The Purpose Economy

Aaron Hurst:  A year or so ago I came across my uncle’s thesis when he was an economist at Stanford and he coined the term information economy and wrote his dissertation on how the economy was shifting from an industrial economy to an information economy.  And it was fascinating to go through his nine volume dissertation and start to understand how the economy has evolved over time.  I sort of always assumed the economy was more or less the way it is, but what I came to realize was that we started off as hunters and gatherers and that’s how we were able to survive.  But then we learned how to use the land and animals and to settle down and create an agrarian economy. And this had lasted thousands of years, but then we turn into an industrial economy. We started learning how to make machines and we started being able to create assembly lines and it radically changed our whole economy, our society, et cetera.

And then what happened in the 1960s is we actually had a shift where we went from this industrial economy, where the economy was about how we made things and was about manufacturing, into this information economy which is about everything from TV and radio to technology to eventually the Internet. And it had become the dominant part of the economy. And what was interesting in looking at his research was not only had the economy shifted, but each of these economies had gotten shorter and shorter. The agrarian economy was thousands of years. The industrial was just a few hundred. And it seemed likely that the information economy wouldn’t last that long and it would be much shorter than the industrial economy. And as I looked at one of the things that gave us an indication the economy was shifting to this information economy, I started to realize there were similar things that were happening today there may be signs that the economy’s changing again. That we may be entering the fourth economy in our history. A fourth economy based on advances on where we are as a society, what are our needs are as a society. And I started looking around trying to figure out what are all these different pieces add up to.

And you started seeing books and articles showing up everywhere, people talking about sharing. People talking about maker economy, how people are making their own products to people shopping and doing more around experience. All these different trends that were happening throughout society and I started drawing all these different trends on a whiteboard showing where they existed and how they connected to each other. And when I took a step back something emerged which is that they were all fundamentally about purpose and people’s quest for purpose. They’re about enhancing relationships. They’re about doing something greater than yourself. And they’re about personal growth and experience. And when you looked at them in totality they started to really indicate that we were on the way to our fourth economy, that we are going to be in likely the next ten years as millennials become the majority of our workforce, an economy where purpose is the primary driver of economic output.

And we’re already seeing that in the top innovations coming out of finance, education, healthcare, retail, all the top innovations are all around this need for purpose. And as you look at the workplace all the changes we’re trying to make in the workplace, the things Google’s doing, the things top companies are doing, they’re all because, especially the millennial generation is demanding purpose in their work at a level never seen before. And that’s why I believe we’re in the early days of our fourth economy, a purpose economy.

So a lot of people ask, what is the purpose economy? And I think it’s something that I’m honestly still continuing to define and to understand. And every city I visit I find new examples. But there’s some common threads that bring it together and I think one is community. I think with technology and with the industrial revolution and cars we’ve gotten to a point where a lot of traditional communities have gotten pulled apart. And what we see a lot of innovation that’s going into this new economy is about getting back to neighborhoods, getting back to local business, getting back to being able to relate to your neighbors and having schools truly embedded in your neighborhood. It’s a much more localized economy. So that’s one piece. The second really is a move away from consumption to creation and experience.

So whereas previous generations are very focused on, you know, conspicuous consumption, consumption as a form of entertainment in and of itself, we’re seeing it more and more, especially the millennials, the desire to be able to have experiences and to have like more conspicuous consumption of experience. And we’re seeing more and more of a desire to create. And you see things like Etsy or you see in like a lot of neighborhoods new venues where you can go in and not just buy things but make things. You get to build things yourself. You see more and more people doing this in their homes. You see magazines and websites about do-it-yourself. The other major piece of it is disintermediation. We’ve gotten to a point where there are these huge organizations that make us so far removed from each other in marketplaces and you see this with finance where finance used to be about borrowing money from our neighbors, it became a complicated algorithm as part of an anonymous business.

And we’re now starting to see peer to peer lending appear again, so we’re removing that intermediary. You see in healthcare how we’ve had so many intermediaries get in the middle between the doctor and the patient. And if you talk to the top healthcare providers now they’re now moving towards goals of making sure that medicine looks more like it did a hundred years ago where house visits, where a doctor actually came to you is the norm, not that you go see the doctor. It’s removing these intermediaries in these institutions and bringing us closer together. So these are just some of the trends that we see in this new economy.

Directed/Produced by Jonathan Fowler and Dillon Fitton

Imperative CEO Aaron Hurst ( describes how we are evolving from an information economy to an economy of purpose. Hurst is the author of The Purpose Economy: How Your Desire for Impact, Personal Growth and Community Is Changing the World (

Volcanoes to power bitcoin mining in El Salvador

The first nation to make bitcoin legal tender will use geothermal energy to mine it.

Credit: Aaron Thomas via Unsplash
Technology & Innovation

This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.

In June 2021, El Salvador became the first nation in the world to make bitcoin legal tender. Soon after, President Nayib Bukele instructed a state-owned power company to provide bitcoin mining facilities with cheap, clean energy — harnessed from the country's volcanoes.

The challenge: Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, a digital form of money and a payment system. Crypto has several advantages over physical dollars and cents — it's incredibly difficult to counterfeit, and transactions are more secure — but it also has a major downside.

Crypto transactions are recorded and new coins are added into circulation through a process called mining.

Crypto mining involves computers solving incredibly difficult mathematical puzzles. It is also incredibly energy-intensive — Cambridge University researchers estimate that bitcoin mining alone consumes more electricity every year than Argentina.

Most of that electricity is generated by carbon-emitting fossil fuels. As it stands, bitcoin mining produces an estimated 36.95 megatons of CO2 annually.

A world first: On June 9, El Salvador became the first nation to make bitcoin legal tender, meaning businesses have to accept it as payment and citizens can use it to pay taxes.

Less than a day later, Bukele tweeted that he'd instructed a state-owned geothermal electric company to put together a plan to provide bitcoin mining facilities with "very cheap, 100% clean, 100% renewable, 0 emissions energy."

Geothermal electricity is produced by capturing heat from the Earth itself. In El Salvador, that heat comes from volcanoes, and an estimated two-thirds of their energy potential is currently untapped.

Why it matters: El Salvador's decision to make bitcoin legal tender could be a win for both the crypto and the nation itself.

"(W)hat it does for bitcoin is further legitimizes its status as a potential reserve asset for sovereign and super sovereign entities," Greg King, CEO of crypto asset management firm Osprey Funds, told CBS News of the legislation.

Meanwhile, El Salvador is one of the poorest nations in North America, and bitcoin miners — the people who own and operate the computers doing the mining — receive bitcoins as a reward for their efforts.

"This is going to evolve fast!"

If El Salvador begins operating bitcoin mining facilities powered by clean, cheap geothermal energy, it could become a global hub for mining — and receive a much-needed economic boost in the process.

The next steps: It remains to be seen whether Salvadorans will fully embrace bitcoin — which is notoriously volatile — or continue business-as-usual with the nation's other legal tender, the U.S. dollar.

Only time will tell if Bukele's plan for volcano-powered bitcoin mining facilities comes to fruition, too — but based on the speed of things so far, we won't have to wait long to find out.

Less than three hours after tweeting about the idea, Bukele followed up with another tweet claiming that the nation's geothermal energy company had already dug a new well and was designing a "mining hub" around it.

"This is going to evolve fast!" the president promised.

How Pfizer and BioNTech made history with their vaccine

How were mRNA vaccines developed? Pfizer's Dr Bill Gruber explains the science behind this record-breaking achievement and how it was developed without compromising safety.

Sponsored by Pfizer
  • Wondering how Pfizer and partner BioNTech developed a COVID-19 vaccine in record time without compromising safety? Dr Bill Gruber, SVP of Pfizer Vaccine Clinical Research and Development, explains the process from start to finish.
  • "I told my team, at first we were inspired by hope and now we're inspired by reality," Dr Gruber said. "If you bring critical science together, talented team members together, government, academia, industry, public health officials—you can achieve what was previously the unachievable."
  • The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine has not been approved or licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but has been authorized for emergency use by FDA under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to prevent COVID-19 for use in individuals 12 years of age and older. The emergency use of this product is only authorized for the duration of the emergency declaration unless ended sooner. See Fact Sheet:

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Massive 'Darth Vader' isopod found lurking in the Indian Ocean

The father of all giant sea bugs was recently discovered off the coast of Java.

SJADE 2018
Surprising Science
  • A new species of isopod with a resemblance to a certain Sith lord was just discovered.
  • It is the first known giant isopod from the Indian Ocean.
  • The finding extends the list of giant isopods even further.
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Astronomers find more than 100,000 "stellar nurseries"

Every star we can see, including our sun, was born in one of these violent clouds.

Credit: NASA / ESA via Getty Images
Surprising Science

This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.

An international team of astronomers has conducted the biggest survey of stellar nurseries to date, charting more than 100,000 star-birthing regions across our corner of the universe.

Stellar nurseries: Outer space is filled with clouds of dust and gas called nebulae. In some of these nebulae, gravity will pull the dust and gas into clumps that eventually get so big, they collapse on themselves — and a star is born.

These star-birthing nebulae are known as stellar nurseries.

The challenge: Stars are a key part of the universe — they lead to the formation of planets and produce the elements needed to create life as we know it. A better understanding of stars, then, means a better understanding of the universe — but there's still a lot we don't know about star formation.

This is partly because it's hard to see what's going on in stellar nurseries — the clouds of dust obscure optical telescopes' view — and also because there are just so many of them that it's hard to know what the average nursery is like.

The survey: The astronomers conducted their survey of stellar nurseries using the massive ALMA telescope array in Chile. Because ALMA is a radio telescope, it captures the radio waves emanating from celestial objects, rather than the light.

"The new thing ... is that we can use ALMA to take pictures of many galaxies, and these pictures are as sharp and detailed as those taken by optical telescopes," Jiayi Sun, an Ohio State University (OSU) researcher, said in a press release.

"This just hasn't been possible before."

Over the course of the five-year survey, the group was able to chart more than 100,000 stellar nurseries across more than 90 nearby galaxies, expanding the amount of available data on the celestial objects tenfold, according to OSU researcher Adam Leroy.

New insights: The survey is already yielding new insights into stellar nurseries, including the fact that they appear to be more diverse than previously thought.

"For a long time, conventional wisdom among astronomers was that all stellar nurseries looked more or less the same," Sun said. "But with this survey we can see that this is really not the case."

"While there are some similarities, the nature and appearance of these nurseries change within and among galaxies," he continued, "just like cities or trees may vary in important ways as you go from place to place across the world."

Astronomers have also learned from the survey that stellar nurseries aren't particularly efficient at producing stars and tend to live for only 10 to 30 million years, which isn't very long on a universal scale.

Looking ahead: Data from the survey is now publicly available, so expect to see other researchers using it to make their own observations about stellar nurseries in the future.

"We have an incredible dataset here that will continue to be useful," Leroy said. "This is really a new view of galaxies and we expect to be learning from it for years to come."