Can Technology Save the World?
THE BIG QUESTION
Can technology save the world? At ECHO, we think so, and we are investing time and collective gray matter to test that hypothesis.
We live in the age of the toaster, the microwave oven, and home automation systems which allow us to control our environment with a single word (Actually – using platforms like IF THIS THEN THAT – our environments can be pre-programmed given certain conditions, like turning on the heater if a cold front blows through. But, I digress…).
We also live in an age where we suffer the ills and byproducts of industrial waste, the over-fishing and depletion of our oceans from super trawlers, and the mass extinction of villages and towns from devastating nuclear bombs.
An inventive quest for innovation has elevated our consciousness and propelled us unto celestial realms. I feel, however, that we should balance such notions and aspirations with some down-to-earth, global considerations.
THOUGHTS FOR OUR FUTURE
How will our progeny survive in this ecosystem? Will there be enough water, enough oxygen, to sustain them? What is our vision for the future? Can we re-envision man-made infrastructure which is tightly woven into the fabric of the organic world?
How do we use our power to build symbiotic relationships with the world around us? How do we show our humility and gratitude through the proper stewardship of these abundant – but, ultimately finite – natural resources?
ANSWER THE CALL
At ECHO, such questions have led us to make investments in researching new solutions and emerging technologies. We realize that the proper investment in technology can yield invaluable insight. By connecting communities, and working together, we can build tools which bring enormous value to our lives. Together, we can solve critical problems which affect every one of us, all the way round the world.
ECHO recently sent one of their Systems Engineers – yours truly – on a mission deep into the Mayan Biosphere in the department of Petén, Guatemala. Invited by Tree Tag Technologies, I headed down to the rainforest to work with locally-based community logging operations, the National government, and international NGOs to investigate the possibility of developing a digital supply chain for harvested wood and the timber products that they become.
THE JUNGLE BIRD
The problem of illegal logging and deforestation is huge, and I won’t discuss it here (read something like THIS for more info), but suffice to say that we need a way to enable the good guys to prove the parentage of their raw materials. Tree Tag’s founder – the incomparable Andrew Dudley aka “Jungle Bird” – has been traveling around the world to raise awareness about the extent of this problem. He’s been working tirelessly to bring together the sharpest minds, the biggest hearts, and the political powers that are willing to tackle the issue.
Big questions are being asked: Can we track a tree from the moment it is cut in Guatemala until it becomes a guitar in Oregon? Can we augment existing paper-based certification systems with new tools which open doors for sustainable business? Can we create value chains – starting from the local communities which depend on these resources for their livelihood, and ending with the purchaser of the goods? Can we create platforms which serve all players harmoniously?
Tree Tag believes this is possible by leveraging smartphone technology to build networks of trust, and through facilitating the flow of information, allowing for transparency, accountability and real-time verifiability.
The amazing thing is that many of the platforms and services which simply did not exist a few years ago are actually just analogs to real life constructs. We take an idea and then leverage modern tools to enhance and extend it. So, when building, it’s important to remember the values that are at the core of your own life. Take time to remember the why, not just the what, or the how. Ask yourself: What good will this do for the world?
There are stories of the human race creating flying vehicles – Vimanas – thousands of years ago. The sky is not even the limit when it comes to our own ingenuity, but we can be forced to lose it all and watch it crumble… if we make the wrong choices.
The right choices include acknowledging our shared values, dreaming big with open hearts, thinking outside of the box; not seeing technology as a limitation or something to be discarded but as ever-evolving… just the like the organic environment all around us. In closing, I want to leave you this bit of hope:
If you fret or become scared that the world is coming to an end, HAVE FAITH!
And maybe we can engineer our way out of this pickle.