Technology is the most potent agent of change. It is an amplifier of our human capabilities. Whereas other change-agents rely on reshuffling the existing building blocks of society, technological innovation creates entirely new ones, expanding our problem-solving toolbox.
Thanks to technology, we have made remarkable progress in the past few decades in many areas, including health, education and material prosperity. Ironically, it is the side-effects of these advances that are now creating the largest challenges of our time, specifically when it comes to the degradation of the environment. So why not also use the power of technology to take on these challenges and restore the natural balance?
Big problems require big solutions. However, there currently seems to be a bias towards low-risk/low-reward projects, since we tend to overestimate the consequences of failure.
It wasn’t so long ago that high-risk projects were the norm. The 1960s and 1970s readily come to mind: a time when ambitious endeavours like Apollo (the original Moonshot project) or Project Mohole (in which America attempted to drill through the Earth’s crust) were commonplace.
Admittedly, many of these efforts were partly a product of geopolitical rivalry during the cold war. I believe we’re now beginning a period of similar technological ambition, but in the private sector. This time the common enemy is ourselves—or rather, the way we have put unprecedented stress on the planet through our drive to exploit its resources. Novel modes of transport and innovations in energy generation and storage are just some examples of this new spate of technological creativity.
I predict that this trend will only intensify. And with The Ocean Cleanup’s first operational plastic-capturing system scheduled to be deployed in the Pacific Ocean in 2017, I am excited to be part of it.