This article was published in the october 2012 issue of



Michel Saloff-Coste

Michel Saloff-Coste
After thirty glorious years crashing in the late 70s on the first oil shock, we had 30 years during which we have sunk deeper and deeper into economic, social and ecological crisis. Economic demography stumbles because we are already on the limits of the planet. We know this, in part, because social inequalities are now back to what they were in the nineteenth century. Also, the ecology has undermined biodiversity and accelerated global warming. Right in the desire to free all, the initiative remains locked in a neoliberal stance too insensitive to social dislocation and ecological crisis. We cling to growth in developed economies as the sole engine of development without offering a real solution for the economic and social crisis.
The Left has embraced the struggles of minorities towards more freedom, but left to disintegrate the old social contract without proposing a new one. The middle class emerges today impoverished, while misery engulfs the poorest. Environmentalists for thirty years have continued to warn people about the risks of industrial development and the intrinsic limits of the planet. Defenders of endangered species have some difficulties to propose an economic and social project credible, exciting and compelling for humans! The growing importance of real environmental problems, while giving them a renewed legitimacy, has faced increasing shortcomings in terms of societal projects.
Political forces – Right, Left or even ecological – remained largely enclosed in a reductionist and mechanistic mindset. However, the current crisis calls into question the very foundations of our thought. Einstein explains this issue very well when he notes that one cannot solve a problem within the same system of thought that produced it.
The societal systemic crises we are experiencing are structural. None of the traditional “recipe policies” that we already know (free markets, social redistribution, marginal preservation of nature) can meet the scope of the problem. We need a new political epistemology based on the most advanced transdisciplinary research in philosophy, economics, society and technology that is systemic, holistic and comprehensive.
We can imagine a new economic, social and ecological approach that articulates the medium and long term as a virtuous cognitive space where science, art and spirituality have a place in a real secular culture and integral human development. This is the project of a genuine policy of civilization.
How can we overcome our fears to rethink a new political imagination?
How can we organize global governance in the new paradigm?
How can we create a new civilization on a global scale?
What are the conditions of full democracy?
How can we open a space for dialogue between peoples and civilizations?
We have met many opinion leaders: politicians, business and organization leaders , national and international researchers, academics, artists and journalists. All are coated with the same fear of a fatal maturity of humanity in the longer term or, for the most optimistic, confident of these disorders bringing lots of economic, social or environmental, ills that are increasingly unstoppable. Millions of people and organizations are mobilized. Each in its sphere works doing relief, building, research, finance, with more or less. Each develops his project without imagining that just a few miles away from their own action the same exists or that their work is as important and vital not only here, but also on the other side of the planet. Such activity could have a multiplier effect with better yields with economic optimization if everyone talked, exchanged, were grouped, reflecting together for greater consistency and rapport among all stakeholders. Faced with inevitable globalization and with the corresponding necessity that everyone on this planet can live in dignity, it is urgent to organize – to join together.
DESIGN ME A PLANET is the first hub dedicated to open innovation to address challenges facing the planet. For the first time in the history of mankind, our systemic impacts are multiplied and make us responsible for local short-term and long term global issues. These challenges require us to innovate and provide an unprecedented opportunity to join forces, collaborate and engage all the intelligent variations. Energy, Power, City, Environment, Health, Human Society, far from denial or pessimistic, we can find solutions to the issues at stake if we combine collaboration and innovation.
DESIGN ME A PLANET wants to create a context facilitator among all stakeholders of our planet to succeed by promoting the changes that we know now are necessary and involve a substantial change in the control of our collective intelligence.
DESIGN ME A PLANET is a new kind of entity, which is defined as a HUB: a platform for collective and individual collaboration that provides a context for open innovation to bring out creative solutions and a system for developing worldwide projects.
Be smart in initiating all changes.
The system we are a part of today has been largely imagined from the seventeenth and eighteenth century by a series of thinkers who were able to imagine the transition from the agrarian age to the industrial age. Our economic and social foundations were developed in a context where it was considered that the planetary resources were unlimited. The exponential development of industrial civilization confronts us today with the limits of planetary resources. We have to invent an economy and society that can play positive roles in the global ecosystem.
The transition that lies ahead in the next ten years is infinitely more profound, complex and fast, than all previous experience. Today we must rethink the way we think and rebuild the foundations of our civilizations while respecting their diversity, their heritage. We can now take another leap forward in the quality of our overall system integration. We will not find solutions if we are unable to understand the system we live in from an outside perspective and remaking it in a peaceful manner within the framework of a more complex system, not one that is mechanical, but one that is interactive, systemic and whole.
Economic law moderated by social law must now be part of a broader ecological law.

Infinite Exponential Growth is Impossible in a Limited Space

A billion people in 1850, six billion in 2000, the brutal exploitation of global resources and global pollution has led to a massive shift, destroying the plants and animal species and the entire ecosystem necessary for our survival. The planet is warming and climate change endangers all of our agriculture. Our exponential growth encounters the natural limits of our planet.
However, growth is an imperative of economic life and systems.
When the economic system in which we live today was conceived, it represented a revolution against the feudal system, which until then had dominated the world. Industrial development would occupy a central place with currency and capital as leverage. Invested capital is paid by growth. Growth allows our companies to sell their
futures against immediate financial resources for their current development.
The current crisis is understandable: it is the confrontation between the needs of ever increasing exponential growth of the economic system and the limits of our planet. Without growth our entire banking system, based on debt, would collapse.
Emerging and growing population and economics crystallize our contradictions and are torn between the reality of the Apocalypse and the ecological paradise illusion of exponential growth. There is a strong correlation between population growth and pollution. In developed countries, the population is stagnant and without population growth, it is very difficult to have economic growth.
Nations, to meet short-term crisis, have responded with a massive show of money and an amplification of the debt. This response, although it appears beneficial in the short term, in the medium term will inevitably create rampant inflation, a growing impoverishment of the purchasing power of everyone and the discrediting of the world monetary system.
The concentration of capital, currency devaluation, the collapse of purchasing power are the factors that structure the social crisis we are facing: rapid impoverishment of the poor, middle class, growing difficulties and plummeting virtual assets of the richest.
This scenario, which is probably one of the most probable, has often happened in our history. Marked by a saw tooth pattern of development, the current situation will result in a sudden collapse of the global population because of disasters related to the chaos we are experiencing and the return to barbaric forms of totalitarianism.
As more and more prominent scientists fear, the worst scenario would be the disappearance of humanity.
The best scenario would be to imagine a new economic, social and ecological system viable in the new context where we are. We could then create processes to move in a controlled manner of industrial civilization, which is now in crisis, to a new type of civilization.

Imagine how a new economic, social and ecologically viable system…

It is undoubtedly difficult, but necessary, to abandon most growth as we know it and imagine an alternative future. But it is probably impossible and even suicidal to abandon any form of growth.  What is required is new economic growth with social and ecological transformation through a range of economic sectors that now actually poison the planet.

The Theory of a New Green Economy

According to classical economic theory, inherited from Adam Smith, “homo economicus” must achieve the highest productivity of three factors: labor, capital and raw materials. Industrial societies are currently focused only on the first two factors and neglect the third. In fact, they crave greater productivity of labor (producing more with a reduced workforce) and greater productivity of capital (get a bigger return on investment with less risk), but do very little to improve the productivity of raw materials. In sum, the economic model currently in place does not seem to know how to meet the needs of the growing world population with available resources, because it does not even apply the principles of its own theory.
While science has evolved into a systems approach, economists remain remarkably attached to their mechanistic and linear view, especially at the micro level of management science. If we want to address the challenges we face, it is urgent to understand complex systems and, therefore, the economy as a subsystem and adopt a comprehensive approach to ecological systems that are in harmony with the natural cycles we depend on. We will also integrate these models in the growing economies of virtual exchanges.
Currently, we exploit the planet’s resources as if they were free, unlimited and perpetually renewable. But the current rates of erosion of resources and waste generation deplete nature faster than it can regenerate. What do you think happens to people who squander their capital without worrying about their retirement and without any intention of benefiting their descendants? This is exactly what we do with our natural resources. In other words, it’s time to focus on the productivity of our “natural capital” while trying to make it grow.

Much More Than a Simple Transformation of Technology – a Change of Civilization

In this transition from industrial society to knowledge society, through the fullest possible dematerialization of our industrial products and the development of a multitude of content from our rich culture, we opened the virtual world. However, we should not believe that this revolution is purely technical. As in the transition from agrarian civilization to industrial civilization, what is at stake is more than just processing technology. Discussions of power, trade, how to think, communicate and organize themselves will be profoundly transformed. This is the same relationship to time and history that has deeply upset and transformed of our value systems and the ways we conceive of our identity.
As part of a renewal of democracy at the global level, the possibility of all human beings to communicate together and share their knowledge frees multifaceted innovation and the reinvention of all institutions based on new cultures, structures, management systems and the release of creativity of each. As Theodore Zeldin said, “Today, more and more people around the world, do not feel valued at fair value, not understood or heard. There is a great hunger for personal encouragement that mass society cannot satisfy. Immense wealth of hidden talents is untapped. Original methods must be invented to reveal those talents and free people from the stereotypes that diminish. Institutions of a completely new kind must be created, as democracy has invented new institutions centuries ago, to emphasize the originality of each. New tools are now available to make this possible. “[1] This is where DEIGN ME A PLANET could lead the world.
About the Author
Michel Saloff-Coste is a change catalyst, vanguard artist, integral and global futurist, business advisor and entrepreneur working with individuals, corporations and governments to create “fast insights into alternative futures”. He is a respected consultant and keynote speaker and has addressed many of the most important companies in the world raising global issues and creating awareness. It was indeed Michel’s role as a consultant in management strategy and communication, which inspired him to carry out more fundamental research on alternative futures. He even went as far as directing a multidisciplinary workshop on societal change, from 1985 to 1987, at the Ministry of Research in France.
Michel used his research in the writing of popular books and numerous papers on leadership, 21st century and the information society. Among his great achievements is the founding of the Club of Budapest in France, which is an international non-profit organisation dedicated to encouraging people to discuss complex global issues.
His career has seen him working with numerous international companies and associations. In 1991 he joined the Bossard Consulting Group as Senior consultant and research director. Bossard, now known as Capgemini is a top European consultancy firm. Michel then went on to create his own research and consultancy firm, MSC, in 1993, dealing with management, strategy and communication. This firm specializes in global governance, sustainable development and information society. Michel Saloff-Coste has even found the time to teach vanguard management in HEC Paris since 1990. As a contemporary artist Michel has explored a wide variety of mediums: painting, photography, video and music. His work has been exhibited and collected by many private galleries and individuals but also leading art institutions such as the Museun of Modern Art in Paris, Centre George Pompidou.
The focus of Saloff-Costes’s research and the subject matter of many of his books is on the paradigm shift within the information society that he himself defines as a ‘Creation-Communication Society’. He defines the evolution of civilization in four waves – namely ‘hunting & gathering’, ‘agriculture & breeding,’ ‘industry & commerce,’ and ‘creation & communication’. This was then followed by analysis of the interaction between the different representational waves. Michel’s work was published and became a best seller under the title, “Le Management du Troisième Millénaire”.
In 2011 he became head for R&D and International Development for In Principo Consulting firm and in 2012 President of Design Me a Planet an nongovernment organization dedicated to researching solutions for global issues on planetary level.
These days Michel’s passions include the research of:

- the major tendencies that transform development of our civilization at a planetary level
- the changes needed in countries and companies in terms of cultural, management, system and structure.
- how economic, social and ecological development can be harmonized.
- his personal aspiration is to help catalyze the emerging new civilization, co- create a world sustainable business model and bring beauty verity and ethics for a better world.
- as a integral activist he studies and promotes the political development of eco-villages and towns based on collective systemic ecological intelligence and creation.
Author of numerous bestseller books, Michel Saloff Coste is regularly interview in press, radio and television. Principal publication : Vêpres Laquées Baudouin 1979,Paris la nuit Balland 1982, Le management systémique de la complexité Aditech Ministère de la Recherche 1990, Le management du troisième millénaire Guy Trédaniel 1991 1999 et 2005, The Information Révolution and the Arab World Edition ECSSR 1999, Manifeste pour la technologie au service de l’homme Institut National Polytechnique de Grenoble 2000, Les Horizons du Futur Guy Trédaniel 2001, Year in perspective World Business Academy 2002, Trouver son génie Guy Trédaniel 2005,La société de l’information enjeu stratégique Revue Agir 2005, Le dirigeant du troisième millénaire Editions d’Organisation 2006, Mimétisme et singularité deux leviers de croissance La Revue de Kea 2006, La stratégie créative de singularisation La Revue de Kea 2007, Le DRH du troisième millénaire Village Mondial Pearson 2007 2008,Réenchanter le futur Village Mondial Pearson 2009, Prospective d’un monde en mutation Edition de l’Harmattan 2010, Au-delà de la crise financière Edition de l’Harmattan 2011, Les voies de la résilience Edition de l’Harmattan 2012.

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