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Sci-Fi Economics

Image: Flickr/Nasa Marshall Space Flight Center (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Image: Flickr/Nasa Marshall Space Flight Center (CC BY-NC 2.0)

This post is part of our ongoing newsletter series. To read more, visit the newsletter archive

$2.9 trillion. If you guessed “GDP of France,” you weren’t far off, but not correct. That’s the total market cap of Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft, as of mid-May 2017, according to Alexis Madrigal in his first piece on return to The Atlantic. Granted, this number is less a solid economic measure and more the momentary temperature of collective market fever dreams, but it gives a sense of just how enormous the value of what these five organization control, now or in a probably future. This is not strictly ad money or merchandise sales being counted — its also in part the notional perception that each of these companies will control to some measure a critical piece of both physical and digital infrastructure of the world we will live in.

If you thought seat licenses were lucrative in the 1990s, wait until its city blocks in the 2020s. All are becoming increasingly embedded in physical systems, supply chains, mobility platforms and the architecture of data that makes these and other elements of the real world. One had only to notice how many seemingly incidental displays were malfunctioning in and around mass transit systems during the recent WannaCry ransomware outbreak to get a sense of where these companies systems are entwined with delivery of public conveniences. AWS, WhatsApp, Gmail and Facebook Messenger are now the mission critical sinews of the modern world. But you knew this.

The sci-fi economics piece comes in when the products, services and standards of these and other, newer organizations, like the mad Musk chaebol made up of Tesla, Solar City, the new Boring Company and surely others, begin to truly realize the value of controlling — or controlling access to — assets at global, or superglobal scale. Think operating systems for mass mobility. Think the next generation of resource systems. Think also about seizing IP at gene level as well, in the microscales where CRISPR entrepreneurs will operate. Who will run the services that bring the first asteroid-born precious metals back to Earth? Who will patent pay-per-cell business models? Follow the infrastructure to find the installs. The sums will be on an order of magnitude that makes selling databases pale in comparison. This is why those database billionaires like to put hardware on streets and in skies so much. They know.

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Post-citizenship Futures on Malta

In February we blogged about an upcoming workshop with Time's Up around post-citizenship futures in Malta. Time has flown, and our time in Malta is now sadly in the rear-view mirror. Fortunately, our friends at TU caught the three relaxed, informal, but focused days of learning, brainstorming, scenario creation and prototyping on video. We're looking forward to some of this material becoming part of an exhibition in the near future.

Thanks again to everyone who took one day or the full three out of their work to spend it with us, including some from London, and many great folks from across Malta.

Enjoy! 

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Dubai Future Design

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I recently recapped the inaugural session of the Future Design Diploma course Changeist created and is delivering throughout 2017 at the Dubai Future Academy. We are currently in the midst of our second of five two-week courses, each with a different professional cohort participating. Each comes with its own interesting mix of issues, perspectives on challenges facing Dubai and those who live here. We aim to build capacity to apply futures methods and mindsets here, and to learn more about the different views, hopes and fears for the future felt here. 

An excerpt: 

"Every society sees plausiblepreferable and possible differently, and defines preferable based on different values—deeply cultural as well as contemporary. There are unique challenges to discussing and framing futures in a setting where massive new building projects emerge from the desert almost overnight, infrastructure and services seen elsewhere as aspirational, get tested and deployed in reality, yet existential risks of climate change and global instability loom. Future timelines are compressed, distant horizons come rushing at you, and the givens one can assume are different when clear markers of progress are frequently placed ahead in major market sectors. The task then, is to balance what’s planned with substantial external uncertainties in a turbulent world, as well as the implications of internal change in a country that has gone from a trading outpost to global hub in less than one adult lifetime."

To learn more, check the Academy link above. 

 

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