Technology can still be a great force good in the world—in fact, technology is the only real mechanism we have to solve the biggest problems that humanity faces today. There are of course technology’s many detractors, and rightly so. Technologies have downsides, misused applications, and negative externalities—but overall, they are not just positive-sum, they are the only solutions we have.
There are pessimists today, some even well-educated and very serious people, who believe the only way to solve the climate crisis is to turn back history's clock, to return to some sort of pre-industrial version of a lower technology society. These techno-pessimists are the new Luddites of the digital economy.
The techno-pessimist Luddites believe that, in order to effectively combat CO2 emissions, all of humankind soon needs begin undergoing enormous personal sacrifices. This idea—that humans must live lesser lives than they otherwise would; that we must all undergo a new regimen of techno-austerity, free of long-distance travel or the occasional consumer excesses—is a misplaced idea, and one that entrepreneurs must actively fight back against.
The Only Realistic Way Towards A Better Future Is Forward
The the techno-pessimists are flat wrong. The truth is that making serious progress towards solving the climate crisis by 2030 will never come in the form of going back to pre-industrial lifestyles: it will only come through inventing and commercializing carbon-neutral and carbon-negative technologies.
This tech will make human lives much richer, not poorer. There is no going backwards—believe it or not, the Anthropocene has already arrived. The responsibility to build a better world for humanity’s future is ours alone.
The Pessimists and Luddites alike stand feckless against the tides of a changing climate. The pessimist critics of business at large that speak flippantly about ”late stage capitalism,” just like whoever coined “Gen Z,” all seem to assume we now live in the end of times, that economies are sure to collapse momentarily under the strain of our multitude of impending crises. But year after year the apocalypse predictors are wrong, just as they’ve always been.
Perceived as oddly contrarian for such a straightforward idea, “limitless growth” itself is not an impossibility in a carbon-neutral and largely digital economy. After all, new market capitalization is increasingly found in the digital and intangible assets rather than the physical and tangible assets of the new global economy.
And while the economy is certainly nowhere near carbon-neutral yet, and huge strides in innovation must be made to move the world in positive dirction, most new economic value is also not being created through activities anywhere near as dirty as coal mining or oil drilling. The future economy will be a better, cleaner, and fairer one.
Just think about all the progress already made in the modern economy: the jobs of even the most mundane among "knowledge workers" in today’s current digital economy, would be largely unrecognizable as work at all a mere three(ish) generations ago! Sitting at a desk, pressing some keyboard buttons, thinking, getting up to go talk to someone, sitting back down and thinking and typing: This isn't the type of "work" that most of our grandparents' jobs entailed, yet it is the way that new value is created in the emerging knowledge economy.
There will be new and interesting jobs in the not-too-distant future that only the new visionary “job creator” entrepreneur can even see today. Entrepreneurs are the ones who see a clear vision of the future that others cannot, and then enact that future step-by-step into reality. The innovators of today are the only ones who will catalyze the building of the future that humanity needs and deserves.
Even when the world looks bleak, and the challenges we face are enormous, pessimism is not a mindset well-suited for social entrepreneurs: impact founders are pragmatists by definition.
Having recently celebrated 10 years as a company, the Founder Institute is pledging in 2020 to build impact startups around the world that will help solve the world’s greatest challenges. Known globally as the world’s largest pre-seed startup accelerator, the Founder Institute’s structured business-building process will now include a new framework for measuring and scaling social and environmental impact, by addressing the challenges laid out as sub-goals of the UN’s 17 SDGs.
The good news is that, today, impact entrepreneurs don’t have to make the journey alone. Over the next few months, Founder Institute will be bringing you more content from leading social entrepreneur and impact startup experts, focusing on:
- Best practices for how to effectively create and quantify social and environmental impact, and how to develop impact KPIs that serve as meaningful metrics and storytelling narratives, to build team culture and help close investors
- How even non-technical founders can leverage open innovation trends across the global startup ecosystem, to bring meaningful and disruptive businesses into the world, even in unexpected markets
- How social entrepreneurs can build a ‘currency of belief’ around them, through deliberately cultivating support networks that shepherd success forward, funding and realizing social impact startup growth
If you’re an entrepreneur building a social or environmental impact company to address a global challenge, join us and apply to the Founder Institute today.
Founder Institute portfolio companies are creating positive social and environmental impact around the world, using structured processes to define impact KPIs that scale sustainably with their business. Read the most recent featured reports on our impact companies at FI.co/good, or learn about the Founder Institute's own global impact at FI.co/impact.