Human development and innovation has never been as fast as it is today. Exponential change is the new normal. Can we save ourselves in time?

The first industrial revolution, bought us long-distance communications using the telegraph, the discovery of abundant coal and the building of railways. In the second it was the telephone, radio, TV, cheap oil, centralised electricity, and the meteoric rise of internal combustion vehicles.

However, after 200 years of this activity scientists report that climate change is ravaging the planet, taking us to the sixth mass extinction event on earth. Yet, human development and innovation has never been as fast as it is today. Exponential change is the new normal. Can we save ourselves in time?

We are just at the beginning of an economic paradigm being fuelled by digitalisation. Of course, this started with the communications internet, but that’s just beginning to converge with a renewable energy internet – and soon, with a clean, GPS-guided, driverless transport and logistics internet.

The energy revolution is changing not only in the way we capture and store energy, but also a shift in how we finance its construction and who owns the systems. Renewables are small scale and modular, enabling the shift from a centrally owned and controlled system, to one that is distributed and networked. This energy internet is well on the way, you can read more about it here.

The transport revolution is only just beginning. Currently, our cars spend most of their time sitting in garages or parking spaces, close to where we live. In the future, autonomous vehicles will be available when and where we want them. You’ll even be able to change the type of vehicle you want, for any particular occasion, whether it’s a van, a bus or even a limousine. Ownership could become obsolete. However, there are many challenges to overcome before this future arrives, you can read more here.

A resources revolution is also only just beginning to emerge. We are transitioning away from an economy based on extraction and consumption to one of regeneration and restoration. New technologies are enabling resources to be tracked and traced through their entire life cycles and then recycled back into the system. We are moving away from destructive consumerism to sharing and circular economies, you can read more about it here.

The key technology enabling these transformations is the Internet of Things (IOT). Having devices and sensors embedded in almost any object means they can communicate to us and with each other. The result is a smart, digitally connected society, which has up to the moment data on managing, powering and moving our lives. But again this trend is only just getting started. Currently, there are 14 billion sensors working in a global network. Thats a lot, but by 2030 it’s estimated there will be over 100 trillion. Wow.

When all this data is plugged into rapidly developing AI systems, there is the potential to bring about vast improvements in the efficiency of pretty well everything we do. Some have even suggested humanity has the potential to enter the Age of Abundance where goods and services become essentially free (see below).

Check out Jeromy Rifkin’s book – The Zero-Marginal Cost Society.
It describes how we may be heading to an era of nearly free goods and services, with the meteoric rise of a global Collaborative Commons and the eclipse of capitalism – The Age of Abundance.

However, there is still some way to go. Driverless cars, a circular economy and the energy internet are no longer dreams, but they are only just starting to gain momentum. They can heal the biosphere, create a more just and humane society, and provide a sustainable future for everyone on earth. But we are in a race against time…

If you want to read more around this topic and find out where I got some of my information from, check out – Jeremy Rifkin: The Zero Marginal Cost Society


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