VTT's foresight researchers invited Finnish experts to outline visions for our future: what kind of a world would we like to see in 80 years’ time and what should we do already today to reach it? These discussions gave rise to a vision paper and podcast called The tipping point.
The starting point for our vision is that in 80 years’ time our everyday life is meaningful and safe, we live in a clean and diverse environment, and we can enjoy life with a clean conscience, without endangering our health or the future of the planet or mankind.
“In this era riddled with crises, the vision may seem radically rosy. The message VTT wants to send, however, is that some of the solutions already exist – and when there is will, the remaining solutions can be developed,” VTT’s CEO Antti Vasara underlines.
According to experts, we are living critical times. Our living environment is close to reaching certain tipping points after which there is not return to the way things were before. To be able to avoid such developments, in matters like biodiversity loss and climate change, we must look further into the future.
The European Commission has set as its target to reach carbon neutral economy by 2050. According to our estimate, about a half of the technologies needed for reaching the goal already exist, and the other half need to be invented. Hope for a better future is the best motivator, and bold investments in new initiatives are the best stimulus.
VTT's 80th anniversary
If we look the same number of years back in time, we go back to the wartime of the 1940s, to our grandparents and their parents. VTT was also established back then, 80 years ago, to support the wartime Finland and the postwar rebuilding shimmering in our hopes. Over these years, the world has changed enormously, and in this development, the role played by advances in science and technology and increase in the amount of knowledge has been significant. Since the pace of change is rapid – even exponential – making long-term forecasts is impossible. Despite this, we can look long into the future and build a vision for the things and values we would like to preserve.
“A vision creates momentum for change. A good vision appeals not only to reason but also to emotions, and it challenges the assumptions of the future we have today. A vision reaches a little further from what we consider possible under present circumstances,” says Pauli Komonen, Senior Scientist, Strategic Foresight, at VTT.
Crises push societies to make faster reforms
Now, the intensification of extreme weather conditions may push societies to making faster reforms. The next transition that will accelerate the development of technologies for mitigating climate change is our relationship with the nature coming to a crisis. According to the IPCC climate report, the present steps are not sufficient to limit the global warming to 1.5 °C. Effective emission reductions will already be needed during the next decade.
We are headed for a new food and health crisis accelerated by climate change. To overcome it, we need to introduce disruptive technologies and radically change our habits.
“We cannot continue producing and consuming food in the same way we are doing now. We have already generated plant-based and biotechnical innovations that can potentially reform the food system, but a lot remains to be done. We must boldly seek both new technological and systemic-level solutions that will help us produce enough food for the whole global population without destroying the globe,” says Emilia Nordlund, Research Manager at VTT.
Food will maintain its role as a culturally important element of a good life even in the future. A better understanding of the impact of food on well-being and health, new ways of producing food and personified approach to food consumption will bring new tastes on our plates and constitute a foundation for healthy lifestyles.
In 2102, we will be leading meaningful lives; we will spend time with our loved ones and use our time on matters that are important to us and the community around us. Work has not disappeared from our daily life, but the ways and forms of working have changed. The foundations of good health in 80 years’ time are laid by the decisions and actions we take today, such as supporting children and young people to lead a healthy life. This way, they can raise the next generation enjoying good health and remain healthy even when they get old.
In VTT's anniversary year, our security is being challenged from many directions. Even in the future, security requires that we not only repel physical threats but also win the struggle over mental images and emotions. In the future, our lives and identities will be intertwined with the digital world.
“It is important to take security into consideration in all technological development processes from the very beginning to their introduction, whether dealing with the metaverse or mind-controlled prosthetics,” says Antti-Jussi Tahvanainen, Team Leader, Corporate Foresight & Strategy, at VTT.
We have a lot to do, but, at the same time, we have hope. Finland has the competence and opportunities needed to become a forerunner.
The guests in the seven episodes of The tipping point podcast are:
Kerttu Kotakorpi, Meteorologist of the Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE, non-fiction writer; Markku Wilenius, Professor of Futures Studies, University of Turku; Mikko Dufva, Leading foresight specialist, Sitra; Pauli Komonen, Senior Scientist, Strategic Foresight & Human Insight, VTT; Shadia Rask, Research Manager, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL); Teemu Ahmaniemi, Research Team Leader, Human Sensing Solutions, VTT; Lauri Reuter, Founder & Partner, Ph.D., Biotechnology Nordic Foodtech VC, Emilia Nordlund, Research manager, Industrial biotechnology and Food, VTT; Jarno Limnéll, Professor of Practice, Aalto University; and Antti-Jussi Tahvanainen, Team Leader, Corporate Foresight & Strategy, VTT.
VTT is a visionary research, development and innovation partner and one of Europe’s leading research institutes. We tackle global challenges on a daily basis and turn them into opportunities for sustainable growth.
VTT has been celebrating its 80th anniversary in 2022. With 80 years of experience, we turn major global challenges into sustainable growth for companies and society through science and technology.