Scenario D

the Myth of Speed

where command-and-control policies keep a fluid society in check

Power and politics drive a dynamic, fluid, fast-paced societal change. But governments do not delegate power to society or to lower levels of governments; they retain power. Policies seek the empowerment of individuals, in a liberal progressive approach. Equity remains an objective but is dealt with at the individual level. Collective organisations are promoted only when they cannot be avoided. In terms of urban governance, cities are supported as engines of economic growth, valuing the agglomeration effect at its maximum.  

A change in direction from traditional market thinking demands a more active role for governments to act in the public interest. New indicators “beyond GDP” are championed by various actors, with different status, objectives and visions (environmentalist and activist movements, civil society and local policies, national and international institutions).

People now prefer well-being to GDP growth as an indicator for measuring progress.

Political frameworks limit the power of corporations. Business is harnessed for the common good. Consumerism is curbed by introducing quotas and restriction in consumption, because there is recognition that material consumption, defined by lifestyles, is one of the underlying drivers of unsustainable trends. Fiscal revenues collected by governments are used to finance a generous basic income. With adjusted wealth and earnings across society, economic and societal paradigms shift to non-competitive, non-status models. The focus is placed on local economy. There is a recognition of the need to transform the ways that society produces and consumes, and an upsurge in efforts to achieve the system innovation, focusing on the emergence and diffusion of new technologies, social practices, and public engagement and consultation in governance. Sustainable finance provides full transparency on governance and fiscal policies. Private property is not so important anymore – due to mobility and flexibility requirements and more travel, workers change jobs more often. As digitisation diffuses into more and more areas of social and economic life, citizens have become increasingly accustomed to businesses and public authorities collecting detailed data about their activities and choices. This information is used to shape behaviours and norms towards more sustainable outcomes, e.g. using choice editing or social scoring mechanisms. Digital community currencies exist in many cities and regions, providing a means to boost the local economy, quantify and manage environmental and social externalities, mobilise underused capacities, and reward unpaid work. 

Society is progressive and heterogeneous, where politics provide a frame for individual freedom. Over the decades a more and more global way of governing established and national cultures diminished; and traditional national values lost importance. Individuals make society very heterogeneous with a huge variety of lifestyles. The values followed by people are very much egoistic and individualistic. They search for pleasure in life and enjoy a hedonic lifestyle that needs to be exciting and highly individualistic. This is reflected in extreme leisure activities but also volatile job decisions. People rely on political regulation of individual borders, so that they do not limit themselves with public welfare or equity thoughts. Politics take care of ensuring as much equity as possible through individual support towards reaching societal standards. Openness for change, new concepts of living and society are the main drivers in this society. Concepts for new forms of work, family concepts are requested from authorities that are expected to uptake international trends and developments in their local management so that the individual horizon is broadened every once in a while. Personal success is expressed through demonstrating competence according to social standards, wanting to be influential, ambitious. The more successful, the more influential the individual is in being part of the development of society. 

With some similarity to the Gaia scenario, society stopped only being indignant towards the governments and politicians and took collective action by trying to approve a ground-breaking law via citizens’ initiative, trying to set the ground for a more collectivity- and sustainability-oriented society. However, not enough citizens participated to the initiative and it failed. The legislator, aware of the social turmoil, tries to manage the situation by adopting new laws imposing punitive taxation for certain behaviours detrimental for the collectivity and a more sustainable future (e.g., failure to recycle, using fossil fuels) while outlawing others (such as using cars within city limits and construction of non-sustainable buildings). Based on the same impetus, the legislator passes another law, which sets up a citizens’ and stakeholders’ forum creating a system for the review of certain laws, policies and programs. Once the review is done, the legislator has to review the input and take it into account in discussions. This new system creates shared accountability between the legislator, citizens and stakeholders. However, the larger structural reforms initially sought by the citizens are not implemented, at least not fully.  

Understanding how citizens and businesses make decisions and interact with technology provides an opportunity to place the user at the centre of an integrated system. It holds the key to understanding and optimizing the acceptance, adoption and impact of new technologies. Technology advancements are compatible with our individual, social and cultural values which respect the privacy of citizens and prevent fear and discrimination, while promoting tolerance, trust, and fairness (control & protect) in a fluid society. Technologic progress happens almost independently from the control of public authorities, it is unavoidable because it aims to solve fundamental human problems and natural errors. The combination of the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data and Artificial Intelligence Systems (AIS), powered by increasing computer capabilities creates a second virtual world of global communication without community, with exacerbated flows of data, energy and goods, as well as people, both as tourists and migrants. 

Global Change is progresivelly being solved by the full decarbonisation of the economy, the wide-scale use of electric engines, which are far more productive, less noisy, and clean, than gasoline engines. Biotechnology harnesses cellular and biomolecular processes to develop technologies and products that help improve our lives and the health of our planet. 

Mobility is considered under an utilitarian perspective, because of the benefits it provides in creating efficient local labour markets. Travellers and commuters become users rather than owners. Access is prioritised over ownership as a means to reduce costs, resource use and waste. Public and private platforms at all scales, from local to EU-wide, enable the sale, rental or exchange of goods and services (automotive leasing, car sharing). The government intervenes to guarantee access to services for communities that are less well served by private companies, ensuring access to public transport, car-sharing opportunities and driverless vehicles in rural areas. Policies design the built environment and its transport system around users and allow Socially Oriented Technology (SOT) as a driving force to improve the quality of lives of individuals and society and increase the social wealth and individual empowerment. On the other hand, SOTs are major contributors in connecting and solidarity of diverse group of people with eliminating travel constraints. Europe is transformed thanks to SOTs which impact the livelihoods and wellbeing of its citizens (social and cultural wellbeing) and strengthening the inclusive societies.