How the world responds to the climate crisis and biodiversity loss is the single largest question of the 2020s, according to the Finnish Innovation Fund (Sitra). (Martti Kainulainen – Lehtikuva)


IMMIGRATION to Finland is set to increase in the 2020s as conflicts, urbanisation and changes in both the environment and working life accelerate global migration flows, predicts the Finnish Innovation Fund (Sitra).

Sitra unveiled its predictions about the biggest questions and megatrends of the newly started decade on Wednesday, 31 December 2019.

Its experts predict that mental health problems in young people will increase due to phenomena such as climate anxiety, social competition and the influx of information brought about by digitalisation. The availability of information, along with intensifying competition for our attention, will also continue to contribute to the deterioration of our ability to focus.

“In order to cope with the flood of information, people will draw quick conclusions based on headlines, images and memes. There will be less and less time to get bored and develop long-term awareness,” the report reads.

The decline of the birth rate is another trend that will carry over form last decade, with the number of childless people set to increase especially among less educated Finns, according to Sitra.

Technology, meanwhile, will continue to penetrate the society and the daily lives of citizens, leading, on the one hand, to novel solutions for energy production and, on the other, to higher demand for energy. What will ensue is tension over whether technology is facilitating or inhibiting the ecological restoration.

The proliferation of innovations such as autonomous cars, machines capable of natural-language processing and other applications of artificial intelligence will shift more and more decision-making power to algorithms, raising questions about transparency, responsibility and data biases.

Sitra on Wednesday reminded that although the growing amount of data can be utilised to significantly boost economic competitiveness, thus far it has been perceived mainly as a tool to exercise and abuse power in the context of elections, for example.

The question of who makes decisions about data and technology will consequently become more important – also from a geopolitical perspective.

Technology, it added, is also related to power over the future – by determining who define the future outlook and who are represented in decision-making bodies – and can further increase inequalities between people.

Sitra viewed that the idolisation of strong leaders will continue in the coming years, as the demand for quick and major changes and longing for simple answers drives up their popularity. Democracy is under threat also from the idea of practical autocracy and the impression that it is too slow to respond to the major questions of our time.

Creating confusion will become an increasingly common way to wield power, making it increasingly important to reduce confusion and divisions.

The single largest question is how the world responds to the climate crisis, loss of biodiversity, waste problem and varying availability of resources. The loss of biodiversity is expected to continue, with 25 per cent of all animal and plant species already at risk of becoming extinct and 75 per cent of all land area modified by human action.

Another key trend is the growing importance of networks, as the world shifts from multipolar to multinode power relations. The third key trend is linked to the ageing and diversification of the population, which raise questions about the fairness of the ecological restoration.

This, in turn, is linked to the fourth key trend: finding a new direction for the economic system.

Sitra asks in its report whether the environment will continue to be perceived simply as a resource or its health will be adopted as an objective of economic policies. Its experts point out that while there is a consensus about economic issues such as environmental impacts and the concentration of wealth, it has proven difficult to abandon problematic contemporary practices and structures.

The conclusion drawn in the report is that many of the most pressing social questions are so complex that there is no one right solution: a solution proposed by an expert in one field may seem problematic from the viewpoint of an expert in another.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Source: Uusi Suomi