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?


50 Posts and Counting!

This is the 50th post. We want to take a moment to look at the past, present and future of this blog.

Here are some of the milestones:

May 1 Change Agent Publications moved here from blogspot after a year of regular posts.
June 26 Published Framework for Change: Become a Change Agent Part 3
July 22-Sept 30 We moved from Austin to San Antonio, Texas. This was a surprisingly difficult move that yielded many life lessons. The posts mostly chronicled the lessons learned.
October 4 First post of the Constitution No Longer Applies series. It was largely about how the old infrastructure has ceased functioning as intended.
December 27 First post of the Dangers of the Debt, Derivatives and Deceit series. This series talks about the biggest traps of the Industrial age. There are several variations to this danger.
March 18 We committed to weekly posts and have met that commitment so far.
April 3 First post of the Next Economy series
June 26 Introduction of the monthly profile of Change Agents in action
July 10 First post of the Abundance series
August 7 First post of the Change Agent: Tools series


The Become A Change Agent books are about leaning to thrive in all the massive change going on in the world. They cover change basics and 2 of the key parts of the vehicle, Vision and Framework.

The posts through mid-year chronicle thinking about where we need to go with the vehicle.

Tools are also part of the Change Agent Vehicle. There are a lot of them, most only apply in special circumstances and the phrase “new and improved” certainly applies. We will be covering them for the next several months.

Looking forward, the current infrastructure is not working. We are waking from the dream of the industrial age in large part because it was founded on principles that no longer apply (cheap energy and economies of scale). We see it in diminishing returns on military, sick care, education – obvious even if we are skip over or “cost shift” important measurements like impact on people and the planet!

Stay tuned, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!


18 TED Talks about the base of the Abundance Pyramid

Editor’s note: The last post of each month is dedicated to highlighting a Change Agent and their work. This time, we present many Change Agents. TED Talkers have ideas that can change the world!

 Here are ideas from a wide variety of people working to create Abundance in the 3 areas that form the first tier of the Abundance Pyramid.



7 talks on ideas for life without Water


8 talks on Sustainable Food Consumption


I saw this live at the my first TED event!

Michael McDaniel: Cheap, effective shelter for disaster relief

Emergency shelters made form paper

A call for open source architecture

I hope you found inspiration in these talks!

Next week, there will be another “one time only” post.


Education and Learning, Part 2

This week, we conclude our overview of Education and Learning

Let’s start with…

Vision for 21st Century Education

Learning and education are life-long pursuits. Young people need the basic skills to succeed in today’s world, understand their responsibilities as participating members of society and get exposure to life experiences that allow them to find and pursue their unique purpose with passion.

The world changes so fast that everyone requires periodic re-training as technology obsoletes their professional skill set. Education should not saddle people with debt that enslaves them to the traditional work force.

Basic learning skills that everyone needs

The traditional “3 Rs” (Reading, Writing and ‘Rithmatic) remain vital. Reading and writing are even more important in the age of social media, email and texting than in industrial times. The natures of these skills have changed, though. I doubt someone in the 1950s would care about LOL. The need to perform 4 function math has not changed. You need to know how to add, subtract, multiply and divide well enough that you can spot errors in all sorts of accounts. If nothing else, think of it as the ability to check the computers for errors.

Statistics and Probabilities – Today, employers report that Statistics and Probabilities are more important than Algebra and Geometry. The reason is that these Statistics and Probabilities are useful to a wider range of problem-solving situations.

The “new memorization” – Memorizing facts (and regurgitating them on a test paper) is no longer a particularly valuable skill in the age of Google searches. The new “memorization” is the ability to quickly find knowledge, judge its validity and apply it correctly.

Creative thinking skills – Computers and robots will increasingly do the menial, repetitive jobs. People will need to create new things. Learning better ways to be creative needs to be an on-going process.

Critical Thinking skills- The world, particularly the Internet, is full of false and misleading information. People need the skills to know what to believe and what to pay attention to. This is also an evolving process. What was impossible yesterday will become common place tomorrow.

Experience Collaborating – Creating things is a group effort. Learning to work with people with different backgrounds, purposes, skills and passions comes with practice.

Problem solving – Employers today want people that can solve problems. Everyone needs to know how to approach problems by asking the right questions and creating solutions.

Ethics- It is important that we share enough common values that we don’t kill each other and wreck the joint!

Many paths up the mountain

It is an observed phenomenon that young people naturally figure out computers. Getting computing power in the hands of young people will open up a whole world to them!

The diversity of the World Wide Web opens up opportunities for many approaches to learning – and allowing the individual to choose the one that works best for them. Examples:

  • Gamification and mastery-based learning. Tests, badges
  • Salaman Khan’s YouTube – When Bill Gates first saw them, he commented, “You just got a glimpse at the future of education.”
  • Teachers as coaches
  • Peer-based tutoring

Many of these approaches will be revolutionized by Artificial Intelligence. Teachers are already no strangers to retraining. AI will intensify their need to learn new creative and collaborative techniques.

Next week will be a very different version of the case studies post!

Learning and Education – The most basic Tools

The ability to learn quickly is a vital skill in this fast-changing world. Everyone must constantly learn to adapt to changing circumstances.learning

It is important to remember that learning and education overlap but they are not the same thing.  Learning is the act of acquiring new skills and knowledge.  Education is the process that society uses to pass on knowledge, values and skills.

Public Schools

First, we need to acknowledge the progress that the current public educational system brought our society.  It was architected by Horace Mann in the first half of the nineteenth century utilizing the best technology of the time – the industrial model. Before that, only the wealthy, powerful and the clergy got more than a couple of years’ “schoolin’”. It has become a major piece of infrastructure. No country can be considered modern without a public education system. Public education has certainly improved the literacy rate. Stop and thank a teacher because you can read this post!  

Grades K-12 may have adopted computers but the basic system (the infrastructure) is still deeply rooted in the industrial age. The documentary, Waiting for Superman takes a rather depressing look at education in the United States. There is significant disagreement on the primary causes and failures. This is a highly partisan issue.  Conservatives point the fact that schools are government-owned and therefore socialist. Liberals claim it is a lack of funding and poverty/lack of parent involvement. Others point to the fact that standardized testing leads to “Teaching the tests” not real learning.  We cannot even agree on how success should be measured – most simply choose advancement to the next level of education (eg percentage of High School graduates that go to college)

University/College Education

Higher education was characterized by “liberal education”.  It has nothing to do with liberal politics! According to Peter J Taylor, “The goals of liberal education are to produce people who are open-minded, free from provincialism, dogma, preconception and ideology’ conscious of their opinions and judgments; reflective of their actions and aware of their place in the social and natural worlds -in short, critical thinkers (a topic for next week).  Somewhere along the way, specialization took hold where experts had ever-narrower fields of expertise.”

In other words, the curriculum of college education needs to return to its roots.  Financing college needs to be restructured so that graduates do not start out their careers as debt slaves. People that choose vocational education – and there is a huge need for this type of learning – should not mistake that for liberal education.

Creating the Change Agent Vision for Education

Change Agents recognize that today’s education either lacks or has the wrong Vision. Since Vision is the cornerstone, it causes flaws in almost everything that is downstream, goals, roles and responsibilities, processes/procedures, key performance indicators and critical success factors.

Whatever the cause, there is clearly a mismatch of subjects to current reality.  It is time for the next generation of education to be architected. The goals of education should simply be to help people have the basic skills to operate in the world, understand their place and responsibilities in society, gain enough self-awareness to know HOW they can best contribute.

Next week, we will dig into the critical skills that need to be learned to participate in the Next Economy.

7 Characteristics of Tools and the Importance of Tools

Editor’s note: welcome to the new series on tools for the transition.

The ability to use tools is one of the characteristics that make us human. It is Tools2impossible to over-emphasize their importance. They are the third pier of the Change Agent Foundation and I regularly compare them to the sails of a sailing ship. Tools are rarely useful all the time, you must choose the tool that is best fit for purpose and know how to use it. Some of them can be set on auto-pilot and monitored; others are extensions of our hands and have little or no function when we are not using them. 

A tool is something that saves time and/or effort. Tools even enable capabilities that would not be possible without the tool. Tools tend to be specific-use. A few tools that are multipurpose tend to be called the “Swiss Army knife of …”.

Characteristics of Tools

1.       Tools save time. Saving time and effort is liberating. We all have the same 24 hours in a day so those people that make best use of tools accomplish more and tend to have more free time. That is a win/win!

2.      Tools “automate” the boring, tedious tasks – increasing the quality of our time.

3.      Tools lead the development of other tools that were not even conceivable. Stuart Kauffman calls this the adjacent possible. The simplest example is the wheel. Could ancient man have dreamt of a cart, chariot or even a wheel barrow before the wheel was invented? Computer tools are even more susceptible to the principle of the adjacent possible. The primitive text editor enabled an entire group of tools collectively known as the Office Suite.

There are more tools than could possibly be mentioned here (actually, new ones are likely being created faster than they can be listed). Here is a list of tool categories, organized by purpose. A few from each one belongs in your personal tool set.

Types of Tools

General or basic tools are the ones that almost everyone needs. 21st century education should be in large part about getting these tools in as many hands (and minds) as possible.

Tools for organization – The object of a tool is to make tasks easier and faster. This category includes things that painlessly access your “stuff” and your ideas in both your physical and online life.

There are specific tools for each block in the Abundance pyramid. Success in creating abundance in each block is in large part about the sophistication of the tools that are highly (or freely) available.



Tools for special circumstances

There are tools that have value only in special circumstances. They fit into a couple of sub-categories:

Non-Emergency – These tools have value for specific reasons.  Winter clothing is an example. They are useful during certain months and in select climates but of no use in San Antonio in August!

Emergency – These are tools that you should have and hope to NEVER use.  Roadside flairs are an example.

Personally selected tools

For your vocation – proficiency with the “tools of your trade” is commonly a measure of professional expertise. Learning about state-of-the-art tools is one of the activities that subject matter experts must regularly do.

For fun – OK, most people would call these toys.

More characteristics of tools

4.      Tools are neutral – neither good nor evil – those intents belong to the user of the tools.

5.      Most tools can be dangerous and we must take responsibility for learning the proper and safe use of the ones we use. Examples: guns, knives, tweets.

6.      Evgeny Morozov pointed out that ICT tools that liberate can also repress. The same tools behind a Google search can create barriers to information in the hands of a totalitarian state.

7.      Tools become obsolete. They wear out. Better tools are developed for the same purpose. Each individual must make choices about retiring obsolete tools. Sometimes the newest bells and whistles simply do not make any difference to the individual user. Other times, replacing a favorite old tool because the new one is clearly better is difficult.

Next week, we will focus on tools for learning in the 21st Century.

Case Study – Margarita Navarrete-Hutchinson

Margarita Navarrete-Hutchinson is a Change Agent! I met her while manning the Austin Time Exchange Network booth at the first Austin Sustainable Swap (for Micro-MargaritaNHFarmers, Crafters & generally skilled Folk). She made the Swap (aka A.S.S.) so much fun that I became a regular as long as I lived in Austin. We talked about the Swap and her newest initiative, the Transition Travel Agency.

Cliff the Change Agent: What is your overall vision?

Margarita: A world full of volunteers, each doing their part to assist each other as we journey onward through our lives, together. A planet filled with self-empowered, self-responsible people, who are doing their best to not just co-exist peacefully with their fellow humans, but also to collaborate with each other, and co-create a sustainable reality–and enjoy ourselves in the process.

CA: Can you tell us how you were inspired to develop that vision?

MNH: I became aware that “I am responsible for my own experience.” The choices I make may affect not only myself, but everyone and everything around me—because my decisions affect my perceptions, and how I choose to perceive the world affects how I interact with it, and within it. [Margarita is a full-time, licensed Massage Therapist.] Perhaps I have massage school to thank for that awareness; a better understanding of anatomy and physiology helped me to better understand myself.

I figured that out at 23 and began the process of actively practicing it, with many stumbles along the way.

A couple of years later, I enjoyed my first Burning Flipside, and was ecstatic to participate in a community of people who thought similarly to how I did. [Burning Flipside is a Texas event in May that is inspired by Black Rock, Nevada's Burning Man festival. The site of the festival is frequently called Pyropolis]

Burning Flipside is 100% volunteer operated, on every level. No one gets paid. Whatever money that is made off the event goes to pay for the land rental, event insurance, police, fire department, and art grants.

After a few years I became frustrated that we weren’t sharing our “reality” with the “default” world [the term for everywhere BUT Burning Man events]. I no longer needed the escape to Pyropolis, because “out here,” I am “at home.” (When we arrive at a burn, greeters welcome us with “Welcome Home”, alluding that “home” is not “default”) No matter where I go now, I’m always home.

CA: So you began to put it to work at A.S.S.?

MNH: It’s likely that Flipside is the inspiration for the Austin Sustainable Swap, a voluntarily sharing with the community event. At Burn events we have Theme Camps. I decided to put together a “default world” theme camp, so we could make it little less “default”.

Originally, the idea for the Austin Sustainable Swap was born out of the desire to promote my husband’s gourmet mushroom business. I thought, how can I promote his business, and maybe mine as well–and while we’re at it, give other entrepreneurs the opportunity to promote themselves as well?

It naturally progressed to, “Since we’re all gathering together, let’s make better use of the space and have it be a place for community members to bring their still reusable but unwanted stuff, for community redistribution, and contribute it to SafePlace [b/c their contributions were down].” And skills!

I’m a huge fan of sharing, and facilitating sharing–especially knowledge and ideas! So the theme of the Austin Sustainable Swap is just that–sharing. Partly because I like to surround myself with like-minded people; partly because this is what I want to see more of in the world. One Burning principle that is unstated, but that I most certainly learned thanks to the Burning community, is that This (whatever This may be) is a Do-ocracy. If you feel like something is lacking, then do it.

CA: How did the Transitional Travel Agency come about?

MNH: The Transitional Travel Agency came about thanks to the Home Funeral Guide training by Donna Belk that I attended at the end of February this year. We were asked at the closing of the training, “What do you consider yourself? (A Home Funeral Advocate/Guide/Educator, Death Doula, Death Midwife, etc.)” I responded with “I am a Transitional Travel Agent,” because I feel called to do Home Funeral advocacy and education, Death Mid-Wifery, as well as Abortion Doula volunteer work. (I don’t intend to charge for any of these services). Those are all death transitions.

And then I thought, there’s so many transitions we go through in life, not just dying, but birth, and everything in between–and any one of us may be a Transitional Travel Agent, if we enjoy helping people as they are undergoing any of the various changes that may experienced in a lifetime.

CA: Tell us more about TTA

MNH: The Transitional Travel Agency advocates volunteerism.

I think that the ultimate goal of the Transitional Travel Agency is to promote volunteerism globally, by encouraging individuals (wherever they may be) to volunteer in their communities, without need for affiliation to any particular organization. Its purpose is to help create free agents–agents free to assist however they would like to, when they are willing and able to be of service. By telling people, “I am a Transitional Travel Agent, and this (xyz) is how I like to help,” it may encourage and motivate other ordinary folk to share their time and skills with their community, as well.

CA: And your motivation?

MNH: Eventually, we will have a more collaborative society. I feel like I am merely one among the many who feel compelled to follow this path; there are so many other individuals who are working towards the goal of a more collaborative society. Perhaps it’s a cross-cultural awakening.

I’ve been asking myself, “Why do I feel so compelled to advocate volunteerism instead of the myriad other things I could be doing with my time?” I enjoy volunteering – I could be doing more active volunteering if I just worked with already established organizations, particularly Thinkery and Hospice–except my schedule is so wonky all over the place.

Just me volunteering and hanging out with other volunteers won’t cut it; I want to see even more volunteerism in the world. There are a lot of reasons: I think it would make life easier on the whole, it’s so good for my own mental health and the minds of others would benefit, too. That takes my thinking to, “why am I trying so hard to control what other people do?” No, I’m working towards attracting/drawing the kind of folk who are as naturally drawn to volunteerism as I am…and who enjoy life as unstructured as I do.

This is me attempting to build my community, because I like to surround myself with inspiring and self-responsible people. It’s not about controlling anything; it’s more about allowing connections to happen, and creating a space where that is more likely to happen. It’s that simple.

CA: How can people get involved?

MNH: We had our first A.S.S.torming on July 19th, my way of asking for community collaboration. We need more HELP. The Austin Sustainable Swap isn’t very sustainable without community participation, which can only be done by asking for it. Right now, I’m learning to ask for help–it’s important!

The Transitional Travel Agency is recruiting! And we always will be. It is the beginning of what will be a global network of volunteers, assisting in whatever way they can/want, whenever they are able. Join us?!

CA: Thanks for taking the time to share your ideas, ASS and TTA with us!

MNH: It was a good exercise for me, too. I’ve been asking myself, “why am I doing this?” “why do I feel so compelled to advocate volunteerism?”  This helped me sort that out.

Editor’s note:  Next week, we will begin looking at Tools that help Change Agents thrive! 



The Abundance Pyramid, part 2

This post concludes the examination of the Abundance Pyramid by introducing the top two layers. There are tools that go with each block or element. Much more about tools later.


The Middle – Energy, Education and ICT

The middle of the pyramid consists of the things that raise people above the mere subsistence/survival level. They create more free time that in turn facilitates the creative activities forming the basics of personal expression, commercial activity and more. These elements are the key to the second half of Abundance which is allowing everyone the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Energy in the form of electricity and transportation frees humans from mere subsistence. The current configuration of society is wholly dependent on inexpensive energy with on-demand availability. The vast majority of the energy produced today comes from  non-renewable resources. The cheap sources of fossil fuel have been consumed and it is dirty in terms of by-products like carbon emissions.  Those without fossil fuel rely on burning wood, which creates other health-threatening gasses.

Abundance means we need to adopt the goal of converting to clean, renewable energy sources. The complete conversion is decades away and we therefore need interim solutions that provide conservation, more efficient use and cleaner alternatives.

Education is another key ingredient in allowing people to reach their potential. We have come a long way in the last two centuries – before that only the rich, powerful and clergy were educated.  Today’s system is based on the factory model – which has been obsolete for over a decade. Political interests added a layer of testing that creates even more inefficiencies. Content, purpose and methodology need a complete overhaul to help meet the demands of today, much less the future. We will take an in depth look at tools for the next generation of education later this year.

The educational needs of the “Bottom Billion” are even more severe. Many countries deny education to girls. Teaching girls is actually critical to family health and coherence. This cannot be stressed enough.

Information and communications technology (ICT) is another very empowering force for Abundance. ICT provides tools that allow individuals to have a global perspective. Collaboration on scales that were the stuff of science fiction 3 decades ago is now a reality. It is hard to overstate the current and future impact of ICT to the delivery of Abundance.

The Top – Health and Freedom

There are 2 blocks in the top layer of the Abundance Pyramid. Sadly, these areas demonstrate how Abundance for the Bottom Billion is different from those in better economic situations.

Health is impacted by the exponential growth of technology. New, portable devices provide health care availability to the Bottom Billion that previously required large facilities (clinics, labs, hospitals) to deliver. Inexpensive monitoring devices put primary responsibility in the hands of the individual, taking back (at least some) control from “corporate medicine”.

Freedom is the last block in the pyramid. Freedom is largely about the ability to make choices in the absence of force. Making choices and then taking action is the basis of realizing an individual’s potential.

The conclusion

The final installment of this look at Abundance will be published in the Change Agent Newsletter.  Don’t miss it!  Sign up is free.


The Abundance Pyramid

Replacing Maslow

There is a hierarchy of human needs. This was first discussed by Abraham Maslow in the early 1960s. Diamandis and Kotler suggest that we need to update Maslow’s original pyramid with the Abundance pyramid.


There is a large segment of the human population that does not have the basics that are required for survival. They can be called…

The Bottom Billion

The poverty we see in the United States pales in comparison to the “bottom billion” – the poorest seventh of the human population. Large segments of humanity have to carry drinking water to their families, scavenge wood to cook the food they can find and lack access to what we consider basic sanitation. Helping them gain the basics will help us all – increased health for this segment means reduced infant mortality which in turn translates to smaller families. The ability to cook and heat homes without wood means less air pollution, better local health and of course, less deforestation (slowing the CO2 build-up).

Now, let’s take a look at the pyramid.

The Base – Water, Food and Shelter

The base of the pyramid consists of things that are required for human existence. People who do not have reliable access to these basic needs must take drastic actions to ensure their very survival and for the continuation of their families. Making sure the poorest people on the planet have these necessities will reduce suffering (in the forms of starvation, preventable illness and high infant mortality rates) beyond measure.

Reliable access to clean drinking water is by far the most basic need.  Humans can not live more than a few days without water. We do not remain healthy if that water is not clean.

Only about 1% of the earth’s water is suitable for consumption. The rest is locked up in glaciers, the polar caps or seawater. Pollution (lack of sanitation as well as industrial pollution) reduces the drinking water supply even more. Even the most modern urban settings could quickly be overwhelmed by a break-down in basic sewage and garbage disposal.

Cost-effective desalinization and personal water filtration devices promise to increase the amount of locally available sanitary drinking water.

1 in 7 of us currently do not get enough to eat. How much worse will it be when the population is 2 billion more than it is today?

New (or maybe rediscovered) technologies are now available to grow more food and produce it close to where there are mouths to feed. Reducing the energy footprint of producing and getting food from “farm to fork” needs to become a priority.

The permaculture movement is one of those initiatives – the idea that we should grow as much of our on food as we can and stop wasting agricultural resources on ornamental lawns.

Reliable shelter means more than just protection from the elements. Shelter is also a family gathering place and “a place for your stuff”.

Next week, we conclude our look at the Abundance Pyramid

Abundance is Within our Grasp!

For the next few weeks, we will be examining the topic of Abundance. This exploration is inspired by Peter Diamandis and Steve Kotler. They Diamandis1laid out one of the most hopeful scenarios for the near future (the next 25 years) that I have ever seen in a book simply titled “Abundance“.

Abundance is the goal of the Next Economy. If fact, it has been the dream of people throughout history. Creating abundance is the great challenge of our time!

So what is it? Abundance means that everyone, especially the poorest people on the planet have their basic needs met and have the opportunity to reach their full potential. We will be exploring the details of what this means as well as the challenges and opportunities of creating abundance over the next few weeks.

One of the biggest challenges will be to restructure our production so that we use virtually no resources that are not renewable. Abundance and sustainability go hand in hand. It is possible to produce faster than we consume but it will take a significant of restructuring of our commercial activities.

Abundance vs. scarcity

Scarcity is one of the tenants of the Industrial Age. The mindset one of is always wanting more. Those that have enough retire. There are many kinds of scarcity. Some materials like gold and platinum only exist in a limited quantity on Earth (rarity). There is local scarcity. The Southwestern US is currently in a drought while the upper Mississippi basin is suffering from too much water. Political boundaries cause scarcity as well. Regulations that govern the flow of goods, services and even people across national boundaries cause artificial scarcity. This is typically done for the enrichment of established authority even though it is usually covered by a patriotic wrapper. Sometimes the scarcity is only a perception – this is generally a marketing ploy to increase sales or drive up prices.

Some of the real scarcity can be resolved with technology. Aluminum was one of the world’s scarcest metals until commercially viable smelting methods made it a nearly throw-away commodity. (Recycling is a topic for another day). We can develop/produce our products in ways that replace rare elements with more abundant ones. Better farming methods can increase yields. Increasing the yields of renewable resources is one of the key to Abundance.

Sustainable Abundance is about restructuring human activity so that we utilize renewable resources and recycled non-renewables. It is a challenge but we can get there. So where are we now? Humans currently consume 50% more than the Earth’s capacity to renew. If all seven billion people on this planet adopted American/European lifestyles, it would take 3 Earths to satisfy the demand for resources.

The restructuring is possible but it will take effort. The technological advances that we need to achieve Abundance are happening!

Cognative Bias vs. Abundance

Our ability to get from here to Abundance is not just a technical issue. We have to overcome the fact that our brains are wired to be pessimistic. Our brains were basically wired in a time when fear and vigilance kept us from being eaten by predators. This has led to a generally pessimistic outlook. It is called cognitive bias.

Our cognitive functions (basically, how our brain works) reinforce this gloomy outlook. Our senses pick up much more data than our brains can process in real time. We must use tricks to filter all that data to focus on what is relevant. Some call that modelling but it is mostly unconscious. We tend to only listen to viewpoints we agree with (confirmation bias). The generally pessimistic outlook is called negativity bias.

There is so much more than about Abundance than I can describe, and progress is happening at an exponential rate. Check out the Abundance Hub for the latest.