Scaling up the circular economy

From Viewpoints Intelligent Archive
Revision as of 18:53, 20 November 2021 by Ohshima (talk | contribs)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search
this is Alan hey everyone so welcome Alan
okay I am
delighted and terrified
to be sat here talking to Alan
and as you've heard we've been talking
during the day Alan has seen it and done it much of his
work at Xerox PARC has literally
touched every single one of us you know through
the technology that we have in our pockets and we use in
our homes before the event
Alan shared some of his experience and some of his
thinking in a pre read and the purpose
of that pre read was so that we could really get into the content
with the next 25 minutes so for
those of you who haven't read the pre read you should all
be feeling look extremely guilty at the moment no
don't make them feel bad but just to help the
next few minutes how many people actually did
read this oh well done
okay okay
the rest of you need to stay after class
what we're here to talk about with Alan is
what it will really take to scale
up the circular economy and I can quite honestly
say I have no idea where this conversations going
to go it will be a ride Alan has
props anything could happen in the next 25 minutes
please do tweet in questions using the hashtag summit
2019 we will be capturing them and
chucking them to Alan to get us started
ask you the kind of most obvious question in
PARC well I have
to have to start by eeling away
from that for a second but just to get everybody
to take a look I thought
about building a little bringing little fake fire
here because we're actually doing
what human beings did about 150,000
years ago which is gathering around a
campfire listening to stories
and if you think about it our civilization
is actually based on writing and it
was based on science it's based on a whole bunch of
that have almost nothing to do with stories and
have almost nothing to do with the world discourse so
it is very very difficult I think to
do other than make
gestures at immense
complex problems that we
have it's very hard to talk about them without
being able to even play with simulations
of them I feel like you're making them more guilty about
not reading the pre read yeah well
I view this as a commercial not for
reading my piece but I did write it take
the trouble to write it just for this session
but that piece was in
lieu of giving a talk which would give
you the context but not allow for discussion so I
and what I like to do when I teach classes
and university is I write what
I think the student should read and
we use the class to find out what what they're thinking about
know and what they don't know and I'd like to do that here
so I think the
a couple of keys here are
there's a lot of method
in the world and a lot of the
way the world is is the result of methods
that are still fairly common sense
thinking in the small everybody
being industrious in the small and
the problem is that the
communication systems of every kind including physical
have clogged
up almost every finite resource
that we have and so
quotation I like you to take away with you was
done by Einstein some years
ago and he said we cannot solve our
problems with the same levels and kinds of
thinking we use to create them this is the number one
thing I'd like you to take away I mean
how does how does that then translate
to what Andrew is saying and this
even we've been talking about today needing
to kind of scale up yeah so when
I hear people saying we we
have to get away from linear that
worries me just because there's
no known linear real linear relationship
in the universe even
the ones that we treat of as linear in science
they're all actually nonlinear they
can all be taken up to a place
where whatever their predictability seemed to
be to our common sense suddenly
goes awry we're much much better
and if you think of these exponential curves
most important thing to think about them is to
take the place where they're getting started and
look at it in our timescales and
realize oh that looks exactly
like it's linear it took Charles
Keeling the name everybody should know
here because he was the first real scientist
who did the first real measurements that gave
us global war warming as a problem
all the way back in the late 50s so
we've actually we've actually had
who actually had a warning
from enough data collected
see that the curve that he was measuring in carbon
dioxide build-up was not
either flat
or linear but it was actually an exponential
and so we had adequate warning to start
dealing with the global warming problem as
early as 1963 and there
are many many things that could have been done if
most people's imaginations were
informed by science to be able to understand his results
they weren't they still aren't
today and you can tell because even though people are
talking about global warming they're talking about it in an absolutely
ridiculous way now
is way too late for any kind of market solutions
when there are big countries that can buy carbon credits up
the kazoo forget about it the
climate can be easily toppled
before people run out of money we
have to take Einstein seriously and
reason I'm here I think is
because I was lucky
be a participant in one of these enormous
revolutions the one
brought you personal computing and the internet
I was part of the community
I was a group leader at Xerox PARC I invented
the graphical user interface that
you use I had a lot to do with tablet
computers and networking and so forth
and that was part of a community
which was very similar to for instance
the community here in the United States that developed radar
which was the prime technology that
won the war for the Allies rather than
for the enemy I think just sorry but those
are those examples that you're pulling out and Xerox
PARC you would say that is an example of the Einstein quote
in action there's a new level of thinking
that's all yes in all of these so in
this document I picked a simple one like the Empire
State Building which went up in about a year
started starting from demolition and planning
to occupancy now which at the time was
impacted impossible
I think the Chinese are doing it now but
I picked radar I picked
Bletchley Park that's another one
where people were so worried about
the Germans that they finally
said where are the boffins where are
people who actually know something about the physical universe we
need to finally pay attention to
them and they did and they did it in an exemplary fashion on
both sides of the Atlantic that
was a huge factor also in winning
that war I picked
the Manhattan Project just
as an example of something really big that can be done really
quickly can you explain the man what the Manhattan
Project was the atomic bomb project
commend this book which
is in the references of this thing this is a book by the
guy who headed it major-general grows it's
called now it can be told that's a very
matter-of-fact book because the guy was an engineer but
it's not a popular book but
in fact it just matter-of-factly says
well he realized it wasn't
about the scientists knew
as needed and what was needed was fissionable material
and nobody knew how to do it and so at
the end of this thing he had about 700,000 people
he had set up whole new towns including
bringing in doctors and schoolteachers
and he
mobilized a hundred
basically 1% of all of the
money the u.s. spent in the war was spent on
this project to just get it done and they
violated most principles of what
business people think are prudent ways of
doing things but the violations were
the things that allowed them to be successful and
so this so the second
thing I'd like you to take away is yeah
when you have something big to do
besides the fact that it's nonlinear
and you need to do something different you don't
want to abandon rational ways of doing things you
just don't want to let the rational ways of doing things get
in the way of things that seem crazy because
the most important thing to understand is pretty much
everything we do with the physical world today would
be a burnt at the stake offense 500
years ago what changed
was the context Newton was one of the big factors
in changing that context and all
sudden in the new context you could think thoughts that
were literally crazy according
to and so this is the thing to realize that whenever
you think you're thinking reasonably about something
that is really difficult beware
so having heuristics
set up to say how how
are we actually allocating our intellectual
capital here how much of this are
we trying to do with top-down planning
how much of it are we actually trying to do
by getting highly
talented crazy people to try and think up new
things that are not in our top-down ways of doing things how
much problem-solving are we doing versus how
much problem finding are we doing so I just want to jump
in there because I feel like you know you did in your essay
you do lay out a few examples of projects
that you think have demonstrated this just
a level up in thinking and yes but
you also as in one way to think of it is
there are a lot of different Sciences and the
that the different Sciences find is rather specific
to the sciences but the methods in
science are much more uniform across
because they have to do with how do you go looking at four
things how do you judge what
you're doing how
do you get new ideas how do you be open at the
first level so you because otherwise you'd be
dogmatic if you didn't admit every crazy idea in science
but if you're going to have every crazy idea there
you could you have to do what most democracies don't do
which is to go to have a next
level which is the best criticism that anybody has
ever invented science works because it's a two-level
system most government systems don't work because
they try and have something that is like
a religion that has generally agreed on
and you really want to be crazy at one level and
very very sane at the next level and
can I can we come back then to some of those examples because
you know when you're talking about crazy projects
it'd be up for crazy projects employed
great people the truly great people and give them
freedom don't try and organize top-down what are some of
those can you expand on some of those but it's respects it's
again it's one of those things where I wish it
were more simple be
and it's not that there aren't heroes
there are but
the hero's journey is a trope that
misleads most people who
don't fool around with this stuff it's
not really about people in garages so
but however there are heroes and
it's not about small groups but
there are small groups but if you look at
the huge jumps not
just in simple scaling but in
context and science is a good example
itself it works because it is
a community where the community passes
ideas around freely it
doesn't know who's going to do the next good
thing and it relies
on the community to help keep
things that are used for new things
to be vetted rather
carefully so you have this mixture
things which is really hard it doesn't wrap into a
religion and it doesn't wrap into the way most companies
are organized so it's
very difficult it frightens most
c-level executives and
a frighten the executives of Xerox I
can tell you when they came out to Palo Alto
see how we were doing what we were doing they thought we
were out of control we
weren't out of control any more than the internet is out of control
the internet has has grown to 50 billion
nodes now without any central control
but it has control it's a different
kind of control in order to get
the internet we had to abandon
the kind of thinking that went into switched telephone
systems and hub control
networks and all of those things you had to abandon go
to something more like a biological model and
that looked out of control to most people
who had wetted their
life to a particular way of doing things so
the number one thing here is when somebody talks about scaling
it's it's not the
number it's when does
the scaling become different
and when are you going to notice
that the scaling has become different that's
the big deal and that is what you need heuristics for when
you're trying to take something that works in the small
and trying to employ it in the large
for instance almost any particular
effort in saving the planet
from pollution or global warming
all of these things really has to be done
that all of these systems are actually rather tied
to each other and we
don't know what all of those systems are the
climate simulations that have been done have
all been in the direction of measurement
following behind the simulations but
in almost every case the actual
global warming that's been going on has been been worse
than the simulations predicted that means that the
simulations aren't capturing some gotchas
that could be really terrifying in another
20 years to go from really terrifying
gotchas to may be
some communities that give you hope today if
there are any and you know in
our preparation I'm just like you're saying this in the context of
you being from the UK with
what's going on here and me being from the US with
what's going on here yeah okay in the US
you mentioned the Genelia labs
Camellia and that is a current
yes Jamelia is a current lab
it's funded in part by the Hughes
foundation they did a very
good thing one of the spark
plugs is a guy one of my favorite guy I used to
molecular biologist and my misspent youth in
one of my heroes was Sydney Brenner just
died recently a Nobel Prize winner from South
Africa but he was fundamental
to DNA here in Cambridge and
he was one of the spark plugs to get
hings started in many places in the world and Genelia labs
near Washington DC is one of them yeah
it's it's a pretty impressive and can you just maybe
just thinking about some of those characteristics what
is it what is it about Genelia labs that you like well I think that
I wrote down 19
of them in the in this document I
think the number the number
one thing is as
the immensity of
the difficulties
starts impinging on us
we have to go away from
funders trying to pick goals it's
natural it's their money they're responsible
but all the good funders in history let
people who are going to do the work pick the goals
what the funders did was to put
together a vision which
is not the same as a goal and it's not the same as a mission
a vision is a picture of a future state
of things which is would
be really nice if we had so for instance
the one that I worked under the sentence
was the destiny of computers are
to become enter an interactive
intellectual amplifiers for
all humans on earth pervasively
networked worldwide the guy
who set up this funding and the community that did it would
not peel it down to a hard
goal he said no no we'll get everybody who
thinks they can do something against this vision will
fund them and if we're
if we got given what we're funding and the
level of aspiration we
have if we get 30% success we'll
change the world qualitatively
the result of that funding did
have about maybe
40% success but it's almost every
technology that you use today in computing and
the return on the
investment just from Xerox PARC so Zarek's Park
is maybe I don't know 120 million dollars
the return on investment from Xerox PARC
has been about 40 trillion dollars so
this flabbergast business people think they're in business
to make money but they aren't they're just trying to make a few bucks
safely way you make money is
take advantage of the deep knowledge we have about the
universe and what can actually be done
with it by people who are not trying
to do too much planning ahead of time uncertain
enacts you talk about funding and that being
that kind of unrestrictive miss you know having the vision to aim
for and having less restrictions tied to money yeah
like there was a sympathy the other McArthur
foundation in the u.s.
foundation yeah confusing this
is the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and I now
that I live over here I think of the one
in the US as the other but
what they do is
pick I don't know 20
people 30 people a year that they think
show promise and they give them a five-year
no-strings-attached grant of
$625,000 period they
don't worry the people can go off and do nothing
however it happens that people that have art
in their blood can't not do
nothing it's a calling it's like being
called to the ministry or so you don't have to worry
about the people who are gonna make the
thing here they want to do this the best thing can
ever happen to them is for somebody to fund them to
follow their instincts and yeah
70 percent of them are going to be not going to play
out but like in baseball and some other
sports those errors are not
errors but overhead it's really
important to think of when you're funding edge of the art research
that the things that don't work out
are not failure they're just overhead
for trying to do something really difficult and if
you're aiming high enough the successes you get like
rocks the company made
return-on-investment themselves just on
the laser printer that we invented the era of about a factor
250 paid for park hundreds
of times over and the world
made a return on investment much much larger than
than that so the
this is kind of the inverse black swan idea
right Black Swan you don't worry about how rare
it is what you worry about is how big the disaster is
going to be when you get it the inverse Black
Swan the whites the super whites or the gold
Swan the gold Swan is don't
worry about stuff that doesn't work out
if worry about what the percentage that needs
to work out that will pay for everything else a hundred times
over and goose the human race into
a next level of thinking well
I can't think of a better way to finish our
we're a couple of minutes over time yes linking
at its place been blinking yeah on the idea of more though
more gold swans that's what we need
yeah well it's when I just to
finish off when I had my group at Disney for
five years really interesting
five years it was I gave a
presentation to the Disney executives on
Bret all the new ways to
kill the goose that was trying to lay the golden eggs that have been
invented since the fairytale like make
the goose a manager give the goose a deadline
want cooking
gold coins instead of eggs want
platinum eggs instead of gold and I
said no you guys are just completely
missing the point here if you've got geese that lay golden
eggs you can convert them into coins you can convert
them into platinum let the freaking geese
lay the frigging eggs
but Alan thank you very
honestly say it has been a huge privilege just working
with you on this for the last few weeks so thank you very much thank
you Joe and Alan I feel
there's a whole load of more exciting things in
that bag of tricks but maybe we'll find out what
in the well I had a feeling that nobody would read
the thing so I I even made a few slides up
but I decided to just since
slides a hundred thousand years ago I decided to just
go with a hundred kick it in old school I like it by
the way what here for people we're
in a roundhouse and
many of you are probably not engineers but
some might be you may not be
aware but almost every roundhouse especially in the UK
right the
trains are on this thing and
those trains those locomotives
were swiveled by usually one person with
no engines they
were just those turntables that the
engines were on were some of the most beautifully
engineered things done in the nineteenth century and
it's a kind of a
small as a beautiful thought to end this session with
Thank You Alan you don't need the transistors
so much you don't need the gas engine
so much you just need really good designers
really good design and engineering