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In An Exponential World, Try This!

I have been honoured to have been invited to speak at two school valedictories this year.

But what story to tell, what advice to give on such momentous occasions?

After much debate, I decided on this....

In An Exponential World, Try This.

It's a real honour to be invited to speak to you on such a pivotal day in your lives.

Valedictories signal the start of a new life where suddenly you will have immense amounts of choice.

I still remember that feeling of freedom I got on my last day at school.

But I also remember the anxiety from not knowing what the future would hold.

It was great to suddenly be able to make my own choices.

It was also horribly stressful to have to make my own choices.

I don't think I'm alone here.

Working out where you want to go, what you want to do and who you want to be are not easy questions.

I still cannot answer these questions.

But I have two suggestions that I think could help you make better choices and live more fulfilled lives.

Firstly, I'd recommend you regularly spend time thinking about what the future could look like to help you with the choices you face today.

And I believe your generation is set to see positive change happening at exponential rates.

Rates that are unimaginable even now.

For example, you could be the generation that sees the average lifespan increase into hundreds of years as huge progress continues to be made in finding ways to irradicate dread diseases like cancer, strokes and dementia.

You may be the generation that communicates using telepathy instead of phones. Why not? It's already been done for simple thoughts. What year will you replace your phone with an implanted chip?

In fact, what year will you remove the fridge from your home as, like the fax and countless other devices, it has become redundant? Perhaps it happens when we preserve food using microbials that kill bacteria. Perhaps it's from genetic modifications. Maybe it's because we 3d print our dinner.

Could you be the generation that sees the cost of energy, data and even transportation move to zero?

Maybe, because you are living in a world where you aren't simply experiencing one Gutenberg moment. You are experiencing multiple ones.

And they are augmenting, meaning the benefit of one revolutionary change is assisting in catalysing another and another and another.

Consider how transport can change if these statements remain true...

1. Access to the internet continues to increase

2. The processing power of chips continues to follow moors law

2. The size of sensors continues to fall as accuracy increases

3. The capacity of batteries continues to improve

4. The accuracy of algorithms continues to increase

5. The cost of solar continues to fall.

The natural conclusion is that eventually, we will live in a world where transport becomes free.

Don't agree?

Well, think about what happens when we have the infrastructure in place to automate the conversion of light energy into power, why should we pay for it?

And if we can achieve this level of automation, where the unlimited energy from sunlight is what allows for the cost of production to tend towards zero, we have moved from a world of scarcity to abundance.

And where you have abundance, we don't need money.

Just as Gutenberg's printing press democratised the sharing of knowledge, you are living in a world where access to energy, water, transport, communication and knowledge is being democratised simultaneously.

How likely is all of this to happen?

I've no idea.

I don't think anyone does.

Humans certainly have the possibility of making everything I've just suggested occur.

We equally have the possibility of destroying everything that's been created to date, including our own planet.

You each have the opportunity to do amazing things, but the reality is you lives will be determined by our collective philosophies.

Which, in my opinion, should be seen as a huge positive.

You see, every time I learn something new about how technology is driving exponential change, I get depressed.

It sometimes feels to me that when things are moving so fast, I no longer have a role to play in the world.

I lose my relevance.

I lose my sense of self.

I end up with too many choices.

I sometimes even wish I was back at school where life was simpler as I was told what to do and how to do it.

But I find remembering the following helps.

Whilst science might show us how things work, it's the humanities that show us how we work within the world.

And this is critical because I can't imagine a world where we outsource decisions about how we should operate as a species to machines.

We will, therefore, still need lawyers to set rules as to who is at fault when an automated accident occurs.

We will still need historians to interpret the past to help us better plan for the future.

And I dare say we will still need politicians to continue implementing policies that improve the lives of all.

Art and leisure, I also suspect, will become more important than ever as, for many we replace work with recreation and learning.

But whilst the world will change in many ways, I don't think we will.

Us humans will remain as fallible as we have been for tens of thousands of years.

So thankfully, there is still going to be a place for all of you and even me in this exponentially changing space.

But with so much choice, so many opportunities and indeed so many threats, what mindset can help you navigate it successfully?

If I asked a thousand people, I'd probably get a thousand answers.

Grit. Determination. Purpose. Courage. Helpfulness. Kindness. Focus on what you enjoy.

But I think actually there is one suggestion that comes before all others.

I believe if you can add this mantra to your daily life, it will be the catalyst for finding your purpose, your courage and your direction.

Be curious.

That's it.

Just be curious.

And be curious as often as you can for as long as you can about as much as you can with as many different types of people as you can.

Because being curious opens up a world of possibilities.

It's curiosity that drives us to experiment.

It's curiosity that drives us to explore.

It's curiosity that helps us to avoid becoming arrogant and full of hubris.

It's curiosity that helps us to avoid judging.

And in my experience, it's the curious among us that seem to have deeper, stronger friendships.

The logical conclusion is that if you can train yourself to be more curious, you will live a longer happier life.

And finally, if I am right that the world is indeed transforming at exponential rates, there are no limits to where your curiosity can take you.

I wish you all the most curious of lives and the best of luck in your future endeavours.


I don't know if this was helpful advice.

Perhaps Baz Luhrmann's song, Everyone is free to wear sunscreen would have sufficed.


p.s. why not join me and bus manufacturer Marco Polo to learn how they managed to go completely off-grid.


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