Sergey Gorkov's lecture: where to invest to achieve a leap

Chairman of the executive board of Vnesheconombank tells about possibilities for a breakthrough in the Russian economy

For no good reason we think we are living in the most dynamic time. There already were examples of breakthrough innovations in the past, significant ones! What lessons from the past we should learn to achieve results in the present — read in the lecture of Chairman of the Executive Board of Vnesheconombank Sergey Gorkov, published by Realnoe Vremya in the framework of the project 'Open Lectures'.

Forgotten hero-physicist and a new idol of mankind

The beginning of the lecture (read in KFU in May 2017) Sergey Gorkov devoted to modern state of the Russian economy: high dependence on resources, low productivity and inefficient management. These features of the domestic economy suggest that the growth pace in Russia today is lower than worldwide.

Let's remember the 1960s, the speaker suggested. The USSR was the leader in space, nuclear energy, microelectronics and biotechnology. The hero of that time was a physicist. Life magazine compared the Soviet and American students and found that knowledge of the first was superior to the knowledge of the second two times. What did the Americans do? They drew lessons and changed education in high school! The main topics of the books and movies, newspaper articles were dedicated to people who create. In the 1980s, the situation changed radically. The idol for people became a man who knows how to live, travel abroad, correctly builds relationships, but, in fact, creates nothing. How did it happen that everything changed in just 20 years?

''The economic factor of the Soviet Union was lost. Already in 1972, the USSR takes the first place by import of wheat in the world. We lost advantage not only in technology and space industries, but even in resource ones,'' Sergey Gorkov said.

Gorkov shows a photo of New York, where in just 13 years horse-drawn carts were replaced with cars. Then the plane, the theory of relativity and quantum physics, stainless steel, panel housing construction. What changed for 13 years in our country?

''We think that we are living in a rapidly changing century. But imagine how people lived 100 years ago. Then, perhaps, the pace of changes was faster than it is now,'' said Gorkov.

We think that we are living in a rapidly changing century. But imagine how people lived 100 years ago. That time, perhaps, the pace of changes was faster than it is now

Breakthrough technologies of the 21st century

There are only ten global challenges and they will change the world, the speaker said. It is breakthrough technology, Industry 4.0, startups, new ways of interacting with government, blockchain technology, convergent biotechnology, long life, imbalance, new ways of organizing production and leadership in the 21st century.

A vivid example of breakthrough technologies — shale oil. Ten years ago, it was believed that the oil price would not fall below $250 per barrel ever. Demand was increasing and reserves were decreasing. It was believed that it was very expensive to extract shale oil because its cost was $120 per barrel, and, consequently, there was no technology.

That is why the technology was used by small companies worth $10,5 million. Time passed and it became clear that the cost of shale oil extraction was not $120 but $100, then $90. Now it is only $60 per barrel. This means that it is likely that oil will never cost above $60, which is a serious challenge for the economy.

We already had unmanned vehicles — horses

Another breakthrough technology — unmanned vehicles. In Dubai, it has recently been launched the first taxi with unmanned vehicle. According to Sergey Gorkov, unmanned vehicles will conquer the world, and in 20-25 years, people, perhaps, will be forbidden to drive. Because human beings are emotional and dangerous. At the same, there have already been unmanned transport in the world's history. It is the horse. Now we are gradually returning to this kind of transportation, only in a more advanced version.

An important theme — creation of the technology of cultured meat.

''Already 100,000 tons of meat have been produced in the United States. Obviously, once the technology becomes cheap, the whole industry of agriculture will die. Because the slogan — it is not necessary to kill animals – will dominate,'' the lecturer said.

Drones, unmanned aerial vehicles, are becoming popular. Russia now has the project 'flying motorcycles' that are able to take people to the air. The projected has been invested by VEB, the motorcycles were presented at St. Petersburg Economic Forum.

Russia now has the project 'flying motorcycles' that are able to take people to the air. Photo:

Blockchain will kill bureaucracy

A popular term today is Industry 4.0. This is another challenge to economy. But Russia applies it randomly unlike other countries. According to the lecturer, China is showing the highest activity in this field. China is active in implementation of touch sensors. This is a very important part in Big Data in order to move forward, developing Industry 4.0.

Private capital has begun to compete with the state. As an example, the lecturer cited space industry. Today, large rockets are competing with small satellites, produced by small companies. This point Gorkov reinforced with the case of Dauria startup. The company was created in 2014 and it employs only 38 people. The satellites produced by Dauria cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. At the same time, the company's products compete with large satellites worth hundreds of millions of dollars per unit.

A number of startups is growing worldwide! The work in the corporation for university graduates seems complicated and strange, and starting your own startup is considered to be trendy. All major companies are being under pressure of the startups. They attack big business with its products more and more.

The USA, China and… Georgia are leaders of blockchain technology

''Blockchain will kill Russian bureaucracy,'' Sergey Gorkov said about the next, one of the most discussed, challenges. Explaining why, he noted that this technology eliminates the human factor. ''Many believe that this technology will come only in 10-15 years. But it is not true. Blockchain is already here. Even though it is not so spread in reality, but it is already at crouch start,'' Gorkov said.

Major world powers such as the USA and China are taking the leading positions in implementation of blockchane technologies. Surprisingly, small Georgia round out the top three leaders.

''Georgia has very ambitious plans. Now they want to start a project for obtaining land rights based on blockchain system. It is expected that the system will work similar to McAuto. A person comes in, gives the necessary information, gets a land title while leaving,'' the lecturer said.

In the near future, the money will go out of use, the lecturer continues. It is on the horizon. According to the calculations of Gorkov, it will take 20 years, 30 at most. Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency that operates on the basis of blockchain, will change global picture. According to Sergey Gorkov, the Central Bank of the Russian Federation is not yet ready for legalization of the coin, but the issue is being addressed. However, to create blockchain, bitcoin is not necessary, Chairman of the Board of VEB explained to the audience. It can be just a technical signal used in blockchain.

Gorkov also underlined that blockchain technology is a basis for many new businesses: there is little information yet, but it only means that you can create a lot. The lecturer gives 5 years for the final entry of the technology into our lives.

''Blockchain technology is a basis for many new businesses: there is little information yet, but it only means that you can create a lot.'' Photo:

If machine becomes self-aware, people will turn into pets

Another global challenge is convergent technology. In simple terms, the creation of cyborgs. This technology is a biological splicing of IT and nanotechnology. It is believed that in the next 20-25 years people will do most of the work. In the result, there can be two types of cyborgs. The first are the ones that can perform any technical work. The second are those which abilities are multiply enhanced by technology. They will be able to transfer their consciousness into other bodies and beings.

''The worst thing that can happen is the machine becomes aware of itself. And then people will turn into pets. Only human being has consciousness. In 10-20 years, the problem of how to control the robots will become a reality,'' says Gorkov.

Another factor is an increase in life expectancy. Times are changing, people become living longer. Biotechnology gives us the ability to prolong life, therefore, the structure of the market changes. If earlier people at the age of 50 were considered old, now people at their 50 do sports, have an active life. And this is a fundamental change.

Changes will not take place simultaneously and everywhere. There will be an imbalance among people. Someone will create, and someone will use it. There is a gap between technology and control. Technology is advancing, and it is becoming more difficult to control them.

The ways of organizing the work of staff need to be changed. According to Gorkov, the work outside of office is becoming more widespread. However, for now it applies more to IT sector. But eventually the trend will come to other industries as well. The so-called agile organizations are about to appear. It is the form and method of work organization when there is a difficult task and it is necessary to involve different specialists to the team.

To invest to achieve a leap

If to talk about leadership in the 21st century, the main theme will be selflessness. Results can be achieved when there is selflessness. Management of human energy will be a new phenomenon. To this day, this understanding exists only in Chinese philosophy.

In conclusion, Sergey Gorkov noted that Russia is investing in catching-up development. But this way we will be only catching up, not dominating other countries. Therefore, Russia's task in the future is to finance advancing development, what will give a leap effect.

Where can it take place? One of the strengths of our country is thermonuclear and quantum technology. Now Russia is on the way to create controlled thermonuclear fusion, which should lead to a new stage in development of energy sector.

As for quantum technologies, we also have the groundwork in this field. However, the amount of investments is 'lagging'. While China is investing in quantum technology $1 billion, Russia is investing only $10 million.

Besides, the priority areas for Russia are neurobiotechnologies (the research is conducted in Kurchatov), the spacecraft with nuclear facility, small space (Dauria's developments) and blockchain technology.

Recorded by Alina Gubaydullina