Monday, May 28, 2007

the unknown future...

A seed in the ground. A flame in the darkness. A hand outstretched. A child in the womb. Hope starts small and overtakes us, stretching the borders of what we have known.

It beckons us to step out with the belief that the action we take will not only bear fruit but that in taking it, we have already made a difference in the world.

-Jan Richardson, Night Vision





as I fill gas in my car, it strikes me that the possibilities of the future might just be linked to our way of life as a whole, not just in parts. This isn't a plugin that can just be tweaked, the n+1 th variant of the combustion engine. Its something bigger and different that what we have imagined till today. Can we live upto our own expectations before the world catches up?


The World is too much with us

-William Wordsworth.

In the beginning there was one, then a few....and then they all caught up. If you're talking about a pie or oil reserves, its always a fight to get the best piece. So, if the truth is so evident, why is the world so slow to move towards finding newer solutions. Or has science slowed down that no sustainable technology can replace the oil economy?

In any sphere of influence, the only way to stay ahead is to think and adapt to newer technologies before the others, to be an early adopter. I've had plenty of discussions with people around me about the risk of being an early adopter in any business, the investment choice might not work out well in the end, but if it did, the benefits are plenty. So how do you manage both these parameters, risk and benefits?

If you think any nation would be smart about these sort of choices, you would obviously look at India and the the telecom industry, and if we had stuck to the original path of laying land lines and cables, it would have taken us another 5 decades (5 decades and we had reached nowhere) before getting anywhere worth being. The adoption of cellular technologies meant that a landmark decision could possibly change the lives of a billion people which could change the direction in which the entire world moved. The change in inertia.

So what if India took a stance on behalf of sustainable newer energy technologies? Could it be big enough to wean us all away from our oil addition? But then I dont think India would ever be an early adopter because the risks outweight the benefits for an emerging economy. So would China do it? From the way China has moved over the past two years, its pretty evident that it has made its choice of sticking to an oil economy by courting the riskiest and slimiest of regimes all over the world. So there goes another billion and a half. So whats next?

Brazil has been working on ethanol based fuels for over two decades now, and has achieved a level of maturity with its usage, but now the question of social imbalance arises....of how much land do you use for fuels and how much land for food...

Europe has now made a paradigm shift towards bio-fuels, having had its issues with Russia and a depleted North sea oil reserve. The UK will soon start being a net importer of oil as opposed to a net exporter today. So when it finally does come to staying ahead, how do you make the first move?

The answer finally boils down to what the US does. Not because it holds any leverage on the political environments but because it consumes so much that any change could be momentous.
The debate has surely started, which is always a good sign. But any change will take time, so do we have enough of it?

As countries make tough choices; geopolitics play out scenarios; and the future is played out in the mind a thousand times over, you will find yourself holding that fuel pump in your hand wondering whether anyone out there is making the right choice or whether this is how our civilization ends.

I hope the choice is right.


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