“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.
BUILDING A BETTER FUTURE FOR HUMANITY
What does it take to build companies that fundamentally change the world? And of the companies that attempt to create this transformative change, what separates those who succeed from those who fall short?
This is a book about how we can solve humanity’s most challenging problems with Transformative Technology entrepreneurship. This book explores the nature of these Intractable Problems and their shared characteristics. It delves into the characteristics of the kinds of Transformative Technologies that will likely form the basis of the best solutions to these problems. And it illuminates a set of principles, drawn from the successes of prior transformative solutions, that can maximize the chances of success for entrepreneurs who incorporate them into their strategy for building and scaling their solutions.
Though the book explores these problems, technologies, and principles for success in the context of several critical industries, the primary lens is of the agricultural system. This is due in part to the importance of our current moment in the history of our food system: we appear poised to undergo the biggest revolution in agricultural production since the domestication of plants and animals over ten thousand years ago. It is also because food is something anyone can understand. Whether through our fond memories of childhood foods or our experiences buying food at the grocery store each week and cooking for loved ones, we all experience our food at a deeply personal level.
In this way, the personal and emotional connections we have to food are unique, given its place as one of our oldest technologies. We don’t feel that same connection to electricity or the Internet. This makes food a unique vehicle for discussing global challenges that would otherwise be impersonal and technology solutions that would appear disconcerting.
My journey into learning about the power of Transformative Technologies began in college, born from my deep interest in human health. When my exploration began, I was primarily interested in learning about the technologies and avenues through which I could have an impact on improving healthcare for people around the world. At the time, I was narrowly focused on the healthcare system itself—on the treatments, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices doctors could apply to treat people who were sick or injured. The more I learned, the more I began to realize my myopic view of human health was blinding me to the potential for Transformative Technologies to improve the human condition more broadly.
For me, the key moment of understanding came in the form of a scientific review article. It detailed the ways in which changing a cancer patient’s diet could improve their strength during chemotherapy, reduce their symptoms, and even treat conditions that could not be targeted with medications. After I read this article, my eyes were opened to the vast opportunity we have to solve our most pressing problems if we can understand them in their broader contexts. In this case, food could be medicine and could outperform our most advanced medical treatments in addressing burdensome ailments. What other problems could we solve if we understood them more deeply and applied the right Transformative Technologies to them in the right ways?
Using the agricultural sector as a primary example, this book demonstrates how the very technologies and systems that helped us build our modern society are now creating intractable problems that we must overcome to build a sustainable future. Through the emergence of cellular agriculture, the book describes the ways in which technologies can both produce transformative solutions and fizzle out without leaving a lasting impact. And through an assessment of animal agriculture, the book posits a vision for an abundant future for humanity and what it will take to achieve that vision.
These ideas and principles transcend the field of agriculture. Anyone who aspires to build a better future for humanity and solve the greatest challenges that stand between our present and that future can use these principles to do so. Overcoming intractable problems requires leverage, and the principles and frameworks presented in this book can help to increase the leverage of those who implement them. I hope this book captures the imagination of others who see the opportunity to positively impact billions of people by tackling these problems, in agriculture or other sectors, and inspires them to build the solutions that we need.
AN UNEXPECTED DISCOVERY
In writing this book, I interviewed many of the thought leaders and pioneers in the cellular agriculture industry, including nonprofit advocacy groups, researchers, startup entrepreneurs, investors, and science communicators. I also had conversations with agriculture industry experts, scientists who study climate change, and scientists who investigate the environmental and social impacts of our food system. With their knowledge, I intend to provide a more comprehensive context around the broader impacts of the cellular agriculture movement and its importance to building a sustainable and resilient agricultural system. In addition to these interviews, I sought out the best available research on industrial agriculture—covering everything from costs to externalities and important process innovations to key challenges. My goal is to provide you with sufficient data from independent sources to draw your own conclusions about the future of food beyond the hypotheses I present in this book.
As I conducted research for this book, however, I began to recognize there was a larger story to be told. Much of my exposure to these global, pressing challenges, and transformative technologies came through working with professors to commercialize their biotechnology and medical technology research and from my experience as a serial entrepreneur in the healthcare and agri-food sectors. As a result, my initial research was limited by the scope of my own personal experience. Only during the process of writing this book did I begin to appreciate that many of the questions I was asking of these industries were also applicable more broadly.
In defining a set of principles for succeeding in food and agriculture innovation, I noticed that our agricultural industry is not unique in the challenges it faces or in its importance to our collective human future. Indeed, a number of industries are essential for our individual survival and the continued existence of our civilization. Most of these essential industries face large-scale intractable problems that will require transformative solutions in the coming years.
Could the same principles that have enabled entrepreneurs to solve challenging agricultural problems also pave the way for successful solutions to emerge in energy, transportation, and other critical sectors? If these principles could be applied more broadly to facilitate solutions to our most pressing, intransigent problems, how could I attract more entrepreneurs to work on these problems? These were key questions that stuck with me as I began writing this book and shaped my thinking in it.
HISTORY IS DEFINED BY MOMENTS
The birth or death of a great leader. The rise and fall of a civilization. The invention of a Transformative Technology. History is defined by pivotal moments.
By my reckoning, we are currently witnessing the beginning of the greatest change in agricultural technology in ten thousand years. We are also facing a number of challenges unprecedented in the history of our species. In this moment, at the confluence of a rising global population, a changing climate, and dwindling resource availability, the decisions we make will determine the future of our species. Under this perfect storm of conditions that conspire to make our current systems and practices obsolete, we must develop technologies that will enable our civilization to endure sustainably if our civilization is to thrive in the twenty-first century and beyond.
A more abundant future for mankind is in our grasp. Will we seize it or let it go by?