convince them, there are a lot of ideas how to do it. And I want to clarify and ask a limited question. Imagine, you are the person who have all power, all lobby resources, all money, so enough funding, all connections in just few seconds to have a call with Xi Jinping, Prime Minister of China or any other person, yeah. So, imagine all those resources you have. So, what will be the next five year plan of the resources? Yeah, how you will manage it to put the fundamental system, to build the system or to build something to help our civilization? I mean, the whole world, not the country.

Harald: The most important actions, yeah. 

Ainar: Yeah. What will be your plan? How you will manage it?

Harald: That’s a very big question. And one of the things if I had all power and all the money, I would say that the first thing I would say is why wait a minute, this is far too big a task for one man, there needs to be a big team that works on preparing a strategic plan, a strategic thinking, not really detail. And I think for it to be sustainable and lasting. I think one of the things you need to organize is actually not to phone to old farts, like Xi in China or Biden in America or Putin in Russia or Bill Gates. You’re not going to change those guys anyway. They have their agenda somewhere completely different. I think we would have to create some kind of semi-meta grassroot model or grassroot model, which actually involves the younger generation and really get a larger, broader movement of people that actually carry it out. I’ve been part of different efforts to change things when it comes to environmental pollution, atmospheric pollution. I’ve been part of efforts to curb corruption. 

And again, the old guys that are involved, you can’t change them. When it came to corruption, I started working on the younger generation and starting to ruin their recruitment instead into the old ways. It takes more time, but I do think that’s maybe the way we need to go here. If I had all power, yeah, I would have a strategic team pointing out goals. And I would have foot soldiers actually developing the details on a broad front with lots of variety and having a broad organization or loose crowd of those that are actually inheriting the power later, come into the right mindset and then change it.

Ainar: Okay. You mentioned you participated in the past in some activities.

Harald: Yes. 

Ainar: And all these activities was not successful, or some of them was successful?

Harald: One of them was I took part in the long range transboundary air pollution, developing the convention, leading to a number of international protocols across very different political systems in Europe, and later in an extended, so Northern, Western Hemisphere, but also including Russia and Eastern Europe, where we actually got rid of air pollution, sulphur and nitrogen pollution. And it worked this way with strategic development from the top and setting up goals. And then a meta grassroot level, not really down to population, but organizing within each country groups or at influential level that actually took on themselves to carry this out, work up their attitudes, get the political support for it. Those that led this effort, it was not myself, I was in charge of the modelling and part of the negotiations. But the chief strategist of it which was a Swede, said you have to win three arenas, you need to win the science arena, it’s often the easiest, you need to win the media arena and the political arena. You win two of those and the third one comes along. He chose to go for science arena because he said, I’m sure we can win it. And then they had a deliberate strategy also to win the media arena, the communication arena, and it succeeded. And there was a number of protocols, there was no forced die back because we took away by now 94% of the sulphur emissions. Nitrogen emissions are down to half, there’s still some to go, that it actually, it steered away from a disaster, and it cleared up the environment of, you know, the atmospheric environment of Europe. It worked. But it took 20 years. We started for real in 1988. And the last protocol was signed and ratified, last was mercury on the global level two years ago. So, it took a lot of time but it worked and it sticks. And I see that, for me this kind of process has been kind of the role model. So, there was this strategic planning, using experts to come up with good strategic plans, country, task forces that actually carried out work on the ground and involved local national agents to act and won over their local governments and things like that. And in the end, so by now it is 42 nations have signed and implemented, and it’s in force in the wider European and North American.

Alexander: And who paid for this? How much money did it cost? 

Harald: How much money it cost? In the beginning, Sweden paid for it, Sweden and Norway. 

Alexander: Like government? Harald: Government, yeah. And then as we brought people along, the national government started paying for their part. I remember many trips to Russia, even where Russia paid for their part and did it actually, and stayed in the process. Russia also signed and ratified the protocols.

Ainar: And Harald, can you clarify this initiative was started by government of Sweden, or from the United Nations or some other -- 

Harald: It was started from the Environmental Agency of Sweden, which very, very early allied itself with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. And the argument was that in environmental pollution is actually on a large scale, very damaging to the economy. And the damage far exceeds any clear clean up cost. Because the industry was always arguing it’s too expensive. We can’t afford it and we’re not going to be competitive. You imply this. And we convince the governments that their tax revenue was significantly hurt, the national economy was taking a far greater hit three to four times, often more than the cost of cleaning it up. So, in the end, the industry were told no, polluter pays, you stop messing. And then the approach in different countries were actually quite different. What was really remarkable was how quickly Germany turned around and said, okay, let’s develop all the equipment needed for this. Let the complainers and whiners sit there and complain. And when this gets ratified, everybody needs to get the equipment because now the deadlines come, no phone to mention in Frankfurt, and we can sell the lot. 

And this way, the clean-up effort in Germany was more than paid for out of all the profits they made because they sold all the equipment to the French and the Italians and some British and all of them. So, even earned money on it. But this also shows they realized the challenge and the business potential, and they came out as winners. I can see the pattern coming again. There’s going to be a number of problems, which we need to redefine into challenges, and this is where business can come in again. You solve that challenge, and you’re a business winner. So, this is going to create an economic resource -- resorting. A lot of businesses that don’t adapt, they will be losers, they will be lost investments. A lot of new companies will thrive and grow up. It’s like a succession in a forest, the old trees die and fall down and that creates an opening where new trees can grow. Economy in many ways work the same. So, of course, there’s going to be an economic shift and a new generation of companies. I’m quite certain it’s not going to lead to mass unemployment or anything like that.

Ainar: I have a last question about this topic is 20 years ago, like in 1880s, when you started, yeah, the science part, scientific part, science community, scientist community was plus minus the same, yeah. And now we have just more internet connection. But connection between scientists is pretty good connected, yeah. But the media part was increased heavily. And we have a lot of cases when just within few months, the new ideas spread the world. And some of them good, let’s say, some of them bad. But if put out the moral question, just the idea of spreading and speed of the spreading is totally different now. I’ll just give you an example. The organization avaaz.org, the Brazilian organization, the founder is Brazilian. And they made a lot of complaints when just within few weeks of good preparation before, pre-production. But when they start the campaigns, and they collect 1 million signatures, they can destroy or let’s say create a blackout for companies like Monsanto. In Europe, Monsanto lost out between the Avaaz and them. And now some of the products of Monsanto couldn’t be used in Europe. That’s a case happening within just a few weeks. 

Yes, of course, before that it was a month of preparation. But when the campaign starts and a million signatures are collected from real people, just from email, and Facebook and etc, etc, then we have a huge pressure to political part. As you mentioned, it’s three parts: scientists, media, and political. Then they just did it and there are no way to stop it. Otherwise, it will be a huge bust. And that’s what the political people, they hate the bust, negative bust, you know. So, then my question is, with the new models for spreading information, spreading education, as well, with a new type of spreading information from, let’s say KOL, key opinion leaders, the people, I’m not only talking about celebrities, but the KOLs from specific industries or well-known people in the internet with the blogs with 100,000 people, we can spread this an influence heavily, not just from papers, yeah, or the television but from blogs, from my Instagram or the Twitter, or etc. So, the power of media is huge now. And my question is, do you think it can shrink time from 30 years of changes to maybe five to seven? I mean, big changes like what you just mentioned.

Harald: There is potential for that in the media Arena, and the political arena. On the other hand, the political arena has some of its same time sets as well; work slowly, goes through parliament, election cycles and so which takes their time. I think what happens now is that, with media, you can compare to that the cars are now four times more powerful and can go four times as fast, but the roads are still the same. So, it’s yeah, you can get very much faster forward, you can also very much faster end up in a disaster. It’s, in a way, possibilities and risks have increased. Which means the whole game rules for how the media game is to be played has changed. What I was part of 20 years ago, those rules have changed completely. And the competence I had in that then isn’t really valid anymore. But there are people that know how to do this. And I think this must be thought through and there must be a strategic plan for that as well. And the competent people that can do that must be found. Now, I’m competent in making models in these scenarios and so on. I don’t think I’m that competent in the media strategy but there are people that are. And they must be found and also engaged and involved. And that may be equally important.

Ainar: One more question, if you don’t mind, about the modelling. I see the huge growth of interest from data scientists to any modelling. Sorry, I was -- And the modelling of anything now is quite affordable, let’s say. It’s still very difficult and data scientists, one of the most growth of salaries come from data scientists in the 2021 and year before. And I can say the salaries of data scientists start from $10,000 per month, and just the start, it’s just the beginning. And then my question is, do you think because we improved a lot of data scientists as a skill as a hard skill, and we have collecting data of any kind of resources, and they can be also the support of modelling, if you will open these modelling methods to them. It’s the kind of open innovation concept here, when you combine a lot of people, or you still think there are no need -- hundreds of thousand people who is involved to this process of modelling, is you just need a few people who know what to do.

Harald: Well, what are you talking about are two different types of modelling? So, data scientists actually work with statistical tools, advanced search ones, and they are looking at what has already happened and try to learn from that. Now, when we look to the future, one of the things we are trying to tackle is feedback in dynamics, and paradigm shifts; changes that haven’t been observed in the past. And this is where the database based modelling doesn’t really help us. It can only model what has already been observed and what has happened in the past, and we’re going to create something new that hasn’t happened before. It’s the understanding of system behaviour that is needed. And that is not that is not data and number dependent. And -- [crosstalk] Ainar: Sorry, please go ahead.

Harald: You see this very clearly from -- for instance, from DNA research, where they created all these databases and had the belief if they map everything completely into a gigantic database, somehow they would understand how it works. They developed the technology to map it all. And they got huge numbers, piles of numbers, and they didn’t understand it at all. [crosstalk] Because what was needed was the insight. And the insight of systemic behaviour and feedbacks is what we really need. And that is a different way of thinking.

Ainar: That’s the point why am I asking this. Because one of the interesting things, what I realized when I start to talk with Alexander, that start-up approach or using most advanced technology approach couldn’t help you if you don’t understand how world works. And it’s impossible just to even for Google, throw away $1 billion just to create the modelling, but without the people, right people inside this modelling team. There are no way when they can build this, the modelling. And we face this in longevity industry, when Google just put $3 billion and more than 10 years after nothing changed. And that’s the point why I’m asking because I just also want to highlight it from data and modelling perspective. There are no way when you just put a lot of resources and immediately will have all the answers.

Harald: Yeah. I mean, you come out in the morning, your car doesn’t start, there’s some malfunction in the engine. Okay. If we go in, and you look at your mobile phone, oh, it’s really simple technology, I’ll go in and take my $15,000 telephone and I go out and look at the car, it still doesn’t work. You know, it’s because you need to understand what is not functioning in the mechanics of your engine. So, it really has to do with insight. And this is -- to solve this problem, which is so difficult, we need a lot of insight, it needs to be insight-based.

Ainar: Thank you, Harald, thank you for these insights.

Harald: You’re welcome.

Alexander: I have a, most important for me, for myself question. If we are looking for the next 30, maybe 20, maybe 50 years. So, for the next -- for the rest of the century, what do you really believe in? So, you believe that the world will crash, we’ll face the catastrophe, we will have a series of really dramatic crises like metallurgical crisis, financial crisis, debt crisis, economic crisis, war for resources, war for a new regime, and so forth. Or you believe that somehow the world will go between this like, bad and very bad scenarios and we will see that in the 22nd century, we’ll see the prosperity of 10 billion people living in great cities, driving in a -- drive less electric cars, and so what do you believe?

Harald: What I believe, yeah, I -- Now, so I built this world, seven model now World7, and I’m running a lot of different scenarios, business as usual, business as unusual, business as crazy; all kinds -- [crosstalk]

Alexander: Everything has changed.

Harald: All kinds of changes, reasonable and unreasonable and crazy. And I am quite certain the world will not crash. But it will go through some very severe crises. And of course, it’s up to the social system, how we deal with this, and this is the very difficult thing to predict. When there is a big crisis, and there’s another one coming and another one, then how are we going to handle it? Are the angry ones going to win? Or are the reasonable ones going to win? And you know, settle on, okay, let’s sit down, think solve this? Or is it going to be give me the hammer or you shut up or all smash your face? If those guys win, then we’re -- Of course, then we’re in huge trouble. And they are certainly not going to solve it. So, we will meet a number of very, very hard challenges. And honestly, I don’t really know which alternative it will be. I’m working towards, okay, what can I do and contribute, that we deal with this in a reasonable way, that we don’t lose too much our life qualities, even if we lose a lot of our stuff. But of course, it’s very hard. I think we will come through a number of challenges that are really hard before we realize that it’s real, real serious. And I’m a very optimist. I think we’re going to solve it. But of course, that’s no guarantee. But I keep on working. I keep on trying to convince people that the challenges are not the end, they are opportunities, let’s make something good out of it. Every severe problem carries with it a huge opportunity of making something good. This is my basic attitude.

Alexander: One more question, and we believe we create something like the Office of the President of the world? So, with the huge political power with, like, the chance to run the countries government and so on. Will it help or you believe that we have 250 nations, countries, and we have these varieties and we can’t manage like the one civilization, we know that some countries will fail, some countries will be okay. And we don’t need to coordinate this messy humankind.

Harald: Well, I don’t think big government -- an even bigger government is going to solve it. I think that would be -- the temptations would be too large. The opportunities for corruption would be too big. The opportunities for power abuse would be so big that no single human can handle it. So, I really don’t think that’s the solution. If the population will not support it, we can’t force it on them, you can then make a big tsar on the top, and then you get the Russian Revolution that destroys everything afterwards. I don’t really believe in that kind of solution, we have to figure out how we get a third of the world population to want this and make the transition and find it reasonable and desirable. If we do that, we’ll win. 

Marek: Okay. All right. Do you have any other questions Ainar, Alexander? And maybe Harald, you have questions for us. Anything you’d like to check? Or? 

Harald: I think we talked about a lot of very interesting things. Of course, we can discuss this for a very long time. I think it is important to have these conversations, explore different ways to solve this, and keep it on our agenda. 

Alexander: That’s right. [crosstalk]

Marek: I do hope that at some point in the future, we’ll be able to do another call. But for today, in that case, thank you very much for your time. That was very valuable first off for us, and I’m sure for our listeners too.

Harald: Yeah. Please to come back and contact me anytime.

Alexander: Yeah. And we have one request for all of our speakers. So, if you -- if some names you have in your minds, the people who are quite smart, quite open, thinking about the humanity of the future, are ready to talk about this topic. So, please send them -- their names to us and we will be happy to talk to them.

Harald: I’ll think a little bit and send you a little list. 

Alexander: Nice. Nice, Harald. Thank you so much. 

Harald: You’re welcome. 

Alexander: Yeah.

Harald: Yeah, I look forward to talking to you again. 

Alexander: Yeah. Bye-bye. 

Harald: Okay, bye. 

Ainar: Bye-bye, Harold. 

Marek: Bye-bye.
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