Innovation is the Magic Propelling Human Progress
The Conference on International Exchange of Professionals proudly introduces the profoundly insightful interview column “CAIZHIDAO.” This meticulously orchestrated initiative, organized by the Shenzhen Center for International Exchange of Personnel, gathers a diverse group of 20 influential figures across diverse industries. They share their unique paths to success, encompassing the challenges and victories that have shaped their esteemed reputations.
We are incredibly excited to introduce our honored guest, Peter Sachsenmeier. Peter has held prestigious positions, including academician of the German Academy of Sciences and Engineering, professor at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Oxford, vice president of Hankou University, and director of the International Center for Science and Technology Innovation. Embarking on an illustrious journey to become an industrial strategist and a major figure in large-scale systems infrastructure, he also acts as an ambassador for Industry 4.0 Cooperation at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
“As scholars of science and technology, we are like magicians, and technological innovation is the modern world’s magic. Our mission is not only to ignite the flame that sustains the magic of innovation but also to pass on this flame to others, allowing more people to partake in this marvelous magic,” said Peter Sachsenmeier during the 21st Conference on International Exchange of Professionals Xi’an Parallel Session.
Peter Sachsenmeier is an academician of the German Academy of Sciences and Engineering, a professor at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Oxford, an industrial strategist, and a large-scale systems infrastructure expert. He is committed to promoting the integration of education, research, and industry and the transfer of knowledge from research to industry.
Spreading the Flame of Innovation for Social Progress
“Innovation” is a term Peter often mentions in many of his conference speeches. He believes that human beings are born with the ability to innovate, and that it is the foundation of human development. “If we want to go beyond the boundaries, we must exist with innovation.”
Peter works on the various limitations that exist, including those in political and economic activities, food, soil, water, and the environment. Looking back, just two centuries ago, the Earth’s population was only one billion, and now it has grown to eight billion. With the rapid increase in population, human consumption of the planet’s resources has also increased, resulting in overburdening the Earth and the escalation of many social and environmental problems. “Innovation is absolutely necessary to overcome the limits of our existence. We must think up new things to overcome the boundaries of our existence.”
“Innovation is not limited to a specific age group, from 3-year-old children to 99-year-old seniors; anyone can be an innovator,” Peter believes. Innovation is not exclusive to young people; anyone discontent with the present can be an innovator. They not only want to make the most of things but also want to rethink and restructure the world in a new way. It is because of this inherent innovative ability that humans have prospered.
“Humans have a tendency to classify prior experiences in their actions.” If we think of the world as a collection of data, we generate a massive amount of data in just one minute when we act. This classified experiential data is then used to guide subsequent activities. The challenge for innovators is to break free from this classification and traditional thinking in order to participate in innovative thinking.
Regarding the next revolutionary technological innovation, Peter has a unique perspective: “The era we are in now cannot be called the era of artificial intelligence.” Despite intelligent tools like ChatGPT, they are still a long way from the kind of artificial intelligence that can do anything without human instructions, so Peter refers to the current era as the “mechanoelectrical era,” where computers act as electronic mechanical devices and haven’t yet reached the level of intelligence.
In 2016, Peter’s article in the journal “Engineering” speculated that after the “mechanoelectrical era,” humanity might enter an era much more reliant on artificial biology. Humans will be closer to nature and better comprehend themselves throughout that time period. Peter boldly envisions that future mobile phones will be “implantable phones,” true intelligent devices that can be embedded in the human body. These phones will subvert the traditional phone form, as they won’t require charging since your body will be the perfect charger. With the support of 6G and future nG networks, the human body will merge with these “phone” devices, creating an almighty person who can instantly access all knowledge and information.
“Many things we saw ten years ago formed our fixed views of various industries. Later, we realized that we needed to pay attention to life cycles, long-term economic development, cyclical development, resource conservation, carbon emissions, and environmental protection.” He admits that electric vehicles are the starting point for the industrial revolution of Industry 4.0. Transformation will happen in various aspects, and humans will use new production mechanisms to achieve the production and life goals of billions of people.
In addition to pursuing cutting-edge science and technological innovation, Peter believes that another important aspect of his work is explaining the latest scientific and technological innovations to the public, bridging the cognitive gap between the masses and science. He has been committed to demystifying science by popularizing it and attracting more aspiring individuals to engage in technological innovation. “If we don’t explain the reasons behind the innovations, we cannot make significant progress.”
Discovering Hidden Talents and Promoting International Exchange
“To influence others, first help them” is Peter’s motto. He began teaching at the age of 12 and hopes to be referred to as an “educator” rather than a “teacher.” Because “educator” in English carries the connotation of being a role model and demonstrating by example, Peter wants the impact he has on students and juniors to manifest through his every word and action rather than through the authority of giving orders. “I’ve always strived to remain humble to make my educational process more attractive.” His gentle and accommodating approach, allowing others to question, has always been Peter’s way of interacting with people.
While discussing how to attract and cultivate high-level international talent, Peter shares his own growth story, evolving from a naive youth when he first entered the University of Oxford to becoming a top international research academician today. “Every achievement is actually accumulated over time from a series of small achievements. If you only focus on high-level talent, you limit long-term effectiveness.” He believes that young people should be given more opportunities for international exchange. This allows young people to have the opportunity to understand different groups of people, step into different lives, contemplate different phenomena, and ultimately discover a diverse and rich world.
“We need not only those who return after studying abroad but also students who return from international summer camps lasting six weeks and people who return after half a semester of exchange in a foreign country.” Continuous exchange helps China discover more talented young individuals and discover more “hidden talents.”
International exchange has given Peter comparative thinking; whether he goes to work in any country, he proactively learns about the cultural background and customs of foreign lands. “Comparative thinking allows me to see where others excel or fall short and how things are progressing.” This thinking also helps Peter conduct more comprehensive analyses of matters, enabling him to go further in the path of scientific research.
In international exchange, Peter refers to himself as a “fisherman” who likes to “fish talents.” He is very grateful to the Conference on International Exchange of Professionals (CIEP) for allowing him to make more international friends. “We hope to have more opportunities like this. I know it’s difficult, but establishing channels for mutual appreciation and understanding is crucial.”
Through the conference, Peter has met many outstanding individuals and formed deep friendships through natural interactions, which he believes are more effective than giving speeches from the podium. “I have organized many conferences before, and when organizing conferences, you naturally look forward to these interactions. These interactions are more powerful than any speech you give.”
Some people say they love China because it is ancient, mysterious, and distant. The vastness of the country, with its myriad landscapes, offers so much to explore, observe, and experience, and they can never fully grasp everything in a lifetime. Peter happens to be a very curious person, and he has always been searching for an expansive world. For him, China is the perfect choice.
Organizing Committee of the Conference on International Exchange of Professionals
Shenzhen Center for International Exchange of Personnel