Exponential technology like solar power, Artificial Intelligence, nanotechnology, and robotics are providing us with feedback loops that allow us to look at the bigger picture. Find out how technology can lead us to a more sustainable world. (3:20 min read)
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“We can’t keep preparing our children for a world that doesn’t exist.”
— Cathy N. Davidson
There are two ways we can look at the above quote. One is: that the world simply won’t exist. Or two is: that the world as we know it won’t exist. Either way you look at it, what we’re teaching our kids today will be irrelevant in the future.
The Future Looks Bleak
For years, science-fiction writers have been warning us of the impending future, a future that is inevitably doom and gloom, unless we take action now.
Today, we are using technology to forecast the distant future. And yes, the future still looks bleak.
Scientists have advised that climate change will cause an increase to the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. In Australia, we are already seeing the evidence of this through the destruction of our coral reefs and the increased intensity of bushfires.
How Exponential Technology Can Create A Greener Planet
It seems contradictory, right? To think that exponential technology — something that is so unnatural to the planet — can help solve the planet’s climate change crisis. Kaila Colbin, the Australian and New Zealand Ambassador for Singularity University, believes that technology plays a huge role in identifying the best solutions for creating a greener future.
“The super exciting thing about technology when it comes to climate change is that we’re starting to shift the narrative away from a collective action and towards best choice solutions,” explains Kaila.
Governments have drummed into us that every little bit counts, and saving the planet is both an individual and collective responsibility. If we all remember to turn off the lights after leaving a room, or use paper instead of plastic bags, the future may not look so bleak.
But Kaila says we have to forgive ourselves for being humans and setting unrealistic individual expectations. We need to start setting easy-to-hit, collective goals — and that’s where technology plays an important role.
For example, not all consumers of Teslas are motivated by factors of conservation (such as they’re electric and they’re better for the environment). If Tesla produced a slower than normal car, and an aesthetically undesirable car, Kaila believes the number of people buying Teslas would drop. Because Teslas are desirable, people are more eager to make the best choice for the planet, with no sacrifice on their part.
“All of a sudden the choice, that is absolutely the right choice for the planet, is also the right choice for the individual,” says Kaila. “The whole game changes because then we move away from sacrificing for the greater good.”
As an exponential technology, Tesla’s solar-powered batteries are innovating ahead of emerging technologies. Tesla was once deemed a luxury car because of its price point, but it’s now moving into the mainstream with technology that is easier to adopt, and has a lower price point.
With Tesla’s solar-powered batteries, the production and consumption of fossil fuels will hopefully decrease, and with that, so will the amount of pollution entering our atmosphere. Exponential technology will ultimately enhance our ability to enact positive change in the world.
Predicting the Future
Exponential technology like solar power, Artificial Intelligence, nanotechnology, and robotics are providing us with feedback loops that allow us to look at the bigger picture. Kaila believes that we are terrible at addressing large-scale, far away problems, but technology can help bring those problems to the forefront.
“I can readily imagine someone pushing a button and sending off nuclear weapons to kill people. That’s really tangible. I understand exactly how that’s happening. But with Hurricane Irma people are saying: ‘Well you can’t exactly say the hurricane is caused by climate change.’ The result of climate change is not immediate, like the result of a nuclear weapon.”
With exponential technology, the feedback loop between the effect of climate change and the result of Hurricane Irma can be narrowed down.
“Eventually, we’re not going to have a choice about dealing with it,” Kaila proclaims. And hopefully, we can do as much as possible — between now and when we have no choice — to mitigate the severity of those impacts.”
Republished with permission from Academy Xi.
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