You Want the Future? You Can’t Handle the Future! Perspectives on Sustainability Brad Allenby Founding Director, Center for Earth Systems Engineering and Management Lincoln Professor of Engineering and Ethics Professor of Civil, Environmental, and Sustainable Engineerin g USBCSD October 18, 2011
Relevant Trends <ul><li>Welcome to the Anthropocene – the human earth. </li></ul><ul><li>The world is becoming much more complex and information dense. </li></ul><ul><li>Natural systems become integrated with human and built systems, and subject to their dynamics – examples: genetic engineering and IP; carbon cycle. </li></ul><ul><li>Professionals and firms are being charged by society with responsibility not just for their actions, but for their technology systems (cf: Monsanto and EU on GMOs). </li></ul><ul><li>Sustainability is becoming important social myth. </li></ul><ul><li>Technology is critical locus of accelerating evolutionary pressures, and major framework for integrated natural/built/human Earth systems in Anthropocene. </li></ul>
Straws in the Wind <ul><li>Students and Google: why are you still teaching facts? </li></ul><ul><li>Augcog and distributed cognition. </li></ul><ul><li>ASU workshop with Sandia National Laboratories on cognitive enhancement. </li></ul><ul><li>Use of cognitive enhancement drugs to enhance routine academic performance. </li></ul>
Straws in the Wind <ul><li>Ambient atmosphere carbon capture technology: design your own world </li></ul><ul><li>Grow your own Neanderthal, and AI on the other side: the human as design space </li></ul><ul><li>Radical life extension </li></ul><ul><li>Privatization of governance: war and private military contractors; EU using NGOs to handleforeign aid; space (DARPA and 100 Year Starship Study) </li></ul>
Sustainability <ul><li>A highly normative, egalitarian scenario. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Note that many other scenarios are possible and, given current trends, perhaps even more probable </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Has become increasingly ambiguous over time as different institutions adopt different definitions to suit their requirements. </li></ul><ul><li>What is to be sustained? The Earth? Biodiversity? Human life? Existing economic and power structures? </li></ul><ul><li>Mismatch between degrees of freedom of managers and technocrats, and global sustainability issues. </li></ul><ul><li>Oversimplifies complexity of current and future environments, especially given accelerating technological evolution </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Focus on resource use, versus information structures </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fails to consider even very foreseeable trends such as radical life extension </li></ul></ul>
Sustainability and Basic Political Values Libertarian: justice is equality of opportunity Communitarianisn: welfare is optimized by individual being absorbed in community Egalitarian: justice is equality of outcome Corporatism: welfare is optimized by free economic activity of individuals Sustainable Development U.S. polity
Problem Statement <ul><li>Power of emerging technologies poses huge governance and social challenges </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Sustainability and radical life extension? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Changing cognitive patterns among young? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Geoengineering? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Technological change as major unappreciated Earth system (no discipline of technology studies)? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Military and security needs major driver of technological evolution, especially of Five Horsemen (nano, bio, robotics, ICT, cogsci) </li></ul><ul><li>Military and security competence heavily dependent on society’s technological competence (US v. BRIC v. EU) </li></ul>
Complex Issues at Many Scales <ul><li>Struggle for long term cultural dominance, with technological competence a major factor (China versus US) </li></ul><ul><li>All assumptions become radically contingent </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Psychological and individual: are we redesigning the human as an industrial-mil/sec strategy? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Governance: are we redesigning society as an industrial-mil/sec strategy? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Institutional: roles of different institutions shifting rapidly and unpredictably </li></ul></ul>
Some Ways Forward <ul><li>Technology analysis: policy response matrix </li></ul><ul><li>Technical CSR: Industrial Ecology </li></ul><ul><li>Take charge of sustainability dialog for your firm </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Unlike activists, you can’t afford to ignore your portfolio of obligations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>You need to manage technological change: not just for firm, but for society as well </li></ul></ul>
Technical CSR <ul><li>Themes: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Must try to understand lifecycle (easy for material in specific use; harder for complex product; harder for service – what is the “lifecycle” of the Net?) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Must include not just environmental, but social dimensions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Serious normative issues: who gets to define what is to be sustained, what social values to prioritize? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Services much harder to design, evaluate implications, than products </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Where is boundary between product, service, and earth system (e.g., jet airplane, a product, enables tourism, a service, which is part of broader system of global travel including impacts on previously unreachable environments, airplane as disease vector, etc.) </li></ul></ul>
Changing Dimensions of Work Manufacturing Paradigm Flexible, virtual time and space TIME/SPACE Defined, clock time Dedicated, co-located PLACE Non-place based, individual choice Full-time employment EMPLOYMENT Self-employed, full spectrum of relations to firm Fixed, impermeable LIFE BOUNDRIES (e.g., family/work) Porous, constantly shifting MODEL OF FIRM Evolving network within globalization networks Stable, fixed institution Knowledge production, defined by intranets Firm Facility-based, physical production SKILLS Dynamic, complex, individualized, unstable Stable, clearly defined Knowledge Economy Paradigm
Policy Response Matrix: Cyborg Insects Policy Response Technology Level Goals and Effects Policy Response Level I: Military effectiveness Reduce collateral damage and increase operational efficiency in counterinsurgency operations Goals and technology align; therefore adopt technology Level II: Security effectiveness Protect civilian populations from terrorists and, through mission creep, criminals Implement technology, but technology alone may not lead to achievement of stated goal Level III: Social and cultural effects Ensure orderly society; likely to reduce privacy and enable “soft” or “hard” totalitarian state; shift of power to technologically rich organizations (e.g., private firms). Optimistic goals likely to be undercut as those in power adopt cybersect technology to their own ends; Level I and Level III implications potentially in fundamental conflict
“ He, only, merits freedom and existence Who wins them every day anew.” (Goethe, 1833, Faust , lines 11,575-76)
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