Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

You don't need me to tell you that 'indigenous' doesn't mean anything any more. We're all global citizens these days and national governments don't really matter. We're all free to live anywhere and it's not cool to cling to an ancient identity just because of who your parents were or where they came from. But I'm glad to see that many people today are adopting cultures through the World Heritage Cultural Diversity Project. It still amazes me that today people will sign ten year contracts with Cultural Guilds and commit time and money to preserving arts, perspectives, and knowledge from around the world. When I was young, people followed football teams. Now they join global nations.

Fifty years ago, very few people cared about the skills of the Polynesian Navigators and preservation was the job of a few enthusiasts with obscure academic grants. I couldn't imagine then that there would ever be ten thousand people criss-crossing the Pacific Ocean at any given time. It doesn't matter that we come from all corners of the world, today we're all navigators and that's all that matters. I'm thoroughly enjoying my new heritage, and glad I picked something adventurous. Can you believe I nearly chose Icelandic?

As my first 100th birthday approaches, I can't help appreciating that when I was born in 1966 my life expectancy was a little over 71 years. People were born, got educated, found a job, worked hard, got married and raised kids, and retired at the age of 65 with the expectation of having a few years more during which their health would fade until they died.

This was the assumption which governed my early life, but fortunately for me I was a bit too rebellious (stupid) to get suckered into 'the machine' and instead I found myself wandering the Earth having adventures and promising that I would settle down some time in the future. And when the future arrived, I had realised somethig wonderful.

Things never work out the way you expect them to!

It's an amazing perspective to have, and one which people seem to have lost these days even though the pace of change is astonishingly fast. Variations on Moore's Law mean that our abilities continue to grow exponentially, but still I see people planning for tomorrow as if it will be the same as today. Don't you young people learn from history?

Dring the first five years of the Human Genome Project, only five percent was completed. Five years later, it was 90% done to 90% accuracy. And in only thirteen years, 99% was complete to 99.99% accuracy - two years ahead of schedule and a lot more cheaply than anticipated. As our abilities grow and costs come down, all our planning goes out of the window.

When I was born, heart transplant patients were lucky to get an extra year of life. By the time I joined the first Evoke, back in 2010, they could add decades to a life and researchers were starting to grow the first artificial organs for implantation into patients. Today they're commonplace, and nobody expects me to die any time soon. My life expectancy has gone from 71 in 1966, to 80 in 2010, to 120 today in 2066. And by the time I reach 120, they'll have fixed the next set of problems and I'll be planning my next career.

I pity my friends who made their retirement plans on the assumption they would die at 80. It's lucky for me I saw the light fifty years ago and started to rethink my long-term strategy. I do hope that you young people will do the same and avoid the trap that many of your grandparents fell into.

The key is to build wealth for tomorrow. Experiences, your capital fund, ongoing learning, a network of friends and professional contacts, these are the resources that will sustain you through the coming centuries. Slow and steady is the way to go, amassing a diverse global portfolio of intellectual and social capital as fast as you invest your different currencies.

Don't worry now about buying property in a city that may fail in twenty years like Tokyo did. Use your wealth wisely, invest in the utilities that everyone needs: food, water, energy, and avoid speculation. Concentrate on value investing. Remember, sooner or later there will be another financial crisis and if you're over-committed then you lose half your healthcare fund. Diversity is the foundation of wealth. Diverse knowledge, diverse understandings and perspectives, diverse friendships, diverse skills, diverse resources of all kinds will enable you to cope with all the upheavals and challenges ahead. Diversity engenders resilience, and resilience is essential in a long-term view of the world where nothing can be taken for granted.

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Comment by Turil Cronburg on May 7, 2010 at 5:11pm
I love the idea of adopting/preserving cultures as a sort of hobby, side project, life-style. That's already something people do naturally, but having it more of a socially recognized and supported thing seems like a really good idea.
Comment by Chris Ke Sihai on May 8, 2010 at 1:36am
Thanks Turil, I have no idea where that idea came from. It just fell onto the page as I was typing.

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