TED Conversations

Stephen G. Davis

CEO, KnGrid


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Maintaining human civilization by focusing on the key challenges of our time: energy, food and resource depletion.

While the ominous threats of a changing climate have failed to prompt America or any other large economy to wake up from our consensus trance, there are other challenges equally as frightening and urgent: The certainty of increasingly costly fossil fuels and their impact on our banking system. Rising energy prices are taking their toll on the middle class already.

At the same time, we see a scramble by emerging economies to emulate America's suburban lifestyle. The problem is that America's perpetual growth model rely's on cheap energy to validate suburban home values. It is a problem that no politician can even discuss in today's hacked operating system for privately funded elections.

We must develop clear consensus about this problem. In order to avoid economic chaos, we need to chart an orderly course to a world that does not rely on ever increasing oil production and perpetual growth in consumption of all things.

We have an entire industry with formidable political clout that does not want this problem to even be acknowledged, let alone solved.

There are solutions:

1. More walkable and bike-able communities with local food production
2. Less Suburban sprawl which leads to stranded (and destroyed) wealth as liquid fossil fuel prices inevitably trend upward when daily production rates peak.
3. More emphasis on distributed energy generation with renewable sources combined with energy storage technology.
4. Developing less energy intensive farming techniques that don't rely on oil based fertilizers and pesticides. ("Perma-culture")

This transition will require decades. To avoid chaotic economic consequences, it needs to begin now. As T. Boone Pickens once asked "when's the best time to plant a tree? The answer is 20 years ago." Another salient comment from James Howard Kunstler: "No amount of renewable energy is going to allow us to continue running what we're running the way we're running it."

If this frightens you, it should.


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    Sep 14 2013: I think the key challenges of our time are completely different.

    Energy, food and resource depletion -> are not challenges at all. They are only consequences of the total ignorance and extremely low level of education.

    The key challenges are:
    (1) The education available to everybody and appropriate to the needs of the epoch. Nurturing an integral and systemic understanding of the society, sociotechnic and sociology, governance, economy, psychology, global historical process, religion, elements of mathematics; nurturing the constructive and methodological culture of cognition, thinking and communication.

    (2) Fulfillment of the appropriate maneuver towards the global society on principles of democracy (public sovereignty) and by that avoiding the third world war. This is a real challenge. The established practice and culture of diplomacy and global peace making is not appropriate: it accumulates conflicts in all regions of the Earth instead of discharging the conflicts, which have been accumulating for centuries of wars, racial and religious conflicts, etc. It is time to reevaluate the moral aspects of the interrelations between people of different cultures of the world. And build a new global culture which will not dominate over other cultures and erase them, but which will integrate them and persist their originality and unique identity.

    (3) Restrain the disruption of control in the technosphere, resolve the system crisis.
    (3.A) The growth of the amount of information and "informational garbage" is accelerating over years
    (3.B) It results in persistent increase of complexity of all systems
    (3.C) It worsens by separation of particular specialists in their domains: they speak different languages which only they understand
    (3.D) The growth of complexity results in the growth of entropy, ambiguity, unpredictability, "chaos". The technosphere becomes more and more unpredictable. Less understandable. We have the crisis of control.

    On what level are you agree with me?

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