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Saving the world is going to require a lot of work. Here's a few places to start
I've been reading Global Risks 2011, the sixth edition of the World Economic Forum's Risk Response Network report. It reviews the various major issues that face the world--and there's a lot of them. Most interestingly, though, it also mentions, almost in passing, what some of the solutions might be. Many of them are things that are not being done, but that could be done, and could in fact be the basis of entire careers, business models, or academic careers. So for instance, take the following:
- For the potential problem of global governance failures, they say that "A counterbalance would be a well-informed and well-mobilized global public opinion sharing norms and values of global citizenship, but this is not yet fully developed." Okay, I sense a truly massive business opportunity here. CNN and Al Jazeera were just the beginning; what if we treated all news as local? We've been edging this way for decades, but we can automate things now we couldn't have imagined just a few years ago. So, I want an interactive map of the world that shows all of today's reported murders as red dots; and a weddings overlay as well; and... well, everything. I want to know what's going on. News reports themselves should just be the last level of drill-down in the process.
- For resource security, the WEF advocates something they call sustainable consumption. Becoming an expert in this or getting in on the ground floor of this new business movement could make the next generation of billionaires. There's many opportunities here, eg., garbage design, which should have its own degree programs.
- The WEF views potential retrenchment from globalization as a risk. I understand this position, but see my last post on the perils of interconnectedness; there's a space here in the early 21st century for building local resilience for food, water, energy, and other resources. Call it a new kind of insurance--not a step towards a "new medievalism" but part of a general strategy of keeping our civilization robust. DARPA's recent announcement that they want to put 1000 3d printers in U.S. schools points in this direction. Globalization is a strong trend, naturally; but the counter-trend is also strong and should be encouraged.
There's a lot of worry and hang-wringing today about the financial system and jobs. The fact is, though, that certain aspects of the future are very, very clear. Water will be an issue throughout the U.S. midwest. Some new measure of prosperity other than GDP will become the norm by which nations are compared. Economic growth, in the traditional sense, will have to slow, but something much more interesting could replace it. These things are crises only if you are desperately trying to hang on to old ways of doing this. For those willing to try something new, they're gigantic opportunities.