We're living in a time of revolutions, driven by technology and population growth, Robinson said.
Today, he said, “the most powerful computers on Earth have the processing power of the brain of a cricket. Within 10 years, maybe, the most powerful computers on Earth will have the capacity of a 6-month old baby.” That is, they'll be able to learn by experience, which means “they'll be able to re-write their own operating systems.” It is the stuff of science fiction movies, Robinson said, and of futurist Raymond Kurzweil's singularity, the fusion of human biological systems and computing machines.
“In your working life, you may find yourself sitting in front of a device that's as smart as you are,” Robinson said. “You give it an instruction, and it hesitates.”
Today, there are 7 billion people living on the planet, roughly 10% of all members of our species who have ever lived in the past 50,000 years, he said. Which prompts the question, how many people can planet Earth sustain?
Based on current economic models, if everyone on Earth consumed at the level of Rwanda, the maximum carrying capacity is 15 billion, but if they consumed like North Americans, the capacity is 1.2 billion.
“So, when I say we're living in revolutionary times, we actually are,” he said. “As a generation of human beings, we face challenges that are unprecedented.”
But people are adaptable and they often rise to challenge, using talents that they may not even know they have.
“I always start from the premise there is a lot to be got from people,” said Robinson, who has lived in Los Angeles for the past 10 years.
In the winter of 2004, 7 inches of rain fell on Death Valley, and the following spring, the valley was carpeted with wildflowers.
“Death Valley isn't dead, it's dormant,” Robinson said. “It's waiting for the right conditions,” he said. “If you're interested in innovation, it's about creating conditions in which people are willing to show their hands.”
“I am not what happens to me,” he said. “I am what I choose to become.”
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