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The refreshingly upbeat Mark Stevenson breezed through Wellington just before Easter, giving his take on why the world’s NOT going to hell in a handcart.

The author of ‘An optimist’s tour of the future’, Stevenson’s been accused by some of having rose tinted glasses.

‘But we should have an unashamed optimism about the future,’ says the British-based writer, comic and scientist. In his book, he mentions some of the work being carried out by Blenheim-based Aquaflow as well as Carbonscape.

He gave numerous examples of humans taking better control of the planet’s biology.

The cost of genetic mapping is outstripping Moore’s Law by a factor of four he says. Mapping an individual’s entire genetic sequence currently costs $3000, but will soon be $1.

Stevenson also argues that the world doesn’t have an energy crisis. ‘We have an energy conversion crisis,’ he says. In 20-30 years time, the cost of solar energy should make it an utterly acceptable option.

One thing he is worried about is whether institutions are that good at innovation.

At that level, ‘we have become terrified of making mistakes,’ he says. ‘But, if we’re not prepared to make mistakes, we’ll never come up with something original.’

Increasingly Stevenson believes that individuals will be defined, ‘not by what you own, but by what you create.’

Biotechnology and nanotechnology are currently where information technology was in 1965, and in that regard, ‘the future is up for grabs.’

‘The future could be better, it is up to us and individuals to do it. Our future will be defined by the values we choose.’

As an aside, Stevenson pointed out grasslands in Australia and South America, where side by side across a fence, one side was bare, the other a thriving pasture.

The ‘technology’?

Rotational grazing.

The result, sustainable food production and carbon sequestered in soils.

Stevenson says some of the world’s pension funds are among the greatest investors in fencing — which is how to manage rotational grazing.

In effect, New Zealand invented this technology. No one has named it, the opportunity still exists. sticK’s argued this case before….see the story here.

Somewhat interestingly, even though Stevenson’s been to New Zealand a number of times, no one has previously pointed out to him that this is the basis of our country’s comparative advantage. He appeared somewhat surprised to find this was the case.