A serious "no limit" view of the future ...

An interview with Tsvi Bisk of Center for Strategic Futurist Thinking at World Future Conference July 21, 2013.There were a small handful of “can’t miss” talks (for the purpose of this blog, at least) at the World Future Conference, and “No Limits to Growth” by Tsvi Bisk, director of the Center for Strategic Futurist Thinking (and “Contributing Editor for Strategic Thinking” of The Futurist publication of conference host, the World Future Society) was certainly one of them. Here’s how it was described in the conference program:

      This presentation will address a range of forecasts, including: the widespread adoption of vertical urban agriculture will enable an area the size of Ireland to provide enough food for 10 billion people. The rewilding of vast areas of the planet will result. Forests and rain forests will re-conquer Europe, China, India, and Brazil. This will absorb 50 gigatons of carbon dioxide a year.
      Artificial photosynthesis will absorb CO2 1,000 times faster than plant life. Engineers will develop economical ways to extract this CO2 and combine it with hydrogen to make artificial petroleum as the feedstock for thousands of useful products (plastics, medicines, cosmetics, etc.). CO2 will thus be recycled.
      Nanotechnologies will enable the advent of energy-autonomous vehicles and buildings. Cars will be built out of buckypaper, which will also function as a hyper-efficient photovoltaic skin providing electric energy to run the car. Buildings will be outfitted with mini-depolymerization units that will onvert human waste, garbage, and trash to gas to provide all the electricity, heating, and cooking the building needs.

That’s obviously quite a list, and I believe that Bisk at least touched on most of those points (categorically, if not specifically), while leaving a good chunk of his time open for questions. One thing that I found amazing, in a room full of supposed “futurists”, is that several questioners had no idea that there was active “urban agriculture” happening anywhere! Of course, slides featuring “artist conceptions” of gleaming glass high-rise towers with vegetation spilling out the windows doesn’t much help in the visualization of the actual operating facilities, but I did point out that, aside from The Plant, the Chicago area also had the country’s largest indoor farming operation with Farmed Here, so this was not just “wishful thinking”.

We caught up with Mr. Bisk later in the afternoon (his session was immediately followed by Ramez Naam’s luncheon keynote presenation, which he needed to get to), and he was able to have a nice chat with us. Here’s the interview we shot then:

The initial focus on the jobs question here was basically Ed continuing on with some things we’d been previously discussing, but Mr. Bisk is obviously quite optimistic on the sort of things that he sees as arising in the near future.

Coming from Israel, this seems somewhat remarkable, as my take on a lot of this “cool new technology” stuff is that I’ll believe it when I see it, given that there are so many repressive elements – from the media and government, to religious fanatics of all stripes – who would like nothing better than to prevent anything getting established that would make humanity freer. And that’s me living here in America, not in a place surrounded by dictatorships with populations that would just as well turn the clock back to the bronze age! If Bisk can see this many good things being unavoidable, I suppose I should “buy in” a bit more into the “bright future” vision.

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  • This is especially true for me, as this is the world of my youthful vision. It is like hearing thought I thought before when I was a child. I remember looking across the harbor and the lakefront to downtown, where buildings were growing up. For me, from the street level, Chicago is at the heart of the world change.

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