NANCY’S BLOG: What Bold Looks Like.

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These past few weeks I’ve spent an unusually large amount of time deconstructing what it takes to create and champion world changing ideas that, as Melissa Waggener describes, advance human progress. While it’s tempting to talk a lot about the fear of risk and incumbent structures that seem to swallow up really big ideas, we’ll use our spotlight to shine on ideas that don’t seem possible, yet somehow are.

And we offer you a “two-fer” by synthesizing two weeks of Cultural Acupuncture posts that celebrate what it takes to execute bold ideas that change what be believe (and believe in). And that in particular, address a looming social issue: how we age.

Can you imagine…

What do Gif-iti artist INSA and Austen Heinz of Cambrian Genomics seem to have in common? On that list must be some kind of visionary capacity to blow right through what we’ve all assumed to be the boundaries of space and time. Check this out:

How would you like to laser print your DNA and use it to modify your genetic sequencing to eliminate all genetic predispositions to disease, to create new life forms, to enhance your intelligence and your physical abilities …and more? (!!!) 

And this isn’t just sci-fi for billionaires, though even a year ago it would have cost $2 billion to recreate what Cambrian Genomics has now developed for a fraction of the cost, effectively democratizing the technology to make it available to everyone. Austen Heinz believes that eventually we’ll all be designed this way: using a computer and vast knowledge of genome sequencing to craft the ultimate human (ourselves or another)—or living anything.

That certainly raises a long list of provocative ethics questions, and makes us also wonder if this points to the end of all spontaneity in being human?

Gratefully, no matter how biologically perfect we all could potentially be, there will still be ambitious stunts that catch us by surprise. Take the collaboration between Gif-Iti artist INSA and Scottish drinks company Ballantines. As part of their ‘Stay True’ campaign, which celebrates men and women that stay true to themselves and leave an impression on everything they do and everyone they meet, Ballantines commissioned INSA to paint the world’s biggest Gif-iti (paradoxically, street art that can only be viewed online). So big in fact, it can be seen from space and was filmed by negotiating with a commercial satellite company to capture the artwork—which required painting four images over four days, using 576 hours of manpower over 57,515 square meters—which he then turned into a one second gif, that repeats infinitely.

Bold? Check!

The end of aging… or just really long lives?

Where else should we be appling bold ingenuity? Consider this: in the not too distant future, an aging demographic of those over 60 will account for more people on the planet than the number of children under five. The current count is at 868 million in 2014, and is expected to exceed 2.2 billion by 2050. By that time, the US Census Bureau forecasts that one in five Americans will be 65 or older, with 400,000 over the age of 100.

N4A and a variety of local government interest groups conducted research finding that less than half of the 10,000 U.S. cities and counties surveyed in 2011 had even begun planning for an aging population. With use of transportation by the older generation on the increase (40% by 2010), and a rising housing cost burden, there is an urgent need to create new civic models for the elderly. Many of this new (largest) generation will continue to work past the traditional retirement age and expect to pursue an active lifestyle, making catering to their needs a necessity.

“In designing the organizations of the future, the private sector — with appropriate public-policy support — should anticipate, rather than passively await, this trend toward longer lifespans and older employees. While some adaptations lie on the more distant horizon, others can be undertaken right now, to the benefit of both younger and older employees — and of the company itself.”—David Bloom, HBR

Agreed.

Encouragingly, for many of us, the potential exists to actually getting stronger as we age. Getting older no longer means an inevitable decline as a booming bio-science market (and polarizing incomes) fuels longevity as a lifestyle choice. The near future holds the promise of genetic treatments that cure diseases rooted in our DNA, as well as diagnostic machines that travel through us, or remain inside us. There will be nano-machines that repair at the cellular level and neurochemistry that can slow or stop the biological clock as it relates to brain function.

Dave Asprey, (Founder & CEO of The Bulletproof Executive) who joined our Wonder dinner last SXSW, is an interesting example of someone successfully biohacking his own body. Having spent between $250-300K and 15 years practicing, he has discovered how to achieve a “state of high performance where you take control of and improve your biochemistry, your body, and your mind so they work in unison, helping you execute at levels far beyond what you’d expect, without burning out, getting sick, or allowing stress to control your decisions. It used to take a lifetime to radically rewire the human body and mind this way, if you were lucky enough to even know it was possible. Technology has changed the rules.”

On the flipside, Robert Freitas, author of several volumes of Nanomedicine, states that nanoscience is already producing bio-robots. “Hybrid robots built from engineered structural DNA, synthetic proteins, and other non-biological materials are expected to emerge in the 2020′s. Finally, by early 2030′s or before, researchers will construct completely artificial devices; nanorobots guided by computed software, capable of protecting every cell in the body from disease and injury.”

There is little doubt these bold advancements will help at least some of us to live longer, but will we prosper?

Transhumanism And Beyond.

In the future, instead of age representing the inevitable, it’s quite possible that grey hair, hipster glasses and “laugh lines” will be seen as a marker for poverty or laziness, which in turn is fueling medical and healthcare innovations. According to the Institute for Emerging Ethics and Technology, “In just two decades seniors and Boomers might look in the mirror to reveal a perfectly shaped body with natural hair color, wrinkle-free skin, real teeth, perfect vision, and a mind and memory with capabilities beyond our wildest expectations.

While this aesthetic “ideal” may seem farfetched at this point, one could argue an age of transhumanism (beyond human) is already upon us when you consider the current biofusion of technology with humans that is happening now, allowing us to transcend all kinds of physical limitations: the dead live via saline-cooling suspended animation; the handicapped walk via exoskeleton technology; and the deaf hear via brain microchip implants. Cyborg Anthropologist Amber Case believes we are all a form of our cyborg selves right now as we rely on “external brains” (cell phones and computers) to communicate, remember, even live out secondary lives.

Will this ultimately lead to us being able to cheat death? What questions does this raise for a future in which aging slows dramatically and people live longer? If a pill showed up on drugstore shelves that was proven to reverse all signs of aging would you take it? If you were given the option at death to swap bodies for a new and improved version would you do it?

Building better bodies…and better blocks

While we wait for a future in which we never age, what can be done to make our lives and neighborhoods better today?

The “Better Block” project started in 2010 in Dallas as a local movement championed by Jason Roberts with a bold vision to reinvigorate his urban neighborhood. Four years later the idea is being replicated all around the world. Described as “a demonstration tool that rebuilds an area using grassroots efforts to show the potential to create a great walkable, vibrant neighborhood center,” the project brings together communities to actively engage in staging streets, to show the “potential for revitalized economic activity in an area.” Yep, he and his partners repaint storefront windows to conjure up vibrant businesses inside, haul in trees to line temporary sidewalks cafes, paint crosswalks that lead to imaginary theaters and more.

More than just a pop-up exercise, the ‘performances’ effectively demonstrate how streets––and all the businesses and experiences on them––can be transformed, which in turn is convincing civic leaders to implement infrastructure and policy changes that allow these projects to become real, often overcoming legislative and cultural hurdles that have stymied progress for decades. While many ambitious successes to his credit––including getting $43M in railway funding––an uber-energic Jason describes in 3 min exactly how you have to break the law to build a better neighbohood. In his 2012 TEDxAustin talk, he offered this bold advice: blackmail yourself: set an intention and publicly announce a reality (even if it doesn’t yet exist); it’s amazing what starts to happen.

Making BOLD accessible to the rest of us

You can imagine our smile as we chose ‘bold’ as our theme for this week, and then learned of the latest book launch by Steven Kotler & Peter Diamandis, aptly titled exactly that! We’ve mentioned Steven and his involvement in the Flow Genome Project several times, but he’s also a New York Times best-selling author and award-winning journalist. Eric Schmidt of, Exec Chairman of Google describes BOLD, their second book together, this way: “Abundance showed us where our world can be in 20 years. BOLD is a roadmap for entrepreneurs to help us get there.”

If you pre-order a copy now, Peter will load you up with freebies, including a one hour webinar with these guys and an audio copy of Abundance – a very optimistic view of the future that will get you revved up to make a billion by helping a billion.”

Playing oh so big!

We wish you an energetic and brave new week. A few days ago I shared this video at the close of a talk to a group of leaders from around the world; radical transformation and bold innovation seem the work of others––until you see this :46 second reminder from Steve Jobs that at it’s core, the boldest thing on the planet is the potential in each of us.

Xo.

Nancy (and Emma)

Stories we pinpointed these past two weeks:

The Need For Societies To Prepare For An Anti-Aging Boom

Bio-robots Biohacking Your Way To Longevity

“Silver Tsunami To Golden Dividends.”

Laser Printing Your DNA To Become The Ultimate Human

Transhumanism And Beyond

How Art And Business Merged To Create The World’s Largest Gif-iti 

Better Blocks Is Transforming Neighborhoods Everywhere

BOLD Will Help You Change The World

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NANCY GIORDANO 

Founder | Brand Futurist

Play Big Inc: Inspired guides to the new economy

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TEDxAustin | TEDxYouth@ Austin 


EMMA PEZZACK 

Cultural Synthesist | Content Director

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JEFF SHARPE

Design Instigator | Experience Architect 

email: jeffrey@playbiginc.com