How to change the world order after the coronavirus: “Money is just a number”

By June 1, President Vladimir Putin instructed to develop a plan of action for the recovery of the Russian economy. Here it is, a great reason to include in this plan the basic science and high technology, to raise wounds, to return all selected in 2013, institutions – considered in the scientific community. With the corresponding statement was made a few days ago the informal community of academicians and corresponding members of Russian Academy of Sciences the Club on 1 July. What could offer in this difficult period for Russian science, as it understands the key challenges we spoke with the Deputy President of the Russian Academy of Sciences Vladimir IVANOV.

Как изменится мировое устройство после коронавируса: «Деньги – это просто цифра»

– Vladimir Viktorovich, what can help the wounds at the present time?

– One of the strategic tasks of our time is the transition to innovation economy. And this in General is a process that begins with basic scientific research, followed by applied research, technology creation, production, business. The business after the implementation of their plans invest part of the profits in new research and development. All tied. In other words, the business that we have today in the market. Technology is tomorrow: what today is in the development stage, hits the market tomorrow. And science is day after day. Science looks beyond the horizon. And this is its primary role: to predict the future, and something even predict, based on the results of fundamental scientific research.

– Ready Academy now to take on the function of the forecaster, to lead all schools of thought?

–Yes, of course. After all, under the roof of the Academy gathered the intellectual elite of the country. But one intelligence is not enough – need tools acquiring new knowledge (institutes and laboratories), and hands to manage them. And they are at the Academy now, no. The basic thesis of academic transformation 2013: “Science scientist – farm administrators” hasn’t been realized. Administrators moved all the way up to define research priorities. The fact that the transformation of the academic sector of science has not given positive results, has long been known, talking about it in the corridors of power, and in the scientific community, in particular, in a recent treatment of the Club on 1 July.

The problem is that any country aspiring to global leadership, we need a systematic organization of fundamental science, because that particular research Institute or the University cannot comprehensive approach to the solution of strategic problems – they have a more narrow purpose. The academic organization of science, unifying and natural science disciplines, and technical, humanitarian, and social allows you to comprehensive approach. As international experience shows, in the old days of the USSR, and nowadays China, this organization allows you to achieve higher growth rates. Naturally, given adequate political leadership. So it all depends on how constructive the dialogue will be organized by science and government.

The digital revolution

– Now, when the government start talking about economic recovery in the first place mention the digital revolution. What is fundamentally new can say science?

Almost everything we now have happening on the digital front, was laid in the middle of the last century, American mathematician of Russian origin by Norbert Wiener. He developed the concept of feedback in automatic control systems and formulated the main requirements to digital computing systems, identified areas of the digital revolution.

Today the digital revolution is, in fact, the creation of new technology platforms.

– No scientists here will not break?

– When we speak today of digitalization, we look beyond the horizon and remember one of the most famous statements of Norbert Wiener about the social consequences of the digital revolution, “Then the average person with average or lower abilities will not be able to offer for sale anything that would be worth to pay the money. One solution is to build a society based on human values other than the sale”. In the same context, the sociologist Daniel bell had formulated the concept of post-industrial society.

Science must not think about the technological methods ensure “digital breakthrough”, and about the psychology of people who have already began to face and digital reality.

For example, in connection with the pandemic, we have been in the apparent constant monitoring. Go on the road for – us keeps track of a shitload of cameras out on the town, show me a pass which sets out the full information: who we are, where you live, where you work. And there is no certainty that only this information is all there is. And certainly there is no certainty that this information will not be subject to unauthorized access. Suffice it to recall how much leakage occurs from the banking sector, for example. And how people cope with the discomfort of the introduction of his private life, requires special large-scale interdisciplinary research, which, I repeat, can not afford to spend by any single organization.

– Whether the machine can replace the human, how it is necessary sometimes to hear it from some experts?

In digitization, there is a dangerous error. The biggest one is the idealization of the figures. At the present level of knowledge there is insufficient evidence to say that artificial intelligence will replace humans. Any AI runs the algorithm written by a human and which is based on binary code. This is one of the fundamental conditions outlined by Wiener. Yes, there can be placed a very complex logic, but if we talk about digital technology, in the end, everything comes down to this: “Yes-no, Yes-no…”. Relatively speaking, the machine tries can solve the problem of Buridan’s ass (a philosophical paradox named after Jean Buridan, where the question was posed: like a donkey who has two equally tempting treats, can still rationally make a choice?- Ed.), and the man can.

– What this means?

– Very simple. Let’s take a simple example: education. Is it possible to teach the artist to paint with the help of artificial intelligence? He can say how many strokes for the picture to put? And the ballerina – to dance, and the engineer – designing? Yes, artificial intelligence may give him the basics of strength of materials, basics of the same design, but it will never teach him creative thinking. It is transmitted only in contact with the teacher: from person to person. How to train in the leading universities of theoretical physicists? They are selected from thousands of students and prepare in small groups in direct contact with the current real scientist. It was prepared in a MIFI, which I had the honor to graduate at the time, and which to date is one of the best universities in the country. Elite you can prepare only internally.

And the transition to distance education on the basis of the AI will not prepare so well educated, how many programmed specialists – what is called a “skilled consumer”: to use technology and develop not.

– What is AI?

– Artificial intelligence can be useful when it is necessary to examine some already formalized discipline or to acquire special skills. And it is also the invention is not today. Long time, since the 70-ies of XX century, there are systems simulators for pilots, operators of nuclear power stations, for car drivers. For example, in the same MIFI worked for many years industry-specific laboratory that developed training for the plant operators. Similar work was carried out in Obninsk and in a number of industry institutions.

And, of course, such systems can completely replace the administrators in the cases when not needed to make decisions, but only to strictly follow instructions and orders. This, incidentally, can greatly improve the quality of governance, including state and will reduce bureaucracy.


– So what science offers in the region a real economic breakthrough aimed at improving the welfare of citizens?

– We are now at the point when you have to decide what to do next, how to stabilize the situation and not to develop negative processes. To do this, you first need investment in their own economy.

– We have the opportunity to invest?

– I think so, at least, about this in the beginning of may, spoke at the Moscow Academic economic forum, our leading economists, especially the academicians Abel Aganbegyan, Alexander Dmitrievich Nekipelov. Here also it is necessary to remember the recently published report of academician Sergey Glaziev, in proposing his own solutions to problems. Apparently, the time has come when the government should sit at the same table with scientists and work together to find solutions. It was not once in the history of our country and decisions were.

– Where to invest first?

– It is necessary to start the economy with socially useful projects which will quickly create new jobs and infrastructure.

For example.

For example, with the construction. It is mainly medium – and low-tech manufacturing that does not require expensive injections. But at the same time it will help thousands of people to get the job done. The main work in the construction industry do not require highly qualified specialists. In addition, construction is a consumer products and other industries. What to build a house in the open field? It is necessary to bring roads, energy, water, ensure sanitation, distribution networks, cultural and educational complex, etc. All this new production and, consequently, jobs.

– Will build again the migrants to send money home.

– And this is the issue of legal regulation and organization of works. If you provide people with a decent salary, so it may be that the problem itself will be solved?

And another question: what to build? Moscow, for example, is already built out for the most ever… the City is losing the historic character of many buildings, faceless skyscrapers- “celovalnikov”.

– We are talking about housing construction in order to provide people with comfortable apartments. But you’re right, we need to understand — where it would be wiser now to deploy new projects, it is better to build high-rise buildings or, on the contrary, small low-rise?

And here it is necessary to consider security issues. For example, how does the population density on the spread of epidemics? This requires a special study. There are also man-made risks, e.g., fire in a high rise building. However, for this case, the RAS together with MAI developed a unique fire suppression system that allows to solve this problem.

– In General it is necessary to build in Moscow?

– I agree, it is the subject of a separate discussion. Russia is so big that you might think about the development of not only upwards, but outwards. Choosing the correct new areas for development with housing and businesses — is also one of the tasks for scientists. It is a question of spatial development. In October the Siberian branch of RAS in Novosibirsk will host the conference dedicated to the memory of academician Alexander Grigoryevich. Granberg, which will discuss these issues.

– What else besides construction could push our economy?

– Energy — upgrading its facilities and building new ones.

Where’s the dips with energy?

– It’s not about the failures. Now the energy sector should develop in two directions – equipment upgrades and the transition to renewable sources of energy. The world is now one of the most promising directions. But it also requires special researches as the environmental and economic effects of renewable energy are not yet fully understood. There may also have risks and threats.

The other major issue is agriculture.

– We’re almost Champions for the cultivation of wheat!

– We have a reference to large yields of wheat. But there are big risks that, for example, under unfavourable weather conditions the wheat enough only for their own needs. In addition, we must remember that the competitors are not asleep. In addition, in some areas of agriculture, there is a dependence on foreign supplies. And this is a matter of national security. Energy, food, medicine, three areas where the country needs to be self-sufficient.


– Medicine is now the number one problem. Everyone is concerned about – not whether we will become hostages of foreign vaccines from COVID-19?

– A reassessment of values and needs again is to look to the future. The famous phrase: “generals always fight the last war.” Now focused on the coronavirus COVID-19. And rightly so – the problem must be solved as soon as possible. But where is the guarantee that next year will not appear COVID -20 or later – COVID -25? And where is the guarantee that somewhere in the world will not happen in a major disaster. Remember how many countries were affected by the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant!

Now it is necessary to develop a comprehensive research program on forecasting of possible risks and threats and develop measures for their parry. We need to think not only about the health security, but about a whole range of issues related to the security of the population.

In the Academy has been working Council for comprehensive security, established the Council on forecasting and strategic planning, whose tasks include search problems and ways of their solution. But for the effective operation of these boards requires not only a highly qualified staff, but also constructive dialogue with the government and the direct leadership of the RAS scientific research.

By the way, despite the difficult situation after 2013, the forces of the ran managed to retain consistency of basic scientific research under the Program of State academies of Sciences. But it ends this year. RAS, as it is prescribed by law, prepared, discussed and approved at a General meeting of the Academy of the new draft program of fundamental scientific research, and in October 2019 sent the materials to the government for approval. I hope that in the near future the program will be adopted. By the way, a separate section of the program provides forward-looking research, including on issues of comprehensive security.

– Give me an example of one or two successful projects that were executed in connection with the previous programme for basic research?

The most recent examples: on may 9 Russian deep-water apparatus has reached the bottom of the Mariinsky basin. The development of the actual device was carried out under the project of the Foundation for future research, but the research was based on the results obtained, including, in one of the institutes of the far Eastern branch of RAS.

– In the new program, there is a clause on coherent interaction of scientists and medical practitioners in case of dangerous epidemics?

– Research in the field of security it provides.

As for the organization of interaction, it’s a question of work organization for which the responsibility of the respective Ministry. Until 2013 this problem practically was not, as the Russian Academy of medical Sciences worked in direct contact with the Ministry of health. It is for this RAMS and was established in 1943, Now the situation is such: the members of the RAMS became part of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Scientific institutions partially owned by the Ministry of education and science, partly the Ministry of health. That is, of a simple and clear system of management developed multi-tier scheme, where besides the interests of the various branches do not always coincide. For example, the Ministry of health have patients to treat, and Menopause – citation to increase. And money scientist are paid just for the citation. Now, by the way, the Ministry is the development of the system of funding based on publication activity. Well, how in such situation to do a scientist?

The status of the Academy

– Wounds still called for a special status?

Here the situation is also very complicated. On the one hand, today, RAS is a Federal state budget institution the same as a kindergarten, hospital, scientific Institute. On the other hand, the RAS is not fully fsbi, because its activity is regulated by a special law. The problem is that the adoption of the law on the Academy along with the water splashed out the child ran away not only the control over the economic activities of the institutions, but also research management, and in General the right to engage in scientific activities. Although from 1724 to 2013 the Academy of Sciences was determined as the highest scientific organization of the country. In the presence of common sense and good will, the question is answered simply: the Academy of science manages and administrators – economy. Even the law much change is not necessary. This is the most effective scheme. Just remember that it was made to control the Atomic project of the USSR, where of the 15 top leaders 9 represented the Academy. Their results we still use today.

Even more strange situation with academic institutions. As fsbi, they should work according to the governmental orders. But what is official can formulate the state assignment in the sphere of fundamental Sciences, for example, for a theoretical physicist or mathematician? Order to deduce the theorem.

And as a customer in the face of officials from the Ministry of science then you will understand this theorem…

– Scientific reports officials regularly scold: “What you have here has been written? To understand anything!” Because it is impossible, wrote scientists in order to make it all clear first and foremost professionals who understand the issues.

This is the origins of bureaucracy, which flourished after 2013. That is why the previous leadership of the Ministry of education conducted a personnel policy under which not only the Director or his Deputy for science, but even the head of the laboratory or Department are not considered scientists.

World practice shows that the most effectively to Fund basic science on the principle of “arm’s length” is to give money and not interfere with work. So, for example, operates the max Planck society. Therefore, it is necessary to rethink the role of science in the development of the state, and to start with the revision of the status of wounds. It’s not that, as determined by the legal form, but what really powers and responsibilities will be enshrined in law for the Academy. Importantly, the functions of the Academy were part of real research management and close collaboration with industry to implement them.

Of course, you can leave it as is, but the result then would be appropriate.

Transformation in the world

– We must understand that the need for change was brewing not only in Russia. The whole world is moving towards global transformation.

– Transformation of what?

– Working models of socio-economic development has come to its limit. When the variations of socialism, which remained in our past that, under capitalism, promised us happiness and everything good, but nothing happened. Now according to Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz 85 billionaires owned the same wealth as the half of the population. Thus formed global inequality, the preservation of which may lead to unpredictable consequences.

We have a situation in which the main priority became money. And is this correct? It may be necessary for the person to navigate?

– Launched today, the digitalization of all leads to the dehumanization. People now compare with the machines.

– That’s it. And now look at the message of President Vladimir Putin in 2018, which actually proclaimed a new strategy of development of Russia. In the first place – improving the quality of life.

– So where to turn edifice of the world order, to correct the mechanism?

In 50-ies of the last century, Daniel bell formulated the concept of post-industrial society. Some experts interpret this as a lack of production. In fact — this concept is not negated by the production, and just puts in the forefront it is the quality of human life. Well, production should adjust, reducing the proportion of physical labor by automating some options and creating the products needed to meet human needs. Science, technology and production must serve the people. So now we are talking not about industrial, and humanitarian-technological revolution, in which priority is given to improving the quality of life through new technologies.

Now the scheme is valid: people for the economy. It is necessary to invert the pyramid and create economy-oriented person.

This model is again bringing us closer to socialism.

– Not at all. Even Henry Ford has considered capitalism as a public service. And said that if the business will not put the consumer above profits, such a business will be swept away. And Ford can hardly be counted among the adherents of socialism. And here’s a recent example: in August last year, 180 American corporations signed a Memorandum, which reads: to work primarily on the consumer, as once declared Henry Ford. It’s just the idea of practical, not theoretical, classical capitalism, which is now departed, focusing it on profits. Money is only the equivalent of the resource, and in today’s world they have become a management tool. But if to understand what, in fact, are money? They do not exist. It is an invention. We can change dollars, rubles, and can pearl buttons… So, it is a virtual concept. Money is just a number and we actually handed over the management of our real life to the virtual space.

– What to do?

– It is necessary to change priorities. As set out in the President’s message: improving the quality of life, the elimination of scientific and technological backwardness, territorial development, defence and security.

– When the President talks about the improvement of the quality of life, many people today starts to smile slyly: he’s not all the Russians has in mind?

– After all we are talking about all of our countrymen – it is said the President of Russia, and not Chairman of the club of billionaires.


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