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The human project

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The human project

  1. 1. 2
  2. 2. 3To humans who dare dream beyond their lifespan.
  3. 3. 4CREATIVE COMMONSfor a sharing economy.Attribute: give us credit.Share alike: if you use it or remix it, you gotta share too.No restrictions. This is a Free Culture License.www.creativecommons.orgISBN 978-1-62590-056-2
  4. 4. Think of the ongoing human project as an inter-generational relay. Howis our generation—all of us living at the beginning of the 21st century—doing in our leg of the journey? Today we can’t give a good answer. We aremostly making it up as we go.But what if we put some serious thought into it? Our unprecedentedconnectivity and access to knowledge makes it easier than ever. So let’slook as far into the future as our knowledge allows. Let’s lay out all theknown challenges to our existence and opportunities for our evolution.Then, let’s step back and think: Where do we want to take the ongoinghuman project and why? What are the most important contributions ourgeneration can make during our brief window of existence? And how dowe get going?These are the questions we take head on in this book. Our answers arebased on 3 years of research spanning fields from cosmology to biology,from Big History to science fiction. We’ve studied scores of the globalchallenge lists put together by inter-governmental organizations, globalfora, billionaire philanthropists, and former presidents. We’ve immersedourselves in public debates on issues that are now well-understood andsought out lonely voices speaking about issues that have yet to register inthe public’s awareness. We offer our answers as a conversation starter.If you are a concerned member of the human race wondering where toplace your life’s energy or your cognitive and financial surplus, this book isa good place to start. For a multimedia experience of the ideas containedin this book, please download our free multimedia book in the iBook Storeor our free app in the App Store.PREFACE5
  5. 5. The 21stcentury is truly a new world.The idea behind THE HUMAN PROJECT started as a spark between the twoauthors and then quickly evolved into a collaboration among hundredsaround the globe. 150 of us came together to run a crowd-fundingcampaign. We attracted 261 backers (most of whom we had never met!)and raised twice our funding goal, allowing us to turn what was going tobe a simple digital book into a multimedia effort with video, original musicscores and graphic design produced by a growing team of volunteersworking across 4 continents. (If you’re reading this format, you can checkout the videos online at TheHUMANProjectTV channel on YouTube). Tosay that we are blown away by the generosity of our backers and thecommitment of our volunteers is an understatement!Taking on questions of species-wide significance requires a certain levelof stamina and self-confidence. There were times when we found both inshort supply. We’ve crossed our first finish line largely because we weresurrounded by truly amazing people who egged us on, threw their weightbehind us and stepped in when we needed them most. Zafer Achi, AshBanerjee, Tim Smythe, Gail McEwen Miller, Terri Hinton, Lidia BozhevolnayaJason Silva, Amanda Gustafson, Marshrur Nabi, Ann Boothello, Irma Wilson,Giorgio Ungania, Natascia Radice, Glistening Deepwater—“thank you”doesn’t even begin to cover it. Mahmoud Abu-Wardeh and Serge Lupas—your support was unrelenting and downright touching. Both of you wentfar beyond the call of duty.THANK YOU6
  6. 6. 7WHAT’S INSIDEPreface 05Thank You 06HUMAN QUESTIONS 08Who Are We? 10What Should be the Purpose of Our Species? 11What Can One Human Life Mean? 12HUMAN IDENTITY 13Our Story 15We Are Matter 16We Are Life 17We Are Culture 18HUMAN FUTURE 19Our Mental Frames 21How We Sustain Ourselves 27How We Resolve Conflicts 36How We Spend Our Lives 46How We Create Knowledge 57How We Use Knowledge 66How We Share Knowledge 75How We Organize 84How We Expand Our Presence 94Pandemics 104Volcanoes & Earthquakes 113Changing Climate 123Comet & Asteroid Impacts 132Aging Sun 140Cosmic Radiation 148Galactic Collisions 157Entropy 165HUMAN PROJECT 173Purpose 177Agenda 178Organization 180Let’s talk 184Imagine 193
  9. 9. 107 billion humans.We are one species but we are not of one mind.Our shared biology is now a fact.Our shared identity is still under construction.Some of us think our shared humanity is a given.If we only dig deep enough inside... all of us will find it.But what if it does not come pre-installed?Others say we must raise our consciousness.Cultivate our compassion.That’s how we’ll realize we’re all one.But how long will it take us?Some of us want to talk issues, not identity:We’re stuck on this planet together.So let’s just deal.But how inspired is a trapped soul?To create an inspired future...We need good stories about who we are already.Look at us in the grand scheme of existence.The 100 billion who came before. The 7 billion alive today.What’s the red thread?We are a creative species!We practice the most complex art in our universe:CULTURAL LEARNING.We are our own work in progress.WHO ARE WE?Watch on YouTube
  10. 10. 11To be or to become?We must choose carefully.Any purpose with a final destination is shrink wrap on the human spirit.We are not built to arrive, we are built to journey.Think of the stream of human existence as an ongoing human project.How long should it go on for? No end.What should it accomplish? No limits.Our purpose: Survive and ascend.KEEP BECOMING.WHAT SHOULD BE THE PURPOSEOF OUR SPECIES?Watch on YouTube
  11. 11. 12Think of a human life as a one-off,And you are walking down a blind alley.Think of a human life as a contribution to the ongoing human project,And you may be surprised.Suddenly, infinity lies within a finite life.Imagine your last breath filled with knowing:Your ascendants...Can know things you could not know.Can go places you could not go.Can become what you could only dream of.Because you gave your everything.WHAT CAN ONE LIFE MEAN?Watch on YouTube
  12. 12. 13HUM AN IDENT IT Y12
  14. 14. 15Who are We?13.7 billion years ago We were crammed into a single point.10 billion years ago We were stars exploding into existence.3 billion years ago We were bacteria. We were alive.550 million years ago We were flatworms. We had hearts and brains.400 million years ago We were fish. We had jaws.15 million years ago We were great apes. We had arms, legs and biggerbrains.5 million years ago We were humans. We had voice boxes.100,000 years ago We could talk but could not ask this question.1,000 years ago We were all God’s creations. Except the guys next doorwere heathens.200 years ago We were British, French, American, Indian, Chinese…100 years ago We had proof We’re one species, descended from apes. Fewof us were pleased.60 years ago We declared We’re all human, entitled to the same humanrights.10 years ago some started saying We are global citizens.Today… We could tell a bigger story. We could be HUMAN.We could create a cultural identity that moves us. That takes us places.Tell a story that sticksand…50 years from now We could be Martians.1 billion years from now We could be Andromedans, living off new stars.10 billion years from now We could be the creative force of our Universe.Or not.So who are We today?Here is a bigger story.OUR STORYWatch on YouTube
  15. 15. 16We are clumps of matter that exist in time and space.We—along with everything else—unfurled out of the same universalstarter kit. All of it—matter, energy, time and space—banged intoexistence out of a single hot and dense point 13.7 billion years ago.Ever since our Universe has been governed by the same forces predictablyplaying out over time and space, as if strictly following a script. Ouruniverse has been expanding and losing heat. Within it, matter has beenclumping into more and more complex structures—quarks clumped intosubatomic particles that clumped into atoms. At first there were just twokinds of atoms, helium and hydrogen. Once they clumped into massivestars, more became possible. Within the furnaces of big stars the originaltwo elements fused into heavier and heavier varieties like carbon, oxygenand the rest of the periodic table. Now there were more building blocks toplay with. They clumped into molecules we are now made of. Hats off tocosmic evolution—it got us our universe and everything in it.The cosmic script is simple enough that we can venture a prediction aboutthe fate of our cosmic home. There will be plenty of time—the last 14billion years are just an instant relative to the infinity of time that liesahead. There will be plenty of space—the universe will keep expandingat an accelerating rate. The outlook is less upbeat for matter and energy.Entropy is set to wear it all down—planets, stars, even black holes. Allmatter will revert to simpler and simpler structures dispersing over everexpanding space. Our home will slowly grow dark and cold. There will bespace and time but nothing much going on.In cosmic terms, we are just tiny clumps of matter. Like all matter, we aresubject to the forces of cosmic evolution. Is our fate then inextricablybound to the fate of our universe?Not necessarily. After all, we are no ordinary clumps of matters.Watch on YouTubeWE ARE MATTER
  16. 16. 17We are clumps of matter that live!Just how widespread life is in our universe is still in question. For now, to talk aboutlife we have to narrow our field of vision from the expanses of our universe to theoutskirts of one of the hundred billion galaxies and zoom in on a smallish planetorbiting an average star. We call that planet Earth. That’s where life as we know ittook up residence 4 billion years ago.We can’t yet say for sure how life began and whether it began on Earth. The movefrom inanimate matter to live matter was likely gradual and slow, taking millions ofyears. We can, however, make a compelling case that life is not just more complexthan other matter, it is an entire new way of being. In cosmic evolution mass isdestiny. When a massive clump of matter like a star burns through all the matterwithin, it’s done being a star. If life lived off only what’s within, life spans wouldbe measured in hours and days because in cosmic terms, all life forms are just tinyspecks of matter. What life lacks in mass, it makes up for in sophistication.Life keeps itself going by harvesting matter and energy from the outside—it absorbssunlight, it eats. What it stores inside is information in its DNA about how to do this,a template that allows it to reproduce. Life passes this information from generationto generation. And it does it almost perfectly. But once in a while random errors cropup. In biological evolution, imperfectly copying genes are destiny.Life started off as the simplest form and evolved into millions of more and morecomplex forms. The creative exuberance of biological evolution was the result of theinterplay between two ways of being: Cosmic evolution kept serving up changes inconditions on the planet. Life kept adapting by blindly generating imperfect copiesof its templates. Some worked well, kept surviving and evolving. Other didn’t andbecame evolutionary dead-ends. We are a product of the lineage that worked out.Life adapts, so its fate is harder to predict. So far life has survived all the curve ballsthat cosmic evolution has indifferently hurled its way, from deadly asteroids tomassive volcanic eruptions. But in the end the fate of all Earth-based life might beinextricably bound to the fate of our star. In a billion years the sun will get so hot, itwill boil off all water from the surface of our planet, sterilizing it. Despite a 4 billionyear track record of adaptation, life might not be equipped to deal with such a radicalchange. In that case, the life span of life would be just 5 billion years—a mere cosmicinstant.In biological terms, we are a complex form of life. Like all life, we harvest energyand matter from our surroundings, we rely on the energy of a star. Is our fate theninextricably bound to the fate of Earth-based life?Not necessarily. After all, we are no ordinary form of life.WE ARE LIFEWatch on YouTube
  17. 17. 18We are a form of life that learns and learns fast!How we came to distinguish ourselves from all other life is yet another storyof gradual change that took a while to unfold. But in just a few million years,we developed nothing less but a new way to evolve.Biological evolution takes thousands of generations to produce somethingnew and useful. We can do it in a single generation. Our trick is culturallearning. To us, cultural learning is so habitual it may seem almost banal: welearn something new, we tell each other about it, we build on each others’knowledge, we pass on what we learn to future generations. Today we do thisat unprecedented speed. Cultural information can now travel at the speed oflight running through our fiber optic cables.We did not become fast learners overnight. Like biological evolution, culturalevolution started slow and picked up momentum over time. We kicked offwith practical ideas that led to incremental improvements in our lives—liketurning a sharp stone and a stick into a spear that could kill prey at a distance.Over time, our inventions started to add up and helped us become a dominantspecies. But we did not stop there. We kept going.We did not learn to merely adapt to the living conditions on Earth, we learnedto transform them. Agriculture was our first pass at large-scale transformation.Instead of roaming vast distances in search of food, we found a way to stayput and grow it ourselves. Once we stopped moving around and startedgenerating extra food, we could deploy our minds to invent smarter ways ofdoing other things. Fast forward 10,000 years. We now know how to transformmatter and life, how to make use of forces that govern cosmic and biologicalevolution.Cosmic evolution will keep posing challenges to our existence. Fragile biologymight be the basis for our existence for a while. So what will become of us?We are specks of matter, but our body mass no longer determines our destiny.We reproduce according to a genetic template but it is no longer a randomgenetic error that determines who we will become.We are a culturally learning species. Could we learn our way to the end of the22nd century? Could we outlive our star? Could we prevail over entropy?For a learning species, what’s impossible?Watch on YouTubeWE ARE CULTURE
  18. 18. 19HUM AN FUTURE
  21. 21. 22The roller-coaster ride that culminatedin the creation of this book started witha personal quest. We wanted to figureout what the two of us (Anna and Erika)should do to advance the ongoing humanproject. We did not want to merely followour passions or just do something—both ofthese options seemed like a reckless way todecide on something as important as usingup the only lifetime we get. A serious questcalls for serious research. As a first step, wewere determined to wrap our minds aroundwhat really needs doing at this point inhuman history.In other words, we wanted to have acomplete overview of what’s on our plateas a species. We went looking in all theplaces that promised an inventory ofglobal, grand, wicked and even super-wickedchallenges. These challenges are nowvery much in vogue, with scores of inter-governmental organizations, ivory towers,global NGOs, former presidents, prominentscientists and technologists, billionaire-philanthropists and thousands of lessprominent but equally concerned membersof the human race all keeping their owntabs. Having compulsively studied morethan a hundred lists, we walked away witha massive headache. There was simply noway to construct a comprehensive meta-list of our grand challenges without takinga gigantic step back and revisiting thedelicate issue of our own identity and ourworld view. Who are we identified with?What is our overarching purpose? What arewe leaving out of our own field of visionand why? Our relentless self-questioningled to strong determination: identify withthe entire stream of human existence (past,present and future) and leave out nothing.We’ve tried to convey the essence of ouremerging world view in HUMAN Questionsand HUMAN Identity videos. But we cansum our ideas up in a few pithy sentences:OUR MENTAL FRAMES / INTROI N T ROWe are all individual waves in the ongoingstream of human existence. Personally, wewould like this stream to carry on and keepevolving infinitely into the future. In fact,we want to make it our explicit purpose. Itmay sound like a tall order but we believethat for a learning species nothing should beimpossible. To keep the human project goingas an infinite game, each generation needs toknow the game we are playing and learn toplay their round well.From now on we will use HUMANperspective as a shorthand referenceto these ideas. They seemed innocuousenough at first. But as we let them sink in,they started to wreak havoc in our minds.We expected the HUMAN perspective tochange what we saw once we returnedto the issue of what’s on our plate as aspecies. But we were entirely unpreparedfor what actually happened. A year back,had anybody showed us the preview ofwhat we’ve put forward in this section,we would have dismissed it as out there.Now out there is where we’ve set up camp.This calls for a bit of an explanation of ourmental journey.22
  22. 22. 23OUR MENTAL FRAMES / CHALLENGESCHALLENGESSo we were looking for all challenges thatcould significantly impact the survival andascent of our species, both negatively andpositively. Once we re-examined otherpeople’s lists through the lens of the HUMANperspective, the cure for our earlier headachebecame obvious: To create a master list thatwould match the scope of our purpose, we hadto tear down a few walls and punch through aceiling inside our own minds.THE EARTH WALLSo far all humans have been born on planetEarth. With the exception of a few hundredastronauts, that’s also where all of us liveout our lives. It is therefore unsurprising thatwhen we think about our world, the radiusof our thinking rarely extends beyond thegeostationary orbit of our satellites 35,786km above the equator. From the HUMANperspective, our world is a whole lot bigger,at least as big as the known universe. Thisradical extension of our field of vision is nota whimsical flight of fancy but a matter ofexistential importance—cosmic evolutionis generating plenty of action that directlyimpacts our survival prospects. So we simplymust look beyond our pale blue dot.THE TIME WALLWe expanded our thinking in space but whatabout time? Most of us have a time horizonbeyond which our active concern transmutesinto a passive general interest and eventuallydecays into sincere indifference. All of the listswe have looked at were boxed inside a timewall—some as short as 1 year, most limited tothe next 5 to10 years, a handful focusing onthe next 50 years or the 21st century, and afew noteworthy exceptions spanning the next10,000 years. Having steeped in the HUMANperspective, we found ourselves as consumedby the matters of the day as we were by theheat death of our universe. It seemed recklessand irresponsible to dismiss the known perilsof the distant future on the mere hope thatour ascendants will be smart enough to figureit out or, worse, on the resignation that ourspecies won’t last long enough to care. Sinceit is impossible to predict how long it willtake us to create the requisite knowledge totake on challenges of cosmic proportions, wedecided to adopt an a-temporal perspective.Once we dropped the arbitrary limits of timeand space, our thinking remained unavoidablybound by the ultimate limit: the peripheryof human knowledge. The most humanlyresponsible thing we could do was to rely onthe knowledge we have and keep updating ourideas as it continues to evolve.THE ABSTRACTION CEILINGWith the Earth Wall and Time Wall in ruins,we were up against a new problem: wewere looking at an almost 100 item list—asure recipe for mental disorientation. Tocreate a manageable taxonomy, we had topush beyond the current conceptions of thechallenges and punch through to the highestlevel of abstraction. We used the notion ofcosmic, biological and cultural evolution asour organizing frame. Challenges arising fromcosmic or biological evolution could be framedin terms of phenomena (e.g., “Aging sun”).Challenges arising from cultural evolutionwere fundamentally differtent, they had anagent—us! So instead of trying to organizethe myriad of good and bad impacts of ourexistence, we traced them back to somethingwe humans do (e.g., How we sustain ourselvesinstead of a long list of Ocean acidification,Biodiversity Loss, etc.) In the end, we wereleft with just 16 challenges—half of ourown making, half served up by cosmic andbiological evolution.23
  23. 23. 24OUR MENTAL FRAMES / VISIONSIn of itself a master list of challenges is only astarting point for engagement. Its only utilityis to raise the next batch of questions: Whatshould we do about it? What’s our vision?Here, too, we started with a survey of whatis already out there. Given the nature of thechallenges on our list (from How we resolveconflicts to Entropy), we had to set our sightswide and go on a grand tour of ideas thatranged from current world affairs to sciencefiction. For some of the challenges we wereable to line up dozens of visions scatteredalong time’s arrow, pinned at different levelsof ambition and motivated by different worldviews; for others we’ve come back emptyhanded. Fascinating as this patchwork ofvisions was, the goal of our quest wasn’t toproduce an exhaustive comparative studyof other people’s visions or dispassionatelyV I SIONSreport on the absence of such visions. Ourgoal was to figure out what visions weourselves—as two aspiring contributors tothe ongoing human project—considered to beworthwhile and why. We couldn’t do it withoutfirst struggling with the very notion of vision.What’s a vision made of?At the end of a messy creative process weemerged with a practical idea: our visionsshould be a binary construction of an ultimategoal and a set of major milestones for 2050.ULTIMATE GOALSVisions typically take the form of describingour desired state of affairs at some futurepoint in time. Having torn down the Time Walland settled into an a-temporal perspective, wehad deprived ourselves of the dubious luxuryof picking an arbitrary point in time. We hadto push ourselves all the way to an ultimategoal, the end-game or simply an ideal thatwe thought was worth setting our sights on.It was an unsettling process because it led usto question some of the visions that most ofus now take for granted: is a sustainable, justand peaceful world here on Earth our ultimategoal or is it merely a stop along the way? Bypushing our notions of desirable futures to thelimit of our imagination, we were forced to laybare our fundamental values. In our books,that was a good thing because it now allows usto debate the future of our species at the mostfundamental level without being completelyswayed by what seems urgent at this verymoment. Ultimate goals became a stronganchor in our minds, a lighthouse to illuminatethe general direction in which we thought weshould be headed as a species.2050 MILESTONESOnce we were clear about our ultimategoals, we could get practical: What wouldour generation need to focus on to advancethe human project in the general directionwe were proposing? We decided to create ahandful of milestones for 2050. In this case,the choice of the year was admittedly arbitrary.It could have as well been 2034 or 2111. Butmid-century seemed like a nicely measuredstep—longer than most of our habitualplanning horizons, short enough for many ofus alive today to see them through.A rather curious picture emerged.24
  25. 25. OUR MENTAL FRAMES / PROGRESSWith a master-list of Challenges andVisions in place, we were getting closerto our goal of figuring out what the bestuse of our lives would be at this point inhuman history…but we were not quitethere yet. The human project is notexactly standing still. There are manygreat bold initiatives underway on most(although, importantly, not all!) of thechallenges on our list. So to decide howwe could best contribute, we needed towrap our minds around the Progress wewere already making and get a senseof where we needed reinforcement.These days, the facts are relativelyeasy to come by. There is no shortageof reports, in-depth studies and bookslaying out the facts and putting forwardassessments of different dimensions ofthe challenges we face as a species. Thedifficulty of course lies in the judgmentswe make about these facts. Whenconstructing Progress we were judgingif what’s already in the works would besufficient to hit the 2050 milestoneswe set out in our Visions or whether weneeded to add more minds, more humanpower into the mix to start trackingnicely.***At the end of a multi-year exercise, wedid arrive at an answer, or at the veryleast at a hypothesis for what ourgeneration in general and the two of usin particular need to do to advance theongoing human project. From the outsethowever our answer was meant to runPROGRESSinto serious problems: it would onlybecome meaningful if enough peoplefound it worth their while. In thissection, we are sharing our take on the16 challenges with the intent to attractmore minds to the exercise. We arefirst and foremost interested in pushingthe quality of the thinking, rather thaninsisting on the particulars of our ideas.Do you think an important challenge ismissing from our list? Do you disagreewith how we framed a particularchallenge? Do you have a better ultimategoal in mind? Great, have at it! HUMANFuture is a starting point, not a definitivestatement. We can’t wait to find out whatyou make of it and push this thinkingforward together. Nothing less than ourgeneration’s contribution to the ongoinghuman project is at stake!26
  27. 27. 28THINK KNOWLEDGE,NOT RESOURCESWhen most of us think of sustainabledevelopment we tend to think aboutfinite resources here on Earth and debatewho should consume them and at whatrate. Many of us end up referencinga fairly popular equation for an idealsteady state: a limited number of peopleconsuming limited natural resources ata rate that does not exceed what theEarth can physically regenerate. If wefollow that logic, then our challenge—nay, our moral obligation—is to keep ourpopulation and consumption rates withinEarth’s carrying capacity.This challenge definition capturesthe predicament of most Earth-basedlife forms: make do with what youcan find, and adapt through blind andslow genetic mutation. Multiply withtoo much enthusiasm, overtax yourenvironment and everybody pays theprice. But this is not our predicament.We humans are no ordinary form of life.We live by a different equation. We haveevolved into beings who keep findingways to understand our surroundings.We then use our knowledge to transformmatter and energy into resources topower our lives. So we’ve gone fromliving within the carrying capacity ofour Earth to living within the carryingcapacity of our knowledge.We now know that there is an entireuniverse—perhaps universes—beyondour Earth. We now know that we have anendowment not merely of planetary butof cosmic proportions. From our currentvantage point the supply of matter andenergy in our universe is near infinite. It’sour knowledge that’s limited. We are justbeginners, crude hackers that producetoo much waste heat, kill off other lifeforms somewhat indiscriminately, anddestroy our surrounding beauty.Right now we get most of our energyfrom burning dead plants and animalsand wreak havoc on our climate. Thereare, however, plenty of other optionsclose by. The amount of energy that ourplanet receives from the sun exceedsour current consumption of 18 terawattsby a factor of more than 20,000. We justhaven’t figured out how to harvest it yet.We’re rapidly depleting our fresh wateraquifers but they don’t add up to evenhalf a percent of all of the water hereon Earth. We just haven’t yet figured outHOW WE SUSTAIN OURSELVES / CHALLENGECH AL L ENGE
  28. 28. 29how to desalinate it at a global scale. Intheory, we are well-endowed, even hereon Earth. In practice, we have a lot tolearn.But hold on. It’s not enough to merelyreframe our challenge from living withinthe carrying capacity of our finite planetto living within the carrying capacityof our knowledge in a near infiniteuniverse. We also need to let go of theidea that we will ever arrive at a steadystate here on Earth or anywhere else.In a universe constantly hurling newchallenges our way, we will need moreand more energy, not less.From the HUMAN perspective ourchallenge then is to keep creatingthe knowledge needed to power ourascent—keep expanding the carryingcapacity of our knowledge.CH AL L ENGEHOW WE SUSTAIN OURSELVES / CHALLENGE
  29. 29. 30How we sustain ourselves determinesnothing short of our role in the universe.Will we humans remain a localphenomena in our Universe—a speciesthat began its ascent, created significantknowledge, lived for a brief cosmicmoment largely confined to Earth, andthen were extinguished by a cosmicevent (such as the death of our sun or asupernova) because we did not have thepower to protect ourselves?Or, will we become universal explorersand problem solvers—a species thatbegan its ascent on Earth, createdsignificant knowledge, comprehendedwhere we were in time and space andthe slew of challenges we faced, andfound the power to press forward,to extend our minds and expand ourpresence into our larger cosmic home tosee what and who else we might find?How we go about sustaining ourselveswill also determine our identity in theuniverse—what kind of beings willwe become? Will we become beingswho disregard other life forms, pillageour cosmos, and lay waste to oursurroundings in search of ever morepower? Or will we become powerfulartists who harvest or create matter andenergy while admiring the diversity oflife that has evolved in our space-timeand sculpting sublime surroundings forus all?These scenarios will require vastlydifferent levels of power andqualitatively different ethics andaesthetics. So, which path will wechoose?WHAT’S AT STAKE?POWER AND BEAUTYCH AL L ENGEHOW WE SUSTAIN OURSELVES / CHALLENGE
  30. 30. 31ULTIMATE GOALSMART HARVESTINGFor any smart civilization to surviveit would need to learn to harvestmatter and energy at a rate and scalethat outpaces the species threateningchallenges in the cosmic calendar ofour Universe. Think about the powerwe’ll need to deal with the next ice age,prevent a supernova explosion, find anew home and evacuate Earth beforeour sun sterilizes our planet, and dealwith the collision of our galaxy, theMilky Way, with Andromeda. To just stayin the game, we’ll need to harness orcreate not just all of the energy of onestar, but billions of them; and perhapslearn to make stars of our own. And asentropy begins to take center stage, wemay need to probe the Planck energy,the energy at which space-time itselfbecomes unstable. We might need thatmuch power to find potential shortcutsthrough the fabric of space-time—wormholes to travel our Universe andportals that might lead to other ones.But smart is more than just outpacingour problems. It’s also about designinglives that are worth living—for all life.To do so, on top of learning to create,grow or harvest enough matter tosupport progressively more of us, we’llneed to harvest our inner power—ourappreciation of all life in the cosmos, theethics to care, and the artistry to designbeautiful environments, no matter wherewe live in the Universe(s).V I SIONHOW WE SUSTAIN OURSELVES / VISION
  31. 31. 32V I SIONENERGY ROADMAP “POWERING OURSPECIES”We can make smarter energy choices if wemake short-term decisions in the contextof our long-term energy roadmap. We needto make one. Let’s tap our best scientists,engineers, economists and anthropologiststo create and iterate a long-term energyroadmap for our species. Should wemake our own star-like generators (e.g.,fusion) or go for space-based solar? Whoshould run our energy supply: should wecreate species-wide utilities? Although itcan be difficult to plan for the long haulbecause we don’t know which scientificbreakthroughs will open doors or changethe game and when, the iterative process ofenvisioning gets people thinking about thebig picture (e.g., will it all add up in time forthe challenges we face?), important tradeoffs and unintended consequences (e.g.,might space-based solar be a big problemfor space travel?) and could open promisingnew lines of research. By 2050, we shouldhave gone through numerous iterations ofenvisioning the power we should createon different timescales: one billion, onemillion, 100,000, 10,000, 1,000 and 100years and have our wits about us.THE EARTH MANUAL“You are human. Conduct yourself wisely.”These could be the first words of ourevolving Earth Manual. After 10,000 yearsof trial and error and our recent advancesin Earth systems science, we know quite abit. We can now use our understanding todesign new sets of smarter practices withfewer unintended consequences, someto enable us to use Earth’s physical andbiological processes wisely (e.g., how muchfish can we take without causing collapsein fish stocks in our oceans), some to createour own parallel systems (e.g., fish farming).Our Earth didn’t come with a manual butnow we’re smart enough to make one. By2050 we should have gone through quite afew major revisions.HOW WE SUSTAIN OURSELVES / VISIONIn the next 40 years we’ll need toundergo a massive mental shift.Today many of us think that all weneed to do is replace fossil fuels withrenewables, limit our numbers, andreign in our consumption to fit thecarrying capacity of Earth.We need to think way bigger. How dowe solve our current problems withinthe context of our long-term needs?2050MILESTONES
  32. 32. 33Most of us got the memo. Burning fossilfuels is heating things up and someof our current practices run the risk ofundermining the ecosystems on whichwe and other life currently depend… andwe are kicking into gear.We don’t yet have a long-term EnergyRoadmap for the species, but we candeduce how we’re currently thinkingbased on regional and nationalenergy roadmaps and investments.Some regional blocks and nations areplanning longer than ever before, largelybecause they need to transition theireconomies off fossil fuels. Some nowhave stated energy roadmaps to 2050(e.g., EU, International Energy Agency,UK, Denmark), but these examplesappear to be the exception, not therule. And then there are investmentsin renewables, which are on the rise.Global investment (from R&D fundingand venture capital for technologyand early-stage companies, to publicmarket financing for projects and maturecompanies) topped $257 billion in 2011.That’s no pocket change. This investmentdoes not include the roughly $30 billionthat a group of nations have investedover the last few decades in nuclearfusion facilities (ITER, HiPER and theAmerican-backed NIF), some of whichhave stated plans to put fusion power inthe grid by 2040. These are all criticaland promising first steps, but so far wehaven’t come together to envision andplan for the long haul from a species-wide perspective.KICKING INTO GEARPROGRESSHOW WE SUSTAIN OURSELVES / PROGRESS2050MILESTONESENERGY ROADMAPTHE EARTH MANUALAs for the Earth Manual, the StockholmResilience Center has put forwardthe idea of planetary boundaries—biophysical limits beyond which weshould not push our Earth system. Thiscould be a helpful concept as long aswe recognize that we’ll likely need toredefine, add, or subtract boundariesas we go. But we have not yet mashedany current boundaries up againstthe evolving carrying capacity of ourknowledge and technological solutionsto see which solutions could potentiallyscale and by when so that we can setR&D agendas, plan investment cyclesand design clear sets of practices as wego.
  33. 33. 34KNOWLEDGE CREATIONThere is an unknown number oftechnological innovators working ontechnological breakthroughs fromdesalination to biological replacementsfor oil, gas, and coal.Scientists at think tanks and universitiesare working on everything fromplanetary boundaries to Earth systemsscience.WHO IS ALREADYON THE CASE?ACTIONInternational agencies and regionalpartnerships have formed to put forwardplans, invest and collaborate on energy(e.g. International Energy Agency, EU,Major Economies Forum and GlobalPartnership, UNFCC’s Clean TechnologyFund).Nation states are assembling plans andinvestments of their own. Developedeconomies represent roughly 65% ofinvestments and many of the longer termplans; developing economies 35%.PEOPLE: ~HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDSFUNDING: ~HUNDREDS OF BILLIONSPROGRESSHOW WE SUSTAIN OURSELVES / PROGRESS
  34. 34. 35…we convened a conference to develop the firstversion of THE EARTH MANUAL?We’ll need the earth system scientists to give us a snapshotof our planetary boundaries. We’ll need the technologiststo give us an overview of the solutions that we alreadyhave and can scale, those that are in the lab but not yetproven, and define the ones that we need to develop. It’s byputting the two pieces of the puzzle together that we canfigure out the current carrying capacity of knowledge andwhat the contents of the manual should be.PROGRESSHOW WE SUSTAIN OURSELVES / PROGRESSWHAT IF?…
  36. 36. 37THINK MEMES,NOT RESOURCESMillions of years of living on the samerock and it’s still not quite a bed ofroses. Our history is punctuated byviolent conflict, acts of war, terror andoppression. Last century we’ve had a fewclose calls, recklessly throwing the verysurvival and development prospects ofour species into question. So far enoughof us have always lived to tell the tale.But knowing us, that’s no guarantee thatit will always be the case.Why do we humans destroy, oppress andenslave each other? Most of us defaultto thinking that all human conflict isultimately about resources. After all,we have seen other species fight overthem: whenever there is one servingof food and two mouths determined toconsume it, there is conflict. Like all lifeon Earth, we too are wired for survival.But biological instincts alone don’texplain our behavior. We humans boastan added level of complexity: our idea-generating minds. We can over-rideevery hard-wired biological instinct fora mere idea. And we have ideas abouteverything, including resources. All largescale human conflict is ultimatelya conflict of ideas that attract a broad-based or powerful followership—aconflict of memes. It’s always our ideasagainst theirs. This land belongs to usbecause our ancestors lived on it. Againstthis land is ours because we have the armyto conquer it.Seven billion minds can produce aspectacular array of memetic conflicts.With billions of us now blogging,Facebooking and Tweeting thecontents of our minds, the extent ofour disagreements is in plain sight foreveryone to see. Some of our currentdifferences run deep and may appearirreconcilable, unbridgeable, evenhopeless. But step out of the presentmoment and look at the evolution of ourideas over the last ten thousand or justthe last two hundred years, and you’llfind a good case for optimism. Overtime, we’ve successfully converged onmany ideas that once were the subject ofbloody disputes. Although the practicehas not been completely eradicated, thephysical enslavement of another humanbeing is generally frowned upon. In manyparts of the world, killing the opponentis no longer seen as the honorable wayto settle a disagreement.Conflicts of memes are both unavoidableand essential—we advance by improvingor replacing an existing meme with abetter one. Not every meme is a stepforward, of course. There are plentyCH AL L ENGEHOW WE RESOLVE CONFLICTS / CHALLENGE
  37. 37. 38of virulent legacy memes and theirvarious modern incarnations that drawan uncrossable line between us andthem—between an in-group and an out-group—and then explicitly prescribe thedestruction of the out-group: people whorefuse to believe in our god are pagansand should be killed. Other memes,despite being designed to do good,turn out to be harmful to the peoplewho adopt them: we can create a perfectsociety if we silence all dissent.Our ongoing challenge is to keepnegotiating our way through themyriad of memetic conflicts withoutundercutting ourselves as a species. Itis no small feat in the interconnectedworld of the 21stcentury. We are moreexposed to each other’s ideas. We havemore means to mass destruct and massdisrupt: from nuclear and chemical tobiological and cyber weapons. Moreof us can acquire or engineer theseweapons: terrorist organizations andeven individuals of modest means arenow in the game alongside governments.We have more and more moving piecesto pay attention to, with no time leftto reminisce about how much simplerthings used to be in abi-polar post-World War II world.CH AL L ENGEHOW WE RESOLVE CONFLICTS / CHALLENGE
  38. 38. 39Human ingenuity channeled intodestruction can be powerful, especiallywhen fuelled by righteous belief. If weput our minds to it, we can undercutdecades, even centuries of technologicaland social development. If we getcompulsive about it, we can comeclose to annihilating ourselves as aspecies. Nuclear war, terrorism andauthoritarianism are our most dangerousideas for dealing with conflicts ofmemes.NUCLEAR WAR. We have more thanenough nuclear weapons to end ourspecies. To those of us who were notaround during the Cold War, the prospectof a nuclear war may seem unlikely.Probably as unlikely as the prospectof getting embroiled in the first WorldWar seemed to those of us who werealive at the start of the 20th century.Yet, the risk of an all-out nuclear warcontinues to be the darkest human-made cloud hanging over our headsas a species. A nuclear war with asfew as a hundred weapons detonatedin densely populated cities could killtens of millions of humans instantly,expose hundreds of millions to lethalradiation and cover our planet in smokethat blocks sunlight for years, leadingto the shutdown of photosynthesis andbelow zero land temperatures. In otherwords, dark, hungry, oxygen-deprived,sick subsistence living for the survivors.But we don’t just have a hundred nuclearwar heads, we have about 19,000. The“Nuclear Club”—countries that ownnuclear weapons and are party to theNon-Proliferation Treaty—has fivemembers: US, Russia, UK, France andChina. And then there are those thatare not in the club: North Korea, India,Pakistan, Israel and quite possibly Iran.Dangerous conflicts of memes arepresent in relationships between Indiaand Pakistan, Iran and Israel/the West,North Korea and the West, China and theUnited States.A nuclear war need not even startintentionally. In 1995, the RussianPresident had the nuclear suitcaseopened in front of him after Russianmilitary officials mistook a Norwegianweather rocket for a US ballistic missile.Fortunately, the president concluded hisradars were in error and the suitcase wasclosed. We might not always be so lucky.TERRORISM. Although a righteouslone-wolf or a small group wouldn’tyet have the means to annihilate theentire species, they can cause massdisruptions and trigger a snow-ballWHAT’S AT STAKE?SELF-SABOTAGECH AL L ENGEHOW WE RESOLVE CONFLICTS / CHALLENGE
  39. 39. 40of chain reactions that change ourdevelopmental trajectory. 9/11 isarguably the first such terrorist attack.Its impact goes well beyond the deathtoll of that day and short-term economiclosses. It has already led to two wars inIraq and Afghanistan, around 150,000deaths, over $1 trillion in spending—andthe tab is still running. Obviously, thistab is a function of both the dreadfullyspectacular nature of the attack andthe choices that several world leadersthen in office made in response. Oncethe precedent is set, we can expect thatmore terrorist acts of this caliber will beattempted. Plausible scenarios includedetonation of multiple nuclear bombsand the release of deadly, possiblygenetically modified bio-agents. Inboth cases, casualties could reach tens,conceivably hundreds of millions ofhumans. The species would go on butwith an open wound in our polarizedcollective psyche. Those of us whosurvive would likely divert more andmore of our time, energy and funds onprotecting us against them.AUTHORITARIANISM. Through warand terrorism we seek to destroy theothers. Under authoritarianism, we killor silence our own because their ideaschallenge our established memes.Authoritarianism is a group-widesubmission to the authority of a singleall-embracing ideology. Submissioncan be forced with brutality. In thelast century alone, over 100 millionhumans were murdered by authoritariangovernments in fascist Germany andcommunist China and the Soviet Unionin the name of their ideologies. Butsubmission can also be voluntary. Somepolitical and religious ideologies are sopowerful, we embrace them of our ownaccord. From the HUMAN perspective,all forms of authoritarianism—whetherforced or voluntary, malevolent orbenevolent—put our species in dangerbecause they outlaw critical and creativethinking. And when we stop questioningour ideologies, we stop improving orreplacing our existing memes with betterones. There is no ascent, just stasis. In achanging universe stasis inevitably leadsto demise.All deep conflict is a test. We can self-actualize or self-sabotage, wise up orshoot ourselves in the foot.CH AL L ENGEHOW WE RESOLVE CONFLICTS / CHALLENGE
  40. 40. 41ULTIMATE GOALPERPETUAL PEACEAs a species, we need critical thinkingand conflict. We do not however needwar, terrorism and authoritarianism. Ourultimate goal for how we resolve ourconflicts should be perpetual peace—astate where no conflict is allowed todevolve into destruction, disruption orstagnation of our species.As with pretty much everything, wehumans have a wide spectrum of ideasabout how we might accomplish sucha goal. There is the MAD theory: if welocked ourselves into a state of MutuallyAssured Destruction, we would renderwar meaningless. There is the non-interventionist (or even isolationist)theory: if we all focused inwards on ourrespective plots of land, minded our ownbusiness and only traded with each otheror just cut ourselves off from each other,we would have no large scale wars. Thenthere is the equalization theory: if were-distributed all of our resources fairly,we would have nothing to have a conflictabout. The self-organization theory: ifwe decentralized power and created aself-organizing politico-economic socialfabric, we would eliminate large scalewars. The global integration theory:if we keep integrating into bigger andbigger administrative blocks like theEuropean Union, eventually we wouldintegrate into a single world union andthereby eliminate the chances of war.The three magic bullets theory: if allof us took a three-part prescription ofdemocracy, economic interdependenceand international mediation, we wouldsignificantly reduce the chances ofwar. And then there is the idea of innerpeace—if only we realized that we areall one or found peace from within first,we would get there.Some of these ideas have already provedto be dead-ends (MAD), some havebecome sources of conflict in their ownright (isolation vs. integration), someare still too blunt in their simplisticprojection of a single worldview onto the entire species (three magicbullets). None of our current ideas aresophisticated enough to have producedlasting peace. But it does not mean thatone day we won’t be able to arrive at apeace-creating memeplex.Clearly, we won’t get to perpetualpeace overnight. Dropping the hardline between us and them is not easy,especially when they have stupid ideas.But putting our energy into drawinga new line around all of us could be asmarter way to proceed.V I SIONHOW WE RESOLVE CONFLICTS / VISION
  41. 41. 42V I SIONNO MEANS OF “SPECIES-WIDEDESTRUCTION”We need a basic security lock: ruleout the theoretical possibility forannihilating ourselves as a species. Todayour agreements are inter-national andfragmented by weapon type. We need aspecies-wide and aggregate perspective:Our aggregate stocks of all types ofweapons of mass destruction should neveradd up to a species-ending cocktail.ZERO NUCLEAR WEAPONSThere is nothing inevitable about nuclearproliferation. 70 years ago we had zeronuclear weapons. 25 years ago we peakedat 70,000. Today we are down to 19,000.Surely by 2050 we could be down at zeroagain in terms of warheads and one up interms of experience of how to deal with oursuicidal inventions.PLANETARY PEACE CULTUREPeace is everyone’s business. Thereis something for all of us to do—fromcontrolling access to the means of massdestruction to generating peacefulpathways to solve current conflicts toundermining memes that call for thedestruction of the other. So what woulda species-wide peace culture look like? Aculture is nothing other than a set of memesthat lead their adopters to behave in similarways. So what are the ideas that can lead toperpetual peace and what would it take forthem to be widely adopted, given that wesubscribe to conflicting world views? Not ano-brainer but we can surely have a proofof concept by 2050.HOW WE RESOLVE CONFLICTS / VISIONIn the next 40 years, we should focuson the basics: introduce security locks,close the nuclear chapter and imaginewhat a planetary peace culture wouldlook like in practice.2050MILESTONES
  42. 42. 43We are living in the most peaceful timeof our species’ existence. This maybe hard to believe given that we areembroiled in dozens of wars, keep astockpile of 19,000 nukes, spend $1.3trillion on our militaries and commitatrocities that look gut-wrenching on thenews. Yet, when it comes to murderousviolence we’ve done worse in the pastand our current predicament is in fact animprovement.Zero nuclear weapons is a goal endorsedby several leaders in the Nuclear Club.We have already reduced our nucleararsenals by two-thirds since the ColdWar peak, with further reductionsplanned. Armed conflicts of all kindsand their combined death toll have gonedown since the peak of the Cold War,too. Some of our military spending hasproduced military technology that makesdestruction more precise and less brutal.Although the deployment of remotelyoperated drones makes it harder forthe operators to feel into the dreadfulconsequences of their use.The foundation for a planetary peaceculture is still under construction.100,000 UN peacekeepers are deployedin 15,000 missions around the world.We’ve learned from our past failures inSomalia, Rwanda and Srebrenica and wecontinue to get better at breaking upviolence and keeping peace. Althoughin practice, our decisions to intervene inviolent conflicts get bogged down in ameshwork of geopolitical and economicconsiderations, we are starting to get ourtheory straight. Coming out of a recentUN initiative, “Responsibility to Protect”lays out a clear basis for humanitarianinterventions going forward. At its core isthe idea that national sovereignty is notMORE PEACEFULPROGRESSHOW WE RESOLVE CONFLICTS / P ROGRESSa right but a responsibility to protect thelocal population from mass atrocities. Ifa government fails in that responsibility,the international community hasthe responsibility to intervene—diplomatically and economically first,and militarily as the last resort. So nexttime, we might hesitate less beforecrossing a national border to save humanlives from the murderous few in power.Our momentum towards peace howeveris not irreversible. As long as ourallegiance to our national, religious orideological identities is stronger than ourbudding allegiance to our species as awhole, we could find ourselves in reversegear.2050MILESTONESNO WEAPONS OF “SPECIES-WIDE DESTRUCTION”ZERO NUCLEAR WEAPONSPLANETARY PEACE CULTURE
  43. 43. 44ARMIESWorldwide, we have 20 million humansin the military, 50 million in reserve and7 million serving in paramilitary units.Their deployment is decided by peopleacross the world’s national Ministries ofInterior, Defense and Foreign Affairs.THE UNThe United Nations was created to securepeace among nations. Today, 100,000uniformed personnel are keeping peacein hotspots around the world.WHO IS ALREADYON THE CASE?PEACE MOVEMENTMillions of humans and thousandsof organizations like World PeaceCouncil self-identify with the anti-warmovement, anti-nuclear movement, andpeace movement—enough for worldpublic opinion to count as the “secondsuperpower” after the United States.THINK TANKSThousands of dedicated think tanks trackour progress (e.g., Institute for Economicsand Peace produces the Global PeaceIndex, SIPRI) and generate ideas forresolving specific conflicts.PEOPLE: ~100 MILLIONFUNDING: ~$10s OF BILLIONSon disarmament and peace programsPROGRESSHOW WE RESOLVE CONFLICTS / P ROGRESS
  44. 44. 45…we created a Peace Meme Collaborative?Think of it as a network of people united by a sharedgoal: design new memes that have the power to alter ordisplace the current memes that lead to violent conflictor stasis. Admittedly, this may be more demanding thanrocket science. Meme design requires an in-depth insiderunderstanding of what the different humans involved in theconflict are thinking as well as tremendous creativity aboutwhat new ideas they might be willing to adopt. But thegood news is, propagating new ideas in the 21st century iseasier than ever. So we can quickly see which ideas fall flatand which ideas have that something something to becomememes. Take an authoritarian nuclear-weaponed societylike North Korea. What kinds of ideas would we need toopen it up?PROGRESSHOW WE RESOLVE CONFLICTS / P ROGRESSWHAT IF?…
  46. 46. 47PRECIOUSOne thing all of us have in common: weall die. Death is our ultimate equalizer,but until the Grim Reaper shows up, ourlives can differ so extremely it is as if wewere living on different planets. To the 3billion of us living on less than $2 a day,the lives of the extremely wealthy are asdistant and unrelatable as a magical fairytale. To those of us who are extremelywealthy, the lives of the extremely poorare as distant and unrelatable as a bleakDickensian novel. So what do we make ofthis?At one end of the opinion spectrum, freemarket advocates see the unavoidable.There are have-nows and have-laters—that’s how our economic developmentengine works. It’s not perfect but it’sthe reason why billions no longer livein absolute poverty. The challengethen is to accept the way things areand trust that rich governments andmega-philanthropists can smooth outthe extremes through development aid.At the other end of the spectrum, anti-poverty activists see an outrageoussocial injustice, a wrong that must beset right. In their minds, our challengeand our moral duty is obvious: wemust eradicate poverty now once andfor all. From the HUMAN perspective,it looks like we are failing to graspthe significance and urgency of theissue in both camps. To get to a morefundamental definition of our challengewe must first set aside the lens throughwhich we are all looking.The default lens of today is the economicone. We focus on our relative incomesor wealth: the top 1% vs. the 99%,the top vs. the bottom of the pyramid.Focusing on something that is easyto measure is convenient but unwise.Economic abstractions create an oddsense of detachment from the realityof human lives. Human lives are unique,unrepeatable, and precious. Once theyare gone, they are gone. So we shouldtreat every lifetime with the utmostcare—the time of our finite unique livesis the ultimate currency of our species.We shouldn’t waste a single human lifeon problems to which we have longago invented solutions. Our ongoingchallenge is to make sure that all of usget to spend our precious lives as closeto the edge of possibility as humanlypossible while we keep investing ourcognitive surplus into pushing that edgefurther out.The challenge itself is a testament toour recent success as a species.10,000years ago, contemplating how we spendour lives would have made little sense:all of us lived remarkably similar lives,spending most of our waking hours onsustenance and reproduction. Then,following the end of the last ice age,we had a life-changing idea: instead ofroaming vast distances in search of food,we stayed put and started growing ourown food and breeding our own animals.CH AL L ENGEHOW WE SPEND OUR LIVES / CHALLENGE
  47. 47. 48Once we started producing surplusfood, we could afford to apply ourselvesto new problems. We jump-started astream of life-changing inventions, eachincrementally or dramatically expandingthe edge of possibility—at least forsome of us. Fast-forward to the 21stcentury. Today we live in three distinctrealms of possibility, or three differentplanets. Here is a quick tour.THE TURBOCHARGED PLANET.Population: ~1 billion.Welcome to the edge of possibility. It’s apost-sustenance world. We’ve minimizedtime spent on basic preoccupationslike food, clothes, shelter and createdan unprecedented cognitive surplus.Most of us have never plowed a field,milked a cow, or picked cotton but wecan easily get cheap bread, milk anda T-shirt at a corner store. The list ofthings we take for granted is gettinglonger by the year: great homes, fastcars, beautiful tablets, ubiquitous accessto the Internet, advanced healthcare,graduate education. We’ve got theaccelerative thrust—we expect tosee more technological change in thenext five years than in the last twenty-five. And yet, we are barely scratchingthe surface. Only a tiny fraction ofour cognitive surplus gets reinvestedin knowledge creation, learning,technology, art. We spend most of it onself-indulgent niceties and irrelevances.We like to accumulate possessions andbe entertained, you see.OFF-GRID PLANET.Population: ~1 billion.Welcome to how it’s always been, witha few modern twists. Not enough food.No electricity. No cell phones. Few thingshave fundamentally changed here inhundreds of years, except for refugeecamps, machine guns, aid packages andhealth missions from the TurbochargedPlanet. We wake up hungry, we go tosleep hungry. We die young, right aboutthe time people on other planets get toa mid-life crisis. The edge of possibilityis more like the horizon: we can see itbut can’t ever get there. Our lives are astruggle to stay alive. It’s the brave oldworld.THE TRANSIT PLANET.Population: ~5 billion.Welcome to the land of uncertainty. Mostof us here work hard for a one-way ticketto the Turbocharged Planet but for someof us it feels more like a fight not to geta return ticket to the Off-grid instead.Well, if we work hard enough, at leastour kids will get to go. Our cognitivesurplus may be limited but ingenuity is inabundant supply.Most of us live out our lives far awayfrom the edge of what is alreadypossible. Whether out of necessity orout of self-indulgence, precious humanlifetimes are being wasted on all threeplanets. That’s a poor way to run thehuman project.CH AL L ENGEHOW WE SPEND OUR LIVES / CHALLENGE
  48. 48. 49Spend a human life wisely, and all ofus benefit. Squander it on preventablehardship or questionable self-indulgence,and we end up holding ourselves back.How we spend the precious time of ourlives determines our collective potentialfor ascent.We ascend as a species because someof us have time to come up with goodexplanations about how everythingfrom the cosmos to our culture works.We then use that knowledge to createlife-improving technologies like highyield seeds and irrigation systems, lightbulbs and electricity grids, smart phonesand the internet, social networks andmass-collaboration platforms, goodgovernance, better values and higherideals. The more time we wrestleback from basic sustenance, the morecognitive surplus we create. The more ofour cognitive surplus we channel backinto our continued development, thebigger the boost we get as a species.It’s a wonderfully unpredictableand possibly infinite game of self-improvement that allows us to spendour precious lives in more interesting,creative, useful ways and become moreinteresting creatures in the process. Buttoo few of us see ourselves as players.We could definitely spend our hard-woncognitive surplus a whole lot better.Those of us who can afford to spendfour hours a day glued to TV screensand pass around cute cat pictures,could be making existing life-changingtechnologies and ideas universal andpushing the edge of possibility evenfurther.HOW WE SPEND OUR LIVES / CHALLENGEWHAT’S AT STAKE?ACCELERATE OR STUMBLECH AL L ENGEBut it’s not just a matter of wastedopportunity. We humans cannot helpbut compare ourselves to others aroundus. When we deem the widening gapsbetween us to be undeserved, unfair orunjust, social cohesion crumbles. Stewin a chronic feeling of unfairness andpowerlessness long enough, and theviolent uprisings and bloody revolutionsof the past start making some sense.Stand-offs between the top 1% (whetherby wealth or power) and the 99% arealready making news around the globe. Itis not unthinkable that if left unresolved,tensions could escalate and we couldstumble.From the HUMAN perspective, there isno 99% against the 1%, there is no usversus them. There is only us. And allof us need to join in the infinite gameof development. We need to keepexpanding our collective cognitivesurplus and re-investing it into advancingthe ongoing human project.
  49. 49. 50ULTIMATE GOALFREEDOM TO CREATEIf all we can see is economic divergence,then our ultimate goals tend to be aboutsome form of economic convergence.Depending on our political ideology,some of us make an emphaticallyrational case for equality of opportunity,while others make an emphatically moralcase for equality of outcomes.Our relative positions and, moreimportantly, our perceptions of thefairness of our predicaments are nodoubt important for social cohesion.But equality alone is a poor ultimategoal: it only tells us where we aspire tobe relative to each other, not what kindof lives we aspire to make for ourselvesas a species. Reframe the question andwe can dream at a more fundamentallevel.So what kinds of lives do we wantto aspire to? Some of us dream ofAbundance, a world where we canmeet and exceed the basic needs ofevery human being. Others dream ofHappiness, a world where Gross WorldHappiness rather than Gross WorldProduct becomes the measure of oursuccess.From the HUMAN perspective, bothAbundance and Happiness are Sirens’calls—irresistible but dangerous. Asingle-minded pursuit of Abundance canlead us toward an endless proliferationof increasingly exotic needs. A single-minded pursuit of Happiness can lead ustoward self-indulgence.Ulysses had to bind himself to the mastto resist the Sirens’ call. We too wouldbe better off binding ourselves—toan ultimate goal that turns all of usinto players of an infinite game ofself-improvement. We could strive tominimize the number of waking hourswe have to spend on merely sustainingV I SIONHOW WE SPEND OUR LIVES / VISION
  50. 50. 51ourselves, and maximize the number ofwaking hours we can spend on creatingspecies-advancing explanations anddesigns. Instead of dreaming of ourfreedom from fear and want, we coulddream bigger—we could dream ofour freedom to create. Imagine whowe might become once all of us arefree to spend our lives on advancingthe ongoing human project. We couldtransform the very essence of what itmeans to ascend as a species. Perhapsit will be the wisdom and beauty of ouruniversal creations that would becomethe measure of our advancement.We could be hundreds, or thousands ofyears away from the universal freedomto create. We might discover that thisultimate goal is a perpetually movingtarget because the more we learn aboutour universe and beyond the morethreats to our survival we discover;the more we tinker with ourselves andour cosmic and biological givens thebigger our challenges from unintendedconsequences. There might be plenty ofnew entries on our list of things we haveto do to stay alive. We may never attainthe universal freedom to create but theidea itself gives us a sense of directionfor how we should transform thecontents of human lives. In the beam ofthis light-house, prosperity or abundancefor all is no longer our end-game butonly the means to the goal beyond.V I SIONHOW WE SPEND OUR LIVES / VISION
  51. 51. 52V I SIONHOW WE SPEND OUR LIVES / VISIONLIFE COMMONSCertain inventions—whether technologicalor social—fundamentally change how wespend our lives. We should treat themdifferently from the rest. We already thinkof outer space, certain cultural sites andscientific knowledge as common heritageof humanity, certain online contents ascreative commons and certain software asopen-source, free for all to use. Let’s starttreating inventions that can dramaticallyreduce the time we have to spend on basicsustenance and increase our cognitivesurplus as our Life Commons. Our explicitgoal with regard to these inventions wouldbe to create species-wide access as soonas possible. We would have to experimentwith new ways to incentivize those of uswho invent and those of us who can makethe benefits of a good idea universal.Personal economic gain is one way but wehumans are driven by a whole spectrumof motivations. Perhaps by 2050, the LifeCommons Inventor will have become themost sought after label among the socialinventors and entrepreneurs.NO HUMAN LEFT BEHINDThe Millenium Villages showed thatvillage-sized projects that bringtogether innovative NGOs, businesses,philanthropists and villagers themselves,can help people move beyondsustenance. The micro-lending movementdemonstrated that small loans can changelives. Kiva.org even made it possible forthose of us with a bit of spare cash togive life-changing loans directly to thoseof us in need. Now combine these ideasand scale them up—imagine a planetaryclearing house where individuals can givemoney, ideas or their time, businesses canmake in-kind contributions of the products,services or time of their experts, NGOsor social entrepreneurs can organize andmanage development projects on theground. Imagine a ticker in the center of thedashboard—the number of people still tobe evacuated. It’s 2050 and the ticker is atzero.But before we get carried away, wemust first close the urgent case:Evacuate the rest of us from the Off-grid planet where human lives arespent fighting to stay alive. We havea backlog of life-changing inventionsthat allow many of us to live a lifebeyond sustenance. We know howto share them through trade, fuelledby the logic of economic returns.But it’s hard to get in that loop whenyou have nothing to trade. It’s timeto experiment with new regimes forsharing and action.2050MILESTONES
  52. 52. 53The good news is we have a sharedambition. At the United Nations, westarted this century with the resolveto end extreme poverty by 2015.Transforming the lives of a billion peopleis a massive undertaking without a silverbullet. At the moment, we rely on worldtrade, top-down aid to governmentsand on-the-ground philanthropy andsocial entrepreneurship. World trade is adispassionate process—when the worldeconomy is growing, new factories getopened, giving millions an opportunityto earn their way to a better life; butwhen the world economy slows down orgoes into reverse, people lose jobs andreturn to the villages. In some countriesfactories don’t get opened even duringthe good times because it makes noeconomic sense without an educatedworkforce, roads, electricity grids. Topdown development aid is meant tohelp the local governments build basicinfrastructure and jump-start their localeconomies. The actual impact of topdown aid is subject to a heated debate—good use of aid is predicated on goodgovernance which is often lacking in therecipient countries. Organizations thatexperiment with different strategieson the ground are the source of themost promising ideas. The globalmicro-financing movement has helpedmillions. The Millenium Promise thatruns innovative village-sized projectshas made a difference for half a millionpeople. The Acumen Fund uses patientcapital focusing on both social andfinancial returns to help grow localcompanies, affecting the lives of tens ofmillions.We have a grand ambition and dozensof blueprints of approaches that haveworked on a small scale. What we don’tSUBSCALE ANDWASTEFUL2050MILESTONESLIFE COMMONSNO HUMAN LEFT BEHINDPROGRESShave is a plan for scaling our blueprintsto reach our ambition. We are makingprogress but at an awfully slow pace.Meanwhile, we continue to waste ourcollective cognitive surplus in the landof the plenty. Social entrepreneurshipmay have become a buzzword but itis buzzing in the culture where ourbrightest minds get more excited aboutengineering trivial toys like RunPee(an app that tells you the best time tomake a bathroom run during a movie)rather than life-changing inventions likea personal medical diagnostic chip thatwould work with any smartphone. It’s along ride to scalability and wisdom.HOW WE SPEND OUR LIVES / P R OG RESS
  53. 53. 54WORLD MARKETS AND TRADESo far the market economy remains themost powerful incentive to channelour cognitive surplus into pushing theedge of possibility while world traderemains our most effective mechanismfor distributing the benefits of life-improving inventions.TOP-DOWN GOVERNMENT AIDMost of top-down development aidcomes from the 23 countries in theDevelopment Assistance Committee.Once upon a time, the ambition was togive at least 0.7% of GNI (Gross NationalIncome) but only a handful of countriesin Scandinavia do in fact reach thatgoal. Most of development aid is givendirectly to the countries in need whileone-third flows through the internationalorganizations like the World Bank andthe UN agencies like UNDP, UNICEF,UNAIDS. China is emerging as anoteworthy special case: its contributionWHO IS ALREADYON THE CASE?to the total overseas developmentassistance may be insignificant butits heavily subsidized companies arebuilding infrastructure and industrialand trade zones in Asia and Africa in“mutually beneficial cooperation” withlocal governments.PRIVATE AIDNon-governmental aid comes in manyshapes and sizes, from high-profileorganizations that move billions like Bill& Melinda Gates Foundation, to smallersized operations like the Acumen Fundto millions of private citizens who havejoined the micro-lending movement andhundreds of thousands of volunteerstraveling to places in need to lend ahand.PEOPLE: ~MILLIONSFUNDING: ~$150 BILLION IN DEVELOPMENT AID, 2010PROGRESSHOW WE SPEND OUR LIVES / P R OG RESS
  54. 54. 55…we recruited more humans to this challenge?We are seriously undermanned for this billion peopleevacuation project. We need the equivalent of 100x ofAcumen Funds, kiva.org’s, Millenium Villages…Collectiveimpact starts with a common agenda. Today, it’s definedby the UN’s overarching goal to end extreme poverty by2015, which is then broken down into eight MilleniumDevelopment Goals. These goals guide the efforts of thoseof us who are already part of the global developmentcommunity but do they have the power to pull in more ofus?Maybe framing our common goal in terms of endingpoverty is a poor way to mobilize millions to whom povertyis an abstract concept, not a first-hand experience. Few ofus would go out of our way to experience what living a lifeof subsistence feels like but many of us watch feature filmsand documentaries. How many powerful motion picturesand global social impact campaigns would it take to getnew people involved?It will take time but we can certainly complete theevacuation and open a post-subsistence chapter in ourspecies’ history during our lifetimes.PROGRESSHOW WE SPEND OUR LIVES / P R OG RESSWHAT IF?…
  56. 56. 57THE UNKNOWNIt’s a travesty. Too few of us are keptup at night by the big questions thatremain unasked and unanswered aboutthe grand scheme of our existence.Too few of us are haunted by what wedon’t know and what it might meanfor our future prospects. Knowledgeworkers may number in the hundredsof millions, but only seven million of usare knowledge creators, just 0.1% of ourtotal population.We got into the knowledge creationbusiness for different reasons: for someof us it was a matter of necessity (how dowe lift more than our muscles allow?), forothers it was a matter of curiosity (what’sthe distance from the earth to the sun?).Over time, our discoveries started to addup, shifting the trajectory of the ongoinghuman project so much that it startedto diverge from the script of biologicalevolution.Wrestling with the Unknown has cometo define our very way of being. Alongthe way, we’ve also discovered thatthe universe is not the human-friendlyplace we hoped it to be, it’s filled withformidable challenges to our existence.From the HUMAN perspective, unravelingthe Unknown is now the single mostimportant thing we humans do, it’s ourticket to staying in the game. Yet weseem woefully under-invested in ourknowledge creation enterprise. It’s notsurprising—the Unknown is an adversarythat’s all too easy to underestimate.With no specifics, no known attributesto peg our fears on, we meander withouta sense of urgency and can be easilycaught off-guard. Our best defense inthe face of the Unknown is an all-outoffence: we need to keep revamping ourmethod and learn to move as fast as wehumanly can. So what’s the problem withour current method and why the rush?First, the method. In the simplest terms,human knowledge is a collection ofexplanations. We’ve been conjuringexplanations about everything we see inthe world around us probably ever sincewe started using our voice boxes. Butfor most of our history, our explanationswere “creative junk”: we could explaina lightning bolt in a hundred differentways but had no way to judge whichexplanation was closer to reality. In thelast few hundred years we have madea monumental leap forward: we’vedeveloped the scientific method tojudge and improve the quality and reachof our explanations. A lightning bolt isno longer an expression of god’s anger,it’s an atmospheric electrical discharge.The invention of the scientific methodallowed us to expand our presence andshift our ascent into high gear. We’venow been at it for a few centuries andcreated a formidable body of humanknowledge. But, as is often the case,CH AL L ENGEHOW WE CREATE KNOWLEDGE / CHALLENGE
  57. 57. 58success comes with a new set ofheadaches.Our early universities like Bologna orCambridge started with just four areas:philosophy, medicine, law and theology.It was just about possible for a singleperson to know everything there wasto know. Over time we kept creatingmore specialized faculties, defining newdisciplines and sub-disciplines of inquiry.By mid-last century there were about1,100 known scientific disciplines innatural sciences alone.Today reaching the cutting edge ina narrowly specialized field can takedecades of study. With more than amillion articles published in scientificjournals each year, it is no longerhumanly possible to know everythingthere is to know.Hundreds of years of continuedspecialization in isolation have produceda peculiar knowledge landscape:thousands of increasingly sophisticatedfragments float within the perimeterof our knowledge. Much remains tobe known in the space between andbeyond the disciplines. We’ve fine-tuned the scientific method to explainspecific phenomena, but we don’t yethave a method to explain the totality ofexistence. We need to figure out how wecan generalize and specialize at the sametime—how we can push our generalexplanatory framework of existence aswe probe deeper and deeper into itsdifferent aspects. Once we figure thatone out, a new set of methodologicalheadaches might emerge. Our quest intothe Unknown may turn out to be onemethodological headache after another.Now the rush: our challenge is to shiftthe enterprise of knowledge creationinto high gear and push the pedal allthe way—to the limit of our collectivecapability. Are we being dramatic? No.We are up against the Unknown. If weare serious about surviving, it’s the onlydefensible way to think.There may come a day when we discover,for argument’s sake, that we are livingin a simulation where our minders havetaken a liking to us. We may learn thatthey adjust the schedule of cosmicchallenges to make sure we alwayshave enough time to create requisiteknowledge. What a relief it would be! Butuntil that day, it’s imperative we createknowledge—in particular the generalkind of knowledge—as fast as wehumanly can. The Unknown could blowour minds with its beauty or indifferentlydelete us.But we won’t know until we know.CH AL L ENGEHOW WE CREATE KNOWLEDGE / CHALLENGE
  58. 58. 59Ah, the thrill of mucking about in theUnknown! Years of relentless poking atthe edge of scientific inquiry (“I simplymust figure this one out!”), hundredsof dead ends, a thousand and onesleepless nights… all culminating in thatglorious moment of finally answeringthe question that has eluded everyonebefore. What a wonderful feeling!The need to satisfy our curiosity is apowerful driver of knowledge creation.But we now know enough about ouruniverse to know that a whole lot moreis at stake than merely indulging ourinsatiable curiosity. “Know or perish” isthe tagline that best describes what’s atstake.Knowledge creation is truly our onlyhope to survive. Think about it: ouruniverse does not appear to comewith a special guarantee for ourcontinued existence; it looks more likean existential obstacle course. Everythreat to our existence can be definedas a deficit of knowledge: we eitherhaven’t yet created the knowledgeneeded to solve the problem or wemight not even know about a problemlurking in the unexplained aspects ofour space-time. The more we know, themore we understand how everythingin our universe and beyond works, thebetter our prospects for negotiating theobstacle course. After all, black swansdon’t come out of nowhere. They fly outof the holes in our knowledge, out of thedarkness of our ignorance.Ignorance or unknowledge about aproblem can be lethal. When we don’tknow that a supernova is about to gooff in our cosmic neighborhood, wewon’t get busy creating the knowledgewe need to save our species from thatcosmic blowtorch. When we know, at thevery least we can give it the old collegetry, applying ourselves fully to negotiatethat obstacle to our existence. Tryingdoes not guarantee success, but nottrying certainly guarantees failure.The 16 challenges for the ongoinghuman project have been defined basedon what we currently know (or, to bemore precise, based on what the twoauthors have been able to wrap theirminds around). But how different mightthis list look in five, a few hundred, a fewthousand or a few billion years? As weclaim more ground from the Unknownwith the power of our explanations, howmany challenges will we have solved,and how many will we have added to ourlist?The curious thing about our ability tocreate knowledge is that it makes itpossible for us to predict the future ofour universe but virtually impossible toWHAT’S AT STAKE?KNOW OR PERISHCH AL L ENGEHOW WE CREATE KNOWLEDGE / CHALLENGE
  59. 59. 60CH AL L ENGEHOW WE CREATE KNOWLEDGE / CHALLENGEpredict our own. Those of us who walkedthis planet ten thousand years ago hadno way of knowing that by the start ofthe 21stcentury our population wouldhave expanded a thousand times, thatwe would be living three times longeror that we would fly because they hadno way of knowing the contents of ourfuture discoveries. All of us alive todayare in no better position to predict thefortunes of our future ascendants. Yetwe know what some of the current andfuture challenges are, we know that weare faced with a deficit of knowledge andit is within our power to do the best wehumanly can to reduce the deficit beforewe pass on the baton.
  60. 60. 61ULTIMATE GOALEXPLANATION OF EVERYTHINGBanish the Unknown, banish theFear. Our ultimate goal should be toexplain everything that is and perhapseverything that isn’t.Will we ever reach this goal? Will weever arrive at a place where nothingincredible is waiting to be known? Or isthis an ever-moving target where eachnew explanation dimly illuminates a newsegment of the infinite Unknown, raisinga new set of questions? Throughouttime, we’ve been tempted to volunteerdefinitive answers. Yet these answerscannot be anything but pure speculation.To produce a definitive answer, we wouldneed to… know the Unknown.Are there limits to what we can explain?We rush to judge our knowledge creationprospects based on what we know today.Theories about our various handicapsabound. The universal laws of physicsare often held up as the ultimate sourceof our limitations: we won’t be able tobuild tools or run experiments that theuniversal laws of physics as we currentlyunderstand them don’t allow. The mostdistant object we have ever seen withour Hubble Telescope is a proto-galaxy13.2 billion years away, Hubble’s futuresuccessor James Webb Space Telescopewill allow us to peer at even greaterdistances, at earlier times, closer tothe Big Bang. But that, some say, isabout as far as we will ever be able tosee. As time goes by and our universekeeps expanding at an accelerated rate,we will see fewer and fewer distantgalaxies because the light those galaxiesemit won’t be able to overcome theever-widening gulf between us. It allmakes sense. Yet, without knowing thecontents of our future discoveries andthe tools they will allow us to build,these theories are also pure speculationconjured inside the straightjacket of ourcurrent knowledge. We might discoverthat our current understanding of theforces powering cosmic evolution is toosimplistic or off the mark. Or we mightdiscover that our cherished laws ofphysics are merely local bylaws, just onepossible set in the infinite variety of amulti-verse. We just don’t know. At leastnot yet.Our practical disposition toward theall important enterprise of knowledgecreation should not be grounded in thefacts of today. We must choose it againstthe backdrop of our Unknowledge. Weare better off readying ourselves for aninfinite game and being optimistic aboutour knowledge creating capabilities,than expecting that the final explanationof everything is just around the cornerwhile we keep second-guessing ourcapabilities to get there. An infinite gamewith players of unbounded capabilityalso happens to make our universe amuch more interesting place to be. Sohere’s to a never-ending quest for theExplanation of Everything!V I SIONHOW WE CREATE KNOWLEDGE / VISION
  61. 61. 62V I SIONUNKNOWLEDGE AGENDAImagine if we had a continuously evolvinganswer to a simple question: as a species,what must we explain next and why?Imagine an Unknowledge Agenda that atany point in time defines the horizon of ourquest for knowledge and lists the biggestquestions that we know we need to answer.This may very well be the most importantto do list we can ever produce as a species.BIG SCIENCEBig Science is “hyper-specialization”running in the context of “hyper-generalization”—an evolving grandexplanatory framework of everything.The output is an integrated stream ofexplanations at different scales and levelsof existence. By 2050 we should completethe integration of our existing explanationsand turn Big Science into standard practice.MASSIVELY COLLABORATIVE DISCOVERYForget working on a problem in relativeisolation, not knowing there is that otherguy who holds the piece of the puzzleyou are missing. Forget restricted accessacademic journals. Imagine perpetuallyrefined open papers with thousands ofauthors, distributed instrumentation andexperimentation. By 2050 our quest forgood explanations should be the mostnetworked human activity on the planet.Imagine millions of knowledge creators onthe same—or perhaps several competing—platforms finding collaborators online,asking each other questions, freely sharingpapers, pushing into the Unknown together.SPEED BUMPSKnowledge creation itself is not entirelywithout peril. We can’t always predict theoutcomes of our scientific experiments—indeed that’s why we design them, to findout something we don’t already know. Thebest we can do with extreme experimentsin science is to treat these experimentswith the best of human caution andget into the habit of convening globalconsultations on how we might proceed.No country has a monopoly on the bestour species can offer in terms of cognitiveand moral development. So we mustcast our nets broadly, seek out the bestrelevant scientific minds regardless of theirnationality, and bring people from across allrelevant disciplines—not just from withinthe disciplinary community proposing theexperiment.HOW WE CREATE KNOWLEDGE / VISIONIn the next 40 years we need to putour quest for good explanations onbetter footing: a better reason for whywe do it, better integration of whatwe know, faster progress throughcollaboration and a few cautionaryspeed bumps on the road to makesure we don’t crash and burn..2050MILESTONES
  62. 62. 63We can see seriously awesome stuff.With our microscopes we can see atthe scale of 0.01 nanometers, or thedistance between a hydrogen nucleusand its electron. With our Hubbletelescope we can see 13.2 billion light-years away. What we don’t yet see is theexistential significance of our scientificcapabilities. Many nations have scientificagendas but they are primarily poweredby advancement of national interestsand securing national competitiveness,rather than advancement of the ongoinghuman project. The foresight neededto make investments at the frontier ofscience is in short supply around theworld. It’s a systemic deficit.We are singling out some disciplines ascritical for challenges like creating newenergy sources (the physics of fusion) orunderstanding how our activity impactsour biosphere (earth systems sciences).But other disciplines (take cosmologyor theoretical physics) are seen—evenby the leading scientists themselves—as just a matter of satisfying humancuriosity. Few see the battle with theUnknown as a matter of life and death.People talk about the totality of humanknowledge, but in practice it’s more ofa heap—a sum total of explanations ofdifferent phenomena at different levelsand scales of existence. The scientificintegration project has barely begun.Many bridges are being built betweenand across two or more disciplines.But attempts at grand explanatoryframeworks or methodology for trans-disciplinary inquiry are still rare: A dozenpeople are courageously integratingthe highlights of human knowledge intoBig History narratives. A few hundredare stubbornly pushing to make spacefor trans-disciplinary inquiry within aGROWINGCONNECTIVE TISSUEPROGRESSHOW WE CREATE KNOWLEDGE / PROGRESShyper-specialized world of academia,often to the detriment of their academiccareers. The limitations of hyper-specialization are talked about buthyper-generalization is not yet an ideathat’s taken hold in academic circles.Massively collaborative discovery, onthe other hand, might not be too far outin the future. In addition to hundreds ofplatforms dedicated to specific issues,we now have Facebook for researchers—ResearchGate already has more than 1.5million members, adding 50,000 eachmonth. More than 10 million papers havealready been uploaded. The academicworld is growing its connective tissue,the mass-scale sharing has begun.Collaboration and integration mayfollow. Much, much work to do here. Forall of us.2050MILESTONESUNKNOWLEDGE AGENDAMASSIVELY COLLABORATIVE DISCOVERYBIG SCIENCESPEED BUMPS
  63. 63. 64THE SCIENTIFIC BENCHOur scientific bench is astonishinglysmall—fewer than 10 million of usare scientists and most of us are busypursuing increasingly narrow scientificinterests. These curious beings canbe found in academic, government,corporate and private researchinstitutions. Freelance scientists area rare breed. So are the UnapologeticGeneralists.WHO IS ALREADYON THE CASE?FUNDERS AND ADMINISTRATORSCoordinators, unifiers, administratorsand agenda-setters of our fragmentedscientific pursuits are mostly found innational academies of science, variousindustry associations and internationalbodies like UNESCO, InternationalCouncil for Science, InternationalScience, Technology and InnovationCenter, and AAAS. Many of them canbe seen at big meetings like the OECDGlobal Science Forum and World ScienceForum.PEOPLE: ~7 MILLIONFUNDING: ~$1.2 TRILLION or <2% of theworld’s GDPPROGRESSHOW WE CREATE KNOWLEDGE / PROGRESS
  64. 64. 65…the Unknowledge Agenda 1.0.—our first stab at definingthe horizon of our quest for knowledge, the biggestquestions that we know we need to answer—became theflagship project for the ResearchGate community?There are more than 1.5 million members on this platformfor researchers—between us, we probably have the entireheap of human knowledge covered. Can’t think of a betterplace to get clear on what it is we need to explain next andwhy!PROGRESSHOW WE CREATE KNOWLEDGE / PROGRESSWHAT IF?…
  66. 66. 67CREATIVE POWERWe use knowledge to create newrealities. A jet airliner can take you toanother continent in a matter of hours. Atablet can make your thoughts instantlyaccessible to billions of people. A 3Dprinter can print a new heart using yourcells. A drone can find you in a remotelocation. Curiosity rover can streamvideo from Mars. What do we make of allthis?There is little doubt in the techno-optimist’s mind: Technology will saveus! Our challenge is to keep chargingforward as fast as we can. At the otherend of the spectrum, the techno-pessimist sees a different picture:Pollution. Loss of biodiversity. Alienation.Technologically perfected violence.Playing gods. And now contaminatingnew worlds. The so called technologicalprogress is a path of destruction.Both techno-optimists and techno-pessimists have a point. Yet, a mereintegration of these perspectives intoa single challenge definition will leaveus exactly where our technologicaldiscourse has been for the last fewhundred years—trading off the benefits,costs and risks of our technologicaladvances. To take it to the next level,we need to enlarge our frame: Whatis the cosmic Our technologicalhistory has largely been a self-servingenterprise—it’s just us humans usingour knowledge and imagination tobetter our lot. But in the process ofadvancing our own agenda, we might beunwittingly pulling off a feat of cosmicproportions. We might be adding a thirdand fundamentally different source ofcreativity in our universe.Think about it: First came cosmicevolution. Over 13.7 billion years, thephysical forces shaping matter andenergy have generated an impressivecreative portfolio—brilliant stars andmatter gobbling black holes, massivegalaxies and fragile snowflakes, almosta hundred unique chemical elementseach with astonishing chemicalproperties. But arguably, the greatestaccomplishment of cosmic evolution waslaying the ground for the emergenceof biological evolution. It got goingonly a few billion years ago (at leaston Earth) and generated forms of suchvariety and sophistication, they makeall non-biological forms look simplisticin comparison—a brilliant star is nomatch for a beautiful butterfly. Biologicalevolution proved to be a prolific force.Millions of biological species now livetogether on the third rock from the sun.Yet, the crowning achievement in thecreative portfolio of biological evolutionis arguably a mammalian species with anover-sized brain.CH AL L ENGEHOW WE USE KNOWLEDGE / CHALLENGE