Over the course of our recent evolution, as we solve one set of challenges, new ones emerge. So our capacity to innovate is not just an economic imperative, it’s essential for us to thrive as a species.
A: As much as our societies have been transformed in the last two centuries, many of the core debates about how we develop and evolve as a species have remained the same. In 100 years we will still be struggling to balance economic growth with the maintenance of human culture and environmental impacts. But the one transformation that is inevitable is that we will be a species that is thoroughly urbanized; 85 per cent of the world’s population will live in cities by 2100.
Cities take incredibly diverse forms and in 100 years the global urban tapestry will be even more vibrant as megacities emerge in Africa and India, where populations are still very rural.
All cities represent concentrated nodes for channeling, expanding and multiplying human ingenuity. In 100 years I will be studying how to harness innovation in the new fast-growing cities outside of North America and Europe, where most of the population growth will occur, to solve social and environmental challenges we have barely yet anticipated.
While cities offer the opportunities to increase the efficiency of resource use, they also create huge demands on energy, water and food systems. Over the course of our recent evolution, as we solve one set of challenges, new ones emerge. So our capacity to innovate is not just an economic imperative, it’s essential for us to thrive as a species.
A: We are already witnessing a great unsettling of the conventional model of innovation and enterprise through the shared economy, innovations in sustainable foods, products and services and in major shifts in our approaches to aid and philanthropy. Our supply chains are flexing and rattling in discontent for better and fairer products.
As a social innovator, I believe we are an adaptable, flexible and creative species and the area where I would like to have the greatest influence is in helping break through the barriers that stifle innovation and create cycles of dependence and underdevelopment around the world. We see this same failure expressed in the challenges with welfare systems, exploitative production, for instance in agriculture in developing countries that fails to fairly distribute the value of commodities such as coffee, cocoa and timber, and in international aid.