In light of continued frustration by many users, and due to a recent request by Prof Peter Howell on the lack of web administration on obscene/offensive posts and the effect this can have on the overall impression of Lifeboat, I have taken measures on cleaning up posts by a contributor who regularly depreciates the standards of what can otherwise be a fine blog of academic opinion. Apologies to Prof Otto Rossler — but referring to CERN as ‘urinating soldiers’ etc is far below the standards Lifeboat aspires to — Please clean up your act.
Famous Chilean philosopher Humberto Maturana describes “certainty” in science as subjective emotional opinion and astonishes the physicists’ prominence. French astronomer and “Leonardo” publisher Roger Malina hopes that the LHC safety issue would be discussed in a broader social context and not only in the closer scientific framework of CERN.
The latest renowned “Ars Electronica Festival” in Linz (Austria) was dedicated in part to an uncritical worship of the gigantic particle accelerator LHC (Large Hadron Collider) at the European Nuclear Research Center CERN located at the Franco-Swiss border. CERN in turn promoted an art prize with the idea to “cooperate closely” with the arts. This time the objections were of a philosophical nature – and they had what it takes.
In a thought provoking presentation Maturana addressed the limits of our knowledge and the intersubjective foundations of what we call “objective” and “reality.” His talk was spiked with excellent remarks and witty asides that contributed much to the accessibility of these fundamental philosophical problems: “Be realistic, be objective!” Maturana pointed out, simply means that we want others to adopt our point of view. The great constructivist and founder of the concept of autopoiesis clearly distinguished his approach from a solipsistic position.
Given Ars Electronica’s spotlight on CERN and its experimental sub-nuclear research reactor, Maturana’s explanations were especially important, which to the assembled CERN celebrities may have come in a mixture of an unpleasant surprise and a lack of relation to them.
During the question-and-answer period, Markus Goritschnig asked Maturana whether it wasn’t problematic that CERN is basically controlling itself and discarding a number of existential risks discussed related to the LHC — including hypothetical but mathematically demonstrable risks also raised — and later downplayed — by physicists like Nobel Prize winner Frank Wilczek, and whether he thought it necessary to integrate in the LHC safety assessment process other sciences aside from physics such as risk search. In response Maturana replied (in the video from about 1:17): “We human beings can always reflect on what we are doing and choose. And choose to do it or not to do it. And so the question is, how are we scientists reflecting upon what we do? Are we taking seriously our responsibility of what we do? […] We are always in the danger of thinking that, ‘Oh, I have the truth’, I mean — in a culture of truth, in a culture of certainty — because truth and certainty are not as we think — I mean certainty is an emotion. ‘I am certain that something is the case’ means: ‘I do not know’. […] We cannot pretend to impose anything on others; we have to create domains of interrogativity.”
Disregarding these reflections, Sergio Bertolucci (CERN) found the peer review system among the physicists’ community a sufficient scholarly control. He refuted all the disputed risks with the “cosmic ray argument,” arguing that much more energetic collisions are naturally taking place in the atmosphere without any adverse effect. This safety argument by CERN on the LHC, however, can also be criticized under different perspectives, for example: Very high energetic collisions could be measured only indirectly — and the collision frequency under the unprecedented artificial and extreme conditions at the LHC is of astronomical magnitudes higher than in the Earth’s atmosphere and anywhere else in the nearer cosmos.
The second presentation of the “Origin” Symposium III was held by Roger Malina, an astrophysicist and the editor of “Leonardo” (MIT Press), a leading academic journal for the arts, sciences and technology.
Malina opened with a disturbing fact: “95% of the universe is of an unknown nature, dark matter and dark energy. We sort of know how it behaves. But we don’t have a clue of what it is. It does not emit light, it does not reflect light. As an astronomer this is a little bit humbling. We have been looking at the sky for millions of years trying to explain what is going on. And after all of that and all those instruments, we understand only 3% of it. A really humbling thought. […] We are the decoration in the universe. […] And so the conclusion that I’d like to draw is that: We are really badly designed to understand the universe.”
The main problem in research is: “curiosity is not neutral.” When astrophysics reaches its limits, cooperation between arts and science may indeed be fruitful for various reasons and could perhaps lead to better science in the end. In a later communication Roger Malina confirmed that the same can be demonstrated for the relation between natural sciences and humanities or social sciences.
However, the astronomer emphasized that an “art-science collaboration can lead to better science in some cases. It also leads to different science, because by embedding science in the larger society, I think the answer was wrong this morning about scientists peer-reviewing themselves. I think society needs to peer-review itself and to do that you need to embed science differently in society at large, and that means cultural embedding and appropriation. Helga Nowotny at the European Research Council calls this ‘socially robust science’. The fact that CERN did not lead to a black hole that ended the world was not due to peer-review by scientists. It was not due to that process.”
One of Malina’s main arguments focused on differences in “the ethics of curiosity”. The best ethics in (natural) science include notions like: intellectual honesty, integrity, organized scepticism, dis-interestedness, impersonality, universality. “Those are the believe systems of most scientists. And there is a fundamental flaw to that. And Humberto this morning really expanded on some of that. The problem is: Curiosity is embodied. You cannot make it into a neutral ideal of scientific curiosity. And here I got a quote of Humberto’s colleague Varela: “All knowledge is conditioned by the structure of the knower.”
In conclusion, a better co-operation of various sciences and skills is urgently necessary, because: “Artists asks questions that scientists would not normally ask. Finally, why we want more art-science interaction is because we don’t have a choice. There are certain problems in our society today that are so tough we need to change our culture to resolve them. Climate change: we’ve got to couple the science and technology to the way we live. That’s a cultural problem, and we need artists working on that with the scientists every day of the next decade, the next century, if we survive it.
Then Roger Malina directly turned to the LHC safety discussion and articulated an open contradiction to the safety assurance pointed out before: He would generally hope for a much more open process concerning the LHC safety debate, rather than discussing this only in a narrow field of particle physics, concrete: “There are certain problems where we cannot cloister the scientific activity in the scientific world, and I think we really need to break the model. I wish CERN, when they had been discussing the risks, had done that in an open societal context, and not just within the CERN context.”
Presently CERN is holding its annual meeting in Chamonix to fix LHC’s 2012 schedules in order to increase luminosity by a factor of four for maybe finally finding the Higgs Boson – against a 100-Dollar bet of Stephen Hawking who is convinced of Micro Black Holes being observed instead, immediately decaying by hypothetical “Hawking Radiation” — with God Particle’s blessing. Then it would be himself gaining the Nobel Prize Hawking pointed out. Quite ironically, at Ars Electronica official T-Shirts were sold with the “typical signature” of a micro black hole decaying at the LHC – by a totally hypothetical process involving a bunch of unproven assumptions.
In 2013 CERN plans to adapt the LHC due to construction failures for up to CHF 1 Billion to run the “Big Bang Machine” at double the present energies. A neutral and multi-disciplinary risk assessment is still lacking, while a couple of scientists insist that their theories pointing at even global risks have not been invalidated. CERN’s last safety assurance comparing natural cosmic rays hitting the Earth with the LHC experiment is only valid under rather narrow viewpoints. The relatively young analyses of high energetic cosmic rays are based on indirect measurements and calculations. Sort, velocity, mass and origin of these particles are unknown. But, taking the relations for granted and calculating with the “assuring” figures given by CERN PR, within ten years of operation, the LHC under extreme and unprecedented artificial circumstances would produce as many high energetic particle collisions as occur in about 100.000 years in the entire atmosphere of the Earth. Just to illustrate the energetic potential of the gigantic facility: One LHC-beam, thinner than a hair, consisting of billions of protons, has got the power of an aircraft carrier moving at 12 knots.
This article in the Physics arXiv Blog (MIT’s Technology Review) reads: “Black Holes, Safety, and the LHC Upgrade — If the LHC is to be upgraded, safety should be a central part of the plans.”, closing with the claim: “What’s needed, of course, is for the safety of the LHC to be investigated by an independent team of scientists with a strong background in risk analysis but with no professional or financial links to CERN.” http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/arxiv/27319/
Australian ethicist and risk researcher Mark Leggett concluded in a paper that CERN’s LSAG safety report on the LHC meets less than a fifth of the criteria of a modern risk assessment. There but for the grace of a goddamn particle? Probably not. Before pushing the LHC to its limits, CERN must be challenged by a really neutral, external and multi-disciplinary risk assessment.
Video recordings of the “Origin III” symposium at Ars Electronica: Presentation Humberto Maturana:
Twenty years ago, way back in the primordial soup of the early Network in an out of the way electromagnetic watering hole called USENET, this correspondent entered the previous millennium’s virtual nexus of survival-of-the-weirdest via an accelerated learning process calculated to evolve a cybernetic avatar from the Corpus Digitalis. Now, as columnist, sci-fi writer and independent filmmaker, [Cognition Factor — 2009], with Terence Mckenna, I have filmed rocket launches and solar eclipses for South African Astronomical Observatories, and produced educational programs for South African Large Telescope (SALT). Latest efforts include videography for the International Astronautical Congress in Cape Town October 2011, and a completed, soon-to-be-released, autobiography draft-titled “Journey to Everywhere”.
Cognition Factor attempts to be the world’s first ‘smart movie’, digitally orchestrated for the fusion of Left and Right Cerebral Hemispheres in order to decode civilization into an articulate verbal and visual language structured from sequential logical hypothesis based upon the following ‘Big Five’ questions,
1.) Evolution Or Extinction? 2.) What Is Consciousness? 3.) Is God A Myth? 4.) Fusion Of Science & Spirit? 5.) What Happens When You Die?
Even if you believe that imagination is more important than knowledge, you’ll need a full deck to solve the ‘Arab Spring’ epidemic, which may be a logical step in the ‘Global Equalisation Process as more and more of our Planet’s Alumni fling their hats in the air and emit primal screams approximating; “we don’t need to accumulate (so much) wealth anymore”, in a language comprising of ‘post Einsteinian’ mathematics…
I am taking the advice of a reader of this blog and devoting part 2 to examples of old school and modern movies and the visionary science they portray.
Things to Come 1936 — Event Horizon 1997 Things to Come was a disappointment to Wells and Event Horizon was no less a disappointment to audiences. I found them both very interesting as a showcase for some technology and social challenges.… to come- but a little off the mark in regards to the exact technology and explicit social issues. In the final scene of Things to Come, Raymond Massey asks if mankind will choose the stars. What will we choose? I find this moment very powerful- perhaps the example; the most eloguent expression of the whole genre of science fiction. Event Horizon was a complete counterpoint; a horror movie set in space with a starship modeled after a gothic cathedral. Event Horizon had a rescue crew put in stasis for a high G several month journey to Neptune on a fusion powered spaceship. High accelleration and fusion brings H-bombs to mind, and though not portrayed, this propulsion system is in fact a most probable future. Fusion “engines” are old hat in sci-fi despite the near certainty the only places fusion will ever work as advertised are in a bomb or a star. The Event Horizon, haunted and consigned to hell, used a “gravity drive” to achieve star travel by “folding space.” Interestingly, a recent concept for a black hole powered starship is probably the most accurate forecast of the technology that will be used for interstellar travel in the next century. While ripping a hole in the fabric of space time may be strictly science fantasy, for the next thousand years at least, small singularity propulsion using Hawking radiation to achieve a high fraction of the speed of light is mathematically sound and the most obvious future.
That is, if humanity avoids an outbreak of engineered pathogens or any one of several other threats to our existence in that time frame.
Hand in hand with any practical method of journeys to other star systems in the concept of the “sleeper ship.” Not only as inevitable as the submarine or powered flight was in the past, the idea of putting human beings in cold storage would bring tremendous changes to society. Suspended animation using a cryopreservation procedure is by far the most radical and important global event possible, and perhpas probable, in the near future. The ramifications of a revivable whole body cryopreservation procedure are truly incredible. Cryopreservation would be the most important event in the history of mankind. Future generations would certainly mark it as the beginning of “modern” civilization. Though not taken seriously anymore than the possiblility of personal computers were, the advances in medical technology make any movies depicting suspended animation quite prophetic.
The Thing 1951/Them 1954 — Deep Impact 1998/Armegeddon 1998 These four movies were essentially about the same.…thing. Whether a space vampire not from earth in the arctic, mutated super organisms underneath the earth, or a big whatever in outer space on a collision course with earth, the subject was a monstrous threat to our world, the end of humankind on earth being the common theme. The lifeboat blog is about such threats and the The Thing and Them would also appeal to any fan of Barbara Ehrenreich’s book, Blood Rites. It is interesting that while we appreciate in a personal way what it means to face monsters or the supernatural, we just do not “get” the much greater threats only recently revealed by impact craters like Chixculub. In this way these movies dealing with instinctive and non-instinctive realized threats have an important relationship to each other. And this connection extends to the more modern sci-fi creature features of past decades. Just how much the The Thing and Them contributed to the greatest military sci-fi movie of the 20th century (Aliens, of course) will probably never be known. Director James Cameron once paid several million dollars out of court to sci-fi writer Harlan Ellison after admitting during an interview to using Ellison’s work- so he will not be making that mistake again. The second and third place honors, Starship Troopers and Predator, were both efforts of Dutch Film maker Paul Verhoeven.
While The Thing and Them still play well, and Deep Impact, directed by James Cameron’s ex-wife, is a good flick and has uncanny predictive elements such as a black president and a tidal wave, Armegeddon is worthless. I mention this trash cinema only because it is necessary for comparison and to applaud the 3 minutes when the cryogenic fuel transfer procedure is seen to be the farce that it is in actuality. Only one of the worst movie directors ever, or the space tourism industry, would parade such a bad idea before the public. Ice Station Zebra 1968 — The Road 2009 Ice Station Zebra was supposedly based on a true incident. This cold war thriller featured Rock Hudson as the penultimate submarine commander and was a favorite of Howard Hughes. By this time a recluse, Hughes purchased a Las Vegas TV station so he could watch the movie over and over. For those who have not seen it, I will not spoil the sabotage sequence, which has never been equaled. I pair Ice Station Zebra and The Road because they make a fine quartet, or rather sixtet, with The Thing/Them and Deep Impact/Armegeddon.
The setting for many of the scenes in these movies are a wasteland of ice, desert, cometoid, or dead forest. While Armegeddon is one of the worst movies ever made on a big budget, The Road must be one of the best on a small budget- if accuracy is a measure of best. The Road was a problem for the studio that produced it and release was delayed due to the reaction of the test audiences. All viewers left the theatre profoundly depressed. It is a shockingly realistic movie and disturbed to the point where I started writing about impact deflection. The connection between Armegeddon and The Road, two movies so different, is the threat and aftermath of an asteroid or comet impact. While The Road never specifies an impact as the disaster that ravaged the planet, it fits the story perfectly. Armegeddon has a few accurate statements about impacts mixed in with ludicrous plot devices that make the story a bad experience for anyone concerned with planetary protection. It seems almost blasphemous and positively criminal to make such a juvenile for profit enterprise out of an inevitable event that is as serious as serious gets. Do not watch it. Ice Station Zebra, on the other hand, is a must see and is in essence a showcase of the only tools available to prevent The Road from becoming reality. Nuclear weapons and space craft- the very technologies that so many feared would destroy mankind, are the only hope to save the human race in the event of an impending impact.
Part 3: Gog 1954 — Stealth 2005 Fantastic Voyage 1966 — The Abyss 1989 And notable moments in miscellaneous movies.
Steamships, locomotives, electricity; these marvels of the industrial age sparked the imagination of futurists such as Jules Verne. Perhaps no other writer or work inspired so many to reach the stars as did this Frenchman’s famous tale of space travel. Later developments in microbiology, chemistry, and astronomy would inspire H.G. Wells and the notable science fiction authors of the early 20th century.
The submarine, aircraft, the spaceship, time travel, nuclear weapons, and even stealth technology were all predicted in some form by science fiction writers many decades before they were realized. The writers were not simply making up such wonders from fanciful thought or childrens ryhmes. As science advanced in the mid 19th and early 20th century, the probable future developments this new knowledge would bring about were in some cases quite obvious. Though powered flight seems a recent miracle, it was long expected as hydrogen balloons and parachutes had been around for over a century and steam propulsion went through a long gestation before ships and trains were driven by the new engines. Solid rockets were ancient and even multiple stages to increase altitude had been in use by fireworks makers for a very long time before the space age.
Some predictions were seen to come about in ways far removed yet still connected to their fictional counterparts. The U.S. Navy flagged steam driven Nautilus swam the ocean blue under nuclear power not long before rockets took men to the moon. While Verne predicted an electric submarine, his notional Florida space gun never did take three men into space. However there was a Canadian weapons designer named Gerald Bull who met his end while trying to build such a gun for Saddam Hussien. The insane Invisible Man of Wells took the form of invisible aircraft playing a less than human role in the insane game of mutually assured destruction. And a true time machine was found easily enough in the mathematics of Einstein. Simply going fast enough through space will take a human being millions of years into the future. However, traveling back in time is still as much an impossibillity as the anti-gravity Cavorite from the First Men in the Moon. Wells missed on occasion but was not far off with his story of alien invaders defeated by germs- except we are the aliens invading the natural world’s ecosystem with our genetically modified creations and could very well soon meet our end as a result.
While Verne’s Captain Nemo made war on the death merchants of his world with a submarine ram, our own more modern anti-war device was found in the hydrogen bomb. So destructive an agent that no new world war has been possible since nuclear weapons were stockpiled in the second half of the last century. Neither Verne or Wells imagined the destructive power of a single missile submarine able to incinerate all the major cities of earth. The dozens of such superdreadnoughts even now cruising in the icy darkness of the deep ocean proves that truth is more often stranger than fiction. It may seem the golden age of predictive fiction has passed as exceptions to the laws of physics prove impossible despite advertisments to the contrary. Science fiction has given way to science fantasy and the suspension of disbelief possible in the last century has turned to disappointment and the distractions of whimsical technological fairy tales. “Beam me up” was simply a way to cut production costs for special effects and warp drive the only trick that would make a one hour episode work. Unobtainium and wishalloy, handwavium and technobabble- it has watered down what our future could be into childish wish fulfillment and escapism.
The triumvirate of the original visionary authors of the last two centuries is completed with E.E. Doc Smith. With this less famous author the line between predictive fiction and science fantasy was first truly crossed and the new genre of “Space Opera” most fully realized. The film industry has taken Space Opera and run with it in the Star Wars franchise and the works of Canadian film maker James Cameron. Though of course quite entertaining, these movies showcase all that is magical and fantastical- and wrong- concerning science fiction as a predictor of the future. The collective imagination of the public has now been conditioned to violate the reality of what is possible through the violent maiming of basic scientific tenets. This artistic license was something Verne at least tried not to resort to, Wells trespassed upon more frequently, and Smith indulged in without reservation. Just as Madonna found the secret to millions by shocking a jaded audience into pouring money into her bloomers, the formula for ripping off the future has been discovered in the lowest kind of sensationalism. One need only attend a viewing of the latest Transformer movie or download Battlestar Galactica to appreciate that the entertainment industry has cashed in on the ignorance of a poorly educated society by selling intellect decaying brain candy. It is cowboys vs. aliens and has nothing of value to contribute to our culture…well, on second thought, I did get watery eyed when the young man died in Harrison Ford’s arms. I am in no way criticizing the profession of acting and value the talent of these artists- it is rather the greed that corrupts the ancient art of storytelling I am unhappy with. Directors are not directors unless they make money and I feel sorry that these incredibly creative people find themselves less than free to pursue their craft.
The archetype of the modern science fiction movie was 2001 and like many legendary screen epics, a Space Odyssey was not as original as the marketing made it out to be. In an act of cinema cold war many elements were lifted from a Soviet movie. Even though the fantasy element was restricted to a single device in the form of an alien monolith, every artifice of this film has so far proven non-predictive. Interestingly, the propulsion system of the spaceship in 2001 was originally going to use atomic bombs, which are still, a half century later, the only practical means of interplanetary travel. Stanly Kubrick, fresh from Dr. Strangelove, was tired of nukes and passed on portraying this obvious future.
As with the submarine, airplane, and nuclear energy, the technology to come may be predicted with some accuracy if the laws of physics are not insulted but rather just rudely addressed. Though in some cases, the line is crossed and what is rude turns disgusting. A recent proposal for a “NautilusX” spacecraft is one example of a completely vulgar denial of reality. Chemically propelled, with little radiation shielding, and exhibiting a ridiculous doughnut centrifuge, such advertising vehicles are far more dishonest than cinematic fabrications in that they decieve the public without the excuse of entertaining them. In the same vein, space tourism is presented as space exploration when in fact the obscene spending habits of the ultra-wealthy have nothing to do with exploration and everything to do with the attendent taxpayer subsidized business plan. There is nothing to explore in Low Earth Orbit except the joys of zero G bordellos. Rudely undressing by way of the profit motive is followed by a rude address to physics when the key private space scheme for “exploration” is exposed. This supposed key is a false promise of things to come.
While very large and very expensive Heavy Lift Rockets have been proven to be successful in escaping earth’s gravitational field with human passengers, the inferior lift vehicles being marketed as “cheap access to space” are in truth cheap and nasty taxis to space stations going in endless circles. The flim flam investors are basing their hopes of big profit on cryogenic fuel depots and transfer in space. Like the filling station every red blooded American stops at to fill his personal spaceship with fossil fuel, depots are the solution to all the holes in the private space plan for “commercial space.” Unfortunately, storing and transferring hydrogen as a liquified gas a few degrees above absolute zero in a zero G environment has nothing in common with filling a car with gasoline. It will never work as advertised. It is a trick. A way to get those bordellos in orbit courtesy of taxpayer dollars. What a deal.
So what is the obvious future that our present level of knowledge presents to us when entertaining the possible and the impossible? More to come.
The Journal for Biological & Health Innovation is accepting papers for peer review now. This journal is specific to Africa and our thoughts, theory, research, practice could have a huge impact on the expeditious development of the rest of the world technologically.
I thought I would offer a series of quotes to counter the codswallop frequently expressed here — suggesting that mainstream physicists have genuine concerns about the safety of the LHC**.
“We fully endorse the conclusions of the LSAG report: there is no basis for any concerns about the consequences of new particles or forms of matter that could possibly be produced at the LHC.”
R. Aleksan et al., the 20 external members of the CERN Scientific Policy Committee, including Prof. Gerard ‘t Hooft, Nobel Laureate in Physics.
“Those who have doubts about LHC safety should read the LSAG report where all possible risks were considered. We can be sure that particle collisions at the LHC cannot lead to catastrophic consequences.”
Academician V.A. Rubakov, Institute for Nuclear Research, Moscow, and Russian Academy of Sciences
The LSAG (LHC Safety Assessment Group) report is here if you are wondering. It includes statements such as: Specifically, we study the possible production at the LHC of hypothetical objects such as vacuum bubbles, magnetic monopoles, microscopic black holes and strangelets, and find no associated risks.
Steve Nerlich (Space Settlement Board member and Death-by-LHC skeptic)
** or (as I have been corrected by Robert) that they just don’t care about the safety of the LHC. Sorry — my mistake.
Greetings fellow travelers, please allow me to introduce myself; I’m Mike ‘Cyber Shaman’ Kawitzky, independent film maker and writer from Cape Town, South Africa, one of your media/art contributors/co-conspirators.
It’s a bit daunting posting to such an illustrious board, so let me try to imagine, with you; how to regard the present with nostalgia while looking look forward to the past, knowing that a millisecond away in the future exists thoughts to think; it’s the mode of neural text, reverse causality, non-locality and quantum entanglement, where the traveller is the journey into a world in transition; after 9/11, after the economic meltdown, after the oil spill, after the tsunami, after Fukushima, after 21st Century melancholia upholstered by anti-psychotic drugs help us forget ‘the good old days’; because it’s business as usual for the 1%; the rest continue downhill with no brakes. Can’t wait to see how it all works out.
With some help from colleagues, I recently produced a 365 Days of Astronomy podcast on why anti-CERN conspiracy theories about the LHC creating Earth-swallowing black holes really don’t make much sense.
The transcript is also available for reading on the 365 Days site if you are not a podcast fan.
Steve Nerlich (Space Settlement Board member and Death-by-LHC skeptic)
There are as many ways to help another human being as there are people in need of help. For some, the urgent need is as basic as food and water. For others, it is an opportunity to develop a talent, realize an idea, and reach one’s full potential. Helping people get what they need most in life is at the heart of successful philanthropy.
However, you can’t simply give money away without thinking deeply about how and where the money will go and why you’re doing the giving. You need to approach philanthropy in a strategic and systematic way—just as an entrepreneur approaches a new venture. That’s the only way to make a self-sustaining difference in the world. That being said, here are five key ways to achieve sustainable success with your philanthropic efforts.
1. Open a Door Helping people boost themselves out of poverty is the best way to make a lasting positive difference in a person’s life. A new skill, an introduction, an education—these gifts open doors that would otherwise remain closed. A promising beneficiary will walk through that door and create opportunities for others.
2. Define Your Passion To have enduring impact, your philanthropic efforts should reflect the causes you are most passionate about. For me, one of those things is education: A good education is the most valuable thing you can give another person. My own philanthropic efforts have always included an educational element, whether it’s expanding opportunities to educate a promising mind or extending the brain’s ability to learn. If you follow your own passions, you’ll increase exponentially your chances of sustainable success.
3. Seek Out Inspiration To truly change the world, you need to inspire—and be inspired by—others. I’ve found many people who share my interest in neuroscience—brilliant people like V.S. Ramachandran, and David Eagleman. They inspire me to learn more, do more, and raise my standards higher. That, in turn, inspires those I work with to raise their game. Having someone you can talk to and work with makes the job of changing the world less daunting, builds deep trust, and sparks vital creativity.
4. Measure Your Impact You’re more likely to achieve success if you can define ahead of time what form that success will take and track progress toward your goal. Set milestones along the way so you can adjust your approach and add more resources, if necessary. Simple metrics can be a powerful tool to engage people’s competitive spirit and harness it for a good cause.
This approach is what the X Prize Foundation has done in the nonprofit science field, from genomics to space exploration—it defines the goal, sets the parameters, and measures the results. And at the end there is a payoff: a cash prize for the innovators and a new body of human knowledge for the rest of us who are the true winners.
5. Think Like an Entrepreneur None of the previous points will create a sustainable philanthropic effort unless you are constantly looking for newer and better ways to make a meaningful difference. That means looking at the world and living life as a philanthropic entrepreneur.
For example, Kairos Society, (disclosure: my son, Ankur Jain, founded the organization and I’m a supporter), is based on the belief that the key to improving our world lies in giving the next generation of leaders different opportunities to develop globally impactful innovations. Kairos brings promising young people together with successful business and political leaders from around the world to create sustainable solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.
Continuing to pass down enthusiasm for philanthropy provides chances and opportunities to the people who need it most. Growing up in India, I knew all I needed to change the world was one good opportunity, and I prepared myself for it. When that opportunity came—in the form of the chance to earn an engineering degree—I was ready. With sustainable philanthropy, we can make sure that these chances for success can be grasped by the next generation. This is philanthropy that is truly sustainable.