Posts Tagged ‘driver’

Equity crowdfunding off to promising start

In May, the SEC finalized its long-anticipated new rule that opens the door for more investors to take part in the most exciting—and risky—realm in the investing universe: innovative startups.  Previously, only “accredited” investors ($200K/yr income or $1 million in assets) were allowed to take these risks, and thus to reap the outsized rewards that can accrue to early investors in companies that are not yet available in the public stock markets.

Indiegogo announced this week that it will begin allowing small companies to offer equity investments on its platform, rather than just the rewards-based pre-sales that have been the core of crowdfunding up til now.  Many small companies have used crowdfunding platforms to get rolling and prove that there’s a ready market for their new products, only to turn to the super-rich when the time came to scale up for mass marketing their innovations.  Oculus, for example, raised millions from early adopters, but it was equity funders who reaped the windfall when the company was sold to Facebook for $2 billion.

In these early months, the potential is just beginning to be realized.  According to WeFunder, the largest equity crowdfunding portal so far, about 55 companies have successfully raised a combined total of $12 million from small investors.  WeFunder is currently hosting several dozen offerings, which range from

Tags: , , , ,

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:

Tags: , , , , ,

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

Tags: , , , , ,

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.)

Tags: , , , , ,

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!

Tags: , , , ,

Virtual reality as an “empathy machine” and force for good?

Virtual reality.  For those of us who still enjoy THIS world, the idea of opening the floodgates of truly immersive virtual reality can seem like the ultimate triumph of the screen-mediated life, an abandonment of the core virtues of human relationship.  If computers have sucked us further down the rabbit hole than TVs, then won’t these new systems—covering our eyes and ears, even stimulating our vestibular responses—create even more separation between us?  Not necessarily, say a slew of folks who are tracking this nearly-inevitable and soon-to-arrive evolution of computer technology.  Check out this collection of videos and articles from SingularityHUB, all of which explore the ways that more immersive virtual reality interfaces could actually increase our empathy and engagement, rather than leading to atrophy of these core aspects of being human.  The promise here starts with recent studies on “mirror neurons” and goes on to ways that empathy-sparking VR could deepen journalism and enliven civic engagement.  A real mind-bender for any of us with lingering Luddite tendencies.

Tags: , , ,

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.  

Tags: , , , , ,

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.”

Tags: , , , , , ,

Ray Kurzweil: Techno-optimism

Ray Kurzweil is an accomplished tech innovator (flatbed scanners, OCR, text-to-speech) and a leading voice/visionary of techno-optimistism, especially the potentials of artificial intelligence, which he likes to term “accelerating intelligence,” to capture the ways these developments will benefit and enhance human thought, decision-making, and insight. His book titles give a clear sense of his vision: The Age of Spiritual Machines, How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed, and The Singularity is Near.

About Ray Kurzweil (wiki)

Kurzweil’s website
Since 2001, KurzweilAI has highlighted the accelerating change that fascinates Kurzweil, with coverage of important breakthroughs in science and technology. See especially the Videos page, which gathers videos of many related thinkers that Kurzweil feels are worth seeing, and the Blog.

Kurzweil’s TED talks
Includes talks on hybrid thinking, the accelerating power of technology, and the Singularity University project

Projects that Kurzweil is a key player in:
Singularity University
An innovative educational initiative that includes programs for young adults, graduate students, and corporate executives and entrepreneurs.

Global Future 2045 Congress
A 2013 gathering of futurists and techno-optimists; site includes introductory videos from several leading lights, including Kurzweil.

Tags: , , ,

Amory Lovins: The Future of Energy

Amory Lovins is another of our D-type thought leaders that was hard to squeeze into one category. We’ve included him as a Driver because of his lifelong commitment to working with existing corporate and regulatory structures to move toward a more sustainable energy future, but in many ways, he is also a Dreamer, envisioning fundamental changes in social, economic, and energy systems. Still, his sharp focus on how we get there from here is what stands out, and this is the work of those dedicated to pushing our current system into the future. Lovins is the co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute, which has pioneered innovative new approaches to automobile design, renewable energy, architectural energy efficiency, and many other key topics.

About Amory Lovins:
Wiki entry on Lovins
RMI bio of Lovins

Book and RMI program: Reinventing Fire
Amory Lovins’ book Reinventing Fire was published in 2012, and makes a case for a future powered with no need for oil, coal or nuclear energy. The book demonstrates a practical path away from our current fossil-fuel based economy, by integrating transportation, buildings, industry and electricity, combined with new business approaches and strategies.
Video: Reinventing Fire
A six-minute introduction from Rocky Mountain Institute
Video lecture: Reinventing Fire, presented at the 2011 Bioneers Conference.

Video: Winning the Oil Endgame. In this TED talk, based on his recent book by the same name, Amory Lovins lays out his plan to wean the US off oil and to revitalize the economy.

Video: Amory Lovins on a 40 year Plan for Energy. In this talk filmed at TED’s offices, Amory Lovins describes his ideas for how to wean the US off of oil and coal by 2050, in a way that is led by business for profit, without requiring congressional acts. Lovins says the key is to integrate all four energy-using sectors, as well as applying four kinds of innovation.

Book: Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolutions
authored by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and Hunter Lovins
The concept of Natural Capitalism integrates the “triple bottom line” of profitability, environmental, and social responsibility into a single bottom line with an outcome of increased operational efficiency within businesses and organizations. The book is accessible via this website in free, downloadable chapters.

Tags: , , , ,

The Breakthrough Institute: Ecomodernism

The Breakthrough Institute is a think tank committed to “modernizing environmentalism for the 21st century” by rethinking old left-right framing and challenging some key liberal dogmas. Despite their name, we see them more as Drivers, in that their analysis and recommendations are rooted in an eco-pragmatism that includes elements of business-as-usual, albeit directed toward clear sustainability goals. They’ve coined the terms “ecomodernist” and “radical pragmatism” to describe their approach, which includes embracing nuclear power as the most viable path to a carbon-free electricity system in the short timeline available, as well as GMOs as useful tool for global nutrition and agricultural resiliency in the face of climate change. They’ll push your buttons if you’re a standard-issue liberal, but we find their reasoned, contrary voices to be well worth hearing, whether you agree with their bottom line or not.

Breakthrough Institute website
Contains a wealth of in-depth articles and essays

Breakthrough Journal
This quarterly journal, available online or in print, is the best place to stay current with what the New Republic called
“among the most complete efforts to provide a fresh answer to” the future of liberalism.

Breakthrough Dialogue 2014: High-energy Planet
Here’s an example of the Breakthrough mindset. Each year, they convene a 2-day “anti-Davos” organized around a theme; see this page for links to essays that summarize the discussions on panels exploring energy issues.

Videos: Breakthrough’s YouTube Channel

Videos: Modernizing Liberalism
A large collection of videos from a 2011 conference put together by Breakthrough Institute.

Tags: , ,

Jamais Cascio: Inspiring futurist

Jamais Cascio is a futurist, and was a key contributor to our way of thinking about scenario planning. His talks and writings are endlessly fascinating and often inspiring.

Cascio’s website
Features lots of in-depth posts on topics related to scenario planning and possible futures.

Video: Bots, Bacteria, and Carbon
A good half-hour introduction to Cascio’s thinking; explores the potential course of planet Earth over the next 50 years, painting a picture of what a sustainable, resilient world could look like. Working with multiple future scenarios, he shows the often-unexpected ways in which the choices we make today will shape the decades to come.


Tags: , , , ,