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  

This Present Future

My friend Richard Thieme gives the closing keynote address at the 2011 ECOMM conference in San Francisco. In this talk, he artfully summarizes and integrates the “meta-themes” presented during the prior three days of the show. ECOMM, a 400-person invite-only conference, explores the dissolving boundaries of Telecom, IT and media industries. The balance of power between producers and consumers is shifting and the economics of “value creation” is being transformed. These shifts are being enabled by the “communications industry” itself, accelerating myriad new forms of dynamic interaction and defining a new epoch. The result is that new uncontested spaces for innovation are emerging. How we relate to the world around us, and the connectedness of humanity are all at stake. Richard, a former Episcopal priest, global security authority, and one of the deepest multi-disciplinary thinkers I know, masterfully summarizes a larger picture of emerging interactivity, modularity, and fluidity. His juxtaposition of techno-fascism vs. human empathy is stunning (29:15 – 33:00). “People often describe me as a futurist. But I’m not a futurist. The future is an artificial construct local to individual cultures. What I try to do is describe the present. But so many people live in the past that, to them, I sound like a futurist.” – Richard  

Living History

Just back from a month long “living Western history” trip. Dan finished a year of AP World History, so good timing. We started with the birth of democracy (ancient Greece circa 500BC) and explored forward 2000 years to the Renaissance (Florence circa 1500AD). We also included Minoan and Mycenaean history (Crete, etc.). Our connection gave us a day in London with a stop at Abbey Road  

Addicted to Risk

“Ignore those creeping fears that we have finally hit the wall. There are still no limits. There will always be another frontier. So stop worrying, and keep shopping.” – Naomi Klein, TEDTalk I appreciate Naomi’s voice in the conversation on sustainability vs. risk as we enter the era of “extreme energy.” This is a compelling talk about “master narratives” which may challenge you to reconsider your preconceptions. Her overview on the Alberta Tar Sands is especially powerful. “Just when we understand that we must live off the surface of our planet – off the power of sun, wind, and waves – we are frantically digging to get at the dirtiest, highest carbon-emitting stuff imaginable… This is how Jared Diamond and others have shown that empires commit suicide – by stepping on the accelerator at the exact moment they should be putting on the brakes… Life is too precious to be risked for just any profit… We need different  

Futurism on NPR

NPR gives some air time to Singularity: the idea (among others) that artificial intelligence will one day be smart enough to learn on its own, and grow exponentially smarter day-by-day until it surpasses the collective intelligence of humanity. And continues to grow. I enjoyed Ray Kurzweil’s book of same name and agree with him that we are making a mistake – thinking that the pace of change in the future will be the same as the past. Change, of all kinds, is accelerating. And while I’m more reserved about humanity’s future than Ray, both in time scale and degree of social disruption, I do think that many futurists are underestimating the power of accelerating returns. Tech-fueled globalism will continue to flourish relentlessly into the future, connecting all humanity on increasingly deeper levels of understanding and empathy. Technology assures this unstoppable human bonding – it is who we are as a species: we connect. This frightens many people, especially those with strong religious-tribal or nationalistic agendas. Personally, I believe that a deeply networked planet can’t come soon enough. What concerns me is not the world becoming a single place of meeting, but the institutional interests (ideological, financial, etc.) who seek  to dominate this emerging global town square. The organic nature of a free and open global network assures that every ideology has a voice. It’s only when we have a flattened sharing of all ideas that the most universally helpful ideas can truly rise to eminence. But when a free and open network is not assured (think China, Iran, and even recent attempts by the U.S. FCC to control the Internet), imbalances emerge and grow – voices are institutionally silenced – the network no longer collectively reflects the planet’s inhabitants, but rather becomes a platform for the narrow interests of old pre-networked institutions grasping for  

Ivory Coast

Jan 2011: My cousin left Ivory Coast in late December and was home with her folks for Christmas. The standoff continues in country, hundreds of people have been killed, and it’s not looking good. 8 Dec: e-mail from cousin.. “Today the Ambassador told us to prepare for the worst, and talk to our local staff about the possibility that expats will be evacuated… it’s quite dramatic.” 6 Dec: updated news HERE. Does not look promising. 4 Dec: My cousin e-mailed today from Abidjan City in the Ivory Coast, Africa. She is country director for a large U.S. government relief program in Cote d’Ivoire. The country held their first free /democratic elections in many years this week. She was part of the massive multi-national election observer team. She had earlier outlined for me some details of their roles as observers. All Cote d’Ivoire polling places (including the key northern and central provinces) were staffed with official multi-national observers who counted and cross-counted every vote on-site, and who then physically accompanied the paper votes as they were transferred from polling places to the capital of Abidjan. The observers remained present while central voting authorities re-counted all votes and tallied results. I won’t get into the story that followed, but in essence the highly popular challenger (Ouattara) won by a decisive margin (55% – 45%). However, the incumbent administration delayed announcing the results for three days, claiming “vote rigging” and fraud in the northern districts. Yesterday, Cote d’Ivoire’s  “Constitutional Council” (under control of the current government) declared 400,000 northern votes “invalid” and awarded the election to the incumbent (Gbagbo), who was sworn in just hours ago. My cousin is quite worried about what will follow in Abidjan. Some are predicting widespread civil unrest throughout the country, and perhaps all-out civil war. International reaction has been swift and decisively united: the incumbent must step down and allow the legally elected president to assume power, as reported moments ago by the BBC: “Mr. Obama said Independent Electoral Commission, credible and accredited observers and the United Nations have all confirmed this result and attested to its credibility.” He congratulated Mr. Ouattara and said the international community would “hold those who act to thwart the democratic process and the will of the electorate accountable for their actions”. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France – the former colonial power in Ivory Coast – told Mr. Gbagbo to “respect the will of the people, abstain from any action that might provoke violence” and to help establish peace. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon earlier called on Mr Gbagbo “to do his part for the good of the country and to cooperate in a smooth political transition”. The chairman of regional bloc Ecowas, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, said all parties should “respect and fully implement the verdict of the Ivorian people as declared by the Independent Electoral Commission”. The head of the UN mission in Ivory Coast also said it regarded Mr Ouattara as the winner, while the African Union said it was “deeply concerned” by the developments. The head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, said the IMF would only work with an Ivory Coast government recognised by the UN. “The Constitutional Council has abused its authority, the whole world knows it, and I am sorry for my country’s image,” he said. Is it just me, or do these people have that look that says “I know what I’m doing is totally wrong, but I don’t want to lose my  

The Six-Day Skyscraper

As China increases their ownership of U.S. debt (at a rate now exceeding $1 billion per DAY), they are also methodically leapfrogging us in terms of everyday technologies. A good example is China’s Broad Construction Company ( They can now build a fifteen story hotel that meets our best green energy standards. And they can build it in SIX DAYS. From Broad’s Chinese website: Level 9 Earthquake Resistance: diagonal bracing structure, light weight, steel construction, passed level 9 earthquake resistance testing. . 6x Less Material: even though the construction materials are much lighter(250kg/m2) than the traditional materials(over 1500kg/m2), the floors and walls are solid with surefootedness, airtight and sound-proofing. . 5x Energy Efficient: 150mm thermal insulation for walls and roofs, triple glazed plastic windows, external solar shading, heat insulation, fresh air heat recovery, LED lighting, yearly HVAC A/C energy consumption equivalent to 7 liters oil. [ed., i doubt that last figure] . 20x Purification: after 3 levels of purification, the purification efficiency for fresh air reaches 95%-99.9%; air exchanged 1-2.5 times per hour, and indoor air is 20x cleaner than out door air. . 1% Construction Waste: all components are factory made, construction waste, mainly package materials, result from on site set-up only and amount to 1% of the total weight of the building. . This is the first building in human history which combines almost all environmental friendly, comfortable and secure elements. So, we call it: Sustainable  

Perceptual – Conceptual

“The most violent revolutions in an individual’s beliefs leave most of his old order standing. Time and space, cause and effect, nature and history, and one’s own biography remain untouched. New truth is always a go-between, a smoother-over of transitions. It marries old opinion to new fact so as ever to show a minimum of jolt, a maximum of continuity.” “Grant an idea or belief to be true, what concrete difference will its being true make in any one’s actual life? How will the truth be realized? What experiences will be different from those which would obtain if the belief were false? What, in short, is the truth’s cash-value in experiential terms?” “Life defies our phrases. It is infinitely continuous and subtle and shaded, whilst our verbal terms are discrete, rude, and few.” “The intellectual life of man consists almost wholly in his substitution of a conceptual order for the perceptual order in which his experience originally comes.” -William James “The lesson of history is that our firmest convictions are not to be asserted dogmatically; in fact they should be most suspect; they mark not our conquests but our limitations and our bounds” – Morris Kline, writing in Mathematics, the Loss of  

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  

Information Ecology

William Gibson (who gave us the term “cyberspace”),  interviewed in TIME Magazine “My guess has always been that the thing our great-grandchildren will find quaintest about us is that we made the distinction between here and the Internet… Here [is being] colonized by what used to be the other place.” New and emerging technologies are allowing historically repressed creatives to rise and collaborate. While these voices have always been present, pre-virtual “information ecology” kept them marginalized and suppressed. But yesterday’s social platforms are now appearing as structural relics, allowing (for the first time in human history) the latent creative population to flourish. Many said Rousseau’s dream of a true city-state “peoples’ republic” became less plausible as populations grew. They could not have conceived of a global connective network that, when allowed to remain free of state or corporate control, opened new doors of unprecedented global empathy and equality. “The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said “This is mine,” and found people naive enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.”  – Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1754 Our “social contract” is being rewritten by the new voices of a virtual world. As Gibson notes, what used to be the “other place” is being transformed into “here and now.” What was once “them” is now us. This seismic shift in social identity will take longer to impact strongly embedded patterns, such as religion. But fundamental global change is moving forward and inevitable. The TED phenomenon is a prime example of this global flattening. TED’s curator Chris Anderson gave a talk this year at TED Global adding yet another voice to this growing awareness that we are not meant to be separated into ideological ghettos, but forged together in a grand creative enterprise. It’s a good talk and I encourage you to watch it. Imagine a global communications pool in which all persons can share their thoughts, dreams, faith, best ideas, etc.. in the spirit of Rousseau, the protocol intelligently prioritizes experiences and brings the collective mind into view of all participants. But it’s more than a “view” from a distance. Fundamental inequalities, suffering, and marginalization is brought forward as if experienced in our own household, in our own family. The plight of others becomes our plight. Global horror and injustice becomes our nightmare, as well. But with this, the boundless creativity, resources, and potential of the new collective also becomes our own, so that one day we may say with complete authenticity (quoting Michael Roe) “what’s been done to you feels like it’s been done to me.” And most importantly, we will live and prioritize our lives in accordance with these newly experienced global realities. ich all persons share their thoughts, dreams, faith, desires, etc.. the communication protocol amasses the collective ideals and dreams and experiences together and brings the collective mind into view of all participants. What we get is a bell curve distribution. The same average ideology we have today in today’s dead tree iconography, but on the grandest human scale. But here’s the good news. Most people won’t participate at this collective level. Many people will be mostly watching TV, or engaged in some other passive activity. The passives vs. the actives. The creatives vs. the ____________. Refined leadership will always be a part of community. But that leadership will move from a small, professional, clergy, CEO-style, stage-centric hierarchy model to a vastly larger, distributed, creative mind – a true collective mind of the amassed creative population working in common resonance, with a common Spiritual center, yet not bound by inherited institutional