Run from the banks

By Eirik Venberget

Whether people had to go to the bank, or there was a run on them, banks have always had a physical presence in communities, almost regardless of how small that community was. Inside the banks sat people who were primarily responsible for the bank’s money – and they guarded it diligently. For borrowers that meant it was difficult to get money or credit, and if they did the bank would closely monitor how they spent it.

In the last years, however, this has changed, as witnessed by the closing of numerous local branches. Much of this has been blamed on millennials’ expectations of banks and money, but ought perhaps to be seen as a larger shift in business practices in the banking sector. Just think about it; when was the last time you used physical money? Or better yet, when was the first time somebody asked you precisely that question? More importantly, this trend has hit banking in every single one of their key areas of business. We use a fraction of the physical money we once did, we pay our bills using online services, we can get funding for potential business ideas through crowdfunding, get micro loans from communities whose primary function have never been lending, and investment and savings advice from apps rather than expensive bank advisors.

The banks have been aware of their ever diminishing importance since the advent of the ATM machine. Suddenly customers who previously had to queue for withdrawals could have instant access to all their hard earned cash. The once esteemed occupation of retail banking was diminished to one of customer support, rendering the retail banker analogous to a pilot without a plane. Technological solutions for payment and the handling of money might seem like a technical issue. For society, however, it reflects an increased amount of trust in the institutions that provide these services. Because frankly, storing wads of cash under your bed seems bizarre in societies that have never experienced real, structural, financial or political instability. In many countries this is still reflected in the eschewed balance between the technical solutions for payment that are present, and how many people actually use them. In this aspect, especially in Europe, there seems to be a clear north-south divide, correlating with our trust in government and each other. According to the Boston Consulting Group and the magazine The Economist, in Norway each person on average did 456 card transactions in 2015, while in Italy the same number was only 67.

As countries and companies continue to develop technical ways for us to handle our money, we must all be vigilant to the fact that even the trust in physical money never grew in a linear fashion. In many countries this is still reflected in the eschewed balance between the technical solutions for payment, and how many people actually use them. While we currently live in a zeitgeist of believing fintech innovation will solve our every need, remembering that our trust in money is ultimately not technical at all, is crucial.

Who would want to drive a killer car?

By Henrik Andersen

As self-driving cars become more sophisticated, they are entrusted with ever greater responsibilities. But what kinds of decisions will you trust your car to make for you? Should your car sacrifice animals and unhealthy people to save children and doctors?

Imagine a trolley in full speed down a track. Ahead are five workers tied to the track. As a bystander, you are in control of a lever that could steer the trolley off in another direction, however, on the alternate path there is another person. You have two options: Pull the lever, or do nothing. Would you sacrifice one life to save five? This ethical dilemma is called The Trolley Problem. It It was introduced by Philippa Foot and Judith Jarvis Thomson in the 1960’s, and has until now been only a theoretical problem that occupied philosophers. But with the advent of self driving vehicles, it is becoming a problem for car manufacturers and programmers.

Advanced cars

Cars are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Today, most newly produced cars are equipped with devices that help the driver to stay on the road, park the vehicle, and check for blind spots. These advances are just the beginning. With autonomous vehicles (or “AVs” for short), the car will itself decide the appropriate speed and distance to the car in front. The whole driving activity will be under the control of a computer program. The computer program has to continuously make choices, including ones similar to the trolley problem. AVs have to make a multitude of decisions simultaneously. They have to decide the correct speed of the vehicle, the proper distance to other vehicles, calculate weather conditions, and adjust when driving in close proximity of schools. The use of Big Data suggests that there is a lot of learning potential from statistics, which these vehicles can use to learn more about proper speed adjustment and areas prone to accidents. This might result in operating systems that clearly outperform the standard human driver. According to a study by the consulting agency McKinsey, AVs can reduce traffic accidents by 90 percent. Most of today’s traffic incidents are caused by human errors, typically distracted or drunk drivers. AVs would drastically reduce the risk that human errors bring to traffic.

Moral programming

The million-dollar question is, how should these AVs be programmed? There is tension between the underlying ethical programs of the AVs. The vehicle can be programmed to do as little harm as possible to pedestrians, or it can prioritize the safety of the passengers in the car. If the brakes should fail, the car will either steer off the road or drive straight forward, possibly killing pedestrians.

With more complex algorithms, the car might also calculate the relative value of different pedestrians. One program might value old people less than children, because they have fewer years to live. Another program might hold opposite values, because old people deserve to be respected and they have contributed more to society than children. The car might run over some pedestrians if the group consists of unemployed people and criminals as opposed to entrepreneurs and doctors. That is, if the ethical programming of the vehicle is based on the value individuals bring to society, we can expect vehicles that run over criminals. The implementation of AVs now make these hypothetical dilemmas concrete problems that both manufacturers, consumers and policy makers have to take a stance on. Humans will still be controlling activities, but the decisions will be done by algorithms. Huge responsibilities are being placed on programmers and computer scientists.

Market mechanisms

From a consumer perspective, there are clearly some moral programs that will be less prone to commercial success than others. Very few customers would be willing to use a car that prioritizes pedestrians over the passengers in the vehicle. Imagine yourself and four friends sitting in an AV. As you close in on a pedestrian crossing, the car’s brakes fail. On the crossing there are four children and an adult. Would you be satisfied with your car steering off the road resulting in certain death for you and your friends? A study by Science from 2016 shows that while many people would agree with such logic, they would not themselves buy or drive such a vehicle. Cars with moral programs that prioritise the passengers’ safety are more appealing to consumers than their more altruistic counterparts. It is reasonable to assume that people would buy killer cars rather than self-sacrificing cars.

Arguably, the most difficult problems posed by AVs are legal ones. When there is no driver, who is responsible in the event of an incident? If you send your car to pick up your kid from football practice and the car crashes on the way, are you responsible, being the owner of the car? Is the manufacturer responsible, having produced it? Or is the company that programmed the car responsible? And while AVs may decrease the overall number of traffic accidents, who would want to let a car make those life-or-death decisions for them?

The pursuit towards the smartest city in the world

By Heidi E. Larsen

The city of Bodø has a bold vision to become the smartest city in the world. With its 50.000 inhabitants, located just above the Arctic Circle in Norway, the city of Bodø may not strike you as the centre of the world. Seeking to become the smartest city in the world is thus a rather brave vision. To understand the vision, we must take a few steps back.

The United Nations has included Bodø in the world’s largest research project on the future of cities. Furthermore, Bodø has been launched as the national pilot city for the use of intelligent transport systems.

The city of Bodø

It all began with an airport. Bodø is a proud aviation city and has for decades been the location of Norway’s largest military air base. The city was therefore shocked when the government in 2012 decided to move the main air base away from Bodø. This was devastating, since it meant that several thousand jobs would disappear. Moreover, the identity of Bodø was lost. However, in the search for what should become the city’s new future, an extraordinary idea emerged, marking the beginning  of what may become a historical transition.

Freeing up space

The airport of Bodø, as well as the military air base, are currently located in the middle of the city, taking up a huge area of the city centre. The runway dating from the early 1950 ́s has a maximum of nine years left before it has to be replaced, meaning that there has to be built a new runway in Bodø within 2025 for the air traffic to continue. As the military air activity will be gone by then, it has given the city a unique opportunity to think future city development in a completely new perspective. Instead of building a new parallel runway where today’s runway is located, the city is now able to move the runway. By building a new airport in the area that today is occupied by the military activity, Bodø will gain around 350 hectare of city development. That is an area big enough to host 25.000 citizens, and will provide large new business areas in the middle of the city.

A smart city

Moving the airport will thus give Bodø a unique opportunity to build a whole new smart city for the future. The city has therefore developed a bold vision to build the smartest city in the world, where climate gas emission is minimized and where the citizens feel safe for nature related dangers. To make this possible, extensive cooperation between the public and the private sector has
been made, as well as significant collaboration between local, regional and national decision makers. Bodø has already been launched as the Norwegian national pilot city for the use of intelligent transport systems, enabling the city to test innovative solutions such as automated vehicles and infrastructure for the future. By creating such a smart city, Bodø could take a leading role in the transition to the low carbon society.

The UN and sustainable cities

In 2015 the United Nations established 17 new sustainable development goals to transform our world. One of them focuses on sustainable cities and communities, with a goal to «make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable». With ever increasing urbanisation to our planet, cities are considered to pertain many problems regarding some of our biggest climate issues. Still, this trajectory of centralisation may also present us with possible absolution. One of the
tools the UN are using to reach the goal is The Habitat Professionals Forum, which is a voluntary association consisting of 17 countries and six million experts. Through the activity «Urban Labs», the experts are set out to select innovative cities and outline urban issues the world should focus on to become sustainable. Bodø has now been included in this comprehensive UN-work, as the first city in the world north of Hamburg in Germany. This is unique, and illustrates that Bodø has chosen the right vision for the future. It also shows that all cities, big and small, are important if we want to manage to reach the sustainable development goals.


The national government in Norway has already stated that moving the airport in Bodø is a wise choice that will enable comprehensive smart city development, and the final decision towards this will be taken in June 2017. Bodø is thus facing a historical crossroad that will determine the city’s future. I dare to say, it is not only a decision about moving an airport; it is a decision about the world’s future. Building a smart city in Bodø with the goal of reducing climate changes will not only benefit the citizens of Bodø today. It will show that Norway wants to be in the lead of sustainable development, and contribute to transform our world towards into a more sustainable place for our future generations.


By Marianne Areng

Can human interference solve the problems caused by deforestation, or are we just making it worse?

Modern man’s involvement in nature have resulted in massive losses of woodlands and deterioration of the global climate. But recent studies suggest a change in the relationship between man and nature. According to scientists at the university of Helsinki research shows an increase, not in volume, but the density in large forested areas. Trees have grown both larger  and more frequent over the past few decades in already forested areas. Evidently, the increase in the amount of carbon absorbed by forests through photosynthesis reduces the global carbon footprint. However, research also shows that the increase in density only applies to certain areas, specifically in Asia and Europe. Forests in more tropical climates like South-America and Africa, are disappearing faster than they can grow. Many countries have taken action through policy development and are continuing to find practical solutions to solve deforestation issues.

One such measure is the replanting of forests. In China, an ambitious reforestation program has added 30.000 square miles to the country’s forests every year over the past decade. However, in regions such as South America and Africa, the forests continue to disappear. These recent developments beg the question: will human interference and an increasing forest density,
give a solution to deforestation and climate change?

There is no denying the dire situation of forest loss, but taking active measures can be a way of making amends for the mess we made in the first place. Several projects have been initiated to preserve the biodiversity in rainforests, but these projects focus first and foremost on reduction in carbon released into the atmosphere, as this has a global impact. One initiative with this focus is the UN led REDD+ programme. Its aim is to create financial value for the carbon stored in forests by offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development. In initiating such incentives human involvement in nature counteracts the negative effects in sort of a transition management approach and now has the ability to make changes to at least one consequence of deforestation, carbon emission.

A decrease in carbon footprint is great news, but the ecological consequences of losing the diversity in areas where forests are continuing to decrease may have greater implications. From an environmentalist view this solution only offer more challenges. Looking again to China, green campaigners claim the predominant part of trees planted in this region consist of one species only: Eucalyptus. In addition to being monocultural, eucalyptus tend to extract large amounts of moisture from the soil, preventing growth of other plants. In other areas, the same lack of diversity in newly planted timber woods is a challenge, like for instance the Sitka Spruce in Norway. The lack of diversity in some reforestation projects may present an issue by making it more challenging for certain species of vegetation and wildlife to thrive. Despite the efforts to stabilize the growth through replanting, the positive results of reducing carbon footprint may also lose its storage effects. This is because trees only hold the carbon until they are cut down. According to national geographic, farming and agriculture is one of the main reasons why sections of rainforest the size of Panama are still lost every year.While existing forests are being cut down through human activity it is unlikely to think the storage effects of newly planted trees will make a greater impact. It may seem the effects of replanting is not as effective as expected.

In the end it might come down to choice between carbon reduction and biodiversity, with carbon currently in the lead. Ironically, part of the reason why climate change is an issue is because of loss of biodiversity. Yet, carbon reduction may be a step in the right direction in initiating new policy and interfering with nature through more positive agendas.


By Kim Andrè Hansen

It started in 1998 when snowboarding made its debut in the Nagano Olympics, and was finished in 2016 with the announcement that skateboarding and surfing were to be featured in the 2020 Games in Tokyo. Each inclusion has sparked both excitement and controversy, but it’s all fun and games, right?

Citius, Altius, Fortius – faster, higher, stronger. It is the motto of the Olympics. Since its reincarnation in Greece in 1896, the modern Olympics has become the self-proclaimed stronghold of peaceful competition among nations. It features a plethora of sporting events we have all come to know and love, but with the inclusion of these new sports we might wonder to what extent this is changing.

Snowboarding, surfing and skateboarding are all siblings of sort, with surfing being the oldest and the two others being “bastard sports” for those who want to slash the streets or shred on the mountains. At the heart of each activity we find values of inclusiveness and non-competition, and perhaps it is no wonder that their inclusion in the Games sparked a flurry of heated debate.

During the 1990s the International Snowboarding Federation (ISF) hosted most of the global snowboard events. One might think it would be natural that the International Olympics Committee (IOC) would choose them as governing body when including snowboarding in the Olympic games, but instead they chose Fédération Internationale de Ski (FIS) – which, if snowboarding ever had a common enemy, they were the embodiment. As a result, three-time world champion snowboarder Terje Haakonsen boycotted the Olympics, with many others following in his footsteps. A few years later, due to loss of sponsors and fundings to FIS, the ISF ceased to exist.

Fast forward to 2016, with the announcement of skateboarding in the upcoming summer Olympics, the controversy is once more evident. Who will govern skateboarding in the Olympics? After all, it was not skaters who pledged to have skateboarding in the Olympics, but the IOC in an attempt to reach out to younger audiences. The fear among skaters is that it will be the Fédération Internationale Roller Sports (FIRS) – aka. the roller skating federation – that will govern the sport. Luckily, some proponents of skateboarding anticipated the inclusion of skateboarding in the Olympics, and thus created the International Skateboarding Federation (also ISF). Currently a mix of FIRS and ISF members make up the Tokyo 2020 Skateboarding Commission – but to what extent this will hold for future Games remains to be seen.

Now is a good time to ask why all of this matters. On an ideological level, we might question to what extent the core values in these board sports are compatible with the ethos of the Olympics.

Many boarders would be hard pressed to call themselves sportsmen and -women, let alone athletes, and the activities are characterised by fun and challenging oneself rather than challenging one another. On top of this there are conflicts of interest on a more systemic level. Skateboarding was once a crime in Norway, but now seeks to find its place in the country’s highest sporting confederation.

Talk about plot twist.

On one hand we may see the board sports as victims of a powerful, international organization, but if we flip the coin then it becomes evident that the IOC is simply trying to stay relevant. Sporting traditions are changing on a global level, and,
if anything, these board sports are expressions of these transitions. They are said to be hedonistic and individualistic activities, sought only to fulfill one’s own desires and wishes. There are no teams and
no rules, all of which pose challenges to the Olympic inclusion.

How do you crown a winner when there are no objective goals to be met or measured? One needs a formalized system for judging, which also means that some types of performances will be rewarded higher than others. This is not particularly easy, and in competitive snowboarding the phrase «spin to win» signifies one negative aspect of this.
With triple and quadruple corks being the hallmark of modern competitive snowboarding, some commentators are starting to question if the focus on “quantity over quality” could be detrimental to the creative and fun aspect of the sport as a whole. The IOC needs to implement this carefully if not to alienate their new audiences.

Another challenge facing the IOC, and the boarders themselves, is that of clean athletes. Board sports have little or no tradition of performance enhancing drug use but what they do seem to have is a high tolerance towards recreational drug use.

Looking at the hall of fame in skateboarding, for instance, it is hard to ignore that several of the all-time best skateboarders would never be allowed entrance to the Olympic stadium. Here the olympic inclusion raise two questions: Could the competitive aspect actually lead to performance enhancing doping among boarders? And secondly; will the current definition of doping change to better distinguish between recreational drug use and actual doping? Only time will tell.

Times are changing, some would say, and there is much to indicate that the once lawless and counter-cultural boardsports are in transition to the arena of mainstream sports. What is perhaps more interesting, is to what extent the existing sporting regimes are changing as well.