Eco-Singularity is near. Solutions (III)

Three posts about ecological singularity and the avalanche of change

The Eco-Singularity is near. Preface (I) – … Definition (II) – … Solutions (III)


Eco-Singularity – core concept, strengths and challenges

In part II a first approach has been accomplished to define the concept of “eco-singularity”:

Eco-Singularity definition (from Part II)

Eco-Singularity is the event, when our (growing) capacity to solve the totality of anthropogenic problems is superseded by the volume of the (growing) totality of anthropogenic problems. (Part II)

The definition’s strength is that it meets the intuition, that there is a race between the problem elements of the system (total biosphere) and the solution elements of the system (total biosphere). There are some challenges of the concept – find more about it in the appendix beneath.

The two avalanches: Can the "solution system" catch the expanding "problem system"?


Scenarios and insights: Will we have the innovation avalanche we need to survive our own technology?

I will unfold the main scenarios in some future post. For the moment the most important insight is, that there is a high uncertainty concerning the “innovation race of mankind”. Some more insights in no special order:

  1. Industrialization 1.0: With the global spreading of technology and industrial production the consumtion of natural ressources is growing and environmental pollution is increasing – as everyone knows.
  2. Industrialization 2.0: We find the secondary technologies to avoid unwanted effects nearly everywhere on the globe: filter technologies to avoid emissions, sewage plants to keep the water clean, recycling infrastructure etc.
  3. Only deeds count: The extent of neutralization clearly is dependent on the technology, innovation generation, effectiveness and especially the actual application of the technology.

The two avalanches: Problem system and solution system interacting

  1. Dynamic picture: There is a race of the two avalanches – and this is a more complex picture than thinking about the “limits of growth”. “Limit thinking” is right to point to the fundamental fact, that the planet’s material ressources are … limited.
  2. Do not underscore the innovation factor: We are part of a naturally limited system, right. But technological innovations of all kind can shift the limits dramatically. E.g. when re-cycling valuable ressources, what is done routinely, the same atoms can be used again and again. It is a different question, whether this is done to an adequate extent and whether it is possible in a energy- and cost-efficient way.
  3. Disruptive innovations are needed: With China, India, Russia and Brazil (the socalled BRIC nations) increasing their metabolism with nature we find that the Industrialization 2.0 standard efforts are not capable to compensate for the “problem input” to the biosphere. The resistance to some (rather weak) CO2 treaty is a good indicator of the mismatch. Probably we need disruptive innovations to reach the goals. We then might come back to some sustainable metatboilism with our biosphere – if it is possible anyway.

The message: Think innovativeness beyond technological innovation!

If you realize the trouble we are in, you might be a bit discouraged. Everyday some 130 species are extinct for ever – this is 1.000 times more than the natural extinction rate, i.e. 100.000%. Every acre of land which is deforested, will cost us so much more to re-forest … and so on.

But there is reason for hope: The creativity of the human being and the human culture is incredibly huge! Today we see the investments of hundreds of billions in the technological sector of innovation. We have to seriously add other sectors of innovation:

Viable path: How to respond to the urgent global challenges? We have to combine technologocical ingeniousity with social, political and economical innovations.

  • Social innovation: New ways of working, sustainable lifestyle, happiness driven “social layout”
  • Political innovation: New ways of opinion-forming, decision making, politcal representation
  • Economical innovation: New sustainable business models, new ways to create value chains

If you look around you will find a lot of signals and drivers of change.

Together with convergent innovative technological solutions we might be witness of the birth of some new socio-economical “blueprint” leading to global sustainable society – before selfmade “eco-singularity” is winning against ourself.

Update! 2010-11-02 – Thank you very much Ralf!

There are more and more people, who  understand the core problem. Yesterday somehow marginalized by the “leaders”, today they are literaly entering the stage: E.g. Leaders listening to thoughtleader Otto Scharmer at World Economic Forum, China 2010

Thank you very much Ralf (@RalfLippold: MIT Passionist, BMW Leipzig Fellow, System Dynamicst, Boundary Spanner, Visionary, Helper, you gave an absolutlely great link in your comment!
Most of the readers might want to skip the beginning of the video and start with the ideas of Scharmer. Just go to minute 8:00 and enjoy the perspecitves of Otto Scharmer: the world needs macro-innovation, a 4th coordination mechanism, a new type of attitude, thinking and leadership: We have to enable awareness based collective action. And trust as the enabler!
I completely agree. Great to see that convergence in analysis and conclusions. We just need to adjust our common sense a bit and open our eyes – the cognitive ingredients have not to be invented, actually they are in the making. I really recommend to view the video!

Update: Great, here is the embeddable version of the video (skip to the 8th minute for Scharmer):


Update! 2010-11-04 – Wolff Horbach (Business Blog has done an interwiew

Wolff Horbach (Business Blog asked me about my analyses and theses, thanks a lot!

Wolff Horbach helps people and enterprises to understand the dynamics of … happiness, Everyone wants it, nobody really knows and understands it. Isn’t it a goal and a ressource at the same time? He has writen a book too (German), find more about it here: Faktor G – Glückliche Mitarbeiter. Glückliche Kunden. Glückliche Unternehmen.



Challenges of the eco-singularity concept (in the perspective of hard science)

The definition’s weakness partly lies in the “limits of measurement”: How to measure “problem volumes” and “solution capacity”? There is a overwhelming complexity in both parameters. We have intuitions that a problem A (having cancer) is “bigger” than a problem B (having cought a cold), and that a solution A (teaching safe driving) has more capacity than a solution B (teaching to avoid traffic controls). This means that some “soft” metrics should be possible. There is a first list of complexity issues:

  • (a) the vast amount of options,
  • (b) causal interdependency of choices (combining two optima sometimes leads to a suboptimal global solution),
  • (c) value dependency (the moral value coordinates determine the rating and ranking of problems and solutions)
  • (d) self-referentiality and non-linearities

There might be some more intricacies, but we can set all this aside for the moment since the concept at first is useful to understand the “big picture” of global technological history. It will be useful as a kind of world view or cognitive tool even if  the details of the defining features have to be worked out.


Minor updates

  • 2010-11-01 Some minor changes in spelling, hyperlinking some words. adding second graphics
  • 2010-11-04 linking the three posts


Three posts about ecological singularity and the avalanche of change

The Eco-Singularity is near. Preface (I) – … Definition (II) – … Solutions (III)

About WS

foresight expert, technology analyst, strategy consultant, speaker, facilitator

8 responses to “Eco-Singularity is near. Solutions (III)”

  1. RalfLippold says :


    Thanks a lot for bringing the idea of singularity into the social field. It’s reminding me of where I lived for decades, close to fertile rural area. Without having the right ground earth the farmer can’t plant anything with success.

    What’s necessary to set up first is the foundation from where the points you proposed (technology, social, economic innovations) can be grown on.

    If the ground is wrecked and not fertile all effort to plant seeds will have no success at all.

    What is it that make the ground fertile?

    In my opinion it is the missing trust in the world around us. When have you trusted a stranger to give him or her your car, your house, your computer to share?

    There are certainly people who have larger level of trust and think of the good in people. Over the years, with moving into other cultures (Canada, USA, Greece, Spain, Italiy, etc.) and practicing home exchange with my family for decades I have to say these experience have driven me into trusting people in the first place. Assuming no bad attitude at first sight. Sharing my thoughts, cars, house with people I (almost) don’t know.

    And yet this has been -not destroyed- but rather shown a different face of reality while working for a large automotive OEM. Some people (strangely a larger proportion than I had experienced in my life before) acted exactly in the diverse way: grab the info and the good that I gave away (freely) and then use it explicitly as if it was their own.

    And this has happened not only to friends as well but lots of colleagues – who then shut off their trust ability towards other people.

    Is the in-transparency of seeing the “hidden agenda” that someone is taking due to the overload of information and more and more complex inchanges of social and human actions?

    I wonder and am quite positive that there are people around (in the world, not necessary close to you in space) that you can trust on to start making the ground fertile for the larger planting session (of innovation) to come.

    OttoScharmer and others have given interesting insight during the WEF China in September this year,

    Trust as the enabler for change to make the world a better place :-)

    • WS says :

      Thank you very much Ralf! See my great appreciation for the hint in the update. It is a pity that the embedding of the video did not work (, but the link does!

  2. RalfLippold says :

    Hi Willi,

    Thanks a lot for your appreciative embedding of my hints :-)

    Reading into 1985 “Innovation and Entrepreneurship” by PeterDrucker makes me wonder whether the human society is losing collective knowledge on its way into the future.

    Everything you, me and others talk about is already well said decades (or even centuries, have a look at Goethe’s work) ago.

    Is it a kind of self-made constraint, putting knowledge away in areas where nobody can grasp it? The general public gets only the short stated end-line event and outcome?

    In this area is in my opinion the big chance for the future – making the knowledge of individuals public and weave it together (via some sort of into a bold and global serving knowledge fund.

    Of course this would me that certain stakeholders of today’s business, political and lobbyist world will step down a few steps from their stairs for a while enabling the larger crowd to initiate the first step to co-create the future that will give more to everybody (also the holding back stakeholders) in a little while.

    What do you think?

    I have not gone to Berlin today to the Entrepreneurship Summit and await the singulatarian approach towards Entrepreneurship 2.0 (via Livestream, interactive chat and serendipity via Facebook and other means of communication). Stay and enjoy local, communicate global, think collectively :-)

    Best regards, Ralf

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