Pathways to Human and Planetary Thriving

Long Now Boston FLASH TALKS 2020.

On January 6, 02020, five Long Now Boston members shared their ideas for improving the long term future for planet earth and the human civilization that inhabits it.  In one way or another, all five speakers touched on the importance of working together towards outcomes that better match our human values and aspirations.   The top vote-getter for the night was Ye Tao of Harvard’s Rowland Institute for his presentation on Mirrors for Earth’s Energy Rebalancing (MEER:ReflEction).  Long Now Boston Board Member George Gantz (ineligible for votes) concluded the event with a presentation on Empathy: The Secret Sauce for Human Thriving.

Climate Change Solutions

Ye Tao highlighted the imperative of climate change, noting that immediately ending carbon dioxide emissions is both insufficient and economically impossible. Addressing the complex issue requires simultaneously solving five individually challenging problems: (1) planetary overheating, (2) energy, (3) ocean acidification, (4) positive climate feedbacks, and (5) food security.  MEER:ReflEction is a grand, versatile, and comprehensive engineering project that would address these threats.  By deploying aluminum thin film coated glass mirror arrays we could efficiently achieve dynamic control of surface albedo and increase renewable energy production.  The approach could support atmospheric carbon dioxide drawdown (through ocean liming), photochemical removal of atmospheric methane and nitrous oxide, and eventual geographic restructuring of agricultural primary production.  MEER:ReflEction optimizes the chances for human and planetary survival beyond the coming decades.


George Gantz pointed out that while evolution has historically been characterized as “survival of the fittest,” modern science has demonstrated this notion is false.  Evolutionary success is a function of mutual interdependence and collaboration. From the remarkable behaviors of slime mold, the sophisticated engineering of cathedral termites, the magnificent swirling patterns of bird murmurations and the interdependencies of healthy ecosystems, the successful adaptations are the ones that maximize mutual benefit.  Humans are the most collaborative and interdependent of species.  Humans created the collaborative enterprise of modern science, they inhabit complex and highly networked cities and, like termites, they build magnificent cathedrals.  In small groups facing adversity, empathic leadership can mean the difference between thriving and dying.  Trust, cooperation, mutual support, empathy and love — these are the secret sauce for human thriving.  We all need to promote human empathy to ensure human thriving – in our individual behaviors and by incentivizing our institutions to reward these virtues.

The TAO of DAO

Nathan Towianski envisions a work environment characterized by decentralized autonomous organizations (“DAOs”) that offer the creativity, flexibility and resilience to optimize human value creation.  As humans continue to move from the role of muscle, to operators, to designers, to decision-makers, the value we create will be in the choices and values we select.  Conventional business systems that maximize financial value by building moats will fade.  These will be replaced with online groups creating things, new tools, data collectives, and component libraries that enable scaling up of decentralized systems of production.  Ultimately, such systems will enable transaction processing through distributed ledgers and will vastly lower existing transactional friction.


Fredo Darling called on us to imagine a world where people in STEM dominate the celebrity landscape – a world where funding is limitless, politics and policy are science driven, global diversity in STEM is meaningfully achieved, and children dream of working in a STEM field and science denial is a thing of the past. He maintained this future is not an idealistic fantasy, but an inevitable reality of emerging opportunities in Science Communications.  Applying fundamental marketing principles and the latest research, scientists can reach and inspire a much broader audience and achieve more positive benefits.  

Tribalism to Utopia

Robin Harper challenged us to resist the dark instincts of our tribal conditioning and create a movement toward utopia.   The world today is worse than you think, and the causes of the problems we have created are known – human tribal behaviors including conformity, greed, aggression and narcissism.   We need to expose these and inspire a mass movement toward utopia.  This will include a UN that prevents oppressive governments & dangerous militaries, a media that provides quick factual references and infographics, transparency in governance, and technological solutions to climate and ecological crises.  In short – we need to start a “revolution” following the guidance in WikiHow.

After the talks, a lively Q&A session ensued:


Speaker BIOs:

Ye Tao is a Fellow at the Rowland Institute at Harvard.  He directs a laboratory that conducts multi-scale engineering and scientific investigations to tackle the world’s most important and challenging problems, including building an atomic-resolution MRI microscope and solving climate change.

George Gantz is a writer, philosopher, retired business executive and grandfather of eight, with a lifelong passion for mathematics, science, philosophy and theology. He has a Bachelor of Science degree with Honors Humanities from Stanford University and has published a number of essays, including The Tip of The Spear (4th place, 2014 FQXi essay contest) and The Empirical Standard of Knowing – Faith Misplaced (winner, 2016 IRAS Shapley-Booth fellowship). George publishes he online Journal Spiral Inquiry ( and volunteers with Long Now Boston, curating speakers for the monthly conversation series.  He is a Fellow of the RSA.

Nathan Towianski is a Business Consultant working on Distributed Autonomous Organizations and collaborative business models and software.

Fredo Darling has been in love with science and history for most of his life. Professionally, he has worked in media and communications as a creative director and freelance media producer for the past 8 years with clients including Mass General Hospital, The New England Patriots, BMW, Aprex Biotech, and Boston College. He is currently launching a new, STEM-focused media company to promote the incredible people and fascinating projects in STEM.

Robin Harper’s life goal is to make humanity’s tribal nature so widely understood that we finally make the planet sufficiently safe and stable, so that any existing ETs coming on vacation will marvel at the most thriving and diverse plants, animals, and landscapes in the galaxy, and feel relieved that they will not need to exterminate us to protect other living planets.  Robin has a Bachelor’s degree in science and is an electronic technician in automated testing, an electrical engineer in image analysis, a technical writer in analytical instruments and robotic systems, a member of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society since 1992, a Mensa member previously, a  writer for a seniors’ support nonprofit,  a tele-fundraiser for liberal and environmental groups and a researcher and infographic writer on human nature, health, and politics.

See the original event listing.

Long Now Boston is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is independent from but philosophically aligned with the Long Now Foundation.  Long Now Boston provides a forum for discussing, investigating and engaging in issues that have long-term implications for our global cultures.  Long Now Boston hosts a monthly Community Conversation series in Cambridge, MA.   Please sign up on our website for notices.

Cambridge Innovation Center is an in-kind sponsor of this Long Now Boston conversation. We are very grateful for their support.

Our next event, on February 3, 02020, is on Conscious Capitalism: A Radical Transformation of Business Culture.  Professor Raj Sisodia will review the history of capitalism and its challenges and explore the concept of “conscious capitalism” focused on higher purpose, long-term thinking and collaborative, enduring and empathic relationships among all stakeholders.  Tickets are available on Eventbrite.

Rajendra Sisodia, PhD, is the F.W. Olin Distinguished Professor of Global Business at Babson College and author of Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business (2014, with John Mackey, founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market), and The Healing Organization: Awakening the Conscience of Business to Help Save the World (2019, with Michael Gelb), as well as nine other books. He is co-founder and co-chairman of Conscious Capitalism Inc.

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