In fore­front of the SURPRISE FACTORS SYMPOSIUM, stu­dents from var­i­ous dis­ci­plines gath­ered togeth­er to dis­cuss our this year main theme „Beyond Bor­ders — The Strength to Emerge from Crises“. Six of them brought the view of the young gen­er­a­tion into the dis­cus­sions between experts, politi­cians and the mem­bers of the sci­en­tif­ic advi­so­ry board of ACADEMIA SUPERIOR.

Four areas appeared to be par­tic­u­lar­ly rel­e­vant for Upper Austria’s future in their opin­ion:

1. Ageing Society and Welfare State

The wel­fare state will, espe­cial­ly in rur­al areas, may reach soon its lim­its. In Upper Aus­tria, the rur­al areas will also be more affect­ed from the demo­graph­ic process­es in the next thir­ty years than the Aus­tri­an average.1 There exists a risk that the vil­lages will lose not only their youth but also that their local infra­struc­ture will col­lapse. How can you ensure the care for elder­ly cit­i­zens, if there won’t be enough young peo­ple in some areas?

Peo­ple in old age should be more encour­aged to get involved, to work and to take more respon­si­bil­i­ty. It is nec­es­sary to devel­op sus­tain­able con­cepts for the coex­is­tence of gen­er­a­tions and to open up more oppor­tu­ni­ties in the rur­al areas for the young gen­er­a­tion. The broad­band ini­tia­tive of Upper Aus­tria is a step in this direc­tion, because when com­mu­ni­ca­tion and data exchange in rur­al areas is more pos­si­ble, there will be new job oppor­tu­ni­ties.

2. Mobility and Climate

In order to over­come exist­ing bar­ri­ers in Upper Aus­tria and between Upper Aus­tria and its neigh­bour­ing regions, it needs more mobil­i­ty. It seems impor­tant that the dif­fi­cult traf­fic sit­u­a­tion in the Upper Aus­tri­an Zen­tral­raum gets solved and more traf­fic con­nec­tions are made to the north of Upper Aus­tria and beyond its bor­ders. It is impor­tant to link the urban and rur­al areas through envi­ron­men­tal­ly sus­tain­able trans­port con­cepts. Before new motor­ways are built, pub­lic trans­port should be expand­ed first and new mobil­i­ty con­cepts have to be devel­oped. If alter­na­tive mobil­i­ty options are made avail­able first, per­haps the mobil­i­ty-pref­er­ence of the peo­ple will shift from the motorised pri­vate trans­port to oth­er pos­si­bil­i­ties.

3. Science and Humanity

The oppor­tu­ni­ties and risks of new biotech­nolo­gies must be dis­cussed open­ly and wide, so that we don’t lock our­selves the pos­si­ble aris­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties. The young field of biotech­nolo­gies will soon see some major break­throughs in research and these will, with no doubt, have a great impact on our lives. How­ev­er, we should be clear what under­stand­ing or pic­ture of human­i­ty we want our soci­ety to rep­re­sent, before we let those new tech­nolo­gies, such as pre­na­tal diag­no­sis, in-vit­ro-fer­til­iza­tion and cloning, pen­e­trate into our lives.

4. Democracy and Politics

Our polit­i­cal sys­tem is unmis­tak­ably going through a peri­od of a pro­found change. We must ensure that these changes do not lead to a cri­sis of our democ­ra­cy. Polit­i­cal process­es at the Euro­pean, nation­al and region­al lev­el should be made more trans­par­ent and under­stand­able, to reduce the dis­tance between cit­i­zens and pol­i­tics. The cit­i­zens must get more inter­est­ed in pol­i­tics again. But this will only hap­pen if we give them more oppor­tu­ni­ties to par­tic­i­pate in the deci­sion mak­ing process.

More direct democ­ra­cy could be ven­tured on the local com­mu­ni­ty lev­el — as a learn­ing field for the soci­ety to find out if such process­es could be imple­ment­ed at high­er lev­els of admin­is­tra­tion. Espe­cial­ly the young gen­er­a­tion must be encour­aged to leave their com­fort zone and get involved in this process. To pre­pare the youth for this task, it is nec­es­sary to imple­ment more polit­i­cal edu­ca­tion at an ear­li­er lev­el in schools.

Resilience of society and the younger generation

One of the key­words, which is cur­rent­ly on everyone’s lips, is „resilience“. The term describes how well a sys­tem can respond to changes and ensu­ing crises. But how can we improve the resilience of our soci­ety, to make it more cri­sis-resis­tant and sus­tain­able? This is a chal­lenge we only can respond if we run an open dia­logue involv­ing all parts of soci­ety. For the ques­tion of how the future will look like, affects main­ly the young gen­er­a­tion and there­fore all gen­er­a­tions need to work togeth­er.

How­ev­er, a key aspect of resilience seems to be the state of the edu­ca­tion and research sys­tem in a soci­ety. Only when one has infor­ma­tion about the run­ning process­es, can we respond time­ly. And only when peo­ple get good edu­ca­tion, they will be able to devel­op the right ideas to deal with the lim­it expe­ri­ences of the future.

Quotes

  • „Peace is a process, nev­er a state.“
  • „Linz should set itself the ambi­tious aim of catch­ing up with Vien­na in terms of qual­i­ty of life.“
  • „We should stop bury­ing our heads in the sand when it comes to biotech­nol­o­gy.“
  • „Peo­ple do not know exact­ly what lim­its will be exceed­ed by the new biotech­nolo­gies.“
  • „We need a con­test for the best ideas.“
  • „We have left the wel­fare state a long time ago and have gone on to a pro­vid­ing state.“
  • „The cur­rent cri­sis is also an extreme chance to change things and to ven­ture new begin­nings.“

Con­nect­ing Points for ACADEMIA SUPERIOR

Points for fur­ther dis­cus­sions

  • Can we inte­grate the young gen­er­a­tion bet­ter in the polit­i­cal process?
  • How do you reduce the pri­ma­cy of pri­vate-car-based mobil­i­ty in Aus­tria?
  • How to react to the age­ing in rur­al areas and the rur­al brain drain?
  • Tools for fur­ther devel­op­ment
  • Inte­gra­tion of wider parts of the soci­ety in the polit­i­cal process at local lev­els (direct democ­ra­cy at the com­mu­ni­ty lev­el?).
  • Pro­mote ini­tia­tives for the liv­ing togeth­er of gen­er­a­tions, par­tic­u­lar­ly in rur­al areas.
  • Edu­ca­tion and knowl­edge as a key fac­tor for the resilience of a soci­ety

Note:
We are plan­ning a com­mon event with the Gym­na­si­um Dachs­berg in the fall of 2014 on the top­ic „Over the Bor­ders to Paradies — EU case immi­gra­tion“.

(1) See: Acad­e­mia Supe­ri­or (ed.), Future Field: Upper Aus­tri­an Lead­ing Com­pa­nies and Head­quar­ters. Chal­lenges for the work­ing world of tomor­row: Key force, Flex­i­bil­i­ty and Skill. Sum­ma­ry of the first dia­logue con­ver­sa­tioin. Linz 2013, p. 5.