The Renaissance ultimately led to a lasting transformation of culture and life with significant advances in architecture, urban planning, large-scale artistic projects and pocket-sized timepieces – it ushered in a new era of innovation and thinking across a Europe emerging out of the Dark Ages.
The four-century period witnessed the majestic creations of Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci. The city of Florence – the birthplace of the Renaissance – was akin to our Silicon Valley with the convergence of innovation, philanthropy and philosophy. The world’s horizons expanded with breakthroughs in navigation.
As a symbol of human achievement and progress, the Renaissance has had a lasting impact on our world – even today. In Italy, the government used its theme in a campaign showing nature sprouting life and people removing their masks to promote hope for the future with the latest vaccines against Covid-19.
The Future Investment Initiative (FII) Institute, a new generation of global foundation, believes that the world in 2021 has a chance to embrace an era of re-invention – a new chapter for humanity, a Neo-Renaissance – similar to the grandiose period of history stretching through the 14th and 17th centuries. Our wish is that out of our pandemic a new vision will be set for all of humanity to benefit.
We are going through a challenging period: businesses shuttered, foreign direct investment dropped and people self-isolated for extended periods of time in response to the coronavirus.
There was worldwide despair. Our current situation, though, should spur a new mindset that helps us re-invent and reimagine the world.
Like Michelangelo carving David, an extraordinary accomplishment that eventually came to symbolise Florence’s defiance, we should be bold with our ideas. We should not be defeated by the despair that the pandemic has caused. In these difficult times, we must bring out the best from within ourselves.
When the Florentines first laid eyes on the breathtaking beauty of the newly-sculpted David, they asked Michelangelo: “Master, how did you achieve this masterpiece?” He replied: “It was easy; it was enough to remove the excess marble, what was useless and superfluous.”
So, we too must extract the beauty that we have within us by eliminating what is not needed and showing the magnificence of what we can become.
Like the struggles we are confronting, European populations and economies prior to the start of the Renaissance were decimated by the Bubonic Plague. Vital trade was all but halted amid fears that the movement of goods led to the spread of disease. Businesses stagnated, economies failed, while poverty and unemployment spiked.
Out of this upheaval, social, economic, cultural, scientific and religious ideas were completely rethought. Then, the Medici family of Florence used its wealth to build libraries, improve and expand their home city and finance innovation to invest in young people with workshops, training places that were as valuable as the startups of today.
Today, we have adapted quickly. We created vaccines to combat the virus. We streamed videos from home instead of going to movie theatres, we embraced telemedicine to interact with our doctors, we made our homes our offices with virtual interactions and we taught our children via zoom at the kitchen table.
We believe that we can embark on another great period of rejuvenation, one shaped by bold thinking and new ideas as the pandemic recedes from our daily lives. Rather than just accepting that we live in what people like to describe as the “New Normal,” we know we can do much better
Technology will help us get there. The acceleration we saw in 2020 in relation to tech optimisation and innovation around medicine will likely increase, impacting education, job creation, sports and entertainment and gender equality. Almost all industries will be reimagined with new business models.
COVID-19 should spur thinkers, investors and policymakers to reconsider previous economic and societal norms and challenge them to collaborate on a global level rather than in silos. Like the bold thinking of Lorenzo de' Medici, the most enthusiastic patron of Renaissance culture in Italy, we can recreate our cities, re-imagine art and new technology.
We know now that viruses don’t respect frontiers and borders, that everyone is totally interconnected. Recognising this, it is important to have a new type of multilateral leadership that ushers in innovative thinking that address age-old problems but reimagines them in this new era.
It is urgent now to set the agenda for 2021, bringing together the best and the brightest as the world looks to re-imagine itself as the vaccines are rolled out and the virus begins to fade. Let us progress toward optimizing every aspect of life across our planet so that the history books will one day portray 2021 as the year of rebirth – the beginning of the Neo-Renaissance.
Through investment and a new mindset that takes inspiration from the past, a brighter future can be realised for all and with all.
- Richard Attias is CEO of the Future Investment Initiative Institute. Senator Matteo Renzi is a Board of Trustees Member of the FII Institute, and an Italian Senator for Florence since 2018. He served as Prime Minister of Italy from February 2014 until December 2016.
- The FII Institute is hosting the 4th edition of the Future Investment Initiative under the “NeoRenaissance” theme on January 27-28 at the King Abdul Aziz International Conference Center (KAICC) in Riyadh. Speakers and audiences will appear in person and virtually, from New York, Paris, Beijing and Mumbai.