The HUMAN Project

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Where do we come from as a species? How did we arrive at the present moment? What are the issues that could impact our survival and development going forward? What could we do about them? …

Where do we come from as a species? How did we arrive at the present moment? What are the issues that could impact our survival and development going forward? What could we do about them?

The HUMAN Project multimedia book is a "big picture" of the issues that could impact the survival and development of our species. It's grounded in science, accessible (no in-group language), free of charge, and licensed under the Creative Commons.

For a free, downloadable PDF: http://www.scribd.com/doc/138201363/The-HUMAN-Project
If you have an iPad, you can download it (with embedded videos) for free on iTunes (http://bit.ly/WbjumC). (Less)

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  • 1. 2
  • 2. 3To humans who dare dream beyond their lifespan.
  • 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. 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. 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. 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
  • 7. 8HUM AN QUESTIONS
  • 8. 9CHAPTER ONE1 . 1 WHO ARE WE?1 . 2 WHAT SHOULD BE THE PURPOSE OF OUR SPECIES?1 . 3 WHAT CAN ONE HUMAN LIFE MEAN?HUM AN QUESTIONS
  • 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. 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. 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. 13HUM AN IDENT IT Y12
  • 13. 14CHAPTER TWO2 .1 OUR STORY2 .2 WE ARE MATTER2 .3 WE ARE LIFE2 . 4 WE ARE CULTUREHUM AN IDENT IT Y
  • 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. 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. 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. 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. 19HUM AN FUTURE
  • 19. 20HUM AN FUTURECHAPTER THREE3 .1 OUR MENTAL FRAMES3 .2 HOW WE SUSTAIN OURSELVES3 .3 HOW WE RESOLVE CONFLICTS3 . 4 HOW WE SPEND OUR LIVES3 . 5 HOW WE CREATE KNOWLEDGE 3 . 6 HOW WE USE KNOWLEDGE3 . 7 HOW WE SHARE KNOWLEDGE3 . 8 HOW WE ORGANIZE3 . 9 HOW WE EXPAND OUR PRESENCE3 . 10 PANDEMICS3 . 11 VOLCANOES & EARTHQUAKES3 . 12 CHANGING CLIMATE3 . 13 COMET & ASTEROID IMPACTS3 . 14 AGING SUN3 . 15 COSMIC RADIATION3 . 16 GALACTIC COLLISIONS3 . 17 ENTROPY
  • 20. OUR MENTALFRAMESVISIONSPROGRESSCHALLENGES
  • 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. 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. 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
  • 24. 25OUR MENTAL FRAMES / ON OUR PL ATEHOW WE SUSTAIN OURSELVESHOW WE RESOLVE CONFLICTSHOW WE SPEND OUR LIVESHOW WE CREATE KNOWLEDGEHOW WE USE KNOWLEDGEHOW WE SHARE KNOWLEDGEHOW WE ORGANIZEHOW WE EXPAND OUR PRESENCEPANDEMICSVOLCANOES & EARTHQUAKESCHANGING CLIMATEASTEROID & COMET IMPACTSAGING SUNCOSMIC RADIATIONGALACTIC COLLISIONSENTROPYSMART HARVESTINGPERPETUAL PEACEFREEDOM TO CREATEEXPLANATION OF EVERYTHINGINFINITE BECOMINGUNIVERSAL COMPREHENSIONWISE ACTIONCOSMIC CULTUREBIOLOGICAL DEFENSEMASTERY OF GEOLOGYMASTERY OF CLIMATEIMPACT DEFENSENEW HOMESRAD DEFENSEGALACTIC SAFE HAVENVICTORY OVER ENTROPYCHALL ENGES ULTIMATE GOALBIOLOGICALEVOLUTIONCOSMICEVOLUTIONCULTURALEVOLUTIONPURPOSE: SURVIVE & ASCEND. KEEP BECOMINGON OURPL ATE25
  • 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
  • 26. HOW WESUSTAINOURSELVESCHALLENGEVISIONPROGRESS
  • 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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?…
  • 35. HOW WERESOLVECONFLICTSVISIONPROGRESSCHALLENGEPROGRESS
  • 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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?…
  • 45. HOW WESPEND OURLIVESPROGRESSCHALLENGEVISION
  • 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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?…
  • 55. HOW WECREATEKNOWLEDGEVISIONPROGRESSCHALLENGE
  • 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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?…
  • 65. HOW WE USEKNOWLEDGEPROGRESSCHALLENGEVISION
  • 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
  • 67. 68We humans have only just emerged onthe scene of existence. Yet we alreadyshow incredible promise. Within a fewmillion years, we’ve revolutionized theart of universal creation. Cosmic andbiological creativity happens, humancreativity is something we make happen.We introduced a creator into the creativeprocess. Today this may seem cosmicallyinconsequential given our modestcreative powers but this could changeduring our lifetimes.Our creative power stems from theimaginative use of knowledge. And thatknowledge is growing. Our grasp ofcosmic evolution already allows us tomake up new chemical elements and putour Curiosity machine on another planet,even if we can’t yet fuse a new star orcreate a wormhole in the fabric ofspacetime. Our grasp of biologicalevolution already allows us to breed newspecies and genetically modify existingones, even if we can’t yet create a purelysynthetic life form of our own design.Our foray into our own minds alreadyallows us to discern the patterns of ourcreativity, even if we can’t yet implementthem in another substrate. But one day—quite possibly during our lifetimes—wehumans will be able todo the incredible things we currentlycan’t. And then some!As we get closer to being able toprogram matter at sub-atomic scale,write synthetic genomes and createartificial minds, the warm-up era oftechnological tinkering is drawing toa close. We are entering the era oftechnological creation. Soon enoughdesigns conceived in the human mindmay outshine the greatest achievementsof cosmic and biological evolution.For millennia we’ve been trying todeduce the mind of god from theworkings of the world around us. Nowour challenge is to become the kind ofcreators we’ve always hoped our gods tobe.CH AL L ENGEHOW WE USE KNOWLEDGE / CHALLENGE
  • 68. 69In addition, we are playing the gameof survival and becoming with twoserious handicaps: ignorance and illintentions. Without perfect knowledge,our attempts at editing reality tendto create new problems, revealingthings we did not know, think about orforesee. Introducing antibiotics savedhuman lives but now we are up againstsuperbugs with antibiotic resistance.Burning fossil fuels powered theIndustrial Revolution but now we areup against rising temperatures, risingsea levels and ocean acidification. Ourgrowing creative power goes handin hand with a growing potential fordisaster.Perhaps, one day we will exist in areality of our own design, where wecan make perfect predictions about theconsequences of any editorial action—we’ll then strike ignorance off the list ofour handicaps. But as long as we inhabitand try to edit a reality we don’t fullyunderstand, we are doomed to havenasty surprises along the way. We canonly hope none of them will be lethal.Our second handicap is arguably eventrickier, ingrained in the fabric of ourminds and the web of our cultures. Wedraw a myriad of dividing lines betweenus and them. We then seek to protectourselves from them and sometimes todominate or even destroy them. A gooddeal of our technological creativity hasbeen and continues to be poured intocreating means of mass destructionand domination. Some truly dystopianpossibilities are looming on the horizon,from killer synthetic life forms to mindcontrol. Perhaps, one day we will haveerased the dividing lines and upgradedour culture to run on universal care,not just for our own species but for allof existence. But as long as the devilsof our nature continue to get the earof a few, we will have to contend withthe destructive power of our innersmallness.Technological creativity is our shot atgreatness. But to stay in the game wewill need to power up our imagination,let the angels of our nature speak louderthan the devils, and hope that Lady Luckwill keep smiling on us.WHAT’S AT STAKE?GODS OR DINOSAURS?CH AL L ENGEHOW WE USE KNOWLEDGE / CHALLENGEOur budding technological creativityis a reason to believe we have a shotat surviving and becoming universalcreators. It is also a reason to fear thatwe might fail big or leave a trail ofdestruction in our wake. Unfortunately, itis impossible to predict whether we willgo the way of gods or dinosaurs.For starters, we have no way of knowingwhether our future technologicalcreativity will be good enough toproduce technological solutions tochallenges hanging over our existence.We must of course do the best wepossibly can. But failure of imaginationwill always be a risk—a risk for which wedon’t have a solution.
  • 69. 70ULTIMATE GOALINFINITE BECOMINGCosmic evolution set the stage forbiological evolution. Biological evolutionset the stage for cultural evolution. Andnow here we are—rookies on stage. Sowhat’s our gig?Two very different paths are open to us:one with the ultimate creative climaxand the other without, one final and theother infinite.The first path leads toward a final GrandArtifact. Many of us imagine that thepeak expression of our technologicalcreativity will be smart, dexterousmachines that can perceive, think,learn and move at inhuman speedswithout a wink of sleep. They’ll be “thelast invention man will ever need tomake”. Once we animate our robotswith artificial intelligence, we retreatbackstage and retire into the care of ourlast creation. Cultural evolution sets thestage for intelligent machine evolution.The human mind is but a chapter in abigger story.The second path comes without aretirement plan and an infinite amountof work. Instead of pinning our hopeson a Grand Artifact, we focus on theGrand Process. We play an infinite gameof remaking the source of creativity—remaking ourselves. Our ultimate goal isinfinite becoming, refashioning ourselvesinto an ever better, wiser creative force.We sign up for an never-ending streamof self-upgrades and tireless practice ofour art. It is easy to speculate about whowe might become and what we mightcreate tomorrow: We imagine geneticallyenhanced, materially augmented yetstill recognizably “human” beingsprogramming new forms of matter atsubatomic scales, coding new forms oflife, terra-forming other planets in oursolar system, designing warp-drives—allwith the help of increasingly intelligentmachines. But it’s a real mind trip toponder what our future self-perfectingselves might be like and what they wouldwant to create, say a million or a billionyears from now. Will we exist in post-biological substrates of our own designor turn ourselves into an all-permeatingcreative impulse? Will we redesign theforces that power cosmic and biologicalevolution in our universe? Will we spawna brand new universe or a multi-verse?What story will our creative portfolio tellabout who we keep becoming?Right now the choice between thetwo paths seems simple. We’ve justarrived—thinking about retirement isa bit premature. Besides, the game ofinfinite self-transformation into a betterand wiser creative force just seems like amore exciting gig by far!V I SIONHOW WE USE KNOWLEDGE / VISION
  • 70. 71V I SIONTECHNOLOGICAL METHODWe should have a method to our creativemadness. What should we be creating andwhy? What kind of morality and safetytests should our creations pass beforewe can unleash them into the world? Theanswers to these questions are neitherstraight-forward nor static: our practicaland moral imagination is evolving, ourjudgments of safety are evolving as newknowledge trickles in. Today we tend toanswer these questions within specializedcommunities of futurists, technologistsand technocrats inside the walled-inadministrative cells of our nations. Butwhat we are creating should be everyone’sbusiness—many upcoming creations canalter our lives drastically and rapidly.Back in the 20th century, a species-widediscourse was practically impossible. But inthe 21st century we have the infrastructureto experiment with taking on the bigquestions together. By 2050, we might beable to look back and conceptualize ourTechnological Method—or maybe by thenwe will simply think of it as our CreativeWay.TECHNOLOGY ROADMAPWe should get our immediate prioritiesstraight. Without coordination, we end upwith a mismatch between the technologywe need and the technology our best mindsare working on. We could use an EvolvingTechnology Roadmap—a minimum we mustdo to secure the survival and ascent of ourspecies. By 2050 we will have probablygone through dozens of iterations.HUMAN 2100Fundamentally altering a human being isa whole new ball game—or so many of usthink even though we’ve been changingourselves for centuries. Suggestions thatwe might one day be modifying our geneticmakeup, implanting chips into our brains, oruploading our minds into another physicalform tend to run up against a mental wall,with many of us dismissing the very ideaof human enhancement. A species-wideconversation on where we should be by2100 could help us shift the sentiment. By2050, let’s publish an evolving collection ofvisions describing what it could be like tobe human in 2100.We’ve pretty much stumbled intoour creative power and have hardlyhad time to properly conceptualizethe significance of our buddingtechnological creativity or thedirection we should be heading in.In the next 40 years we will need toget a whole lot more thoughtful anddisciplined about what we use ourknowledge for and how we manageour creative pipeline.HOW WE USE KNOWLEDGE / VISION2050MILESTONES
  • 71. 71HOW WE USE KNOWLEDGE / P R OG RESSThe way we currently exercise ourtechnological creativity can hardly bedescribed as a method. It looks more likea haphazard application of human minds,powerfully skewed toward inventionsthat promise a military advantage orshort-term financial gratification. Wehumans are capable of greatness butwe are keeping ourselves busy thinkingsmall. This situation has led some tospeculate that we may be suffering froma doubly dangerous chronic condition:failure of imagination and failure ofnerve. “Killer apps” seem to attract morebright minds than say fusion, warp-drives or augmentation of intelligence.The efforts to make sure that thetechnologies we do end up creating aremoral and safe tend to be disconnectedfrom the rest of us. The general publictends to get the scoop in the formatof whispers down the lane, oftenunrecognizably distorted. Furthermore,for a technological civilization, ourtechnological literacy rates areshockingly low and many aspects ofnew technologies are misunderstoodand feared. As a result, some potentiallyuseful inventions end up smashingagainst the steely wall of public rejectionwhile other potentially dangerousinventions slip through the cracks ofignorance and disinformation. That’s adicey state of affairs.The idea of a technology roadmap is notexactly new. Technology companiesmake them. Many developed nationsand a few ambitious developingnations make them. Internationalorganizations make them for theirareas of specialization. But we don’t yethave a technology roadmap for us as aspecies. So how would we know if we areprioritizing our efforts right if we don’tsit down to think this question through ata species-wide scale?HAPHAZARD2050MILESTONESTECHNOLOGICAL METHODTECHNOLOGY ROADMAPHUMAN 2100PROGRESSHuman enhancement has been a fixtureof science fiction novels and movies fora while but only recently has it startedto register in public awareness as a real-life prospect. We are getting used tocochlear implants that restore hearingand bionic eyes that restore sight. We’vewatched a double-amputee race onhis prosthetic Cheetah legs along-sideable-bodied athletes at the Olympics.We have marveled at a paralyzedwoman drinking her first cup of coffeeby controlling her robotic arm usingonly her mind. We are talking aboutdrugs that enhance cognition and evenmorality. We’ve learned that scientistscan now improve the thinking ability inprimates by implanting a brain chip. Ourtechnological capabilities are rapidlyadvancing on multiple fronts. But we stilllack a coherent vision to guide our self-transformation.
  • 72. 73FUTURE CLUBOur technological creations often startout as crazy ideas in the minds of sciencefiction writers, futurists and visionarytechnologists. What this club lacks insize it makes up for with the boldness oftheir ideas.TECHNOLOGY BENCHWe have the professionals—millions oftechnologists and inventors scatteredacross public and private labs andproduct development departments.And now they are joined by the growingarmy of amateurs—as tools from 3Dprinters to biolabs become cheaper, DIYcommunities are springing up around theglobe.WHO IS ALREADYON THE CASE?WATCHDOGSMost developed nations have hundredsof specialized technology reviewagencies (e.g., the FDA in the US) andvocal public policy communities. Inaddition, social networking tools make itmuch easier for citizens to organize andrally for or against specific technologies(e.g., GMOs) and entire categories oftechnologies (e.g., human enhancement).TECHNOLOGY EDUCATORS ANDACTIVISTSIn a handful of democracies like the USAand Finland, technological literacy isnow viewed as a must. So a small groupof technology educators are trying toinject technological literacy into K-12education (e.g., standards proposedby International Technology EducationAssociation). A handful of privateinstitutions like Singularity Universityand a techno-progressive think tank IEETrun programs to explore future impactsof advanced technologies and preparethe general public for what’s coming.PEOPLE: ~10S OF MILLIONSFUNDING: ~$1.2 TRILLION OR 1.9% OFGDP IN GLOBAL R&D SPENDINGPROGRESSHOW WE USE KNOWLEDGE / P R OG RESS
  • 73. 74…we turned HUMAN 2100 into our first global experimentin massive open online prototyping of our future selves?Imagine science fiction writers taking the lead and millionsof people around the world contributing in iterative roundsof comments, ratings and reviews. The process would takea lot of structuring and outreach but it is well worth theeffort.PROGRESSWHAT IF?…HOW WE USE KNOWLEDGE / P R OG RESS
  • 74. HOW WESHAREKNOWLEDGEPROGRESSVISIONCHALLENGE
  • 75. 76SHARING MEMESConsider what we’ve alreadyaccomplished in the grand scheme ofexistence: carbon-based life on planetEarth in the Milky Way galaxy hasfound a way to encode information inlanguage and transmit it at the speed oflight running through fiber-optic cables.Cultural transmission of knowledge is abig new idea in our universe. It sets usapart from purely physical and biologicalways of being. Now we need to get goodat it.In biological evolution, “wisdom”accumulated over billions of years isembedded into every life form. It’s inour genes. Genetic errors aside, weall “know” how to breathe and how toconvert food into energy. We can breathwithout understanding how our lungsactually work. We are competent withoutcomprehension. Cultural evolution isdifferent. The carriers of our knowledgeare memes. Unlike genes, our memesdon’t come pre-installed. None of us areborn knowing the laws of physics, letalone knowing how to use them to builda space rocket. This is something wemust learn.And learn we did! Like our primatecousins we started off by observing andcopying each other—until we completelychanged the game with language.It enabled us to create and shareincreasingly abstract ideas. Our next bigproblem was storage and transmission:our memories are fragile and our abilityto pass on even a short message withouterrors is limited. Just try playing a gameof telephone. We solved for that bylearning to write our ideas down andprint them. Books became the externalrepositories of our knowledge. Sincewe invented the printing press, we’vewritten more than 100 million of them.But like a talking human, a book is aphysical thing. To access the knowledgeit contains, you have to be close by.Messengers and traveling learned menCH AL L ENGEHOW WE SHARE KNOWLEDGE / CHALLENGE
  • 76. 77carried an occasional book from oneplace to another, but for the most part,our knowledge has been fragmentedacross local repositories of humanculture.We now have a solution for that, too!Digitizing our knowledge and sharing itover the internet holds the promise ofcreating universal access to everythingwe think and know. But with only afraction of our cultural heritage online, 5billion still without internet access and800 million still unable to read and write,we are far from there. And even if wewere, universal access to all knowledgewon’t cut it all by itself. It does notautomatically translate into universalcomprehension and competence. Neitherdoes it guarantee that we will learn tosystematically select and share the goodmemes that propel us forward and weedout the bad memes that hold us back.Our ongoing challenge is to keepdesigning better ways to select, shareand comprehend good memes. We mustkeep learning to learn.CH AL L ENGEHOW WE SHARE KNOWLEDGE / CHALLENGE
  • 77. 78to the edge of our existing knowledge,the more of us can join the epic battlewith the Unknown or dedicate ourselvesto coming up with life-improving usesof our knowledge. Throwing more of usat contemporary scientific mysteries,technological challenges and moraldilemmas does not guarantee we cansolve them faster, but it surely improvesour odds. Knowledge creation has alwaysbeen a collaborative sport. The largerand more diverse our mind pool, themore interesting and useful ideas wemight be able to generate together.But knowledge sharing is not just aboutrecruiting more minds to the causeof knowledge creation. It goes to thecore of how we make decisions as aspecies. When one of us comes up witha new scientific, technological or moralidea—how do the rest of us decide ifit’s worth pursuing? Should we settleMars? Should we migrate our mindsinto another physical form? Which ideais more important? Our answers willdepend on what we know and what wecare about. Do you know that our speciesmust leave planet Earth or perish, andthat our biological bodies are too fragilefor life beyond Earth? And do you reallycare enough about the distant futureto spend our collective resources on itnow? What we learn throughout our liveshas a formative effect on how we think,feel and act. When your explanatoryframework of the world is radicallydifferent from mine, we will have verydifferent opinions and priorities. Thewider the divergence in our worldviews,the more energy we need to spend onreconciling our differences.If all of us were familiar with the generaloutlines of everything we currently knowas a species, would we agree on the wayforward? Unlikely. But at least we wouldall be familiar with the existing frames ofreferences—and that in of itself wouldhelp us along quite a bit!WHAT’S AT STAKE?THE SLOPE OF ASCENTCH AL L ENGEHOW WE SHARE KNOWLEDGE / CHALLENGEMost of us agree that sharing knowledgeis a good thing. As individuals, welearn in order to satisfy our curiosity,broaden our minds, get a job and staycompetitive in a rapidly changing world.As nations, we see a good educationsystem as a prerequisite for nationalcompetitiveness. But elevate yourself toa species-wide perspective, and you cansee what’s at stake for all of us: how weshare knowledge determines the slopeof our ascent.Keep our knowledge walled-in andfragmented, and it will grow slowly.Share it, and we can multiply it greatly.The more of us are able to learn our way
  • 78. 79ULTIMATE GOALUNIVERSAL COMPREHENSIONImagine every morning you wake upwiser. But not in a proverbial senseof having slept on some unresolvedproblem and waking up with a fresh take.Imagine you wake up a whole lot wiser—with all the new ideas that have beengenerated since your last sleep neatlyembedded into your memory, as if theywere your own.The ultimate goal of how we shareknowledge could simply be simultaneousuniversal comprehension of the entireidea stream of our species. The instantyou’ve had a new idea, I would have ittoo—and the other way around. At anypoint in time, all of us would have allknowledge fully metabolized— instantcomprehension by each individual mind.But we must make a crucial distinction—universal comprehension is not thesame as universal brain-washing! Justbecause you comprehend my idea, doesnot mean you should adopt it. Universalcomprehension comes with two stringsattached: the assumption of Fallibilityand the expectation of Creativity.We cannot treat our knowledge asa collection of ultimate, final truths.They are a collection of scientificexplanations, technological know-howand moral ideas all of which must remainopen to challenge and improvement.That’s the assumption of Fallibility.We may all be genetically similar, andone day we may even live very similarlives. Yet, even small differences inour genetic code amplified by smalldifferences in our environments canproduce a powerful diversity of mind.The same data or idea can trigger verydifferent thoughts in different minds.When that happens, something newcan emerge from synthesis! That’s theexpectation of Creativity.Interestingly, when we finally reach theultimate goal of simultaneous universalcomprehension we would eliminatethe need for learning as we think of ittoday. There will be nothing for us tolearn but plenty of knowledge to useand build on. Obviously, the numberand magnitude of problems we needto solve to get there will probably keepus busy for decades if not centuries tocome. Universal connectivity and brain-computer interfaces are probably theeasy part. Understanding how our mindsconvert information into understandingwill probably be the hardest.V I SIONHOW WE SHARE KNOWLEDGE / VISION
  • 79. 80V I SIONUNIVERSAL LIBRARY. UNIVERSAL ACCESSBy 2050 we should have finally createdour library of utopia. We should digitize allrepositories of our knowledge from booksto documentaries and put them all onlinefor free. By then we might be 9 billion. Ifall of us are literate and have access to theinternet, we will have created a species-wide platform for cultural learning.LEARNING PATHWAYSJust because everybody can access allthat is known, does not mean we canmake our way through the maze without aguide—at least not until we’ve all becomeautodidacts. By 2050 we should havemany competing frameworks, modelsand providers of inexpensive knowledgesharing services. Would you like to studywith a live teacher, your peers, with analgorithm that adapts to your learning styleor some combination of these?A service like this should be open, free, inevery language, and anyone should be ableto submit an alert from a mobile phone.KNOWLEDGE COMPRESSIONA single human mind cannot internalizethe entire growing body of humanknowledge—at least not without seriousaugmentation. While we are working ondeveloping augmentation technologies, weshould also run a parallel track: we need tolearn to compress and distill our knowledgeinto general explanatory frameworks. Ifwe had to compress the totality of humanknowledge onto mere 10 pages of text or10 minutes of a documentary, what wouldthey be like? By 2050, we should have adozen competing knowledge compressionsystems that would allow us to wrap ourminds around the general outlines of whatwe know at the depth we prefer, be it a 10minute, 1 year or a 20 year version.CITIZEN SCIENCEParticipation is a good path tocomprehension, effectively blurring theline between knowledge sharing andknowledge creation. By 2050 we need tohave tried and tested more models forpublic participation in science research.Some of these models could evolve intofundamental changes in how we do scienceand who the “we” is. Shrinking the gapbetween the scientist and the non-scientistwould be a step in the right direction.In the next 40 years we shouldcomplete our ongoing project ofcreating universal access to all humanknowledge and experiment with waysto move from universal access touniversal comprehension.HOW WE SHARE KNOWLEDGE / VISION2050MILESTONES
  • 80. 81The idea of a universal digital libraryhas been around for decades. Severalmillion public domain books have beensuccessfully digitized and are alreadyfreely available. However, large scaleefforts to digitize our entire culturalheritage (e.g., Google Book Search,Digital Public Library of America,Europeana) keep running up against thewalls of our stringent copyright laws.Universal access is definitely within ourreach by 2050. At our current adoptionrates, 5 billion of us should have internetaccess by 2030. Ever since broadbandaccess has been shown to go handin hand with an uplift in economicgrowth, more governments are adoptingaggressive ICT policies, shooting for100% internet penetration rates.The United Nations along with localgovernments and hundreds of NGOs areworking hard to introduce reading andwriting skills among the 800 million whocan’t read and write today.In the meantime, the world’s pioneeringeducators are making internet accessmore valuable. The world’s bestuniversities are putting their coursecurriculum online for free and nowincreasingly experimenting with massiveopen online courses for hundreds ofthousands of students. Several recentlylaunched educational ventures like edX,Coursera and Udacity are on a missionto make the best education in the worldfreely available to anyone who seeks it.And the numbers of seekers are growing.The days of one-off education are over.It is a brave new world of continuouslearning, where the meta skill of learningis becoming more important than thecontents of any given curriculum.Compressing our knowledge into generalexplanatory frameworks isn’t yet an ideathat has caught on among the world’seducators. But we have a noteworthyprecedent: Big History Project hasproduced a free online course for highschool students that covers historyfrom the big bang to the present in aninterdisciplinary way. It’s a good start.Citizen science is becoming anewsworthy if not yet large-scalephenomenon: amateur scientists are nowsearching for extraterrestrial intelligence(SETI@Home) and Earth-like planets,volunteering classifications for celestialobjects (Galaxy Zoo) and even solvingpuzzles to design proteins (Foldit). It’s alljust the beginning!PROMISING2050MILESTONESUNIVERSAL LIBRARY. UNIVERSAL ACCESSLEARNING PATHWAYSKNOWLEDGE COMPRESSIONCITIZEN SCIENCEPROGRESSHOW WE SHARE KNOWLEDGE / PROGRESS
  • 81. 82ALL OF USEvery one of us is a learner with varyingdegrees of influence over what we endup learning throughout our lives. Withmany academic institutions putting theirmaterials online and offering them forfree, how much each of us will learn isincreasingly becoming a matter of timeand will, rather than access and money.THE EDUCATORSWorldwide, we have almost 60 millionteachers in primary and secondaryeducation alone. More and more of ourteachers are turning to the internet toimprove the quality of their instructionalmaterials and expand their reach.WHO IS ALREADYON THE CASE?THE ADMINISTRATORSThere are almost 200 national ministriesof education. All of them are strugglingto adapt our existing systems of formaleducation to the changing world whereinformation may be abundant butcomprehension and creativity are scarce.Thankfully, not all of our educators andlearners are sitting around and waitingfor a formal educational reform tochange the way we teach and learn.THE INFRASTRUCTURE-BUILDERSA universal library with universal accessmay sound like a simple idea but it takesmillions of people to make it happen—from networking equipment and devicemanufacturers to internet serviceproviders and the world’s librarians.PEOPLE: ~ALL OF US.FUNDING: ~MORE THAN $2.5 TRILLIONOR ~4.8% OF WORLD GDP WAS SPENTBY THE WORLD’S GOVERNMENTS ONEDUCATION IN 2009.PROGRESSHOW WE SHARE KNOWLEDGE / PROGRESS
  • 82. 83…we turned the idea of knowledge compression into anonline game for learners and teachers alike? We’ve got theingredients for an interesting infinite game:An impossible challenge.Can you distill the entire body of human knowledge into acoherent whole?Different levels of difficulty.Can you do it in 10,000 words? 2,000 words? 500 words? A 5minute video?Broad based participation.You can create your own, critique, rate and review otherpeople’s work.In the process, everybody learns!PROGRESSWHAT IF?…HOW WE SHARE KNOWLEDGE / PROGRESS
  • 83. HOW WEORGANIZEPROGRESSCHALLENGEVISION
  • 84. 85COLLECTIVEACCOMPLISHMENTIf global problem descriptions were popsongs, then this tune would have nowbeen topping the charts for at least adecade:The bundle of intertwined complexchallenges we face at the start of the21st century cuts across our geographicaland organizational boundaries—nosingle nation or organization can solvethem. Our current global institutionsand mechanisms for internationalcooperation cannot cope with these typesof challenges. What we are dealing with isa global governance problem exacerbatedby the crisis in global leadership. We needbetter leaders, enhanced internationalcooperation, reformed global institutions,enlightened public policy and corporateaction. Oh yes, more public engagementto prop up the legitimacy of ourinternational institutions would be good,too.This tune may be popular but popularityis a poor indicator of helpfulness.From the HUMAN perspective, it’s aHymn of Disempowerment. If all of usthought this way, we would be lockingourselves into a solution space that’stoo tight, too path-dependent on ourpast social designs and we would besaddling a handful of people with theentire burden of responsibility whilesubtly disempowering the rest of us.Ironically, many global leaders feelpretty powerless too: the issues are toocomplex, the number of stakeholdersis unmanageable. All of us could use areframe.It’s easy to slump into disillusionmentwhen we repeatedly and spectacularlyfail to accomplish what looks like a noduh goal with a clear course of actionlike reigning in human-made climatechange, something we have known aboutfor over half a century. Yet, we needto treat our failures not as conclusiveevidence of our irreparable flaws as aspecies, but simply as input into ourongoing learning process.Over the course of our history, we’vemade quite a few radical innovationsin our technology of collectiveaccomplishment. There was a day whengetting a band of guys together tohunt down big game was considered arevolution in human organization. Fastforward a few hundred thousand years:we’ve organized ourselves in thousandsof cities and 200 nation states thatcooperate through various internationalorganizations. Millions of businesseswork together in complex supply chainsto cater to an increasing inventory ofneeds. Hundreds of thousands of NGOsare moving the needle on a broad rangeof worthy causes.CH AL L ENGEHOW WE ORGANIZE / CHALLENGE
  • 85. 86Our social technology is far fromperfect. The idea of a geographicallybound nation-state as a core buildingblock in the world where we can easilyforge connections across geographiesis increasingly out of date. The thicketof our rule books can be paralyzing.Our business pursuits, when driven bya single-minded focus on maximizingshareholder value, can be counter-productive and even destructive. Ourability to bring together hundreds orthousands of organizations in service ofsolving a common problem is still weakat best.We need a serious overhaul. But it allstarts with how we frame the issue:How we organize to push the humanproject forward should be everyone’sbusiness. Our past social designs (nation-state, corporation, NGO, the UN) are notcelestial bodies, we can change them.Identities and goals can be re-conceived.Governance can be reinvented. Rulescan be rewritten. We are now anincreasingly networked species—we canchange the very basis for organizing.Our challenge is to take our socialtechnology to a species wide scale andkeep experimenting.CH AL L ENGEHOW WE ORGANIZE / CHALLENGE
  • 86. 87How we organize ourselves may soundlike a matter for high-minded academicdiscourse on global governance. But inpractice getting things done at the righttime and at the right scale can quicklybecome a matter of life and death for usas a species.None of the challenges on our list can besolved by an army of one. All of them callfor organizing the activities of hundreds,thousands, millions, billions andsometimes all of us. Our experiments insocial design impact how much progresswe make on all other challenges fromdefending ourselves from pandemics,asteroid impacts and cosmic radiationto creating enough energy to powerour ascent. The relative importance ofour social technology varies dependingon the challenge. Getting a few billiondollars in funding and designing aPlanetary Defense Council to protectourselves from asteroid impacts may betrivial when compared with the amountof organizational innovation requiredto change how 7 billion of us sustainourselves. But it all starts with ownershipand that’s where we are running intoserious trouble.In theory, advancing the human projectis everyone’s responsibility, all ofus influence where we are headedas a species. In practice, we need toorganize and channel that influence intoaction. Contrary to a popular idea, 7billion people—even once all of us areconnected—don’t spontaneously self-organize. All self-organization starts withvery specific “selves”: people who ringthe alarm bell, people who frame thequestions we must answer, people whodesign and build collaboration platforms,people who come up with new ideas,WHAT’S AT STAKE?GETTING THINGS DONECH AL L ENGEHOW WE ORGANIZE / CHALLENGEpeople who amplify these ideas, peoplewho turn them into reality through theirpersonal or institutional power.On some challenges like Pandemicsand Asteroids we’ve been lucky. Smallgroups of concerned members ofour species have voluntarily adoptedthese challenges. They’ve made it thepurpose of their lives to defend all ofus. That doesn’t mean they’ll succeedin attracting the necessary mind-powerand funding, but at least we knowdedicated people are on the case. Mostof the challenges, however, remain eitherpartial or complete “orphans”, withouta dedicated core group pushing therest of us to rise to the occasion. Thishardly bodes well for our prospects oftaking action at the right time and at theright scale on challenges like sustainingourselves or defending ourselves fromcosmic radiation. But perhaps, thebiggest orphan of all is the overarchingpurpose to secure the continued survivaland ascent of our species. Do you feelultimately responsible?
  • 87. 88ULTIMATE GOALWISE ACTIONV I SIONHOW WE ORGANIZE / VISIONWhat should be the ultimate goal ofall human organizing? Organizing is ameans to an end. We organize in orderto accomplish something together, tomove the present toward the future weenvision for ourselves as a species. Atthe most fundamental level, the goal ofour organizing is to arrive at a sharedpurpose (e.g., survive and ascend) andrealize it. Good organizing is what turnsa stream of human existence into anongoing human project.But the means are only partly definedby the ends. We can take different pathsto arrive at the same destination. Somepaths can even lead us astray: our historyis filled with examples where we usedour wonderfully utopian goals to justifyseriously horrific means. We need astrong ideal to guide our experimentswith social technology to make sure wedon’t go astray.Contrary to the idea that has held somesway in Western intellectual circles forthe last 20 years, we would be betteroff not to think of this ideal in terms ofsome Final Organizational Design thatwill end the history of our organizationalevolution. Universal liberal democracyis not it. World Federation is not it. Self-organizing peer-to-peer networks won’tbe it either. We face a wide range ofchallenges requiring a wide repertoire oforganizational responses. So we need toabandon our quest for that one perfectform of organization and instead think ofhuman organizing as a creative problem-solving process, a social technology thatwe should keep improving based on whatwe learn from past experience and fromanticipating future challenges.Once we adopt this frame, the ideal wecould strive for is simply wise action.What does wise action look like? At anypoint in time, the answer to this questionwill essentially be a distillation of our
  • 88. 89V I SIONmoral knowledge, a snapshot of ourmoral development—who we includein our circle of concern and how. “Wiseaction” is a container for our evolvingmoral principles. Here is one way wecould define wise action today:Our goals advance the purpose of thehuman project. We’ve considered theinterests of all humans and all life, theliving and the unborn. We have drawn onall relevant human knowledge and goneto the limit of human imagination. We’veincluded mechanisms to evaluate andimprove the underlying organizationaldesign.By these standards, how much of humanaction today would be wise? Few ofus ponder the purpose of the humanproject, let alone tie everything we doto that purpose. Perhaps we extend ourcare to our families, our communities, ournations, maybe even all of us alive todaybut forget about future generationsand other life forms. We are eachfamiliar with small fractions of humanknowledge. We skimp on imagination.We get attached to and stuck in pastorganizational designs. But we humansare capable of greatness. Articulating anideal is the first step towards realizing it.HOW WE ORGANIZE / VISION
  • 89. 90V I SIONWISE ACTION: PRINCIPLESWe’ve developed a whole body ofprinciples and frameworks for the self-determination of nations. Now we needto think at a higher level and createa conceptual backbone for the self-determination of a networked species. Butthis time around, let’s keep it informal andopen to challenge, rather than enshrining itin a nearly immutable document. Imagine asimple document laying out the organizingprinciples for everyone involved in thinkingand acting on a species-wide scale. In2050 we should be able to line up all theiterations of the principles and see howour moral imagination has evolved over thedecades. Hopefully at an accelerated rate!COLLABORATIVE POWERUnprecedented power lies in ourconnections. Social networks + crowd-funding platforms + massive scalecollaboration platforms = unprecedentedpotential to accomplish shared goals. Butwe need a high-visibility precedent wherean unlikely cast of characters takes on aspecies-wide challenge and succeeds.Hopefully, the first project will break themold of our current organizational designs.By 2050 we should have a Cambrianexplosion of projects that draw on ourcollaborative power to make progress onchallenges that impact the trajectory ofthe human project. Advancing the humanproject is everyone’s business shouldbecome a description of fact, rather thanmere wishful thinking.THE HUMAN PROJECTWe need a custodian of the evolving bigpicture and a community-organizer at aspecies-wide scale, somebody to own theprocess of keeping the list of challengesand visions, keeping tabs on our progressand attracting more people to challengesthat are understaffed. Perhaps, we needseveral custodians performing the same roleand experimenting with different ways ofaccomplishing the task. Whether a singleorganization or several, by 2050 we shouldhave them all up and running.HOW WE ORGANIZE / VISIONRather than focusing our attentionsolely on trying to reform, legitimizeand retrofit our existing organizationaldesigns to rise to the occasion ofspecies-wide challenges, in the next40 years we should take the creativelicense to experiment with entirelynew ways to organize ourselves. Weare an increasingly networked species.We need to figure out how we canmake the most out of our expandingconnections to take on the challengesthat affect the trajectory of theongoing human project.2050MILESTONES
  • 90. 91Thousands of experts have filled tensof thousands of pages with analysis andideas on how our global institutions—largely conceived and frozen in thereality of 1945—should be redesignedto upgrade our ability to deal withglobal challenges. Most of these ideasfall into the bucket of “fundamentallythe same but incrementally better”:we should strengthen the state-basedcore of the international system, createmore public-private partnerships,improve the legitimacy of internationalbodies through more direct outreachto civil society. The fundamentaldesign remains heavily geared towardbuilding consensus among leaders oforganizations with differing identitiesand interests. In the absence of astrong species-wide cultural identity,reconciling hundreds, sometimesthousands of diverging and oftenconflicting interests is proving to be atall order. In several cases from human-induced climate change to nuclearproliferation, we are struggling toproduce timely responses commensuratewith the magnitude of the challenges—or that’s what it looks like if we onlytrack developments at the inter-governmental level.G20 meetings and the UN conferencesmay get a lot of coverage, but realproblem-solving action is now alsohappening elsewhere—in the meetingsof the world’s mayors, technologistsand social entrepreneurs. Driven by theneed to solve the local manifestationsof global problems, they are making realprogress on challenges from sustainabledevelopment to global security. Too badsome of our species-wide challengesdon’t have “local manifestations”.When it comes to collaborativepower, we are just starting to flex ourBETTER THAN IT LOOKSPROGRESSHOW WE ORGANIZE / PROGRESS2050MILESTONESWISE ACTION: PRINCIPLESCOLLABORATIVE POWERTHE HUMAN PROJECTnetworked muscles. We can get millionsof people to sign a petition or take to thestreets in protest. We are getting good atrallying around a “No” but we have yet tofigure out how to use our collaborativepower to solve a species-wide challenge.We do have awesome examples of smallteams taking on projects of species-widesignificance (SpaceX is working towarda space-faring civilization, the InternetArchive is creating universal access to allknowledge) but none of them have beencrowd-funded, making it harder to createthe “anybody could do this” ethos.The HUMAN project is but a collectionof ideas in a crowd-funded app. Butthese ideas could soon lead to an actualorganization or inspire the creation ofother organizations with similar goals.
  • 91. 92GLOBAL GOVERANCE REFORMERSThe world’s thought leaders oninternational relations, world affairs,global governance and geopoliticscontribute ideas to efforts like theGlobal Institutional Redesign Initiativefacilitated by the World Economic Forum.Leaders of nations are to various degreesengaged in redesigning mechanismsfor international cooperation, from G20to 3G (The Global Governance Group).Most global institutions from the UN toWTO and World Bank have project teamsworking on internal reform.GLOBAL PROBLEM-SOLVERSThe world’s mayors get together to swapexperiences and use informal networksto collaborate on a wide range of issuesincluding how we sustain ourselvesand how we resolve conflicts. Causeentrepreneurs are experimenting withnew organizational designs in serviceof making a dent on their issue (e.g.,catalytic philanthropy approach ofWHO IS ALREADYON THE CASE?Carbon War Room or Bill & Melinda GatesFoundation). Crowd-funding platformslike Kickstarter and IndieGoGo help fundprojects of species-wide significance(e.g., building a space elevator orlaunching a telescope to track asteroids).There is plenty of room to join.ORGANIZATIONAL DESIGN PIONEERSThe Long Now Foundation is working onan organizational design that would lastlong enough to keep a clock for 10,000years—the nature of the challenge maybe symbolic, but the organizationaldesign could be applicable to many ofthe challenges on our list.PEOPLE: ~TENS OF THOUSANDSFUNDING: ~N/APROGRESSHOW WE ORGANIZE / PROGRESS
  • 92. 93…you were the one to break the mold and demonstrate thepower of collaborative action in taking on a species-widechallenge? Or be part of setting up the HUMAN project oranother organization with a similar goal? If not you, thenwho? It’s just us humans.PROGRESSHOW WE ORGANIZE / PROGRESSWHAT IF?…
  • 93. HOW WEEXPAND OURPRESENCEPROGRESSCHALLENGEVISION
  • 94. 95BEYONDDEMOGRAPHICSWelcome to the Planet of Bacteria. Thereare about 5 million trillion trillion ofthem. They’ve been around for 3 billionyears. Their biomass exceeds that of allplants and animals combined.By bacterial standards, we humans haveonly just emerged and our populationgrowth, relatively speaking, has beena tad unimpressive. Nevertheless, theexpansion of our presence impresses alot of us, and worries more of us. In just a few million years, we multipliedour population 140,000 times andlengthened our life spans three anda half times, thus expanding both thebreadth and depth of our presence.Back in the day, we were a small bandof 50,000. We could all fit into theancient Colosseum or a modern footballstadium. As long as we were hunters andgatherers, our ecological niche acted asa straight-jacket on our total numbers.Until the invention of agriculture,our total population probably neverexceeded 15 million. Our average lifeexpectancy was only 20 years. Ourbrains don’t even fully develop untilwe are 25! In theory, people could havelived to an advanced age but in practicemost human lives were cut short by highinfant and maternal mortality, diseaseand homicide. The elderly were rare.Today we are 7 billion and our averagelife expectancy has jumped to 70 years.It took us millions of years to become1 billion, over a century to become 2billion, and a mere 12 years to add our7th billion. Some of us alive today havewatched our population triple and lifeexpectancy go up by several decades.The rate of population growth is slowingbut we’ll still add another 3 billionbefore potentially peaking at 10 billionlater this century. CH AL L ENGEHOW WE EXPAND OUR PRESENCE / CHALLENGE
  • 95. 96So it’s not surprising that our currentdemographic discourse is dominatedby the ever-present concern aboutoverpopulation and a brand new concernabout aging. How will we feed 3 billionmore? How will we support a ballooningpopulation of longer-living elderly?Some of us believe that our challenge isthat we keep expanding our population.On a planet with finite resources! Whatwe have to do is obvious: reign in theexpansion, get to a population size ourplanet can support. That’s a bit of aproblem since our current estimatesrange from 1 billion to 1 trillion—we tend to make wildly differentassumptions about our life stylesand technological ingenuity. Othersbelieve our challenge is to prepare forthe demographic shifts we know arecoming (population cluster-bombs inAfrica, population bust in the developedworld, aging everywhere) and find goodtechnology and policy solutions. In otherwords, Houston, we have an innovationproblem. From the HUMAN perspective, thisdemographic frame is too narrow.We must place our current worriesin a bigger context and start askingfundamental questions: For our speciesto survive and ascend, can we afford notto expand our presence? How long dowe need to live for? Is biological birthand death of individuals essential ora biological “baggage” we must drop?What about our biological form? In otherwords, Houston, we have an existentialproblem.CH AL L ENGEHOW WE EXPAND OUR PRESENCE / CHALLENGE
  • 96. 97Do we want to remain an Earth-basedphenomenon or do we dare dreambigger? It’s a false choice. To surviveand ascend, we must expand beyondour home planet and face the fact thatin our current form we are ill-fit for thatexpansion. We can barely last a minuteoutside of our Earth’s atmosphere.Some think it’s a good thing: Look at themess we’ve already made of this planet,our species simply does not deserve toexpand! We do tend to make a mess. Buthas learning at the edge of knowledgeever been possible without it? The factthat we are learning—even if we don’tdo it fast enough to some of our liking—is cosmically significant. Compared to cosmic and biologicalevolution, cultural learning is a fasterand more promising creative force. Wealready synthesize chemical elements,design materials and even life formsthat wouldn’t otherwise exist—and weare just warming up. Should we discoverthat we are neither alone nor particularlyadvanced, the unique quirks of ourevolutionary path could prove to bevaluable contributions to the diversityof the universal mind-pool. Perhapsthe expansion of our existence wouldeventually lead to the emergence of anew kind of creative force. So we owe itto ourselves… and the universe.How our generation thinks aboutdemographics could make a bigdifference. If we manage our currentphase of expansion well, we couldhave incredible strength in numbersand longevity. A connected, learningspecies of 10 billion who live to a 100in good health could be a massiveboost for our trajectory as a species.On the other hand, a half-hungry, half-connected warring species of 10 billionis a danger to itself. So far, our dystopianvisions about overpopulation have beenpulverized by our ability to create newWHAT’S AT STAKE?OUR PLACE IN THE UNIVERSECH AL L ENGEknowledge and technology. Addingmore people and living longer has notslowed us down. On the contrary, we canspeculate that more breadth and moredepth have been part of a virtuous cycle:new knowledge and inventions made itpossible to accommodate more peoplewho lived longer which meant we hadeven more mind power to create newknowledge and technology to propelourselves forward. Had our populationstabilized back in 1950 at 2.5 billion witha life expectancy of 48 years, would wehave enjoyed the same rate of scientificand technological progress? Our good historical track record is ofcourse no law of physics, it doesn’tpredictably carry into the future. It’snot inconceivable that we could fail tomanage our demographic transitionsproperly and dig ourselves into adystopian hole of reduced standardsof living, monumental environmentaldamage and an inter-generational feud.It may take a while to dig ourselves out.But it’s really up to us to make sure that’snot how it goes.HOW WE EXPAND OUR PRESENCE / CHALLENGE
  • 97. 98ULTIMATE GOALCOSMIC CULTURESo how should we think about our placein the universe? Clearly, it is not ourenergy-gobbling biomass per se that weshould be scattering throughout spaceand time. Unlike bacteria, we can besomewhat more discerning.Although some of us appear to be quitefond of our bodies, it’s the minds thatinhabit our bodies that differentiate ourway of being and give rise to creativeideas. So perhaps what we shouldbe aiming to expand is our creativecapacity, the reach and depth of ouridea-generating minds. Imagine ourentire universe infused with creativitythat can trace its humble origins to a fewbillion human beings from planet Earth.Imagine we become part of a CosmicCulture, a creative force that shapes thelife cycle of our universe, or perhaps ofall existence.An analogy from biological evolutioncould be helpful: just like RNA was astep on the evolutionary path towardthe emergence of DNA, a template thatallows life to replicate itself before theend of an individual life cycle, our mindscould become the seeds of a templatefor Cosmic Culture… that leads to thereplication of our universe. We canimagine it—so maybe we could make itso.It won’t be easy. For starters, we’dneed to square away the matter of ourphysical form and figure out whether weshould be expanding into outer or innerspace.Our reliance on the perishable biologicalform could prove to be but a brief phasein our evolution as a species. We mightstart by making changes within ourexisting biological framework to furtherextend our lifespans and to understandhow our biological form gives rise to ourimagination. Then one day we wouldhave sufficient knowledge to liberate ourminds from the confines of our currentbiological bodies and open the doorsto new, more adaptable and resilientways to embody ourselves. New formswould make it possible for us to considerdifferent expansion strategies.So where should we go? Outer spacetends to be our default answer. Weimagine a space-faring civilization thatexcels at cosmic scale engineering,learns to harness the energy of entirestars and eventually entire galaxies,invents a way to travel at the speedof light and eventually masters someform of time travel. But some of us havepointed out that we could conceivablyhead in a completely different direction:There is plenty of space inside, too. Wehave 25 orders of magnitude betweenatomic size and the Planck scale toexplore! Just as we’ve been crammingV I SIONHOW WE EXPAND OUR PRESENCE / VISION
  • 98. 99an exponentially increasing number oftransistors into our computer chips, wecould compress ourselves into smallerand smaller scales of space. We couldbecome a STEM (space, time, energy,matter) compressing civilization thatexcels at subatomic scale engineeringand eventually compresses itself into ablack hole like entity.It is hard to believe that the emergenceof biological and cultural evolution onEarth is a universal one-off. What ifthere are millions, perhaps billions ofother creative civilizations? They wouldbe subject to the same laws of physics,so they would probably be exploringsimilar options for expanding theirpresence. What if eventually we meet,be it through our adventures in outerspace or through the mergers of blackholes of our creation in inner space?What if by combining our knowledge, wewould be able to re-engineer our cosmicscheme of existence or re-start our dyinguniverse from the depth of inner space?Dream big or stay home!V I SIONHOW WE EXPAND OUR PRESENCE / VISION
  • 99. 100V I SIONTHE POPULATION-KNOWLEDGE EQUATIONWe need to do away with our severalhundred year old mental model that pitspopulation growth against an inventory offinite physical resources and environmentaldestruction. We would have a bettergrasp of our predicament and makebetter decisions if we shifted to a moresophisticated equation: Our population isthe demand side. The carrying capacity ofour knowledge is the supply side. The basicquestion we should be asking is whetherour current knowledge allows us to provideeveryone with the standard of living wewould like to have. When the answer is no,we must treat it as a missing knowledgeproblem rather than a population problemand channel our energy into creating theknowledge we need. By 2050, we should beable to look back and celebrate another 40years of having solved this equation well.HEALTHY 150No human in recorded history has ever livedto be 150. Our current record is 122 years.Extending our life spans to 150 years of finehealth would be a great milestone on ourway to creating indefinite life spans. That’sa feat that would require a whole lot morethan merely removing all the remainingcauses that cut our maximum life spansshort. We will need both, technologicalmodifications in the inner-workings of ourbodies as well as an ethical framework forsharing the benefits of our life extendingtechnologies. So who of us alive today willbe celebrating her 150th birthday in 2050?FOUNDATIONS OF POST-BIOLOGICALCULTUREImagine a learning culture that’sunburdened by our biological baggage,uninterrupted by individual death.Creating indefinite life spans in ourcurrent biological bodies, let alonecreating substrate-independent minds isa monumental task and a life-changingtransition for our species. The developmentof the moral framework for such a transitionshould always be a few steps ahead of thedevelopment of our technologies. By 2050the case for post-biological culture shouldbe a matter of active public discourse andwe should have a couple of major scientificand technological notches on our belts—asuccessful whole brain emulation, indefiniteextension of life spans in a simple life form.Our tag line for the next 40 yearscould be “Dream big but don’tdrop the ball on our short-termchallenges!” We need to make surewe negotiate the demographic shiftsalready under way while developinga moral, scientific and technologicalfoundation for the continuedexpansion of our presence.HOW WE EXPAND OUR PRESENCE / VISION2050MILESTONES
  • 100. 101Our current discourse on populationrages on under a strong Malthusianspell. Many of us would find the verysuggestion that our challenge is toexpand our presence rather irksome, ifnot altogether irresponsible.The fact that our total populationgrowth rate peaked back in the 1960sat 2% and is now down to 1% is largelyregarded as a good thing. In severaldeveloped countries populations arenow shrinking. The remaining clusters ofpopulation growth tend to be in placesthat are least equipped to cope. Slowingdown population growth in the leastdeveloped countries continues to be apriority: the UN, thousands of NGOs andlocal governments are working hard toaccomplish just that through educatinggirls and providing easy access to familyplanning. However, our biggest challengeis to crack the supply side of theequation: we need another agriculturalrevolution and a step-change in ourrenewable energy and desalinationcapabilities. Without the Population-Knowledge Equation it is hard to gaugeif the current rate of our technologicalprogress is adequate to meet the needsof 10 billion.Aging is now a big topic. In the nextfour decades the share of those whoare 60 plus will rise from the historical8-10% to 22%, a jump from 800 millionto 2 billion. Only half a billion wouldbe living in the developed countries.Despite an upbeat frame on global agingfrom the World Health Organization(“Active Aging: A Policy Framework”report, 2002) our public discourse onaging is tinged by the Malthusian fearstoo—dystopian visions of economiescrippled by the tsunami of pension andhealthcare costs abound. Fortunately,those of us approaching our 60s areTHE MALTHUSIAN SPELL2050MILESTONESPOPULATION-KNOWLEDGE EQUATIONHEALTHY 150PROGRESSFOUNDATIONS OF POST-BIOLOGICAL CULTUREincreasingly able to stay active longer. Inthe developed world, some are pursuingnew careers, starting new businessesand even taking new degrees. Althoughthe few governments that attempted toraise the legal retirement age were notreceived with welcoming cheers.The moral foundations and theoreticalresearch for post-biological culture isstill largely an esoteric quest pursued bya handful of dedicated pioneers. Most ofus are happy to live a few years longerbut struggle with the idea of indefinitelife spans in our current bodies, let aloneconsidering existence in another physicalform. But then again, it would be foolishto expect that we can drop a million yearold habit of thinking that easily.HOW WE EXPAND OUR PRESENCE / P R OG RESS
  • 101. 102ALL OF USNone of us get to choose when weare born, but most of us have varyingdegrees of influence over how many kidswe have and how long we will live for.Our choices add up to our demographics.UNITED NATIONS & NATIONALGOVERNMENTSMost governments with a fewnotable exceptions like China andIndia have been gently adapting torather than strong-handedly shapingtheir “demographic destiny”. Severalgovernments with declining populationsare now in the business of trying tonudge their birth rates upwards. As theoldest society that has ever lived, Japanis leading the way in figuring out howto make it work. The lion share of theinternational effort in the UN system isfocused on defusing “population clusterbombs” in developing countries.WHO IS ALREADYON THE CASE?PHARMA INDUSTRY & HEALTHCARESECTORNone of us want to be sick and fewwould say no to a few extra years ofgood health—so healthcare is a bigfield already employing more than 60million health workers globally, with anestimated shortage of about 5 million.The philosophical foundations of theentire enterprise as well as researchfunding are still heavily skewed towardcuring disease rather than preventativehealth, rejuvenation and reversal ofaging.PIONEERS AT THE POST-BIOLOGICALFRONTIERAs often is the case with pioneers,there is only a handful—a few moralphilosophers (e.g., Nick Bostrom),theoretical gerontologists (e.g., Aubreyde Grey), neuroscientists (e.g., RandalKoene), Artificial Intelligence researchers(e.g., Ben Goertzel) and the broadercommunity of cosmologists andfuturists.PEOPLE: ~ALL OF USFUNDING: ~$6.5 TRILLION GLOBAL EXPENDITUREFOR HEALTH, 2011PROGRESSHOW WE EXPAND OUR PRESENCE / P R OG RESS
  • 102. 103…we banished the Malthusian spell?It may be harder than it looks. In fact, Malthus’ postulationsat the end of the 18th century were but a modernmanifestation of an ancient concern. Already Plato andAristotle worried about over-population. In the 2nd centurywhen our total population was not even 200 million, aprominent author Tertullian opined: “What most frequentlymeets our view (and occasions complaint) is our teemingpopulation. Our numbers are burdensome to the world,which can hardly support us... In very deed, pestilence, andfamine, and wars, and earthquakes have to be regarded as aremedy for nations, as the means of pruning the luxurianceof the human race.” Some of us today would still nod inagreement.So this is an ancient and powerful spell that requiresserious mind-power! How can we discredit the ideathatpopulation growth inevitably spells our demise by“miseryand vice”? How can we introduce some form of Population-Knowledge Equation, or some cleverer version of the ideathat continued expansion of our knowledge can enable acontinued expansion of our population? Meme designersaround the world, consider this your call to action!PROGRESSWHAT IF?…HOW WE EXPAND OUR PRESENCE / P R OG RESS
  • 103. PA N D E M I C SCHALLENGEVISIONPROGRESS
  • 104. 105THINK SPECIES-WIDEHEALTH SECURITYIn the story of life on Earth, bacteria andviruses are the old timers. They’ve beenaround for billions of years. Althoughwe humans are far more complex, moresophisticated creatures, these invisiblysmall and resilient buggers can still spellreal trouble for us as a species.Pandemics are outbreaks of bacterialor viral infection for which we have noimmunity. They spread like wildfire allaround the world. Today many of us thinkof pandemics as a matter of nationalor personal health security, but fromthe HUMAN perspective it’s a matter ofspecies-wide health security.Few of us alive today have a vividcultural memory of the devastationa pandemic can leave in its wake, soit’s important to get a sense of whatwe’re up against. Let’s take the BubonicPlague, a bacterial infection we pickedup from fleas, and the Spanish Flu, a viralinfection we picked up from pigs.Many of us think that the BubonicPlague of the 14th century was a purelyEuropean affair. Nothing could be furtherfrom the truth. The Plague killed humansthroughout Asia, Europe, and the MiddleEast. The death toll was between 75 and100 million—nearly a third of all humansalive at that time. Imagine a third ofhumans alive today— 2.3 billion people.Now imagine them dead. It’s intense.We think the Plague started inCentral Asia before it traveled west toConstantinople. From there it movedNorth and South at the same time.Through Alexandria to the Middle East—Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen,Mecca. About the same time, the Plagueswept Europe. Fevers. Lymph nodesswelling into buboes the size of eggs inthe neck, groin and armpits. Vomitingblood. Skin blackening with gangrene.The victims were not just those who diedthat violent death. Those who survivedfeared that the apocalypse was near, orworse, that it had already come and theywere left to live in its aftermath.Here’s an eye witness account: “And theydied by the hundreds, bothday and nightand all were thrown in those ditchesand covered with Earth. And as soonas those ditches were filled, more weredug. I… buried my five children with myown hands… And so many died that allbelieved it was the end of the world.”Not good.The 1918–1919 Pandemic Flu was just asdeadly. It killed 50 to 100 million.It infected 550 million humans or nearlyCH AL L ENGEP ANDE MICS / CHALLENGE
  • 105. 106one-third of the world’s population.It was most deadly for people in theirprime—the strong, the young. An Armyprivate at Fort Riley in Kansas (U.S.)reported to the camp hospital beforebreakfast on March 11th, 1918. He wassick. A minute later, another soldier. Bynoon the hospital had over a hundredcases. A week later, 500. Then theyshipped the soldiers off to battle inEurope. It exploded: Europe, Asia, Africa,South America. People fell sick just bybreathing. That was part of the horror:everyone has to breathe.As it spread, it mutated into a morevirulent strain. Raging fevers. Nosebleeds. Faces turning blue. Hideouscoughing. The cause of death? The lungsfilled with fluid. The victims drowned.“There were so many people dying thatyou ran out of things that you’d neverconsidered running out of before—caskets.”Planet Earth is a petri–dish wherebacteria and viruses have been evolvingfor billions of years. So far there isnothing to stop them. Many virusesthat are deadly to humans come fromanimals—SARS came from bats, HIV /AIDS came from monkeys, H5N1 camefrom birds. Although it may be counter-intuitive to most city dwellers, todaymore of us hunt wild animals than everbefore. In Africa alone we hunted andate 700 million wild animals in 2009. Ashunters carry and prepare their kill, theyare exposed to new viruses. And, as moreof us raise and live next to chickens,pigs and cattle, it’s becoming anongoing virus exchange at a whole newscale. One or two unfortunate geneticmutations and millions, perhaps billions,of human lives are on the line.Then there is the revival of the old.There are a few infectious bacteria thatare developing antibiotic resistance (e.g.,tuberculosis and “staph infections”).None of them yet classify for pandemicstatus, but that does not mean that it’sinconceivable. Drug resistance is in someways inevitable, it’s biological evolutionat work.P ANDE MICS / CHALLENGECH AL L ENGE
  • 106. 107So what could it be like if a pandemicstruck today?There are more of us. We live in aninterconnected world. An outbreak is asingle plane or train ride away. It wouldbe in every corner of the world withinmonths.Current influenza pandemic scenariospredict single-digit million to 150 milliondeaths. By comparison, World Wars I andII put together took 67 million humanlives. We would likely be able to developvaccines or antibiotics faster than ever,but we still couldn’t scale treatment tothe species.The rumors and misinformation wouldlikely be staggering. Fear has big eyes.Humans would be afraid to talk to oneanother because fellow humans are thethreat. That’s a big community killer. Itwould wear down social togetherness,which is required for us to function.Hysteria, scapegoating, and looting couldeasily make an appearance, especiallywhen people don’t have access tomedication.The exchange of goods and servicesaround the world would slow way down,as would human travel. Borders wouldtighten up. Some might close completely.There would be fewer people to workbecause some would die and many morewould not show up for work becausethey were sick or afraid of becoming sick.To put some numbers on it: global outputcould shrink up to 15% in the first yearalone; developing countries would behit hardest—some speculating that theireconomies wouldshrink by half in the first year.P ANDE MICS / CHALLENGEWHAT’S AT STAKE?LIVES AND LIVINGCH AL L ENGE
  • 107. 108ULTIMATE GOALBIOLOGICAL DEFENSEContainment may seem like a goodultimate goal for dealing withpandemics. Unfortunately, in today’sinterconnected world, full containmentmight not even be possible. We’veseen the movies—that one guy whodoesn’t know that he is sick walks into apharmacy to get some aspirin and bumpsinto a woman at the entrance. He coughson his hand as he passes the money tothe pharmacist right before he collectshis aspirin and catches a cab to get ona plane. And off we go. We could andshould take containment to the limit,but if we only focus on containmentour ultimate defense is shutting downborders.There is plenty we can do before it getsto that. By moving closer to the source,we could prevent outbreaks in the firstplace. But should we stop there… for alleternity?This is a grand battle between biologicaland cultural evolution. What if we couldend it? Let’s figure out the biologicalscript so well that we declare that battleover.We need an explanation of life on bothsides of the equation. On thebacterial and viral side, we needexplanations that can predict howdifferent life forms will evolve andwhich interventions will prevent themore deadly expressions. On the humanside, we need an explanation of howimmunity works. Curiously, it just mightrely on the 5 hundred trillion bacteriathat already live inside the human body.We might learn to prevent mutations forwhich we have limited immunity or wemight learn to redesign human immunityaltogether. That way when new bacterialor viral threats emerge we are one stepahead of them. Explanatory knowledgeof life is our best immunity. It’s theultimate biological defense.V I SIONP ANDE MICS / VISION
  • 108. 109V I SIONP ANDE MICS / VISIONCONTAINMENT AT THE SOURCEWe need to monitor all the hotspots wherehumans come into contact with wild anddomesticated animals to detect bacteriaand viruses as they move from animals intohuman populations and stop them beforethey mutate and become human-to-humantransmissible. The Global Viral ForecastingInitiative is doing just that in 23 countries,but we need more. Think: all hotspotsreporting to an open–source map.REAL–TIME SURVEILLANCEIf we don’t catch it at the source, we need tomove at the speed of contagion. The WorldHealth Organization has a surveillance andresponse network in place, but they mustgo through official government channelsfirst, and that’s just too slow. We needalmost faster than real-time surveillance.The Global Public Health IntelligenceNetwork is a promising model. It trollsthe internet looking for early warningsigns—from word searches to newspaperreports—of potential outbreaks. Theyspotted SARS three months before WHOofficially identified it. A service like thisshould be open, free, in every language,and anyone should be able to submit analert from a mobile phone.SPECIES–WIDE COVERAGEWe need a plan with species-widecoverage. Speed in creating and distributinga vaccine is everything. You’re not coveredif the vaccine arrives when you’re dead.We need a global network of templatebanks that keep a library of syntheticallyconstructed templates ready to go intoproduction the instant a new live strain isidentified.LIFE EXPLAINEDWe may not have a full explanatory modelby 2050 because we don’t know what wedon’t know. But we will have created newknowledge as a result of our pursuit.Explanatory knowledge of life maybe a long way off. If we’ve learnedanything from our study of the humangenome, it’s that life is vastly moresophisticated and complex than mostof us thought. Knowing every singleletter in the genetic alphabet isn’tsufficient to speak the language. Weare at the starting linet, not the finishline, and this might be a marathonwithout an end. So while we arepursuing a coherent explanation oflife, we need to make sure that wedon’t get sideswiped by a pandemicthat stalls our development or throwsus back.2050MILESTONES
  • 109. 110We are not covered.We are monitoring hotspots whereviruses can leap from animals tohumans, but only in 23 countries. Wedo have a global surveillance andresponse network, thanks to the WorldHealth Organization, but it relies on thecapabilities and integrity of governmentofficials in member countries. Reportinga national outbreak can be perceived bysome officials as reporting a nationalfailure that could undermine nationalreputation and stop the inflow of touristsor the outflow of goods and services.Nearly all countries have pandemicpreparedness plans, but manydeveloping countries cannot yet executeon them without WHO’s help.Were an outbreak to happen, most ofus would have to go without a vaccine.To supply enough vaccine to immunizethe world’s population in a pandemicwould likely take four years. We canstockpile antivirals but they may notbe effective on new strains. Every yearWHO identifies new strains through itsinfluenza virus exchange and works withmanufacturers and regulatory agenciesto develop vaccines and antivirals.Furthermore, most countries—developing and developed—don’t have“surge” capacity. We don’t have enoughtrained medical staff; we don’t haveenough hospitals; we don’t have enoughbeds.When it comes to our ultimate defense,the explanatory model of life is underconstruction, but it is under constructionin fragments.SUSCEPTIBLE2050MILESTONESCONTAINMENT AT THE SOURCEREAL-TIME SURVEILLANCESPECIES‑WIDE COVERAGELIFE EXPLAINEDPROGRESSP ANDE MICS / P R OG RESS
  • 110. 111THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION(WHO)The World Health Organization (WHO)is where we coordinate as a species onall things pandemic. Through WHO’snetwork of member states we trackthe movement of viruses globally,share strains so that we can all studythem, pinpoint lethal strains, and warnwhen there is an outbreak. WHO alsostockpiles antivirals and vaccines shouldthe worse come to pass, but not nearlyenough for all of us.NATIONAL HEALTH CARE SYSTEMSNational health care systems (e.g.,centers for disease control, ministries ofhealth, national health services, researchlabs, universities, public and privatehospitals) both coordinate with WHOand run their own deal. They identifystrains, support or conduct research oftheir own including developing vaccines,and negotiate with drug companies tomanufacture them.WHO IS ALREADYON THE CASE?PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRYThe pharmaceutical industry researches,develops and manufactures vaccines,antivirals and antibiotics.PRIVATELY & PUBLICLY FUNDEDINITIATIVESSome privately and publicly fundedinitiatives conceived at a species-widescale are stepping in to monitor hotspotswhere viruses are crossing the animalto human barrier (e.g., Global ViralForecasting Initiative funded by Googleand Skoll Foundation; The Global PublicHealth Intelligence Network funded bythe Public Health Agency of Canada).PEOPLE: ~HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDSFUNDING: ~BILLIONSPROGRESSP ANDE MICS / P R OG RESS
  • 111. 112… species-wide health security became everyone’sbusiness, not just the responsibility of our borderchallenged governments?Global containment and real-time surveillance requireborderless thinking. We need more minds with allegiance tothe species, not to national governments: biologists to manthe hotspots all over the world; hackers to code a single,open surveillance platform; philanthropists big and small tofund them.… we created a CERN for biology?CERN is one of the world’s largest centers for researchin fundamental physics. It has become a magnet for theworld’s physicists working to figure out what the universe ismade of and how it works. They’re drawn together becausenations have to pool their research dollars to afford themultibillion dollar particle collider. The world’s biologistsmay not need a collider, but they do need a magnet.Perhaps a shared challenge to come up with an explanatorymodel of life by 2050 could become the unifying force?PROGRESSP ANDE MICS / P R OG RESSWHAT IF?…
  • 112. VOLCANOESANDEARTHQUAKESCHALLENGEVISIONPROGRESS
  • 113. 114SOLUBLE PROBLEMS,NOT ACTS OF NATUREThe Earth’s crust—the very ground westand and build on—is moving around.For us humans, the earth moving andshaking and magma blowing through thecrust is a considerable problem. Todaywe tend to think of volcanic eruptions,earthquakes, and the resulting tsunamisas acts of nature, givens, even fate…something we can’t do anything about.From the HUMAN perspective, actsof nature is just another category ofchallenges for us to take on.SUPERVOLCANIC ERUPTIONS. Thedifference between a supervolcaniceruption and an average eruption is thedifference between shooting a gun andthrowing a bullet—the former packsa way bigger punch. Supervolcaniceruptions are hundreds of times largerthan most volcanic eruptions.They all start way down deep. The heat,largely produced from the radioactivedecay of elements in the Earth’s core,starts to melt the mantle rocks above.When it gets hot enough and thepressure is on, they turn into magma—amix of molten rock, suspended crystals,dissolved gases and gas bubbles. If thereis structural space to move, that magmarises toward the surface. When it pushestoward the Earth’s crust but is unableto break through, pressure builds in agrowing magma pool—actually, it’s morelike a magma lake. When the crust can nolonger contain it—ready, set, blow.It’s difficult for most of us to get ourminds around the the size of eruptionwe’re talking about, so let’s revisit a bigblow from our past. Were our ancestorsable to record their experience, it wouldhave read like a horror story. Roughly74,000 years ago, on the Indonesianisland of Sumatra, in a place known asLake Toba, scalding hot lava, deadlygases, and volcanic ash blew through theEarth’s crust—2,800 km3of ejecta to beexact, containing enough lava to buryManhattan in a layer more than 1 kmdeep. The pyroclastic flow, a fast movingcurrent of superheated gas, traveledabout 400 km per hour and covered anarea double the size of Manhattan. Thoseflows were hot enough to incinerate anyliving thing in their path. The eruptionalone destroyed 20,000 km2of thesurrounding area. That’s twice the sizeof Los Angeles—gone. Ash blanketedmost of Southeast Asia, reaching as farwest as the Arabian Sea and as far northas Southern China. On the eastern coastof India ash piled 1 – 6 meters high.Animals were poisoned from eating it.People struggled to breath. Plant lifewas suffocated. And then the wintercame and stayed for 6 –10 years. Ash andgaseous aerosols blocked sunlight. Thetemperature dropped 1 to 5°C in lowerlatitudes and 15°C in higher ones. Manythink that this volcanic winter causedCH AL L ENGEVOLCANOES & EARTHQUAKES / CHALLENGE
  • 114. 115the big coinciding population drop—we were reduced to fewer than 10,000humans and potentially only 1,000reproducing women. Our species cameclose to an end. A considerable problemindeed.Fortunately, super-eruptions appear tobe very infrequent, potentially becauseit takes a “perfect storm” to createthem: a huge magma chamber and along time to grow an enormous lakeof magma. Unfortunately, since onehas not taken place in recent times, wehave few observations on which to basepredictions. We have identified morethan 20 super-eruption sites that havebeen active over the last 2 million years.We suspect there are more. We have noevidence to suggest that one will notblow again. And again.MEGA EARTHQUAKES. The ground westand on is far from static. When ourplanet formed 4.5 billion years ago itwas a hot and gnarly place. Much ofthe Earth was molten—it was beingbombarded all the time and in nearconstant volcanic activity. As thebombardment mellowed out and Earthcooled down, crust began to form. Fastforward a few billion years and thathot and tumultuous world is still verymuch alive right beneath the relativelythin surface we stand and build on. Themantle churns. The churning moves thecrust. That crust is cracked into pieces,tectonic plates. These plates pushinto, over, under, and along side eachother. When they collide, they pushup mountains. When they pull apart,valleys open or they split off into newcontinents. When one plate is pushedbeneath the other, the pressure andfriction melt the descending crust. In allcases the Earth quakes. To get a sense of how destructivequakes can be, consider the one thatrocked Shaanxi, China in 1556. Althoughthere are stronger quakes on record,it was the deadliest. It killed 830,000humans—crushed in collapsed caves andbuildings, fallen through the cracks inthe ground. In some places the groundsuddenly jumped up and formed hills.In others it fell meters creating valleys.20 meter deep crevices opened in theground; water burst out and formedcanals. Landslides everywhere. Therewere spots where the ground liquefied.Imagine standing on solid ground. Nowimagine that ground turning to liquid.That’s a serious problem.CH AL L ENGEVOLCANOES & EARTHQUAKES / CHALLENGE
  • 115. 116Unless we learn to solve the problemsposed by volcanic eruptions andearthquakes, we’ll live on shaky groundfor the remaining time that we can stayon Earth. Our existence will continue tobe punctuated by violent outbursts thatthreaten the survival of our species anddestructive quakes that can really set usback.SUPERVOLCANIC ERUPTIONS. Whatwould be at stake were we to get aToba-size blow today? The topline: itwould not be one awful catastrophe,it would be a series of them. First thepyroclastic flow would pretty muchinstantly incinerate the surroundingarea, including humans. That surroundingarea could be thousands if not tensof thousands of square kilometers. Ifit were Toba, for example, millions ofpeople could be incinerated. Withinhours. And we may not know what hit usat first. Was that a bomb? Is this war? Willthere be retaliation? Against whom? Howmany are dead? Is there more to come?Next, if an eruption were to cause amassive collapse of a volcanic flank intothe ocean, a mega-tsunami would roll.Even though it’s not a supervolcano, justto give you an example of the potentialsize of the kind of tsunami we’re talkingabout, were the Cumbre Vieja volcanoin the Canary Islands to lose its flank inone go, computer modeling suggeststhat the initial wave could be as highas 600 meters and travel 1,000 kmper hour. By comparison the 2004Indonesian tsunami was only 30 metershigh. That wave would hit the Africancoast in an hour, the southern coastof England in less than 4, the easternseaboard of North America in 6 at aheight of about 30 - 60 meters. With orwithout a tsunami, the immediate impactof a supereruption is in and of itselfhorrifying, yet it’s the aftermath thatshould give rise to a species-wide panic.A lot of ash would fall, killing crops andplants. Depending on where the volcanoblew and where ash fell, it could domore than kill regional crops, it coulddisrupt the global food supply. If itwere Yellowstone, for example, kiss theNorth American breadbasket goodbye.Mounting a rescue or getting food to theworst hit areas would be a near missionimpossible because ash clogs engines—air and ground travel would grind to ahalt. Within the ash radius there wouldlikely be mass starvation. Ash coveredrefugees, desperate and disoriented,would more than likely walk on foot inthe hopes of finding their way out.The bigger problem for the specieswould be the ash and gaseousaerosols that do not fall, but stay inthe stratosphere and block sunlight.A decade long winter would set in.WHAT’S AT STAKE?SHAKY GROUNDCH AL L ENGEVOLCANOES & EARTHQUAKES / CHALLENGE
  • 116. 117CH AL L ENGEDiminished sunlight would make growingfood a real struggle. Our current globalgrain stocks would only last us all about100 days. Dividing it up could get reallyugly. Expect wide-spread starvation.Fortunately, we have far more knowledgeand technology than we did 74,000 yearsago. We would move food productionindoors, but even with our best effortsand funding it would be subscale for atleast a year. By that time we would stopcounting our dead and start counting oursurvivors. Given human ingenuity, thespecies would likely pull through, butcivilization as we know it would take aserious beating.MEGA-EARTHQUAKES. Since ourearliest recordings in 856, about 5million humans have lost their lives toearthquakes. Even though this numberrepresents only .0046% of all thehumans that have ever lived, quakespose a recurring problem for our species.Although many of us do not think thatthese isolated events could change ourtrajectory, think again.For at least the last three billionyears, the landmasses of Earth havegone through cycles of formingsupercontinents, breaking apart andthen getting back together. First therewas the supercontinent Vaalbara (3.6billion years ago), then Kenorland (2.7BYA), followed by Columbia (1.8 - 1.5BYA), Rodinia (1.1B – 750 MYA), Pannotia(600 MYA), and Pangea (300 – 100 MYA).The movement kept changing up thedistribution of land and water, raised andlowered sea levels, tweaked planetaryalbedo, and redirected currents in theocean and atmosphere. They all hada decided impact on climate. And wehaven’t stopped moving yet.Some of us say in 250 million yearsthe Atlantic Ocean will disappear andthe Americas will slam into a unitedEuro-Africa. Others say the Pacific willdisappear and the Americas will slaminto Asia. The point is not preciselywhere all the landmasses will be, butrather that land is on the move. Asidefrom climatic impacts there will likely besome seriously violent shakings alongthe way, potentially in many places alonga fault at once. And even though someof us struggle to imagine that eventswithin a single nation can impact ourtrajectory, the 2011 earthquake in Japanshould give us pause. It triggered atsunami, which triggered a triple nuclearmeltdown and a near melt through(when nuclear fuel melts through allcontainment vessels and burns into theground and water table). Contaminationcan spread beyond borders, as can fearsabout the safety of an energy source,potentially changing our energy mixglobally for decades to come.VOLCANOES & EARTHQUAKES / CHALLENGE
  • 117. 118MASTERY OF GEOLOGYUltimately, we must becomegeoengineers. Here’s what we think itshould mean in practice: we grasp howplanets form and evolve; we can explainhow the physical forces are playing outin relationship to one another on anygiven rock (Earth or elsewhere) in anygiven moment; we know why; we knowwhat; we know how; we know when; andwe know how to intervene. Each timewe do, we grow ever wiser, learning tomake subtler and subtler mistakes. Wemight learn to stop predicting volcaniceruptions and earthquakes and startscheduling them. We might learn to setthe optimal rate of energy release fromour Earth’s core. It all depends on theknowledge we create and how we decideto apply it.Today there are two strains of ideasin the global public discourse thatstand in conflict with a vision of geo-intervention. According to the it is toosacred idea, this planet and the forcesthat created it are far more pure thanus and must not be soiled by humanintervention. Then there is the it is toocomplex idea—we live on a complexdynamic planet, systems upon systemsof unforeseen interrelationships,interdependencies, feedback loopsand tipping points. We are too ignorantto intervene without causing biggerproblems than the ones we seek to solve.From the HUMAN perspective, both ofthese ideas lead us down a blind alley—adead end—because both, to varyingdegrees, uphold stasis. In an ever-evolving world in which we continuallydiscover problems, stasis is our assureddemise.But what about those geologicalsituations in which some of us suspectthat the risks might outweigh thebenefits? Shouldn’t we then apply theprecautionary principle and requireproof that it is not harmful before takingaction? We must weigh the science andethics of special cases, no doubt aboutit. But buyer beware—the precautionaryprinciple casts its own dark shadow andcarries often unacknowledged dangers.Specifically, who might die or suffer—alive or as yet unborn—due to our failureto tackle volcanoes and earthquakes?More generally, what risks do we faceas a species if we fail to create newknowledge and improve our abilities torespond?In most cases, progress—the pursuit ofnew knowledge and its application—isthe greatest precaution we can take as aspecies.V I SIONVOLCANOES & EARTHQUAKES / VISION
  • 118. 119V I SIONPRE-VENTWhen it comes to supervolcanic eruptions,warning and evacuation can save liveswithin the blast and ash radius but willnot stave off a decade-long, planet-widewinter. We need more than prediction.We need prevention. If we can learn tovent geothermal pressure in a controlledmanner, we might be able to avert a blow.It will not be easy or without risk. Let’sstart by developing proposals and tryingour hand on smaller, isolated volcanoes.Even though their size and structure aredifferent, we likely can learn a great deal.By 2050 we have experimented on threeand have conceptual prototypes for how toapproach a big one.OUT-FLANKWe need to do more than understand thestructure and composition of volcanicflanks that can tumble into the ocean andpush out deadly waves. We need to removeor reengineer them. Let’s start with smallerflanks in isolated areas to see what wecan learn. By 2050 we have reengineeredthe flanks of two small volcanoes andhave conceptual prototypes about howto reshape a big one. This is a risky andepic engineering project, but controlledexperiments and potentially evenscheduled evacuations will likely be betterthan waiting for an awful surprise.WINTER-PROOF OUR PLANETEven if we pre-vent and outflank by 2050,we could still get beaten back by a big blowin the meantime. We need a network ofindoor vertical farms powered by artificiallight so that we can mass produce foodindoors. Should there be a super-volcaniceruption and subsequent winter, we wouldnot be entirely dependent on the sun togrow food.UNIFIED EXPLANATION OF MOTIONTo help nail down the prediction game andkeep getting better at intervening, we’llneed to spell out the underlying physicalprocesses that drive the movements ofthe plates and give rise to eruptions andquakes—all the driving forces and theirrelative contribution.VOLCANOES & EARTHQUAKES / VISIONIn the next 40 years we need to studyour world in a new way, look throughan additional lens.Geophysics is not just about studyingwhat is and trying to predict whatwill be; it’s also about imaginingwhat should be. And geophysicistsare not just detached observers anddispassionate describers; they are alsodesigners engineering a safer planetfor all life.2050MILESTONES
  • 119. 120Today most of us—even geophysicists—assume that volcanoes and earthquakesare inevitable. At our worst, we’ll getsurprised and clobbered. At our best,we’ll predict and evacuate. In otherwords, the best we can do is react. Theidea that we should prevent them isalmost entirely absent from the globalpublic discourse. So it’s not altogethersurprising that we have few ideas andproposals, let alone experiments, forhow to prevent eruptions, reengineerflanks, or relieve stress along fault lines.Of course we are studying—each yearwe monitor and analyze more volcanoesand earthquakes with greater precision.Starting in the late 90s, we began to drilldown into volcanoes and active faultsto understand more about the physicaland chemical structures and processes.We’ve even accidentally tapped magmaa few times and seen some live action.In 2012 an international collaborationbegan drilling into Campi Flegrei, a large,active volcano in Italy in the hopes oflearning more about larger volcanoes.And we are identifying and recordingthe structure and composition of somevolcanic flanks. But so far we largelyframe our efforts as studying to predict.We don’t yet seem to have prevention inmind.Given that our focus tends to be onwhat to do once the inevitable hasalready struck, it’s somewhat surprisingthat we are not at all prepared for avolcanic winter. The good news is thatthe glasshouse industry has more thana century’s experience growing largecrops indoors. We know how to tailortemperature, humidity, lighting, airflowand nutrient conditions to grow foodyear round, anywhere in the world. Thebad news is that almost all of thesesolutions are predicated on naturalSTILL REACTING2050MILESTONESPROGRESSVOLCANOES & EARTHQUAKES / P R OG RESSlight (except for an outfit in Antarctica).Natural light would not be available ina volcanic winter. Indoor lighting—stillprohibitively expensive—is a big hangup.As for a unified explanation, we know theplates are moving. We think we know allof the forces driving that movement (e.g.,convection, gravity, the Earth’s rotation),but we don’t yet have a good enoughgrasp of the role each of these forcesplays and how they interact. A group ofgeologists is currently planning to drill6 km beneath the seafloor to reach theEarth’s mantle to better understand whatit’s made of and how it works. Providedthey get funded, we could see our firstsamples in the early 2020s. It’s a big stepin the right direction.UNIFIED EXPLANATION OF MOTIONWINTER-PROOF OUR PLANETOUT-FLANKPRE-VENT
  • 120. 121SCIENTIFIC STUDY & WARNINGSYSTEMSInternational organizations andassociations like the InternationalUnion of Geodesy and Geophysics,and the World Organization of VolcanoObservatories coordinate how wemonitor hot spots and how we generatewarnings in the event of a big blow orquake. They often set research agendas,conduct research and experiments andpublish results. But they do somethingmore: they connect scientists around theworld and get them talking and sharingideas and data.Most countries run a national GeologicalSurvey focused on the geology of theircountry. But since few volcanoes andearthquakes respect national borders,a number of nations like the US andJapan study more than just nationalevents, they study the world. Even ifit is in service of national protection,programs like the US Geological Surveyand the Geological Survey of Japan areadvancing the frontier of our knowledge.WHO IS ALREADYON THE CASE?GEO-ENGINEERINGNo one.For our take on climate engineering,SEE: CHANGING CLIMATE.PEOPLE: ~TENS OF THOUSANDSFUNDING: ~TENS OF BILLIONSPROGRESSVOLCANOES & EARTHQUAKES / P R OG RESS
  • 121. 122…we pooled some of the currently existing researchdollars from national programs around the world to createa 5,000 person strong geo dream team—geophysicists,geologists, engineers and ethicists?Together they could develop conceptual prototypes, selecta site and begin experimenting on a relatively small andisolated volcano. A new generation of participatory-mindedprogrammers could create a central sharing site for insightsand lessons learned. A geological Facebook of sorts withrock-solid knowledge sharing functionality.PROGRESSVOLCANOES & EARTHQUAKES / P R OG RESSWHAT IF?…
  • 122. CHANGINGCLIMATEPROGRESSVISIONCHALLENGE
  • 123. 124CHANGING CLIMATE / CHALLENGETHE PROBLEM OFUPS AND DOWNSWhen most of us think of climatechange we tend to think of the latestround of warming caused by pumpinggreenhouse gases into our atmosphere.We then frame the challenge as reducingatmospheric CO2levels to what theywere a hundred years ago. From theHUMAN perspective, this challenge ismuch, much bigger: How will we dealwith wildly fluctuating climate duringour stay on Earth? How will we learn toactively design climate that works forall life both here on Earth and beyond?To explain our view, let’s start at thebeginning and work our way to the end.Climate, like everything else in ourcosmos, has not and will not stand still.For starters, for the first half a billionyears our planet was a molten fire ball,constantly getting slammed by othercelestial bodies and in a perpetualstate of volcanic activity. It was quite aclimate. As the bombardment taperedoff, the planet cooled. And then, startingabout 2.5 billion years ago, our climatebegan to alternate between warmerand colder periods. So much so thatlooking at a chart of the history of Earth’stemperature is like reading an EKG: up,down, up, down, up, down, up, down.There have been at least five major iceages. During the most severe one—fromabout 850 to 630 million years ago—ice sheets reached all the way to theequator. Our pale blue dot looked morelike a white snowball. Within these iceages, there were more mild and moresevere periods, sometimes aroundthe whole world, sometimes in just ahemisphere, and sometimes in only aregion. But outside of these ages theEarth seems to have been relatively icefree, even in higher latitudes. So we’vegone from almost no ice to a lot of iceand almost everything in between manytimes over.Occasionally, really abrupt changeshave also happened. Just as an example,about 12,800 years ago the NorthernHemisphere was gripped by a seriouscold spell—the “Big Freeze”—one thatcame on within just a year or two. Someparts of the Northern Hemisphere mayhave cooled as much as 15°C and thefreeze lasted for about 1,300 years.Now we’re in an interglacial period,which means we’re in a relatively shortwarm spell in the middle of a longer IceAge. We’ve been in this state for about11,500 years. The absence of moreserious ice and our ideas about how toCH AL L ENGE
  • 124. 125CHANGING CLIMATE / CHALLENGEtake advantage of warmer conditions—starting with agriculture—helped ushumans survive and multiply. It’s easy tounderstand how a species that began itsascent in such relatively good conditionscould think that this fair weather isforever. But this period, like all others,will end. We know that it will change.Right now we know that pumpinggreenhouse gases into the atmosphereis heating things up. That’s just basicphysics. We know what to do to stop theheating. Clearly we’re struggling to takeaction in time and on an appropriatescale, but at least we understand theunderlying cause (greenhouse gasemissions) and therefore know what thesolution is (stop emitting them).But what are our climatic solutions tothe next 10 million year Ice Age? Howwill we manage all of the climatic upsand downs for the remaining billionyears that we have on our planet beforethe sun grows so bright and hot thatit begins to cook all Earth-based life?Will we take advantage of this period ofrelatively fortunate climate to learn allthat drives it so that we can continue todesign suitable climate for all life whenthe good fortune ends and nature takesits course?CH AL L ENGE
  • 125. 126So far our development has been closelylinked with our climate. Changes intemperature, the growing season, thelevel of the sea and rainfall will not onlychange habitats and affect species thatlive within them, it will also likely changewhere we humans can and cannot live,how many of us we can feed and whowill have water and who will go without.Right now man-made warming lookspoised to really disrupt our way of life,put human lives at stake and acceleratespecies extinction. We have begunthe new energy revolution and aredeveloping fossil fuel replacements.Just how long it will take us to make thetransition and the suffering we cause inthe process still remains to be seen. Yetthis challenging fluctuation is just one ofmany more to come.Going forward, if we allow things totake their natural course, we and allEarth-based life will be at the mercy ofweather. In good times, however longthey last, there will be greater diversityof habitats and life, more humans we cansupport, and a better quality of life. Inbad times all of that will likely dwindle.Species that don’t adapt well will die off.Many could go extinct. Humans living inthe wrong place will likely go hungry andthirsty, or die. As a species if we don’tlearn to control such radical fluctuations,they will likely constrain our numbersand keep us busy managing the chaosand suffering. That is until these ups anddowns give way to the ever-brighteningsun and we need to evacuate. At whichpoint the relevance of climate on Earthwill cease to be our concern. However,if we do learn to design climate hereon Earth, most assuredly, some of thoseprinciples will serve us well as we headoff to other regions of our galaxy andbeyond.WHAT’S AT STAKE?TOO HOT, TOO COLDCH AL L ENGECHANGING CLIMATE / CHALLENGE
  • 126. 127ULTIMATE GOALMASTERY OF CLIMATEImagine that after a long while ourunderstanding of climate becameelegant and intricate. Our designssublime. Our biosphere(s) abuzz withlife. Although most of us today areperfectly comfortable controlling ourclimate indoors, the idea of masteringour outdoor climate requires a giganticstretch of imagination. Yet, imagine wemust……that in our quest for mastery welearned a great deal about climate fromour stay on Earth. Once we wrapped ourminds around all of the influences atplay—from the core of our Earth to theedges of our Milky Way and beyond—we grasped climate as a whole anddeveloped a unified explanation andmodel. Whether it was an influx ofcosmic rays from exploding supernovaethat led to increased cloud cover onEarth, variations in our Earth’s orbit thatchanged the amount and location of thesolar radiation we received, a continentmoving and altering ocean currents, orsubtle changes in life and culture thatadded up to significant climatic shifts,we knew what was coming our way andwhen. And we learned to intervene inever more nuanced ways—always fine-tuning our interventions and makingbetter mistakes.Slowly but surely, our knowledgebecame a new kind of protectiveatmosphere, buffering us and all lifefrom harmful disruptions and radical upsand downs. What we learned on Earthwe took with us as we set out to exploreand settle many, many new worlds—always acclimatizing our understandingto new contexts and continually buildingand redesigning climates suitable for ourevolving needs.V I SIONCHANGING CLIMATE / VISION
  • 127. 128V I SIONA UNIFIED THEORY AND MODEL OF CLIMATETo change something wisely we need tounderstand it. By 2050 we should have afull explanatory model of all of the majordrivers of climatic ups and downs hereon Earth—cosmic, biological and cultural.It’ll take a village: we need astrophysiciststo paint a picture of cosmic drivers (e.g.,solar activity, solar evolution, the role ofcosmic rays in cloud cover); geophysicists,oceanographers and hydro-physicists topaint a picture of the role of oceans andland (e.g., ocean circulation, tectonics,glaciation); climatologists and atmosphericscientists to figure out what’s happeningin our atmosphere (e.g., atmosphericchemistry, radiation balance, energytransfer); biologists to explain the roleof life (e.g., effect of photosynthesis/respiration on the atmosphere, absorptionof CO2), scientists from across disciplinesto figure out the impact of culture(e.g., greenhouse gas emissions, oceanacidification). Work is already under way onthese topics, but we’ll need to pull thesestrands of research together in a singleexplanatory model.Given the urgency of our current man-made predicament, in the next couple ofdecades we must push ahead on simplerclimate models focusing on the impactof greenhouse gas emissions. We’ll haveto narrow down the ranges of our currentpredictions: we still don’t know how bad it’sgoing to get and when it will get bad. Weneed a better understanding of feedbackloops, tipping points and timelines.CLIMATE DESIGN KIT AND LEGITIMATE USEOnce we let go of the idea that minimizingour climate impact is the only way forward,we have to face a whole new set oftricky issues: Which deliberate climateinterventions are effective and whichinterventions will do more harm than good?Who should be allowed to carry them outand under what circumstances? By 2050,we should have a climate design kit withproven interventions that allow us to takethe edge off of extreme weather events likehurricanes (for example, we can brightenclouds to suppress the intensity of thestorms). In many instances, side effects ofsuch interventions will be non-local so we’llneed global agreements on their legitimateuse.CHANGING CLIMATE / VISIONWe’ve been unwittingly changingour climate for hundreds of years. Inthe next 40, we will need to warm tothe idea of doing so by design—inthe beginning to take the edge off ofextreme weather events, and later onto deal with the future ups and downs.But to do so we need to first get a bigpicture grasp of climate.For our take on the energy plan we’llneed in the next 40 years, SEE: HOW WESUSTAIN OURSELVES.2050MILESTONES
  • 128. 129CHANGING CLIMATE / PROGRESSChanging climate is on the globalagenda. Yes, we are only thinking aboutthe current man-made episode and ourfailure to convert our insights into actionhas many of us pulling our hair out. Butthe good news is there are now more andmore of us working on this challenge.Efforts to simulate our climate nowbring together climatologists, physicists,chemists, biologists, oceanographers,and geologists. The amount of datathat goes into these simulations isexploding—NASA alone is feeding in 8million observations per day from 17satellites that are exclusively dedicatedto climate. Our models are growing socomplex they are getting downright real.Some of the pictures from the modelsare indistinguishable from satellitephotos. Ordinary citizens are getting inon the act too. Climateprediction.net, aprogram out of Oxford, has over 32,000volunteers from 147 countries usingtheir computers to help run a distributedglobal climate model developed by theHadley Center for Climate Change. Theyhave generated more data than any otherclimate modeling project thus far—over100 million years of model data. Theresolution of our picture is growing, asis our resolve to understand climate,even if we aren’t yet shooting for a trulyunified theory.Given our failure to act, geo-engineeringresearch is now being cautiouslyconsidered, rather than categoricallydismissed. With our prospects ofcontaining global temperatures withinthe 2°C guardrail currently lookingdim, this type of research might comein handy to mitigate suffering and buyus some time. Current interventions inresearch include reflecting incomingsunlight by whitening clouds withseawater or injecting sulfates at highaltitudes to create a haze to extractingGROWING RESOLUTIONPROGRESSCO2from the atmosphere and stashingit away deep within the Earth. All ofthese have side effects (e.g., sulfuric acidwould reflect sunlight back into space,but it may nibble away at the ozoneand decrease rainfall). So we don’t yethave palatable candidates for a ClimateDesign Kit or global agreements on howto proceed, even on the experimentsthemselves. But geo-engineers arestarting to get organized. A handful ofthem took the initiative a couple of yearsago and put forward initial principles(The Oxford Principles).We are still in the early phase ofre-negotiating our relationship toclimate. But the seeds for dealing withthe ups and downs of the future havebeen sown.2050MILESTONESA UNIFIED THEORY AND MODEL OF CLIMATECLIMATE DESIGN KIT AND LEGITIMATE USE
  • 129. 130CLIMATE RESEARCHA good deal of our research is focusedon understanding the current round ofman-made warming. There is growinginternational coordination and we areslowly building the global infrastructureto observe, analyze, model, and predictclimate. Organizations like the WorldMeteorological Organization, GlobalAtmosphere Watch and Global EarthObservation System are linking upall of our national and internationalobservations systems so we can sharefindings and identify gaps in data. TheIPCC works to integrate research findingsinto a coherent picture about what itmeans for our future.Governments fund everything fromoriginal research to climate models (e.g.,NASA Center for Climate Simulation,Hadley Center for Climate Prediction andResearch, National Space Institute at theTechnical Institute of Denmark).WHO IS ALREADYON THE CASE?CLIMATE ENGINEERINGPlayers studying the feasibility and risksof climate engineering are beginningto organize at various scales, fromregional partnerships (e.g., the EuropeanImplications and Risks of Novel Optionsto Limit Climate Change) to nationalgovernments (e.g., Great Britain andGermany), to outspoken individualresearchers who want to understandwhat’s at stake sooner rather than later(e.g., Ken Caldeira, David Keith).PEOPLE: ~HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDSFUNDING: ~$10s OF BILLIONSPROGRESSCHANGING CLIMATE / PROGRESS
  • 130. 131…we kicked off the creation of the Unified Theory andModel of Climate with a massive scientific collaboration—astounding astrophysicists, cosmic ray buffs, solar savants,geological geniuses, creative climatologists, tectonic talent,geomagnetic giants, committed chemists, boss biologists,extraordinary ethicists, a couple of cognitive bias “cops”walking the beat, and a house comedian to help everyonekeep their academic cool—all coming together to explainclimatic ups and downs here on Earth. Once we get in thesame room, we should figure out how far we are from theUnified Theory. Are we missing big pieces of the puzzleor is it just a matter of putting the pieces we already havetogether? A shared research agenda would be a great start.PROGRESSCHANGING CLIMATE / PROGRESSWHAT IF?…
  • 131. COMET &ASTEROIDIMPACTSPROGRESSVISIONCHALLENGE
  • 132. 133THINK COSMIC WEATHERMost of us know how to brave theelements, but then there is weather noneof us are prepared for. Think ash-filledskies, a downpour of lava, and shockwaves that level cities. That’s the kind of“weather” we can get as a result of whathappens in our cosmic neighborhood.From solar flares and cosmic rays tocomets and asteroids, there is plenty forus to forecast.From the HUMAN perspective,forecasting cosmic weather may be farmore important than forecasting ourlocal weather. Here we unpack asteroidsand comets—big rocks and super-sized hail. They’re basically shatteredremnants of celestial bodies that neveraccreted into planets. They move indifferent circles within our solar system.Asteroids mostly orbit between Jupiterand Mars—in the main asteroid belt thatcontains millions of them. Comets mostlyorbit at the outer-most edge of our SolarSystem—in the Oort Cloud, some 30trillion kilometers from the Sun. Theremay be a trillion of them.Changes in the orbit of our Sun, planets,or even the gravitational pull of theMilky Way can knock asteroids andcomets out of their orbits and sendthem into the inner planetary system.Inevitably, some of them end upbumping into other celestial bodies.On the near side of the moon alone wecan see roughly 10,000 impact craters.Throughout Earth’s 4.5 billion years, ittoo has been bombarded by these rocksand super-sized hail. So far we havediscovered about 200 craters, likely onlya small fraction of the total impacts todate. Most of them must be hidden atthe bottom of the ocean or worn away byweathering, erosion, and tectonic shifts. We can be certain that more comets andasteroids will come our way. In 2036we’ll have a close fly by from the 350 mApophis. In 2880 we might get hit by a 1km rock. There might be more surprisesin between or sooner. Fortunately, wecan predict and take on this kind ofcosmic weather. After all, it’s governedby the laws of physics that are alreadywithin our grasp.CH AL L ENGECOMET & ASTEROID IMPACTS / CHALLENGE
  • 133. 134Size matters. And in this case, bigger isnot better.Small stuff—asteroids and comets thatare 5 to 10 m across—vaporizes in theupper atmosphere, so we don’t haveto worry about it. Hundreds of smallerrocks hail down on us every year anddon’t even make the news. Things startto get serious in the 50 m category. Takethe one that exploded above Tunguska,Russia in 1908. It released about 1,000times more energy than the A-bombdropped on Hiroshima. Eyewitnesses 65km from the scene said that it lookedlike the “sky split in two.” The explosionlaid flat 80 million trees covering an areafour times bigger than New York City.We were lucky it hit in the middle of theSiberian forest.In the 1 – 2 km range we are talkingabout a global catastrophe. Theexplosion would waste an area about thesize of Mexico, trigger earthquakes andadd on a mega-tsunami if it plunged intothe ocean. When these rocks get biggerthan 2 km, we are no longer faced withjust a global catastrophe; we’re lookingat a civilization disrupter. In addition to abigger explosion, bigger earthquakes andbigger tsunamis, it would throw so muchdebris, dust and ash into the atmospherethat it would block the Sun’s light foryears. Prepare for a long, dark, planet-wide winter. Without sunlight, growingfood would be a struggle. There wouldlikely be mass starvation.In the 10+ km league, we’re talking abouta species ender. The last known impactof that size was 65 million years agoand it wiped out the dinosaurs and mostother species. When a rock that sizeslams into the Earth’s crust it penetratesthe molten matter within a secondand releases energy equivalent to 10Hiroshima-size nuclear bombs droppingon each square kilometer of the Earth’ssurface. Crust and mantle blow intothe atmosphere and the atmosphereitself burns. Shock waves ripple throughthe crust triggering planet-wideearthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis—waves thousands of meters high. None ofus would be around to see what happensnext.WHAT’S AT STAKE?KILLER WEATHERCH AL L ENGECOMET & ASTEROID IMPACTS / CHALLENGE
  • 134. 135ULTIMATE GOALIMPACT DEFENSESevere weather events on Earth areoften considered a matter of nationalsecurity. From the HUMAN perspective,dealing with cosmic weather—and withcosmic, super-sized hail in particular—isa matter of species-wide security. Ourultimate goal should be nothing less thanfoolproof impact defense. Failure is notan option.Here is what it might look like:We have space-based infrared surveysscouring the solar system tracking themovement of asteroids and comets.We know where they all are. We knowwhich ones are headed our way—towardEarth or any other planet we might beliving on. We mobilize early, while theyare still far out in space, and divert theirtrajectory. We have several options, wecould use our gravity tractors to saddleup next to these rocks and slowly nudgethem into a new orbit or we could impactthe impactor—hit it hard to push it offthe collision course. The decision-makingprocess is clear so we decide quickly.Asteroids and comets are no longer badnews. We use them as stepping stones toexplore our solar system(s) and beyond.Because we know how to manipulatetheir orbits we have even moved someof them closer into orbits around ourplanet(s). They now function as minibases for our space exploration. We minethem for precious metals and minerals,as well as hydrogen and oxygen to makerocket fuel.V I SIONCOMET & ASTEROID IMPACTS / VISION
  • 135. 136V I SIONOPEN SOURCE DATABASEOur first line of defense is detecting whereall the asteroids and comets larger than50 m across are. We need a complete, opensource database.DEFLECTION: PROOF OF CONCEPTOur second line of defense is deflectingthe asteroids and comets that come ourway. This line of defense simply cannotfail, especially if we are talking aboutan asteroid or comet larger than 1 kmacross. Given that the future of the speciespotentially hangs in the balance, we needto test our deflection strategies now. It’snot at all a good idea to wait until we have areal threat to see if we can actually move itout of our way. We need a number of dressrehearsals with rocks that pose no threat tous to gain an understanding of how quicklywe can mobilize and how far we can movethese things.COMET & ASTEROID IMPACTS / VISIONThis is the one potential species enderthat we can move from the challengecategory to a routine operation in thenext 40 years.COSMIC SECURITY COUNCILThe farther out asteroids and comets are,the easier they are to deflect. It only takes asmall nudge to move them off the collisioncourse. The closer they get, the harder itgets. Our best strategy is to spot them asearly as possible and act quickly. To do thatwe need to set up a cosmic security counciland iron out the decision-making processnow so that we don’t lose precious timeonce we have a civilization disruptor insight.2050MILESTONES
  • 136. 137We do not have Impact Defense.To begin with, we don’t have tabs oneverything that’s out there. We believethat we have mapped out 90% of thereally big rocks (1 km across or greater),one-third of the mid-size variety (100 m- 1 km), and almost none of the smallerones (50 m).We have practical ideas about how todeflect asteroids and comets—fromgravity tractors and kinetic impactors,to explosive blasts—but we have nottested them yet. We do have accidentalexperience, NASA once hurtled aspace probe into a comet to study itand ended up moving it a bit. We alsohave experience landing spacecraft onasteroids so we know we can deliver theload if we need to blow it up. Many thinkthat’s not a good idea because a lot offragments headed in all directions coulddo a lot of damage too.The good news is that in early 2012, welaunched a project to study the bestdeflection methods. It’s a collaborationbetween European, American andRussian space organizations involving13 research institutes, universities andindustrial partners. By 2015 we might bein a position to launch a mission to testour deflection methods.We have no species-wide protocols forwho should intervene and how. In 2008scientists urged the UN to establish anetwork that would be responsible fordetecting and deflecting, but it has yetto be implemented. We could have usedUNDEFENDED2050MILESTONESOPEN SOURCE DATA BASEDEFLECTION: PROOF OF CONCEPTPROGRESSCOMET & ASTEROID IMPACTS / PROGRESSit in 2009 when the Russians believedthat Apophis would collide with theEarth in 2029 and planned to dispatch aspacecraft to move it. After calculatingthe orbit, NASA disagreed. So what wasthe problem? Fiddling with the asteroid’strajectory could push it in our direction.In 2010 NASA proposed a PlanetaryDefense Coordination Office, but it hasyet to be funded.COSMIC SECURITY COUNCIL
  • 137. 138EUROPEAN, AMERICAN & RUSSIAN SPACEORGANIZATIONSEuropean, American and Russian spaceorganizations are working on deflectionmethods.NATIONAL SPACE AGENCIESA broader circle of national spaceagencies are involved in spotting,studying and landing on asteroids (e.g.,NASA, Japanese Aerospace ExplorationAgency, Russian Federal Space Agency).WHO IS ALREADYON THE CASE?NGOs: SPACEGUARD, B612 FOUNDATIONIn addition, NGOs like Spaceguardand the B612 Foundation have beenestablished to spot and track asteroidsand comets. B612 recently announcedtheir Sentinel Mission. They plan tobuild, launch and operate the firstprivate space telescope. Unlike ground-based surveys, Sentinel will orbit thesun, so its search will not be confinedto one hemisphere. Plus it’s infrared, sosmall asteroids that don’t reflect muchlight can be seen. They plan to launch itin 2017.PROGRESSPEOPLE: ~THOUSANDSFUNDING: ~$30 MILLIONCOMET & ASTEROID IMPACTS / PROGRESS
  • 138. 139…this were the first challenge of species-wide concernthat we took care of together?Citizen scientists could pitch in to help hunt down the rocksand a billion of us could crowd fund Impact Defense. Thereis only so much citizen scientists can do because rocksthat can be spotted with low-powered instruments shouldhave already been spotted. However, the Minor PlanetCenter at Harvard has developed a guide to set up citizenobservation centers and Dynamic Patterns Research, acitizen scientist group, is figuring out how to build low-costbackyard observatories for citizens.As for crowd funding, we would need to raise between$100 - $300M every year for the first decade. That’s lessthan Obama raised online in 2008. Here is how it couldwork: Get some seed money (under $1M). Film an inspiring15 minute documentary about the threat posed by asteroidand comet impacts and what we can do to stop them.Trusted astronauts from all over the world each tell partof the story and egg us on to do our part. Translate it intoall languages. Create an online campaign. Ask one billionhumans to donate $3 each.PROGRESSCOMET & ASTEROID IMPACTS / PROGRESSWHAT IF?…
  • 139. AGING SUNPROGRESSCHALLENGEVISION
  • 140. 141THE SUN ISNOT FOREVERNothing in our universe remains thesame forever. Five billion years agoour sun did not yet exist. It emergedfrom the collapse of a giant molecularcloud. Six billion years from now it willno longer exist. It will have burnedthrough all of its mass. From the HUMANperspective, that’s a bit of a problem.All life on Earth relies on the energyfrom our Sun. Without sunlight, thereis no photosynthesis. Without plantsproducing oxygen, there is no breathableair. Without the sun’s warmth andenergy, there is only the endless coldnight. We are used to taking our sunfor granted. Every morning we see itrise without fail. So we understandablyassume it will always be there. But itwon’t. It’s going to go and with it oursource of energy and our home.Today many of us worry about thehuman impact on the planet and Earth’sbiodiversity. Some of us say once wehumans get out of the way, the planetwill self-heal, balance will be restored.Some even suggest that the Earth wouldbe better off without us. Yet, in the longrun, humans might be life’s only chanceto survive. Biological evolution might notcope with such a fundamental changeas the loss of a star. Self-healing is anon-starter when the sun sterilizes ourplanet dead. Earth-based life would needa more creative force to lift it off Earthand take it to a new home. Humans arecurrently the only life form poised tobecome that creative force.CH AL L ENGEAGING SUN / CHALLENGE
  • 141. 142AGING SUN / CHALLENGEWHAT’S AT STAKE?ALL LIFE FROM EARTH &EARTH ITSELFCH AL L ENGEThe aging of the sun is a gradual process.Things are likely to already start slidingoff the rails within the next billion years.Every billion years our Sun grows 10%brighter and hotter. The rise in solarradiation will lead to the breakdown ofsilicate minerals which will in turn causea decrease in the level of carbon dioxidein our atmosphere.In about 600 million years, therewon’t be enough carbon dioxide fortrees to sustain themselves throughphotosynthesis. As the levels of carbondioxide keep dropping, all plants willdie. As plants disappear, the oxygenthey produce will decline. The humansand animals of today would struggleto breathe, though it may well beour ascendants can adapt or createtemporary workarounds. In about abillion years, the sun will boil the oceansoff the surface of the planet, spellingthe end for most complex life forms.Some life forms might evolve to livethrough this. In roughly 3.5 billion years,solar radiation will destroy our Earth’sbiosphere, likely putting an end to allsurviving life.The fate of the planet itself does notlook good either. It is set to be engulfedby the aging sun in about 6-7 billionyears. As the sun burns up all hydrogen,it will eject material from its outerlayers. Its core will expand, first growinglarge enough to engulf Mercury, thenVenus. As it expands, it will lose mass sosurrounding planets, including Earth, willthen be held less tightly in their orbits.The dead Earth’s orbit will likely moveoutward about 60 million kilometers,and then experience enough orbitaldecay that it will be dragged back intothe Sun and vaporized, becoming nomore than a feedstock of elements fornew formations of celestial bodies,(that is, if our Sun’s orbit is not radicallychanged by the collision of our galaxy,the Milky Way, with the neighboringgalaxy, Andromeda. SEE: GALACTICCOLLISIONS).
  • 142. 143AGING SUN / VISIONULTIMATE GOALNEW HOMESToday many of us think that spaceexploration is about satisfying thehuman itch to wander. From the HUMANperspective, it’s ultimately about oursurvival. We must become a space-faringcivilization to survive.There are two strains of ideas in theglobal public discourse that are in directconflict with this perspective. Accordingto the first things first idea, we shouldnot waste our time and money on spaceexploration until we have created a just,peaceful, prosperous and sustainablesociety here on Earth. Then there is theit’s absurd! idea—it is absurd to worryabout things that are going to happenone billion years from now.From the HUMAN perspective, bothideas are indefensible in the face of asure, scheduled demolition of our homeplanet and loss of all Earth-based life.When would be a good time to starttackling a challenge of this magnitude?We have no way of knowing how longit will take us to organize a planetaryevacuation.Consider this:Where are we going to go? So far wehave found hundreds of Earth-likeplanets in habitable zones of our galaxy.The closest candidates are more than20 light years away. How are we goingto get there? We don’t yet have thetechnology. NASA’s Voyager 1 is thepiece of human-made equipment thathas travelled farthest into space, tothe edge of our solar system. It is notfit for manned flight but if it were, itwould take us 250,000 years or 12,500human generations to get to the closestpotentially habitable planet just to see ifwe could make it work there. And this isjust reconnaissance, not an evacuation.Terraforming new planets or buildingnew floating homes may take thousandsof years. Organizing mass-transport forbillions of humans and other life formsis something we have not even startedthinking about, so we don’t have a wayto give even a conceptual estimate of thetime it might take.The fundamental question we mustanswer is do we want our species andother life from Earth to go on living? Ifthe answer is yes, we must start now.V I SION
  • 143. 1442009. We need 20 more Kepler-liketelescopes by 2050 to get a fuller survey ofour options.BATTLESTAR GALACTICA FOR REALThis is not a mega-project, it’s a giga-project. Imagining things that don’t exist isthe hardest first step. We should gather theastrophysicists, science fiction writers andpsychologists to construct prototypes ofartificial floating homes that we could useas transport or even permanent habitats.V I SIONAGING SUN / VISIONLIVING ON MARSWe need to learn to push human transportover longer distances and gain bothsettlement experience and cut our teethon designing climate favorable to life. Marsis the obvious candidate—it has frozenwater and it is about 9 months of traveltime away. But it’s not for everybody—temperatures ranging from -143ºC to+27ºC, planet-wide dust storms, non-stopbombardment by micrometeoroids and highenergy particles. We would have to live incaves. Fortunately, we have found a fewthat can be hermetically sealed. But firstwe will need to get back to the Moon oran asteroid. From the asteroid belt, we willneed to get to the moons of Mars and thenon to our final destination: Mars itself.KEPLER X 20We need to get systematic about oursearch for planets we can live on. Kepler, aspace born telescope and dedicated planethunter, has been searching about 1/400thof the sky for planets since SeptemberIn the next 40 years, we must learn tosee space exploration in a new light.Settling Mars is not about frivolous“geographical” expansion, it’s ourfirst evacuation pilot. Searching forhabitable planets is not just aboutfinding other life, it’s about findingplanets we ourselves could live on.Building conceptual prototypes forfloating worlds is not an exercise inscience fiction, it’s an exercise in masstransport.2050MILESTONES
  • 144. 145AGING SUN / P R O G RESSOur plans are grand but our reasons areweak.We do plan to land on Mars in thenext 25 years and we do coordinateour space activities—or at least therepresentatives of the 14 space agenciesparticipating in the development ofthe Global Exploration Roadmap do,including NASA, the European SpaceAgency and the Russian Federal SpaceAgency. But space agencies are not alonein making plans. Elon Musk, the founderof space transport company SpaceX, isplanning to get to Mars too.We do plan to carry on the search forhabitable planets—ESA, ESO and NASAare keen to add to our current catalogand investigate the planets we havealready found.Battlestar Galactica is still just a movie.However, the Defense Advance ResearchProjects Agency in the US has launchedthe 100 Year Starship (100YSS) study todevelop a model for long-term private-sector investment into the myriadof disciplines needed to make long-distance space travel doable. It’s a start.Whether any of these plans willmaterialize in the next 40 years dependson two things—human ingenuity andfunding. Both ultimately depend on thestrength of our convictions about whywe are venturing into space in the firstplace.Today, government-funded spaceBIG PLANS, WEAKREASONS2050MILESTONESLIVING ON MARSBATTLESTAR GALACTICA FOR REALKEPLER X 20PROGRESSexploration is routinely pitched asa general interest undertaking inscientific exploration with a promiseof technological spin-offs like GPS orflame retardant pajamas. It is thereforeunsurprising that when national budgetsget allocated, space exploration rarelyrises to the top of national priorities. Itmight very well be that the first base onMars will be established by Elon Musk’steam—his big why is turning us humansinto a space-faring civilization.
  • 145. 146PUBLICLY FUNDED EFFORTSFive agencies (the Americans, theRussians, the Europeans, the Japaneseand the Canadians) are running theInternational Space Station, an artificialhabitable satellite that allows us to testspacecraft systems and equipment formissions to the Moon and Mars.14 space agencies are coordinatingtheir activities through the InternationalSpace Exploration Coordination Group.More than 60 countries have spaceagencies but only three of themhave manned spaceflight capability(the Russians, the Americans and theChinese).WHO IS ALREADYON THE CASE?PRIVATE ENGINEERING GROUPSSeveral private engineering groups areworking on space systems but only onehas its eye on Mars and beyond: SpaceX.PROGRESSPEOPLE: ~TENS OF THOUSANDSFUNDING: ~$50 MILLION in governmentspace programsAGING SUN / P R O G RESS
  • 146. 147...we re-conceived of the role of space exploration in theongoing human project?We need a bigger story. Let’s gather space explorers, epicstorytellers and branding virtuosos for a species-widecampaign to capture people’s imagination about why weare going into space. For a symbolic start, why not rebrandthe International Space Station to the Human Space Station?PROGRESSAGING SUN / P R O G RESSWHAT IF?…
  • 147. COSMICRADIATIONPROGRESSCHALLENGEVISION
  • 148. 149COSMIC BLOWTORCHMost of us know what the aftermath ofa nuclear explosion looks like. There is ablast and then there is fallout. The blastlevels the city, vaporizing and scorchinghuman bodies. Fallout brings radiationsickness and tortuous death. We won’tbe so lucky with a cosmic blast.There are plenty of events in our cosmicneighborhood that can cause one:exploding supernovae, merging neutronstars, a black hole swallowing a neutronstar—just to name few. The resultingblast can vaporize everything withinlight years. The radiation burns vastregions of galactic real estate. From theHUMAN perspective, cosmic blasts arethe ultimate catastrophe, a near instantspecies annihilator.Many of us are fascinated by the majesticbeauty of these cosmic events. Wemarvel at pictures captured by theHubble Telescope or images generatedby computer models. Too few of us,however, stop to consider their potentialimplications for the ongoing humanproject. That kind of blind spot could getus burned, so let’s unpack an example tobetter understand what we’re up against. Let’s look at supernovae. Mostsupernovae happen when really bigstars—at least eight times biggerthan our Sun—die. Once their coresexhaust all of their nuclear fuel theycan no longer hold out the gravitationalpressure from the outer layers. Gravitywins. The core collapses. There is ahumongous explosion of its outer layers.They can also happen when smaller starsin their final evolutionary state accretematter from a nearby star or merge withit, leading to runaway nuclear fusion.Again, a humongous explosion. Thebrilliant beauty of their explosive deathis mind-blowing—in just a few weeksthey radiate as much energy as our Sunwill over its 15 billion year lifespan.Some of the most beautiful pictures ourtelescopes have taken in space are ofthese dying stars. But it’s best to keepthis kind of beauty at a distance, becauseit can devastate millions of planetswithin 25,000 Light Years (LY). To explainhow and make it real, let’s use our planetas an example.Were a supernova to go off within 30 LYfrom our solar system, the blast wouldunleash hard-core radiation—cosmicrays, gamma rays, UV rays and X-rays—that would take out our ozone. Withoutthe ozone to filter UV radiation we wouldliterally get burned to death. A sunburnlike no other. UV radiation would pour in,damaging DNA and RNA and killing manyof the species on this planet within daysor months, including us.Sometimes it can get much worse.Every now and then, when somesupernovae blow, twin jets of incrediblypowerful energy shoot out of that starin opposite directions at nearly thespeed of light. They’re called GammaCH AL L ENGECOSMIC RADIATION / CHALLENGE
  • 149. 150Ray Bursts and they’re one of the mostpowerful explosions that we know ofin the Universe. Anything within 1,000Light Years that lies within their pathis vaporized. But even within 25,000LY, if we were sitting in the direct pathof these rays they would blow outour ozone, trigger huge shocks in ouratmosphere and ignite global fires. Andthen, if any of us survived that, we’re leftwith DNA and RNA destroying radiation.On average up to 30 supernovae explodeper second in our observable Universe.Since we don’t know if there is other lifeout there, we don’t know if any of theseexplosions are decimating intelligentcivilizations. In our galaxy we suspectthat one blows every 50 – 100 years(though we haven’t actually seen one inthe Milky Way in 200 years). None so farhave gone off close enough to end ourascent, though some of us suspect thatGamma Ray Bursts from a supernova mayhave already caused mass extinction onEarth 440 million years ago at the end ofthe Ordovician period.We don’t yet have a full inventory ofupcoming events, but we’ve alreadyspotted a few threats. As an example,there is a binary star system in theconstellation Sagittarius. It’s called Wolf-Rayet 104. It looks like it will blow withinthe next few hundred thousand years.Some of us suspect that it will unleasha Gamma Ray Burst. And it looks likeplanet Earth is directly in its firing line.Unfortunately, that’s not the end of it.Supernovae are not the only sourceof cosmic radiation in our Universe.There are active galactic nuclei, forexample, all of which are very far awayfrom our current home but pack quitea punch. One type of active galacticnuclei is a quasar, which happenswhen supermassive black holes directsome of the energy and matter of theirgravitational collapse back out in jetsthat have the brilliance of a trillion suns.Their energy makes a supernova lookquaint. Sometimes radiation bursts arealso produced in mergers and collisions,like when a black hole swallows aneutron star or two neutron stars merge.There are still other known sources andthose we have not yet discovered. We’veonly just begun our search.COSMIC RADIATION / CHALLENGECH AL L ENGE
  • 150. 151It’s ironic, to say the least. The stars thatcreate the elements—the building blocksof life—and scatter them throughoutthe Universe through their explosivedeath, are the stars that can torch us andeverything that we have built at nearlythe speed of light.Protecting ourselves won’t comeeasy. According to some physiciststhe radiation from a supernova cankill a human at a range of billions ofkilometers, even if that entire distancewere filled with lead shielding.If we don’t find a way to protectourselves from cosmic blasts and theirresulting radiation, sooner or laterwe will be exposed, unless we perishbefore that comes to pass. Whether itis an unanticipated blast that catchesus by surprise, a scheduled torching afew hundred thousand years from now,a blast that we encounter when wesettle new planets or galaxies, or the all-pervasive lower level cosmic radiationthat we will be exposed to as we travelto them, exposure is unavoidable.However, if we learn to protect ourselvesfrom blasts and radiation we can resteasy for the remaining time we havehere on Earth and travel with growingconfidence through our galaxy to settlenew star systems.WHAT’S AT STAKE?EXPOSURECH AL L ENGECOSMIC RADIATION / CHALLENGE
  • 151. 152ULTIMATE GOALRAD DEFENSEUltimately we must become astro-engineers. We must know our galaxieslike the backs of our hands—a profile onevery black hole, active galactic nuclei,and star. We must know which ones willthreaten us and when and we must knowhow to intervene to protect ourselvesfrom the blast and radiation.We might learn to prevent somesupernovae by removing some of theirmatter before they explode (what’sknown as stellar engineering or starlifting). We might learn to actually movedangerous stars, perhaps even usingtheir own energy to do so (e.g., stellarengines). Or we might learn to shieldourselves, maybe even reconfigureour biology so that radiation no longerdamages or destroys us. It’s difficult tosay exactly what form our defense willtake, as we still have so much to learn.Knowledge will expand our options andhelp us decide.V I SIONCOSMIC RADIATION / VISION
  • 152. 153V I SIONA GALACTIC CATASTROPHE MAPWe need to identify all sources of cosmicblasts and radiation and pin them down ona single, working map of our galaxy. Witheach identified source we should catalogthe underlying process, when and if it willpose a threat to us, the impact it might haveon life on Earth, and how long our actionwindow is.STELLAR ENGINEERING 101Although we do not yet have thetechnology or command the energyneeded for stellar engineering, we canfurther develop our underlying ideas andexplanations about how to do so. Suchcognitive exercises help shift our frame ofmind from merely studying the phenomenain a detached manner to working towardcoming up with actual solutions, whichcan give rise to promising new researchdirections. By 2050 we have a provisionalconsensus among the top stellar mindsabout which directions seem mostplausible and use them to establish thenew research directions necessary to eitheraffirm or tear down our working ideas andbuild the next generation of ideas: StellarEngineering 201.COSMIC RADIATION / VISIONThough we have come a long way,we are still in the beginning stagesof our exploration of our cosmicneighborhood. In the next 40 years weneed to further narrow in on all of thesources, build a single, coherent mapof our galaxy, and begin to seriouslyvet ideas about how we might protectourselves from deadly cosmic blastsand radiation.2050MILESTONES
  • 153. 154In astroparticle physics the study ofcosmic radiation is now moving into themainstream. We’re putting progressivelymore energy into tracking where thehigh energy cosmic particles are comingfrom and understanding how theycome to pack so much punch. We havededicated space telescopes scouringthe sky (e.g., SWIFT, INTEGRAL, Fermi’sGLAST) and increasingly sensitiveground-based telescopes, detectors,and observatories (e.g., H.E.S.S., MAGIC,VERITAS, The Pierre Auger Observatory).In 2008 ASPERA, Europe’s network ofnational governments who coordinateand fund research in astroparticlephysics, set forth their vision and sevenpriorities for the decade. High energyparticles made their list. Given theirpriorities, they decided to back theCherenkov Telescope Array (CTA) withlocations in both the Northern andSouthern hemisphere. It’s a system thatwill be 10 times more sensitive thanwhat we have now and is set to pinpointat least 1,000 sources of high energygamma rays and explore their spatialstructure and energy spectra. The U.S.,who originally had separate plans,decided to merge their efforts. If all goesaccording to plan, they’ll begin buildingin 2015.We also have several projects underwayto detect fiendishly hard to spot highenergy cosmic neutrinos. We arebuilding skyscraper-sized neutrinodetectors deep underwater (IceCube isdeep under a sheet of ice in the SouthPole and KM3NeT is deep under theHIGHER ENERGYPROGRESSCOSMIC RADIATION / P R O G RESS2050MILESTONESGALACTIC CATASTROPHE MAPSTELLAR ENGINEERING 101Mediterranean Sea). Kilometers of waterhelp filter out the lower energy noisecreated by the rain of cosmic rays on ouratmosphere. Everybody is coordinatingresearch and sharing data, but we do notyet have a single working source map.As for stellar engineering, with theexception of a few initial ideas from ahandful of serious scientists, many ofthe ideas appear in science fiction, whichis not terribly surprising. Truly rigoroussci-fi has always pushed the envelopeforward and helped us imagine more.
  • 154. 155GOVERNMENTS, UNIVERSITIES &RESEARCH INSTITUTIONSAlmost all of the telescopes andobservatories are some form ofpartnership between governments,universities, and research institutions.For example, the cost of building the$50M Pierre Auger Observatory—where they look into ultra-high energycosmic rays—was shared by 15countries and a couple of internationalinstitutions (UNESCO, The EuropeanUnion, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, CzechRepublic, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico,Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia,Spain, United Kingdom and the UnitedStates). Today 500 physicists from 55institutions go there to analyze the datathey collect, or maintain or upgradethe site. This kind of cost sharingand collaboration is the rule, not theexception.WHO IS ALREADYON THE CASE?PEOPLE: ~THOUSANDSFUNDING: ~HUNDREDS OF MILLIONSPROGRESSCOSMIC RADIATION / P R O G RESS
  • 155. 156…we launched a prize for stellar engineering?In 2011 the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency(DARPA) and NASA launched the 100 Year Starship Study tofind an organization—proposed or real—that had a visionfor interstellar travel and a business model that could carryit forward for the next 100 years. The prize was relativelyinsignificant seed money ($500,000). This prize wouldbe slightly different. We would be on the look out for aresearch institution that could establish credible researchdirections for stellar engineering and a plan to supportthose studies for the next 100 years. Who would put upthe prize? An international partnership? ASPERA? A privatephilanthropist?PROGRESSCOSMIC RADIATION / P R O G RESSWHAT IF?…
  • 156. GALLACTICCOLLISIONSPROGRESSCHALLENGEVISION
  • 157. 158GALACTIC COLLISIONS / CHALLENGEQUAKES OF GALACTICPROPORTIONSMost of us know what happens whenland masses collide: they push upmountains and the earth under our feetquakes. But what happens when galaxiesplow into each other? The distancesbetween stars and planets are so vastthat physical bodies very rarely hit oneanother, but the gravitational fields ofeach galaxy’s stars and dark matter twist,tear and pull things around. Stars arescattered into new orbits. Entire solarsystems are tossed about. Interstellar gascollides and compresses and new starsburst into existence. From the HUMANperspective, galactic quakes could shakeus up.It’s best not to think of galaxies asnouns. Instead, think of them as verbs—interactions of energy and matter heldtogether and pulled around by gravitywithin an ever-expanding space-time.Even though our Universe is expanding,galactic clusters have enough massfor gravity to bind them together inrelatively isolated neighborhoods ofinteractions. Within those gravity-bound neighborhoods, they run intoeach other quite a bit. Most galaxies,in fact, side swipe or collide with oneanother a few times over their lifespans,resulting in anything from a localizedtremor to a full-blown, all-galaxy quake.At this very moment, for example, ourown Milky Way is colliding with twosmaller galaxies—Sagittarius and CanusMajor. Because the mass of our galaxyis much bigger, it’s basically shreddingand assimilating them. For us, it’s barelya tremor. But in about four billion yearswe’ll get to experience an all-galaxyshake down too, one that will end in amerger.Here’s the deal: our Milky Way andanother spiral galaxy of a trillion stars,Andromeda, are headed toward oneanother at 400,000 km per hour. They’reset to collide in four billion years—wenow know for sure.CH AL L ENGE
  • 158. 159In four billion years we will have longsince left Earth (SEE: AGING SUN). We willhave become a galactic civilization: MilkyWayans. And here comes Andromeda.Just imagine the night sky filled witha galaxy twice the diameter of ours.Although the view as we fall toward itwill likely be spectacular, it could verywell disrupt our civilization. Think aboutit: the spiraling Milky Way has roughly300 billion stars and probably at least asmany planets. It has a mass of 1.5 x 1012solar masses. Andromeda has roughly 1trillion stars and about the same mass(more stars, less dark matter). Oncetheir respective masses, gravity, anddisks of gas and dust—their interstellarmediums—collide at 400,000 km perhour, there’s going to be some fireworksand quaking.First the two galaxies will pass througheach other, then the core of each galaxywill stretch in opposite directions untilgravity pulls them right back into eachother and they settle into an ellipticalgalaxy. Welcome to Milkomeda. In theprocess orbits will be rearranged and insome cases, stars will just scatter.Because these two galaxies will collidelong after our Earth has been sterilizedby our Sun, there is no point in worryingabout the fate of our planet of origin. Itdoes, however, give a useful referencepoint for the kind of movement we canexpect. Right now our solar systemis about 27,000 light years from thegalactic center of the Milky Way—thelife-friendly suburbs of our galaxy.During the merger our solar system willlikely be swept out three times furtheraway from the new center, to the remoterural outskirts. Quite a relocation.We should expect deadly fireworks too.Even though both galaxies are agingand thus have relatively less interstellargas than younger galaxies, when theirgas clouds compress they will still sendout shock waves, heat and new starswill burst forth. As gas funnels into thecenter of the newly formed Milkomeda,more massive stars will be born sendingout potentially life-annihilating burstsof cosmic radiation (SEE: COSMICRADIATION).This inter-galactic quake could reallyshake up the neighborhood and teardown some nodes in a networkedgalactic civilization.GALACTIC COLLISIONS / CHALLENGEWHAT’S AT STAKE?GALACTIC CIVILIZATIONCH AL L ENGE
  • 159. 160GALACTIC COLLISIONS / VISIONULTIMATE GOALGALACTIC SAFE HAVENA safe haven is a place of refuge, aprotected zone. A physical location isimplied. But in an ever-changing cosmiclandscape filled with galactic quakes,birthing and dying stars and shufflingorbits, where exactly would thatphysically safe place be?Our ultimate safe haven will likely beof a different kind: knowledge andthe means to apply it. Imagine theknowledge it will take to master thisone. At the most basic level we’ll needthe ability to travel really far throughspace to settle the galaxy in the firstplace (SEE: AGING SUN). We’ll need tomap the areas of these galaxies thatwill undergo violent change and decidewhat we should do given our knowledge.Should we avoid settling those areasand hope that we properly map the “nosettle zones”? Should we live in thoseareas and evacuate before a star blowsor before a star or planet get chuckedoff their orbit? Will settlement actuallycome to mean constructed mobileworlds? Or will we stay put and prevent,contain, or shield ourselves fromexplosions and cosmic radiation? Themore we seek refuge in knowledge themore options we will have.V I SION
  • 160. 161V I SIONMILKOMEDA HEAT MAPIt will be our first. Simulating the collisionof the Milky Way and Andromeda will nolonger be a matter of scientific curiosity,it will be an act of urban planning. We willneed a heat map, with areas to move to andareas to avoid, plotted along the timeline ofthe collision.GALACTIC COLLISIONS / VISIONIn the next 40 years the astronomersamongst us should do even more thandiscover, classify, describe and chartthe trajectory of celestial bodies andthe larger galaxies they are a part of.They should become urban plannersof galactic proportions with an eyefor the neighborhoods that would begood to live in.2050MILESTONES
  • 161. 162GALACTIC COLLISIONS / P R O G RESSWe now frequently simulate galaxycollisions on computers, with all therealistic physics. You can even finda library of thousands of simulatedcollisions at the Paris Observatorywebsite, GALMER: GALaxy MERgers inthe Virtual Observatory.We’re getting better at trackingAndromeda’s march. We’ve suspectedthat Andromeda will hit us for a longtime, but after using Hubble for sevenyears to repeatedly observe selectregions of the galaxy, in 2012 weremoved all remaining doubt. It will be adirect hit.Meanwhile the European Space Agency’sHerschel telescope is busy takingdetailed images of Andromeda in theinfrared wavelength, giving us a pictureof where stars are forming and XMM-Newton’s X-ray telescope is showingus the stars that are dying. Put it alltogether and we’re developing a pictureof stellar location and evolution inAndromeda—getting one step closerto being able to predict the deadlyfireworks.In 2013, the ESA (European SpaceAgency) is launching Gaia, a massivestellar census, with an ambitiousmission to create the largest andmost precise three dimensional chartof our own galaxy. It will provideunprecedented positional and radialvelocity measurements for about onebillion stars in our galaxy. It will providethe detailed physical properties of eachobserved star: characteristics, luminosity,FORGING AHEAD2050MILESTONESMILKOMEDA HEAT MAPPROGRESStemperature, gravity, elementalcomposition, and motion. And finallyit will make direct measurements ofAndromeda currently creeping across thesky. We’ll feed it all into our simulations.Our ability to map our place within ourgalactic cluster is moving forward, just asour galaxies are.
  • 162. 163GALACTIC COLLISIONS / P R O G RESSSCIENTISTS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLDScientists from all over the worldsponsored by regional partnerships(e.g., European Southern Observatory,European Space Agency), nationalgovernments (e.g., NASA) anduniversities and research institutionsanalyze the data collected fromtelescopes (e.g., Hubble, Herschel,XMM-Newton, Kepler, Chandra X-rayobservatory).WHO IS ALREADYON THE CASE?PROGRESSPEOPLE: ~HUNDREDSFUNDING: ~MILLIONS
  • 163. 164…we recruited the Milkomeda 500? A new generationof young astronomers who will dedicate their lives tohelping our species understand galactic evolution ingeneral, and the collision of the Milky Wayand Andromeda in particular?Today we count our astronomers in thousands—theInternational Astronomical Union has about 10,000members; there are likely more astronomers out there whoare not members but not a lot of them. Only a small fractionof those work on galactic evolution, a smaller fraction stillon galactic collisions. None of them think of themselves asurban planners. We can do better.PROGRESSGALACTIC COLLISIONS / P R O G RESSWHAT IF?…
  • 164. 165ENTROPYPROGRESSVISIONCHALLENGE
  • 165. 166ENTROPY / CHALLENGEOUR UNIVERSE WILLWIND DOWN13.7 billion years ago when our Universebanged into existence, it was hot andsimple. 100 trillion years from now it willbe simple once again, but it will not behot. Our home will turn into an infiniteexpanse of coldness and darkness. Fromthe HUMAN perspective, entropy is theultimate universal challenge.In the most basic terms, entropy isthe dispersion of energy. We owe ourexistence to it and yet it threatens toundo everything. It has been at worksince the very beginning. Since theinstant our Universe banged, it has beenexpanding and losing heat—energy hasbeen dispersing over ever-increasingspace. Initially, this process allowed forthe rise of complexity. Cooling allowedmatter to differentiate from energy andclump into more and more complexstructures.But as entropy carries on, all complexstructures will ultimately come undone.All matter and energy will decay anddisperse. There will be infinite timeand ever-more space, but it will be verycold, very dark and nothing much will begoing on.Fortunately, there’s a twist in the plot.In the relatively brief window of timein which entropy cooled the cosmosjust enough to allow for the rise ofcomplexity, a curious life form emergedon the scene. We humans developed aknack for explaining our Universe andsolving problems. Will we wind up ourminds and refine our explanations intime to solve for our Universe windingdown?CH AL L ENGE
  • 166. 167Today many of us believe we shouldrespect the natural world and be goodstewards of all life on Earth and the Earthitself. From the HUMAN perspective,the natural world is much bigger—itcontains all life, energy and matter inthe Universe (and beyond if we live ina multiverse). Entropy will put it all atstake.We won’t have to wait 100 trillion yearsto catch a chill. The era of star formationin the Milky Way is already coming to aclose. About 90% of the material fromwhich stars are formed has already beenused in our galaxy. In about a trillionyears the lights in our galaxy will beginto dim. The Milky Way is not an exception.Over trillions of years, all galaxies willslowly run out of hydrogen and new starformation will end. The lights will growdim and then turn off. When the Universeis about 100 trillion years old, the starswill finally stop shining. It will be dark.There will be no visible radiation towarm the planets. It will be cold. Entropywill take center stage. The most complexentities around will be brown dwarfs,dead planets and black holes. And thenthese remnants of matter will decay, too. The only structures left will beblack holes and subatomic particles.Our universe will then enter the era ofblack holes, in which black holes will bethe brightest objects in the sky. But eventhey can’t escape entropy’s grip. Theytoo, will decay over an infinity of time.Low-level energy is all that will remain.ENTROPY / CHALLENGEWHAT’S AT STAKE?ALL THAT ISCH AL L ENGE
  • 167. 168ENTROPY / VISIONULTIMATE GOALVICTORY OVER ENTROPYToday we think that theoretical physicsis just about satisfying scientificcuriosity and science fiction is there forour entertainment. From the HUMANperspective, both are a matter ofsurvival. When it comes to theoreticalphysics, there is still so much weneed to understand. What happenedbefore it banged? How did it bang?What is time? What is the relationshipbetween the laws of the indivisiblysmall—the quantum—and those of theastronomically large—general relativity?What are dark energy and dark matter?How many dimensions are there? Isour Universe the only one? Answersmay yield ideas for how to prevail overentropy. We might learn to manipulatethe laws of physics in our own Universe.Or, if there are multiple Universes, wemight be able to create portals that leadto other ones.Sound like science fiction? That is whatwe need: more minds that can imaginethings most of us can’t. But perhapswe’ll need more than our own minds—afresh perspective, data we don’t have,the wisdom of someone who has beenaround longer than we have.Today we think that the search forintelligent life is about understandingour place in the universe. But what if itwere about finding intelligent partnersto help solve for the universal decayof matter and energy? Just as globalproblems require global solutions,universal problems may well requireuniversal solutions, and we need to see ifthere is any intelligent life out there thatcan lend a hand.Our collective know-how and creativitymay just turn out to be a stronger forcethan entropy.V I SION
  • 168. 169SETI 2.0The search for intelligent life (SETI) is anexploratory science that looks for evidenceof life in the universe by looking forsignatures of its technology. We’ve listenedto and looked at thousands of stars withour radio and optical telescopes. We’reset to search billions more. But we needmore minds on the case. Let’s expand oursearch four-fold by 2050 and double downon infrared—even if a more advancedcivilization didn’t send a signal, we wouldbe able to detect the waste heat.V I SIONENTROPY / VISIONTHE UNIVERSE(S) EXPLAINEDTo get our minds around our conceptualoptions, we need to understand all thelaws that govern our cosmic home and howthey function. Physicists call it a unifiedtheory—one theory that can describeevery fundamental feature upon which theuniverse is constructed and how it works.A theory that underlies all others, one thatdoes not require or even allow for a deeperexplanatory base. This is one foundationupon which all conceptual solutions andstrategies can be built.In the next 40 years, we must learnto see the role of astrophysics andthe search for intelligent life in a newlight. It’s our first step in prevailingover entropy.2050MILESTONES
  • 169. 170ENTROPY / P R O G RESSIn a short story, “The Last Question”,written by Isaac Asimov in 1956, humansand their ascendants repeatedly ask acomputer, how can the net entropy ofthe universe be massively decreased?Essentially, how can we prevail overentropy? The computer’s response aftermuch “thinking” is: “Insufficient data formeaningful answer.” It is still true today.We do not yet have an explanatorymodel of how our Universe works butwe’re working hard to figure out what’sgoing on. Between running experimentsto detect new particles and even darkmatter at the Large Hadron Collider andscouring the sky to look for signaturesof what happened immediately afterit banged, we’ll either find clues abouthow to unify the quantum with generalrelativity, or we’ll scrap part or all of itand head back to the drawing board.In the process we might just figure outhow many dimensions there are andwhether we live in a multi-verse. Whichever way it goes down, we’re advancingour understanding—even if many of usdon’t yet see these efforts as a matter ofexistential importance.As for our search for intelligent life,we’ve been at it since 1960. We’velistened to thousands of stars. Betweenthe private SETI Institute, the Universityof California at Berkeley, SETI Australia,and a collaboration between Harvard-Smithsonian and Princeton we’rescheduled to listen and look at billionsmore. We also have 180,000 activecitizen scientists who have joined thesearch volunteering over 290,000computers. Is there intelligent life?NO MEANINGFULANSWER2050MILESTONESTHE UNIVERSE(S) EXPLAINEDSETI 2.0PROGRESSIf so, would it communicate with us? Asof yet, we do not know. There are stillno signs, but at the privately fundedSETI Institute in California, they keepchampagne on ice just in case ET phonesfrom home.
  • 170. 171EUROPEAN ORGANIZATION FORNUCLEAR RESEARCHThe European Organization forNuclear Research (CERN) functions asan international magnet for testingour theoretical ideas about what theUniverse is made of and how it functions.INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONSInternational organizations like the OECDand ASPERA are working to coordinatea scientific vision and fund researchfor major research projects that requirelarge investments that no single nationcan afford alone.WHO IS ALREADYON THE CASE?NATIONAL UNIVERSITIES AND LABSNational universities and labs aroundthe world advance our understandingthrough theoretical work, experiments,and observations.PRIVATE INSTITUTESPrivate institutes (e.g., SETI), nationaluniversities and citizen scientists areworking on the search for intelligentextra-terrestrial life.PROGRESSPEOPLE: ~HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDSFUNDING: ~TENS OF BILLIONSENTROPY / P R O G RESS
  • 171. 172…we created a provisional working agenda for theoretical,particle, astrophysics and cosmology for the entire 21stcentury?Get the scientists together. Figure out what makes senseto them first, then go looking for funding. The agenda—shall we call it Existential Agenda v1.0?—becomes a livingdocument that we revisit and evolve every two years as wemake breakthroughs and develop new understanding. Let’smake sure there’s a small team on hand to film and properlyedit the gathering. We should put the movie online withthe agenda to see if we can further inspire an entire newgeneration of young minds, not just to marvel at thevastness of our cosmic home, but to work on problems thatthey may not see solved in their lifetime as a contributionto the ongoing human project.PROGRESSWHAT IF?…ENTROPY / P R O G RESS
  • 172. HUM AN PROJECT
  • 173. CHAPTER FOUR4 .1 PURPOSE4 .2 AGENDA4 .3 ORGANIZATIONHUM AN PROJECT
  • 174. The human project...we’ve used it as a metaphor.But what if we took it literally?What if it were an actual project?Here’s an initial concept.
  • 175. ORGAN I Z AT IONAGENDAPURPOSETHE HUMAN PROJECTSecure the survival and ascent of our speciesHUMAN Discourse HUMAN Culture HUMAN VenturesTIME’S ARROWULTIMATE GOALCHALLENGE ACTION WINDOW176
  • 176. Millions of people across thousands oforganizations are already pursuing goalsthat advance the ongoing human projectin wonderful ways.So what would be the point of creatingyet another organization? We believethat while many of us are spending ourlives on making a real difference onspecific issues, too few of us take thetime to think about the ongoing humanproject as a whole. Where are we headedand is that a good direction? Do we haveall the bases covered? Are we prioritizingour efforts in a good way? Are we makingenough progress given the actionwindows of our challenges?We believe we need a custodian of thebig picture and a community-organizerat a species-wide scale. So why not call it“the HUMAN project”?We envision an open communityof people committed to a singleoverarching purpose—secure thesurvival and ascent of our species. Inpractice, our task would be to get theball rolling on the grand vision for ourspecies and make sure our generationmakes the best possible contributionduring our leg of the inter-generationalrelay. As with anything worthwhile, thistakes hard work. A good place to startwould be to get on the same page withregard to what should be on the Agenda.HUMAN PROJECT / PURPOSESecure the survival and ascent of our speciesPURPOSE177
  • 177. Given the purpose we’ve proposed for theHUMAN project, our Agenda should obviouslynarrow in on the issues of species-wideconcern. If a challenge or an opportunity isbig enough to impact the survival and ascentof our species, it goes on the Agenda. Inthe HUMAN Future section we’ve describedall the big issues we currently think fit thatcriterion. But now that we are getting intoaction mode, a simple laundry list of thesechallenges won’t cut it. We need a bit oforganization.HUMAN PROJECT / AGENDAHere is our first pass.SURVIVE VS. ASCENDNot all challenges are equally important.Some of the challenges on our list coulddo more than just challenge us. They willwipe us out — that is, unless we figure outhow to solve problems of planetary andcosmic proportions. So all challenges to oursurvival as a species should always be ourtop priority. If we are dealing with a species-ender, failure is simply not an option.This may sound like common sense but it’snot the sense we rely on today. If we wereto make survival our top priority, it wouldradically shift what we focus on today. Forexample, we would be much more worriedabout 10 km asteroids and supernovas goingoff in our cosmic neighborhood. We don’tsee these issues on top of global agendasbecause of the misguided use of the notionof probability. A nearby super-nova probablywon’t go off in the next 50 years, so wedon’t pay much attention. Yet it may takeus hundreds, perhaps thousands of years toengineer our defense against annihilatingbursts of cosmic radiation. We simply can’tafford to put off survival challenges.ULTIMATE GOALSWe could have built our Agenda around2050 milestones. Yet at this point in time,we believe it’s more important to tear downthe time wall inside our minds and anchorto the notion of ultimate goals that spangenerations, sometimes indefinitely into thefuture. It’s all too easy to lose the plot whenyou are running an intergenerational relay.So let’s think through the plot first before webusy ourselves with action.ACTION WINDOWSHow much time do we have to act on eachof these challenges? Many of our survivalchallenges come with a sharp deadline (evenif we can’t predict it yet) while all ascentchallenges are infinite games. The entirestretch of time’s arrow becomes personal—it’s a series of action windows for ourspecies!Is this a good Agenda? It’s a start. We’vetaken crude looks at the ongoing humanproject and put some stakes in the ground.We hope this will compel more mindsto get involved and make it better. It’s aconversation-starter.TIME’S ARROWULTIMATE GOALCHALLENGE ACTION WINDOWSEE NEXT PAGEAGENDA178
  • 178. THE HUMAN PROJECT AGENDAPANDEMICS BIOLOGICAL DEFENSEAs long as we are biological beings, we’ll be susceptible.HOW WE RESOLVE CONFLICTS PERPETUAL PEACEAs long as there are memes of mass-destruction, we’ll have to self-police.HOW WE SUSTAIN OURSELVES SMART HARVESTINGWe will always need power.VOLCANOES & EARTHQUAKES MASTERY OF GEOLOGYWithout better geophysics, we can’t predict the next event with certainty.ASTEROID & COMET IMPACTS IMPACT DEFENSEWithout a complete inventory, we can’t predict the next impact with certainty.CHANGING CLIMATE MASTERY OF CLIMATEWithout a complete model, climate could keep surprising us.COSMIC RADIATION RAD DEFENSEWithout a complete inventory, we can’t predict the next exposure with certainty.AGING SUN NEW HOMESWe have one billion years.GALACTIC COLLISIONS GALACTIC SAFE HAVENWe have 4 billion years until the Milky Way and Andromeda collide.ENTROPY VICTORY OVER ENTROPYWe have 1030years until our universe comes undone.HOW WE SPEND OUR LIVES FREEDOM TO CREATEThis is an infinite game.EXPLANATION OF EVERYTHINGHOW WE CREATE KNOWLEDGE This is an infinite game.HOW WE USE KNOWLEDGE INFINITE BECOMINGThis is an infinite game.UNIVERSAL COMPREHENSIONHOW WE SHARE KNOWLEDGE This is an infinite game.HOW WE ORGANIZE WISE ACTIONThis is an infinite game.HOW WE EXPAND OUR PRESENCE COSMIC CULTUREThis is an infinite game.SURVIVETIME’S ARROWULTIMATE GOALCHALLENGEASCENDACTION WINDOW
  • 179. So how should we organize to get theHUMAN project going? We think thatoperationally this organization shouldhave a head, a heart and some limbs.We need the head to think criticallyabout the future of our species (HUMANDiscourse), the heart to expand our circleof care and concern to the entire speciesincluding the stream of our ascendants(HUMAN Culture) and we need the limbsto render our visions into reality (HUMANVentures).Yes, we believe we need a new platformfor digital and live discourse dedicatedexclusively to the future of the ongoinghuman project. Think about it: wheredoes the conversation on the future ofour species as a whole take place today?At the United Nations, we look at theworld through the lens of nationalsovereignty and inter-nationalcooperation. At the World EconomicForum, we look at the world through thelens of our sector affiliations (public,private, civil society). At the ClintonGlobal Initiative, we focus on a sub-setof global issues. There just isn’t really aplace where we look at everything froma species-wide perspective.HUMAN PROJECT / ORGANIZATIONHUMAN Discourse HUMAN Culture HUMAN VenturesWe can of course broadcast ideas atTED, Big Think, Google Zeitgeist Minds,World Economic Forum’s IdeasLab; theproblem is broadcasts fragmented acrosshundreds of channels don’t add up to astructured, ongoing discourse. That’s whywe believe we need to create HUMANDiscourse, a 21st century platform thatcan become the default destination forall of us who are interested in advancingthe HUMAN project. A place where weimagine better futures, set our agenda,keep tabs on our progress.How many of us would want in today?Personally, we know of thousands.But we suspect we may number in themillions. We just need a way to find eachother.A DIGITAL PLATFORM AND LIVEEVENTS WHERE WE THINK CRITICALLYAND DREAM UNAPOLOGETICALLYABOUT THE FUTURE OF OUR SPECIES.ORG AN I Z AT ION180
  • 180. So how do we find each other and inspiremore and more people to see themselvesas contributors to the ongoing humanproject? Big ideas packaged in engagingways can be our beacons flashing in anocean of mass-media.This app / book is our first attempt tocreate a flash. We hope it can help usattract other creatives (you, perhaps?)interested in deploying their talents toproduce media that gets more of us tospend our lives advancing the humanproject. One day there could be enoughof us to produce a growing streamof viral videos, apps, feature films,documentaries, trans-media campaigns,experiential live events, you name it.Over time, we might be able to catalyzea cultural movement of people whosee their lives as contributions to theongoing human project, who are willingto pursue ideas that they will neversee realized in their own lifetimes. Andthen... the values and ideas underpinningthis movement just might become thecultural norm. What a wonderful day thatwould be!A CULTURE LAB WHERE WECREATE CONTENT THAT INSPIRESPEOPLE TO DREAM DREAMSTHAT SPAN GENERATIONS.HUMAN PROJECT / ORGANIZATIONORG AN I Z AT ION HUMAN Discourse HUMAN Culture HUMAN Ventures181
  • 181. How do we render our visions intoreality?There are many things we can accomplishthrough existing organizationalforms like inter-governmental bodies,governments, businesses, academia,NGOs. Yet in many cases, to get tractionon a species-wide challenge, we willneed to conceive of entirely new waysto mobilize humans all over the planetto accomplish shared goals. Admittedly,it’s hard to think outside of our existingorganizational concepts while most of usare embedded in them.We need to free our minds from theconstraints of our past social inventions,many of which were designed to solvesmaller scale issues on shorter timelines.That’s where HUMAN Ventures comes in.We like to think of it as a launch pad forinitiatives and projects that are difficultto get off the ground within our existinggovernance framework. Here we wouldhave the freedom to experiment withnew ways to make decisions and makethings happen at a species-wide scale.And maybe one day our experimentationwould lead to an evolving new paradigmfor organizing ourselves. This is excitingstuff!AN INCUBATOR FOR NEW WAYSTO ORGANIZE OURSELVES TOGET TRACTION ON THE HUMANAGENDA.HUMAN PROJECT / ORGANIZATIONORG AN I Z AT ION HUMAN Discourse HUMAN Culture HUMAN Ventures182
  • 182. We believe that turning the metaphor of theongoing human project into an actual projectis worth spending our lives on. But obviously,without a strong community of people who sharethis belief, our initial concept will remain justthat—a concept.With a good group of committed people, onthe other hand, almost nothing is impossible. Wecould make this concept better or re-conceive ofit entirely. We could design our dream platform toturn a conversation-starter into vigorous globaldiscourse—who knows how different our Agendawould look 2 years from now! We could bringtogether the best visionaries of our times and getthem to showcase their ideas in a live Battle of theVisions. We could pick up where Jacob Bronowskileft off in his amazing BBC series The Ascent ofMan and create a series exploring how we mightcontinue our ascent and what it would take. Ah…the exciting possibilities!If you find yourself moved by any of this, weshould talk!ORGANISAT IONAGENDAPURPOSETHE HUMAN PROJECTSecure the survival and ascent of our speciesHUMAN Discourse HUMAN Culture HUMAN VenturesTIME’S ARROWULTIMATE GOALCHALLENGE ACTION WINDOW183
  • 183. CHAPTER FIVELET’S TALK
  • 184. JoinLike WatchFELLOW HUMANS,Without human connections there wouldn’t be anongoing human project.We ascend through connection!What we have tried to do with this book is to createa magnet of sorts—a reason for us to connect. We’vegot the WHY and our first take on the WHAT. There area few extras in the iPad app, iBook and our website.But overall, what you see is all there is to it so far.We don’t know what this project can become beforewe find out who else resonates with the WHY. We arestill a very small team without any infrastructure. Wewill build out as we go along.For the time being, let’s connect here:Follow
  • 185. 186CREDITS
  • 186. 187CHAPTER SIX6 .1 CREATIVE TEAM6 .2 AMAZING BACKERS6 .3 CREATIVE INFLUENCESCREDITS
  • 187. 188C RE ATIVET E AMIDEAS & WRITING /ANNA STILLWELLIDEAS & WRITING /ERIKA ILVESONTOLOGICAL DJ /JASON SILVAMOTIONOGRAPHER &LEAD DESIGNER /LEO CHIDALEAD GRAPHICDESIGNER /LY NGUYENCOMPOSER /REINER ERLINGSEDITING & PROOFING /GAIL McEWEN MILLEREXECUTIVE PRODUCER /TIM SMYTHEEXECUTIVE PRODUCER /FILMWORKSPRODUCER /AMANDA CONFAVREUXDIRECTOR /OMAR ABBASFLAME ARTIST /EDUARDO SAN JOSEPRODUCTION MANAGER /SARITA MEHRAMOTION GRAPHICS /AKHILESH ANANDCAMERA /GLEN DONALDSONVIDEO SOUND MIXER /SAM KASHEFIGENERAL MANAGER /ANTAL PALGENERAL MANAGER /THE CHIMNEY POTVIDEO SOUND MIXER /MICHELINE BAHINICAMERA WORK /MICHAEL MARANTZPHOTOGRAPHY /CHARLOTTE SIMPSONCREATIVE TEAM
  • 188. 189THE 21ST CENTURY IS TRULY A NEW WORLD.150 OF US MET ON FACEBOOK.TOGETHER, WE LAUNCHED A CROWD FUNDINGCAMPAIGN.WE ATTRACTED 261 BACKERS; RAISED TWICE OURFUNDING GOAL.WE DO NOT KNOW AND HAVE NEVER MET MOSTOF OUR BACKERS.TO SAY THAT WE ARE BLOWN AWAY BY THEIRGENEROSITY IS AN UNDERSTATEMENT.A MA ZINGB ACKERSAMAZING BACKERS
  • 189. 190ZAFER ACHI SERGE LUPAS EDUARD ILVES KAMI BUDDEMEIERSHEILA CASHMIKE BAKERIVO JURIAAN MENSCHGREGOR BINGHAMERIK DAHLMANLIDIA BOZHEVOLNAYAJANE EGLY DANIEL CRUMP MASHRUR NABIE X ECUTIVEPRODUCERSEXECUTIVE PRODUCERS
  • 190. 191GIORGIO UNGANIATHEMISTO KLIS TSOUFISNICOLAI STAHLNATASCIA RADICE ANNICKEN ROD ZACHERY SCHLOSSERROBBIE REYNDERSAMANDA GUSTAFSONORRIN PRATTASH BANERJEE JAMES COOKE STEVE COTTRELLPATRICK WALKER IRMA WILSONMADALINA DORDEA MARTEN ELEVELDPAUL GULLETT GAIL McEWEN MILLERANNE ADAMSONBARBARA KNOCKE ARLYB ACKERSEARLY BACKERS
  • 191. We, the authors, learned from many members of our greatspecies. In their turn, they learned from the millions who camebefore them. Here are some of the humans and organizations whohave informed or influenced our thinking….CREATIVE INFLUENCES192
  • 192. CHAPTER SEVENIM AGINE 193
  • 193. This is the end of this book but it could also be our beginning.We are all contributors to the HUMAN project.What we do with our lives determines where it goes next.If we learn well, one day we’ll belooking for a new label and a new story.would simply become too small, too tightto capture who we will have become.
  • 194. 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 978-1-62590-056-2ISBN 978 -162590491 - 1781625 9049119