How to change to a sustainable economy?

This summer, a heatwave set all-time high temperature records in Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. In January this year, an extreme heatwave in Australia caused wildlife deaths, bushfires, and a rise in hospital admissions while at the same time a polar vortex rolled over the US, disrupting life across an entire region with decades-old records falling. With the air and water temperatures around the tropical Atlantic rising quickly, hurricanes like Dorian which hit the Bahamas last summer, will develop and grow stronger more quickly and carry more rain as they move.

We don’t have the luxury to sit around any longer and hope it’ll be ok: climate change is here.

Around 10% of the world’s total electricity is consumed by the internet, and training a deep learning algorithm produces the equivalent of 626,000 pounds of carbon dioxide — nearly five times as much as the lifetime emissions of the average American car, including the manufacturing process.

And then there’s a strong trend to push electricity consumption onto the internet where energy costs are less transparent. Cutting travelling and moving to internet-based conference calls isn’t as environmentally friendly as some might think (the internet currently consumes as much energy as the airline industry).

What this means is that we have different components which affect our climate, and technology is one of them.

What we do in the next 50 years will have an impact on the next 10,000 years.

To move away from the path that we are on and towards a stable and resilient planet, we need to reduce our carbon emissions significantly and find a way to live more sustainable lives.

Cutting carbon emissions needs businesses, governments, and people to make significant investments and coordinated efforts. In other words, to be successful we must all tackle technology, policy, and behavioral change together at the same time in such a way that progress in one reinforces/is aligned with progress in the other two.

From consumption to play to the internet

The world needs to cut half of the carbon emissions by 2030. Although banning plastic straws has been shown to have little impact on its own, there are several interlinked solutions to reduce carbon emissions.

“Examples include withdrawing from coastlines, shutting down vulnerable industrial facilities, or giving up expectations for certain types of consumption,” writes British sustainability professor Jem Bendell.

But not only our immediate actions matter, as Bendell writes. It is also about changing our value systems, cultural identities, and routines that have shifted during our carbon-emission-dependent capitalist society, such as by “re-wilding landscapes, so they provide more ecological benefits and require less management, changing diets back to match the seasons, rediscovering non-electronically powered forms of play, and increased community-level productivity and support.”

But what about the tech side of it in terms of green products? Right now, the internet is a net contributor to climate change: can the development of the net even be considered outside of this reality? In other words, what technological development should we as a society want to invest in and how? How can we create a human-centered internet which doesn’t make the situation worse?

How do we know if something has had an impact?

Knowing if what we do has an impact is extremely difficult, as explained in this Edgeryders discussion. Many governments are eager to measure with scalar indicators which they control, such as GDP and ROI. This form of “administrative ordering” could lead to a not desirable changing reality, as seen with Stalin’s collectivization of agriculture.

“Stalin’s collectivisation programme was terrible at growing crops. But it worked very well in appropriating crops to feed industrial cities, the base of Soviet power, and in keeping the peasantry in check. In other words, these schemes are successful parasites. Once they take hold, they are hard to kill,” as Edgeryders founder Alberto Cottica writes here.

So, what can be done so governments really appreciate what is going on in complex systems such as the economy or the global environment?

Two researchers, George Cowan and Brian Arthur at the Santa Fe Institute, believe that governments should mostly observe, monitor, and experiment as a wise government recognises that it is part of the environment it seeks to influence.

What Edgeryders does and how you can be part of it

At Edgeryders, we bring different solutions for societal problems together through people, social science methods, and open source technologies. We work with governments to implement these solutions, and we’re in the middle of creating new places to live and work together where everyone can develop the skills, behaviors, and social norms needed for thriving in a decarbonised future.

By innovating new social science through research collaborations with leading universities, testing new methods for organising people and knowledge, and creating new technologies to transform large scale conversations into collective wisdom, we’re working on all three layers needed to make a substantial change.

And this is where you come in:

  • How would you/not approach developing a deep green trustmark for digital tech?
  • What would you try/avoid doing?
  • Who — or what — would you bring into that conversation?
  • And how would you mobilize people in tech to contribute or adopt using it?

You can join this conversation here. And to discuss how a human-centered internet could contribute to a more sustainable world, instead of eating up insane amounts of electricity, join this discussion to come up with a solution how “tech doesn’t need to make it worse.”

You might also consider attending the international Edgeryders Festival taking place all over Europe between November 19th and 29th, where we will discuss how the startup structure and the technology it produces could be deep green, ecologically sustainable, and regenerative. Tickets can’t be bought by money, but through helping organize it. Share how you can contribute here, and we’ll help you connect to the right people and projects.

But first, join us at the first Sci-Fi Economics Lab event Edgeryders is organizing in Brussels on November 11th. The event will consist of four parts: a double keynote lecture – which will also be live-streamed; Reclaiming Utopia, a workshop where you can learn how to mobilize yourself for a more humane, fairer, greener economy, in collaboration with Extinction Rebellion; a party, because “if we can’t dance, we don’t want your alt-economy;” and a brainstorming session to create abstracts for contributions to economic theory and economic policy underpinning fictional economies.

“Basically, what we are trying to do from a societal point of view, is to build a range of alternatives that society could choose from. Maybe we want to keep the present system, but we shouldn’t keep the economic system because we can’t think of a better one,” says Alberto

The event is taking place in Brussels, as it’s the capital of Europe where “we can multiply the impact of a shift in thinking”

The keynote lecture is going to be chaired by Kirsten Dunlop, CEO of EIT Climate-KIC — the European Union’s largest agency, funding climate innovation. “We want to generate a fresh kind of thinking, which we can share with the public, the public authorities, the public powers.” Alberto adds. “If we can show to economists and to science fiction authors the interest of the public powers, then we can incentivize them to do more work in this area.”

But we cannot do it without your support!

Help us with our crowdfunding campaign, choose your pledge and receive the ticket plus goodies for the Brussels 11th event:

Indiegogo 2

Sci-Fi Economics Lab - Live streaming & event

Top-notch science fiction authors and economists get economic thinking out of its current box | Check out ‘Sci-Fi Economics Lab - Live streaming & event’ on Indiegogo.

You cannot make it to Brussels?

You can still support the project, and gain access to the live streaming of the event!

We also commit to document the brainstorming session to write Sci-FI Economics papers, and share the documentation with you.

And finally, we are Edgeryders: working together remotely is what we do. By supporting us, you gain a seat at the table of how we develop the Science Fiction Economics Lab into 2020 and beyond.**

See you on November 11!


@nadia @alberto @ilaria @noemi please add your comments and edit the text where necessary so we can push this out this week ahead of the sci-fi event. Thanks!

1 Like

Very good piece! For me it’s good to go.

1 Like

3 people I directed towards it told me the crowdfunding campaign is confusing. I checked it now and I must say it is.

When you create pledge levels you should always clearly define what is gained at each pledge level. If the event will be available online, it should be clearly stated which pledge level grants that right there at the pledge. I am sure it would attract more people who cannot attend in person.

The about you Alberto or About us should be bellow the info which actually explains what is the crowdfunding campaign about.

Also, it would help a lot if you included something graphic showing why the money is needed and add a track with milestones to show what is accomplished with X, Y or Z amount of money.


I am directing people in Brussels to an eventbrite page which is more straightforward as it is focused only on the physical event: Sci-Fi Economics Lab - Le 11 Novembre 2019 à Bruxelles Billets, Le lun 11 nov. 2019 à 14:30 | Eventbrite

How about this for the crowdfunding page?

What if the future of economics is invented in science fiction?

To discover it, participate in the first Sci-Fi Economics Lab, which will be held on 11 November 2019 in Brussels and on the internet (livestreaming)!

The situation is clear. An economy’s inaction based on its certainties is creating a global deadlock. Permanent micro-adjustments are no longer enough. Fortunately, intellectuals on all sides reject the status quo and imagine more desirable futures. Among them, science fiction authors are now proposing radically new models and shaking up the established order.

To highlight the synergies between SF and the economy, the Edgeryders community supported by EIT Climate-KIC is organising a major day of debates, workshops and celebrations open to all.

Take part in a large workshop. (14h30 - 16h30) Extinction Rebellion is joining forces with the Sci-Fi Economics Lab to discuss and create positive progress.

Discuss with figures from SF and the economy. (18h - 20h) Science fiction author Cory Doctorow will respond to a renowned economist in a major debate.

Meet with academics to brainstorm topics for academic articles to be published in 2020 (next day at the Solvay Brussels School of Economics & Management.

By contributing to this crowdfunding campaign you do two things:

  1. Make the Science Fiction Economics Lab possible - We need your support to help cover the costs of organising this year’s edition. If we do manage to meet the crowdfunding goal, then we can continue doing this work and organise more SciFI Econ activities with you.
  2. Show us, and the world, that you support this effort - If the Sci-Fi Economics Lab is successful, its impact would show in directly influencing the political agenda, at least in Europe. Please do not pass on this opportunity. We may never get another.

What do you get if you contribute to the campaign?

5 € or More - {OUR GRATITUDE} Thank you for coming on board and showing us your support. You get A SPECIAL THANK YOU on the Sci-Fi Economics Lab website, and if you send us your picture, we will put it up on our the event wall so everyone who enjoys the event can say thank you every day!

€10 EUR - {Reduced rate Event ticket} You are tight on cash but really want to come to the physical event in Brussels. Yes, you can come too! We are all in this together. Every single euro helps and we really appreciate your contribution!

€15 EUR: - {Live streaming } We’ll send you a special live streaming url and you’ll be able to watch the main session from the comfort of your home!

€25 EUR: {Live streaming + Idea Booklet} You get to focus on the livestreaming and be fully present in the conversation. Because you know that you will get detailed, high quality notes from the discussions. As well as articles summarising the big ideas that come out of it. Put together in a beautifully designed publication.

€45 - {Livestreaming + Your questions featured in the Q&A with Cory!} You get to watch the live session from home AND participate actively in the Q&A chat after the talk. It’s a great way to meet and discuss with Sci-Fi and Economics Geeks from all over the planet!

€80 - {RARE Sci-Fi Economics Lecture} For the 1st time, we will have a future economics talk by science fiction author Cory Doctorow & Economist Alberto Cottica. It focuses on the experience of living in a different future economy; a professional economist’s point of view on the viability of such a fictional economy & discussion of the path to get there.

€100 - {By Popular Demand: Event Ticket + Limited edition Original Art} We have commissioned a beautiful original illustration to inspire creativity in imagining the future. This pledge package is for those who are extra generous in helping us to cover cost of organising the event. The signed 42 x 29 print will be sent to you by post before Xmas.

€150 - {Event Ticket + Hand-signed Book + Limited edition Original Art} Pledging this amount gets you a ticket for the event @Brussels November 11th + Hand-signed copy of Walkaway book by Cory Doctorow + limited edition Poster to be picked up at the event venue.

€260 - {By Popular Demand: Ticket + Original Art + Limited edition T-Shirt} If the future is not beautiful it is not for us! The pledge package gets you a ticket to the event, a work of art we especially commission AND a high quality screen print t-shirt. The T-shirts are sourced from a local supplier that guarantees ethical, sustainable production.

€450 EUR - {Living in the future!} Pledging this amount gets you a thank you video on our website + a ticket to the Sci-Fi Economics event + limited edition Sci-Fi Economics hoodie + domed sticker (we use them to stop our phones from sliding off slippery surfaces). Ethical + sustainable production (sourced locally). Hoodie will be available for you to pick up at the venue. If you cannot make it in person let us know which address to ship it to.

pretty good, all clear :slight_smile: