Tag Archives: climate change

We Must Prepare for Future Crises Like We Prepare for War

We Must Prepare for Future Crises Like We Prepare for War

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

In a 2015 TED talk, Bill Gates warned that “if anything kills ten million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war. Not missiles, but microbes.” He went on to point out that we have invested enormous amounts of money in nuclear deterrents, but relatively little to battle epidemics.

It’s an apt point. In the US, we enthusiastically spend nearly $700 billion on our military, but cut corners on nearly everything else. Major breakthroughs, such as GPS satellites, the Internet and transistors, are merely offshoots of budgets intended to help us fight wars more effectively. At the same time, politicians gleefully propose budget cuts to the NIH.

A crisis, in one sense, is like anything else. It eventually ends and, when it does, we hope to be wiser for it. No one knows how long this epidemic will last or what the impact will be, but one thing is for sure — it will not be our last crisis. We should treat this as a new Sputnik moment and prepare for the next crisis with the same vigor with which we prepare for war.

Getting Artificial Intelligence Under Control

In the Terminator series, an automated defense system called Skynet becomes “self aware” and launches a nuclear attack to end humanity. Machines called “cyborgs” are created to hunt down the survivors that remain. Clearly it is an apocalyptic vision. Not completely out of the realm of possibility, but very unlikely.

The dangers of artificial intelligence, however, are very real, although not nearly so dramatic. Four years ago, in 2016, I published an article in Harvard Business Review outlining the ethical issues we need to address, ranging from long standing thought experiments like the trolley problem to issues surrounding accountability for automated decisions.

Unlike the Terminator scenario, these issues are clear and present. Consider the problem of data bias. Increasingly, algorithms determine what college we attend, if we get hired for a job and even who goes to prison and for how long. Unlike human decisions, these mathematical models are rarely questioned, but affect materially people’s lives.

The truth is that we need our algorithms to be explainable, auditable and transparent. Just because the possibility of our machines turning on us is fairly remote, doesn’t mean we don’t need too address more subtle, but all to real, dangers. We should build our systems to serve humanity, not the other way around.

The Slow-Moving Climate Crisis

Climate change is an issue that seems distant and political. To most people, basic needs like driving to work, heating their homes and doing basic household chores are much more top of mind than the abstract dangers of a warming planet. Yet the perils of climate change are, in fact, very clear and present.

Consider that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has found that, since 1980, there have been at least 258 weather and climate disasters where overall damages reached or exceeded $1 billion and that the total cost of these events has been more than $1.7 trillion. That’s an enormous amount of money.

Yet it pales in comparison to what we can expect in the future. A 2018 climate assessment published by the US government warned that we can expect climate change to “increasingly affect our trade and economy, including import and export prices and U.S. businesses with overseas operations and supply chains,” and had similar concerns with regard to our health, safety and quality of life.

There have been, of course, some efforts to slow the increase of carbon in our atmosphere that causes climate change such as the Paris Climate Agreement. However, these efforts are merely down payments to stem the crisis and, in any case, few countries are actually meeting their Paris targets. The US pulled out of the accord entirely.

The Debt Time Bomb

The US national debt today stands at about 23.5 trillion dollars or roughly 110% of GDP. That’s a very large, but not catastrophic number. The deficit in 2020 was expected to be roughly $1 trillion, or about four percent of GDP, but with the impact of the Coronavirus, we can expect it to be at least two to three times that now.

Considering that the economy of the United States grows at about two percent a year on average, any deficit above that level is unsustainable. Clearly, we are far beyond that now and, with baby boomers beginning to retire in massive numbers, Medicare spending is set to explode. At some point, these bills will have to be paid.

Yet focusing solely on financial debt misses a big part of the picture. Not only have we been overspending and under-taxing, we’ve also been massively under investing. Consider that the American Society of Civil Engineers has estimated that we need to spend $4.5 trillion to repair our broken infrastructure. Add that infrastructure debt to our financial and environmental debt it likely adds up to $30-$40 trillion, or roughly 150%-200% of GDP.

Much like the dangers of artificial intelligence and the climate crisis, not to mention the other inevitable crises like the new pandemics that are sure to come, we will eventually have to pay our debts. The only question is how long we want to allow the interest to pile up.

The Visceral Abstract

Some years ago, I wrote about a concept I called the visceral abstract. We often fail to realize how obscure concepts affect our daily lives. The strange theories of quantum mechanics, for example, make modern electronics possible. Einstein’s relativity helps calibrate our GPS satellites. Darwin’s natural selection helps us understand diseases like the Coronavirus.

In much the same way, we find it easy to ignore dangers that don’t seem clear and present. Terminator machines hunting us down in the streets is terrifying, but the very real dangers of data bias in our artificial intelligence systems is easy to dismiss. We worry how to pay the mortgage next month, but the other debts mounting fade into the background.

The news isn’t all bad, of course. Clearly, the Internet has made it far easier to cope with social distancing. Technologies such as gene sequencing and supercomputing simulations make it more likely that we will find a cure or a vaccine. We have the capacity for both petty foolishness and extreme brilliance.

The future is not inevitable. It is what we make it. We can choose, as we have in the past, to invest in our ability to withstand crises and mitigate their effects, or we can choose to sit idly by and give ourselves up to the whims of fate. We pay the price either way. How we pay it is up to us.

— Article courtesy of the Digital Tonto blog
— Image credit: Pixabay

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Crabby Innovation Opportunity

Crabby Innovation Opportunity

There are many foods that we no longer eat, but because we choose to, not because they have disappeared from nature. In fact, here is a list of 21 Once-Popular Foods That We All Stopped Eating, including:

  • Kool-Aid
  • Margarine
  • Pudding Pops
  • Candy Cigarettes
  • etc.

But today, we’re going to talk about a food that I personally love, but that I’ve always viewed as a bit of luxury – crab legs – that is in danger of disappearing off the face of the planet due to climate change and human effects. And we’re not just talking about King Crab, but we’re also talking about Snow Crab, and we’re talking about Dungeness Crab too. And this is a catastrophe not just for diners, but to an entire industry and the livelihood of too many families to count:

That’s more than a BILLION CRABS that none of us have had the pleasure of their deliciousness.

And given the magnitude of the die off, it is possible they might disappear completely, meaning we can’t enjoy and salivate at the thought of this popular commercial from the 80’s:

Climate change and global warming are real. If you don’t believe humans are the cause, that it’s naturally occurring, fine, it’s still happening.

There can be no debate other than surrounding the actions we take from this point forward.

And while the magnitude of the devastation of other animal species that humans are responsible for is debatable, we are failing in our duties as caretakers of the earth.

This brings me back to the title of the post and the missions of this blog – to promote human-centered change and innovation.

Because we have killed off one of our very tastiest treats (King, Snow and Dungeness Crabs), at least in the short-term (and possibly forever), there is a huge opportunity to do better than krab sticks or the Krabby Patties of SpongeBob SquarePants fame.

If crab legs are going to disappear from the menus of seafood restaurants across the United States, and possibly the world, can someone invent a tasty treat that equals or exceeds the satisfaction of wielding a crab cracker and a crab fork and extracting the white gold within to dip into some sweet and slippery lemon butter?

Who is going to be first to crack this problem?

Or who will be the first to find a way to bring the crabs back from extinction?

We’re not just talking about a food to fill our bellies with, we’re talking about a pleasurable dining experience that is going away – that I know someone can save!

And no Air Protein marketing gimmicks please!

Image credit: Northsea.sg

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Climate Change and the Technologies Shaping a Sustainable Future

Climate Change and the Technologies Shaping a Sustainable Future

GUEST POST from Chateau G Pato

Climate change is one of the most urgent and pressing challenges faced by humanity today. The increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are causing rising temperatures, extreme weather events, and significant impacts on ecosystems and human societies. Addressing climate change requires innovative and sustainable solutions that can mitigate the causes and adapt to the consequences. Fortunately, advancements in technology are playing a crucial role in shaping a sustainable future. This article will explore two case study examples of how technology is helping combat climate change.

Case Study 1: Renewable Energy and the Power of Innovation

Renewable energy technologies are transforming the energy landscape and offering a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels. Solar and wind energy have become key players in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and combating climate change.

One remarkable case study is the Tengger Desert Solar Park in China, the largest solar farm in the world. Located in the Tengger Desert, this facility covers an area of over 43 square kilometers, harnessing the abundant sunlight to generate clean electricity. With a capacity of 1.5 GW, it supplies power to millions of households, significantly reducing CO2 emissions. The Tengger Desert Solar Park demonstrates the immense potential of solar energy and highlights the importance of large-scale renewable projects in transitioning to a low-carbon economy.

Another case study is the Block Island Wind Farm, situated off the coast of Rhode Island, USA. This pioneering offshore wind farm was the first of its kind in the country, providing clean energy to the local grid. With only five turbines, it may seem small, but it has a capacity of 30 MW, capable of powering more than 17,000 homes. The Block Island Wind Farm showcases the potential of wind energy to de-carbonize the electricity sector and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

These case studies demonstrate that renewable energy technologies like solar and wind power can rapidly transform the energy landscape, contributing to a more sustainable future. Continued innovation and investments in renewable energy can bring us closer to achieving a carbon-neutral society and combating climate change effectively.

Case Study 2: Smart Agriculture and Precision Farming

Another area where technology is revolutionizing sustainability is agriculture. The world’s growing population necessitates increased food production while minimizing the environmental impact. Smart agriculture and precision farming techniques have emerged as promising solutions.

Vertical farming, for example, is a technology-driven approach to cultivate crops indoors, utilizing artificial light and efficient water usage. Japan’s Mirai no Toukei Kansai project exemplifies this concept. Located in an urban setting, this vertical farm occupies a small area but produces the equivalent of 10,000 square meters of traditional farmland. By leveraging advanced technologies such as LED lights, hydroponics, and AI-controlled systems, this vertical farm minimizes water usage, reduces pesticide dependence, and eliminates transportation emissions associated with long-distance food delivery. Vertical farming demonstrates the potential of technology to revolutionize traditional agricultural practices and ensure a sustainable food supply.

Similarly, precision farming techniques employ advanced technologies like sensors, drones, and data analytics to optimize agricultural practices. For instance, FarmLogs, a technology platform developed in the United States, collects and analyses data from various sources to provide farmers with real-time insights about their crops. By precisely monitoring crop health and nutrient requirements, farmers can minimize resource wastage while maximizing yields. Precision farming contributes to efficient resource management, reduced fertilization, minimized water use, and ultimately, more sustainable agricultural practices.


Addressing climate change requires a collaborative effort from various stakeholders, and technology plays a critical role in enabling the transition to a more sustainable future. The case studies of the Tengger Desert Solar Park, the Block Island Wind Farm, Mirai no Toukei Kansai vertical farm, and precision farming techniques exemplify the power of innovation and technology in combatting climate change. By continuing to invest in renewable energy, smart agriculture, and other sustainable technologies, we can create a more resilient and sustainable world for future generations. It is essential to embrace and leverage these advancements to ensure a brighter future for our planet.

Bottom line: Futurology is not fortune telling. Futurists use a scientific approach to create their deliverables, but a methodology and tools like those in FutureHacking™ can empower anyone to engage in futurology themselves.

Image credit: Unsplash

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