SXSW 2013: A Long Future From The Lone Star
The way I see it, former elected U.S. president Al Gore and digital payments guru and solar/space explorer Elon Musk would have it one of two ways: Either we get our act together on Planet Earth and stop treating it as a discardable TV dinner, or we get on some rocket ships and get the %#*&#$ outta here!
Of course, space travel’s still a little too expensive for the average joe, considering our recent income disparities here in the U.S., so I suspect for now most of us really don’t have much of a choice but to stay here.
Mother Earth, we’re stuck with you, and it looks like you’re stuck with us!
Gore’s talk was the kind that made you want to go ahead and just put a gun to your head and pull the trigger. But with all this gun control talk, that’s about to become less of an option.
Orrrr, you can take a more positive and upbeat view of the world, and reason that since we created many of these problems, we oughta be able to lick ’em.
Gore’s latest book entitled The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change outlines just that, and Wall Street Journal technology editor Walter Mossberg sat onstage with Gore on Saturday to walk through some of those changes.
Gore explained the idea of “Earth Inc,” whereby we are realizing a “new stage of economic globalization with much tighter linkages and nexuses globally,” and that we have a “new relationship to the natural factors of production: labor, capital, natural resources.”
Think outsourcing, remote sourcing, robosourcing, rightsizing, and all that good stuff, and you get the general gist.
He also discussed the emergence of what he called “the global mind,” or the connections of thoughts and feelings of billions of people to each other and other devices (and vast databases…and sensors…and so on).
On this meme, he told an hilarious story about Swiss dairy cows which, with embedded sensors, are able to convey to their ranch overseers when they come into heat (for optimal reproduction). The first instance, Gore joked, of “interspecies sexting.”
Who said the former President doesn’t have a great sense of humor?
Of course, all that data and all those sensors could also lead to a stalker economy, and Gore didn’t shy away from the dark side of his six predictions.
For example, the idea that our democracy has been “hacked” and that Washington, D.C., and public policy, are now completely controlled by the moneyed interests on K Street. “The Congress is utterly incapable of passing any legislation,” Gore asserted, “unless it was approved by the special interests.”
Gore also warned us that we’re rapidly outgrowing the idea of growth, something Doug Rushkoff reminded us of in his session on “Present Future.” We’ve enslaved ourselves in outmoded economic transaction models, one that don’t take into account our ever over-social-mediated, present-oriented present tense, a tense most of us don’t even bother living in anymore (Think about all those folks who ignore you at dinner whilst they disappear into cyberland on their iPhones).
So what’s the antithesis, we all become a new collective of philistine Unabombers?
Nothing that dramatic. Well, not unless you’re Elon Musk.
The founder of SpaceX joked early in his interview with Chris Anderson on Saturday that “I’d like to die on Mars…just not on impact.”
Could we have a virtual, trans-universal drum roll, please?
Musk extolled on the “how’s” of going into space, and how his plans include building multi-stage rockets that are re-usable, thereby making space exploration more cost-effective.
He also indicated that he’s “all in,” having put most of his fortune into Tesla (his electric car company), SpaceX (his space company), and Solar City (to try and capture energy from the sun just in case things don’t work out so well on Mars?)
But Musk never left me really understanding *why* he so desperately wanted to leave Planet Earth? Was he trying to escape alimony payments from his first ex-wife? Did he want to mine the asteroids? Did the CIA want to speak with him about his attempt to purchase Russian ICBMs back in 2001?
If Elon couldn’t explain the need to get our asses (and assets) into outer space, Dr. Mae Jemison and her Star Trek-studded crew (including LeVar Burton) on the 100YSS mission certainly could!
An abbreviation for “100 Year Starship,” agree with it or not, 100YSS’s mission is clear: To make the capability of human travel beyond our solar system a reality within the next 100 years.”
Not for its own sake, mind you, but to “identify and push the radical leaps in knowledge and technology needed to achieve interstellar flight…” Pause one second…Anddddd…”while pioneering and transforming breakthrough applications that enhance the quality of life for all on Earth.”
Finally! A space bound mission with a realistic and practical hedge that I could get behind!
Hey boys and girls, we can certainly go across the universe in search of Marvin The Martian, but just in case we either A. Can’t get there or B. can’t find the elusive little bastard, let’s make sure we learn something that could help the people left back here on the home planet.
Imagine, Dr. Jemison suggested, what it would take to figure out in terms of energy production to get us to the nearest star (which, she reminded us, is a mind bogglingly long ways away). All that technology would have profound implications for use back here on earth.
“Pursuing an extraordinary tomorrow,” Jamison extolled, “creates a better world today.”
From your lips, Dr. Jamison, to the U.S. Congress’ ears.