Paris – Why has 92% of the world’s capital vanished since 2024? It was thirty years ago today that the economist Thomas Piketty released his classic book “Capital in the Twenty First Century”(1). Perhaps the central idea from the book was that historically the rate of return on capital is about three times larger than the growth rate of the world economy. Piketty demonstrated this relationship with meticulous historical data and believed that this issue would lead to growing inequality in the 21st century unless we “did something” to level the playing field.
Well, we did something. We invented atomically precise manufacturing (APM). Just ten months before Piketty’s book was released, Eric Drexler, one of the founding fathers of nanotechnology, published a book with the modest title, “Radical Abundance: How a Revolution in Nanotechnology Will Change Civilization”(2). This it turns out was the real story of “capital in the 21st century.” Drexler described how APM would make it possible to produce virtually anything using earth abundant materials in a few seconds time. The first APM devices released in 2024 worked with feed stocks of dumb nano-scale building blocks. But it wasn’t long before these building blocks became intelligent. Each 600 nanometer feedstock building block today (one tenth the size of a red blood cell) has more computing power than was used by IBM’s Watson when it became the World’s Jeopardy! Champion in 2011.
So how did APM wipe out 92% of the world’s capital? Once we could produce anything that we wanted using earth abundant molecules – silver mines, oil refineries, manufacturing plants, and other centralized production assets quickly became worthless. The rapid unfolding of events around APM resulted in a series of disruptions in the late 2020’s that, as we all know, were very bad. We almost snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by not anticipating the huge disruptions caused by APM. But we made it. Today we are largely free of the need to worry about the cost of a quality standard of living. The annual cost is negligible. People can produce virtually anything that they want instantly. Capital as we knew it in the 20th century has become obsolete.
(1) Piketty, Thomas (2014-03-10). Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Harvard University Press
(2) Drexler, K. Eric (2013-05-07). Radical Abundance: How a Revolution in Nanotechnology Will Change Civilization, Public Affairs
WeTheData.org Site – Terms of Privacy: This news report from the future is designed as a thought experiment to explore one possible future for personal information assets…
Sunday, July 4, 2021 – Philadelphia – Hard to believe that it was just six years ago that the first Terms of Privacy (TOP) apps burst onto the market in a big way and began the process of rapidly transforming first the world of online advertising and then virtually everything else. As we all know, the idea of consumers using an app to “counter” standard terms of service agreements with their own “terms” was fiercely resisted at first. “What nerve! Don’t they realize that the only appropriate response is to click the I Agree button?”
Washington – Like the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand that unleashed the events that led to World War I in the early 20th century, it was a shameful global spectacle of political impotence that gave rise to the Innovation Renaissance. In the summer of 2011, we watched as the United States of America threatened the world with a massive debt default. No, this was not due to an attack by a terrorist organization. This was the political establishment of the country itself taking the world economy hostage.
From the vantage point of 25 years and two major innovation shifts it may be easier today to see just how short sighted that desperate act really was. As Ayn Rand predicted in her classic book, Atlas Shrugged, the world’s creative class did decide to take matters into their own hands. But instead of holding the economy hostage by staging a massive strike as in Atlas Shrugged, they did what they do best – they innovated!
The first major shift of the Innovation Renaissance was inspired by an unlikely hero. Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert comic strip series wrote an article in January of 2011 titled “How to Tax the Rich.” (91) In the article he laid out a series of provocative ideas to stimulate innovative thinking. One idea involved designing the tax code so that the rich were responsible for social programs. If they could drive down the cost of those programs, they could drive down their tax rates and the size the Federal Budget.
The economist Daniel Kahneman was surprised at the results of a 2009 Gallup Survey on happiness. (70) The study produced a number. The amount of annual income below which people living in the United States tended to be progressively less happy and above which the happiness line turned flat. That annual income was US $60,000 in 2009. Later this year, that number now known as the Quality Living Standard Index (QLSI) is projected to fall under US $1,000 in 2009 dollars. Since Social Security Benefit formulas were revised in 2015 to be expressed as the lower of existing benefit calculations or the QLSI the cost of this social program has plummeted. But we did much more than that. Last year we put a quality standard of living within reach of everyone on earth.
91. Adams, Scott. How to Tax The Rich. WSJ.com. [Online] The Wall Street Journal, January 29, 2011. [Cited: July 31, 2011.]
70. Daniel Kahneman, PhD. The Riddle of Experience vs. Memory. Ted.com. [Online] TED , March 2010. [Cited: December 24, 2010.]
Palo Alto – In 18th and 19th century America the abundant resource was land. This abundance, according to C Wright Mills in his landmark book “White Collar,” (75) launched the era of the entrepreneurial middle class and nurtured a society with remarkable levels of meritocracy, diversity and resiliency. Now, let’s try a thought experiment… What do you suppose would have become of America’s social fabric if, instead of opening up the Western territories to generations of “settlers,” early explorers such as Lewis, Clark, and others simply exercised the prerogative of founders/discoverers and laid an ownership claim to these vast new lands? Would America have earned the designation – land of opportunity?
In the first decade of the 21st century information was the new abundant resource. And yet, by 2013, we were in grave danger of plunging the country and the world into years of economic upheaval due to the ways that powerful interests were aggregating and monetizing our personal information assets. By the twenty teens we were ready to take back control of our information assets and reinvent the dream of an entrepreneurial middle class with the creation of the Personal Enterprise Network (PEN) platform. Inspired by innovators such as author and game designer Jane McGonegal (77) from the Institute for the Future, these networks harnessed the control paradigm of multiplayer games to redefine the boundaries of the traditional “firm” and invent employment structures that follow an entirely new set of rules for participation in the ownership of the enterprise.
PENs made it possible for smart mobs of network members to define a new project, attract partner companies, and raise investment capital as a dynamic, self-governing cooperative of peers. The most powerful aspect of the PEN Economy is that virtually all of the 5 billion smart phone toting people in the world now play these exciting new global enterprise games!
(75) “White Collar” by C. Wright Mills
(76) “Reality is Broken” by Jane McGonegal
Washington – It was 100 years ago today that President Franklin Roosevelt, the “Father” of the US Social Security System, delivered his famous “Four Freedoms” speech. Freedom of speech and religion were familiar freedoms. And, as the fascists marched across Europe and Asia, “freedom from fear” represented a natural longing. But Roosevelt’s list went further than any American leader had dared imagine when he proclaimed “freedom from want” – a healthy peacetime life for everyone in the world.
Back in 2013 the US Social Security Trust Fund was on a course to run out of money as early as 2033. And, in the most technologically advanced epoch in human history, the world watched as tens of millions of children, women, and men died from starvation and easily treated diseases globally. On the surface, these two issues didn’t seem to be linked. But, in December of 2005, Bono and Bill and Melinda Gates were recognized by Time Magazine as “Persons of the Year” and the world was given a rare gift – a new definition for heroism.
Inspired by this example a vast global network of citizen-heroes emerged. The first thing that became clear was that, to deliver a quality standard of living to everyone in the world, it would be necessary to reduce the huge amount of waste involved in producing a quality standard of living. Once the challenge was framed as driving down the cost and waste involved in producing a quality standard of living, the link between “freedom from want” and the Social Security Trust Fund crisis became clear.
In 2017 Congress passed changes that expressed all Social Security retirement benefits in terms of the lesser of the then current benefit levels or the “quality standard of living” index (QLSI). While the QLSI was initially several times higher than the calculated retirement benefit level at almost $50,000 annually, the Venture Happiness group projected that they would cut the QLSI in half within five years and continue to cut the index in half every few years until we reached a QLSI of $1,500 by 2036 – just a little over $4 a day. Five years ago the world watched as the QLSI passed that threshold right on schedule. Roosevelt would be proud indeed that we saved Social Security and delivered on his Freedom From Want vision within the span of one human lifetime.
Washington – Three years ago today the first Charter Research Networks were launched in the United States. They were designed to accelerate the trip from innovation to medical treatment by making it dramatically easier for individuals with life threatening conditions to participate with researchers in finding a cure for their disease.
So why did these networks generate so much controversy? To answer this question we need to go back almost two decades to the 1999 death of Jesse Gelsinger from complications following his treatment in the world’s first gene therapy trial. Gelsinger’s death was a tragedy, but the greater tragedy was the response from the medical community. This response had a much more deadly reaction than the immune response that took Jesse Gelsinger’s life.
Over ten years later, researchers were still haunted by the specter of this trial as they dared to launch the second embryonic stem cell trial in a privately funded effort by Geron Corporation in 2010. (38) A 2009 study by Hearst Media estimated the number of annual deaths from medical error at 200,000 (39) – the estimated total deaths that can be attached to the reaction of the medical community to Jesse Gelsinger’s death will undoubtedly be several times that number when the report “Gene Therapy Delayed: The True Cost of Excess Caution” is published later next month.
The first Charter Research Network was inspired by the visionary Stand Up To Cancer (40) initiative. The small team of young researchers who put that network together had grown up on social networking technology and had no patience with a collection of human trial processes that appeared perfectly content to sacrifice an unlimited number of future lives to avoid the possibility of making research mistakes today. Instead, they seized on a concept pioneered by the visionary economist Paul Romer as “charter cities” and adapted it to medical research. The Stand Up To Cancer Manifesto; encourages us to; “Take our wild impossible dreams – and make them possible” this captures the essence of what charter research networks stand for today.
38. Ritter, Malcolm. Feds OK 2nd human study of embryonic stem cells. Washington Post. November 22, 2010, 2010.
39. Harmon, Katherine. Deaths from avoidable medical errors more than double in past decade. Scientific American Magazine. August 10, 2009, 2009.
40. Wikipedia. Stand Up to Cancer. Wikipedia.org. [Online] September 13, 2010. [Cited: September 13, 2010.] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Su2c.