Bina Venkataraman: The power to think ahead in a reckless age
Bina Venkataraman is an MIT professor and author of the forthcoming book "The Optimist's Telescope." Full bio
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for the blood of the American-born.
I got an unexpected gift.
at the time I got it,
a powerful metaphor for my work.
like there's no time but the present.
seems to dominate our lives,
in the number of steps we took today
from a high-profile figure.
in making immediate profits
for future invention.
for governments to stand by
to feed future generations.
to be remembered as good ancestors.
our species evolved to think ahead,
that we have "mental time travel,"
everything we call human civilization,
using this superpower quite enough,
businesses and institutions are designed.
that's impairing our foresight.
about the three key mistakes
profits of a company
is going to grow its market share
that kids bring back from school,
what's great for those kids' learning
what really matters in the future.
that impairs our foresight
or a business leader
those disasters in the first place,
by protecting communities from floods
that impairs our foresight
on predicting exactly what's next,
or algorithms to do that.
all the possibilities the future holds.
emerged in 2014 in West Africa,
had early warning signs
that outbreak might spread,
in time to intervene,
to kill more than 11,000 people.
and good forecasts
how dangerous they can be.
that I've described,
better decisions about the future
like the telescopes
when they scanned the horizon.
across distance and the ocean,
across time to the future.
few of the tools
the long game pay now.
I spent some time with in Kansas.
are grown around the world today
of the fertile topsoil
with a group of scientists,
which have deep roots
and protecting future harvests.
to grow these crops in the short run,
the annual yields of the crops
to make cereal and beer using the grains
by doing what's good for tomorrow.
by George Washington Carver
after the Civil War
of Carver's 300 uses for the peanut,
that he came up with
why Carver did that.
poor Alabama sharecroppers
peanuts in their fields
would be better a few years later.
to be lucrative for them in the short run.
about another tool for foresight.
as keeping the memory of the past alive
of the nuclear reactor disaster there
and tsunami of 2011.
about the Onagawa Nuclear Power Station,
to the epicenter of that earthquake
that we all know about.
actually fled to the nuclear power plant
to build that power plant
and with a higher sea wall.
in the year 869 after a tsunami.
that allowed him to imagine
as creating shared heirlooms.
on the Pacific coast of Mexico,
their lobster harvest there
by treating it as a shared resource
children and grandchildren.
the breeding lobster out of the ocean.
there are more than 30 fisheries
vaguely similar to this.
in the fisheries known as catch shares
from the ocean today
many more tools of foresight
beyond near-term stock prices,
of campaign financiers.
as many of these tools as we can
to imagine what lies ahead.
as you can imagine.
we can pick up in our own lives,
in businesses or in communities,
is the instrument I shared with you.
for my great-grandfather.
music and art critic in India
to protect this instrument
was pawning off all their belongings,
to the next generation,
the sound of this instrument,
in the Himalayan fog.
a voice from the past.
playing the dilruba.
like a cat's dying somewhere,
than just owning it for today.
as both a descendant and an ancestor.
bigger than my own.
we can reclaim foresight:
as the good ancestors we long to be,
can resonate for generations.
ABOUT THE SPEAKERBina Venkataraman - Writer, futurist
Bina Venkataraman is an MIT professor and author of the forthcoming book "The Optimist's Telescope."
Why you should listen
For more than six years, Bina Venkataraman has been traveling around the world studying how people and communities think about the future. Her curiosity as a former journalist, and her firsthand experience in the Obama White House, led her to question whether the shortsightedness rampant in today's societies is inevitable -- or actually "a choice we're making."
During the Obama years, Venkataraman built partnerships among communities, companies and government to prepare for coming pandemics, wildfires and rising seas. In 2014, she launched the White House Climate Data Initiative to bring actionable climate science to people making decisions around the globe. Previously, she was a science journalist for the New York Times and the Boston Globe. Now, she teaches students at MIT to use scientific knowledge in service of society.
As Venkataraman writes: "For as long as I can remember, I have suspected that the future of humanity depended on the future of the planet. I have since found this to be the most compelling story of our time. As I imagine what lies in our shared future, from gene-editing to the climate crisis, I see both dangers and extraordinary potential."
Venkataraman wrote her first book, The Optimist's Telescope (to be published by Riverhead on August 27, 2019), to help people today better shape their own future and that of coming generations.
Bina Venkataraman | Speaker | TED.com