The Day The Earth Smiled

My friend Carolyn has this crazy idea for everyone to wave at her spacecraft on July 19. I’m crazy, and I’ll be waving and lifting a glass of Family Syrah in celebration. Something great, something big, something very special that’s never happened before is about to happen! On July 19, 2013, the Cassini spacecraft, currently in orbit around Saturn, will be turned to image that planet and its entire ring system during an eclipse of the sun, as it has done twice before during its previous 9 years in orbit. But this time will be very different. This time, the images collected will capture, in natural color, a glimpse of our own planet alongside Saturn and its rings on a day that will be the first time the Earth’s inhabitants know in advance their picture is being taken from a billion miles away. It will be a day to revel in the extraordinary achievements in the exploration of our solar system that have made such an interplanetary photo session possible. And it will be a day for all of us to smile and celebrate life on the Pale Blue Dot. My fondest wish is that you, the people of the world, do exactly that. I hope, at the appropriate time, regardless where or on which side of the planet you are, that you stop what you’re doing, go outside, gather together with friends and family, contemplate the utter isolation of our world in the never-ending blackness of space, relish its lush, life-sustaining beauty, appreciate the rarity it is among the Sun’s planets, and marvel at your own existence and that of all life on planet Earth. And then, by all means, rejoice! Hoot and holler, twist and shout, raise a glass, make a toast, dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free, or celebrate in silence. Whatever it takes. But be sure to smile, knowing that others around the world are smiling too, in the sheer joy of simply being alive on a pale blue dot. Carolyn Porco Founder, The Day The Earth  

Connection

While some would seek to divide us by physical borders, political ideology, caste identity, or religious moralism, in the larger reality there are no borders. We are all made of the identical stardust, subject to the same universal laws, and given the freedom to love unconditionally, or to define and defend our exclusions. This video is another reminder of our very small community. When looking down at the pale blue planet, astronauts have described an overwhelming sense of fragile sacred unity. Here’s a musical offering to the greater reality of our planetary lives together — songwriter Ed Robertson in duet with I.S.S. astronaut Chris Hadfield, with live choir. “You can’t make out borders from up here, Just a spinning ball with a very tiny atmosphere. All black and white just fades to gray, Where the sun rises 16 times a day. What once was fueled by fear, now has 15 nations orbiting together here. So sing your song, I’m listening. Out where stars are glistening. I can hear your voices bouncing off the moon.”   One astronaut said, “When we originally went to the moon, our total focus was on the moon. We weren’t thinking about looking back at the Earth. But now that we’ve done it, that may well have been the most important reason we went.” A twenty-minute documentary explores in stunning HD the “Overview Effect” experienced by astronauts. I would suggest that accelerations in global-virtual connection are creating a similar kind of social overview effect: re-wiring our “sense of place and being” from local-tribal to global-concurrent-participatory. “We have to start acting like one species with one destiny. We are not going to survive if we don’t.”    

The Internet Connectome

Documentary filmmaker and Webby Awards founder Tiffany Shlain has a new project called Let It Ripple. Drawing from her earlier work with the film Connected, TS has combined a TED Book with a short film exploring the parallels between a child’s brain development and the development of the global brain (Internet), offering insights into the best ways to shape both. I just finished the book and viewed the film and find her work both fascinating and important. She is in fact catalyzing the work of a significant brain-trust exploring new and unexpected global connections being made at an accelerated rate. Comparisons of the Internet connectome to the rapid growth and development of a child’s brain seem a fitting metaphor. Highly recommended reading, and  

Social Intelligence

Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection or compassionate action. Daniel Goleman, from Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships What is the net collective effect of connective technology? Is it increased outward focus and social empathy or increased inward focus and narcissism? I tend to think that anything that allows people to reach beyond previously isolated tribes-ideologies-beliefs-borders, by definition, broadens our collective understanding of who “WE” are. And anything that truly expands our awareness and understanding of the broader human condition must, over time, increase empathy. The more continually aware we become of our collective presence and struggles, the more we will understand, even feel, the reality of others. I suggest that the net impact of connective technology, over generations, will be to diminish our sense of insider/outsider, us/them dualism in religion, politics, and nationalism. Daniel Goleman’s TED Talk from 2007 — “all it took was a simple act of  

Ritual Killings to End

The 2 or 3 readers of this personal journal may know that Cynthia and I produced a documentary film called Drawn From Water. The film explores a little-known practice called mingi — the ritualistic killing of children by S. Ethiopian tribes, and the efforts to rescue mingi children and ultimately stop the practice altogether. Today, I’m elated to announce that the elders of the Kara tribe have voted to permanently end the practice of mingi. This decision was mostly the result of the tireless work of Lale Labuko, a Kara tribe member, who plays a central role in the film. Lale is one of very few Kara to receive a university education. He returned to the tribe four years ago to help end mingi killing. Below are the translated statements of the Kara elders, explaining their reasoning for ending this century’s old tribal practice (from the Omo Child website). But this is just one step. At least two other S. Ethiopian tribes still practice mingi, such as the 45,000+ Hamer tribe members. The number of Ethiopian children (aged infant to 5) killed each year could still be in the thousands. Please help by going to the Drawn From Water page and making a donation or buying the film. 100% of donations go directly to on-the-ground efforts to end mingi. Other organizations working to end mingi include Omo Child and GTLI. … Elder Mero Dobo: This organization brought a good help for Kara land. We have seen a good development since this organization established. But before that everybody was assumed that Lale brought curse to the Kara land. However, we haven’t seen any curse both to the family and to the land. As I know so; far for the past four years nothing happen to the Kara land and family as well. But, last summer we discovered that Omo Child foundation became blessing for Kara land and we were astonished by John Rowe help which fed many families. As Kara elder last summer was unique, learning moment and an unseen blessing in our lifetime. Likewise, now we have a lot of rain in our land than before. Therefore, I am personal I say this organization brought blessing for Kara land. Now we have a grass for our cattle and everywhere is green. Thus, Omo Child/ Lale: we accepted and we agree with your plan to stop mingi and to change the culture next month. Therefore, we are ready to change the culture and it is mostly right all your advise Lale, for  

CES 2012 Innovation Award

The Consumer Electronics Show is the largest convention in the USA (140,000 visitors, 3,100 exhibitors, 1.4 million square feet). This week, we learned that our latest generation SafePlug invention won the top award of the show:  “Best Innovation of 2012” in the Home Systems category. Want to know more? View my TED Talk which describes the technology. The TED Talk has been translated into 25 languages, has over 300,000 views, and has been featured in Scientific American, Fast Company, and dozens of other  

Power of the Crowd

Humanity wastes 550,000 hours a day typing in the annoying Captcha (200,000,000 Captchas per day * 10s per instance). Luis Von Ahn, inventor of the Captcha, explains why this is a good thing. And if you’ve ever been frustrated by the poor quality of Google Translation, please take 16 minutes and watch his brilliant TED Talk on Massive-Scale Online Collaboration. While you’re hearing about the historically unprecedented power of 100 million people working towards a common goal, be dreaming up your own ways of helping the planet while using your  

A National Strategic Narrative

I attended a conference last year called PopTech in Camden Maine. Couldn’t go this year, but did have a chance to watch some of the live feed. One of the presentations featured Naval Captain Wayne Porter and Marine Col. Mark Mykleby — military strategists working at the highest level of government. Together, they present highlights from their paper, “A National Strategic Narrative.” Their ideas ” less military force, more social capital and more sustainable energy practices ” have caused a stir in policy communities. Their proposal is one of transition away from some old policy ideas that no longer apply in the Google age.They want to move the nation towards an open system that seeks equilibrium in an interdependent global ecology; to move the idea of national security from containment to sustainability: from theories of control to theories of credible influence; from power to narrative: a national strategic story that doesn’t “hold the jello” quite so tight; towards a citizenry that demands purposeful participation. They rightly point out that government can only reflect the values that its citizens embody and that competition cannot be a zero-sum game in a deeply interdependent world. They focus on three issues they believe to be the highest social priorities to maintain a healthy nation moving forward. 1.) Education 2.) Security 3.) Energy I would personally put energy at the top, for without cheap, concentrated energy, access to education will erode as our economy weakens. Their brilliant talk concludes that we, as a nation, are moving towards polarizing ideologies that offer little more than divisive ultimata. Porter and Mykleby insist that we need a collective narrative that takes us beyond today’s ideologies; that will inform our skill, knowledge, and ultimately our technologies. Please invest 21 minutes in this important  

Growth Has An Expiration Date

Well, at least the kind of growth we’ve come to expect over the last 100 years. Tom Murphy is a physics professor at University of California, San Diego. His recent talk at the Compass Summit beautifully describes our #1 global issue moving forward — the energy trap. I think his term “energy trap” is better than “peak oil” for describing the volatile economic consequences that await our new century. Tom has “done the math” (as many of us have) and recognizes a high probability for ever-increasing levels of energy-based economic impediments over the coming decades. Moreover, Tom is the best numbers-oriented speaker I’ve heard on this issue. His talk reminds me of a more focused version of Richard Smalley’s famous energy talks in the late-1990s. Take 23 minutes and listen to Tom’s brilliant – “there is no financing in nature” – overview. If you’re limited for time, start around 11:30. And just for fun… The Daily ShowGet More: Daily Show Full Episodes,Political Humor & Satire Blog,The Daily Show on Facebook