Yuri Chudnovskiy: nowadays, big money is made by brains, not hands

Ukraine has embarked on the mission as one of the world’s intellectual donors

Question: Yuri Vladimirovich, what do you think about the intellectual potential of our nation?

Answer: I distinguish several concepts: intellectual resource, intellectual potential, and intellectual capital. All these concepts are different. Potential is something that can be realized, but also may not. In this sense, the intellectual potential of our country is enormous. Another question is to what extent it is realized, and how high the demand for it is. It appears that Ukraine, either by inertia or by a lucky coincidence, is able to create intellectuals and intellect, but is totally unable to benefit from this.

Thus, there are clever people, but infrastructure is missing. It appears that Ukraine has embarked on a mission as one of the world’s intellectual donors. Almost everyone who becomes remarkable on the intellectual background has very high chances to leave the country, and/or to work for foreign corporations. In this sense, some part of work we can do—better or worse, but we can, and we do it.

This happens either by inertia—due to the system of development of the society inherited from the Soviet Union, or for a natural reason—due to a rather high genetic intellectual level of the nation.

In any case, we produce the potential. However, to become an efficient resource, it must be involved in some activities. An analogy can be drawn: oil, until an internal combustion engine was invented, had not been considered a useful resource. Here, the situation is the same: the “reserves”—those of the intellect—are available, but they are hardly involved in any activity!

Question: If Ukraine has not launched such an engine yet, does it have the intellectual future at all?

Answer: Today, there are only two areas which “hunt” for intellectuals. Those are business and politics. If a person can think, they can be “used” in these two fields. To use means to find, attract, and pay good money. Everything else (and the areas for application of the intellect are numerous) occurs against the wishes of the society, rather than due to its efforts.

I am not even talking about the state since it is obvious to me that nowadays it is far from being the main player in this matter. The main question is whether the society is going to fend for itself and how it is going “to fend for itself?” Through which structures, by what people and how should the society’s “fending for itself” be cultivated?

I basically consider the state to be a non-thinking instrument. This is the machine for the reproduction of the legislative requirements already incorporated in it. It is neither obliged nor able to change anything.

I basically consider the state to be a non-thinking instrument. This is the machine for the reproduction of the legislative requirements already incorporated in it. It is neither obliged nor able to change anything.

What about the society? Does anyone think about something but political meetings and paid publications?! Since I originate from the Soviet Union, I remember that the Soviet society (especially during the growth of the country) used to “think” in kitchens and trains, this was the main instrument for reflection. By the way, it turned out to be neither the most mindless, nor the weakest one. Nowadays, even this is missing. In other words, people almost do not talk “in kitchens”.

They almost do not communicate. Further to the first question when the coincidence or disparity is discussed, interlocutors wave their hands, and say “What can we change?” That is all.

Here is an example of the Kiev strategy. Akhmetov’s Foundation for Effective Governance has elaborated the development strategy for Kiev. Alexandr Popov has actively promoted it for half a year, and during this time he managed to engage in a direct confrontation with the Kiev expert community, which had a lot of claims to this strategy. However, the question is who should be the strategy-holder, rather than whether the strategy is good or bad.

The Mayor? But he will be succeeded in four or 10 years. If not the Mayor, then who? The answer is obvious—the society. But what is the society? Therefore, the question about who is the strategy-holder, or who is thinking about Kiev (more precisely, for Kiev, for entire Kiev!), is, by its nature, deep, multifaceted, and complex.

The same regards the state. The strategy of the future is available, but its holder has not been determined.

People could leave the country, but it is desirable that others arrive here, and our people come back home as well

Question: Regarding the state—how to make talents, current and future strategy-holders, not to leave the country?

Answer: In general, I do not see a big problem that people are leaving to begin a good life: earning money, as well as realizing themselves in the professional area. I suppose that the problem is not that people are leaving the country, but that “thinking” is not organized here. People could leave the country, but it is desirable that others arrive here, and our people come back home as well. This would make the land a centre of reflection about the future of the country, regions, and cities. This work should be organized.

No one has turnkey solutions. Russia tried to give its answer about the way of organizing thinking throughout the entire country. This answer was called Skolkovo Plus Educational Reform—a project that failed spectacularly. That is because it is impossible to localize the entire intellectual potential of the country in one place, near Moscow. Furthermore, to act by choosing the best is the way to nowhere. Because with the current mentality of our countries, these are not always the best people, but sometimes these are just friends or acquaintances of such friends.

Then the question is how not to collect “geniuses” in one room, and not to create the 31st department, as described in the famous detective The Death of the 31st Department by Per Wahlöö. How to create a distributed network of thinking, which would use the intellect dispersed throughout the territory. It is a sophisticated task. This is but one side of the coin.

Usually, when people are talking about the intellect or about the future, the first thing that comes to mind is intellect is science, nothing more. In fact, it is both science, art, journalism, and medicine… All these areas should be exposed for using, “involving” the intellect.

The industrial era is coming to an end. Nowadays the main capital is made by brains, not by hands. This is confirmed by the overall picture of the latest international economic ratings which has changed. For the first time in the history of ratings, commodity companies, altogether, have plunged down in the list of the most profitable, highly liquid companies, and took their place after the intellectual ones.

This is logical. For instance, when buying sandals, you pay not for three stitches and a sole, but mostly for the brand. In this case, the intellectual component already significantly exceeds the cost of actual production. Therefore, intellect is not about science alone.

Secondly, when it comes to the future, an equal sign with innovation is immediately put. “The future” means that we should develop it. However, not everything is easy here. From my point of view, Ukraine has already lost the innovative race, further to the emergence of an independent state. That is, in the sense that innovation is a kind of infrastructure, huge capital revolving in this area, and completed chains. It is too late to start building the entire global complex today. I think that the innovative theme for Ukraine is a losing topic.

Today Ukraine is not a player in the geo-intellectual processes

At the same time, new approaches to the figurative dormitory, and an answer to the question “why and how we should live together” are vital for Ukraine. If we do not find an answer, or if we do not determine how and why we live, there will be no state. In the conditions of such vital choice, it is necessary to give an answer—neither Russian, European, nor American, but our own answer. This question, most likely, is necessary for Europe, America, China—for everyone. Since nowadays, a wave of grave problems has swept over everyone…

Question: Economic or geopolitical?

Answer: How about semantic?!

Question: Those seen only by just a handful of persons from the entire society?

Answer: They are seen only by some persons, but are experienced by everyone.

However, understanding is not that “singular”. Recently, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, and then, one month later, David Cameron, publicly expressed their concern about the crisis of the ideology of multiculturalism. This means that it has already become a problem realized by the global community.

The crisis of European values, the one of the national states, I am not even talking about terrorism, ecology, or economics… On the one hand, the discussion of these problems has already set the teeth on edge. On the other hand, how does it happen? For instance, the economic crisis is discussed not as a failure in the global economic machine. Today it is already discussed as a fundamental system error inherent in it. Enormous intellectual efforts are spent to find a way out of this situation.

Here is an example. Everyone is not satisfied with the dollar. The issue is how to go beyond the global dollar economics. This question, from my point of view, is not an economic, but a semantic one. Thus, it is necessary to decide what the sense of the currency exchange processes is.

Today, Ukraine does not participate in such discussions, it is not a player in the geo-intellectual processes. There are some clever people who are sitting somewhere, discussing something, and we can hear the fragments of these discussions through the media, in the best possible scenario. But not more—there is no competitive application for participation in these processes.

Therefore, nowadays we dedicate much time for discussion of what the thinking society is.

The Finns “explained to us” what is the society that studies. In Scandinavian countries, this doctrine has been properly implemented. It involves educating the society and the government, including throughout the life, the entire period of existence. This approach has been ranked as the national Scandinavian ideology. Moreover, it is clear that they learn from some teachers and consistently adopt their experience. At the same time, we are in a situation when there is no one who we can learn from—we must get through this path on our own, to learn through our mistakes.

Question: By a method of trials and errors?

Answer: First, through reflection. Since the method of trials and errors could be rather painful. However, unfortunately, that is what we are currently doing, and, in this sense, we are quite consistent—we are thrashing in different directions, recoiling between pitfalls and traps set up around us by the greats of this world, and we certainly want to fall into one of them…

Question: In your experience, is it possible to say that most good specialists, having lost their hope, and seeing no prospects for development, are eager to leave the country once and for all?

Answer: Numerous researches have been made in this respect. All of them reflect the same picture: 60–70 % of people want or hope to leave the country. Therefore, this phenomenon has become universal. Another moment is that not all of these 60–70 % will find themselves abroad.

If earlier young people took their suitcases and just went anywhere abroad, without any guarantees of employment or education, now they think such a decision over more thoroughly. That makes me happy. Those young people I know are associated with laboratories, universities, corporations, and they are thoughtfully preparing for this step. I am not even talking about the language, which should be learned before going abroad.

Of course, I know other examples as well: such as “suitcase-station-Poland” or “suitcase-station-America.” It is good that nowadays there are less such people. More than half of the people leave the country already having some certainty and a thought-out position of self-realization.

Here ‘the intellect’ is a swear word in most cases

Question: To what extent are they ready for challenges? Do they realize the real share of risk? Or does experimentalism prevail in their decisions?

Answer: I agree that there is still a huge idealization of what they will face abroad. Namely, there are two aspects here. On the one hand, people leave understanding where they are going, why, where they will work and what they will do. On the other hand, they do not understand the level, the way and the quality of life abroad. The mentality of our young people is the following: if they see a scholarship of EUR 1,700-1,900, they consider the money to be sufficient for a rather good life (per local standards).

However, having arrived abroad, they are faced with realities: the rental payment for an apartment is up to EUR 1,000, foodstuffs are not so cheap, you need clothes and to move around the city somehow. It turns out that this is not a paradise at all, and they either need to work part-time or to survive fulfilling the terms of the contract and holding out until the end of its term. Not everyone can withstand this, and they come back disappointed.

Question: Why do you think people leave the country at all?

Answer: Because they are not needed here. Here the intellect is a swear word in most cases. No wonder the following proverb, which can even be called the basic doctrine of our society, became popular: “If you are rich, you are smart”. Unfortunately, not vice versa. It does not matter that wealth can be obtained in different ways, e.g. through criminal activity, including corruption. But if you managed to do this, you are clever. At the same time, if you are not rich, you have nothing to do here. You are a looser.

These are the basic views. They also should be changed somehow, and it is necessary to make most of the society want to be smart, or at least to focus on clever people in the beginning. Nowadays, all the doors are closed for intellectuals, especially for specialists of the engineering area. There are only a few people who can find themselves in this area.

Question: You have drawn analogies between the intellectual potential of the nation and oil resources. How large are these reserves? How high is the average intellect of an average Ukrainian?

Answer: To be more precise—of the Ukrainian society. The average Ukrainian is like the average temperature in the hospital. What does the average temperature in the hospital represent? Nothing. I suppose that the level of intellectual potential of the Ukrainian society is not lower than those of America, Europe, or China.

Question: Then I will put the question in a different way: what is a share of the talented people in our society?

Answer: The standard share for any more or less organized society is 10-12 percent. This is the maximum. The question is whether 100 percent could value these 10-12 percent.

Question: We will be getting back to this question. Do you think that this percentage is rather low?

Answer: No, in the modern conditions of the development of society, it is rather large. Under the influence of the so-called “zombie-box”, we are all accustomed to the fact that the main values​ of life are the size of your account, the quality of the apartment, the class of a car, and the brands you wear. No intellect is required for this. In this sense, we have been “brainwashed” in such way that most people have simply lost their understanding of such values as the ability to think, reflect, experience, express their emotions.

This percentage relates to those who managed to get beyond the mass culture and the influence of most media. With those who continue to resist somehow, although this is extremely difficult. This problem is not only Ukrainian. In fact, the entire so-called developed world is organized almost the same way. Since the mass culture “formats” everyone for “non-thinking”. Non-thinking people are easier to manage. The negative side of the global world concept lies in the following: to make unified people, and “feed” them with the standardized manufactured goods, and that is all.

In this sense, the problem of thinking people is rather serious. Indeed, how can a non-thinking majority think that they need thinking people—a thinking minority? Furthermore, to take some funds from themselves to feed and keep well the thinking minority…

Nowadays, the most painful question for the society is how and why to live together

Question: So, can the majority value these 10-12 percent of thinking, talented people you mentioned before? How does it happen in our country, how does it happen in the world, and how should it happen?

Answer: It is bad both in our country and in the world. Since nowadays the world really faces such challenges to which the existing institutions and organizations of the intellect can not respond. The basic structure in which the intellect has been “framed” and which the society has agreed to “feed” is science. Everyone understand that it is necessary to finance it. At the same time, science stopped providing answers to mankind’s basic questions: how to make people happy, why we live together, how the world works, how to fight terrorism? However, the main question is the following: how to live together? This is the most painful question. And science can not answer it.

Non-governmental organizations were established abroad—think tanks (analytical centres, research organizations focused, as a rule, on the human sciences: politics, economics, sociology, law, etc., Inpress.ua),—their approaches are based on a different, management point of view. Almost all companies have consultants from such think tanks. They consult the leaders on how to act in each situation. However, even think tanks have already ceased fulfilling their functions. Since when the client and the consultant (think tank) have the same ideology, they can agree among themselves. Now it turns out that the loss of the sense and the general ideology does not give a possibility of communication between the client and the consultant at all. Therefore, it is necessary to change the ideological framework.

This is what we should think about now—how to go beyond those stereotypes in which we have been plunged, and where to find strength to resist them, where to find resources so that this work allows to live for the families of those who resist it. This is an unsolved problem all over the world. This is not a problem, not a question: if we do as they do, we will be fine. No. They work on the same questions: how to organize the intellectual activity which would enable the communities to overcome the crises they are faced with.

Question: How successful has it been? Have any responses already been received in the world? Can we get to know them?

Answer: Why, of course, they have been received. But we should focus not on what we can take from them. We should give. The idea is not to take a good decision from someone. It is rather about providing good solutions to the world.

Question: And can we provide such solutions at least for ourselves first?

Answer: This is a conversation about the basis. The basis of the life of each person and our common life. This is a conversation which has been displaced by talks about new gadgets or a change in generations of iPhones in the West long ago. Talking about the sense is what we can bring to the world, and this is what we should think about and talk about, what has the sense at all.

What we can take is, of course, university grants, funds, the infrastructure we should not refuse from. All this should be done: searching for clever people, the places for application of their work, creating conditions around each of them. Because there is a mere few of them.

In fact, ten percent could be counted almost on the fingers. It is necessary to interact with them, to organize them in groups. To create hothouse conditions for each group, and to breathe on them carefully so that they can reflect in this direction and offer specific solutions. Not to overfeed them, of course, so that they do not become fat (he is laughing).