24 May 2021

Big Ideas ~ What's Most On my Mind...

When I'm not distracted by current difficulties, here are the Big Ideas which are most on my mind (and mostly my original ideas, unless otherwise noted)...

  • Tellus Optimus or Terra Optima ~ The best possible future of Earth, Humanity, and Society, IMHO.  Not a pollyanna Utopia but also more than Kevin Kelly's Protopia, Optima is the best possible combination of liberty, prosperity, and vitality planet-wide (and beyond).
  • Trias Humanitus of Politicus Mercatus & Civicus ~ I propose Montesquieu's Trias Politicus is actually mirrored in the commercial realm, Trias Mercatus, and in the civic NGO voluntary realm, Trias Civicus.  And that these three realms -- political, commercial, and civic -- similarly are a triad which check and balance each other, an overarching Trias Humanitus.  In any case, just like Trias Politicus has checks & balances between Executive, Legislative, and Judicial, so do Mercatus & Civicus.  Mercatus Executive are Entrepreneurs & CEOs; Legislative are the Markets, both Stock & Customer; Judicial are Audit & External Review boards.  Civicus is similar only with mission leadership, philanthropic investment, and audit & review.  And these occur at all scales of human endeavor from the smallest organizations & polities < cities < provinces < state champions & nations < MNC's & all of humanity.
  • "Dot" Gov Com & Org (plus Mil Net & Edu) ~ The Political, Commercial, and Civic realms of Trias Humanitus can be thought of in short-hand form as Gov, Com, and Org -- i.e. dot.gov, dot.com, and dot.org -- plus the specific specialties of Mil, Net, and Edu.
  • Liberty Prosperity & Vitality (LPV) ~ While there are many forms of political, commercial, and civic structures throughout human history, most are collectivist, tribal, racist, royalist, nationalist or otherwise unfree & despotic.  I'm partisan to a Tellus Optimus enabled by Liberty, Prosperity, and Vitality, or Min.gov, Max.com, and More.org.  A Liberty government does one thing really well, minimizing or eliminating the use and role of force between people.  That's it.  Most of the other things governments do today would be turned over or contracted to for-profit commercial players and/or to non-profit civic trusts.  For example, State & National Parks would go to non-profit Nature Conservancies.  Roads, rails, infrastructure could go to either way, perhaps with non-profit trusts contracting on a competitive basis with for-profit service providers and with the civic trust retaining ultimate authority and ownership.  Or doing so via Citizen Wealth Funds...
  • Citizen Wealth Funds (CWFs) & Percapitization (Perc's or per-capita participation) ~ Instead of Sovereign Wealth Funds managed by and for the so-called leaders, Citizen Wealth Funds are mutual funds managed for individual citizen benefit.  Oxford's Angela Cummine has documented the growing history and spotlights that in Alaska, for 40 years their Permanent Fund has managed oil revenues and disperses thousands of USD annually (in dividend income) to each resident of the State.  I think such funds could be ultra-local in a neighborhood or village, or in an Indian Reservation, or at City-scale, or State or Province, or National, or even Global.  The ultimate Citizen Wealth fund would be an Earth Fund where every human, including the future-born, receive their equal per-capita share of the benefits.
  • EARTH = Eurasiamerica, Africa, Restasia, Tjina, Hindia = five roughly equally populous clusterings of humanity with broadly shared cultures, philosophical traditions, languages, histories.  Of course, all of these have and continue to intermix, both historically due to conquest and today through migration, both involuntary and chosen.
  • Earth Commonwealth ~ Building towards Earth-wide shared basic principles of equality before reasonable laws, economic prosperity via common standards and rules of exchange, and enlightened thinking about science, reason, education for all, and scholarship.
  • ECUs (Economic Currency Units or Earth Commonwealth Units) ~ Towards shared currencies going beyond the nationalistic & politically dominated Yuan, Euro, USDollar, etc.
  • From UN to UP... United Peoples ~ The most singular failure mode of the United Nations is that it includes illegitimate regimes, including despotic kingdoms, undemocratic oligarchies, socio-communist dictatorships, tribal chiefdoms, cultish theocracies, etc, and treats them as morally equivalent to constitutionally-limited representative people-first republics with checks & balances.  Furthermore, tiny states have the same "Nation" status as behemoths, so scales of jurisdiction vary too widely.  Finally, the nation-state was born out of imperialism, conquest by force, colonialism, and violence generally.  I think instead the emphasis needs to be on the most indivisible sovereign element of all, individual people.
  • Liberation Capitalism ~ Bringing Global+Development Ventures & Inclusive Economies to all of humanity with participatory financial services, title & property rights, inclusive use of natural resources, investment in shared-benefit assets such as infrastructure & civic goods, transformative technologies to provide ultraffordable solutions, and the use of mutual benefit organizations, including Citizen Wealth Funds to ensure just access to common goods.
  • Ultraffordability ~ Radical inclusion & economic justice won't be primarily achieved by taxing & spending or on wealth transfer.  Rather it requires supplying goods and services at ever more affordable prices, driving towards "ultraffordability".  In many ways we have some of this already, with poor people today having access to things kings couldn't have just a century ago.  But there's much more work to be done, especially getting rules & regulations out of the way of ultraffordability in housing, nutritious foods, quality education, and the like.  Plus this is fundamentally a tech-innovation and exponential technologies matter.
  • Exponential Technologies ~ All things which have a Moore's Law-like improvement doubling per unit time.  Obviously semiconductor integrated circuits like memory, CPUs, GPUs, FPGAs, etc.  But also RF chips, PV panels, printronics, batteries.  And wetware like gene sequencing, gene synthesis, etc.
  • Gigayears of Quality Life or GigaDALYs ~ Mattias Åström, Shahid Azim, and I were lamenting lame impact metrics and came up with Gigayears of additional life as the ultimate type of impact, i.e. something better than mere claims of "lives touched" or "users" or financial metrics like revenue, profit, or market value.  As prime example, I suggested Nobel-winning agronomist Norman Borlaug whose contribution to the Green Revolution "may have prevented a billion deaths".  Take that billion number and guesstimate that the average person lived 5-15 years more and we guesstimate that Borlaug's impact on humanity is ~10 Gigayears.  That's a high bar for anyone to match in future!
  • Compassionate Libertarianism ~ Since libertarian governments are minimal states just focusing on security, defense, policing, judiciary, and things related to minimizing or eliminating the use of force in human relations, other vehicles are needed for schools, healthcare, parks, roads, etc.  Much of this could be handled for-profit commercially (and increasingly is), but where the market fails, we need non-profit civic, charitable, philanthropic alternatives.  The compassionate libertarian doesn't want uneducated children and sick poor people, but does want non-governmental solutions which are competent and non-corrupt and non-politicized.
  • ERAs = Empowerment Rights Areas ~ We talk about SEZs or Special Economic Zones, for example in China or Dubai, as attractors of companies and investment.  But equally, perhaps more important are zones where migrants or refugees and other displaced or shifted peoples have attractive political rights, including the right to work, own assets, have ID, maintain financial service accounts, etc.
  • Third Alternative Thinking ~ Perhaps the most useless rut to get stuck into are contesting between two limited and incomplete alternatives.  Happens all the time in politics (e.g. Demoblicans vs Republicrats) and beyond.  We really need more varieties of ideas and options, or "third alternative thinking."
  • Economological ~ Things which are both Economical and Ecological are economological.  This embraces the idea of circular economies, donut economics, cradle-to-cradle thinking, and more.  Ellen Swallow Richards, the MIT alumna founder of Home Economics is famous for also naming the field of Ecology.  She saw them synthesized together at best.
  • Beyond Our Cradles ~ I suggested the name for what's now the annual MIT Media Lab space initiative conference but actually had in mind multiple "cradles of humanity", including Tsiolkovsky's Earth as cradle for future spacefaring peoples.  The other Cradles include:  (1) Genetic ~ Longevity, Rejuvenation & Curing Illness; (2) Material ~ Harnessing Atoms, Affordable Ergs & Eliminating Want; (3) Cognitive ~ Augmentation, Uploading & Minimizing Irrationality; (4) Social ~ Achieving Equity-at-Scale & Ending Injustice; (5)  Economological ~ Seeking Prosperity while Avoiding Ecocide, plus, of course, (6) Astronomical ~ Offworlding, Backing-up Civilization & Seeking the Stars
  • EPIC TIES = Exponential Prosperity Inclusion & Creativity via Transformative Innovation & Entrepreneurial Solutions ~ People have wondered, if I were to have had a Media Lab research group, what would it be called...  EPIC TIES because it's about creative connections across scales, from neurological & cognitive to sociological & entrepreneurial.
  • ION Innovation Observatory Network & Socioscopes ~ Tools for observing us at ever finer resolution and ever greater scale for systems, experimental, and computational socioscience.
  • 5M's = My Innovation Observatory loop of Measure Mine Model Make Manipulate (or Market-test) and repeat.  Measuring data with socioscopes, Mining for patterns, Modeling for causal understanding.  Making prototype interventions which could help and/or validate understanding.  Manipulating (or Market-testing) those made interventions in the sociosystem, ideally with one or more intervention plus control groups to discern changes.  Then Measure & repeat repeatedly.
  • 5P's = People Projects Places Policies Planet ~ My realms of interest & action within EPIC TIES.
  • Engineering Revolutions ~ My multiple entendre about the organization and engineering of revolutions (social, political, scientific and otherwise) as well as the realm of revolutions in engineering ability and the commercialization thereof via Revolutionary Ventures, including such funding mechanisms as VCPE, SPACs, RIBOs and more.
  • RIBOs or Research & Innovation Backed Obligations ~ Basically my better name for Andy Lo-style R&D megabonds to fund portfolios of radical research from ideation through blockbuster impact.
  • Orchestrating Serendipity ~ Seeking to achieve a seemingly oxymoronic optimum between allowing for chance ideas & connections while also nudging, tuning, prompting, and otherwise trying to maximize the likelihood of constructive chance.  This is especially the role of hosts in social gatherings, instructors in project classes, advisors to research groups, etc.
  • Combinatoric Collaboration ~ When Problem-Domain experts systematically meet and work with Solution-Domain experts to see where there are prospective overlaps in their research agendae and possibly fruitful outcomes.  MIT Institute Professor Bob Langer is perhaps one of the most productive such collaborators, consistently connecting with complementary peers with results in now multiple fields.  Ed Boyden has taught this approach in our Revolutionary Ventures class for years now (and is himself a great practitioner.)
  • Radical Research & Transformative Technologies ~ Top things that matter most including Cryonics, Revitalization, Rejuvenation, Longevity, Fusion, Photrolysis, Robomation, etc.
  • CRISIS Solutions = Civilizational Resilience Innovations which are Smart, Inclusive, and Scalable. For starters, urgently addressing Covid-19 -- fighting the "fire", recovering better, and preventing in future instead of repeating -- but ultimately solutions can be anything to do with societal strengthening, urban resilience, maximizing human benefit in face of disaster. Both high and low-tech, hard and soft. Especially short term, but also medium and long. Plus across the spectrum from dot.gov and dot.com to dot.org and across scales from personal < local < urban < national < planetary.
  • Spinonyms ~ Endlessly thinking of better names for things (including spinonym itself).  Things like:  Plastoleum, Plantoleum, Photoleum, Ultraffordable, Robomation, Aridia, Avatari, Socioscopes, RIBOs, Artrocity, Architorture, and a long list of others.  Plus names for my students companies.
  • Cloud Academies ~ All learning from nursery through K-12, vocational, university, and continuing increasingly has a digitally-enabled dimension.  The most advanced and even stand-alone of such efforts are Cloud Academies.  MIT's hosted OCW OpenCourseWare and this past year gone mostly online for undergrad through professional education offerings.  Salman Khan's Khan Academy is a breakthrough example serving youth worldwide.  Claude Grunitzky's TAU or True Africa University is a new attempt to serve the massive youthful continent of Africa's underserved talent with digital & mobile-first educational offerings.
  • Beyond STEM, Enabling DREAMS ~ I really want a more embracive and less crappy acronym than STEM, STEAM, STREAM, etc.  My best idea so far is DREAMS = Design Reasoning Engineering Arts Maths & Science
  • Literacy, Numeracy, Computency ~ Computational Competency, algorithmic thinking -- Computency -- is the new literacy and the new numeracy, the new basic minimums for educated citizenry of the 21st Century.
  • Accelerated Convergence ~ Going 321, from Third World to First in a Generation.  This is inspired by Lee Kwan Yew's autobiography about his leading Singapore, plus Hans Roslings TED talk on the accelerated convergence of India and China catching up economically to the prosperous countries.  And that this convergence has happened in the past with US catching up to UK, Japan and a decade later South Korea similarly catching up.  And now the two global giants.
  • Economies of Flexibility ~ In too many places, I've seen the failure modes of emphasizing Economies of Scale, where bigger is supposedly better, more efficient, etc.  But for a variety of reasons, including resilience, anti-fragility, local tuning, responsiveness, jurisdictional arbitrage, and more, I think we need far more emphasize on Economies of Flexibility, ultra-locality, on-demand solutions, etc.  3DPrinting of Covid supplies by MIT spinoffs FormLabs and OPT are just two examples.
  • Labless Pharma ~ Just like we had “fabless semiconductors” value chain emerge disentangling tools from designs from fabrication from packaging from component bundling, there’s an analogous “labless biopharma” value chain evolving.  Or is there a better name for it?
  • Art Vivo ~ There's an emergent green arts & architecture movement as big a wave as Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Bauhaus, International Modern Style, etc, in their day.  I'm calling it "Art Vivo" in homage to Nuvo, Deco, Inmo, etc.  Some like "ecopunk" better in homage to cyberpunk, steampunk, etc.
  • Vital Cities ~ Seeking green, clean, vibrant, delightful, livable, and creative places.  Over half of humanity are already urbanites.  By 2050 it could be pushing three quarters and of a bigger population.  Something like a billion new urbanites in each of the next three decades, which is ~100 million per year or roughly a Manhattan per month of new city development.  So it behooves us to do it better than we have for the last century of so in the petrochemical-fueled internal combustion era.
  • Sci Fab ~ Science Fiction can inspire fabrication and vice-versa, plus can help us understand the trendscape of humanity and envisioneer better futures.
  • AITs = Asset Investment Trusts ~ A generalization of REITs Real Estate Investment Trusts to embrace more ownership varieties, e.g. CoREITS or Cooperative REITs, as well as non-Real Estate, including tangibles (e.g. leasable capital equipment such as airplanes, construction equipment, railroad cars, containers, ships, etc), and intangibles (e.g. intellectual property portfolios such as patents, copyrights on movies, songs, writings, etc).
  • Digital Immortality ~ I'm increasingly enamored with the idea of prototyping Digital Immortality.  Basically training SU -- "Synthetic You" -- on all of your writings, sayings, etc, and having it run in parallel with you.  At any and all decision point junctures, you agree or disagree (with shades of subtlety) and thus train "essyou" or maybe we call it MyAI?  Among other things that come to mind are (a) textual reasoning, what would I write, (b) verbal tonation, how would I say it, (c) gestural & facial mannerisms, what characteristic moves. But the reasoning learning part would have to include (i) capacity for inconsistency, (ii) known vectors of change-of-mind over time, (iii) ability to apply principles to contexts in often non-obvious ways, (iv) deciding whether synthetic me would OR would not embrace my foibles, e.g. moods, illnesses, booze, and (v) distinguishing between outward-facing behaviors in private or public, and inner personal dialog and "true" thoughts (which would have to be overted).  Plus, of course, mere predictive duplication of a person's everyday reactions is all the obvious stuff. To get really interesting we need to put their creativity-in-a-box. Basically to "can" the most creative of human capabilities. Not easy! Not AI but AC Artificial Creativity.  And merely being able to clone with code our most creative isn't the end of it. Then we have zillions of instances of those most creative beavering away at the big problems. More interesting yet are the prospects for Combinatoric Creativity, the multiplexing of creative instances for ideation, collaboration, and deep recombinations.
  • Avatari ~ Watch what happens when Netflix merges with Epic (after absorbing Spotify) to create the ultimate alternative to the applsoftazonooglebabacent multiverse. I'm calling it... Avatari
  • What does M.I.T. mean? ~ Someone once asked me, what does MIT stand for? Beyond the obvious, I replied, it's Magicians In Training in homage to Clarke's "sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic". Hiroshi Ishii seemed to really like that one;-) Then when MIT Muddy Charles Pub spinoff Venture Cafe co-founders Carrie Stalder and Timothy Rowe asked, I said Money Ideas Talent! That became the founding logo of the Cafe for years and still represents the core combinatoric ethos of our MIT Venture classes. 
  • Iterate Escalate & Recombinate ~ Media Lab compadres Birago Jones and Karthik Dinakar asked me one day at the Muddy, what should the Lab's motto be? Obama had just harshed "Demo or Die" -- Die, really?! -- and Joi's "Deploy" seemed a bit short-termist or even mercenary. I was in a pretty shitty mood, so in a bit of a funk, but that got me going, and after thinking about it I said Iterate & Escalate! Then later adding systematic wildcardery to become Iterate Escalate Recombinate. I suppose the initial Ideate is implicit.
  • Inventing MIT ~ Building on my MIT MOT thesis The Innovation Institute, subsequent opus Inventing MIT would be my synthesis of everything that both built the Institute and continues to make it great through relentless re-invention.
  • MIT Innovation Tours
  • Aridia & Oasis Cities ~
  • CoDev = Cooperative Development
  • Innovation Epicenters
  • Jurisdictional Optimization ~
  • Island Economies
  • Gollywood
  • Envisioneering & Futurecrafting
  • ABC = Autonomous But Connected ~ Basically exploring Holons and Holarchies, something covered very nicely in Daniel Suarez's Daemon & FreedomTM.
  • FutureSMITH ~ Self Money Ideas Talent Humanity
  • Facts ~ To set the record straight:  (1)  I did the first global study of MIT entrepreneurs, not later MIT Sloan professors.  (2)  I proposed & thus initiated what became the Development Ventures class and later MIT Legatum, not MIT Media Lab faculty.  (3)  I co-founded all the ventures-related classes at MIT Media Lab.  (4)  I proposed combining AI for Impact with our ventures classes, not others.  (5)  I proposed the first and second credit-bearing MIT IAP entrepreneurship classes.  (6)  The list goes on.