Thursday, September 26, 2013

Why I'm Optimistic About the Future


I was walking along the beach with a very bright 12-year old girl, the daughter of a friend, when she asked, “Do you think we'll be around 50 years from now?” Startled, I stammered, “What makes you ask?”

She replied pensively, “It seems to me that the way we’re treating our planet, it might become uninhabitable for us.”

She'd framed the question correctly. The Earth is resilient, and life has flourished on it for eons—but along with the flourishing has also been the extinction of many life forms.

I looked at her thoughtfully and replied, “The problems we're facing are indeed daunting, but I’m optimistic we'll find solutions.”

She nodded slowly, a slight smile crossing her lips. We continued along in silence.

That was back in 1988.

I meant what I said to her then, and I believe it today, more than ever.

I remain optimistic because we've created a hyper-connected world.

Turkey's Elif Bilgin, the 16 year-old inventor of banana peel-derived plastic, won the $50,000 Science in Action Award at the 2013 Google Science Fair and had this to say:
...my project actually has a potential to be a solution to the increasing pollution problem caused by petroleum-based plastic...the most revolutionary invention of the past 100 years was the World Wide Web, simply because it allows information, ideas and thoughts to be shared across the globe within seconds. It has literally fulfilled its name, acting as a web bringing every continent, nation and person in the world much closer to each other.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee wrote in his book Weaving the Web that the web is primarily a web of people. And we're learning from one another at a speed unprecedented in history.

Elif Bilgin's accomplishment is living proof.


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