The TED Talks (Technology, Entertainment, Design) are a renowned series of lectures with the objective to develop ideas for a sustainable future. The TEDx Talks stand for locally organized TED Talks. On 5 June 2016, the TEDxKIT conference took place for the first time. Themed “Decisions and Future” it featured the question how decisions can be made against the background of a contingent future and increasing individual risks.
The lecture "Trust and Future - Human beings and decisions in an increasingly complex world" discusses the role of humans especially against the background of increasingly automated and computerized decisions. It outlines some (!) of the reasons for the growing complexity of man-made reality. It addresses the fact that taking a decision more and more often comes along with individual risks, while decisions as a such become on the one hand increasingly consequential and on the other hand less and less comprehensible. This development fuels the tendency to shift decision-making processes to numeric criteria, which makes sense in many cases, yet in others is basically impossible. Thus, in many situations, we have no other choice than to face the world’s confusing chaos by means of human decisions.
This approach is however bound to many conditions, as it is only possible by offering decision-makers a special form of basic trust which in addition only relies on their competence and their willingness to conduct a controverse and problem-oriented discussion.
The lecture contrasts this conclusion with an inventory of the current political events. It specifically focuses on the agitation of the new populistic movments (such as PEGIDA in Germany) and parties (such as Alternative für Deutschland, Front National, UKIP etc.) which systematically take advantage of the decision-making dilemma. Suggesting the public simple solutions where they are not possible they provoke dissent within the social and political community until discord sparks off.
Having been asked to pronounce their opinion or – even worse from their point of view – by legitimation of their electorate they need to assume responsibility, and soon drop their electorate like a hot potatoe. The risk that emanates from these groups is explicitly not their chance to influence political decisions. Instead, it is the fact that the public obviously ignores that these groups which are incapable of organizing a parliamentary group even for some months strife-torn by destructive interior forces can hardly ever contribute to pragmatic political solutions, but are all the more capable of infiltrating a society by extracting its basic trust in politics, an indispensible factor for any political approach to a problem.
As a last point, the lecture warns of a threatening loss of social coherence if trust in humans continues to be considered irrational and obsolete and the problem of complexity continues to be denied. In that case, on the one hand, decision makers would be deprived of their legitimation, while on the other hand, the public would be left alone with an increasingly complex reality.