Achieving a world class standard is something that everyone can reach today. I cannot let go of this realization. We are privileged to live at a time when almost everyone in the free western societies has the opportunity to use their unique individual strengths. If everyone were able to put their individual gifts to use, our world would look many times better. Then we would get global warming under control. All technical advances would be used solely for the benefit of the people and not to oppress other people or wage war against them. For example, the poorest of the poor in this world could be helped quickly with food, medicine and education. People would be able to see meaning in their lives and would focus on inner values and not on outward appearances and the accumulation of material goods. They would be kind and helpful rather than jealous, greedy and obsessed with power.
That first paragraph may sound like an illusion; like some kind of wild dream. However, I am convinced that it is entirely achievable. It is a state that is within our grasp and that an ever-increasing group of people can already experience today. The realization of this dream has already extensively been described in multiple books and on the Internet. A milestone work in this area is the world bestseller “The 4-Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferris from 2007. The book's subtitle: “Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich” neatly encapsulates this concept. In his book, Ferris provides detailed and self-tested descriptions of possibilities that the modern world offers. It enables you to earn a living with just four hours of work per week, so that you can do things that are fun and fulfilling in the time remaining. The trend towards such life opportunities was foreseeable for a long time. The great Peter Drucker (1909-2005), considered the inventor of modern business management, put it in the following way in 2000: "In a few hundred years, when the history of our time will be written from a long-term perspective, it is likely that the most important event historians will see is not technology, not the Internet, not e-commerce. It is an unprecedented change in the human condition. For the first time - literally - substantial and rapidly growing numbers of people have choices. For the first time, they will have to manage themselves. And, society is totally unprepared for it. “
This change, so aptly described by Peter Drucker, is the most exciting development of my lifetime in my view. Born in 1965, I was brought up and educated with a different focus. My paternal grandfather was born in 1894. He went to the front as a soldier in World War I, where he was buried by rubble and, as a result, suffered hearing and speech damage. His family lost everything. My grandmother's family suffered a similar fate, as they used all family assets to buy bonds of the German Empire to finance the First World War. When the war ended the Empire was bankrupt and couldn’t repay its debt.
27 years later when the Second World War ended in 1945 my grandparents lost everything they owned once again. They had to flee from their home in Silesia – a state in the eastern part of Germany that now belongs to Poland - with only a few hours’ notice in the night of January 21, 1945 when the Russian army occupied their city. Their flight turned into an eight-months life threatening horror trip through various parts of Germany. At one point, my grandmother wanted to commit suicide. It took all the strength my father, who was nine at the time, had to prevent it. Finally, the family found shelter in the Rhineland.
This traumatic experience was something my grandparents and parents had in common with some 6.7 million other displaced Germans. My father, who is now 85, never fully recovered from this experience. Therefore, the horror of fleeing his home and war also shaped part of my childhood. To a certain extend the post war trauma of many Germans shaped the entire social climate in Germany in the 1960s and 1970s.
The war is an example of a world that I call the world of scarcity. Hunger, plagues and wars are the prevailing images of this world. It is this world of scarcity that has shaped the absolute majority of human history. Modern humans, i.e. Homo Sapiens, have been around for around 200,000 years. For 185,000 of those years, humans were hunters and gatherers. About 15,000 years ago they began to settle down and practice agriculture. The industrial society as we know it today only emerged a good 200 years ago. However, it took another 160 years until the decade of the 1960s for the industrial society to be sufficiently developed and able to generate sufficient prosperity in the rich western states at least and so liberate most of the people from the fate of absolute poverty.
In 1800, 94% of the world's population lived in absolute poverty, i.e. they faced a daily fear of starvation. In 1950 this value was still around 70%. How does the world look to people who feel constantly threatened by hunger, war and plagues? They are careful. They think short term. They act opportunistically. The life of starving people is in a way similar to that of wild animals that compete with one another for their prey. The emergence of a civilized coexistence is ultimately the result of prosperity. Sufficient prosperity enables a human existence that is not exposed to permanent threats. Fortunately, we have now reached this state in most western countries. And more than that. We have not only freed people from the permanent existential threat of hunger, war and plagues. Along the way, we have also created a material abundance. We left the world of scarcity and entered the new world of abundance.
This world of abundance got rid of the problems related to scarcity but created a variety of serious new problems. Probably the most prominent concern in this context is the catastrophic destruction of our environment and our natural resources. The dramatic increase in our world’s complexity is perhaps a less prominent issue, but one whose effects are even more challenging than environmental degradation. We now live in a world that no one understands anymore in its entirety. In 1950 it took 50 years for human knowledge to double. In 1980 it was seven years, in 2010 just under four years and experts estimate that knowledge will double in just 73 days in 2020. Mastering this knowledge and dealing with it constructively is the greatest challenge we humans face today. Overcoming this complexity is our modern struggle for survival. To achieve this, i.e. to master the world of abundance, requires a completely different approach than to make it in the struggle for survival in a world where things are lacking. People and companies who have mastered the modern tools for dealing with the world of abundance have endless possibilities. You are, for example, able to live a life as Tim Ferris describes in the 4-Hour Workweek. You have the tools to solve all the problems of this world and to combine individual happiness and common good at the highest level. On the other hand, modern technology can be used to destroy our entire planet or to oppress people in an Orwellian fashion through permanent observation.
Therefore, it is my mission is to enable every person and every business to take advantage of the possibilities the modern world of abundance offers. These advantages should be used in a way that preserves humanity and adds significant value to everyone’s individual life and to society as a whole. The future of all of us depends on as many people as possible being able to do so.