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Business - Written by on Friday, September 5, 2008 8:37 - 0 Comments

Don Tapscott
Update from the Talk of the Future Conference

I’m in Krems Austria at the Talk of the Future Conference. I have the opening keynote this morning. Last night I heard an amazing talk from Dr Franz Joseph Radermacher, head of the Research Institute for Applied Knowledge Processing and the Chair of Computer Sciences at the University of Ulm. Member of the club of Rome and an expert in artificial intelligence.. It was a profound talk. My notes are below:

The issue is not the individual. The issue is human kind as an intelligent system. We’ve been living for 4 million years. What keeps us together? Communication.

Innovations are powerful mechanism to change input output mechanisms. There is a universal mechanism of communication where by superior innovations become part of standard procedure. It took 4 million years to get us to 20 million people. 8,000 BC. Up to that point we were hunters and collectors.

When Christ was born, there were 200 million people. 4.5 billion people born with last 35 years. Soon 10 billion. This super organism — human kind — always creates new technologies and capabilities.

Artificial intelligence is nothing compared to human intelligence. Small groups in power can use machines (IT) to be disruptive to progress. So governance is a key issue.

People solve problems with brains. But then why do we have so many problems. The boomerang effect — rebounds. We are are winners, but we win to kill ourselves. We solve problems and then we use computers to create even bigger problems. Eg. we keep people alive to enable them to produce more people — leading to a supra-exponential explosion in the number of people, average consumption, average use of energy by humans. All our successes make the situation worse. Club of Rome communicated this 40 years in a statement “Limits to Growth.” Another publication about limits to resourced based growth but not brains. We need to dematerialize. Unlimited brain growth.

Eg: if we could have a climate neutral energy source we can have 20 billion people living on earth.

Humans in the past didn’t notice innovations. They didn’t live long enough.

We are at a critical point in human history. The breakthrough of a new theory is when the last Nobel laureate of the old theory dies.

Implementation of solution takes a long time. For example a new energy source will take 50 years to really take hold.

So enormous dilemmas about the increase in growth and requirements for dramatic increases in resources.

Agriculture is the most important part of our lives. We don’t notice it because it’s such a small part of the job market. Industrial society produced way more food than the agricultural society. Knowledge society creates the biggest industrial output ever… And also the highest agricultural output. (I like this three economies thing — each one being subsumed by the previous).

Cows have a greater collective weight than humans. They need an unbelievable about of food and water. Take into account all the water (including indirect) to make a breakfast and its 4,000 leaders.

Climate change needs to be addressed from the perspective of human kind, not the nation state because it is a collective problem. Governments and States need to change. We need global governance.

Prisoner’s Dilemma — a badly regulated situation whereby humans are incented to do the wrong thing.

Property rights are another huge issue.

Psychologists say…

Who’s the problem — China or the US? China just getting caught up. History of colonization in the world and also history of uneven contracts.

The future of the super organism human kind is unclear — because it’s not clear if we can create the governance conditions (collaborative systems) that can bring about the potential of all humans. IT should help. It’s possible in theory to have peace with nature. But to get there we need a governance structure that can limit our collective activities when they get in conflict with the last of physics.

We need to stop externalizing costs in the global economy. We have a free ride at the cost of nature. The climate issue is a consequence of that.

The only way to avoid a catastrophe is to start now to give us the 50 years to implement new solutions as they come. If we fail the world will collapse in an economic and other ways. Or we’ll see the Brazilization of the world (two tier society… Most people will not use cars or computers, but a handful will). Coercive existence…

But this competition between 200 nation states, we have a chaotic incentive structure, with the prisoner’s dilemma reigning, we’re headed for disaster.

IT and the web is the key to this. The tool to create the digital nervous system of human kind. Humans and machines combined…part of intelligence resides with humans and part with the machines… Web 2.0 — millions of people collaborating as never before.

Al Gore is the best advocate. His book the Assault on Reason is an historic piece.

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