I’ve been blind to the obvious. When I do research on soil erosion or glacier melting on Greenland, or some complex aspect of climate change, I look into my address book on my Mac. Soil morphologist David Montgomery, or Professor of Geosciences Richard Alley, or Climatologist Katharine Hayhoe, are just two feet and a click away. My monitor flickers and their combined minds are linked with my little gray cells. The obvious isn’t the knowledge we share, it is how that knowledge is communicated instantly around the world. Individually we each have part of the puzzle that can avoid catastrophe, but that means nothing if we can’t connect the pieces.
Information Communication Technology (ICT) now links the world to knowledge, business, scientific research and experimentation. ICT offers the instant global exchange of information. Knowledge and ideas no longer exist as isolated islands of academia or business. Experimentation is now linked to a global mind.
Individually we can easily become bewildered by the pace and breadth of information. The sum of knowledge of any single topic now progresses exponentially. At the end of WWII, total human knowledge was estimated to double every 25 years. Futurist Buckminster Fuller called these “knowledge units.”
Today, the doubling speed of human knowledge is between one and two years.
We drag our political feet in nostalgic dogma and the perceptions of rugged individualism, but, in reality, we are now a global civilization. Our economy and resources are so interlinked that failure of any one link threatens all. The human hive has expanded to the entire planet.
In the animal kingdom we marvel at the abilities of ants and bees. Individually they are limited. As a colony, something else takes place. There is a universal or “hive mind” that coordinates individual roles. The hive mind can build complex structures. It can mitigate and adapt to incredibly destructive forces. The hive mind organizes food storage, establishes nurseries, manages waste and maintains order. A thriving global-civilization functions with similar coordination.
Global security is also interlinked. Even opposing forces depend upon an exchange of information (spying) to maintain peace and stability. The more we know about each other, the more secure we are – and the less likely to tip the balance of power.
Global warming and the resulting consequences of a changing climate, floods, droughts and extreme events, is the single greatest threat we face today. It threatens the most fundamental systems and resources that support life. The Paris Climate Agreement would not have been possible without a shared understanding of a universal danger. The connections between science, academics, technology, economics, culture and politics are now part of a global “hive mind.”
In the 1960s and 1970s, a student might have one or two “pen pals” in foreign countries. Today, we think nothing of having dozens of “friends” around the world. Free Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) offer subjects from the top universities and educators to everyone. MOOCs encourage dialogue in open forums. Successes in sustainable development for low lying cities like Rotterdam, Copenhagen or Malmö can be instantly compared and applied to Seattle, New York or Miami (i.e., UN Habitat).
The current pace of technology is directly tied to ICT. Breakthroughs in photovoltaics have brought the cost of PV down 90 percent since 1990. The current decoupling from fossil fuels and the abandonment of coal could not have taken place without ICT. Because of ICT, “green technologies” in architecture and city management are growing. International forums and consortiums are forming around the world.
Knowledge is power. Shared knowledge manifests that power into collaborative action. Your are reading this because of ICT. ICT is the matrix that will build sustainable solutions.