Kjell Nordstrom: Future does not exist, but we can make precise description about today

14:41 • 11.09.18

Prominent Swedish economist and public thinker Kjell Nortstrom performed with an insight session in Yerevan on Saturday to introduce the current trends in the modern world and economy.

The author of the popular international best-seller "Funky Business" (2010) shared his vision on the future based on modern tendencies, admitting at the same time that future "does not exist".

Nortstrom was invited to Yerevan by Skill.am, which has initiated the WORLD'S TOP SPEAKERS IN ARMENIA project in an effort to make the country a good platform allowing internationally acclaimed keynote speakers, prominent thinkers and authors of world-class best sellers to share their experience.  In October 2017, Brian Tracy, a Canadian-American motivational public speaker and self-development author whose Maximum Achievement (1993) was included in the 50 SUCCESS CLASSICS  series, was invited to deliver a speech for the Armenian audience. His lecture marked the biggest ever business event in Armenia, bringing together over 700 participants from seven countries and 120 organizations.

Below are the most remarkable ideas shared by the Canadian business thinker at the September 7 lecture.


FAANG business companies


"We are here to discuss Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google (FAANG) or companies dominate a couple of areas in the world. They cover the globe; they are number one and, in some cases, they do not really have a competitor. They do not really have a powerful competitor. We will talk a little but about that because I think it is temporary ... It's here and now and it is today.


"... Whenever I am invited to discuss things - might it be with the president or the prime minister or a journalist - they always tend ask me things about the future, and I have to say every time the same thing [which] I will say to you too: "You cannot, I cannot speak so much about the future for the simple reason that  you cannot do research on the future; it does not exist. " The only thing we can do at best is, as I said earlier, [making] hypothesis, guesses; that's about it.  What we can do - that's the good news - is that we can make a very, very very precise description about today. And based on that precise description of today – which is quite difficult to do in itself - we can then start to have an idea about tomorrow. I will also warn you here in the beginning that whenever you start to say things next week, next year, three years from now, it will become ridiculous, and you will [see] that it is ridiculous.

“I visited Sillicon Valley a couple of weeks ago and then I went to Norway which is an oil country (they have a lot oil and gas). And the problem for Norway today is that most of the investments in the energy sector is based on the principle that we will have free energy for all of this planet in less than 15 years. Why? Because of the development of solar power. So the investments are now changing completely in the energy sector - away from oil, away from gas - towards the fact that we have free energy... And then we can see the dramatic changes that we have if we are moving towards free energy - which I happen to believe that we are doing.


"When Facebook was born, everybody said, "Wow! Look at this new, cool technology”; “It will bring people close to each other”; “It will make peace in the Mid-East, i.e. - Palestine and Israel”; “They will understand each other, and young people will fall in love with each other after having met each other on Facebook”;  “It will be such a lovely world”. When we now start to communicate, differences … cease to be (Facebook, social media) wonderful.

"… It's 2018 now. We have had this technology for some time; we have also done the research on the social media and [other] platforms. Here is one finding from this research: the more we, the human beings, know about each other, the less we like each other. That means Facebook is disruptive in a little bit unexpected way. Then comes the question: will we five years from now allow these technologies in a number of countries? And the answer is "no". We will see a number of brutal reactions against these technologies. Why? Because it was unregulated in the beginning, totally unregulated.

" … When the car was invented, there were no laws for cars. You could park it [your car] anywhere. There can't be laws for something that do[es] not exist. First comes the technology, and then comes the law. Afterwards, we start to understand what technologies actually do. This is exactly what we will see now. We do a number of these technologies from Google to Facebook, we will see legislation in a number of countries and very hard legislation. We will probably also see that some of these technologies in a number of countries will have to be approved before they are commercialized."

Artificial intelligence

“I guess you know that Elon Musk, Steven Hopkins and many others are so worried about artificial intelligence; I am not. Do you know why? Because there are two types of intelligence: one is called specific intelligence, which is the ability to play chess. It's very specific. You can learn the rules of the game and you can learn the rules of the game when you become really, really, really, super, super, super ... like the machine ...It's specific intelligence, and then the machine will be you. And this you can do with goal - it's another game, a very complex one - you can have the machine specifically do that, i.e - specifically translate from Armenian to Russian, from Russian to English and from English to Swedish … However, you and all the rest of us here are something that is called general intelligence, and general intelligence is that when I look at you, I think of a friend of mine in Helsinki that looks like you. And that friend of mine is an architect, which means that I think of buildings and I think of this building. And when I think of this building, I think of the Soviet Union, and the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Try to do that with a machine, and see how simple it is. It's called general intelligence.

“Number three: human beings are good at one thing that machines cannot do. [It’s the ability to] think. We can think, and we do fail all the time. We are imperfect. The same with being imperfect is that failure is necessary for innovation and creation. It's necessary. You cannot create without the acceptance of failure, because you have to try and fail, try it again and fail, and fail and fail and fail. And the machines will not. Disruptive though they may be, but we regulate them much more heavily than they are done. That's number one; we the disruptions so brutally. Number two, machines will do specific intelligence, and they will be better than us at specific intelligence, general intelligence not.

“I'll say one more thing  … machines cannot be fun; you and I can be fun. Machines cannot be fun. Why? Because most funny things in life have something failure. Don't worry; be happy. What you see there is knowledge, human knowledge, any kind of knowledge - architectural knowledge, medical knowledge, knowledge in any area. Or it could be data or it could be information. You could call it whatever you want."

Everything is transforming into team work

"1994 was the magic year because it was when the Internet was born. And then people started to use the internet frequently. And it now covers all the knowledge, all the data, all the influencers - all of it on planet earth today. And that grows exponentially. That's what happens to human knowledge. Every 18 months, the amount of knowledge on this planet doubles because we all have these little machines - smartphones, for example, or computers. That's the good news, because in a way, technology is knowledge, knowledge is technology, and this helps us a lot to save lives and get to companies and educate our children. So it's good.


"But there's one problem. I wouldn't call it a problem;  I would call it a challenge. The human brain hasn't changed very much because evolution does not operate that way. You know it takes a very long time to change the human body, which means that it's basically the same with brain. And here is the challenge. And what does this mean? This means that every morning now when you (me too) wake up, we are a little bit more stupid than the day before, That's challenge. Because you're [knowledge] of basically that basically doubling and doubling and doubling. This basically means that a medical doctor here in Armenia cannot keep up with the developments in the area of medicine. No matter how hard you study, no matter how many courses and classes and books you try to consumer, you will still be lagging behind, because the knowledge in your own area develops so much faster. It's the same for an architect. It's the same for a tax adviser in Brussels, if you are a tax specialist; this gap is growing almost on a daily basis. We have to change principle at universities, that's one indication. Another indication, which I know is difficult in some countries, is that everything that we, the human beings, do is transforming into team work. We have to do it together, because you can almost do nothing on your own. Because you need a partner, you need a programmer, you need a specialist, you need an adviser. You need this; it becomes a team work."  

Hripsime Hovhannisyan


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