I’ve just devoured an insightful and fulfilling book, The Precipice, by Toby Ord. I’d put off picking it up thinking it would be a doom-filled ride of existential risk and my current brain wouldn’t be able to cope. I was wrong. Instead, I found an accessible distillation of my thoughts over the last few years, particularly around why we aren’t taking the climate crisis as seriously as we need to, as well as a detailed journey through the other risks humanity faces.
I’m both a committed environmentalist and a lover of technology. Not the upgrade on your mobile phone every year or surrounding myself by every gadget that is created, but the possibilities opened up by science and engineering. Humanity has achieved incredible things by brilliant brains working on problems. Yet, we are now facing human-created problems that pose risks to our entire future, and therefore our entire future potential.
I am in awe of the physicists working on the Large Hadron Collider, and what incredible achievements and knowledge are we discovering as a species. I am in awe of projects such as the James Webb Space Telescope, what other species do we know that can look out into the depths of space and explore our universe. I am in awe of the scientists and medical practitioners who rapidly responded to the coronavirus crisis, protecting huge numbers of people with their heroic efforts. Humanity and its achievements are incredible.
Within this we have also created problems. With the climate and biodiversity crisis, driven by the burning of fossil fuels and our ever-expanding search for resources, we are walking into severe disruption and potentially our own demise. Yet, we have the collective power to prevent the worst impacts and build new systems that can take us safely through these times. So why isn’t that happening at the speed and scale necessary today?
Well, to a point it is. We already have commitment within the Paris Agreement to move humanity towards zero carbon. This is important and a good basis, but we need more, faster. Political systems are limiting, the short-termism of those in office by nature doesn’t provide longtermist views and future-thinking policies. The vested interests of polluters, currently repositioning themselves as saviours in the face of war in Europe, further muddy the waters. How can we therefore raise the maturity of global conversations to take us beyond, into a future, potentially reaching far beyond our planet and across the galaxy?
Coordinating global approaches to humanities challenges is no mean feat. We are nearing eight billion people on this planet, with a huge number of differing opinions and cultural contexts in which we grow and learn. Geopolitical tensions remain high between different countries, war and conflict stifle coordination and the necessary collaborations to achieve the required resolutions. Entrenched inequalities allow for individuals to hold immense power, whilst some of our potentially most astonishing brains are left scratching livings on waste and scraps.
Raising the levels of our conversations will be critical and here’s where leaders can really lead. In organisations and businesses we can think carefully about the future, humanities potential, beyond our desks and walls. Bringing this next level thought into the workplace, and then throughout our communities, will feel challenging. It should be. These conversations and discussions will be big and expansive in their remit, people will question and ask why they are applicable. Yet, with the forethought of the future, we can co-create optimal paths, ways forward in a complex world that need this process.
It would be great to hear from you all about how you think about the future? Please leave a comment below and let’s start a high level conversation. Our future is in our hands.