Brand builds his case for rethinking environmental goals and methods on two major changes going on in the world. The one that most people still don’t take into consideration is that power is shifting to the developing world, where 5 out of 6 people live, where the bulk of humanity is getting out of poverty by moving to cities and creating their own jobs and communities (slums, for now).
He noted that history has always been driven by the world’s largest cities, and these years they are places like Mumbai, Lagos, Dhaka, Sao Paulo, Karachi, and Mexico City, which are growing 3 times faster and 9 times bigger than cities in the currently developed world ever did. The people in those cities are unstoppably moving up the “energy ladder” to high quality grid electricity and up the “food ladder” toward better nutrition, including meat. As soon as they can afford it, everyone in the global South is going to get air conditioning.
The second dominant global fact is climate change. Brand emphasized that climate is a severely nonlinear system packed with tipping points and positive feedbacks such as the unpredicted rapid melting of Arctic ice. Warming causes droughts, which lowers carrying capacity for humans, and they fight over the diminishing resources, as in Darfur. It also is melting the glaciers of the Himalayan plateau, which feed the rivers on which 40% of humanity depends for water in the dry season—the Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra, Mekong, Irrawaddy, Yangtze, and Yellow.
Global warming has to be slowed by reducing the emission of greenhouse gases from combustion, but cities require dependable baseload electricity, and so far the only carbon-free sources are hydroelectric dams and nuclear power. Brand contrasted nuclear with coal-burning by comparing what happens with their waste products. Nuclear spent fuel is tiny in quantity, and you know exactly where it is, whereas the gigatons of carbon dioxide from coal burning goes into the atmosphere, where it stays for centuries making nothing but trouble. Brand declared that geological sequestering of nuclear waste has been proven practical and safe by the ten years of experience at the WIPP in New Mexico, and he paraded a series of new “microreactor” designs that offer a clean path for distributed micropower, especially in developing countries.
Moving to genetically engineered food crops, Brand noted that they are a tremendous success story in agriculture, with Green benefits such as no-till farming, lowered pesticide use, and more land freed up to be wild. The developing world is taking the lead with the technology, designing crops to deal with the specialized problems of tropical agriculture. Meanwhile the new field of synthetic biology is bringing a generation of Green biotech hackers into existence.
On the subject of bioengineering (direct intervention in climate), Brand suggested that we will have to follow of the example of beneficial “ecosystem engineers” such as earthworms and beavers and tweak our niche (the planet) toward a continuing life-friendly climate, using methods such a cloud-brightening with atomized seawater and recreating what volcanoes do when they pump sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere, cooling the whole world.
Green aversion to technologies such as nuclear and genetic engineering resulted from a mistaken notion that they are somehow “unnatural.” “What we call natural and what we call human are inseparable,” Brand concluded. “We live one life.”
Stewart Brand - Stewart Brand is a co-founder and managing director of Global Business Network, founded and runs the GBN Book Club, and is the president of The Long Now Foundation.
Brand is well known for founding, editing and publishing the Whole Earth Catalog (01968-85), which received a National Book Award for the 01972 issue. In 01984, he founded The WELL (Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link), a computer teleconference system for the San Francisco Bay Area. It now has 11,000 active users worldwide and is considered a bellwether of the genre.
Brand has been a member of the Board of Trustees of the Santa Fe Institute, an interdisciplinary center studying the sciences of complexity, since 01989. He received the Golden Gadfly Lifetime Achievement Award from the Media Alliance, San Francisco in the same year.
He was a founding member of the Board of Directors of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization which supports civil rights and responsibilities in electronic media, and is an acting adviser to Ecotrust, Portland-based preservers of temperate rain forest from Alaska to San Francisco.
Brand is the author of many pioneering books including The Clock Of The Long Now in 01999, How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They’re Built in 01994, The Media Lab: Inventing the Future at MIT in 01987, and Two Cybernetic Frontiers on Gregory Bateson and cutting-edge computer science in 01974. It had the first use of the term “personal computer” in print and was the first book to report on computer hackers.
Kevin Kelly - Kevin Kelly is a member of the the Long Now Foundation board of directors.
Kevin Kelly is the editor at large (formerly editor in chief) at Wired Magazine. He was involved in the 1993 launch of this influential magazine. In 1994 and 1997, during Kelly’s tenure, Wired won the National Magazine Award for General Excellence.
From 1984-1990, he was publisher and editor of the “Whole Earth Review,” a journal of unorthodox technical news. He is a founding board member of the WELL, a Sausalito-based teleconference system that is viewed as a model of online community. He edited “Signal,” a Whole Earth Catalog of personal communication tools. He launched Cyberthon, the first round-the-clock virtual reality jamboree.
Kelly’s book on how machines are becoming biological is called Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, and Economics. In 1998, he also published New Rules for the New Economy.
He is also a member of the Global Business Network, a distributed think tank specializing in future scenarios for global-minded businesses. He has written for Time, the New York Times, the Economist, GQ, and Harpers. His latest book, Asia Grace, is currently available from Taschen.
Peter Schwartz - Peter Schwartz is cofounder and chairman of Global Business Network (GBN), a unique membership organization and worldwide network of strategists, business executives, scientists, and artists based in Emeryville, California.
Established in 01988, GBN specializes in corporate scenario planning and research on the future of the business environment. From 01982 to 01986, Schwartz headed scenario planning for the Royal Dutch/Shell Group of Companies in London. His team conducted comprehensive analyses of the global business and political environment and worked with senior management to create successful strategies.
Before joining Royal Dutch/Shell, Schwartz directed the Strategic Environment Center at SRI International. The Center researched the business milieu, lifestyles, and consumer values, and conducted scenario planning for corporate and government clients.
Schwartz is the co-author of both the 01999 books The Long Boom, and When Good Companies Do Bad Things: Responsibility and Risk in an Age of Globalization, and is the author of the 01991 book, The Art of the Long View: Planning for the Future in an Uncertain World. This seminal publication on scenario planning has been translated into Dutch, Portuguese, and Chinese.
Schwartz also co-authored Seven Tomorrows: Toward a Voluntary History with James Ogilvy and Paul Hawken in 01982, and The Emergent Paradigm: Changing Patterns of Thought and Belie with James Ogilvy in 01979. He has published and lectured widely and served as a script consultant on the films War Games and Sneakers. Schwartz received a BS in aeronautical engineering and astronautics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
In “Futures Thinking: The Basics,” I offered up an overview of how to engage in a foresight exercise. Today, as the next piece in this occasional series, I’ll take a look at the first step in such a process.
“We Are All Connected” was made by John Boswell from sampling Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, The History Channel’s Universe series, Richard Feynman’s 1983 interviews, Neil deGrasse Tyson’s cosmic sermon, and Bill Nye’s Eyes of Nye Series, plus added visuals from The Elegant Universe (NOVA), Stephen Hawking’s Universe, Cosmos, the Powers of 10, and more. It is a tribute to great minds of science, intended to spread scientific knowledge and philosophy through the medium of music.
Check out “A Glorious Dawn” by Carl Sagan, another Symphony of Science project!
MP3 available at http://www.symphonyofscience.com.
And John’s website for more original music:
We are all connected;
To each other, biologically
To the earth, chemically
To the rest of the universe atomically
I think nature’s imagination
Is so much greater than man’s
She’s never going to let us relax
We live in an in-between universe
Where things change all right
But according to patterns, rules,
Or as we call them, laws of nature
I’m this guy standing on a planet
Really I’m just a speck
Compared with a star, the planet is just another speck
To think about all of this
To think about the vast emptiness of space
There’s billions and billions of stars
Billions and billions of specks
The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it
But the way those atoms are put together
The cosmos is also within us
We’re made of star stuff
We are a way for the cosmos to know itself
Across the sea of space
The stars are other suns
We have traveled this way before
And there is much to be learned
I find it elevating and exhilarating
To discover that we live in a universe
Which permits the evolution of molecular machines
As intricate and subtle as we
I know that the molecules in my body are traceable
To phenomena in the cosmos
That makes me want to grab people in the street
And say, have you heard this??
(Richard Feynman on hand drums and chanting)
There’s this tremendous mess
Of waves all over in space
Which is the light bouncing around the room
And going from one thing to the other
And it’s all really there
But you gotta stop and think about it
About the complexity to really get the pleasure
And it’s all really there
The inconceivable nature of nature
How does the concept of “cognitive diversity” relate to those of neurodiversity, neuroconformism, neurotypicality, and brainwashing? Is Aspergers syndrome and autism something we should cure or embrace?
It’s been over three months since I mentioned there would be a Part Two of Jon and Kate Plus Plastic Surgery. Since then I have learned never again to make a promise to a sequel article. The sequel has haunted me and set expectations of what to write I didn’t want to live up to. So here it is. I hope the stream of consciousness works for you the way it works in my head.
On September 26, 2009, World Wide Views on Global Warming organized the first-ever, globe-encompassing democratic deliberation in world history. WWViews enabled roughly 4,400 citizens from 38 countries all over the world to define and communicate their positions on issues central to the U.N. climate change negotiations, which will take place in Copenhagen from December 7–18, 2009.
We have all heard the term “Nutty Professor,” which brings to mind the highly intelligent yet socially inept individual; excelling in the academic world, yet failing miserably in the realm of common sense. Is there an evolutionary explanation for why this phenomenon exists?
We stand at a nexus of unimaginable technological potential, and unprecedented global challenges. How we develop and use science and technology over the coming decades will determine the quality (and possibly even the quantity) of life for coming generations.
Written by Björk and produced by Howie B. Released in June 1999 as the last of five singles taken from Björk’s third album, ‘Homogenic’. The Greatest Hits album contains a different version of the song than the original version which can be heard on album. This because this mix was used in the video and was included on the singles.
The video is directed by Chris Cunningham, who became famous in 1997 with the scary video “Come to Daddy” for Aphex Twin. He was also responsible for Madonna’s “Frozen” and “Only You” for Portishead. “All is Full of Love” got nominated for a Grammy and won several awards including the Best Breakthrough video and Special Effects at the 2000 MTV Video Awards.
Among the silliest arguments against the reality of global warming are anecdotal reports that “our weather here has been colder than usual,” or “it’s snowing way earlier than most years,” or “look at all this rain!”
I’ve often said that transhumanism is supported and strengthened by three basic impulses, namely the upholding of our reproductive, morphological and cognitive liberties. Should any one of these be absent, the tripod cannot stand. We transhumanists stand divided on any number of issues; put us in a room together and you’re guaranteed to get an argument. But one aspect that unites virtually all of us is our steadfast commitment to biolibertarianism —the suggestion that people, for the most part, deserve considerable autonomy over their minds, bodies and reproductive processes.
A public forum at the University of Melbourne on “The Problem of Evil” with Dr Russell Blackford (Bioethics and Philosophy at Monash University), Barney Zwartz (religion editor of The Age), Rev. Peter Adam (Principal of Ridley Theological College) and Lyn Allison (former Senator). MCed by Catherine McDonald (co-founder of Melbourne’s Philosophy Cafe). Hosted by the University of Melbourne Secular Society.
On October 8-9, roughly 150 invited guests—graduate students, researchers, government officials, and consultants gathered in North Carolina to discuss priorities and provide recommendations to businesses and policy makers to ensure the safe development of nanotechnology.
Consumption, goes the tale, is the great driver of ecological disruption. Hence, green consumers will save the planet (a safe planet being one with sustainable ecological and energy systems). Right? Wrong.
* Jamais starts by stating that “All money is a fantasy,” and then sets the stage for the problem for local, alternative money: you have to get a critical mass of people to agree in a new fantasy.
* He points out that virtual currency doesn’t have to be geographically constrained, and so that groups with shared purposes could in fact have new currencies.
* He hit on cell minutes being used as a virtual currency in Africa, and discusses how it counters potential governmental meddling, like intentional hyperinflation. His point is that these ‘practical’ currencies are in a sense apolitical. I draw the point that the unbanked are the source of many innovations in the world, right now.
* Eve Online is one of the leading companies in the wounded economy of Iceland, and Jamais points out that their virtual currency has a fairly steady transfer to fiat currency, and it has become a large company in that very damaged market. But the Chinese government recently stepped in to block the conversion of virtual goods to real world goods. This is also where governments step in with gambling, for example: when you convert your chips into cash, they tell the government about your winnings. Jamais points out that this is really where governments start to care: when economies arise.
* I think the question of anonymous money and the roll of cell phones in future money was the a big part of our conversation, and one that we could have spent hours more on.
A far-ranging and engaging discussion with one of the most thoughtful thinkers of our time.
Recently the fight between the two transhumanist groups in Italy has spilled over onto English language blogs. One side is accused of harboring fascists, the other of being conservatives and closet Papists. I’ve asked one of the individuals at the center of the controversy, Stefano Vaj, to present a statement of his political stance here which will hopefully help clarify this very confusing and troubling situation.
I am often asked what is the single most important issue that needs to be resolved in order to insure that health care reform moves forward in America. The answer is actually quite simple. If the key reason to reform the health care system is to extend health insurance coverage to the tens of millions of Americans who have none, then all those promoting reform but especially President Obama must drive home the ethical position that health care is a right.