The Danger of Now


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This presentation was made by Wendy McGuinness, Chief Executive of the Sustainable Future Institute at TEDx Auckland.

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  • Importance of thinking creatively – logic will only get us so far. Focus on long-term thinking – it’s hard to think!
  • Everyone’s there It’s noisy It’s busy It’s real You work hard You get an adrenalin rush You deserve a treat You win big time, but only for now
  • You lose context You lose comparisons You lose the connections You lose a sense of belonging You lose the ability to dream You lose the ability to fail wisely You lose the ability to fail gracefully You lose the big picture And you can lose big time, every day
  • You need to reconnect You need to belong You need to look back You need to look forward You need to: Walk backwards into the future
  • Lloyd, C. (2008). What on Earth Happened? London: Bloomsbury.
  • O ne single global mega-colony Ants = Equal to biomass of humans Ants from European, Californian and Japan rub antennae with one another and never became aggressive or try to avoid one another. In short, they act as if they all belong to the same colony, despite living on different continents separated by vast oceans. A single mega-colony of ants has colonised much of the world, scientists have discovered. Argentine ants living in vast numbers across Europe, the US and Japan belong to the same inter-related colony, and will refuse to fight one another. The colony may be the largest of its type ever known for any insect species, and could rival humans in the scale of its world domination. What's more, people are unwittingly helping the mega-colony stick together. Argentine ants ( Linepithema humile ) were once native to South America. But people have unintentionally introduced the ants to all continents except Antarctica. These introduced Argentine ants are renowned for forming large colonies, and for becoming a significant pest, attacking native animals and crops. In Europe, one vast colony of Argentine ants is thought to stretch for 6,000km (3,700 miles) along the Mediterranean coast, while another in the US, known as the "Californian large", extends over 900km (560 miles) along the coast of California. A third huge colony exists on the west coast of Japan. The enormous extent of this population is paralleled only by human society Entomologists reveal the ant colony's true size While ants are usually highly territorial, those living within each super-colony are tolerant of one another, even if they live tens or hundreds of kilometres apart. Each super-colony, however, was thought to be quite distinct. But it now appears that billions of Argentine ants around the world all actually belong to one single global mega-colony. Researchers in Japan and Spain led by Eiriki Sunamura of the University of Tokyo found that Argentine ants living in Europe, Japan and California shared a strikingly similar chemical profile of hydrocarbons on their cuticles. But further experiments revealed the true extent of the insects' global ambition. The team selected wild ants from the main European super-colony, from another smaller one called the Catalonian super-colony which lives on the Iberian coast, the Californian super-colony and from the super-colony in west Japan, as well as another in Kobe, Japan. They then matched up the ants in a series of one-on-one tests to see how aggressive individuals from different colonies would be to one another. Ants from the smaller super-colonies were always aggressive to one another. So ants from the west coast of Japan fought their rivals from Kobe, while ants from the European super-colony didn't get on with those from the Iberian colony. One big family But whenever ants from the main European and Californian super-colonies and those from the largest colony in Japan came into contact, they acted as if they were old friends. These ants rubbed antennae with one another and never became aggressive or tried to avoid one another. In short, they acted as if they all belonged to the same colony, despite living on different continents separated by vast oceans. The most plausible explanation is that ants from these three super-colonies are indeed family, and are all genetically related, say the researchers. When they come into contact, they recognise each other by the chemical composition of their cuticles. "The enormous extent of this population is paralleled only by human society," the researchers write in the journal Insect Sociaux, in which they report their findings. However, the irony is that it is us who likely created the ant mega-colony by initially transporting the insects around the world, and by continually introducing ants from the three continents to each other, ensuring the mega-colony continues to mingle. "Humans created this great non-aggressive ant population," the researchers write. I have been trying to think of the earth as a kind of organism, but it is no go. I cannot think of it this way. It is too big, too complex, with too many working parts lacking visible connections. The other night, driving through a hilly, wooded part of southern New England, I wondered about this. If not like an organism, what is it like, what is it most like? Then, satisfactorily for that moment, it came to me: it is most like a single cell. – Lewis Thomas
  • Source (text): Probable, Possible and Preferred Futures from M. Marien, Future Survey #4, 2008
  • Of the 97 billion who have lived 90 billion have died Of the 7 billion alive 3 billion currently live on $2 or less a day Of the 4 billion living on more than $2 2 billion are financially and physically dependent So we represent the 2 billion earning, alive and able to make a difference ( 2 billion divided into 97 – we are the 2%) Every generation needs to answer two questions: What is possible and what is acceptable? Its our watch to protect mankind – like in the Gettysburg address - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - 1865 The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. President Abraham Lincoln
  • Its not just about numbers, its also about composition Notes: About 1.5 billion in 1900 Implications for food and water – long term global social conflict seems inevitable without serious food and water policies To summarise: the developed countries and China grow old – while Africa and India remains young. Source (text): J.C. Glenn, T. J. Gordon, & E. Florescu (2008). State of the Future 2008. Washington DC: World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) . Source (images): Wendy McGuinness
  • ‘ They are so much like human beings as to be an embarrassment. They farm fungi, raise aphids as livestock, launch armies for wars, use chemical sprays to alarm and confuse enemies, capture slaves…They exchange information ceaselessly. They do everything but watch television’ – Lewis Thomas We are not alone…..See Sustainable Future’s Think Piece 10, Lost in Space for more initiatives. 1982: Commission for the Future Over 20 publications 6 years 1990-91: Porter Project 2000 participants 2 years 2001: Knowledge Wave 450 participants 3 days 2008: One Measurable Goal 112 comments 3 months 2009: National Job Summit 210 participants 1 day 2007-2010: Project 2058 19 publications 4 years Source (timeline): Sustainable Future (2009).
  • Note World Futures Society Note State of New Zealand’s Future – Millennium Project Source (figure): Sustainable Future (2009). Project 2058 Methodology Version 3 . Sustainable Future: Wellington.
  • Started with 75, took down to 21 – page 51 Distinguish between primary and secondary Source (figure): Sustainable Future (2008). Four Futures for New Zealand in 2058 . Sustainable Future: Wellington.
  • See Hand out Game theory Source (images, clockwise): Photo by David Sim, and available on Flickr as part of Creative Commons Photo by Sandy Austin, and available on Flickr as part of Creative Commons Photo by Sandy Austin and available on Flickr as part of Creative Commons Photo by Darcy L McCarty and available on Flickr as part of Creative Commons
  • Which future is likely to prevail? p46 What should we be looking for? p47 How can we shape our future? p47 Implications p48-49 United Nations? What is Acceptable? What is Possible? What are the Obstacles? What should we Focus on? Watch for: Fortress Mentality Disparities Leadership/Complacency Privacy/Transparency
  • Source (image): Photo by Nelson Minar and available on Flickr as part of Creative Commons
  • Source (image): Photo by Danny Williams. Available on Flickr as part of the Creative Commons. / CC BY 2.0
  • NEXT STEP – finish Research reports and then write the strategy Source (photo): Getfrank, retrieved 06 April from ======================================================================================================================
  • Source (photo): retrieved 6 April 2009 from
  • The Danger of Now

    1. 1. The Danger of Now
    2. 2. Why Now is a good place
    3. 3. Why Now is not
    4. 4. How to escape Now
    5. 5. By knowing where you fit
    6. 6. By knowing who or what you belong to
    7. 7. <ul><li>Three Sights - Hindsight, Insight and Foresight </li></ul><ul><li>Three P’s </li></ul><ul><li>Probable future - Forecasting and sometimes prediction (Status Quo) </li></ul><ul><li>Possible futures - Scenarios, risks (Explorative) </li></ul><ul><li>Preferred futures - Strategies for change, propelled by innovation & leadership (Visionary) </li></ul><ul><li>Four Steps </li></ul><ul><li>Define - parameters, trends, drivers, assumptions </li></ul><ul><li>Explore - uncertainties and rank </li></ul><ul><li>Build - scenario worlds, write stories, test </li></ul><ul><li>Use - consider implications, review, communicate </li></ul>Futures Studies – The Theory
    8. 8. Hindsight Insight 97-90 = 7 7- 3 = 4 4 - 2 = 2
    9. 9. 2008 In 2008, 3 billion made $2 or less per day. Fifty years later, the developed countries & China grow old – while Africa & India remain young. <ul><ul><li>Foresight </li></ul></ul>60:40 40:60
    10. 10. 1976-1982 Commission for the Future 2009 National Job Summit 2008 One Goal Project 1991 Porter analysis – Upgrading New Zealand’s Competitive Advantage 2001 Knowledge Wave Conference 2007- 2010 Sustainable Future Project 2058 - Aims to develop a National Sustainable Development Strategy (NSDS) The New Zealand Experience 2010 2000 1990 1980
    11. 11. The State Sector: Reviewing the landscape* Government Funded Science Under the Microscope* Walking Backwards into the Future: Exploring the goals underlying Māori knowledge and customary law to inform an NSDS* The State of Natural Resources* The State of Critical Infrastructure in New Zealand* (b) New Zealand’s National Assets (c) Future Thinkers Online Video Interviews: World Futures (July 2008 and July 2009) Online Video Conversations: Ideas about the Future (December 2008) Past Future Thinkers: Exploring the Long-term* Project 2058 – The Method Part I: Research Part II: Scenarios Part III: Strategy (d) State of New Zealand’s Future* Report 1 A National Sustainable Development Strategy (August 2007) (a) New Zealand’s Government Report 2 New Zealand Central Government Strategies (August 2007) Report 3 Supporting Local Government (March 2008) Report 4 Institutions for Sustainable Development (October 2008) Report 5 The Common Elements of an NSDS (October 2008) National Sustainable Development Strategy for New Zealand* Report 6 Four Possible Futures for New Zealand in 2058 (December 2008)
    12. 12. 21 Global Drivers of Change Wild Cards <ul><ul><li>15. Pandemic </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>16. Tsunami </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>17. Drought </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>18. Volcanoes and earthquakes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>19. Astronomical events </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>20. Extreme weather </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>21. Terrorism, Biological and chemical warfare </li></ul></ul>Global Drivers of Change <ul><ul><li>8. Political systems and institutions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>9. Economic models </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>10. Management of ecosystems and resources </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>11. Infrastructure </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>12. Security and conflict </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>13. Technology </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>14. Information, learning and ideas </li></ul></ul>Secondary Change Agents <ul><ul><li>1. Climate change </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2. Population and demographics </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>3. Ecosystems and biodiversity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>4. Energy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>5. Resources </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>6. Values and beliefs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>7. Justice and freedom </li></ul></ul>Primary Change Agents
    13. 13. Well World NZ Well Poor Poor Fail Fail Fail
    14. 14. <ul><li>Responses of Powerful counties </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Self-sufficient, heavily armed and a fortress mentality </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Serious engagement with all the problems of the planet </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Responses of Small counties </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Disrupt </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ignore </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Adapt / Innovate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Monitor closely what is happening </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Support global leadership (UN, WB, etc) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Build alliances (e.g. State of Australia, Pacific Union) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Leadership - lead by example </li></ul></ul>Indicators
    15. 15. <ul><li>Small countries like New Zealand might have a limited ability to influence world events… </li></ul><ul><li>… but we can still </li></ul><ul><li>shape the future. </li></ul>
    16. 16. New Zealand will never be the puppeteer… … but we can be part of the audience, and that means we can decide to give a standing ovation or boo the performance.
    17. 17. We can show global players how changes should be made – not because they have to listen to us… … but because small countries have put in place something that powerful countries want.
    18. 18. New Zealand needs a ‘National Strategy’ to optimise our future, to align our industry, to reinforce our national brand and to be an example of what is possible … not because we have to, but because we want what it can deliver