Passport for the Future:
Why We Need to Re-Design the Planet
Saloff-Coste's international NGO, "Design Me a Planet," creates global scenarios and develops a systematic process for implementation beginning at the regional level and sustained through global level information sharing. In this talk, Saloff-Coste compels the audience to "generate intelligent change together." Saloff-Coste is an artist, global futurist, business adviser, and entrepreneur. He seeks to discover the technological, economic, social, and ecological processes related to the passage of the "Industrial Society" to the "Information Society."
Transcript of the video
Passport for the Future: Why We Need to Re-Design the Planet
Lauren Kuby: Hello. Welcome everyone to our sustainability series lunchtime presentation. It's great to see a lot of members of the community and different units from around campus. I want to remind you about a few upcoming events. On Halloween, October 31st in this room at 12, it will be a costume party but we're bringing in Pamela Mar of the Fung Global Institute. Rob saw her on his trip to the—to Asia, I think just last week, and signed her up before she could even complete her talk. He was so impressed with her. She's gonna speak about Asian perspectives on sustainable development. We urge you to come. That will be at 12:00 on the 31st.
Then our final Wrigley lecture of the semester will be our own Sander van der Leeuw, sitting back there looking very modest, but he’s gonna be at Tempe Center for the Arts speaking about complex systems theory, sustainability, and innovation. This is an event we really—we expect to sell out. We haven't even announced it yet formally. We already have 80, 90 people. Our limit is 225. If you're interested in coming, please sign up early. Signing up early doesn't guarantee a seat; you need to still arrive early. There's just tremendous interest in this talk by our own Sander van der Leeuw. That'll be November 15th from 5:00 to 6:30. As always, you can go to our website, sustainability.asu.edu/events, and sign up for all of our events.
Now, to introduce our speaker today, Michel Saloff-Coste. He's president of Design Me a Planet, planets—not Planets R Us, it's Design Me a Planet. He's worked as a consultant in communication strategy and management for many years. From 1985 to '87, he directed a permanent, multi-disciplinary workshop on societal change at France's Ministry of Research. In 1991, he joined Bossard Consultants, a leading European consulting firm, as head of R&D.
In 1993, he created his own research and consultancy firm specialized in global governance, information society, and sustainable development. He's co-founded a New Cap Invest; it's a venture capital company that's dedicated to promoting highly innovative companies. Saloff-Coste is recognized in Europe, America, and Asia as a vanguard artist, global futurist, business advisor, and entrepreneur as he seeks to discover the technological, economic, social, and ecological processes related to the passage of the industrial society to the information society. With that, we present Michel Saloff-Coste. [Applause]
Michel Saloff-Coste: Thank you. I am very happy to be with you. It is my first talk in America, not ever, but on this subject. It is a kind of historical presentation. I am very happy you called me in the State University of Arizona, because I'm really convinced that the future of mankind depends on our ability to apply systemic approach. I work a lot about those issues. I was really amazed by the fact that a university want to be systemic, not only your department, but really all the university. That seems to me a very important state to our next civilization.
Thank you to the president, Dr. Michael Crow, to invite me to do this presentation. Also, Dr. Sander van der Leeuw, who is the dean of this department. Lauren Kuby, Teresa Ootzen and Marisa Preacher, Marisa introduced me to the president, Michael Crow, and we have a very nice dinner in Paris, and it is because of Marisa I am here. Perhaps you don't Marisa, but she is a very well-known writer in USA. In France, she's considered to be one of the—probably the most important living writer in USA. Perhaps Marisa, you can get her, because these people know you, and she's in your university. [Applause]
Thank you. I am just want ask you a question to begin. You can just talk one minute with the next person near you, one minute, about this question. It is why we need to redesign the planet? From your point of view, why we need to redesign the planet, so just talk a few minutes with the next person about this question. [Background talking] Then we will go around asking. [Background talking]
Perhaps you want come with me, yeah? [Background talking] So everybody is speaking very [laughter], so I don't know, you can use a bowl Sherry. Cannot stop.
Lauren Kuby: Attention, we're ready to go. [Laughter] That's how you do it.
Michel Saloff-Coste: Yeah, yes. Okay. There are a lot of reasons. Why do we need to redesign the planet all for you? What did you discuss with your—
Audience Member 1: Well I think resources, pollution, economics. I think we have to take population, all of those things, growing food, etc. I think those are some of things we discussed.
Michel Saloff-Coste: Yeah, so we had a lot of reason on why this field, why food? You say food, but why food? Do you need—do we need food?
Audience Member 1: Of course. [Laughter]
Michel Saloff-Coste: Yeah.
Audience Member 1: That's very important, at least a couple times a day. [Laughter]
Michel Saloff-Coste: Perhaps we will not have food in the future; it is what you mean in a way?
Audience Member 1: Well, yes, yes. If we don't pay attention to what's happening, climate, things like that, we won't have food. Some areas already don't have food.
Michel Saloff-Coste: Okay. Thank you very much. There are already a lot of plan who show that we need to think about the future on redesign because we may—don't have enough food, for example. There are some other reason, if somebody have some other reason to redesign the planet, could you speak? Yes?
Audience Member 2: The planet's fine, I think we need to redesign humanity. [Laughter]
Audience Member 1: Right. Human systems and human relationships.
Michel Saloff-Coste: Yeah, we were speaking about this. That is a very important point. It is not the planet we are endangers, but it is mankind. Actually, we all live already the desperation of the complexity of the living sphere, the biosphere. Already six time, 90 percent of the biodiversities up here, but because the microbe are so resistant, then after some millions of years, life flourish again. It takes time. The planet is not endangered, we say—sometimes say it's the planet, but it is not the planet, it is mankind as a species. So those are reasons?
Audience Member 3: You look at the planet from the photographs out in space and this little blue ball [cross talk 00:10:56].
Michel Saloff-Coste: Yeah.
Audience Member 3: This is—I think we've come to think so frequently terms of systems. Right? Systems, defining systems, really the human impact on the system. You look at it from outer space, and it is a single system, where it is a system of the world. Whether or not the planet itself is in good shape and is one with humanity, though it is under threat, is sort of the question of do you look at the—sort of the—accelerate the self-accelerating nature of that method which further accelerates it? If we—if the new balance of the—this view of the systems off kilter, then it's not just humanity that is under threat. I think if we understand, if we can mobilize on the—on what we know now and continue to learn about this [cross talk] of world that we can build.
Michel Saloff-Coste: Yeah. The fact also to see to the planet as a system is a very new thing. We need to redesign the planet because we are confronted to very new situation, whichever man have confronted. You have said already, you see there our general source. Everybody now care for the planet, or for mankind future. For example, who in the room want make a better world? Who in the room, yeah I wanna make a better world? Everybody then. Who in the room consider that the side will be in a better world? The side, the future side. Who consider—so there are these situations of very special work, even within this room want make a better world, but very few consider we would have a better situation in 50 years.
That is quite new, because when I was young, it was exactly the contrary. If I would have say make these test, perhaps we would have less people wanting make a better world. Perhaps, I don't know. Everybody will agree that they will leave it in a better world. That is—it is really the good reason why we launch this project. Even you have some scientists who say—me, I'm always working future students for 30 years, so there are a lot of scientists who just consider that the dangers was very far. One of that century, we were speaking 30 years ago that perhaps we will have a problem next century. It was very far.
Then we began to see the danger come to us more and more quickly. Now we know more or less, that we have only 10 years to really make a big turn. It is a very short time. A lot of people have spoke about the fact that perhaps the check are not absolutely true, that there are no really—the planet is not getting more hot and everything. Who knows how old this question about is it true or not?
Even in America now, the post-centurial people who see that they're already a problem is shrinking. In fact, when you look at the data, it is even worse than what this group of 2,000 scientists have said, and nobody says this. Actually, if you go in the data, in the last data, you discover that it is worse. You arrive to these convictions that either you accept to die, except you have to do something. I am very concerned by the fact that all of over the planet, a lot of people, thousand of people, million of people are being—investing time, money in sustainable development. The company of interest, each of us, we began to try to save the water, everything. There a lot of people, but when you see—when you look at the data, we are just business as usual.
At the end of the day, all the reform we have made are none, in fact. Now all we have, only 10 days, 10 days, which means our—it is 10 days, 10 years is really 10 days in this few to make the big turn. It is why we decide, and of course we are also some people say, "Okay, all over the time, change arise. Mankind go choose a difficulty. You have the black beast." Sincerely, when you look at the population curve, you see that we are really in a very special time.
Now a good image of this, which is even the kind of Bible he mentioned is more living people now on Earth than ever. It is incredible. We are in a very special time, and when you see this of course you understand that we have an impact on the planet, before we don't. We don't have to care about these data, or these data, or these data. At the end of the day it is clear that we have a big impact.
Business as usual is a dangerous trap, especially—it is a kind of paradox because mankind was animal who was the best to make trap. Even in the West, we are very—we are in the far West, and so you have trapper. How would you say? You speak about trapper, trapper? Mankind was very good to make trap. He knew how to trap any animals. The thing which is kind of paradox, it is that we are doing the most big trap for our species. [Laughter] A trap, what is a trap? It is somewhere the animal go inside, and he say, "I'm caught. I'm going to have a lot of food. Oh, this nice food." He arrives at trap, and then he cannot go out. Actually, it is exactly what happened to Earth.
Business as usual, we do business as usual, okay. Everything is fine. Then the climate began to have big hurricane and everything. I say, "Ah, we should have gone back." You would be too late. All our technology, which is the base of the trap, we did—mostly our technology to make trap for animal at the beginning. Then now, we are building our own trap, see what I mean?
We need to grow global, long-term, positive scenario to get organized. It is—I—really me, I have been working for 20 years on long-term scenario, new strategy for big company. I was really passionate about those question. What surprised me it is that even if you are in the board of a big company, you always look at your context, on strategy, on to your other plan. You have a long-term plan, middle-term plan, and a short-term plan. Of course, just last year company get more and more short-term, but even in other business schools they tell how much it is a mistake.
When you make survey about how people in all the history of mankind were successful, you discover that people who seek long—long period of time who are able to think long period of time, see large space. They are the most efficient people. Even when you do spot—me, I love ski, but I also, how you say, horsey, horsey? When you are on a horse, if it goes slow, you don't know—you don't need to see far. If you begin to go quick, then you have to see long.
Another civilization, and the how—our civilization is so fast. We do exactly what everybody do when he's not used to do sport. You just say, "Oh, I am try. I do ski. Oh, it is more and more and quick." They look to his shoes, because he's a little afraid by the wheel and the—but then he make mistake and he fail. More you will go quick, more you will need to see the horizon. We need a long-term, positive scenario.
I speak with a lot of politicians. Personally, they know very well that we going to war, that they're no hope. They say, "Okay." Me, my problem is not that, it's to be elected. That is a short-end question. When I am elected, I have no time to worry about five year, ten years of big problem. It is impossible. Even if they wish that the person will ever do something, they cannot. They cannot because they don't have positive, long-term scenarios. They have no plan. Nobody—everybody do business as usual, and see business as you dealt with care. We have learn, as a mankind, we live alone, as a mankind to care for the planet on the long-term. It was not a question. We are not bad people. It was not a question before. Now, it is a question for the first time in my encounter, it is a question.
We need to have a long-term vision. We need to have a plan, a strategy, a past. We need, of course, a way to make the transition to business as usual, A plan to the B plan. When will we have this B plan? We need the vision, we need the journey, we need the narrative, and we need also a driver. When you look and you speak with only on the different agencies who are supposed to take care for the planet, they don't take care for the planet. They are just a platform where people say, "Okay, take the picture of Alaska." Me, I take this—I take the tree there. It is as in a family where, or business where each person is just care for himself. That there’s a planetary labor, each country care for himself. It is the best of the—all the political organization who come from the vast [inaudible 00:24:07] treaty, perhaps somebody's more good than me politic, but it a base of our global organization.
That has to be shared, because we need a driver, and we need even more a wheel. Even if we see the past, we don't have even a wheel. Everybody's speaking about a big turn. We in our car, we go in the wall. When you look really at the global situation, we don't have even the wheel to make a turn. Even we can ask if the driver is not drunk, [laughter] 'cause it's not necessarily—to be in a car with no wheel, or with no driver.
We are not a bad species. Mankind have never had to care on a long-term, on planetary scale. That is totally new. We should not be ashamed that we are in this situation. Seems there a lot of shame around sustainable development, what we have done worse. Why we are in this so bad situation. No, we should not be ashamed because actually we are in so bad situation because we was very successful. We trap all the animal. [Laughter] We get some food. We learned a lot. It was a great journey. Now, the program is a long-term on the planetary scale. That has never been the problem of mankind.
We obligate to innovate in a radical way on the work all together. What is completing you, it is that we are to reinvent our planetary saddle, and also we have to do it all together. Obviously, if you see—seeing about the next year, if we began to say, "Okay, America need water. They need pitchforks; they need this, and this. China needs a—they need also and Africa, and they need it too." Then we go directly to the worst war ever. It'd be the last war. If you are a little cynical, if you are a little Israelis, we have to be aware that the global situation. If you don't move, we go to a last war, because each person, each country will want the last petrol. [Laughter] Good, how is that good? A little piece of petrol, you're up, even the Army need it.
On the other hand, it is a very good opportunity; it's the first opportunity ever that the mankind get aware and begin to work all together, all the culture together. Invent, because we have all the technology to invite the paradigm. We have all the technology or so to go far away, even the necessity to work because robotic is near to give us all the robots we wish. There are really new possibility to really for the first time of ever, mankind is in front of himself, either disappear, either to really say what's there. It is a very interesting situation.
Sometimes I'm desperate, I must say. Sometime I say, "Okay, but perhaps it is just the beginning of mankind now." Did you—perhaps just the beginning, before it was just kind of struggle for life, struggle for food, struggle for position. The people cannot really liberate their creativity now. We are now time where we need to liberate our creativity, each of us.
If you are thinking purely mechanically, scientifically, as you know most of the deep scientists of today consider it is finished, it is already finished. We cannot do anything. If you think at a mechanist way, the situation will go worse and when of course we awake, it will be too late. There are perhaps a hopes it is a fact that even that have been studied. It is—people when the—in the book of the war, they say never push your enemy to die. You never have to push your enemy to the point he's sure to die, because then everything is possible because his mind's changed completely.
My guess is that we are in a sort—special situation. I guess, is that the people began to feel even if they don't think that they feel the situation. What I observe all over the world it is that they begin—so people can begin to work up, because they are so aware of the desperate situations and the intellectual characters, everything is up here, and this just began to create, and all this creator may create on the same wheel. I observe this, because I travel a lot and most of those people who are really invest in this transformation and change of paradigm, they act even without knowing exactly what he's doing, but it is a brash proposal, and perhaps the new Earth is already in the process of birth.
Design Me a Planet is just to—the idea is just to help this birth processing. Let's say is that we hope that there's something is acting all over the planet. We need civil society. We need public effort. We need economic world. We need think tank. We need all those people work together on a very collective base. It is really not just the kind of innovation—incremental innovation, you need a road to innovation. We have tried incremental innovation, means just a myriad of things, use less water, use—try to have better car. That is not the issue anymore. We need a route here. We need really to reinvent completely the planet and very quickly.
The thing which amaze me is the fact that at the same time all over the planet you are even talk operation is this new idea of open innovation. Open innovation is that there are no possible innovation, only incorporation. The people we know of the most—the corporation who are open and were all—we've all the restructure of the planet. The iPhone is a good example of this. iPhone was invented by Apple. It is a plugging of 100—more than 100 different innovation to make the best phone.
The objective of Design Me a Planet is to grow planetary awareness. That is what—we do this, but of course a lot of people are doing—you are doing this. The main issue is invent positive, long-term, planetary scenarios, that is our main objective. Of course, if you—we have those scenario, then we—that is mainly a work of a think tank. Then, because of the short time we have to implement, then we have to release their value and promote positive initiative, a different scale, and help to phone this thing [inaudible 00:33:23].
Why we have no impact until now, it is because we have no long-term, planetary scenario. For example, when you speak about you say—let's say, "Okay, we don't have petrol anymore. We don't have oil." It is of use that the future will be electric car. Then we begin to build electric car. If the electricity come from the carbon [inaudible 00:33:57] have a lot of coal—from coal, then really is a electric car just worse than the old car. It is a good example; it will show how we cannot have very impact without a larger plan. It is as when you make a house, even to make a house you have to have the plan. If you just begin to build your house, "Okay, I'm going to do this." Then your house just look wrong. [Laughter] We need really to think about the planet as a little capsule that we have to design.
We are arise between cooperation and catastrophe on the tightest out turning our response. We need to go back in sustainable development. We need to go back and look at incremental innovation, and even on the planetary scale. On how to do this, is to make a first orb of open innovation using the most advanced vanguard management tools. Open innovation to mitigate for planetary, sustainable development.
I think I'm on time. We made it. A lot of book—I was obliged to go out of my comfort zone coming to USA because of course this kind of work have no meaning at the regional scale. I have—I was in my comfort zone in France, well-known with all my books was a best seller, very well paid. [Laughter] I feel to do always strategy, how we are going to kill this planet, [laughter] because that began to make me feel this way. I feel bad. I began to work on this idea, Design your Planet. The—I don't know if it is the end of my life, or the beginning of my true life, you will tell me. [Laughter] Okay, so I have other Power Point. I have a thousand, hundred of Power Point—but I won't share with you. That is, for example, the Power Point where we explain the project in term of methodology.
You understand, I am passionate. I could really present 200 of Power Point, but I think it is a lot to better to exchange society for example this system. Is the fact that until now, most of us are against economy development, against this, against this, against this. I think we need really now to work all together to a solution. We have no time to war against each other, against this ideally. We have to find a positive solution. On the off—'cause this kind of project, have to be a network that's already—this project was support by for the Club of WFSF, the World Future Studies Federation, which is the largest organization in future studies in the world. We have also corporation as BSH, we have different kinds—that is just—now just those—since last days, we began to have the interest of the CNRS, of the Sorbonne.
More and more people will get interested and get—five years ago, when I began—actually I write the first paper on this question in South America working with the Rand Corporation. [Chuckle] At that time, even speaking with the Rand Corporation, who have a lot of contact with America. That period was a little difficult to push society of long-term. Everybody sees—feel, or views that we ought to be short-term oriented. For years, it was more and more short-term. Just now, because it begin to be obvious that we have to make a big change, but what change? We need the long-term plan.
Thank you very much. I am happy to answer your questions.