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  

Zeitgeist 3 – Moving Forward

Peter Joseph (probably not his real last name) has released a new Zeitgeist film. I disagree with a number of Peter’s “Venus Project” assumptions, conclusions, and leading questions. I also found his first two films especially lacking in solid content, relying more on hearsay, dubious history, and weak conspiracy theories. In some cases, Zeit 3 is terribly naive (“upgradable” technology, idealized production and distribution incentives and strategies, utopian city design, overstated energy alternatives, etc.). Yet I’m sharing this movie with you because I think the film is a good conversation starter and especially good thought provoker, addressing a number of profoundly important questions. I find it ironic that the filmmaker, an atheist, uses a John Ortberg lecture as his core value statement — ultimately pointing to the failure of GDP as an adequate, or even relevant, measurement of our individual and collective well-being (a position I passionately agree with). I’m convinced that we need to start thinking towards third-way “systems-based” economies that combine the best elements of free-markets and central resource planning, while retaining the liberties of an unalienable rights-based republic re-imagined in healthier paradigms of resource sustainability, human empathy, and global-equitable access to fundamental human needs. Centralized economies fail for many reasons. One reason is because, historically, they haven’t appropriately rewarded the people and organizations who excel and add real value back into the community. But cultural definitions of excellence, value, reward, and community vary subjectively. Corrupt, bailed-out banking systems and an obese military-industrial economy are two areas in which we can start to radically re-define the terms excellence and reward. And we can start to expand our definition of community from tribes and borders to a sense of global family. I agree with the filmmaker (@ 2:16) that we are faced today with a potentially fatal “value system” disorder and (@ 2:20) that many of today’s economic assumptions are gross distortions driven by temporary access to cheap, concentrated energy. For the health and well-being of our great grandchildren and our planet in general, we need to develop a better informed and more comprehensively linked value system between our economic systems, our natural resources, and our fundamental connectedness as a human  

It’s Not Your Imagination

“It is not your imagination that there are more bad things than ever before happening all at once, intertwined. It’s not your imagination, because the world that you are inheriting is at a crossroads – dozens of crossroads all at the same time. You are inheriting a world filled will peril my generation never faced. The good news is: you’re going to have tools we never had. I urge each of you to answer the grand challenges of our times by committing to positively impact one million people.” – Dr. Larry Brilliant’s 2010 keynote at Singularity University (with quote from Peter Schwartz) Larry (who co-founded one the world’s first public virtual network) chairs the Skoll Global Threats Fund, focused on promoting innovative solutions to the world’s most challenging problems. Singularity University hosts small gatherings of world leaders and bright students. The goal of “positively impacting one million people” is clearly within the reach of each Singularity invitee. More importantly, this goal is within the reach of virtually all people willing to dream big, sacrifice time, and continually renew their efforts in the face of tribal and ideological adversity. “We should not live out of a sense of duty, but out of a sense of intoxication” – Martin Shaw (HT Richard  

The MAE Foundation

Gathering up those things which shape our thoughts We pack as though a journey to forever is stretching out ahead Saints go naked Prophets look back wistfully Choking vapours drive life out of corners And rivers graciously receive our poisons Like trusting children Patient figures stand and wait Gazing down at rusting rails To unknown places with no names – Ralph Steadman 1997 (from Plague and the Moonflowers) My talented friend Richard recently told me of a new philanthropic work to help Burmese genocide refugees (150,000+). The work employs music and musical instruments to enhance opportunity for creativity and hope into lives that survive on $20 per month. Richard has seen how music can positively change individuals and communities oppressed with struggle and little hope. Fittingly, the name of this new work is The MAE Foundation (Music Alters Everything). Richard’s vision includes the mobilization of the music industry (composers, producers, musicians, etc.) to become involved in this important work. I browsed some YouTube videos on Burmese genocide to put in this post, but literally broke down after a couple minutes. The inhumanity is unspeakable. I encourage you to browse over to Richard’s site (in beta), and do what you can to  

PopTech 2010

At the PopTech conference this week in Camden Maine. A small gathering of people conspiring to generate positive world change. The format is TED-like, but the demographic seems about 15 years younger, which is a welcome difference. You might enjoy a couple of videos filmed this week at Poptech. The first is a very funny guy named Reggie Watts. The second is from our sail around Camden Harbor with adventurer David de Rothschild, leader of the Plastiki Expedition. David talks briefly about Plastiki and the essential power of storytelling. Enjoy. Reggie Watts: Part 1 from PopTech on  

SafePlug!

Just an update on our Safeplug invention. So far this year, we have signed multiple OEM “rebranding” deals that will see the installation of Safeplug “Smart Energy” technology in a number of consumer, commercial, and industrial applications. These applications include electric vehicle charging stations, pay-per-use / point-of-sale receptacle stations, and residential + commercial construction and retrofit. In 2009, Safeplug won the prestigious CES Innovation Award and was invited to unveil the technology at TED2009. Since then, Safeplug technologies have been listed in Scientific American’s “Top 10 Tech Toys” and Fast Company’s “10 Radical World Changing Ideas” – with more coming soon. New Radical Julia Moulden writes in the Huffington Post, “Imagine a world where every plug could talk to the Internet. Where your appliances, plugged into their outlets, suddenly became intelligent and could talk, so that you could monitor and optimize their activities and control them remotely. It’s not science fiction anymore… TALKINGplug, a new device powered by Zerofootprint [Safeplug technololgy] is now available. Already described by Fast Company as “better than the smart meter” and included on Scientific American’s Top 10 gadgets of 2009, TALKINGplug is revolutionary and will change the way we measure and manage our energy.” From the Safeplug website, The SafePlug 1202 Smart Energy outlet has a unique design.  It contains standard Demand Response features such as a Zigbee SE radio and Zigbee SE Metering cluster and Demand Response cluster functions.  However, it also includes a Fire and Shock Hazard monitor and a RightPlug address tag monitor.  The fire and shock hazard monitor continuously detects the top ignition causes including overloaded appliances, bad wire junctions in walls, series arcing, and open neutral conditions. The RightPlug tag (www.rightplug.org) reader enables the SafePlug 1202 SE outlet to ensure a successful Demand Response event by confirming the start and end of the DR event and participation by the  

Khan Academy

Salman Khan sees his on-line learning center as the world’s first free, world-class virtual school where anyone can learn anything–for free. He just won a $2M Google 10^100 prize – one of five selected from over 150,000 entries.  There are over 1,600 training videos on every K-12 topic. Sal made all the videos himself, and continues to make videos almost every week. My son has been “attending” the Khan Academy, when he needs to brush up on his algebra mostly. Sal is an engaging, motivated teacher, and his educational videos are first class. Information wants to be  

The Perception of Worth / The Consumption of Memory

Mentioned in my last post, Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman’s 2010 TED Talk was among my favorites. In the context of behavioral economics, Kahneman takes us immediately to the heart of what it means to be human – to question and probe the very nature of self and memory and experience, ultimately revealing ‘economics’ in the larger picture of relationship, value/worth, and our questionable notions of perceived reality. Is the consumption of memory the consumption of reality? Considering spirituality, do we place more value in experiencing or remembering, and how do we define the differences? Are well-being and happiness synonymous? Are there really two selves at work here? You will find yourself challenged and asking questions you’ve probably never considered after viewing this must-watch TED Talk. ADDED: After you view the video, don’t miss this surprisingly thoughtful article from Norman Lear in today’s Washington Post religion section: “the ‘What’s it all about?’ question is the best conversation going. Just plain folks, unfortunately, can’t get into it, because the rabbis, the priests, the ministers, mullahs and the reverends — the professionals — have a corner on the subject… And so, the sectarian rivalry and sanctimonious bickering about moral superiority and spiritual infallibility that occurs among the professionals often assumes a greater importance than the religious experience  

Favorite TED Talks 2010

Great to see Bill Gates taking global energy seriously. In fact, he publicly stated from the TED stage last week what I’ve been saying since 2003:  energy is this century’s greatest structural issue. Fellow TED’ster Richard Branson went public this week with a similar clarion call. Worldchanging founder Alex Steffan, whom I spoke with at length, calls this “the most important climate speech of the year.” Sir Ken Robinson defined once again the highest art of public speaking. TED curator, Chris Anderson, noted after Ken’s talk that he may be the only person who can break all the TEDTalk rules – and we love him for it. Robinson focused on why education needs to change from an industrial model to an agricultural model. I think the same can be said of religion. Echoes of Wendell Berry. Mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot took us through a stunning visualization of design simplicity, in the form of fractals. I had a chance to spend some time with Benoit at TED, discussing emergence theory in light of fractal geometry and the Mandelbrot set. The music at TED this year was stunning: David Byrne (who also gave a TEDTalk), Thomas Dolby, and Natalie Merchant melted us with a brand new suite of songs based on romantic poets from the last 100 years. Cheryl Crow showed up, but probably shouldn’t have. Not much there musically. Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon and family, and other musicians were soaking up the TED experience, but not there to perform. Oh, and ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro captivated everyone. I’ve never heard a uke played with such subtlety – a true master of the instrument. I understand he gave impromptu concerts back in the lobby of the TED hotel. Anyone who takes the stage at TED is unpaid, including the invited musicians. Drawing from the field of Behavioral Economics, Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman presented what amounted to an intellectual foundation for our activist social-media site Compathos.com. Dan asks, “when we return from a vacation, do the memories we bring back have intrinsic value?” Compathos (still in beta) seeks to realign the concept of “vacation” as a proactive event in which we aid or assist our destination with skills we possess (medical, engineering, skilled labor, crafts, etc..) and in doing so, we become deeply changed – bringing back to our own communities a new perspective, a new heart, and transformed motivations – far more than a traditional vacation memory. Sam Harris gave a surprisingly engaging talk. Rather than rehashing his views on atheism, Harris focused on finding an objective framework for morality and ethics. I’m reminded of Arthur C. Clarke, who said “one of the great tragedies of mankind is that morality has been hijacked by religion.” Kevin Bales presented a detailed, moving account of global slavery. It’s Kevin’s academic work that gave us the estimate of 27 million slaves worldwide. His work in slavery has effectively paved the way for most of today’s anti-slave efforts. I was honored to have lunch with Kevin after TED ended on Saturday – what a truly amazing man. Game designer Jane McGonigal sees video gaming as a core solution to many of today’s social problems. Don’t laugh – her TEDTalk is a must-watch. Brilliant. Cell biologist Mark Roth is onto something big. He’s discovered a way to put biological systems into suspended animation. Using his techniques, people who would otherwise die from serious trauma on the battlefield, in car accidents, etc.. can be placed into suspension (heart and breathing stopped – effectively dead) for hours without tissue damage while they are transported to a trauma center. Jaw dropping. Entertainer Sarah Silverman reminded me of those shallow and bawdy Las Vegas night club comedians from my parent’s era (Redd Foxx, etc..). With kids sharing the live TED experience both in Long Beach and virtual associates worldwide, this was not a wise choice. Live and learn. But many of the best talks were those that happened between sessions, in the halls, in the social spaces, at the lunches, and dinners, and parties, and spontaneous gatherings that define the TED experience. To elaborate on all the amazing, emotive, high-energy, a-ha! conversations I had this year might sound like name-dropping, so I’ll spare you the details. I go to TED to get energized, inspired, challenged, and awestruck by and with amazing people doing amazing things. I spend a week of my life here to renew a sense of childlike wonder and remind myself that I’m not crazy – that there are others who dare to dream big. ADDED:  Eighteen-year TED veteran Jack Meyers captures the scope and nuance of a TED Conference in his Huffington Post essay ADDED: Scoble’s excellent summary of attending TED ADDED: Overview of Bill Gates’ energy talk, at