Crowdsourcing a TEDx: Eric Ezechieli - @SISSA Trieste - Exponential Tech Acceleration and Sustainability
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Mr. Eric Ezechieli, please take the stage (applause) Thank you Riccardo Good evening everyone, thank you for being here this evening First of all, I would like to position all of us in space we all know that we live on Earth (until we’ll open up the space frontier) but we forget that our place works exactly as a spaceship, it is a system closed for matter and open for energy everything that happens in here stays in here everything we do, we do it onto ourselves we should really behave like astronauts as Bucky Fuller reminded us 50 years ago but we forget that simple fact and we continue to ignore this absolutely concrete reality Second, I want to position ourselves in time, Many of us here have children. I have children: those two! Every so often I think in what year they will my age today In what year wil the children born in 2012 be your age today? we quickly jump to 2050-2060 in my case 2044 and 2048 50 years no longer seem so distant a time horizon This is an example by Marshall Brain. He says "In 1898 there was no human being on planet earth who could conceive such a thing," a B52 plane but B52s were flying in 1948 which was absolutely unimaginable just 50 years before similarly, the reality in 50 years form now is unimaginable today but we know for sure that our reality in 50 years will be the direct consequence of the choices we all make, now! We can not wait for the future to make critical choices and when I look around I see that we are still collectively behaving as if the earth's capacity were infinite the availability of resources were infinite and the demand for resources could grow indefinitely we think as as if we were in a tunnel, a straight road ahead as time goes by, all things considered, "business as usual" we do not need to change much in reality the situation is radically different and this is my key theme for this evening: we live in ‘exponential times’ we hear of exponential dynamics and trends all the time This word occurs frequently but we cannot grasp its real meaning exponential dynamics leave us completely flabbergasted for a simple reason they are beyond our everyday comprehension As I was thinking of a simple metaphor to explain exponentials I tought about popcorn If you have not tried to cook popcorn, try this! for 95% of the time nothing happens and then during the last 5% of the time everything happens the pot is filled with a rapidity that we would not have predicted at the beginning. This is exactly the age we live in today an era of quasi-exponential dynamics in all fields starting from the growth of population on Earth It took us three and a half billion years to reach the first billion people, in 1804 it took us only 123 years, an amazingly shorter time, to add the second billion 33 years for the third billion and gradually 12 to reach the seventh billion, in October 2011 This is exactly the pot of popcorn in which we live today and here is a true graphical representation The blue line represents the population on Earth nothing happens for a very long time and then since the use of fossil energy - we pump energy in the system - and we have the explosion the ‘popcorn pot’ can be found in everything we do we find a similar acceleration everywhere population, use of water, concentration of pollutants, number of cars all human activities in recent decades have exploded with a dynamic that is unprecedented in history We also must recognize that there has been a tremendous improvement in the human condition this graph represents on the vertical axis life expectancy on the horizontal we have wealth in 1800 we had a 35 years life expectancy the actualized income per person was around $ 1000 then see what has happened in just 210 years each circle represents one country China is the big red circle 1900 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010 we have become an entire converging world, advancing towards a prosperous future! However there is a price we are paying for that advancement to obtain such amazing result today we are already consuming the resources which could be produced by almost one planet and a half. At the present levels of consumption we are 40% beyond the capacity limits of the Earth and there are 5 or 6 billion people who aspire to the levels of consumption that currently characterizes one billion people This means that the tunnel having a constant width is just an illusion which is sill dominating our collective behaviors which is sill dominating our collective behaviors the reality is more similar to that of a funnel with converging walls: as time goes by, the earth's capacity to support life is systematically shrinking while the demand for resources increases systematically I let you imagine what is going to happen in the next decades as those megatrends exponentially accelerate and converge it is evident that we must fundamentally transform everything we do So, what can we do in the coming years? what are the priorities what are the key trends to be leveraged, what should we monitor, where should we invest what are the main determinants that will impact humanity in the next 10 years? Even if I have been studying these things most of my life I can not even think of answering alone When they asked me to prepare this TEDx I designed a survey I invited my friends in the Singularity University network to provide their perspective: "In 1 minute could tell me what are the top 3 technology trends that will impact humanity in the next 10 years?" I started collecting these trends and within 30 hours I collected over 650 entries from experts and I started to map them, to make meaning, to count the recurring elements, and identify the patterns I do not pretend this to be a scientific research I just will give you a perspective a picture of the tip of the iceberg There are elements that arise with greater frequency things that we hear every day. Here is one interesting reflection from one contributor: "10 years is already a very long time horizon when dealing with exponentials because the fundamental trends in the tenth year could emerge in the ninth year.” Therefore what I am saying now should be revived, and could be completely revised and rethought within a couple of years. Think about what happened with Facebook or the Arab Spring or the financial crisis which was completely off the radar just in the summer of 2008. Here is the first trend that emerged consistently and we hear about it every day: Energy How could we summarize such a huge theme? This is a mapping of ‘grid parity,’ when solar power will be cost-competitive with fossil energy without incentives across the United States. The first place where grid parity will be reached is San Diego in 2013 because electricity is more expensive in San Diego and there is a lot of sun. Shortly after the rest of California in 2017 and in 2022, just 10 years from now 100 million Americans will be able to access solar energy at competitive prices with fossil energy What does a scenario like this mean? This will radically change our culture We are already moving beyond fossil energy everyone can become an energy producer can recharge an electric car with the energy harvested on the rooftop we can implement intelligent networks of people co-producers who share electric power networks. This can happen even faster in Europe because the cost of electricity is much higher than in the U.S. Here you see the exponential dynamics playing out and driving the cost of solar reduction. Another fundamental exponentially accelerating trend that has emerged is Genetic Engineering It took 15 years and cost $ 3 billion to map the first human genome Today mapping a full human genome costs a few thousand dollars and takes a few hours By the end of the decade this will be a commodity we will go to the doctor with our DNA map There are workshops like this in Walnut Creek hundreds of machines mapping genomes 24/7, 365 days a year yielding an astonishing amount of information about Life What we do with this information? We can get graphs like this one this is the graphic representation of an organism’s DNA mapping it could be a bacterium or other living organism with this information we can make several uses for example this chart derives from my own genome mapping it is a partial mapping more than 200 markers that tell me ‘how I am made’ What medicines are good for me which are useless or harmful my vulnerabilities, what should I avoid what lifestyles are more advisable to stay healthy… we can completely ignore those information but I assure you, quite soon, having those information will transform your doctor’s life and practice We will learn to design individual tailor-made therapies we will have personilized treatment depending on the DNA we are also beginning to write life we are writing new genomes we are literally inventing new forms of life this is an important thing so immense that it should be part of our common culture there is no awareness on these topics those information should be widely spread in our society another emerging trend is related to artificial intelligence the ability of machines to process information following Moore's law: the cost of computation decreases exponentially over time this has been measured for about 60 years by projecting this growth - that has occurred over the past decades - a few years ahead we estimate that by 2025 with $ 1000 we will be able to buy the computation capacity of a human brain try to imagine what that means a human brain-equivalent computing power with only $ 1000 that means unbelievable computing power distributed decision-making capacity anywhere, everywhere or in tiny spaces this is an example Watson, a super-computer built by IBM who last year beat off all human competitors in the Jeopardy quiz game certainly a very specific application but it gives us an idea about the potential of computers today we can imagine what will happen next when moving machines are combined with artificial intelligence we get robotics This is me at Harvard University holding the little robot Nao whom already does very interesting things the projection is that with the growth of artificial intelligence and the growth of machines’ capacity we are going to increasingly replace human jobs we have been doing this consistently in the past 200 years it is a strong trend that will entirely transform our society this is a book written by Federico Pistono "Robots will steal your job but that's okay" I agree that’s ok we’ll have a lot of time to do interesting things but just up to a certain point technology left to itself tends to leave out humans we must invent and engineer a future in which all humans have a fun and relevant role with the growth of machines and the growth of artificial intelligence all the present debate on innovation and jobs creation must be completely reconceived we need a quantum leap with respect to what we are doing now we must bring the conversation to a completely different level where we seriously take these dynamics into account this is inexorably happening I do not say this is right or wrong this is already happening today here is another trend three-dimensional printing the ability to print objects of all kinds and shapes even very large and very complex ones at first we printed plastic objects now we can print very sophisticated metal objects we are starting to print electronic devices mechanical objects, small machines and going forward we are working on printing shoes, clothes, furniture, whole buildings… this means rethinking the very concept of ‘production in the factory’ this will soon bring huge changes in our culture today we are starting to print organs machines deposits a cell at a time we are getting good results with simple organs we expect in 10-15 years to be able to print complex organs such as a heart or others which may be spare parts to improve the lives of people who need them this is another example that touches a sector as traditional as constructions this is a tower built in China completed on December 31st, 2011 here you see the counter, time 0 time 24 time 51 time 78 202 360 360 days is a good construction time notice that 360 are hours! this is a 30-story hotel built in 15 days turn-key project ready for use with a level of efficiency 5 times higher than a comparable building what does this mean for the constructions industry? another epochal revolution it means a total reorganization of working methods I suggest you check the video on youtube, it is awesome as Ray Kurzweil suggests “we will not live a hundred years of progress in this century it will be more like 20,000 years of progress measured at the present rate” So what is my idea? we must radically rethink our activities starting today re-design re-invent them in such a way that the narrowing funnel we saw before starts to open-up and widen again How do we make sure that human ingenuity tends to regenerate the Biosphere, people, society? How do we collectively innovate so that the demand for resources is commensurate to the system’s capacity? we saw that the system is closed for matter and open for energy, exactly like a spaceship we have to rethink everything we do as astronauts would we have to rethink everything we do as astronauts would we must, and can, do it quickly because of exponential dynamics’ impacts I think this shift is quite natural. it will be almost physiological I think humankind will follow a path of least resistance I do not say it will be automatic It will require to stop, sit down listen, think, understand and act collectively as we have never done before in history Most of all, I think this transformation is feasible when we all realize, as Peter Diamandis suggests, that a young Masai in Kenya or a girl in Sierra Leone have today more access to information knowledge and learning opportunities and is more connected to the world than the President of the United States just 15 years ago Finally I want to offer a little tribute to the crowd of hundreds of people whom without asking anything in return helped me put these ideas together at a certain point I began to map out similar ideas with similar colors and this was the beginning… and as I went along with 650+ trends hundreds of web links collected in 30 hours at no cost I obtained something like this and then it got larger and larger and then I realized that the pattern looked like something I had already seen But … ah ... interesting! the two pictures look similar, but… …what is the fundamental difference? the difference is that the DNA at the bottom is a given sure enough, we're working on it, but for now, basically, it is not hugely variable what we see in the upper picture, every single pixel, is the product of our choices I believe that if we undestand the challenges the opportunities and the potential we have we will begin to make different choices we’ll begin to work together to create a future that is really desirable Thank you! (applause).
Crowdsourcing a TEDx: Eric Ezechieli - @SISSA Trieste - Exponential Tech Acceleration and Sustainability
Duration: 19 minutes and 20 seconds
Genre: Video Podcast
Producer: Eric Ezechieli - The Natural Step and Singularity University
Director: Eric Ezechieli
Posted by: ericeze on Mar 31, 2012
Crowdsourcing a TEDx: Eric Ezechieli at SISSA, Trieste. Exponential technologies and exponential challenges merging into the future. Solving Tough Challenges through wise use of exponential technologies, and mass collaboration.
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