The Future of Good Ideas

Everything in modern life revolves around how we move and communicate across space and over time.

This is the fundamental idea of all three major industrial revolutions; new forms of energy, power a new form of mobility that merges with new forms of communication.  When these three forces meet at the same time in history it alters the idea of modern life itself.  It happened in the First, it happened in the Second and now the trip-wire of the Third has been released.

Renewable energy is commercializing plug-in cars and merging with an internet-of-everything communication system.  Open, neutral, lateral and powerful.

As is true of all good stories, there is a catch.  For the curious among you, it will be seen as an exciting plot twist.  It is this; if we are to operate successfully and prosper in the Third Industrial Revolution we must choose to do so.

Rifkin ends the introduction of the Third Industrial Revolution with a somber (and passive-aggressive) offering.

"We have the science, the technology, and the game plan to make it happen.  Now it is a question of whether we will recognize the economic possibilities that lie ahead and muster the will to get there in time." - Rifkin

I say passive-aggressive because this is obvious bait for the proud (specifically America).  What Rifkin is telling us is that if we don't do this; if we don't usher in a sustainable and hyper-productive future that is at our fingertips we will have chosen not to.  The Nation-States who centralize power, build walls and power economic movement with fossil fuels will be known as those who looked at the Third Industrial Revolution and said no.

The 21st century will require a mindset similar to that of Google X:

"Each X idea adheres to a simple three-part formula.  First, it must address a huge problem; second, it must propose a radical solution; third, it must employ a relatively feasible technology. In other words, any idea can be a moonshot - unless it's frivolous, small-bore or impossible." - [source]

Great ideas are a dime a dozen but the trick is to get them to market.  How do we initiate a culture of big ideas and cutting-edge innovations that are commercially viable and improve quality of life?  We start with the hardest part; finding the will to do so. Will is an esoteric concept but it is often synonymous with tangible words like money and time.

Truly great innovators like Bell Labs and Xerox PARC had a host of both and the will to fail over and over until they got it right.  Although the Third Industrial Revolution will wait for no-one we need the space to innovate, fail, iterate and move forward.

If you sat with Astro Teller, Captain of Moonshots at Google X, he might use the saying; Monkey First.  What he means is simple yet almost never practiced; do the hardest thing first.  The allegory goes that when attempting to have a monkey stand on a 10-foot pedestal and recite Shakespeare, the classic narrative is start building the pedestal.  Show your investors and bosses that you're doing something and that 'progress' (whatever that means) is being made.  At Google X this line of thinking wouldn't cut it.

"You can always build the pedestal.  All of the risk and learning comes from the extremely hard work of first training the monkey."  - Astro Teller

Before we can build the pedestal we need to do the hard work of commercializing the will to usher in the future in front of our nose and build smart systems that allow us to get there.  We need a plan.

Let's be clear:

"The Third Industrial Revolution is not a panacea that will instantly cure the ills of society or a utopia that will bring us to the Promised Land.  It is, however, a no-frills, pragmatic economic plan that might carry us through to a sustainable post-carbon era."- Rifkin

Let's move forward, Monkey First.