Planet in Peril: Can This New Megatrend Save Us?

Early adapters are making money (and a difference) by going both green and high-tech simultaneously

Dick Samson, Director
Oct 3 · 13 min read

An emerging megatrend, little noted until now, could save our future just in time. Broader than green initiatives, it offers a way around both of our most threatening, fast-growing problems — the environmental crisis, and human displacement by technology.

Instance of mounting disasters, our default fate: lethal fire in Sao Paulo, Brazil, September, 2018; photo by PMESP

We may still be heading toward a hell of our own making, but there’s new hope for a better destination.

Breakthrough: A synthesis of diverse developments

Spanning continents, political diversity, occupational disciplines, and industries, the megatrend is a new way around multiple disasters; and it’s taking shape everywhere, but mostly out of sight.

Although its components are well-known, the megatrend’s overall operation is nearly invisible, under-appreciated, or ignored. It’s a synergistic amalgam of technical and social breakthroughs, each revolutionary and awesome in its own right.

In bits and pieces and with different words, it’s already being pursued below the radar by corporate leaders like Google, Microsoft, IBM, Siemens, and City National Bank; non-profits like Stanford, Princeton, the Vatican, and the United Nations; researchers in quantum physics, biology, parapsychology and more; government leaders and politicians of all persuasions; and change-makers everywhere including millions of savvy entrepreneurs and consumers.

Targeting and leveraging higher intelligence, the unseen megatrend combines the best of humanity with the best of technology and challenges both to “take it to the next level” — with humans indisputably in control. It’s powerful because it’s high-tech and also high-human; and, when done right, it makes money — faster and more reliably than most startups.

As yet unnamed and unheralded, this unprecedented social tsunami might be called the Smart Green Deal™ and here’s how it works.

The Smart Green Deal™ defined

Not to be confused with the Green New Deal, the Smart Green Deal is an action strategy that’s already making good things happen fast; and it‘s what the world needs now for two reasons. First, it focuses on both of our big existential threats, not just one:

  • The environmental crisis that is making the planet uninhabitable. Estimated deadlines for turning things around range from 2030 to 2050.
  • Human displacement by technology, culminating in the AI apocalypse, or negative “singularity” — when machine intelligence exceeds human intelligence, making humans “unnecessary” (from a mindless, dystopian point of view). Our deadline for avoiding this crisis is also 2030 to 2050, experts say.

The second reason the Smart Green Deal works is this. It’s surprisingly synergistic through strategies that are —

  1. Double-green: green economically as well as environmentally. In attacking climate change, pollution, and conservation issues, priority is given to innovations that pay for themselves soon, in just a few years if not months, while reducing pollution and warming. To solve our problems fast, the new change-makers aren’t relying on do-good motives. They realize that billions of people need to be engaged; and for that to happen, everyone needs to see what’s in it for them near term, money-wise and otherwise.
  2. Double-smart: helping people and technology work smarter and get smarter together, with higher human intelligence in the lead. The new approach takes full advantage of artificial intelligence without displacing millions and making them feel irrelevant, disaffected, and sometimes violent. The double-smart approach transforms human displacement into human empowerment. The strategy in fact leverages AI to help people pursue super-human status — becoming healthier, more intelligent, connected, effective, and fulfilled than ever. It is the positive form of the AI “singularity” envisioned by futurist Ray Kurzweil, Google’s director of engineering, focusing on machine learning.

With balanced priorities and planning, the double-smart strategy helps us stay ahead of our AI creations because we invoke them and guide them with our consciousness. With their help, we may even inch closer to the “noosphere” or global consciousness predicted by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the early 20th century French philosopher, scientist, and Jesuit priest.

The Smart Green Deal is also endlessly iterative: creating more and better solutions through accelerating cycles of innovations that seed new innovations without end. For example, imagine the fruits of the happy marriage of AI and human motivation. Resistance to change may be turned into acceptance and enthusiasm, freeing cloud-connected people to cure and create absolutely anything, ushering in an unprecedented future.

The Smart Green Deal is a non-political tool that is making a difference while making money in its own right, right now. It may also be used within the Green New Deal, the European Green Deal, and other plans (whether conservative or liberal) — to make bold goals more reachable and ideologically acceptable.

The Smart Green Deal is “political” only in that it acknowledges and circumvents a basic cause of our political divide: economic interests skew our views and votes. People instinctively resist anything that threatens their pocketbooks or lives, often becoming fearful, deluded, impotent, or prone to self-protective aggression.

Practitioners of smart green thinking get around this resistance through initiatives and practices that minimize the pain of change. “Everybody wins” is the winning way and “We’re all in this together,” the winning spirit. To avoid an AI apocalypse, some smart green thinkers are considering new solutions such as compensation for volunteer work.

NOTE: The Smart Green Deal is registered to keep it from being used for narrow purposes. EraNova welcomes free use of it by anyone promoting smart green goals. References and links are appreciated; they help EraNova do its job and connect like-minded innovators.

A few examples

Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is taking independent action along “smart green” lines. (He may not know it, but he’s a key leader of the smart green megatrend!) He is mobilizing mayors around the world to fight climate change through private-public initiatives. Big progress can be made, he believes, regardless of national policy, pointing out that over 70% of greenhouse gas emissions are produced by cities.

Mike Bloomberg (front row, 4th from right), former Mayor of New York City, with 20 other mayors: Nations Can Now Deliver the Paris Agreement by Supporting Cities

In another example, Google Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs is developing plans for smart green cities.

Below, a design view of Google’s planned new campus, which supports human performance by combining nature with high tech.

A design view of Google’s planned new campus. Source: Google

Google is not alone. Our biggest, most successful companies are also moving in the smart green direction (typically without really knowing it). For example, check out the green initiatives of IBM, Microsoft, Apple, Siemens, and Walmart.

Such companies are not, of course, single-minded or comprehensive in their smart green progress. (For example, their pursuit of double-smart policies is spotty.) But they’re moving in the right direction. With governmental and customer support, they could become unprecedented powerhouses of positive double-green, double-smart change.

IBM pursues augmented intelligence (of people) as well as artificial intelligence (of systems). Image source: IBM

Sidestepping the negative

Unfortunately, the Smart Green Deal has a strong competitor, the “dumb brown deal.” It’s —

  • Double-brown: bad for the bottom line (ultimately) as well as bad for the environment. As our support systems degrade, so does our system of exchange and the worth of anything we might own, create or try to sell. For example, how much will cars go for when roads are undriveable? (All-terrain vehicles might still fetch a good price — until gasoline distribution breaks down.)
  • Double-dumb: replacing bright, caring consciousness (the essence of people) with dark, vacant efficiency (AI robotics) that may ultimately serve no one and leave Earth lifeless. Alternately, it would be dumb to reject safe forms of AI that could make us smart enough to solve our “unsolvable” problems.
“Dumb brown” policies invite accelerating natural and man-made disasters. Photo collage by EraNova Institute.

Consciousness is key

The smart part of the Smart Green Deal is primary; it’s what generates the green. And within the smart part, the human component is more vital than the electronic component — but endangered as well as empowered by it.

See the article below, which details the consciousness trends that may be important for our survival.

It touches on the growing body of brain-mind research that is bringing rigorous analysis to areas formerly conceded to religion and spirituality. It also identifies rival views of physical and mental reality; and explores far-out prospects such as the “overview effect” and “noosphere” that promise new levels of shared aliveness.

Three takeaways from the above article:

  1. Consciousness (in all its sensory, emotional, and logical dimensions) is the key thing worth preserving and enhancing, because living is what life is for (obviously, though we often seem to forget it).
  2. To make it through the challenges ahead, we may need to get a lot more conscious — rise to a new level of awareness, intelligence, knowledge, feeling, caring, courage, and connection.
  3. To get enough more conscious soon enough, we may need an assist from smart technology, but risk an AI takeover unless we take great care.

NOTE: The scientific study of consciousness is in its infancy. Practical applications are vital but tentative and controversial. A possible consciousness shift may be left out of one’s considerations, and smart green thinking still works, though less powerfully.


A smart green business example

In many industries, double-green magic is starting to happen (though the leaders themselves may not see the full scope of it). Already it’s helping some companies make more money than ever, and make it faster, by going green in smart new ways that leverage technology without displacing people. Consider the field of building management.

Residential and commercial buildings account for about 10% of our carbon dioxide emissions, a key contributor to climate change. To help save the environment and reach our sustainability goals, millions of buildings must get smart and green by 2030.

That’s a tall order. And it will cost an arm and a leg. Right?

No. Not according to Daniel Scalisi, Co-Founder/Chief Executive Officer, SmartCSM; and Martin Powell, Head of Urban Development, Siemens AG.

(Top) Daniel Scalisi, Co-Founder/Chief Executive Officer, SmartCSM; and (Bottom) Martin Powell, Head of Urban Development, Siemens AG. Photo of Shanghai buildings by Yiran Ding on Unsplash

Both offer evidence that companies can not only go green economically, they can make money at it, and soon.

  • Martin Powell: Performance contracting “can guarantee energy reduction outcomes that pay for the entire upfront cost of retrofitting and installing the new technology,” he says.
  • Daniel Scalisi: “Once organizations start managing their electrical, HVAC, and other systems online instead of on paper, large efficiencies result.” Savings 10 times greater than total program costs are common, he reports.

For details, see this complete article in FacilitiesNet: Does It Cost “Too Much” to Make Existing Buildings Green? See also this special report from EraNova Institute

The building-management systems of SmartCSM and Siemens have evolved to meet the needs of the marketplace, with positive consequences. Now an observer may say that their systems, when implemented as recommended, are typically double-green as well as double-smart.

As money is saved or made, buildings and their environments get greener; and the latest technology is deployed, as much as possible, in ways that make people more valuable, not less necessary.

The double-smart part of smart green thinking is vital. “We’re out to empower people with smart technology, not replace them with it,” says Craig Caryl, SmartCSM’s co-founder and originator of its vision. “That’s also the approach that works best economically in the long run.”

Right, Craig Caryl, Co-Founder/Chief Evangelist and originator of SmartCSM’s vision; Left, a maintenance professional using the online system.

An increasing number of organizations are employing this building management technology as part of their own smart, green thrusts. They include United Airlines, Toyota, Raytheon, University of Miami, Salvation Army, communities such as Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles World Airports (LAX), and others.


The scope of the smart green revolution

Smart green solutions are emerging in every industry and sector of society. Innovators are giving attention to the main contributors to climate change, and more.

Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions (USEPA 2013)

Climate change is only part of our problem, of course, so innovators are also addressing other existential threats, especially the human ones. The UN’s 17 sustainable development goals for 2030 give a good picture of where solutions are needed.

An endangered planet and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Left image: NASA. Right image: United Nations

Note that seven of the goals focus primarily on the environment: 6, 7, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15. Nine focus primarily on the needs and contributions of people: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, and 16. One goal, 17, is a meta-goal, calling for synergistic cooperation in pursuing all the other goals.

Thousands of organizations and hundreds of thousands of people are working on these issues. Solutions already abound, but there is an implementation lag. The EraNova Institute and others seek to shrink that lag by calling attention to what’s working and worthy of adopting.

NOTE: While these 17 goals are the best our world leaders could come up with, they’re far from a complete list of the issues that confront us. For example, we also need to upgrade our antiquated financial systems and address issues of violence, law, privacy, and fair representation.

Our key gauges of success need updating too. For example the GNP (gross national product) measure and profit-loss statements don’t always motivate positive behavior. We may need a GNQ (gross national quality) measure and customer-benefit statements that better assess environmental and health impacts.

The overall goal, a sustainable society worth living in, will be extremely difficult to achieve. A complex system like our global society can work only if every essential sub-system also works. Consider the “o-ring” problem of 1986. Space Shuttle Challenger came crashing to Earth because one tiny rubber seal didn’t work quite right.

Completeness and detail are important. All our essential goals need to be addressed simultaneously, and all parts of the Smart Green Deal must be in balance.

  • We won’t make it if we … wait too long to make green changes. The make-money part of “double green” is crucial. Immediate action is needed, and the financial rewards must be immediate too.
  • We won’t make it if we … keep on making money WITHOUT making things greener. The fossil-fuel profit machine must be dismantled while it’s still making people rich. Ditto for the all the other polluting money machines. This will be a challenge for our money-dominated capitalistic culture, but vital.
  • We won’t make it if welet AI render some people irrelevant. This is a recipe for conflict and social suicide.
  • We won’t make it if we … fail to use AI robustly (in support of humanity). Without high-tech miracles, we probably can’t solve our overwhelming problems in a few short years. So a big boost in electronic intelligence may be essential. AI could be our savior if we use it wisely, to empower people.
  • We won’t make it if we … fail to strike a balance between law and individual initiative. Some things, but not too many, need to be mandated. Most things may be better accomplished through education, motivation, and personal drive. People yearn for more freedom and will fight pressures for less.

The odds against success may be astronomical, but we’ve done the “impossible” before.

We fail every day, but we’re masters of moonshots!

Left: explosion of Space Shuttle Challenger, 1986. Right: first human on moon, 1969. Source: NASA

Taking action

You may already be part of the smart green moonshot (without knowing it). If you are, or want to be, you can maximize your impact here. EraNova is providing four vehicles to help you:

  • A smart green awareness campaign featuring Smart Green Alerts. These are designed to keep people informed and on track day by day. (See below for more about them.)
  • A forthcoming book, Smart Green World (an expansion of this article) to lay out the complete vision, opportunity, and plan — with many examples of success in dozens of industries, locations, and circumstances.
  • Help for special groups: consumers; suppliers of smart green solutions; business managers; entrepreneurs; investors; public servants and political candidates; job seekers; students; and people in sectors such as building management, transportation, agriculture, manufacturing, scientific research, the arts, education, and finance.
  • Special products and services: apps such as a project selector or opportunity finder utilizing smart green criteria, a cookbook offering smart green food advice and recipes, quantum-electronic mind-matter interaction devices, smart green art and design projects, an investment guide to companies pursuing smart green strategies, a guide to green and smart green certification programs, a guide to “the scientific method for the rest of us,” and other items promoting smart green actions.

More about the Smart Green Alerts

They’re designed to help everyone — from consumers and entrepreneurs to business managers and public officials — unlock the power of smart green thinking. The alerts are brief and actionable, and each is linked to additional authoritative information curated from leading news streams and ongoing research. Examples:

The alerts are informative, but have value even when readers already know the facts, serving as reminders that leave one feeling more positive, powerful, and connected. The alerts appear online, a new one at least once a week; and soon, daily. Notifications linking to the latest alerts are emailed to subscribers weekly.

The alerts are written to attract attention and are designed for easy sharing via social media and email.

More smart green information to come

Stay tuned for more business examples and announcements of support for special groups ranging from consumers and government officials to politicians and investors:

Inquiries welcome: dicksamson @ eranova.com

The author, Dick Samson, is director of EraNova Institute, which finds and promotes double-green, double-smart enterprises, groups, services, innovations, and trends. He has served as consultant to IBM, AT&T, and other leading organizations over decades. A futurist focused on human potential, his books include The Mind Builder, Creative Analysis, The Language Ladder, and Mind Over Technology.

This article will form the basis of a forthcoming book, Smart Green World (working title), with action guide.

More from EraNova Institute

EraNova Institute

Smart green ways to survive & thrive

Dick Samson, Director

Written by

Double-green & double-smart by 2030

EraNova Institute

Smart green ways to survive & thrive

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade