Who are we?

Jean-Francois Rischard: I think that when you look at these various curves of sort of world population curve, or the curve that measures economic activity, you see something that rises very slowly for 2,000 years, then picks up steam around the Industrial Revolution – the old one, the 18th century one. And then you have the curve goes up and up, and now we’re in a period of human history where the curve goes straight up. Straight up meaning going suddenly from three billion people in 1960 to nine billion people in 2050. That’s an extremely fast runoff, and the same is happening on the economic front as well. And so to give you a sense of how steep the curves are, just consider the fact that for instance today, we have six billion people, as I said, on the planet. The world GDP is $40 trillion. And at this rate, we’re using 1.25 planets in terms of the ecological footprint that we have. Whereas 30, 40 years ago we were using roughly half a planet. And if you go from now, which is 2007, to 2050, and you make some modest assumptions as to what will happen in between to growth rate and population, you come up with the staggering figure that in 2050, we will have nine billion people. The world GDP will be $140 trillion. In other terms, more than three times bigger than the one we have now. And unless we do something about the ecological footprint of humanity, we’ll be at 2.25 planets, which is absolutely impossible – 1.25 is already impossible. But going towards two is the end of the system. So that is what’s happening, is that we’re now in the part of the curve where the curves go straight up. And that is absolutely unprecedented. There is nothing like this in human history before.

Recorded on: 7/2/07

We are using too much of the planet.

Higher ed isn’t immune to COVID-19, but the crisis will make it stronger

The pandemic reminds us that our higher education system, with all its flaws, remains a key part of our strategic reserve.

Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • America's higher education system is under great scrutiny as it adapts to a remote-learning world. These criticisms will only make higher ed more innovative.
  • While there are flaws in the system and great challenges ahead, higher education has adapted quickly to allow students to continue learning. John Katzman, CEO of online learning organization Noodle Partners, believes this is cause for optimism not negativity.
  • Universities are pillars of scientific research on the COVID-19 frontlines, they bring facts in times of uncertainty and fake news, and, in a bad economy, education is a personal floatation device.
Keep reading Show less

Should churches be considered essential businesses?

A debate is raging inside and outside of churches.

Photo by Sandy Huffaker / AFP via Getty Images
Culture & Religion
  • Over 1,200 pastors in California claim they're opening their churches this week against state orders.
  • While church leaders demand independence from governmental oversight, 9,000 Catholic churches have received small business loans.
  • A number of re-opened churches shut back down after members and clergy became infected with the novel coronavirus.
Keep reading Show less

What can your microwave tell you about your health?

An MIT system uses wireless signals to measure in-home appliance usage to better understand health tendencies.

John Moore/Getty Images
Technology & Innovation

For many of us, our microwaves and dishwashers aren't the first thing that come to mind when trying to glean health information, beyond that we should (maybe) lay off the Hot Pockets and empty the dishes in a timely way.

Keep reading Show less

Scientists create a 'lifelike' material that has metabolism and can self-reproduce

An innovation may lead to lifelike evolving machines.

Shogo Hamada/Cornell University
Surprising Science
  • Scientists at Cornell University devise a material with 3 key traits of life.
  • The goal for the researchers is not to create life but lifelike machines.
  • The researchers were able to program metabolism into the material's DNA.
Keep reading Show less

How swipe-based dating apps are impacting your mental health

Online dating has evolved, but at what cost?

Photo by Tero Vesalainen on Shutterstock
Technology & Innovation
  • Some dating apps allow individuals to interact and form romantic/sexual connections before meeting face to face with the ability to "swipe" on the screen to either accept or reject another user's profile. Popular swipe-based apps include Tinder, Bumble, and OkCupid.
  • Research by Western Sydney University and the University of Sydney has linked the experience of swipe-based dating apps to higher rates of psychological distress and/or depression.
  • Not all time spent on these apps is damaging, however. Up to 40 percent of current users say they previously entered a serious relationship with someone they met through one of these apps.
Keep reading Show less