Prof. Dr. Heiko von der Gracht took over the Chair of Futures Studies at the School of International Business and Entrepreneurship (SIBE) at Steinbeis University in 2018. In 2020, as chair and futurologist, he was instrumental in the development of the “thought-provoking Covid-19” commissioned by the governor of South Tyrol, in coordination with the provincial government of South Tyrol. This was followed in May 2021 by a publication on the future of the European generics and biosimilars industry in cooperation with the German industry association Pro Generika e.V. He spoke with journalist Gerd Felder about the discipline of “futurology” and his very personal view of the current pandemic:
Prof. von der Gracht, there is currently only one chair for futurology at a university in Germany. What does a futurologist do?
Yeah, too bad – right? The future is so important, the future concerns us all, – and then we don’t even have a handful of chairs. After all, we have about a dozen professors who do futurology in addition to their main subject of sociology or education. What does a futurologist do? What we all do when we pack our suitcase for a vacation: look into the future. But we do it scientifically, using more than 40 methods of futurology. Pandemics like the current one, for example, were predicted by the first futurologists in history more than 500 years ago.
You once said, “A little fear never hurt.” Does that apply to Corona as well? And if futurology can capture unexpected events, it begs the question: did you foresee Corona?
As I said, I was neither the first nor the only one. The pandemic as an archetypal catastrophe has been part of the standard repertoire of future scenarios practically since the invention of futurology. That Corona surprised so many people surprised the futurologist. We should generally plan more often and more strongly for sudden and shocking events such as extraordinary natural disasters. Or that in just a few years we could all be carrying an artificial intelligence in our jacket pockets, showing us the right way in all situations with superhuman intelligence.
A very crucial question, much debated, is: will our world be exactly the same after Corona as it was before, or will it, perhaps even must, change radically? Does Corona offer any opportunities?
It will take another decade for poor countries to wound Corona. With us it will take two, three years. For the tens of thousands of Corona sufferers whose lungs, for example, are only pumping at 30 percent, Corona is a lifelong affliction. And if we need a pandemic to take our chances, then we as a human race can and should pack it in. Opportunities are there every day. It’s only because we don’t use them on a daily basis in our normal lives that we end up with disasters like the pandemic in the first place.
Want to read the full interview? Then take a look now at the book “Unser Corona-Jahr: Wie Rheinländer die Pandemie erleben” by Gerd Felder, published by Eifeler Verlag.