The Economics of Scarcity

Scarcity is the economic version of fear. Real scarcity does exist but most scarcity is a matter of perception or improper organization.

Industrial Age Economics was really about scarcity

The story of dealing with scarcity is the primary theme of the Industrial Age. Every economic theory attempts to explain the most “efficient” way to allocate resources. Each theory generally starts with some definition of the word efficient.

How many wars were fought over resources? The national boundaries of most of the countries of the Middle East were drawn by the maps of the oil deposits, not the natural surface features or the social organization of the people that lived there.

The machine enabled mass production and the workers running the machines became specialists. Society reorganized – cities grew, family size shrunk, everyone began delegating parts of their lives to other specialists (food production, education, child care). There were trade-offs since specialists COULD do things more efficiently, people lost their self-sufficiency. The business cycle began to affect everyone, not jus the wealthy. Downturns caused severe hardships among those least able to weather the financial storm.

Business conquest stories

Businesses that could discover, invent or harness some new efficiency would become the next big thing. The story of Henry Ford is unique because of the assembly line, not the car. McDonald’s success story is about a high volume mike-shake machine spawning a hyper-efficient business system. The burgers were almost a coincidence.

Government-sponsored efficiency was often unkind to individuals because government programs have a tendency to be one size fits all. The “machine” of state creates categories and pigeon holes that every participant but fit regardless of the reality of the circumstances.

The paradox of the Industrial Age is that the Industrial Economy was based on the premise of unlimited cheap fossil fuels to run machines. Never-ending growth flowed from the products created by the labor of crude oil’s derivatives.

Time to end Fear by replacing Scarcity with Abundance

The biggest challenge to establishing the Next Economy is to replace scarcity with Abundance.

  • We are learning how to harness the virtually unlimited resource of solar energy (and its renewable derivatives) into on demand human-usable form. There will be a transition. How do we best replace fossil fuels with renewables without creating infrastructure that limits increasing efficiencies?
  • As software redefines industry after industry, fewer resources will be required to deliver the same services. The publishing industry was dominated by a few companies that dictated which authors were published. Now, anyone with a few hundred dollars’ software can self-publish a book.
  • There are some resources that are truly scarce on earth. Until asteroid mining becomes a reality, (and I think it will happen this century) we learn to produce goods with fewer of these “rare earth minerals”.

Let’s get to work!

 

7 more Change Agents from TEDx San Antonio

Editor’s note: This is the final installment of my series about this year’s TEDx San Antonio. I felt like these folks were “in the boat with me” – sharing my Vision for a better World.

 Change AgentsTEDxSA

  • Harry Max is a veteran of many startups and a pioneer of the Next Economy. His best known (but certainly not his only) creation is the online shopping cart. Harry’s talk offered us a framework for pragmatic thinking about things called “problems”. The key is substituting more descriptive words based on the how difficult the solution and the impact of the “problem”. They are (in increasing order of impact and difficulty):
  • Issue – something with a definite solution
  • Dilemma – more complicated than an issue, a dilemma typically presents with 2 solutions
  • Predicament – a medium-level problem
  • Quagmire- a problem that gets worse as solutions are attempted
  • Extinction Level Event – these rare problems require planning
  • Trevor Muir wins my nomination for “Best Change Agent Talk”. He works within the broken, dysfunctional public education system to make a difference! He is a Michigan middle school teacher that showed us how “project-based” makes learning come alive for students. Instead of teaching facts and figures about history, he finds people living it to inspire students to do projects that make the subject come alive. For example, his students went to a nursing home and videotaped World War II Veterans about their experiences. They then produced a ceremony to honor those men and created DVDs for the Veterans’ families. It made the standardized test about the events of the Second World War a breeze.Trevor’s challenges:
  • To Teachers, find Comrades
  • To Administrators, give permission
  • To Society, Redefine the concept of Schools
  • Joshua Singer and Abhinav Suri are two high school students that reminded us that a hacker in programmer terms is someone that produces clever/innovative code. They have conducted hackathons which are contests (usually lasting only a weekend) where teams compete to find the best solution to a particular problem. Here is their 5-point plan to “hack” a given problem:
  1. Find Passion
  2. Set aside time
  3. Surround yourself with like-minded people
  4. Gather resources
  5. Hack it!
  • Luz Cristal Glangchai explained why/how girls are discouraged from STEM education and challenged us to adopt a mindset that changes live:
  • Break free from stereotypes
  • Redefine failure as learning what does not work
  • Think like an entrepreneur.
  • Rhonda M Martin shed new light on leadership and followership. She warned us about the consequences of destructive leadership and described how it can poison organizational cultures. She challenged us to learn/teach followership. The key take-away was that followership is a role and it is not to blindly follow the leader but to serve the same goal.
  • Mitch Hagney is an urban farmer. He believes a host of new technologies is creating an opportunity to produce food in the derelict and underused spaces of cities. A 40 foot container can produce as much food as an acre of land with 1% of the water and a fraction of the energy. I spoke with Mitch extensively and my impression was a man with a passion for applying technological solutions to produce food in new scalable and sustainable ways!
  • Clara Brenner made the case for Social Entrepreneurship and Impact Investing, especially at the seed level. Her topic is an expansion of the ideas called “Techno-philanthropy” by Abundance authors Diamandis and Kotler. Some of her key points:
    • Investments for social good should focus on solutions that can be replicated
    • There is profit potential in social investing
    • The finance lifecycle is the same as any other startup.
    • Right now, the biggest need is for “Angel Investors” – those that provide seed capital to explore the idea

I look forward to watching, using and in some cases participating in the work these solutionaries presented!

Inspriation from TEDx San Antonio, Part 1

Editor’s note: This week, we dive into the talks at this year’s TEDx San Antonio that inspired me personally. They are organized by category.

Storytelling was a common theme in the morning sessionlearning

  • Sarah-Jane “S.J.” Murray taught us a lot about story design. Telling a story well involves using imagery that causes the entire brain to become engaged. Listeners are 22 times more likely to remember the story than a list of facts. The elements of a well-constructed story were identified by Aristotle and they are still true. SJ is a fellow-Baylorite and I was disappointed that I did not get a chance to speak with her informally.
  • John Lewis Lambert gave us an updated version of “all the world is a stage” He compared his work in Improv to that of an acrobat. Uncertainty is a given. His call to action: listen, live and give. Most important, we must have each other’s’ backs
  • Kori Ashton created art while she told her mother’s amazing story in overcoming the limitations that polio imposed on her body. The lesson was to never settle for the limitations the “experts” try to impose on you.

Inspirational

  • Leeza Dhalla made us understand what it feels like to grow up in the US (20 of her 26 years) only to discover as a junior in college that she is an illegal immigrant, fighting deportation from the only country she really knows. She discovered a system that is complex and arbitrary. Leeza’s talk was very emotional and did a wonderful job of putting us “in her shoes”.
  • Mark Bezos – All acts of courage matter, no matter the size. I will simply invite you to watch since the talk is available online.
  • Laurie Ann Guerrero is one of two San Antonio Poet Laureates. Her talk explored the lessons learned from the communities of our birth. I can’t wait for her talk to be posted so I can revisit her “What I learned” litany! I got to speak with her at length during the after party and I found her to be a remarkable young woman. She has a great personal story and will follow/support her career as she reaches heights that I doubt she can even yet imagine.

Regional Importance

  • Oscar Munoz introduced us to Colonias. They are unincorporated towns without basic water, sewage or other basic infrastructures. There are an identified 2,333 with half a million inhabitants. The overwhelming majority (85-97%) are US citizens. The third world exists inside the US Border. The myths, stereotypes and urban legends surrounding these communities mask much. We must ask, listen, guide and ask again to learn the real story.
  • Suzanne B Scott spoke for the San Antonio River
  • Chaco & Brance gave us a taste of Borderland Blues. The music was great. The conversation about seeing magic happen on stage revitalized my love of live music.

TEDxSA

Next week, I will continue describing inspirations talks from the October 18 TEDx San Antonio.

24 Talks at TEDx San Antonio on October 18

Editors Note: I attended TEDx San Antonio last Saturday. This was my third TEDx “main event” experience (not counting several “community” events like watch parties and Salons). Here is a report on my experience.TEDxSA

TED is an acronym for Technology, Entertainment and Design. The tag line is “ideas worth spreading”. Do a quick search of YouTube and you will find many 20 minute TED talks on virtually any topic you can imagine. TEDx indicates the event is independently organized in the style of the parent TED. The main event is a day of talks (some are shorter – most are about 20 minutes) around a particular theme.

 Ideas in Action

This year’s theme was “Ideas in Action”. Everything going into the event had a purpose. The set design was intended to be a call to support the San Antonio Food Bank safoodbank.org. There was a bookstore, breakfast, lunch (a food truck extravaganza) and an after party. The talks were held in 3 sessions of roughly an hour and a half each. There was a media studio that enabled you to record your thoughts about the experience.

The Emcees kicked off the festivities. First, Rackspace exec Chis Cochran welcomed us. And then came the parade of 20 live and 4 recorded (by my count) TED talks. Here is a summary:

  • S.J. Murray taught us the elements of story design.
  • John Lewis Lambert showed us how Improv can teach us to have each other’s backs
  • Leeza Dhalla made us understand what it feels like to grow up in the US (20 of her 26 years) and be an illegal immigrant
  • Leo Lopez III gave us a rundown on the new drug trade – prescription meds for common ailments sold at the Flea Market
  • Oscar Munoz introduced us to Colonias and we learned the third world exists inside the US Border (and it is mostly populated by citizens)
  • Cindy A Sebek – turned her love of wine into a fundraiser for hunger
  • Mark Bezos (recorded) – All acts of courage matter, no matter the size
  • Kori Ashton made art and told her mother’s amazing story
  • Tom Thum (recorded) – demonstrated some awesome beat boxing
  • Harry Max offered us a framework for pragmatic thinking about things called “problems”
  • Steven S Vrooman showed us how the contents of Social Media are really the same as standard conversation
  • Trevor Muir showed us how project-based makes learning come alive for students
  • Joshua Singer and Abhinav Suri introduced us to hackathons and challenged our view of hacking
  • Luz Cristal Glangchai explained why/how girls are discouraged from STEM education and offered fixes
  • Rhonda M Martin taught us about the consequences of destructive leadership and challenged us to learn/teach followership
  • Fonda Cox/Eric Anthony Dorsa shared his insights learned from coming out as both gay and a drag queen
  • Pliny Fisk III (recording not available) – healthy habitats for where the populations are very dense
  • Laurie Ann Guerrero – San Antonio Poet Laureate showed us what she has learned from her city
  • Mitch Hagney described the promises of urban farming
  • Clara Brenner made the case for Social Entrepreneurship and Impact Investing, especially at the seed level
  • Thomas Schlenker updated us on the diabetes epidemic in the US
  • Suzanne B Scott spoke for the San Antonio River
  • Ze Franc (recorded) gave us the Human Test
  • Chaco & Brance gave us a taste of Borderland Blues

Why go instead of just watching the YouTubes?

  • Experience the presence – There is something intangible about seeing these talks live.
  • Step outside your circle of comfort – You tend to search for the recorded talks only in areas where you have identified interest. A day at TED means hearing speakers that you would not normally watch. Last year, for example, I heard a slackliner talk about intuition vs. fear.
  • Meeting the speakers – I talked with most of the speakers informally after they got off stage. You get to express gratitude. You get to ask questions, You get to connect!
  • Hall Conversations – The people that attend TED events are smart and think outside the proverbial box. They offered even more ideas!
  • 2 months ahead of the YouTube – It is typically 6 weeks or more before the talks are available online. If you want to be on the cutting edge, you need to be at TED.
  • It is gratifying to interact with “fellow travelers”

Gratitude

An event of this magnitude takes a massive amount of planning and work. I cannot say thank you enough to the organizers. I was able to speak with/thank Susan Price and the 2 emcees, Molly Cox and Victor Landa. I owe the other half dozen members of the TEDx San Antonio leadership, the dozens of volunteers and the host, Rackspace a hearty THANK YOU!

I will have a lot more to say about many of these speakers’ ideas in future weeks. Are you going to a TED event in the next year?

 

The Smart Phone – An Important Tool for the Transition

Most of the Tools for the Transition that I write about here are techniques to learn. This one is a physical tool. The smart phone may be the most empowering tool for the transition and many people already have it. The smart phone symbolizes the transition because it is naturally Smartphonesreorganizing the way we work, live and play. Everything discussed here is true of iPhones, Androids and the others.

Its key benefit is miniaturization. Apps on the smartphone effectively replace a long list of other devices: dictaphone, camera, radio, TV, web browser, recording studio, editing suites, movie theater, GPS, word processor, spreadsheet, stereo, flashlight, card games, video games, medical devices, maps, dictionaries, translators, textbooks (w/ educators included) and on and on. Oh yes, they still work as a phones and texting devices.

Combining devices into one creates some key benefits:

  • Everyone is a reporter – People posted images of the 2005 London Subway bombing to social media. Those present became instant reporters and opened the age of “the whole world is watching”.
  • Creating a whole new canvas for artists – smart phones make creativity easier and even start whole new art forms.

Examples: food art and selfies

Check out Teju Cole’s fiction released on twitter

Creations can be anchored to locations by combining GPS and mp3. (Bluebrain)

  • An important tool of cooperation – they allow communication anywhere with anyone that is willing to participate.
  • There are Apps for every block of the abundance pyramid

Abundance-Pyramid1

Not ready for prime time YET

Some of the apps mentioned above are good enough to replace their stand-alone predecessors and some are poor substitutes. Moore’s Law means that smart phones are now smarter than the most sophisticated communications gear available to Bill Clinton when he was in the White House. The creative power of humanity means that the future of smart phones is barely imaginable, even by the “experts”.

What would you most like to see next on your smart phone?

Collaboration – a Key Tool for the Transition

Editor’s note: This is the sixth part of a continuing series on Tools for the Transition.collaboration

Confession time, I love collaborating with other people, particularly in 3 person “tiger teams” of specialists. It makes a social event out of work and it amplifies our collective productivity.

Creative thinking, collaboration and critical thinking are a related group of tools for problem solving.

Collaboration is working with others to do a task and to achieve shared goals.

Key points of Collaboration

  • Working with others means dividing up the effort
  • A task – this could be big or small but a collaboration frequently starts with a task that is too big or complex for a single person.
  • Shared Goals – There must be a goal and reaching it means developing some sort of plan. Sometimes, the goal is a unique creation that would not have come about by either person alone (think duets by great singers)
  • The result of the collaboration is something that could not be achieved by any of the individual collaborators alone.

It is important to understand what you bring to the table. You have unique skills, interests and perspectives. They will work for some collaborations and they will be useless for others. This is not a bad thing, it simply is. Accept the fact that you are not the right person in every circumstance. Knowing your skills helps you…

  • Find others with complementary, not identical skills.
  • Others in the collaboration typically “fill in the blanks” by contributing their skill set which is different from your own.

Critical Success Factors

Here are some factors that are critical to the success of any collaboration:

  • Keep your promises – this is important with collaborations just as it is any other area of life
  • Roles usually change during a collaboration but everyone involved needs to understand who has which role
  • Start small, build trust
  • Communication is the lifeblood of any collaboration. Seasoned collaborators frequently develop a shorthand among themselves.
  • Success of a smaller collaborative project can leads to bigger projects
  • The more collaborators, the more important ongoing coordination of effort becomes
  • Decide how the benefits of the collaboration (like profits) will be divided. This should be part of the original agreement among participants

Most businesses, no matter how big they are today started out as 2- and 3- person collaborations.

What projects are you thinking about that require collaboration?

12 Things You Need To Know About Networking

Networking – the art of connecting with other people -is a key tool for the transition into the Next Economy. Building a personal network was important to many segments of the Old Economy. Here are just a few of the reasons networking is critical to virtually everyone involvedNetwork in the Next Economy:

  • Communities are more ad hoc now. You create communities by combining networks.
  • Today, both online and in person networks are vital. Many “in person” networks start online.
  • The old “command and control” structures of the old economy were always dysfunctional but they are even less reliable going forward.

 There are three types of networks you should be building

  • Operational – people you connect with to get things done. Even Old Economy companies rely heavily on vendors, subcontractors and outsourcing. Networking is how these companies meet. Now, you need contacts that are not only inside your industry, but other businesses as well.
  • Personal – people you connect with due to common interests. This one should be fun. It is easier now with Social Media because you can easily connect with people outside your geographic boundaries.
  • Strategic – people who can get you where you want to go. Your Vision (you have one, right?) will guide you in connecting with the people who count in this area.

 Networking tactics

  1. Build outward, not inward (look outside your current circle)
  2. Emphasize diversity over volume. You can only manage a certain sized network, even with all the social media tools available. Figure out what size right for you – this number will be different for everyone – it will even change for you as an individual during different phases of your life.
  3. Build “weak” ties, not “strong” ones (don’t rely on the same folks constantly).
  4. Bridges are key people to have in your networks. Bridges are people that can connect you with the right people.
  5. Use the appropriate social media platform. You do not have time to use them all, so specialize in the one that is right for your needs.
  6. Stick with it – It takes time to build a network and it is too late to build from scratch when you need it.

 A recent case study

Last week, I met a guy that had reserved space for Bitcoin ATMs at a couple of local events – he has one on order but it won’t arrive in time for either event. He asked for my help.

I didn’t personally know anyone with a mobile BTM but I was fairly sure that someone in my network of other Next Economy thinkers did know a mobile BTM owner. I put out feelers and the one that worked came from someone I only know through Facebook, not the from the people that I have known personally for years. I asked her because she had posted pictures of her women’s cryptocurrency group activities.

The mobile BTM owner turned out to be 2 degrees of separation from me.

What steps have you taken today to build your network?

Case Study: Diamandis Does It Again!

Change Agents create solutions that in turn change the world. This is not the first case study I have done on Peter Diamandis. He seems to be at the center of many world-changing activities. This week, he announced a new XPrize – the Global Learning XPrize. It once again proves he is Learning3more than a Change Agent, he is an enabler of Change Agents!

The purpose of the Global Learning Challenge is to develop a new learning solution to empower children and communities around the world. It will be open source scalable and android-based. The objective of the program is to allow children to teach themselves the basic “3 r’s” (reading, writing and ‘rithmatic).

The need

An estimated 250 million children around the world cannot read, write, or demonstrate basic arithmetic skills. Basic literacy skills can give these children the potential to lift themselves out of poverty. What could the future look like if millions of these young minds are unleashed to tackle the challenges our world faces?

You simply cannot scale the building of schools and the training of teachers fast enough to meet the goal of teaching basics to this many children.

The Prize

The Global Learning XPrize is 15 million dollars to be awarded in 2 phases.

Phase One

5 Finalists will receive one million dollars each for the best proposed solutions. They will be chosen by a panel of judges.

Phase Two

The grand prize of $10,000,000 will be awarded to the top performing team based on field testing of their programs.

Rules

The most important aspect is that the solution must foster autonomous learning. The program must be able to work by itself. Here are more details:

Guidelines - Interested? Her are more details

Schedule - Here are the dates when various events related to the contest will happen

How to register to compete – And here is how you can enter yourself or your team

You can participate even if you can’t code or don’t have deep pockets by joining the “Street Team“.

Learning4Good luck to everyone that gets involved! The output from this prize has the potential to be truly world changeing!

 

3 New Words for Change Agents

I read Wired Magazine regularly. There is a regular monthly article named “Jargon Watch” which defines new words that have been recently created. Here are 3 words that need to become a part of every Change Agent’s vocabulary:

New Words

Solutionary

Someone, something or some idea that regularly solves a problems in new or unexpected ways. The new way is so different from the old that it causes a “paradigm shift”. It is a combination of the words solution and revolutionary. A solutionary is builder, not a destroyer.

Meritocracy

A system of organization where leadership and reward flow to those who have demonstrated skill or proficiency. Organizations need to put infrastructure in place that rewards proficiency with advancement. Most Industrial age organizations only reward merit to a point – political prowess is more frequently rewarded than merit, especially in the ranks of the senior management.

Trust

The belief that something/someone is believed to be reliable, good, honest and effective. Trustworthy means having earned the right to be relied upon. Here is my post from June 12 for more on the subject of Trust.

Old Word to downplay

On the subject of words, here is a word that needs to be overcome because it has been used to oppress us. It is a key word from the Myth of the Industrial Age that needs to be downplayed:

Scarcity

The belief that there are fewer goods, services or resources than there is demand for them. Most Economic theory in existence about the assumptions used to allocate scarce resources in the most efficient manner. We are finding that more things are not scarce!

How can you use these words?

Are you using models or are they using you?

Editor’s Note: This is an update to an article originally written nearly 2 years ago. There is a companion page of examples.  Example 5 is particularly useful for this post.

Did you just think of the plastic model that you built and then played with as a kid? Well, that is a good start. Those models are scale representations (exact copies where everything is a certain amount smaller). Scale models are only one kind of model.Scale Plane Model

 What are models?

Models may be called a lot of things: paradigms, worldview, political leaning, religious affiliation, frameworks or any of several dozen other names. Models help us think about and understand the parts of reality that are represented in the model. If you want a twenty dollar word, another word for model is allegory.

Reality is just too complex for us to understand. We therefore create an image of reality in our minds, on paper and/or using a computer. Reality is WAY too complex for the mind to completely absorb, so the image, by necessity only a represents a piece of reality. This is a model. Without models, information would be nothing more than a random, meaningless collection of facts and figures.

How we use them.

You use models even if you don’t know it. Models are incredibly important. Leaning to use them consciously is a key to thriving in all this massive change!

Models of the human body, the galaxy, the genome, the environment and molecules help scientists understand and investigate those specific parts of reality more deeply. Business models define how a business organization approaches its mission.

Models store, organize and retrieve information that is too much, too volatile or too detailed to remember.

Working with models help you organize data and information into knowledge. As they mature, these models allow you to analyze and evaluate knowledge. New bits of data constantly enter your awareness. You subconsciously use the model to evaluate the relevance of the new data. If it fits, it is gathered with related data to form information. If it doesn’t fit, it is discarded. More on the risks of this in a minute.

It is nearly impossible to process any complex ideas without a model. For example, historical data is just a useless collection of dates and names. With a model, you can see how history repeats. With a good model, you can recognize when positive patterns are recurring and participate. Just as important, you can AVOID exposure to negative patterns.

Bad models can wreak havoc

It is important to consciously evaluate your models. Using a faulty model causes you to ignore relevant changes in time to take the appropriate steps. There are many reasons why a model is faulty.

  • A formerly useful model could be out of date (they completed a new bridge that isn’t on the map)
  • It could have errors (4201 Anderson Lane is on the left but the map says it is on the right),
  • It could be illegible (the ink smeared and I can’t tell these 3 streets apart).
  • You might even have the wrong model.

Examples of how bad models can wreck things:

  • A bad map can get you lost. The consequences range from inconvenience to ending up in a dangerous location
  • Bad economic models can lead you to bad decisions about career and investment choices
  • Bad business models can bankrupt an organization
  • Defective political models can cause destructive policies to be implemented

The importance of common models

A new model must lead to greater security, open government, and open business practices. Changing the world is a huge growth opportunity, and a necessary task for our future Generation ~Alice Iida

Groups of people need to use common models to collaborate effectively. The best example we see today of trying to collaborate without a common model is the dysfunctional US Government. Republicans and Democrats use different models to decide the best course for government policy and the beaurocrats that enforce that policy have a completely different model. I think they are all (at best) using outdated, industrial age models that have little relevance to today’s Next Economy realities.

What models are you using?

What models are the people in your life using?