In 1900, the estimated world population was a bit over a billion and half, by 2000 had reached 6 billion, and a scant 10 years later had reached 7 billion. Current projections foresee passing the 10 billion mark somewhere around the middle of this century. This geometric growth in population is overlain by a non-linear per capita demand growth for food, shelter, water, and energy as Lesser Developed Countries have driven towards economic parity with Western nations. And, both literally and figuratively superimposed over all of this is the attendant impact on the world climate. The resultant combinatorial exponential change is the suite of challenges that loom over this century.
Technology innovations that marginally extend the means and methods of today simply won’t keep pace. That’s the very definition of incrementalism. Needed are step function gains that aren’t mutually exclusive—gigawatts more power with megatons less carbon dioxide, millions of acre-feet more fresh water without draining the aquifers, billions more homes while replenishing the forests, gigatons more protein without sacrificing rivers, streams, and estuaries.
That requires transcending incrementalism. Technology is part of the answer, but more than that is needed. The will to implement and the incentives to rationalize risk, the money, and the sense of urgency that the situation demand are all imperative. This is the ninth workshop in this series, most of which have yielded concrete (in some cases, quite literally) initiatives that can yield exponential effects in increasing resource availability, improving tools, and increasing productivity while simultaneously mitigating and even reversing traditional adverse consequences. These workshops aren’t topical exercises; they are intentionally diversified elements from complementary disciplines—researchers, scientists, and engineers; corporate decision-makers, academics, and artisans; financiers, insurance underwriters, and project developers. Like the game of “Clue”, at the outset it may not be obvious where the intersections and collaborative opportunities lie, but as the sessions progress, the realizations of connections for missing links dawn upon the participants.
A “grand challenge” is a focus on a single monumental problem. A “grand aspiration” is to address intertwined monumental challenges that must be dealt with collectively. We aspire to do that.
As with prior Transcending meetings this will be a relatively small meeting limited to those specifically invited but with the provision for remote observers to participate through video link. The conference is hosted by ESRI in partnership with the Reducing Industrial Carbon Emissions (RICE) project funded by WEFO/ERDF and in partnership with University of South Wales (https://twitter.com/rice_cymru?lang=en). Project RICE involves creating industry pilots for a number of technologies for utilization of CO2. Part of the aim of the RICE project is to bring together a diverse range of academic and industry leaders to discuss how technology innovation can be used to fundamentally change industry as it is today to ensure a cleaner, greener future.