President Barack Obama's video/web overture to the Iranian people marks not only a strategic shift in U.S. policy toward the country, but also a fundamental change in tactics better-suited for an increasingly connected world.
Now let's see how Iranian leaders Mahmoud Ahmanadinejad and the Ayotollah respond.
The Clinton Foundation has announced a plan to help the City of Los Angeles retrofit 140,000 street lamps with more efficient white-light LEDs that offer longer lifetime, lower energy use and less 'light polllution' that restricts night sky views.
The Outdoor Lighting Program of the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI) will be the largest LED street lighting retrofit project ever undertaken by a city to date. The City expects to reduce its electricity use by approximately 40,500 tons a year equal to taking '6,700 passenger vehicles off the road every year.' The Foundation expects the city to save save a total of $48 million over a seven year period, and reduce carbon emissions by 197,000 tons.
A National Model for Saving Electricity & Night Sky Views?
President Obama is close to naming the ‘Car Czar’ who will oversee a large portion of the federal auto loans and consult on the looming transformation of the US auto industry. Let's hope this person doesn't try to build a better buggy whip.
Most ideas out on the table are incremental (e.g. ‘better mileage’), or short-sighted (e.g. plug in batteries?) and fail to inspire disruptive changes that reflect a 21st century version of the transportation sector.
Here are Ten Ideas for the US Car Czar:
1) Lower the US Auto Industry I.C.E. 'Manufacturing Footprint' The problem isn't oil, it's the cost complexities of building mechanical engines. Declare the Internal Combustion Engine ‘Dead’ by 2025 (When more than 50% of new vehicles will be powered by electric motors) Have automakers share combustion engine plants and suppliers during the transition.
2) Accelerate the Electricification of the World's Auto Fleet At the same time expand the US manufacturing base around the 'next' generation platform for mobility: Electric Drive systems based on high performance motors, drive by wire systems, software and various energy storage devices.
3) Explain ‘Electrification’ clearly to the public ‘Electric’ refers to the motor, not just the battery. Next generation 'electric' vehicles will integrate batteries, fuel cells and capacitors. Fuel cells produce electricity. A hydrogen powered car is an electric car. Let’s stop the confusion and battle between technologies. Cars are not iPods, and will need various systems to function. This is a multi-decade long transition. Don't pick short-term winners.
4) Go Global - Expand our ties to Asian Manufacturers & Markets Electric cars are not designed to be built as one unit, in one country. They are assembled systems of systems that can be constantly upgraded via a global value chain. The line of 'new' car vs 'old' car blurs when we shift to modular electric platforms. And all the real growth will happen outside of the US! 'Detroit' must participate in this global supply chain and be in a position to sell 21st century vehicle systems to Asian markets. (Hint: The high value auto industrial base will revolve around polymers, software and sensors, not metal frames.)
5) Software Side of Car Experience The single greatest opportunity for the next century might be the ‘software’ side of the automobile experience. Smarter vehicles embedded with sensors and ‘situation awareness’ systems, customized driving experiences based on ‘drive by wire’, and mobility services (e.g. OnStar). The US can compete in this new growth market and benefit by getting 'more flow' out of our current roadway system as we make drivers and cars smarter. (PS - Mass Transit could use some software to create service transparency)
Read on: 6) Build next generation energy systems; 7) Reinvent the Wheel; 8) Fleet only for Plug-ins; 9) Shift Revenue streams to After Market 10) New 'types' of vehicle & service
We're just a month into 2009 and it already looks like Jeff Hilford's prediction that the future will become a big media topic this year is coming true.
Hilford: The present stinks and people will turn their attention elsewhere. While many will pine for a return to the past they will be forced to look ahead. The doom and gloom of the economic meltdown and global warming combined with the incredible pace of technological change provide a fertile backdrop for projection.
Watching last night's Superbowl with a group of friends, my fractured attention was thoroughly captrured by the following GE ecomagination commercial featuring non other than a "wired" version of The Wizard of Oz's scarecrow dancing atop an electric sub-station:
From the Spot: Smart Grid technology from GE will make the way we distribute energy more efficient simply by making it more intelligent.
The ad succeeds at bridging technology with familiar non-threatening themes already loaded into our cultural consciousness. Clearly it is meant to sychronize with the Obama administration's recent and mounting rhetoric about smarter national infrastructure and influence how the latest $900 billion economic stimulus dollars will be spent.
It's also indicative of an impending shift to new industry that players like Google, IBM, Cisco and Johnson Controls (add GE = The Futuristic 5?) have been chomping at the bit for.
According to Peter Kafka over at All Things D, The Obama administration has taken yet another intelligent step toward web-mediated government by hiring Googler Katie Stanton as, get this, "Director of Citizen Participation".
The move to bring in a social media expert (tempered by a finance nd foreign relations background) signals growing awareness of crowd-sourcing as an effective means of value generation. With a mind like Stanton's in the mix, we can safely assume the President is looking to 1) continue exploring the various (and exploding) social media tools available on the market, and 2) to build out a comprehensive social media apparatus that will maximize its efforts in this arena.
My respect for IBM CEO Sam Palmisano continues to rise. As myriad unimaginative lemming financial pundits continue to explain away the present economic crisis as solely a failure of consumer confidence, Palmisano is making the rounds, advocating the construction of more intelligent infrastructure. His latest audience? None other than newly elected Barack Obama.
During a rountable discussion between Obama and various corporate CEOs (including Google CEO Eric Schmidt), Palmisano presented a summary of his thoughts on the United States' economic stimulus strategy. (video here)
Palmisano: There is clearly no reason we believe to undertake projects just for the sake of activity. We need to undertake projects that actually create jobs that will make infrastructure, make our country much more competitive for the long term.
[W]e need to invest and to build a more modern and more competitive infrastructure for the future.
It may be obvious, but it's also VERY refreshing to see that such messages are piercing the static and reaching the brains that need to hear them.
Beyond the occassional post (or two), I have avoided 'Peak Oil' production issues because of its association with those who must always (and only) describe the future in apocalyptic terms.
But based on the IEA World Energy Outlook 2008 report, it has become clear that energy leaders have been using poor data of oil field decline rates (based on a lack of transparency) to support inaccurate forecasts.
Whether peak production has already happened, or will happen in 15 years is irrelevant since we are not prepared for either transition. So it is time to explore implications regarding the world's use of coal, nuclear energy, tar sands, and oil shale. (For those focused on Climate Change, the replacements for oil are not good news for carbon emissions.)
I do not believe that Peak Oil will destroy our civilization, but it certainly has the potential to make us humble, and to serve as 'the' catalyst for evolving our policies from a resource extraction to resource creation paradigm.
The following 40 minute interview is dated (January 2008) but gives a solid overview of peak oil's core issues: field decline rates, discovery rates, production time and costs and lack of real liquid fuel alternatives. [A more current hard edged interview by George Monbiot w/ Dr Fatih Birol: Link to video]
When discussing accelerating change I often remind people that technology is a double-edged sword. Reinforcing this mantra, a new bill, the Camera Phone Predator Alert Act, that would ban silent picture-taking via mobile phones to combat child exploitation has been presented to the U.S. House of Representatives.
The problem is legitimate and therefore requires what futurist John Smart would call an "immune system response", which may come in the form of a social, technological or hybrid solution.
But the proposed bill is invasive and a bit naive (not accel-aware) considering the quickly dropping component costs fueling an explosion in small devices sporting sophisticated cameras, video cameras and audio recording devices.
In other words, the problem is actually MUCH BIGGER than Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), the author of the legislation, recognizes at this time.
In just a few years we'll have micro-devices capable of always-on, persistent video streaming. Many will argue that these are critical to their health (longitudinal life logs for doctors and software to analyze, prosthetic sensing for those who need it - or even those who don't), business (reality TV x 10, regional quantification efforts, selling feeds), education (process capture for superior feedback), social life (symbionts, real-time dating services), entertainment (mixing real-time feeds with other content, critical component of augmented reality), right to document history for future purposes and so forth.
On the flipside, this will further expand the abilities of predators, criminals and other social griefers. They'll be able to remotely operate arrays of micro-cams (a world of bugs), stalk people in new ways, hack massive amounts of personal data, etc.
MySpace and the Wall Street Journal are running a promotion that will send one MySpace user to the influential World Economic Forum Davos Conference as a "citizen journalist". Though the contest may seem like a novelty at this point in web history, it does mark one small step toward more official respresentation for the prosumer and web networks of the near-future.
Selected by an all-star panel of judges based on their compelling and heartfelt video submissions, the 5 finalists are all women with clear and well-stated messages for our world leaders. Each has garnered a community feedback score of between 72% and 88%, which means that they pass the public likability test. I am particularly struck by how well-rounded and inspiring the candidates come across.
Expecting a steady increase in prosumer behavior, proliferation of web-based economic clans and the growth of value generated by such, I imagine that contests such as this one will expand in coming years as participants in different social nodes gradually begin to demand more rights.
Already, the Chris DeWolfes (MySpace), Mark Zuckerbergs (Facebook), and Philip Rosedales (Second Life) of the world are regularly invited to speak at big events about the sizable online nations they lead. But how long will it take before web-based prosumers unionize and demand representation to the external world?
Pairing with Google for its online mapping technology, New York City has (at last!) launched a state-of-the-art information center and comprehensive website to help visitors and others obtain the data they need about the city. The new platform serves up important information by category (i.e. hotels, dining, shopping, nightlife, arts, entertainment) and through Google maps seamlessly embedded into the site. (Here's NYC Mayor Bloomberg's version of the announcement)
Really a Mirror World: The result is a not only a successful city navigation platform, but also a big first step toward an official municipal mirror world through which people can interact online.
Predictions: Though it presently offers up only select slices of the NYC mirror world that exists as google maps, I expect that to change over the next few years as 1) the site integrates Google Earth, Street View and other apps, 2) the sites adopts community-related technologies and becomes an essential hub for advertising products, services, events, 3) the resolution of Google's NYC geo and info graphs increases, and 4) NYC and its citizens realize the power of a centralized, publicly owned mirror portal and demand its rapid development.
It simply makes sense that municipalities themselves should seize control of their own increasingly rich geo-info-social hubs and use them to drive value creation across a variety of domains.
The Race to Quantify Cities and Be the Prime Directory: Accordingly, I find it very likely that upon the successful Googlization of NYC many other cities will increasingly demand similar Google Worlds to boost their own commerce, public services and brand. And it's possible that Google could derive a significant amount of revenue by helping to deply these services, though they may also be glad to suffer the cost in exchange for the deluge of 1) geo-related information that would subsequently pour in as cities convert to Google as their official Directory, and 2) the additional advertising that would pour through such an official platform. -- Realizing this, my bet is that Google is gearing up to conquer the world city-by-city.
How long before President Barack Obama refers to social media as the Fifth Estate?
When I sat down to write this timely piece about the role of social media in government I was hopeful that by calling it "The Fifth Estate" I was about to be somewhat clever and original. Sheesh, was I wrong. A quick search revealed that many bloggers and pundits have in fact been calling social media The Fifth Estate for a while now:
There are in fact hundreds, if not thousands, of references to social media as The Fifth Estate that go back many, many years.
This of course has once again got me thinking that 1) there is truly no such thing as an original idea, especially on a planet inhabited by billions of meme processors all hooked into one global web, and 2) as innocuous as it may seem to us at any given moment, social media is truly a breakthrough phenomenon that is absolutely critical to convergent acceleration.
Chris Martenson has created a series of videos called The Crash Course 'to provide you with a baseline understanding of the economy so that you can better appreciate the risks that we all face.'
Martenson shows how important it is for us to understand the enormous implications of exponential growth, debt-deficits, wealth creation, asset bubbles and demographic shifts, resource production plateaus, hedonic models, fuzzy numbers of GDP, et al.
Martenson is not necessarily trying to sell a vision of inevitable collapse. Rather he makes a strong case to highlight the observable fundamental flaws in our current economic behavior and models, and the dire consequences of what might happen if we do nothing to change our course.
This is a must watch set of videos for thinking about the future.