This SOS Memo was inspired by an October 2020 six-minute video that describes how Elon Musk has quickly learned enough to transform several industries in just the past few decades. Now, the world must leverage his rare kind of "big picture" thinking toward the pursuit of a much more crucial goal -- the longterm survival of humanity.
As described in the video, he and his companies have shifted entire industries, including the transportation sector, the energy sector, the space sector -- and now they're making big strides in the AI sector with their new biotech company, Neuralink.
So how did Elon's team manage to have such an impact in so many key industries of the world? According to the video, it begins with his own learning techniques that have proven successful time and time again. In a nutshell, he describes those techniques thusly:
It is important to view life as somewhat of a semantic tree. First, make sure you understand fundamental principles, ie, the trunk and the big limbs -- before you tackle the leaves and the plethora of details; otherwise, there is nothing for all those details to hang onto.
Following that definition, the author cited two of Elon's rules of thumb:
Rule #1: Make sure you are building on a tree of knowledge.
Rule #2: As with the tree and its branches, you can't remember what you can't connect.
As I watched that six-minute video, I started thinking about another tree of knowledge as it relates to our path to understanding the big picture of sustainable existence on this planet.
My own tree of knowledge took root in the spring of 2003, when, after six months of research, I had what I later referred to as my "blinding flash of the obvious" when it suddenly became abundantly clear to me, for a host of health and environmental reasons, that...
We're eating the wrong food!
Without a doubt, our food choices on this planet are crucial to our long-term survival as a species and the good news is that we have the collective power to change them.
1. Walking away from animal-based foods is something that almost anyone in the developed world can do overnight if they so choose. Not only will they save money on food, their health is likely to improve and they will be doing some wonderful things for the environment and for the long-term future of humanity.
2. Shifting totally to a plant-based way of eating will have, by far, a more positive impact on our chances for survival than all other actions, combined, that we as individuals could make on our own.
Another crucial factor affecting our future as a species is what we refer to in our book, Outcry, as a global score-keeping system, more commonly known as the world's economy.
Our capitalistic economic system depends on the never-ending maximization of the consumption of "stuff" in a world of finite resources -- clearly an absurd system that must be replaced in the next few decades. As we move toward a sustainable score-keeping system of the future, we must keep the words of Dr. James Lovelock in mind:
So what must we do to make sure that the Earth actually improves as a result of our presence? We must change the way we keep score in this crucial game of survival.
Once we have a score-keeping system for all individuals and nations -- that answers first to the natural Earth that sustains us, our sustainability problems associated with overconsumption, overpopulation and fossil fuel usage will gradually lessen and eventually disappear.
Their decline will make way for the rapid development of an entirely new system of living on the only known planet in the universe capable of keeping us alive.
As it relates to that new system of living, this chart appears twice in our book, Outcry. It succinctly poses the question that we must answer in a manner that pleases Mother Nature.
It is important to emphasize here that this new ultra-sustainable "system" of living will never come to pass if its future is dependent upon the world's eight billion people acting independently.
Even if all of the world's humans tried as hard as they could to please Mother Nature, acting on our own, we will never even come close to living in harmony with the natural world. That's because we must have a whole new "system" of living and individuals cannot change large living systems. That can only be done by inspired nations along with a handful of globally-respected thought leaders.
But might we buy ourselves some time? Yes, and that is my sincere hope -- because, as I see it, there appears to be no movement among governments and leading thinkers and influencers -- toward the fast-track creation of a nature-first global economy.
Not only has there been no movement in that direction, there has not even been any widespread discussion. So let's start here with this greatly-simplified, three-step approach that I am envisioning -- regarding our longterm survival Building on the Elon Musk tree of knowledge concept, I call it:
A Three-Branch Tree of Knowledge for Survival
A. Food Choices. Keep in mind that on a per calorie basis, animal-based foods require over ten times as much land, water and energy as do plant-based foods.
As such, we must urgently appeal to humans everywhere to shift totally away from eating animal-based foods, including fish. The markets will respond, the dietary shift will save people lots of money, their health will improve and the cost of healthcare will rapidly decline. More importantly, this action will have a near-term positive effect on the natural environment -- with the added bonus of perhaps buying us enough time to work on the next two branches of this tree that follow.
B. Earth-friendly score-keeping system, known as the global economy. As stated earlier, the all-important, future, sustainability-focused, score-keeping system will gradually lead to a reduced human population level, radically-less consumption of stuff, total elimination of the fossil-fuel energy sector and, ultimately, the creation of an entirely new, environmentally-friendly system of living for humans.
Without a doubt, restructuring the world's economy will be no easy task -- but it will never get done if millions of us and our leaders don't start talking about the urgency of escaping the death spiral that is now being driven by our global slash and burn, capitalistic society. Two weeks ago, I wrote this SOS Memo on that topic: Musk, Magic and a Much-Needed "Conversation"
C. Carbon Capture and Storage
. Dr. Peter Wadhams
and other leading climate scientists have concluded that no matter what improvements we are able to achieve in the first two initiatives listed above, that our ultimate survival as a species also depends on capturing & storing
the greenhouse gases that we've already pumped into the atmosphere. Apparently, we have the technology required to get that done -- but we lack the leadership and funding necessary to make it happen.
How are we doing so far? Despite the unprecedented stakes in this game of life we are playing, while rapidly destroying the biosphere that keeps us alive -- not a single world leader has made the above three-bullet, ABC to-do list his or her top priority.
Not only that, hardly anyone is even talking about the horrifying dilemma in which we find ourselves.
As for the all-important tree of knowledge mentioned earlier, people everywhere are spending vast amounts of time talking about the many tree "leaves" out there -- but an extremely small minority is talking about the all-important trunk and larger limbs of that tree of knowledge.
The primary purpose of our book, Outcry was to help spark that all important global conversation, particularly among the most influential people in the world. Just imagine what would happen if the ten most famous billionaires in the USA were actively talking about the world-changing three-branch tree of knowledge list described above.
On that note, the two men in the upper left corner in the image below are now the two wealthiest people in the world -- and neither one hardly ever mentions our declining chances of survival as a species. Having said that, I am highly confident that were they to join forces to leverage that three-branch tree of knowledge cited above -- that they would give our species a fighting chance at survival.
You may not be a fan of all ten of the well-known American billionaires shown here, but you will agree that if they were out there talking about that three-branch tree of knowledge above, that the entire world would soon know about it.
And, when that happens, we will be a whole lot closer to slowing down the runaway freight train known as our modern, yet grossly unsustainable, civilization.
The Bottom Line. We simply must start talking about the most important topic in the history of humanity. Most of us stay busy dealing with the relatively trivial aspects of human life here on Earth.
That said, for the sake of the innocent children who follow us, the disastrous mess that our generation created will not go away if we don't urgently begin addressing it NOW! My question is simply...
When in the hell are we going to
even start talking about it?
As for helping to spark a global conversation about what a sustainable future civilization might look like, perhaps you might consider recommending our book, Outcry
, to others.
For a host of environmental reasons, it is only available as an e-book on Amazon. As such, it contains hyperlinks to hundreds of references and videos, is less expensive, does not kill any trees and does not have to be manufactured and delivered.
Want to save over $1,000 this holiday season? Instead of giving stuff that they don't need to everyone on your list -- consider giving each of them an e-copy of Outcry and explain why you are taking that action in an e-greeting card. You can also let them know that the lead author of that book will be happy to conduct a private ZOOM call with their group -- for FREE.
In closing, here is another link to that six-minute video mentioned in the opening paragraph of this SOS Memo.
Elon Musk's Two Rules for Learning Anything Faster
J. Morris (Jim) Hicks
PS: I continue to search for mainstream audiences who may have an interest in learning more about a realistically hopeful vision for our future - and their role in making that vision come true.
My first blog on the crucial topic of totally reinventing our civilization was posted 9-21-18 and heads the list below. It was all about GRATOLA, an acronym that refers to the "green region" corridor running from Atlanta to Los Angeles.
Since then, I have posted almost 100 additional pieces on that topic, including this one on 9-4-19 in which I introduced the GBN (Great Big Northern) -- one 25-mile wide corridor along the USA's northernmost border that would theoretically be capable of sustainably housing ALL 300+ million Americans in an area the size of Oregon.