This is a game I like to play. It's a kind of sanity check on our priorities, and also provides good roadmaps to the future. What's interesting, of course, is the different choices you come up with on different occasions, and also what's different between your lists and other peoples'. You can play the game strictly on the philanthropic level, or in medicine, or political influence, etc.--and the choice of which areas you choose is also telling.
Today, in late July 2011, this is how I might spend $1 billion, specifically into areas that I think are currently underfunded:
- $100 million to build a working prototype vertical farm.
- Another $100 million on self-replicating 3d printers and a business ecosystem for distributed manufacturing and design.
- $200 million into several nuclear fusion efforts, including General Fusion's pneumatic-ram driven steampunk reactor, the Polywell, Focus fusion and fusion-catalyzed subcritical thorium fission.
- $100 million into a demonstration laser launch system capable of launching at least a soft drink can's worth of mass into orbit. Actually, a lot of that would probably go into magbeams and tether-driven 'second stage' technologies.
- $100 million into studying terra preta, iron fertilization, and carbon air capture. 'Cause even if you don't believe that all that CO2 in the air is causing climate change, ocean acidification is still a huge problem.
- $100 million on magnetic shielding technology (and magsails) for space travel.
- $200 million to buy and launch one of Bigelow's BA330 orbital stations to use as a variable-gravity research module and Mars cycler.
- $100 million for an underground volcanic island lair (and lots of yellow jumpsuits). Just because I can.
...Well, that's what happens with this exercise--your choices veer all over the map. The rationale for these particular ones can be summed up in one of my credos, "Live on Earth as though you were colonizing Mars." The same technologies that will allow us to live on other worlds will allow us to live sustainably on this one; I don't distinguish the idea of space development from the idea of sustainability, the one necessitates the other.
What's really interesting is that though the above is the sort of list I might have seriously compiled a few years ago, after having gone through the Masters in Strategic Foresight programme at OCADU, my priorities have shifted. If I were to really get serious, I'd be investing in things like stakeholder management systems and in building structured dialogic design protocols into social media--essentially, making the internet into a global decision-making system. But to explain that line of thinking... would take a novel. Hmmm... What a good idea...