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“Fostering Leadership”: online talk with Alexander Auzan

On November 25, the Fostering Leadership Project streamed a conversation with Alexander Auzan, the Dean of the Moscow State University’s Faculty of Economics

(en) Текст новости

A meeting with the Dean of the Moscow State University’s Faculty of Economics, Alexander Auzan, took place on November 25. The conversation was hosted by Elizaveta Osetinskaya, the founder of The Bell project.

Alexander Auzan believes that the current crisis is the price of globalization and that it is unlike all others. It is a shock crisis that challenges many of the 20th century’s values and achievements: healthcare systems, science and democracy are unable to beat the pandemic and provide quick and effective solutions for overcoming the crisis. Still, according to Prof. Auzan, the crisis may have positive consequences: “Of course, we are losing time, economic resources, and even human lives. But I want you to note that we are also gaining something from the strong shock. Because this shock may knock us off our routine tracks and force us to move in a different direction.”

Below are a few quotes from the streamed conversation:

“In less than a year of the pandemic, we have lived about ten years, which we would have otherwise had to spend on digital evolution. We experienced a breakthrough digitalization. The most difficult part in any technological development is changing behavioral patterns. Nobody likes innovation. For that reason, innovation is always forced. It is either competition forcing businesses — or opposition, threat of conflict, and competition with other states forcing governments.”

“Turns out that the main element of digitalization is our personal data. […] And the main bifurcation is in how these personal data are structured economically. China, which is handling the pandemic brilliantly, at least according to its own available information, simply does not recognize any data as personal. All data belong to the state. The US treats data as a commercial matter. If you’re unhappy about the way a company is using your data, go to court. Europe believes that personal data need to be protected by the state. Another option is what Pavel Durov is doing with his Telegram [messenger]. He says that your personal data are protected by the system architecture. This makes much more sense economically than what private individuals could do on their own. But in any event, I believe that personal data ownership is the key question for the vision of the future.”

“The Wheel of Samsara has turned. A window of opportunity is open now. We can avoid walking the long path to get off the track and rebuild our trajectory, if we respond quickly to the new agenda of personal data, digital ecosystems, and new types of institutions. I don’t know if we will be able to use this chance. But I find this chance singular, a chance that history does not give us every century.”

“I am now turning back to the three propositions that have arisen globally. The first proposition is digital totalitarianism, like in China. “Give me everything and I will take care of you.” The second proposition was made in Sweden: “Nah, you just need to respect yourselves, respect liberty and justice, and remember that people will act reasonably.” And then there is the US option, where, in my opinion, a radical ethos of justice is in the making, and it reeks of revolution. Today’s world is giving us a choice between digital totalitarianism, social democracy, and diving into a digital ecosystem where you will be provided with everything you need, given all possible explanations and applications — but it is not quite clear whether you will be able to have any impact of the terms of service, even as much as you can have impact on your country’s constitution. None of the options, in my opinion, is going to deliver us into a glorious paradise.”


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