Insights April 15th, 2019
Nikolas Badminton was invited to be a Futurist in attendance for the United Nation’s UNFCCC Resilience Frontiers. Here we see his short essay on creating resilience to climate change – ‘How Big Ideas and Exponential Technologies Can Create Resilience to Climate Change’. This was used as a guide for his keynote that kicked off proceedings (you can see the video of the keynote here).
Good morning and welcome. It’s a privilege to be here with so many incredible people that have been selected specifically based on what you can contribute. I look forward to getting to know you all and seeing what we can achieve this week.
The collective intelligence process that will produce a sum bigger than its parts – a unique setting rarely seen in a UN conference. A place where we can reimagine a climate resilient future.
THE PROBLEM WITH PERCEPTION
So, why am I here?
I remember my grandfather in the late-1980s in the Summer. He was sat in the backyard with shirt sleeves and trouser legs rolled up basking in the glory of the sun (which was mostly rare in the UK Summers). I distinctly remember him looking over and smiling and saying “If this is global warming then I am all for it.”
As a teenager I knew something was very wrong with that perspective, but it epitomized a global sentiment. People just didn’t take it seriously.
My Grandfather couldn’t have envisaged the 1 degree celsius temperature rise since preindustrial times. Nor, what we’ve been dealing with to-date – Megadroughts, raging wildfires, decimated forests, dengue fever, and legions of category 5 hurricanes. And, there will be more to come. As the IPCC says, if emissions continue at the current rate, the increase in average global temperatures will hit 1.5 degrees C sometime between 2030 and 2052. Beyond that point, impacts will be even more severe.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that found these results, has now said that unless humans act now to curb our climate-warming pollution, warned the, “we are in deep trouble.” – read more.
SHIFTING SANDS & PROGRESS
The first three Industrial Revolutions have created incredible human progress and growth by accelerating innovation in communications, energy, and transportation.
1st – STEAM (accelerated by the rise of the new working week)
2nd – ELECTRICITY (accelerated with the automotive industry)
3rd – COMPUTING (accelerated with the Internet and mobile)
Industrial Revolutions have brought huge progress. Population growth. Trillions of dollars in global GDP growth. With that came unparalleled pollution that has changed the global climate to our most concerning point today.
That progress has led us into a new world from from the HOLOCENE – the growth and impacts of the human species worldwide and overall significant transition toward urban living in the present – to the ANTHROPOCENE – a new epoch where we see changes in Biodiversity, Biogeography, Nocturnality, Geomorphology, and Climate.
Note: It’s been argued that the proposed Anthropocene began in the background of the holocene approximately 8,000 years ago with the development of farming and sedentary cultures. That has been galvanized over the past 200 years and the first three Industrial Revolutions.
THE 4th INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION (4IR)
Today, progress in our world comes from a fusion of technologies that are blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres. Otherwise known as ‘Cyber-physical systems’.
The backbone of this revolution is the Internet. And, the Internet was in fact born out of the need for resilience of communications.
Now, the drivers of change we are exploring this week – Artificial Intelligence (plus big data, IoT and blockchain), Autonomous Systems, Satellite Technology, Biotechnologies, coupled with a Sustainability Ethos will drive us forward. Institutional change – Financial stability, Education, Law / regulation, Habitats and Values / cognition – will drive us forward to meet our Basic needs – Water, Food, Health / wellbeing, Nature, and Security.
The one thing to note is that the 4IR would be nothing with those IRs that came before it’s kick-off.
There is irony, not lost on me, in that the players in the 4IR are uncomfortable bedfellows in the new world.
LEGACY ORGANIZATIONS – The accumulated wealth of big businesses that has contributed to our current situation – big energy companies, transportation companies, and all industries that have not followed a (true and just) sustainability ethos.
EXPONENTIAL ORGANIZATIONS – The new data-driven companies that are keen to create sustainable and responsible operations and global resilience around climate change. We are at a point where the most valuable companies in the world are fuelled by data and technology platforms. Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Alphabet, and Microsoft now have a combined market cap of around USD$4.5 trillion. And, all of them are investing in addressing their potential impact on climate change with a sustainability ethos. It just makes good business sense. That is what is waking up the legacy organizations.
It’s the changing of the guard, and we are the people that can envisage how to mobilize ideas using combinations of the ‘drivers of change’ and thinking big.
DESIGNING OUR FUTURE
As a Futurist I get to work with the incredible people creating the new world.
I also get to educate tens of thousands of people at conferences and executive retreats on how we can start to make better choices today using exponential technologies – or, drivers of change – that address our basic needs and implications on the institutions that help shape and run the world.
This week is about VISION. It’s about creating OPPORTUNITY. It’s about being RADICALLY CREATIVE in how we think big about solutions.
DO NOT DISCOUNT ANY IDEA!
SIGNALS OF CHANGE & BIG IDEAS
When I talk about 4IR I like to refer people to Amara’s Law – “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run”. Here we need to think beyond what we THINK will likely happen, because we are likely to be very wrong…
This is illustrated beautifully by the dominance of mobile telephony and its effect on the world today, and how AT&T didn’t have the foresight to see what the likely future would be.
1980, McKinsey & Company predict that mobile would have 900,000 subscribers by 1990 for an AT&T analysis – could so many people really WANT that connection?
1984 the Motorola DynaTAC 8000x was released in the USA. It was unwieldy. An unlikely future that would catch fire.
1990 – McKinsey’s forecast was woefully wrong – it was less than 1% of the actual figure, 109 Million. To rejoin the cellular market, AT&T had to acquire McCaw Cellular for $12.6 Billion.
2011 – the number of subscribers worldwide had surpassed 5 Billion and cellular communication had become an unprecedented technological revolution for everything from transportation to accommodation to banking and gaming.
2020 – 6 billion smartphones that will have embedded A.I. systems and dozens of sensors that create a new democracy around technological enablement.
In the short-term we focus on single technologies and the quick opportunities they bring. Our job here is to look at the long-game. This is finding the problems we have to address – in our case, climate change – and apply one or more drivers of change
Let’s see some solutions born of big (and simple) ideas…
WILDFIRE PREDICTION – ‘The Smart Wildfire Sensor’
Last year was California’s most destructive wildfire season on record, with more than 1 million acres burned. This year is breaking different records. The Camp Fire is the deadliest wildfire in California history, with 85 people dead and 249 listed as missing. The fire destroyed some 19,000 buildings, most of them homes – read more.
Two high school students invented a device to predict the probability of a forest fire occurring. The device is placed in the forest and can take real-time photos which are uploaded to SensorInsight to enable realtime visualization. Deep learning algorithms are used to analyze the images and predict the amount of dead fuel present in the sensor’s area. This information is combined with local weather data to predict the possibility of a fire – read more.
SOCIAL MEDIA INSIGHTS TO DRIVE DISASTER INSIGHTS & RECOVERY
Researchers are mining social media data to improve disaster response. Going through it manually would be impossible, but different AI tools could pinpoint the most crucial messages.
Texas Tech and George Washington University documented a machine learning system that can analyze tweets and identify volunteers and victims, along with their locations.
“Our proposed new disaster relief framework bridges the gap when traditional emergency help lines such as 911 are overwhelmed, thus benefiting both the disaster victims and the non-governmental organizations seeking to help them,” the authors wrote – read more.
SUSTAINABLE FLOATING CITIES – OCEANIX
The developers, a company called Oceanix and partners including the Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, insist this time is different.
They envision an eventual galaxy of satellite “cities” built where coastal urbanization is hitting limits. They would consist of mass-produced, storm-worthy hexagonal floating modules, towed into position, moored and connected in larger arrays topped by sustainably built housing, workplaces, recreational and religious facilities, and the rest. Ferries and drones would be a tie line to shore. The communities would be sustained as much as possible with local solar and other renewable energy, recirculating water and rainwater, and local food production. Read more.
RADICAL THINKING AND BIG QUESTIONS
This week is about big ideas, radical thinking and looking out towards future solutions that we can imagine here together.
I do thinking that it’s also important that…
- How will will humans and businesses operate in 2030 and beyond? And, what changes technologically and from a belief perspective?
- What comes next in the evolution of the drivers of change? And, what impact will they have?
- We imagine solutions that are accessible, and apply to, every person on the planet? How can we create applicability, affordability, and accessibility – we can’t afford to leave anyone behind in the 4IR or the gap between those that have, and those that have not will get wider.
I’m supremely confident that the collective intelligence, creativity, and imagination here will generate a multitude of ideas that could transform into roadmaps for solutions that create resilience in the post-2030 world.
See more of Nikolas’ climate-related posts: