We use cookies in our website. Some of these cookies are essential to make our site work and continuously improve it. By using our site, you consent to the placing of cookies on your computer or device.

Further information is provided in our data privacy statement.

Chandran Nair: “You cannot eat freedom”

The author and founder of the Global Institute for Tomorrow explains the rise of China, India’s political challenges and why Western hegemony has to give way to a post-Western world order. Western democracy is a political model that is completely unsuited to the challenge of providing large populations with basic needs and rights. But now the rest of the world is coming.

Western ideas about sustainability – how to allocate resources and use them – apply to the rich world and sustaining its “good life.” These societies have reached a stage of development where most of the basic needs are provided for, although there are some pockets of poverty. But in the developing countries, which make up 85% of the world, only a small minority have actually attained the basic needs. The majority haven’t. So before you think about sustainability you have to understand that these people have a right to the basics: safe food, clean water, sanitation, housing, electricity, public health. In order to provide them with even those basics we’ll have to impose significant disturbances on the planet. Most of the people taken out of poverty are actually Chinese. And we should be patting ourselves on the back because 1.5 or 2 billion have been taking out of absolute poverty.


The bigger question is at what price? China has contributed more to this “achievement” than any other country in the history of humanity. But which country is most feared by the Western world? China. Why? Because it’s not following Western democratic ideals and notions of freedom and capitalism. The Chinese defy the fundamental belief that you can only have growth through democracy and capitalism. And yet, they have elevated hundreds of millions out of poverty. The only thing Westerners are concerned about is freedom of speech as if that solely defines the human experience. In my view, however, freedom of speech is not one of the top five freedoms for people coming from countries with wide-ranging poverty. You cannot eat freedom. But in the Western world it’s an obsession. Because they have never had freedom from want. So they don’t understand.


You can find the entire article in the book Futuring Human Mobility. The trade edition will be published in Spring 2019.

A Global Family – An essay by Mark C. Schneider

The 100-year history of the Ottobock company reflects the fate of the owner family and the vicissitudes of the 20th century. From Berlin via Königsee in Thuringia and Duderstadt in Lower Saxony, the entrepreneur family and their company head out into the world.

Ottobock has been a family company for 100 years, founded in 1919 in Berlin as the Orthopädische Industrie GmbH, three months after the end of World War I. At the time veterans walked through Berlin on crutches and just one leg, war invalids lacking arms, legs and hands. Orthopedic technicians were unable to treat the large numbers of patients quickly and effectively enough by using traditional means. The young founder Otto Bock – as one would call him in today’s start-up generation – himself a trained orthopedic technician, had a brilliant idea. He produced so-called fit components from wood.


These enabled him and his colleagues to build prostheses from prefabricated parts instead of having to laboriously produce a prosthesis from wood each time. The first step in the industrialization of prosthetics was made – a blessing for the casualties of war. And so it continued. If we look back over 100 years it becomes apparent how closely intertwined family, company and actual history have been, determining and inspiring one another. A closer look at the key moments, the “milestones” of this development, illustrates how the success of the company over three generations is the work of outstanding personalities who consciously faced up to their responsibility and recognized the opportunities at the turning points in history.


You can find the entire article in the book Futuring Human Mobility. The trade edition will be published in Spring 2019.

Georgia Näder: “In an ever-changing world our values need to live on in the next generation”

Together with trainees in Duderstadt the Ottobock Supervisory Board member discusses age differences, the team spirit within a family company, globalization, digitization, and the future of Ottobock.

I believe that we should keep our core values, despite all the changes we might be facing in the future. For me it is important that the users of our devices remain at the center of our actions and that we develop solutions for their problems and needs. Anyone who has ever experienced how much difference our devices make will understand what I am talking about. When I participated in the first fitting of the next generation of the C-Brace, an orthosis that enables people with partial or total paralysis of the knee extensors to walk again, eight users were wearing the C-Brace for the first time. It was unbelievable to see their faces! In the morning they were still sitting in wheelchairs and in the evening they could already walk again.


Another example are our Running Clinics with Heinrich Popow. People who thought they could never do sports again are suddenly running with sports prosthetics and are playing soccer. Moments like these shed light on why we are doing what we are doing. Always with our values – human, inventive and reliable – in mind we treat our users with honesty and at eye level. This is a big part of our success story. I often talk to my father about this and me and my sister will ensure that these values continue to live on in the next generation.


You can find the entire article in the book Futuring Human Mobility. The trade edition will be published in Spring 2019.