MANIFESTO

10 reasons why we should all work for high-tech, “future-impact” ventures:

  1.  We’re five times likelier to die from extinction than in a car crash

If we don’t act, humanity will be wiped out – whether it’s by an asteroid, global warming or artificial intelligence.

 

Fact:

The Global Challenges Foundation’s 2016 annual report[1] estimates that an average American is more than five times likelier to die during a human-extinction event than in a car crash.

 

Fact:

In 2008, experts on different global catastrophic risks at the Global Catastrophic Risk Conference at the University of Oxford[2] suggested a 19% chance of human extinction over the next century.

 

  1. It really is possible to be a multi-planetary species

Elon Musk makes a compelling case for why he thinks its possible in a 2014 Aeon magazine interview[3], Musk said “SpaceX is only 12 years old now. Between now and 2040, the company’s lifespan will have tripled. If we have linear improvement in technology, as opposed to logarithmic, then we should have a significant base on Mars, perhaps with thousands or tens of thousands of people.” At the time the Aeon article was written, SpaceX had not successfully landed its rockets yet. It’s first success came two years later, in April 2016. As of September 2016, five months after its first success, SpaceX has landed its reusable rockets 6 times.[4] SpaceX has made huge strides since this interview. Crazy as it seems, Elon Musk could very well be right.

 

It’s not just Elon Musk who believes we can migrate to Mars:

 

  • NASA has published over 20 mission plans for Mars since the 1950s. In October 8, 2015, NASA published another official plan for human exploration and colonization of Mars, aiming for human missions to Mars in the 2030s.[5]
  • In a space policy speech[6] at Kennedy Space Center on April 15, 2010, U.S. President Barak Obama said “By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth. And a landing on Mars will follow. And I expect to be around to see it.”
  • In 2001, the European Space Agencylaid out a long-term vision of sending a human mission to Mars in 2033.[7]
  • Stephen Hawking called for a massive investment in establishing colonies on the Moon and Mars in a lecture in honour of NASA’s 50th anniversary. He argued that if we devoted 0.25% of world GDP to space exploration (i.e. if everyone donated 0.25% of their salary), that would be 10 times as much as NASA’s current budget, 20 times the international space exploration budget and enough to warrant a serious shot at space colonization.[8]

 

  1. We’ve achieved the seemingly impossible before

In 1954, the first atomic submarine, Nautilus, was launched and in 1969 we went to the moon. In the 70s/80s, computers and recombinant DNA technology like IBM and Genentech were considered highly ambitious. There was no guarantee at the time that those technologies could be developed successfully or turn into the highly profitable businesses that they are today.

 

  1. If it’s possible, why are so few people doing anything to save our future?

There are many reasons, including, scepticism and downright disbelief in its feasibility; belief that only large organizations like governments and NASA can solve; and herd mentality (or lack thereof).

 

As we saw in the previous point, reducing existential risks to humanity is not a new idea nor is its associated technologies. We’ve tackled big dreams like going to the moon and recombinant DNA before.

 

What’s different today is the innovation ecosystem’s mind-set. In the 90s, entrepreneurs and VCs started to realize that technology could solve much easier problems (e.g. MySpace, Facebook) and be grossly rewarded for it. Focus shifted from high innovation, high risk to low innovation, low risk investments. Investors’ flight to social media marked the beginning of the end of the era of venture capital-backed big ideas in science and technology.[9] A lot of what seemed futuristic then remains futuristic now, in part because these technologies never received the sustained funding lavished on the electronics industries. We still find ideas like commercial space travel and atom-powered cars ludicrous whilst applauding underpowered hybrid cars and Snapchat. That’s sad.

 

And where the money went, people followed.

 

  1. Our generation won’t go where the money goes (only)

Fortunately, this generation seems to be less money-driven than previous generations.

 

Some food for thought:

  • An Accenture and United Nations Global Impact report finds that 62% of people worldwide would take a pay cut to work for a company with social impact.[10]
  • According to Morgan Stanley, $1 out of $6 invested is in sustainable ventures (that’s $6.57 trillion). [11]
  • Effective Alturism is a new social movement popular among Ivy League students with proponents including Bill Gates and Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz. It advocates “using reason and evidence to do the most good” (existential risk mitigation is a key focus).

 

By choosing to start and work for high innovation technology companies, our generation has the potential to shift the ecosystem back to impactful innovation. With more and higher quality talent in these companies, VCs will be more confident in funding these technologies again.

 

  1. There’s no better time than now

Our desire to live altruistically is high and so is our interest in technologies that have the potential to impact humanity’s future:

 

  • Elon Musk, arguably the leader of reviving public interest in space travel, is mentioned on Bloomberg every other day and is the inspiration for Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man (probably the most popular superhero of the Marvel franchise today).[12]
  • 1 out of every 10 space movies ever made was made after 2012[13] – when Musk started to gain mainstream media attention.[14]
  • President Obama refers to today’s students as “the Mars generation” and promotes STEM education as our hope for finding the next frontiers.[15]
  • Investment in biotech[16], sustainable energy[17], A.I.[18] and space-related[19] ventures is at a historic high.

 

  1. What about the poor/elderly/pollution/…(fill in the blank with a cause that addresses the world’s present problems)?

Many present-day problems need to be solved with money and/or policies. Few of us have the sort of money or power to make a real difference.

 

That being said, sustainable energy ventures like Solar City can solve some of these present-day problems, in a sustainable manner too. Unlike charity work, these ventures could truly benefit from your specific talent.

 

We should also take into consideration the fact that there are many people tackling those problems already and relatively none addressing our future. Are we saying people living today are more important than future generations?

 

  1. What about working for Snapchat/Groupon/…(fill in the blank with a useless start-up that creates no real value and solves no real problem)?

What about it? The future doesn’t care.

 

To quote Jeff Hammerbacher, an early Facebook engineer, “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads. That sucks.”

 

  1. How can anything be more important than ensuring this miracle of Earth and consciousness survives?

We are blessed with a beautiful, bountiful planet and amongst all other species; we were the only ones blessed with consciousness. Our consciousness has enabled us to live beyond the capabilities were born with and will enable us to escape inevitable extinction.

 

Whether or not there are aliens, our planet and we, are for sure, a miracle. We should do everything we can to protect this miracle.

 

  1. Technology will be our savior (or our downfall, if we’re not careful)

To leave Earth, we need technology. Ironically, technology is also the reason we need to leave Earth.

 

Our future relies on technology but we also need to plan ahead to avoid risks that may be presented with new technology. With less powerful technologies such as fire, we could afford to learn from mistakes. Planning ahead is a better strategy for more powerful technologies like synthetic biology and artificial intelligence.

Call to action

 

Whether an invention succeeds depends on unpredictable dynamics between politics, interest groups, current events and many other factors. The chances of success can be increased the more people there are from diverse backgrounds experimenting together.

 

To heighten humanity’s chance of survival, the goal for us at Mankind is to get more people aware of, engaged with, contributing to and starting these ventures.

 

You can see on Mankind that high-tech, “future impact” companies are looking for a wide range of talent. We know you care about humanity’s future (otherwise you wouldn’t be here) so we hope you will dedicate some time and resources every now and then perhaps, even your career, to these ventures. Don’t forget to subscribe to Mankind’s newsletter to get notified whenever an opportunity relevant to you arises!

REFERENCES

 

[1] Nick Bostrom. Global Catastrophic Risks. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011.Global Priorities Project. Retrieved 23 Oct. 2016.

[2] Nick Bostrom and Anders Sandberg. “Global Catastrophic Risks Survey.” (n.d.): n. pag. Global Catastrophic Risks. Y Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford University, Jan. 2008. Retrieved 23 Oct. 2016.

[3] Andersen, Ross. “Elon Musk Puts His Case for a Multi-planet Civilisation.”Aeon Magazine. Aeon, 30 Sept. 2014. Retrieved 23 Oct. 2016.

[4] Loren Grush. “SpaceX successfully lands its sixth Falcon 9 rocket after launch”. The Verge. 14 Aug 2016. Retrieved 23 Oct. 2016.

[5] NASA. “Journey to Mars”. 8 Oct 2015. Retrieved 23 Oct. 2016.

[6] White House. “National Space Policy of the United States of America”. 28 Jun 2010. Retrieved 23 Oct. 2016.

[7] Fred Guterl. “The Race to Mars”. Discover Magazine. 22 Nov 2005. Retrieved 23 Oct. 2016.

[8] David Shiga. “Stephen Hawking calls for Moon and Mars colonies.” New Scientist. 21 April 2008. Retrieved 23 Oct. 2016.

[9] Steve Blank. “Why Facebook is Killing Silicon Valley.” 21 May 2012

[10] Accenture x United Nations Global Impact Study x Havas Media. “The Consumer Study: From Marketing to Mattering”. June 2014. Retrieved 23 Oct. 2016.

[11] Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing. “Sustainable Reality.” March 2015. Retrieved 23 Oct. 2016.

[12] Jon Favreau. “Elon Musk The 2010 TIME 100.” TIME Magazine. 29 April 2010. Retrieved 23 Oct. 2016.

[13] Wikipedia. “List of films about outer space.” Retrieved 23 Oct. 2016.

[14] Google Trends. “Search term: Elon Musk.” Retrieved 23 Oct. 2016.

[15] The White House, Office of the Press Secretary.FACT SHEET: At White House Science Fair, President Obama Calls on this Generation of Students to Tackle the Grand Challenges of Our Time.” 13 April 2016. Retrieved 23 Oct. 2016.

[16] Anita Balakrishnan. “Biotech investing trends may be hurting innovation.” CNBC. Mar 2015. Retrieved 23 Oct. 2016.

[17] Bloomberg New Energy Finance, “Global Trends In Renewable Energy Investment.” Mar 2016. Retrieved 23 Oct. 2016.

[18] Nathan Benaich . “Investing in Artificial Intelligence.” TechCrunch. Dec 2015. Retrieved 23 Oct. 2016.

[19] The Tauri Group. “Start-Up Space”. Jan 2016. Retrieved 23 Oct. 2016.