/ 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
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.
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!
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.
New York – We take individual control of personal information for granted today, but it didn’t really exist less than a decade ago. At that time, the Infoasset Management Industry erupted in reaction to a series of search advertising and behavioral targeting scandals. Now our infoasset managers routinely negotiate with product producers on our behalf using the instructions we provide in our profiles. And, as we all know from the historic Personal Copyright Ruling, they aggressively pursue legal action against those who attempt to misuse our personal information on either an individual or class action basis.
Twenty years ago Google was among the first to dramatically demonstrate the “value” of personal information by selling access to our search terms in return for a market valuation that soared to over $250 billion at one time. A national survey by the Infoasset Industry Association last year estimated the total value of personal information assets in the US alone at over $4 trillion. With an average management fee of 2%, this agrees with last year’s reported US revenues for the infoasset management industry at $80.2 billion.
When the SEC assumed regulatory control of the industry in 2016 they were simply formalizing what Google had already proven – trading in information is real money! Today’s it’s clear that the role of the infoasset management industry in upending the cozy world of web advertising was only the tip of the iceberg. 1
The insights that are growing out of the fact that we now control “all” of our personal information are amazing. The launch of HealCapsules for example was accelerated by at least five years according to informed sources due to the powerful Infoasset Trials App. The early applications in infoasset access featured cloud based intelligence engines that personalized our product experiences. Fueled by infoassets the next generation Personal Enterprise Networks are empowering us to act as the conductors of our own global symphony of enterprise relationships. The impact of this historic transformation on everything from health care to political corruption is truly stunning.
Chennai – In just the 30 days since the Wellgnosis launch this 24/7/365 security system for your body has attracted 80 million users globally. Of course it has helped that the core technology for the Wellgnosis service is the daily HealCapsule released last year. Thanks to creative packaging with nutritional supplements and vitamins HealCapsules are used regularly by over 100 million people. Within seconds of taking these tiny pills the tests inside the capsule begin transmitting signals to your HealCapsule App. The data is then aggregated and monitored by Wellgnosis. Messages are triggered or calls scheduled from nurses and doctors as appropriate.
Wellgnosis monitoring makes it possible to catch infections or other medical problems early enough to take preventive measures while only involving health care professionals when necessary. And if you don’t think that pathogens are working just as hard as your new Wellgnosis security system, take a glance at the event logs! You’ll see how a variety of pathogens entered your body but most were promptly eliminated by your immune system. The Wellgnosis system doesn’t actually become alarmed until certain critical thresholds are breached which point to a pending viral, bacterial or other threat. The system can even order mild antibiotic prescriptions when an early stage bacterial infection is detected. Wellgnosis was inspired by early wellness pioneers like Dr. John Travis founder of The Wellness Inventory. (71)
The social networking aspects of the Wellgnosis service are now making it possible for employers, schools, restaurants, bars, and other public spaces to require a “Wellgnosis Green” signal certifying that you are in good health and not contagious as a condition of admission. The Wellgnosis Worksite service is designed to reduce workplace illness by putting employees on “remote work” if they don’t register a “Wellgnosis Green” signal. WHO statisticians issued a report this morning estimating the explosive popularity of the Wellgnosis service could reduce global flu deaths alone by 80,000 annually by the 2022 flu season.
(72) Amory B. Lovins, E. Kyle Datta, Odd-Even Bustnes, Jonathan G. Koomey, Nathan J. Glasgow.Winning the Oil End Game. s.l. : Rocky Mountain Institute, 2004. 1881071103.
Shanghai – It’s ironic really. At the turn of the century there were many who were willing to believe in the prospect of a “technological singularity” where machine intelligence passed up that of humans. And yet those same visionaries often seemed pessimistic about the prospects for mere humans to harness these new intelligence structures to solve some of mankind’s biggest problems. Over the past three years the first wave of truly intelligent products has washed over the planet startling many people in remote areas with their self-directed actions while turning the world’s “regulatory” frameworks upside down. Was it really that far-fetched to imagine that the rise of super intelligence might allow us to create products that evolve and improve themselves? For some reason this trajectory for intelligence innovation seemed a bit too mundane. It didn’t conjure the same “clash of civilizations” drama that the malevolent human styled super intelligence beings suggested.
As we watch entire product cycles take place within a matter of hours instead of the months or years that human product development teams required, we’re reminded again that the products themselves have a tremendous advantage. Their specialized sense structures allow them to immediately process usage data and compare their individual analytics with their entire peer product network. This communication network also accelerates innovation by routinely borrowing techniques and technologies from other product domains. The net result is a pattern of rapid combinatorial evolution. Humans still play a role in most products by doing what human beings actually do best – imagining entirely new product systems.
As we watch products pass along evolutionary improvements to new generations of their own species that consume less resources while improving performance, it’s hard to be too disappointed that we may still be about 10 years away from re-producing true “human” intelligence outside of a human mind – right on track with an influential 2011 study produced by Dr. Nick Bostrom at Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute. (90) While that will certainly be a remarkable accomplishment, we do already have almost 9 billion of those minds roaming the planet today. What I really want to know is; 100 years from now… will our products be proud of us?
Paris – This morning’s demonstration of the MolecuMeals food processor truly lived up to the hype. An all-star cast of master chefs representing every major cuisine in the world was not just present at the event – they were cooking! Well, a more accurate description might be to say that they were running their proprietary recipe programs and the MolecuMeals processor was doing all the work.
MolecuMeals is a sleek countertop device that looks remarkably like a 20th century microwave oven. The MolecuBlocks cartridges slide into a sleekly hidden set of drawers just under the door to provide the “building blocks.” These contain the food molecules (glucose, gamma cyclodextrin, volatiles or aroma molecules, etc.) that the machine uses to make your meal. This is in stark contrast to the bulky containers that hang off the sides of the larger scale devices that have been turning out a stunning variety of food products in factories over the past two years. With molecular manufacturing less than three years old, who would have dreamed that it would already be this delicious?
I took a break from sampling MolecuMeals’ culinary outputs to visit with some of the technicians who were offering fully immersive nano-scale rides through a MolecuMeals processor as it creates a Beef Wellington. I love the evolution of terminology, we no longer “cook” Beef Wellington; the more accurate description is that we now “create” it. When PETA awarded the first In Vitro Meat Prize in 2014 the meat was literally grown using biological reactions inside large vats. When MolecuMeals creates Beef Wellington, the beef is being assembled from molecular building blocks using virtually the same manufacturing techniques employed in building a pair of shoes. The key structures that allow us to assemble our food began evolving 18 years ago when Sir Fraser Stoddart, then a professor at Northwestern University, discovered a highly structured, stackable, edible nano framework (49) made entirely of starch, salt, and alcohol.
A fascinating feature in the MolecuMeals Programming Language allows home users to interact with a fully immersive virtual kitchen to combine ingredients and prepare the meal. The cook can then store the meal preparation steps and “replay” that exact recipe in the future. The art of cooking lives on!
Hong Kong– The rise of Personal Manufacturing (PM) in the mid twenty teens initially followed a trajectory similar to that traveled by PC’s 40 years earlier and cell phones 20 years earlier. The first devices were curiosity pieces capable of printing off a few consumer electronics products and too expensive for the average consumer. A key problem was that many manufacturing processes required the use of specialized machines and materials that were too infrequently used to be cost effective for home use – even with innovations in miniaturization.
Then with the introduction of OctManufacturing Modules in the late 2020’s it became possible to configure manufacturing processes “on demand” in response to incoming signals from personal enterprise networks. Created from programmable materials, OctManufacturing Modules assemble and disassemble themselves in response to demand patters and the parts produced by these processes are routed to their final assembly points via RTVs and the global Guanway tube transport network. OctMaufacturing Modules are assembled from trillions, sometimes hundreds of quadrillions of blood cell sized (about 10,000 nanometers across) octet robots that move themselves into position and lock arms to form a solid structure. Over the past five years these smart little robots (each one has an on board computer more powerful than the average high end desktop computer of 20 years ago.
The average time from order to finished product delivery for most manufactured products is now just under two hours globally. The key of course to orchestrating this global ballet of manufacturing equipment and the accompanying raw materials needed to feed these processes is the signals that come from our personal enterprise network (PEN) apps and the predictive models tied to those signals. The visionary columnist and author Tom Friedman (82) coined the term “cloud manufacturing” over 20 years ago to describe how start-up companies orchestrated manufacturing resources anywhere in the world. What we’ve done is to take this one step further by making both the software and the machinery itself programmable using the tiny octet nanobot.
San Francisco – VitaMerc will be launching their initial public offering (IPO) tomorrow. In less than four years they have become one of the world’s most important “employers” even though their full time employee base is less than 2,000 people. But last year they helped 80 million people find meaningful employment.
So what is VitaMerc? Are they a social network? VitaMerc got its start as a social hub for people either actively looking for a new job or unhappy in some way with their existing work and wondering if there is something more to life. The word employ is from the Latin verb impicare – to enfold or engage. But, according to a 2008 survey of “Worker Passion” by Deloitte, (59) 80% of US workers were disengaged. VitaMerc’s genuine commitment as expressed in their three word mission statement – Engage Our Members (EOM) – was infectious. People began to dare to imagine that they too could actually be engaged at work. The VitaMerc community is not only filled with stories of people leaving a dead in job for something better but also countless stories of people reinventing their existing jobs.
Maybe it’s an employment service? When VitaMerc started placing their members in jobs they didn’t operate like the typical employment service. Instead of seeking job listings from employers, VitaMerc took stock of their member’s talents and went out in search of organizations or projects in need of those talents – even when those organizations didn’t always know it yet. VitaMerc also raised money for companies to complete revenue generating projects using a new class of financial products called FLOs – Flexible Limited Ownership securities. These securities generated revenue for VitaMerc, jobs for their members, and a dynamic tool for sharing equity with employees in a targeted way.
As a global service VitaMerc has been instrumental in helping to clean up some very bad forms of child labor abuse by supporting standards like those pioneered by Dan Viederman of Verité (60) for auditing global supply chains for fair employment practices. But a funny thing happened to VitaMerc on their way to becoming the Google of employment…their members love them!
Redmond – The release this morning of version 3.0 of OctInteriors was a little bit of let down. Yes, it did correct most of the issues associated with Instant Room Reconfiguration (IRR). The new Interior Design Processor has eliminated the embarrassing furniture jumbles that occurred in release 2.0 from not correctly disassembling replaced room furniture before new items were generated. But, when we tested IRR on transforming an Italian marble floor into a hardwood floor, the transformation took almost two minutes. We also noted several blemishes in the finish that had to be corrected using Spot Reconfiguration (we intentionally left a few dog chew toys on the floor during the test). Spot Reconfiguration took us another minute – not exactly instant!
But, if we turn back the clock forty years to when J. Storrs Hall wrote his pioneering paper “Utility Fog: The Stuff that Dreams Are Made Of” (7) in 1993 it looks like version 3.0 comes pretty close to matching that dream. The idea that we can replace all interior design elements – floor covering, wall covering, furniture, draperies, bedding, everything – with an army of quadrillions of programmable nanobots the size of human cells would have struck 20th century designers as lunacy. But that’s exactly what we’ve done with these tiny nanobots nicknamed – octlets. And we still aren’t satisfied with the programming interface are we? Of course OctInteriors is named for the strong octet truss structure that these tiny nanobots form when they join arms. The octet crystal structure was invented by technology visionary Buckminster Fuller in the mid 20th century before these structures had been observed in nature.
What’s next? The long anticipated release 3.0 of OctExteriors is planned in time for this year’s holiday shopping season. And, for the first time, both OctInteriors and OctExteriors will work with the same programmable octlets – no more customized octlets! Early rumors suggest that an entire 2,400 square foot home can be assembled in less than eight minutes.
Philadelphia – Two hundred and fifty years ago last month when Thomas Jefferson sat down to draft the Declaration of Independence. He drew on the work of a number of great thinkers. But it was Jefferson’s imagination that transformed John Locke’s – Life, Liberty, and Property – into the unalienable rights of Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. It was almost poetry. Property may have resonated with the landed members of the First Continental Congress. But Jefferson believed that this document should speak to all of us. Everybody could relate to the pursuit of happiness.
In a December 2009 article that appeared in Nature, the research team of Elizabeth Tricomi, Antonio Rangel, Colin F. Camerer and John P. O’Doherty (61) reported on a remarkable discovery. The human brain appeared to be wired for equality. They used fMRI brain images to demonstrate that a rich person was happier to see a reward going to a poor person than to her or himself.
In retrospect this shouldn’t have been that surprising. We’d seen many examples of wealthy individuals giving away the lion’s share of their wealth to benefit others. But then, a little over ten years ago a group of wealthy individuals launched “Venture Happiness” based on a simple principle – everyone on earth had an unalienable right to access the global enterprise system to produce a quality standard of living for themselves and their families. Or, stated another way, everyone on earth had an unalienable right to The Pursuit of Happiness.
As the Venture Happiness Fund has developed over the past decade, it has demonstrated a remarkable power to unite people from every corner of the political spectrum around the common goal of building “on-ramps” to the global enterprise system that create true “equality of opportunity” everywhere in the world. On this 250th anniversary of the founding of America there is a palpable sense that we may have at long last realized our true destiny by making Jefferson’s vision of the Pursuit of Happiness a possibility for everyone on earth.
Mumbai – Over thirty years ago in his classic book, “Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid,” (87) CK Prahalad observed that there were incredible business opportunities to be seized by serving the six out of ten people on the planet who struggled at the time to gain access to life’s most basic necessities. These people occupied what Prahalad termed the “bottom” of the global wealth pyramid.
This idea gave birth to a movement that came to be known as “The Liberation of Moore’s Law.” In 1965, Gordon Moore’s declaration that we would double the processing power of a computer chip every two years became a computer industry design specification. As we all know, the capacity of computing chips kept right on doubling into the 21st century. Similarly we take it for granted today that we can cut the cost of producing a quality standard of living in half every few years. But it was Prahalad’s vision that channeled our capacity for innovation into a project that struck many people at the time as alternately a utopian dream or a deflationary nightmare. In the process we liberated Moore’s Law so that it found its way into every aspect of our lives.
Compassion for the world’s impoverished masses played a smaller role than many cared to acknowledge in the Liberation of Moore’s Law. The key ingredient was a group of heroic visionaries who decided to abandon conventional politics altogether as a battleground for social welfare programs and simply solve the problem of universal access to a quality standard of living by driving down the cost. Revolutionary new developments in energy, health care technologies, and smart materials fueled entirely new possibilities.
In the early days those who identified with the “Liberation of Moore’s Law” movement were regarded alternatively as “crazy libertarians” or “misguided communists.” But, as the cost of a quality standard of living continued to plummet, the impact of this radical strategy on everything from Social Security Programs to political institutions is still rippling over the planet.
Beijing – This morning’s announcement by GuanWays Co Ltd. that their Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro routes will come on line later this year comes on the heels of a crash project to complete their Hong Kong to Panama route in June. The rapid expansion of these “relatively” inexpensive tube networks and the widely distributed infrastructure investments in the network has caused most commentators to dub them The Internet for Freight.
GuanWays was first funded by the Chinese government in 2013 as part of a project run by China Post that had the modest mission of creating a network of tubes serving all major cities in China. Initially this network provided postal services and small package delivery and the reaction from the world community was – a very innovative piece of local infrastructure. But, when China began laying trans-oceanic connections in 2018, it was considered a true “Sputnik Moment” by the world community – a reference to the 1957 launch of the Sputnik Satellite by the Soviet Union which catalyzed the US Space Program.
The first tubes were modeled after oil pipelines with power wired into the networks from hydroelectric projects. But innovations over the past 18 months have resulted in redesigned land-based tube assemblies – they fit neatly alongside existing highways – and use advanced SolarPour technologies to harvest sunlight during the day while converting excess energy into hydrogen for evening power. GuanWays’ transoceanic models also convert ocean weight and oscillating cargo flows into electricity. None of GuanWays’ competitors have yet been able to match their design innovations and price levels due to the huge head-start that they enjoyed and the estimated $50 billion in early stage subsidies from the Chinese government.
Part of the inspiration for GuanWays’ tube networks came from the pioneering work of Noel Hodson and his colleagues at Foodtubes (79) and their vision for networks of tubes to ferry groceries and other consumer goods around the world. When these new routes go into operation later this year, the sun will never set on the GuanWay network.
Washington – It was 75 years ago today that Ayn Rand released her classic philosophical novel “Atlas Shrugged.” Over the years there have been many Ayn Rand critics and many admirers. But, while we’ve witnessed a massive collapse in newly obsolete government programs in recent years across all of the world’s democracies, it’s clear that the Atlas Shrugged Scenario was not a driving force behind these changes.
For those who never saw the movies or made it through the 1,000 plus pages of the book, the central theme features an America in which government programs have become so oppressive that a mysterious leader named John Galt launches a strike of talented entrepreneurs, inventors, and creative individuals to protest the servitude imposed upon them by compulsory government regulations and taxation. In the metaphor, the country’s creative class is Atlas. In Greek mythology Atlas carried the weight of the world on his shoulders. The creative class makes up their minds to shrug off the dead weight of oppressive government programs. They stop creating, innovating, inventing.
We haven’t seen a global shift in government power on the scale of the past few years since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990’s. Worldwide government payrolls have shrunk by 85% from their 2023 highs. But this revolution is different. The global creative class has not been on strike. They have been creating! They have been creating a future in which a quality standard of living can be “produced” by everybody in the world with just a few hours of work each week.
The high tech guru Tim O’Reilly captured the spirit of possibility way back in 2008 by chiding budding innovators to get serious about channeling their creative energies into solving some of the world’s pressing challenges. (62) Looking back on Ayn Rand’s novel now it seems obvious in retrospect. Why would the global creative class take up the weapons of labor unions? Strikes? Really? When the ultimate solution was to innovate and invent our way to a future where the ideal of self-governance is realized. Atlas tugged humanity to a future of endless possibilities.
San Francisco – The creation of the Giving Pledge (68) by Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and Melinda Gates in 2010 was a watershed event in world history. Within a few weeks of its launch, forty of America’s wealthiest individuals had pledged to give away most of their wealth during their lifetimes – to be followed by dozens of billionaires from outside the US. But almost as important as the pledge was their agreement to meet periodically to “swap project ideas.” It took a few years for these dinner conversations to focus on some of the highest leverage ways to address the myriad challenges facing the world. But this focus on leverage points led directly to the birth of Venture Happiness.
The founding mission of the project was to put a “quality” standard of living within reach of everyone on earth – defined in the US as a $60,000 annual income in 2009. The goals behind this mission focused not on lifting incomes but on doubling the number of people who could be afforded a quality standard of living for a fixed basket of human and natural resources every two years. Drawing on the work of Nobel Prize winning economist Daniel Kahneman, (67) Venture Happiness and the World Bank created the Quality Living Standard Index (QLSI) in 2015 to establish a commonly accepted metric. One of the early criticisms of the Venture Happiness was that, if successful, it would trigger a global deflationary spiral of epic proportions. And yes, there were enormous disruptions on the way to the first doubling in the QLSI in early 2022. But it turned out that a bigger challenge than deflation was absorbing the $20 trillion in obsolete capital that was turned over during the first decade of the project.
Venture Happiness itself managed investments in what started as a $20 billion network of start-up companies. As the project officially ends later this year it will distribute the $8 trillion in PEN (personal enterprise network) securities not previously distributed. The project’s motto was borrowed from the Dalai Lama; “The purpose of our lives is to be happy.” A quality standard of living certainly can’t “buy” happiness. But it has made the pursuit of happiness a lot easier.
London – It was 10 years ago today that Nobel Laureate Al Gore was ridiculed for suggesting that Americans take up the goal of generating 100% of their electricity from renewable sources within ten years. (41) Many analysts proclaimed the suggestion “impractical” and “impossible.” But a few years earlier, another wild eyed visionary American noted, “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.” (42) That was Thomas Edison speaking to his friends Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone in 1931. One of Edison’s many accomplishments was that he built America’s first electric power station in 1882.
But it turns out that, while the focus on electricity from 100% renewable sources was right on target, the emphasis on the centralized electrical grid at the time missed the bigger picture. A few days after Al Gore’s renewable energy challenge speech on July 31, 2008, MIT professor of chemistry Daniel Nocera and his colleagues announced that they had discovered an inexpensive solar powered catalyst for separating the hydrogen molecules from the oxygen molecules in water. (43)
The daily sunlight that washes over the Earth is capable of meeting all of mankind’s energy needs many times over. But most of that energy was not captured in 2008. We lacked the technology to cost effectively “store” solar energy. Dr. Nocera’s process was inspired by the way that plants generate energy from the Sun via photosynthesis. It uses solar energy to power a catalyst that separates hydrogen from oxygen. The separated hydrogen is then stored in fuel cells for use when the Sun goes down or when a demand spike occurs.
Since the 2016 release of the HydRay (HR) energy harvester we’ve taken it for granted that the electric utility bill will soon be as obsolete as the public phone booth. The transition from centralized utilities to personal generators could be complete in the next five years. The falling cost and shrinking size of HydRay devices is now hailed as one of the leading forces in eradicating world poverty. Not bad progress for a challenge that many thought to be impossible!
Shanghai – This morning’s announcement of the MemputerNano is a landmark in computing history. It measures just 991 nanometers in diameter but the MemputerNano carries 100 gigabytes of memory. The memputer is similar to the human brain in that processing and storage are performed using the same memory structures. And, with the MemputerNano, processor densities now exceed those of the human brain.
According to Memputer, Inc. one of the more exciting immediate applications will be their integration into tiny healthcare robots that measure a little smaller than a red blood cell. These versatile and mobile HolClinics have been rumored for over a year now but they’ve been waiting for deployment until the MemputerNano was launched. HolClinics are being developed by GeneIntelligence Corp and should be completing FDAFastTrack clinical trials later this year. By deploying millions of these tiny nanobots into the body, HolClinics will provide monitoring and repair services for a dizzying array of therapies that previously required surgical procedures and other invasive treatments.
The history of the memputer is a gripping tale of bold prediction and relentless pursuit. Over a half century ago, mathematician Leon Chua proposed that there was something missing in electronics. The three pillars of electronics – the resistor, the capacitor, and the inductor – had been firmly established for well over 100 years. (21) But Chua’s calculations revealed that there “should be” a fourth pillar. He called it the memristor and described its properties. The only problem was that nobody had ever seen a memristor. It was 37 years before a team of HP researchers led by Stan Williams discovered (and built) a simple memristor after a protracted attempt to understand phenomena that didn’t fit the known models. The other key insight made by Williams and his team that ushered in the era of the memputer is the recognition that memristors are capable of both memory AND logic, i.e., computing! (22)
This revolutionary memputer platform is poised to unleash a wave of innovations from finally moving the clinic from outside to inside the body where it belongs to truly smart materials.
Yes, many of the products from the future that you will encounter in this book may seem fantastic, even unbelievable. I freely acknowledge that these products will not emerge exactly as I’ve described them here. But the important thing to notice with these stories is the “driving forces” that they illuminate. It is the six forces profiled in the book that will reshape the future in surprising new ways. By conducting these thought experiments with me, you’ll be stretching your imagination to consider new possibilities based on these forces.
It helps to take a little historical perspective when considering impossible futures. This book features product announcements out to the middle of the 21st century. Let’s travel back 50 years to 1961. Now, ask yourself how the following assertions would have been treated…
Computers are massive multi-million dollar machines requiring specialized raised flooring and dedicated air conditioning systems. / By 2010 the processing power of these machines will balance on the tip of your finger and cost a few dollars.
Most of the people in the world have never made a phone call and car phones are only seen in the occasional Rolls Royce. / By 2010, 70% of the people on earth will carry around phones in their pockets.
China is under the iron fist of Chairman Mao, desperately poor, citizens are starving. / By 2010 China will be the fastest growing major economy in the world and the leading trading partner with the US.
We are engaged in a Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) nuclear standoff with the Soviet Union and we know almost nothing about their closed economy. / By 2010 the USSR will have been disbanded for almost 20 years and Russian billionaires now own large stakes in US companies while wealthy US citizens pay to take rides in Russian space craft.
In May a Freedom Riders’ bus is burned. In December Dr. Martin Luther King is arrested in Albany, Alabama. / Six month old Barack Obama will be President of the United States in 2009.
Well, you get the idea. There may have been people willing to think about “impossible” futures in 1961, but these predictions would have been considered… just too far out. My point isn’t that we will experience a future that is similarly far out. The future that we will experience over the next 50 years will be orders of magnitudemoresurprising!
The people whose work has inspired the stories in this book are changing the world in ways that none of us fully understand. My hope is that by compiling this work in a way that creates a point of view on where it might be heading I can contribute to our collective imagination even if I will almost certainly fall short of describing what actually happens.