Yes, Silicon Valley’s X-Prize billionaires are failing their stated mission: “Making the Impossible Possible.” They need at least $10 trillion or more to do the job, save the world, and a far bigger, better vision, as you’ll see in our proposed new series of a dozen new 10X-Prizes that deal with the real hard issues facing our world.
Their leader is Dr. Peter Diamandis, co-author of Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think. He is the CEO driving today’s X-Prize Foundation and also the Chairman of Singularity University whose mission is: “Solving Humanities Grand Challenges With Accelerating Technologies.” Well, he’d better step up his game.
Today’s X-Prize backers resemble slow-motion dinosaurs when you think of the accelerating killer challenges facing the real world in the next generation, Planet-Earth’s really “Big Problems.” At best, the top four X-Prizes are feel-good ego trips for billionaires: Branson’s space tourism airplane? Another low-emissions electric car? New lunar lander? Another oil spill clean-up system? Big press. Trophies for billionaires. But all marginal ideas. None big enough to save the world from itself and the “catastrophic ending” physicist Stephen Hawking predicts for Planet-Earth.
Forget the X-Prizes, what our world needs is a newer, bigger, faster “10X-Prizes” to tackle real challenges and the ignored Big Problems. And we must start immediately, time’s short. Clive Hamilton, a professor of economics and public ethics at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics in Australia, details the challenge in his Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth about Climate Change. Hamilton warns, we’re our own worse enemy:
“Even with the most optimistic set of assumptions — the ending of deforestation, a halving of emissions associated with food production, global emissions peaking in 2020 and then falling by 3% a year for a few decades — we have no chance of preventing emissions rising well above a number of critical tipping points that will spark uncontrollable climate change.” Game over for the UN Paris Accord?
“The Future Is Better Than You Think?” … Yes, If You’re In Denial
Hamilton warns: “The Earth’s climate would enter a chaotic era lasting thousands of years before natural processes eventually establish some sort of equilibrium. Whether human beings would still be a force on the planet, or even survive, is a moot point. One thing seems certain: there will be far fewer of us.”
No wonder most humans are in denial, including existing X-Prize sponsors and Singularity grads, because in denial or not global population keeps marching relentlessly from today’s 7 billion to the UN’s predicted 10 billion by 2050.
Get it? Today’s X-Prize money is not big enough to “save the world,” maybe $100 million compared to the Apollo Moon Landing estimated back in the early 1970’s in excess of $100 billion. A new 10X-Prize strategy might well partner with governments for a totally integrated model to accelerate the tasks. For several years we’ve been working with a model for innovation and investing based on the 12-part formula in Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, 12 macroeconomic sectors that throughout history have explained why civilizations survive or self-destruct.
Diamond warns that as global population and lifestyle demands increase, “more people require more food, space, water, energy, and other resources.” And that triggers more wars, famine, pandemics, no-growth economics and political miscalculations. The pressure builds as all nations begin consuming resources at same rate as America, 32 times more resources, dumping 32 times more waste. We’d need six Earths to survive.
12 “Sustainable New-Earth” 10X-Prizes To Challenge Silicon Valley
So let’s look to the future and see how Diamond’s 12 macro-trends model might help us build a sustainable planet for 10 billion people, by setting in motion the new X-Prizes before 2020, with the two biggest prizes right up front:
New 10X-Prize #1 … Sustainable Population Control Policies
A Scientific American special calls population “the most overlooked and essential strategy for achieving long-term balance with the environment.” Time to get past Malthus myths. In our 12-factor “Save the Earth” equation, population is the independent variable driving all others. Yes, experts challenge the numbers. Gates says 8.3 billion is too high. Earth Institute’s Jeff Sachs says even 5 billion is unsustainable. Meanwhile, Gates is working on population control initiatives in family planning, vaccines, contraception.
New 10X-Prize #2 … Reduce Out-of-Control Consumer Demand
Even if population leveled off, people everywhere have their own version of the American Dream. China’s President Xi Jinping underscored all this in speeches about a new China Dream. Already a military powerhouse, Nobel economist Robert Fogel predicts China’s economy at $123 trillion by 2040, three times America’s, also out-of-control consumerism.
New 10X-Prize #3 … Create Abundant Global Water Systems
So essential to life: agriculture, drinking, industry, transportation. Water is more valuable than fuel for many. Fortune says “Water is the new gold in the 21st century,” generated over a half trillion dollars revenue in 2010, will soon “trade like oil futures.” Already, one billion “lack access to clean drinking water” across the planet. We need massive water innovations: in purification, desalination, bottled water. New strategies like Matt Damon’s Water.org and Richard Branson’s Carbon War Room, increased tenfold.
New 10X-Prize #4 … Build Abundant World Food Production
“If you want to become rich, become a farmer,” says Jim Rogers, in “Hot Commodities.” Yet a billion farmers live on two dollars a day. Most are subsistence farmers. Half are underfed. Jeremy Grantham manages $100 billion, warns the planet can’t feed 10 billion. Incentivize Rogers, Grantham, Cargill, Monsanto and others in a bold plan to innovate solutions for $10 trillion in private investments. This challenge is bigger more essential than Kennedy’s moon shot and the Marshall Plan.
New 10X-Prize #5 … Develop Abundant Farm Land Partnerships
Rich nations like China and the Saudis are buying huge agri-land assets from poorer nations, stockpiling for the food needed for future population growth. But both seller and buyer need more food. There’s a rush for 25% returns. Grain.org listed 416 global deals in 66 counties for 85 million acres. Buyer and seller nations must partner to eat, or revolt.
New 10X-Prize #6 … Create World Rain Forests Strategies
China and India are planning 500 new cities. Half the world’s rain forests already have been converted. A quarter more by 2050. Soils are “carried away by water and wind erosion at rates between 10 to 40 times” soil formation. In forests the rate is over 500 times due to vastly increasing megafires. We need new solutions for erosion, fires, rain forests.
New 10X-Prize #7 … New Sustainable Fossil Fuels Strategies
Pimco’s Bill Gross predicts a “significant break” in the world’s “growth pattern.” He says we’re past the “peak oil” tipping point. His “New Normal” predicts a decline in consumer shopping, slow-growth economies, static corporate profits, while population just keeps growing. Is fracking the solution? Tar sand? Long-term risky? Get Exxon-Mobil and Bill McKibben 350.org working together on new solutions for sustainable energy policies.
New 10X-Prize #8 … Abundant Solar Power Strategies
Sunlight is not unlimited. We could max out by 2050. Are fuel cells and lithium batteries enough? When Mars Rover shut down, Silicon Valley “privatized” Mars engineers to build new rockets and robots for mining energy on 10,000 asteroids worth trillions. But plans will take years before the first asteroid mining. Wake up. All 10X-Prizes will take years to plan, develop. No more delays, population won’t stop racing to 10 billion.
New 10X-Prize #9 … Development Of Alternative Energies
In The Quest, Daniel Yergin says alternative energies will remain a niche market for decades. Fossil fuels will provide 80% of total need in 2050 agrees Foreign Policy magazine. Biofuels, solar, wind and nuclear may not be a “major ticket,” but with America spending a trillion annually on energy, 20% in alternatives needs incentive. Besides, McKibben warns: Using up all fossil reserves increases global warming.
New 10X-Prize #10 … Sustainable Minerals Mining Policies
Diamond says big plans often have unintended consequences. Mining increases GDP, but also the dumping of toxins that break down slowly in air, soil, water. Balance is essential, between insecticides, pesticides, herbicides, detergents, plastics. Innovative management strategies are needed to balance short-term economic growth with long-run public needs.
New 10X-Prize #11 … Advanced Climate Control Technologies
Yes, human activities, autos, manufacturing produce carbon dioxide that escapes into the atmosphere destroying the protective ozone, absorbing solar energy. Innovative, risky geoengineering plans to develop and explore space-rockets technology to block harmful sun rays may backfire. Time for new strategies.
New 10X-Prize #12 … Earth Species Diversity Protections
Transferring species to new lands has negative consequences, “preying on, parasitizing, infecting or outcompeting” native animals and plants lacking evolutionary resistance. New diseases infect native species. What’s happening to bees and bats? Diamond warns, “At present rates, a large percent of the rest will disappear in half a century.” We need new ideas on controlling infectious diseases and transfer of species to new environments.
Warning: Look closely, this is definitely not just another PR ‘wish-list’ for Silicon Valley billionaires. These 12 goals are urgent, essential for survival for the survival of Planet-Earth. If world leaders fail to act, if Team Diamandis doesn’t fund at least $10 trillion for 12 New X-Prizes like these, then Hamilton’s warning is virtually certain to become reality and the Earth’s climate will “enter a chaotic era lasting thousands of years before natural processes eventually establish some sort of equilibrium. Whether human beings would still be a force on the planet, or even survive, one thing seems certain: there will be far fewer of us.”