Global Alternatives 2024
The Road to a Sustainable Future: What Values Do We Need?

For the 2024 World Youth Festival in Sochi, I worked with a group of young experts from around the world on a report titled “Charting the 2040: Younger Generation Insight on the World in the Making”. My contributions are mainly in the ‘Values in 2040’ chapter. At the WYF Valdai Club youth conference, I received many comments and related questions. These interactions have made it possible for me to delve deeper into this topic and refine my insights.

The discussion about global transformation is broadly divided into two paths: one involves the shift of the current world order towards a multicentric one, while the other encompasses the questioning or denial of the modernisation process, predominantly at the national social level.

Modernisation itself is accompanied by risks and destruction, yet the undeniable benefits it brings to human society, such as improvements in the education system, medical care, urbanisation, and international trade, are immense and substantial. The by-products generated during modernisation are no reason for us to deny it. Although it is annoying, these risks need to be addressed by human society. 

Several times in the report, I mentioned the foundations of the once-prevalent Western value system — a dynamic form of universalism grounded in particularities. What I mean is that the critique and questioning of the modernization process has, to some extent, spurred its ongoing evolution. This is also the way that the dynamic equilibrium of universalism functions.

During globalization, when the open and dynamic value system tends to become stagnant and monotonous, it encounters scrutiny and resistance around the world. Such a backlash is not rare for universalism, which has faced dissent throughout the history of globalization and on several occasions has succeeded in developing a new inclusive universal value system. In essence, the global transformation under the second path of discussion, modernisation, has never been stopped and will continue after 2040.

The other pivotal transformation in our discussion, the trend of world order towards multipolarity, is something which is taking place currently and will continue in the near future. We often conflate the two paths of global transformation. Indeed, criticisms of modernisation have paved the way for the current shift in the international order. However, I think there will come a time when not just Russia and China, but all nations will embrace the transformation of the world order, while aware that process of modernisation is irreversible. Human beings already have nuclear weapons, drones, spacecraft, artificial intelligence, and technology for utilizing renewable resources; we can't return to the point where none of that happened.

Global Alternatives 2024
Order From Chaos: Is It Possible to Overcome Global Disorder by 2040?
Oleg Barabanov
Will order emerge from the chaos of the modern world? Will this order be harmonious and equal? Or is this another utopia? All these questions undoubtedly concern humanity. The merit of the Valdai Club report’s young authors of is that they were not afraid to directly raise these questions, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Oleg Barabanov.

During the open discussion, we heard more from the youth community. In an instant questionnaire survey on the future world order, many participants indicated that they believe in multipolarity, convinced that it can establish a balance of power and mitigate conflicts. Accepting the multipolar world does not mean a departure from modernisation. On the contrary, it proves that modernisation is widely accepted, inherited, and developed all over the world. 

Simultaneously, a significant number of individuals are either curious or apprehensive. They are worried the road to the new order is full of challenges and uncertainties. More critically, there is a lack of definitive vision among international organisations as well as the cooperation frameworks set up by groups of states in the emerging multipolar world.

As the participants made their opinions clear, more details emerged. Discussing the future order, they highlighted the threat of artificial intelligence to knowledge production, concerns about disinformation and data security, about membership fees and talent shortages among those needed to run international organizations, and more. The youth view these issues in terms of the interconnectedness between individual experiences and world trends and pay close attention to risks associated with new technologies that undermine the functioning of social organizations. Rather than dwelling on the overcoming of the weaknesses of human nature, the younger generation talks about a sustainable world.
A sustainable world is not a utopia; it is a set-up where participants continue to cooperate more deeply.

Most of this young generation has been raised in a relatively peaceful international setting, experiencing the zenith of international cooperation. As a result, even the most pessimistic young participants hardly question the possibility of international cooperation. Instead, their frustration stems from the challenge of establishing a more effective cooperative framework.

Thus, they offered a lot of local observations and recounted experiences with a mind to enhancing global modernization. In my view, this suggests that an increasing number of countries and regions will actively engage in international affairs in the future. More rationality is unleashed. Therefore, my co-authors and I propose four values that are indispensable for the construction of the future order — forgiveness, resilience, patience, and acceptance. These values serve to mediate among rational actors.

My thoughts on the values of the future world are also related to my current doctoral dissertation, where I explore the challenges faced by youth as a social demographic group amidst global transformations. These challenges include changes in young people’s political preferences and shifts in the youth policies of Russia and China, among others.

This line of thinking emerged as I delved into youth issues and intergenerational contradictions in society. It's common for societies to view young people as ‘outsiders’ because they do not share the same experiences as past generations. However, research indicates that societies possess a variety of mechanisms to ensure the transmission of traditional ideas and customs. Moreover, the seemingly incomprehensible practices of young people are not an attempt to deviate from tradition; they are a reasonable response to the reality of their times and the future risks.

It is foreseeable that there are setbacks on the road to a new world order. Elevating the local experience to a macro level means inviting others to judge one's own life. Such endeavours may not necessarily gain recognition, and there may be misunderstandings and conflict. What's worse, individual rationality might result in collective irrationality. That's why I mentioned forgiveness and resilience. This underscores the need for self-restriction and allows for other people's stories to be told without costing us our ability to express ourselves. 

Additionally, while human life expectancy continues to rise, giving us more time, our consumption of time becomes increasingly frugal. Modern society grapples with time anxiety, emphasising meaningful time consumption. Consequently, we often dedicate our time to activities that fulfil cognitive needs, while sensory experiences intrinsic to human nature, such as hearing, sight, touch, and smell, are overlooked unless they stimulate thought. We need patience to counter the increasingly prevalent approach of relying primarily on abstract thinking to understand the world and accept the fact that we live on Earth, together with other living beings.

The values of forgiveness, resilience, patience, and acceptance are intended to guide us to participate, prudently, in a diversified life, and to survive and develop in a sustainable world.
Valdai - New Generation: Seeing the Future Is Difficult, but Let Us Try
What will the world look like in 2040? What new values does the younger generation offer? What is technological progress – a danger or an opportunity? Will people become “hamsters” and “cockroaches” for artificial intelligence? This was discussed by the participants of the Valdai Club workshops, held as part of the first Youth Conference of the Club on March 3–4 at the site of the World Youth Festival.
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Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.