Posts Tagged ‘dreamer’

Exponential manufacturing 2016

The emergence of distributed manufacturing, fueled by the spread of ever more capable 3D printers, is central to our future, but at the same time, its potentials are kind of hard to understand—where we’re headed won’t look much like what we’ve come to know as “manufacturing.”  Put this promising ambiguity alongside the continued maturation of robotics, especially when networked (and so able to share new training instantly), and we’re looking at a level of autonomy that also challenges many of our familiar ways of thinking about machines, from assembly lines to rush hour traffic.

The good folks at Singularity University are, as ever, out there at the forefront of these innovations, casting a bit of light into topics that most of us can barely grasp the implications of.  This week, they’re hosting the first Exponential Manufacturing conference; sessions are being broadcast live, and with any luck will be archived for future reference.  They’ve also put together an excellent collection of recent posts, billed as a “crash course in a few of the latest developments in manufacturing,” that’s well worth a perusal.  Here’s a taste of what you’ll learn about:

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Planetary futurecraft: the time is now

We’ve long highlighted the dearth of novels and films about how humanity might marshall our ingenuity and societal focus to get from here to a better/wiser/saner future.  Most of the stories about the future seem to be set in post-breakdown dystopias or seriously degraded, “muddle-down” worlds.  And the few “breakthrough” tales, like Star Trek, offer no sense of how the transition occurred.

One of our favorite next-gen futurists, Alex Steffen, is aiming to do something about that.  He’s not shifting gears and becoming a novelist—that could be great!—but he is gearing up to weave together a story that points the way forward.  At a time when every year of delay ups the ante on our game of chance with the climate, and during a season in which the US political world is being shaken from all sides, he reminds us:

When we can imagine no future we want, something far more dangerous takes its place in our minds: the future we fear. Without visions of progress worth coming together to fight for, crisis tears people apart. That’s no accident, either. Divide and rule. Where there is no vision, people are easy prey. … You’d think that this would be when the Very Serious People who’ve been running our countries, corporations and culture would step up and counter that fear-mongering with leadership and vision. You’d be wrong.

They can’t lead us because every good future is now a heroic one, and they’re not heroes. They’re managers and accountants and gatekeepers, (telling) us that all we can do is take small steps, support slow transitions, gradual improvements, incremental policy gains.

If you know Steffen at all, you know he won’t settle for that!  Alex cut his teeth running Worldchanging, the crowd-sourced, solutions-oriented compendium that was a new-millenium grandchild of the venerable Whole Earth Catalog.  He then moved on to write Carbon Zero, a look at what it will take to decarbonize our cities, along with a series of powerful clarion calls for change, including a profoundly thoughtful 50-year vision, Putting the Future Back in the Room, and a recent “here’s how we did it” talk framed as recollections from 2115.

Now he’s putting that same energy, and all he learned along the way, into a project he’s calling

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Recollections from 2115

Alex Steffen recently gave a keynote talk at The Nature Conservancy’s annual trustees meeting that could serve as a statement of purpose for the Dreamers and Drivers among us who continue to believe that we can find our way through the eye of the historical needle.  It’s in the form of a talk to a conservation gathering a hundred years from now, looking back:

We’ve lost so much. We came far too close to losing nearly everything. If things went on as they were, we might have.

Instead, we live today on a healing planet. Yes, much has been lost, but much was saved or restored or reinvented, and what was saved and healed and made anew has become a powerful legacy.

Those gifts became the seedbeds from which sprouted our new world. That we have so much left from which to coax a long and bountiful tomorrow is no accident. Those seeds of hope were saved and planted and tended to by people who made the decision that they would live as if the future mattered. As if nature mattered. As if we mattered.

These were visionary people. Responsible people. Courageous people. All around the world, our best ancestors took up the challenge of leaving a different, bolder legacy, one not of error and loss, but of leadership, stewardship, innovation.

Take five minutes to soak in Steffen’s vision of how we became the ancestors who, “when they understood the planetary crisis they faced, their answer was not cynicism or surrender, but to seek out others and together meet that crisis with action.” It’ll perk you up for another day of doing what we can today to assure that our descendants have a future worth living in.  (That final link is another compelling essay, in which Steffen makes the moral case for not giving in to despair.)

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New Grist series: Industrial Evolution

We all recognize the plusses and minuses wrought by the industrial revolution.  But how many of us are tuned into the potentially even more transformative potentials of the current Industrial Evolution? The venerable eco-media site Grist is putting a new, more human spin on some of the same territory covered by the folks at Singularity (the techno-zeal of which can sometimes be more than a little discomfiting, even as it inspires).  Grist’s Industrial Evolution series starts with this statement of purpose:

What if we were on the brink of a sustainable tech revolution, and we didn’t even know it? Not the kind of revolution that would put solar panels and low-flow shower heads in every home in America, but one that would fundamentally change how our technologies interact with the natural world?

Thanks to recent advances in biotechnology, we can now engineer biological systems like machines. And thanks to advances in sensor technology, wireless networking, and materials engineering, we can build machines that act biological. Together, these trends could usher in a more sustainable future — one where our built world seamlessly integrates with the environment, rather than disrupts and destroys it.

But that will only happen if we develop these new technologies in a conscientious and responsible way. In this series, we speak with a group of individuals who are doing just that. They’re scientists, artists, and thinkers, and they see a high-tech, sustainable future on the horizon.

There are ten articles in the series so far, with more continuing to be rolled out.  Check it out!

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Social entrepreneurs making real change where it’s most needed

While big-picture trends continue to paint a worrying picture of our future, those of us with a more optimistic worldview find solace and inspiration in the countless smaller—but socially and environmentally transformative—initiatives taking place around the world.  Yes, the race between environmental calamity and evolutionary transformations is neck-and-neck, but the Dreamers, Drivers, and Doers among us see a real potential for rapid, exponential advances in the tech realm, alongside a wave of on-the-ground entrepreneurial visionaries driving rapid progress in health, education, and clean energy in communities around the world.  We received a fresh dose of inspiration from a compendium of “22 of the Most Fascinating Social Good Startups Changing the World.”  The common thread here is empowering individuals to create small companies that create new jobs and incomes while tackling local issues including poor sanitation, recycling, access to electricity, and supporting small farms.  Click through for a look at five of our favorites.

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Helping graduates resist the sparkling lure of corporate jobs

George Monbiot’s garrulous graduation-season rant rang some Zone 2 and 3 bells for us (these are the realms of one’s career and lifelong learning).  The title and subtitle really say it all: “How a corporate cult captures and destroys our best graduates: Universities should defend students against lovebombing by banks and consultancy firms – before it ruins their lives.”  Wow!  We’ll readily admit to knowing a few corporate types living valuable and change-making lives, but his point is well worth bearing in mind; it can indeed be hard to prioritize investments in one’s Personal Assets (including your dreams for the world and desires for personal balance) when six-figure salaries are dangled about.  As Monbiot says, “I watched it happen to my peers. People who had spent the preceding years laying out exultant visions of a better world, of the grand creative projects they planned, of adventure and discovery, were suddenly sucked into the mouths of corporations dangling money like angler fish.”

A bit of good news, though: he reached out to the eight UK universities with the highest graduate salaries and found one (yes, just one) that does indeed encourage its graduates to think twice before taking the leap. 

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King of Thailand champions a “sufficiency economy”

For sixty years, the King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand has been expounding on a development philosophy he terms The Sufficiency Economy.  It’s based on putting moderation and balance at the center of development strategy, emphasizing the Buddhist concept of ‘the middle path’ as a leading principle for appropriate conduct of people, businesses and government at all levels.  As illustrated at the top of this post, it bears a striking resemblance to the three-tiered expansion of “self-interest” that fires what we call the invisible heart of resilience, which unleashes the real power and promise of resilient investing.

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Riding the exponential finance wave

One of the challenging—and fun!—parts of being a resilient investor is staying abreast of the relentless river of innovation that courses through so many aspects of our lives these days.  None of us can really take it all in, but hopefully we each have areas we follow more closely, areas of expertise that inform and guide us.  It’s good to take the time to scan “headlines from the future” in other realms as well. One of our favorite sources for radically evolutionary news is Singularity University; their site (and feed or weekly email) is especially relevant to the Driver and Dreamer future forecast types among us.  This week, they featured a series of posts from a conference on “Exponential Finance” that they cosponsored with CNBC.  It’s all as mind-opening and exciting as we’ve come to expect from Singularity, and well worth a few minutes of your time as part of your continuing education, so you won’t be caught unaware by the this cresting wave that will be rolling on in not too far in the future.  

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Fullerton launches evolutionary “Regenerative Capitalism” initiative

John Fullerton, a former Managing Director at JPMorgan, has embarked on an ambitious new initiative to foster what he calls “regenerative capitalism.”  Among the core principles he identifies are:

  • To view wealth not just as money in the bank, but as the richness we acquire through cultivating human connections and our connection to the natural environment;
  • To ensure capital flows towards every level of our human networks enabling all individuals to reach their potential and to make their fullest contribution to society as a whole, both for themselves and the health of the whole; and
  • To maintain a balance as economic actors between collaborativeness and competition; efficiency and resilience; and small, medium, and large organizational structures.

We’ve long taken heart in Fullerton’s big-picture perspectives on the blind spots in the current economic paradigms, and it’s easy to see the ways that his vision overlaps with the resilient investing framework, especially in our shared expanded definition of wealth and focus on investing (dollars and time) in personal assets and the tangible assets of our regional and global environment.

The Regenerative Capitalism white paper was developed in collaboration with many of our favorite leading-edge thinkers, including Allan Savory, Hunter Lovins, Gar Alperovitz, Paul Hawken, and Hazel Henderson; you can read or download the full white paper, or the 15p Executive Summary.  See also the Capital Institute’s website, which is currently featuring an 8-minute video introduction to the new project.

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Paul Gilding: The Great Dualist Disruption

Paul Gilding is an Australian writer, corporate consultant, and long-time activist.  His book “The Great Disruption” lays out a classic Dualist vision: he sees that avoidance of the climate issue is likely to send our economy veering into the edge of the ditch, but he’s convinced that as push really comes to shove, economic and political forces will refocus and direct their efforts to avert disaster.

Paul Gilding website
Includes an ongoing series of articles tracking current events in the context of the Great Disruption.

Book: The Great Disruption

Video: The Great Disruption, How Humankind Can Thrive in the 21st Century
An 18-minute condensed version of his talk on the book’s themes

Video and Audio: Gilding’s picks of the best of his talks


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Peter Diamandis: Breakthrough Dreamer

Peter Diamandis is the driving force behind the innovation-fueling X-Prize and Singularity University, and a leading writer and speaker on the potential for exponential and unexpected technological and socially/environmentally-beneficial breakthroughs in the years to come. We could easily have included him alongside his oft-colleague Ray Kurzweil as a Driver, but the breadth of his vision, especially in the book Abundance, tips him toward Dreamer-hood.

About Peter Diamandis:
Diamandis’ website
Wiki on Diamandis
Peter Diamandis newsletter

Book: Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think
Abundance is a whirlwind tour through several interacting forces that Diamandis sees as driving widespread and largely unexpected innovations in the coming years.

Video: Abundance is Our Future
Video: Nine-minute montage of Diamandis media interviews; a good introduction to his primary themes.

Two recent Diamandis initiatives are designed for entrepreneurs and impact investors looking to make positive change in the world:
Book: Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World
Website/network: Abundance360
Book review of Bold: The review’s opening sentences capture the gist of Diamandis’ breakthrough dreams: “Just as an asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs that ruled the Earth and made way for small furry mammals, a new wave of planetary disruptions is about to occur. The new asteroid is called ‘exponential technology.’ It is going to wipe out industries in a similar manner to the rock which fell on Earth during the Cretaceous Period.”

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Book: “Evolutionaries: Unlocking the Spiritual and Cultural Potential of Science’s Greatest Idea.”

Carter Phipp’s book Evolutionaries surveys evolutionary thought with the aim of integrating our understanding of how a new “evolutionary” perspective can integrate consciousness, cosmology, and evolution, building bridges between the physical sciences and spiritual traditions. Builds on Ken Wilber’s integral theory/worldview. Visit the book’s website.

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