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Dirk Helbing, ETH Zürich
Singapore, May 2013
Most 21st century challenges, including climate change, financial stability, or energy supply, cannot be solved by technology alone. They have an important behavioral and social component. Some of the problems even occur if everybody has good intentions, is well equipped, and highly motivated to do the right things. These problems can be a result of systemic instabilities. Typical examples are phantom traffic jams or crowd disasters. Moreover, in social dilemma situations, cooperation is favorable for everyone, but unstable. This might lead to "tragedies of the commons". The classical approach to overcome such tragedies is to introduce laws, regulations, punishments, taxes, or other mechanisms, which are changing the nature of the game or interaction. However, the carbon emission tax, for example seems to have largely failed. I will discuss the power of social mechanisms to change the behavior of people in favorable ways. Moreover, I will show that evolution has created a "homo socialis" besides the "homo economicus". I will also argue that we have a science and market institutions for the "homo economicus", but less so for the "homo socialis". Therefore, there is a need for a second kind of market system, which I will call "socionomy" or "participatory market society". I will then sketch some differences between socionomies and economies, and argue that socionomies would be suited to create more sustainable market systems. This, however, requires the use of new information and communication technologies, and furthermore a fundamental paradigm shift in our thinking from an individualistic or component-oriented view towards an interaction-oriented, systemic perspective. The arts will play a major role in creating this paradigm shift. In conclusion, we need a new, participatory kind of science, innovation, and arts. This is a very exciting perspective for the 21st century, which I imagine to be an era of creativity.