The Day Begins
It is 2028, a warm day in June here in Seattle, Washington. My smart alarm
has awakened me a few minutes late. During the early morning the alarm
was scanning the net when it noted that auto traffic had come to standstill
on Interstate 405 due to a construction accident. After checking with
the intelligent assistants of the other participants in my morning face-to-face
and confirming that a delay of an hour was expected, the alarm programmed
an additional hour of sleep, which I greatly appreciate. I am 78 years
of age, and even in my good state of health and arrested aging, an extra
bit of sleep is most welcome.
Not so long ago, at the turn of the century, a person my age who was not
retired was considered either most unlucky, or an eccentric. Now, just
twenty-eight short years later the culture has made a 180-degree turn.
A 78-year old who is not working is considered either unlucky or eccentric.
This is quite a shift, as you can imagine.
This is just one of the changes that we now are getting used to. To the
young the new world seems pre-ordained, as though this is the way it has
always been. But we who lived with you back in 2000 know how much the
world has indeed changed. Though it is early to make such conclusions,
suffice it to say that we now live in the latter stages of the techno-socioeconomic
revolution that began about 1970 and is now essentially complete. Like
the last such revolution driven by telephones, electricity, and automobiles
more than a century ago, this revolution has in many ways changed everything.
There were many drivers both social and technological, but the technologies
that stand out now are digital, biological and nanotechnological advances.
As in such revolutions through history, they have changed how and where
and when we work, where and how we live, how we make and buy and sell
things, how we communicate and travel, and how long and how well we live.
It really is a new day, just as you suspected it might be.
Now that I am up, I ask my assistant to report on the grant proposals
that came in yesterday. He reports that he has read them, explored the
entire web sites of each applicant organization, compared the reports
to our general guidelines, researched the success of similar projects
over the past 10 years, and made a preliminary annotated recommendation
on each proposal. I am most appreciative, and tell him so. Did I mention
that my assistant is a computer, one of the many $1000 machines we have
which surpass the human brain in processing capacity, a threshold we passed
nearly a decade ago?
After scanning the report summaries, I instruct my assistant to contact
the assistants of two of the proposing organizations, and ask them to
provide further information. This transaction, like most business transactions
today, will probably involve little or no direct human involvement. Often
we cannot tell whether we are interacting with a human or an intelligent
Site Visit & Project in Learning
With this done, I ready myself to travel to one of our grant sites for
my face-to-face. We have joined a network of corporate foundations to
support the cyberlearning initiative, a worldwide project.
I must explain several aspects of this that will sound unusual to you.
First, we consider it rather quaint that in 2000 important corporate and
individually supported foundations were focused on the improvement of
education, yet they almost always began by asking how to improve schools.
By starting with this question, they never got out of the box of assumptions
which suggest that learning is to happen in schools. Internet-based learning
existed in 2000, but it was crude and of mixed quality, so I suppose focusing
on schools was natural. In 2028 we have concluded that in this age of
creativity the ability to learn continuously is vital, but most important
we have seen the obvious, that what we need to support is learning. A
common model is the one I am about to visit, a cyberschool in a regional
shopping center, where learners of all ages, parents, and educators, gather
in a self-organizing yet coherent way to accomplish learning goals. Today
I will see youngsters studying language via a global net hookup with others
from three countries. While I could review this project via my home videonet,
there still is no substitute for person-to-person contact at critical
times to really see and feel what is going on. Did I mention that I will
travel to the site in my Moller Skycar (though the others I am to meet
Learning is one of the most critical areas that the philanthropic community
supports worldwide. The global economy has doubled twice since 2000, and
the percentage living in absolute poverty has fallen from 16% to less
than 6%, but we still have far to go in bringing substantial learning
opportunity to the world. The successful completion of the Internet in
the Sky by Teledesic in 2008 was key to progress in this arena.
New Philanthropic Organization Forms
With my site visit complete I travel on to the office. I am one of declining
number of my colleagues who work for a foundation sponsored by a single
corporation. As work life shifted from jobs to stints, as foreseen by
Peter Drucker, we have seen the emergence of several new forms of philanthropic
enterprise, including free-lance corporate giving specialists who work
for several enterprises at once as part of roving teams. There are foundations
that are supported by many companies (which change themselves so often
that the foundation is the only institution with stability), and a vast
increase in the number of privately endowed foundations from the super
rich of the new economy.
Arriving at the office, I convene a meeting in the virtual presence room
of several participants based on three continents to discuss a global
heath project on the number one global health challenge, bringing the
benefits of genomics to the 85% of global population who cannot easily
afford these new forms of medicine. This project combines perhaps the
two most interesting new forms of philanthropic enterprise, the project-based
foundation, and the Eye of the Needle Foundation. The project-based
enterprise springs up when a problem or challenge is identified, often
without it being clear just how it started, generates amazing amounts
of giving, may last for a few months or years, and then disappears when
the project is considered complete. These enterprises, as in our current
meeting, are most often global in nature, organized and coordinated largely
on the net and never create a lasting institution. (It is a little unusual
for an established foundation like ours to be a part of a project team,
but we have some particular expertise of value and thus have been included.)
The second interesting new form of enterprise is The Eye of the Needle
Foundation, a brain- child of the science fiction writer David Brin at
the turn of the century.1 He planted the seed for the idea of periodic
gatherings of 100 pragmatic but far-seeing individuals from around the
world to identify a few top priority and really big things that need doing.
The EON Foundation then attracts the fabulously wealthy in conjunction
with the $15 trillion in inherited wealth that existed by 2015 to tackle
these one-time projects. EON works in amoeba like fashion, growing, shrinking,
splitting and moving as projects come and go.
Perhaps you've noticed that so far I've not mentioned a role for government
in my day in the world of philanthropy. That is primarily because the
role of government is greatly diminished in this arena, as was underway
in 2000. As the century turned we were moving away from government as
the institution we would expect to solve large social problems. Drucker
was forecasting that the world of non-profits would emerge as the primary
kind of enterprise we would look to, and he has turned out to be correct.
Governments - local, national and global - still play roles which range
from minor to vital depending on the issue, but in general the government
role has diminished significantly. Great debates have raged about how
to use tax and regulatory policy to encourage philanthropy, as well as
volunteerism, and we have seen policy swings in the past twenty-eight
years. The bottom line is this. We are doing more, with less government
involvement than in a couple of centuries, and we are sufficiently supported
with tax and other incentives to make this work well.
Health Issues Focus
The holographic meeting that takes the remainder of my morning reflects
our emphasis on improving global health. In the rich countries life spans
have increased considerably, beyond 100 on average, and breakthroughs
continue to be announced in applications of Genomics that suggest an increase
to 120. While all over the world we have seen improvements in health and
life spans, as you can imagine significant gaps still exist, and much
effort is spent in narrowing that gap. Key global health threats we focus
on include heart disease, depression and psychiatric illnesses, stroke,
war and interpersonal violence, and interestingly, traffic accidents.
It is noon and time for lunch. I join some friends for a 40-minute jog,
followed by a light and lively lunch at a nearby outdoor café. If we have
learned nothing since 2000, we have learned to slow down some. We can,
like you in 2000, do so much more, so much faster, there is a temptation
simply to do so, but at my enterprise we learned to get off that treadmill,
and we are not alone.
Professional Development and Strategies for Giving
Following lunch it is time for some professional development. There is
hardly a day that goes by, in any kind of business, which does not include
some organized learning. Today we are delving more deeply into the form
of intelligence called holisapience, developed by the 21st Century Korean
philosopher Sunghai (Thomas) Kimsunghai.2 In 2000 you are quite familiar
with the shift in targeting of corporate and other philanthropy toward
"strategic" giving, which usually meant giving in a way to support business
goals and strategies, though it could also mean giving in a more targeted
way with greater evaluation of results. Today in 2028 we have evolved
beyond that in many ways, though we continue to be keenly interested in
strategy and results on many projects. There is hardly a person in this
business who is not educated in systems thinking, chaos theory, the techniques
of forecasting second order consequences of actions, self organizing systems,
and now, holisapience. The latter is a form of thinking that emphasizes
seeing problems not from one point of view, or from two sides, but from
many points of view simultaneously. This way of thinking is considered
a high form of wisdom, and we'll be learning about it for the next hour,
as we apply it to global issues. Working with this wisdom form will, we
hope, improve our ability to solve problems as well as to act in more
interconnected ways, a theme in our work for the past two decades.
Email and other things that do not change
At 2:00 PM, my class finished, I pause for 30 minutes to catch up on mail…yes
we still do that, and like you I deal with both email (often video) and
voice mail. It is rare however, that we deal with paper, difficult though
that may be for you to believe. What used to be on paper we tend to read
on our slates, or on the nanopaper we can fold and carry in a pocket.
This paper can be connected wirelessly to the net, and with a single sheet
we can read a report of unlimited pages.
At 2:45 PM I call a friend in Lagos. We have been discussing the idea
of convening a conference on the question of what to do about the declining
world population. Surprised? By the year 2000 sixty-one nations had birth
rates below population replacement rates, and the U.N. was revising population
forecasts downward, anticipating a peak at about 8 billion by somewhere
between 2030 and 2040. But it happened faster than anyone thought, and
we peaked at 7.8 billion, in 2025, and the numbers confirm that we have
now begun to depopulate the planet. No one is quite sure what to do. We
think convening a conference to talk about what it means will be important.
Some political leaders are already calling for programs to promote large
families, and there is great confusion. How will the economy work when
there are fewer customers each year?
Arts and Community
My next hour will focus on one of my favorite areas, the support of local
arts activities combined with the regeneration of local neighborhoods.
As we approached the quarter century, it became clear that we had entered
the age of creativity, a time when creative talent could be nurtured because
most goods and many services could be provided by the nanotech and regular
tech devices. People could simply have more time, if we could just figure
out how to use it. So we and many others have begun greatly intensified
efforts to support arts of all kinds, especially performing arts in our
case. In a systemic way we also use these efforts to encourage further
strengthening of neighborhoods. The hi-tech and global age we experience
is an extension of what you were seeing already, and there is a need and
we believe a real value to promoting local relationships and local community,
while participating in the global village as well.
As the work day concludes, I take a moment to access the net on a personal
matter. I am looking forward to a vacation I've dreamed of since I built
a spaceship of cardboard boxes and marbles lit by light bulbs in the basement
in Idaho. A vacation at the orbiting Virgin Atlantis Hotel. Two weeks
in artificial gravity with play time in the weightless auditorium. I am
a bit nervous about the whole thing, but I figure I had better do while
I am still young. Perhaps I'll see you there.
Please also take a
look at the:
Club of Amsterdam Forum
and the Club of Amsterdam
Event about 'Senior
Citizens & future Technology'