Parallel Working Sessions: outcomes – Nils Torvalds

Nils Torvalds, Member of the European Parliament from Finland.


Thank you. There was an enormously interesting discussion we had it went mildly speaking all over the place but I think we have some general themes and themes that were in one way or another shared by all those who participated in the discussion. Then it went the way it usually goes we could have probably been going on with the discussion with two more hours but we had to cut short for very practical reasons.
Due to the fact that we are celebrating – or not celebrating – the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, I would like to start with going back to Martin Luther, which is of course something very Finnish to do. What Martin Luther said in Borms, was that if you can prove to me on the basis of the Scripture and on the basis of common sense that I am wrong, then I give in.
I think this is revolutionary in many ways because he actually said that – in my world view, I am the master. And that is the beginning of modernity in a way. And after that we have – for the following 500 years we have run into different problems, connected with “I am the master of my worldview” and therefore we have some central key-words:
Transparency. Without transparency, without being able to look through what people are telling, we won’t understand why they are doing that, why they are trying to sell us some thought. And transparency makes it possible for us to believe what I think is in philosophical terms, that the person is telling the truth. And how this information can be used for my good or for our common good. In a much more complicated word this requires skills.
Possibilities to understand and read the message. And if you don’t understand if you are not able to read the message if our literacy rate is low then we won’t be able to distinguish between fake news, hate-speech or profiling.
What we are going to need is more knowledge and more knowledge is going to be more and more painful for each and every one of us, because the technologies are evolving all the time. I think one of the nicest phrases put forward during the discussion was the description of the internet some twenty years ago, when we understood that the Internet is going to open up for a government which is more distributed and more open.
And all of a sudden after 20 years is that “Oh, it didn’t really come out the way we thought it would”. In a way, we are – I think there is a Jewish sociologist —– who spoke about axial ages. And I think we are experiencing something very axial at the moment and I’ve said, because I like puns, some of the puns are bad, this new axial age is trumpeted in by the first Trump-eater of the world today, Donald T.
One other current in our discussion was narratives, that was for me – I remember back in the 1980s when post-modernism was on everybody’s lips. Narratives were dead. Narratives were Nil. Narratives were something we actually should abandon as soon as possible. All of a sudden in some other speeches they stress the necessity of narratives – why? Because there is a need for a coherence. For us to be able to believe what is said or written there is a system of coherence, and this system of coherence makes it or creates the ability for us to understand if something is actually genuine or not.
Coherent narratives – although life in which we are living is something very, very central and very interesting and at the same time we are running into this wall which is sometimes back I’ve jumped into a book called the cultural lag – we are almost lagging behind. There are narratives out there – we are slightly lagging behind the narratives and we aren’t always distinguish if these narratives are true if they are genuine. If they are coherent. But without those narratives I think we are totally lost and this was pointed out by two persons in the panel – in this endeavour to understand whats going on in the world art is of special value.
Just now and that is total coincidence – I am trying to read through 1350 pages of German literary history from 1918 to 1933 – where the go through in which way the narratives actually changes three times during those years. So, change wasn’t something new which we ran into something we ran into the day before yesterday.
Our ability to understand how things are going to change and how we are changing at the same time is probably one of the challenges we have and here the role of the civil society and the public sector is of upmost importance – because without a functioning civil society and one thing which we are challenging in this very house is that we have civil societies and we have virtual civil societies – and they are perfectly different things.
It’s very easy to be a part of a virtual civil society but there is no coherence no guarantee of coherence, there is no way of knowing if we are reading or we are getting something which is truthful and the more the civil society is going to get ripped to pieces by the technological development, the more we are left on the back burner and the bigger are the challenges we are facing.
So, just to stop short I think the discussion was immensely interesting and I think we actually covered the most fundamental challenges we have in front of us and I felt so uplifted by this discussion – I think that’s also biblical, because even though it was a very critical discussion – at the same time it has actually opened up a small glimmer of hope that we are able to understand, we are able to cope – together – we are able to create technologies and one of the most interesting points in these technology discussions was the Blockchain so the blockchain system of validating the information in the infrastructure in which we are living because then we can identify from where the information comes, who has said it and we are not living in the somewhat disruptive world of Twitters from the president of the United States. That’s I think is all for today from my part, thank you.

Day 2