The impacts of global warming are likely to be “severe, pervasive and irreversible”, a major report by the UN has warned. Scientists and officials meeting in Japan say the document is the most comprehensive assessment to date of the impacts of climate change on the world.
Members of the UN’s climate panel say it provides overwhelming evidence of the scale of these effects. Natural systems now bear the brunt, but a growing impact on humans is feared. Our health, homes, food and safety are all likely to be threatened by rising temperatures, the summary says. The report was agreed after almost a week of intense discussions here in Yokohama, which included concerns among some authors about the tone of the evolving document.
This is the second of a series from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) due out this year that outlines the causes, effects and solutions to global warming. This latest Summary for Policymakers document highlights the fact that the amount of scientific evidence on the impacts of warming has almost doubled since the last report in 2007. Be it the melting of glaciers or warming of permafrost, the summary highlights the fact that on all continents and across the oceans, changes in the climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems in recent decades.
IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri said “the findings in the report were “profound”. Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change” . In the words of the report, “increasing magnitudes of warming increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts”.
“Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change,” IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri told journalists at a news conference in Yokohama. Dr Saleemul Huq, a convening lead author on one of the chapters, commented: “Before this we thought we knew this was happening, but now we have overwhelming evidence that it is happening and it is real.”
Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization, said that, previously, people could have damaged the Earth’s climate out of “ignorance”. “Now, ignorance is no longer a good excuse,” he said.
Mr Jarraud said the report was based on more than 12,000 peer-reviewed scientific studies. He said this document was “the most solid evidence you can get in any scientific discipline”.
The report details significant short-term impacts on natural systems in the next 20 to 30 years. It details five reasons for concern that would likely increase as a result of the warming the world is already committed to. These include threats to unique systems such as Arctic sea ice and coral reefs, where risks are said to increase to “very high” with a 2C rise in temperatures.
The summary document outlines impacts on the seas and on freshwater systems as well. The oceans will become more acidic, threatening coral and the many species that they harbour. On land, animals, plants and other species will begin to move towards higher ground or towards the poles as the mercury rises. Humans, though, are also increasingly affected as the century goes on.
Food security is highlighted as an area of significant concern. Crop yields for maize, rice and wheat are all hit in the period up to 2050, with around a tenth of projections showing losses over 25%. After 2050, the risk of more severe yield impacts increases, as boom-and-bust cycles affect many regions. All the while, the demand for food from a population estimated to be around nine billion will rise.
Many fish species, a critical food source for many, will also move because of warmer waters. In some parts of the tropics and in Antarctica, potential catches could decline by more than 50%. “This is a sobering assessment,” said Prof Neil Adger from the University of Exeter, another IPCC author. “Going into the future, the risks only increase, and these are about people, the impacts on crops, on the availability of water and particularly, the extreme events on people’s lives and livelihoods.”
People will be affected by flooding and heat related mortality. The report warns of new risks including the threat to those who work outside, such as farmers and construction workers. There are concerns raised over migration linked to climate change, as well as conflict and national security.
Report co-author Maggie Opondo of the University of Nairobi said that in places such as Africa, climate change and extreme events mean “people are going to become more vulnerable to sinking deeper into poverty”.
While the poorer countries are likely to suffer more in the short term, the rich won’t escape. “The rich are going to have to think about climate change. We’re seeing that in the UK, with the floods we had a few months ago, and the storms we had in the US and the drought in California,” said Dr Huq.
“These are multibillion dollar events that the rich are going to have to pay for, and there’s a limit to what they can pay.” But it is not all bad news, as the co-chair of the working group that drew up the report points out.
“I think the really big breakthrough in this report is the new idea of thinking about managing climate change as a problem in managing risks,” said Dr Chris Field.
“Climate change is really important but we have a lot of the tools for dealing effectively with it – we just need to be smart about it.” There is far greater emphasis to adapting to the impacts of climate in this new summary. The problem, as ever, is who foots the bill?
“It is not up to IPCC to define that,” said Dr Jose Marengo, a Brazilian government official who attended the talks. “It provides the scientific basis to say this is the bill, somebody has to pay, and with the scientific grounds it is relatively easier now to go to the climate negotiations in the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) and start making deals about who will pay for adaptation.”
We’ve had several opportunities to refine GeoGit workflows in real-world situations, but among the most fulfilling was assisting with the response to Typhoon Yolanda (also known as Typhoon Haiyan) in the Philippines. It was the strongest cyclone to make landfall in recorded history, resulting in an urgent need to share data about the damage to help with recovery and reconstruction.
To meet this need, the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) teamed up with the American Red Cross and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) and launched an open data platform to gather and share data about Yolanda. The ROGUE project, which helps develop GeoGit, was asked to help manage and distribute extracts of OpenStreetMap data. As described below, we created a powerful bidirectional workflow with OpenStreetMap that enabled us not only to derive and publish up-to-date data for response and recovery efforts but also to contribute back to OpenStreetMap.
Importing OpenStreetMap Data
Thanks largely to HOT’s efforts, a large number of damaged and destroyed buildings were mapped into OpenStreetMap using commercial satellite imagery distributed under the Next View license or the State Department’s Imagery to the Crowd program. GeoGit was used to extract data from OpenStreetMap and transform it into formats more useful to traditional GIS applications.
While GeoGit supports reading and writing from OpenStreetMap data in a variety of ways, the Yolanda efforts started with the daily
.pbf downloads from geofabrik that were then imported into a GeoGit repository using the
geogit osm import command. This initial import command brings the data into the standard node and way layers in a GeoGit repository with all of the OpenStreetMap tags attached to each feature. During the initial few imports we were able to find and solve some performance bottlenecks that reduced the import time from over an hour to just a few minutes.
Mapping to a Schema
Once imported, the
geogit osm map command was used to map the data into more traditional sets of layers, using the tags as attributes. A JSON mapping file specifies which tags were used to separate out the features into layers and assign attributes to each feature. The key mapping involved taking nodes and ways tagged with
typhoon:damage=yes and translating those into
damage_line layers with associated attributes. Over the course of mapping the data, we were able to make improvements to the codebase and workflow in several areas.
Sharing Up-to-Date Data
Once the repository had the data organized into the right schema, we used the
geogit export pg command to load snapshots into a PostGIS database and serve them to the web. Since we wanted to provide the most current data, we used the
geogit osm apply-diff command to update the repository with daily updates from OSM planet. This ensured that our repository always reflected recent edits and that layers were exported and updated on the site.
Contributing Back to OpenStreetMap
In addition to staying in sync with the global OpenStreetMap planet, GeoGit made it possible to change layers in our repository and apply them back to OpenStreetMap — enabling a fully round-trip or bidirectional workflow. For example, we found many misspellings or inconsistent use of tags in the data where able to correct them. We fixed these issues against our PostGIS snapshot, applied the changes back to the repository, generated a changeset using the
geogit osm create-changeset command, and finally uploaded the changeset using JOSM. In the process, we were once again able to improve these functions based on real-world usage.
These tools enable a powerful bidirectional workflow with OpenStreetMap. We demonstrated that data can be imported from OpenStreetMap into a local repository, mapped into a set of layers with a well-defined schema, and served via OGC services. Repositories can be kept in sync with OpenStreetMap over time and, if changes are made to the local repository, GeoGit enables us to produce changesets that can be contributed to the global OSM dataset. Using this same workflow, it becomes possible for users to effectively work with a local extract of OSM data for both making and applying local edits as well as incorporating upstream changes.
For more to know about all these above we have to wait until 13th April where Jeff Johnson will present more about GeoGit-based OpenStreetMap import workflows at State of the Map US.
A map is a visual representation of an area – symbolic depiction highlighting relationships between elements of that space such as objects, regions, and themes. Many maps are static two-dimensional, geometrically accurate (or approximately accurate) representations of three-dimensional space, while others are dynamic or interactive, even three-dimensional. Although most commonly used to depict geography, maps may represent any space, real or imagined, without regard to context or scale; e.g. brain mapping, DNA mapping and extraterrestrial mapping.
Although the earliest maps known are of the heavens, geographic maps of territory have a very long tradition and exist from ancient times. The word “map” comes from the medieval Latin Mappa mundi, wherein mappa meant napkin or cloth and mundi the world. Thus, “map” became the shortened term referring to a two-dimensional representation of the surface of the world.
Maps have become a critical piece of our lives. Providing guidance, direction, help and more, maps now serve as an integral information source for us every day. Maps provide value to our Internet experiences, and have become essential in the mobile world.
People used to use maps so they wouldn’t get lost. But in recent years, access to the Global Positioning System and the proliferation of mobile technology have made paper-based maps almost irrelevant. Unless you’re in uncharted territory, it’s hard to get lost anymore. Basic geography is as easy as inputting an address and letting your mobile phone tell you how to get there.
And as mapping technology advances, it allows for far more than foolproof directions. Federal agencies now use geospatial data, geo-analytics and multi-layered maps for myriad purposes, including gathering intelligence, predicting disease outbreaks and sharing data pools with the public.
The allure of mapping lies in its intuitiveness. Even simple “dots on a map can be a powerful way to see trends in data,” said Josh Campbell, geographic information system architect for the Humanitarian Information Unit at the State Department. “Maps are a compressed mechanism for storytelling.”
Last year,HIU created a series of maps to track the mass migration of Syrians displaced by the country’s ongoing violence. The HIU team combined data from thousands of media and internal reports with commercial satellite imagery. Each map provided a geographical snapshot of a place. Together, they showed trends over time and revealed the areas with the most intense conflict.
That is perhaps the most important aspect of maps: They make for better decision-making. Maps gain their value in three ways:
As a way of recording and storing information
Governments, businesses, and society as large must store large quantities of information about the environment and the location of natural resources, capital assets, and people. Included are plat, parcel, and cadastral maps to record property, maps of society’s infrastructure or utilities for water, power, and telephone, and transportation, and census maps of population.
As a means of analyzing locational distributions and spatial patterns
Maps let us recognize spatial distributions and relationships and make it possible for us to visualize and hence conceptualize patterns and processes that operate through space.
As a method of presenting information and communicating findings
Maps allow us to convey information and findings that are difficult to express verbally. Maps can also be used to convince and persuade, or even propagandize.
US State’s Humanitarian Information Unit collects, analyzes and disseminates unclassified information regarding humanitarian emergencies, and publishes high-quality maps that track relevant variables such as refugee migration and global health initiatives. The HIU team consists of roughly 20 analysts, researchers, geospatial analysts, cartographers and developers under the department’s Office of the Geographer and Global Issues.
The team is known for its accuracy, and HIU’s maps are widely cited by the media. But the work is intensive. In 2013, the team was particularly busy tracking the civil war in Syria. To document the migration of refugees, analysts pooled data from media reports, commercial satellite imagery and internal documents. Then subject-matter experts sifted through the data to ensure its legitimacy, technical staffers built corresponding datasets, GIS analysts compiled the data, and cartographers produced the finished products.
Some maps showed the displacement of refugees over time while others mapped the escape routes and destinations of the 1.8 million Syrian refugees, including the hot spots from which they fled, where they went and where the humanitarian resources were located. The maps gave decision-makers valuable insight into the conflict from a humanitarian standpoint.
“Maps unlock a great cognitive power,” Josh Campbell, GIS architect at HIU said. “Visualization, whether graphical or geographical, simplifies complex relationships. Maps can help people make sense of complex humanitarian emergencies and understand what is happening on the ground.”
In early 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Office of Water began an effort to simplify how it conveys the complex information it has collected for decades.
Nine months later, the agency launched a map-based application called “How’s My Waterway?” that allows users to check pollution levels in almost any U.S. lake, river or other waterway via the Web. The project’s launch coincided with the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, which requires states to report data on waterways to the EPA. The agency in turn periodically updates Congress on the condition of the nation’s waterways.
That data has always been available to the public, but until “How’s My Waterway?” it was compiled in technical databases and used mainly by scientists who knew what it meant and how to access it.
Now anyone can input a ZIP Code or select his or her current location from any Web-connected device and receive basic information on whether a waterway is polluted and when it was last assessed. Users can move around the map to other waterways or click on a specific one to get more details, such as the nature of the pollutants and what is being done to mitigate the problem — all of which is presented in terms that the average user can understand.
The tool has been so popular that in the weeks right after its launch, the high volume of users caused the site to crash several times, said Doug Norton, senior environmental scientist in the Office of Water. Tens of thousands of people now use the application on a regular basis, with rates that fluctuate depending on the season and weather.
In short, mapping technology “proved to be a terrific mode of communication in getting points across and informing the public,” Norton said.
It was also cost-effective because it did not require a lengthy procurement process. Instead, a team of 12 watershed scientists, public outreach experts and coders used existing data and worked with the contractor that managed EPA’s technical database.
With mapping firm Esri’s new software development kit, launched Wednesday, developers can create complex, polygonal “geofences” that trigger actions when people enter or leave them.
A restaurant chain could, for example, use its app to send a push notification to customers that walk close to one of its locations. Or it could notify employees when a customer who ordered delivery arrives to pick up her meal.
Esri snapped up location-focused startup Geoloqi in late 2012. The new “Geotrigger” SDK is the fruit of that acquisition: It enables iOS and Android developers to add more sophisticated location-based features to their mobile applications.
“Geotrigger Service opens up a whole world of use cases, from stores wanting to engage customers to cities wanting to release an app to send civic alerts, local event information, or tourism info,” said Amber Case, Geoloqi’s founder and head of Esri’s R&D center, in a statement. “Create an invisible button on a map, and when your phone gets within that button — that invisible region — something will happen. Your phone could even turn the lights on in your home as you pull into the driveway, and turn them off when you leave.”
Esri also promises that its SDK minimizes the amount of time GPS and cellular chipsets need to be active, minimizing battery usage. Battery drain has been a barrier to the adoption of location-based features in mobile apps.
The service costs developers a tiny amount per geotrigger event. For more details, check out the video.
On April 14-15, Esri’s fourth annual VentureBeat Mobile Summit will tackle the six biggest growth opportunities in mobile today. The invitation-only Summit will gather the top 180 executives at the scenic Cavallo Point Resort in Sausalito, Calif
Why Use GIS?
When floods in Colorado caused massive damage throughout the state in September 2013, geographic information systems (GIS) and web maps integrated current data, providing a comprehensive view of the constantly evolving situation to government officials and the public.
An interactive public information map posted by Esri, a GIS software company, showed observed flooding, flood warnings, and precipitation and collected citizens’ observations that had been shared on Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube. Other government agencies generated interactive web maps that shared information on flooded areas, closed roads, and shelters for evacuees. The City of Longmont created a story map that documented the flooding of the St. Vrain River and Left Hand Creek.
These maps are examples of how GIS has gone from a technology that is nice to have to one that is essential, especially for small- to medium-size jurisdictions dealing with increasing demands and depleted resources.
Established but Evolving
What is GIS?
It is an information system for capturing, managing, analyzing, and displaying geographically referenced data.
With GIS, data can be viewed, understood, interrogated, interpreted, and visualized on a map in ways that reveal relationships, patterns, and trends that would not be apparent otherwise. GIS technology can be integrated into any enterprise information system framework and works with common business tools such as Microsoft Excel and IBM Cognos.
GIS is nothing new to many jurisdictions. Beginning in the 1990s, it was implemented in departments such as planning and health. Initially, it often was acquired for a specific project; later, the use of GIS expanded to improve many processes in a department. The benefits of GIS — cost savings and increased efficiency, better decision-making, improved communication, and better record keeping — encouraged the spread of its use across organizations. Public works, planning, land records, facilities management, utilities, transportation, water, wastewater, health and human services, elections, environmental management, economic development, and public safety are just a few of the disciplines in municipal government that use GIS.
Since its initial adoption, GIS technology has evolved from a desktop application to a web-centric platform. While supporting the work of GIS professionals on desktop machines, the web platform makes the benefits of this work available throughout the organization through maps and apps that are stored and accessed from a cloud-based system. This web-centric approach also makes the most current imagery, traffic, and weather data available for use with a jurisdiction’s local data.
Doing More with Less
Even as municipal governments recover from the recent recession, they must deal with tighter budgets and fewer staff members. The need to deliver services in an efficient and cost-effective manner is greater than ever.
Residents expect services from their municipal government, whether a small town or a big city. Small to medium-sized municipalities provide these services with far fewer resources than their bigger counterparts. Many jurisdictions are turning to technology, specifically GIS, to better deliver services to citizens. Governments have expanded the used of GIS to improve not just the way a government works, but the way it works for citizens.
For decades, the entire water system for Princeton, Ill., was documented in a small, carefully guarded sketchbook known as “the Bible.” To respond to emergencies as well as perform routine maintenance, city staff needed access to that information. They also needed a current inventory of the water system infrastructure to support field workers.
However, the city, with a population of just under 8,000, did not have extensive staffing to meet these goals. With the help of a consultant, the original pages were scanned and that information was incorporated into a GIS. The 4,600 photographs documenting the system’s components were added and geocoded, and this information moved to a cloud-based GIS. Now the information contained in the original documents not only has been backed up and updated with the current inventory, but is accessible directly by crews in the field responding to system issues.
Seeing the Big Picture
Interactive web maps provide information in context. They also make the results of GIS analysis available to policy makers without requiring that they become proficient with GIS technology.
Operation dashboards fed by GIS that are automatically updated use maps and charts to monitor, track, and report events. Incorporating live feeds allows the most current data to be visualized and comprehended by knowledge workers and executives.
Government That Works for Citizens
People are now more connected to each other through the web and social media such as Facebook and Twitter. They have come to expect that they can use those same tools to connect to businesses and, increasingly, government. This has been part of a change in the relationship between government and the governed in recent years. Increasingly, citizens lack both the time and inclination to travel to government — they want and expect government to be available and responsive to them.
GIS has helped governments meet these new demands. A Florida city of just 16,000 residents incorporates GIS in a portal that makes its permitting process convenient and transparent to citizens. When the City of Marco issues a new building permit, citizens receive a tweet with information on the permit, with a link to a copy of the permit, and a map of the permit location, as well as other information in the Citizen Access Portal. A real-time database, the portal keeps track of permit and inspection data, relating proposed activity to the existing built environment and landscape.
Web maps are also an effective tool for communicating government operations and programs. For example, mapping capital improvement projects lets citizens know where, when, and how money is being spent on these projects. Direct access to this information promotes transparency and accountability, which in turn builds confidence in government.
In effect, GIS also has added many more eyes to government oversight by enlisting the help of citizens. With smartphone-based, map-centric apps, municipal governments can tap into the power of crowdsourcing by enabling citizens to report problems such as potholes, graffiti, and other concerns. The GPS capabilities in smartphones furnish location information to the app. Citizens fill out the app’s simple form describing the problem and can upload photos of it. Once reported, an incident can be monitored, letting the responding citizen and others track the resolution of that problem. This encourages government responsiveness and demonstrates accountability.
More Than Just Mapping
With the migration of GIS to the web, governments can use GIS-generated maps, apps, and data to improve business processes and inform decision-making. This helps keep communities both safe and sustainable. The advantages of using a geographic framework are not limited to large cities and counties — they are equally available to smaller municipal governments. Web-centric GIS helps small to medium-sized municipal governments be responsive, transparent, and accountable. It encourages citizens to stay informed and engaged with their government.
By Ian Isaacs, Esri regional manager
- Do you complain? All the time or just sometimes?
- Do you often discuss what’s wrong in the world more than what’s right? This includes the ‘terrible’ weather, ‘horrible’ traffic, ‘idiotic’ government, ‘lousy’ economy, ‘stupid’ in-laws, etc.
- Do you criticize? All the time or just certain people?
- Are you attracted to drama and disaster (can you unglue yourself from the TV when there’s a news story of a disaster and can you avoid getting involved in the lives of dysfunctional celebrities?)
- Do you blame? All the time or just certain situations?
- Do you believe that you have no control over most of your results?
- Do you feel like a victim? Do you talk about people doing things to you?
- Are you grateful for what is or will you be grateful when things finally start going right for you?
- Do you feel like things are happening to you? Or do you feel that they are happening through you?
- Take ownership: “When you think everything is someone else’s fault, you will suffer a lot. When you realize that everything springs only from yourself, you will learn both peace and joy.” – the Dalai Lama
- Cancel negative thoughts and replace them with positive thoughts. This takes practice, dedication and making a decision to see the world through the eyes of “what can go right” instead of “what can go wrong.” You’ll have to catch yourself anytime you are acting out or speaking out your negativity, and immediately change your tune.
- Use the Love or Above Spiritual Toolkit to clear your energy and bring more light and love into your life; visualize the positive instead of getting sucked into negativity; overcome past conditioning; think intuitively from the soul instead from ‘reality’; create a new, desired reality in your imagination and manifest it in the outer world. Nobody wants negative energy to permeate their lives, yet many of us allow it. But we allow it unconsciously, based on past conditioning that suggests an inevitable outcome to certain situations. When you overcome that conditioning and realize that the future is NOT cast in stone but that you have more control over your circumstances than you believe – then you can begin to consciously design your life.
BY Steve Tobak
There’s one thing I can absolutely guarantee will happen to you at some point in your life. You will look back and say, “Wish I knew then what I know now.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not the kind of guy that does that a lot. Long ago, a friend told me, “Never look back. You can go crazy wondering what could have been.” I’ve never forgotten his advice and, sure enough, I rarely look back.
But here’s the thing: There’s a good reason why I don’t have to. For whatever reason, I’ve always followed the path that seemed right to me. I took risks when I needed to. And I didn’t let fear get in my way. Sure, I’ve spent a good part of my life terrified, but I highly recommend it.
That said, there have been moments when I regretted what I’d done or, more frequently, what I didn’t do. To help you minimize those bitter moments, here’s some advice for those who are just getting started.
Observe people. You see a crazy number of laundry lists of attributes and behaviors that successful people are supposed to have, but if I had to pick one – just one thing that made all the difference – it’s observing people. Everything in business is about people. If you get people, you’ll probably kill it out there.
Take the first step in the right direction. No, I’m not trying to be absurd. Of course you can’t know in advance what the right direction is. But if an opportunity arises and you don’t take that first step, if you don’t go for it, if you don’t say, “OK, let’s rock,” I can absolutely guarantee you’ll never find the right direction. Learn to say yes … a lot. If it scares you, all the more reason.
Build relationships. If you’re a people person, then friendships and relationships come naturally to you. If not, it wouldn’t hurt for you to get to work on that a bit. No, I’m not saying you can’t be successful if you’re introverted. Of course you can. All I know is, life is like a tree that branches like crazy, and each branch usually involves a person.
Find a way to do what you find exciting. The hands-down best piece of advice I ever got was when someone told me that digital technology was going to become huge. That was in 1977. I don’t know why, but it sounded exciting. And following that path was the hands-down smartest thing I ever did. If it sounds exciting to you, that’s your heart telling you something. Listen. And find a way to do it.
Be geographically mobile. Most of the people I knew growing up that never left, never went anywhere in life. If that was their choice, fine. But I bet many would do it differently if they could do it over. Steve Jobs grew up in Silicon Valley. That was the luck of the draw. Most of us aren’t that lucky. Don’t let geographic boundaries stand in the way of your future.
Try to save money for after college. I speak with a lot of college grads that took out loans, had all sorts of side jobs, and when they finally graduated, ran out of steam … meaning money. If you’re a hot software developer, companies may fly you around and roll out the red carpet. But the rest of you have to pay your own way to interview, relocate, get an advanced degree, or maybe even start your own company.
If it isn’t working, try something different. It’s not always easy to know that what you’re doing isn’t working, but let’s put it this way. If you’re miserable and you would rather be anywhere doing anything but where you are doing what you’re doing, it’s safe to say it’s time for a change. Don’t wait. If you’re not sure, trust your gut.
Regret is the most tragic thing in life. The best way to avoid it is to know yourself, face your fear and follow your heart.
by Steve Tobak
Soon after the dot-com bubble burst, I attended a conference where the CEO of a company that had seen its market cap gain and lose $50 billion in less than two years, began his speech with, “Our industry is made up of geniuses that act collectively like idiots.”
The room erupted with laughter as hundreds of high-tech executives that had spent the past six months trying to hold it together for their management teams, their employees, and most of all, their investors, found release for a world of pain and frustration.
While most people think of that era as a time when irrational exuberance gripped an entire industry and sent markets soaring to ludicrous heights and crashing back down to Earth in the blink of an eye, I see it much differently, courtesy of an executive who had the cajones to lay it on the line for leaders who were smart enough to know better.
What caused the bubble and its inevitable crash was the common belief among nearly everyone – executives, analysts, investors, pundits and experts – that worldwide demand for internet services and infrastructure would rise indefinitely.
To me, the tech bubble remains the most glaring example of the potentially devastating impact of one of the most pervasive concepts in the modern world, the oxymoron known as conventional wisdom.
The truth is, there is nothing conventional about wisdom. Wisdom is rare. And wisdom originates entirely from individuals, as does critical thought, problem solving, breakthrough insights, innovative concepts and creative ideas.
Granted, small groups or teams can provide a fertile environment for idea generation, but make no mistake: each and every idea comes from an individual’s brain. And the larger the group, the more likely it is to succumb to the pressure to conform, also known as groupthink.
What about the supposed wisdom of crowds or the smart collective? That only works in limited situations that primarily involve information retrieval or discrete answers to simple questions. Anything more complex than asking a crowd to choose between four alternatives on Who Wants to be a Millionaire, forget it.
There is no wisdom in crowds. Likewise, what’s commonly called conventional wisdom is nothing of the sort. Conventional wisdom maintains the status quo. It creates barriers to independent thought and breakthrough ideas. It’s an impediment to change – the only thing that can ever lead to improvement. And it stops innovation dead in its tracks.
Likewise, strongly held beliefs or opinions – especially those fostered by crowds, organizations, convention, or societal norms – stifle critical thinking and common sense. There’s certainly nothing wise about that.
If you want to be successful in this world, you have to learn to think for yourself. To challenge what’s known as conventional wisdom. To break from the status quo. To stay off the bandwagon.
You have to learn to carve your own path and formulate your own opinions. To think and behave as a unique individual. To be true to yourself, not beholden to anyone else or anyone else’s ideals or beliefs.
The most important thing you can do to improve your chances of having a fulfilling career and a happy life is, from this moment forward, to question how you spend your time, how you behave, and how you arrived at the path you’re on. Be true to yourself. And if you’re not exactly sure who that is, it’s about time you started to find out.
And when you’re in need of insight, ideas, perspective, or direction – don’t search Google – search yourself. That’s where you’ll find real wisdom.