Ahoy! It’s Captain Fanplastic…

Oh what treasure can be found in plastic #captainfanplastic @soapboxsouthafrica

By: Melissa Baird

At the end of 2018, Soapbox South Africa launched an educational programme called Captain Fanplastic, that contributes to the UN’s 14th Sustainable Development Goal. The learning objective is to create a mindset that plastic is #NoTrashButTreasure. The call to action is to pick it up, reuse or recycle it.

The programme starts with a story that local facilitators share. The Legend of Captain Fanplastic is read to the learners and the beautiful illustrations make the story of the captain and his turtle, Fin come to life in a world the learners can immerse themselves in. After the story the teaching of new habits begins, focusing on the why it is vital to reduce the use of plastic, reuse and recycle it.

With this foundation the fun challenge begins, and the children are encouraged to get creative and, guided by project’s facilitators they begin to craft various items from the story, like their very own Captain Fanplastic eye-patch and Fin, the Turtle.

Then they move on to the cleaning phase and go on their first “treasure” hunt in areas around their schools. Armed with treasure maps they record what they find and collect the plastic booty which is then weighed, and prizes are given to the most successful little pirates.

This careful build up from the graphic story towards the reality of an environment polluted by plastic litter helps to encourage behaviour change. All parts of the programme link back to the story, which enables the children to truly understand, believe and become part of the solution. It not only changes the perception of young children towards plastic, reducing littering and stimulating recycling in the long run, but also removes plastic from their surroundings.

The programme measures its impact in three ways:

  1. At the start a baseline measurement is conducted to grasp the knowledge of the school class about plastic pollution. At the end of the programme facilitators do a follow-up to measure what the impact has been.
  1. During the treasure hunt the children pair up and document everything they find on a Captain Fanplastic treasure map, which records valuable data about the type of plastic that is found in South Africa. These locations (e.g. beaches, river banks, etc.) will often be situated around disadvantaged areas, with less resources and capacity to tackle the problem.
  1. At the end of the treasure hunt, facilitators weigh the amount of treasure every group has found and the plastic is collected by recycling partners like @PlasticsSA.

The story can be adapted to any cultural landscape and, as a result, the aim is to scale up the outreach potential of the initiative. The plans for 2019 include translations in IsiXhosa, Afrikaans and Portuguese.

The use of graphic storytelling and gamification is very positively received by the 8 – 12-year-old target group and Captain Fanplastic has already set sail for one thousand classrooms in South Africa.

You can support a school to get the materials, email: partners@captainfanplastic.com    

About Soapbox South Africa:

This Cape Town based marketing agency helps social enterprises and corporate companies improve their social and environmental impact in Africa.

Schools can invite the captain to their schools by emailing: schools@captainfanplastic.com

Cricket Flour Power

By: Melissa Baird

I recently attended the Pioneers 18 conference in Vienna, Austria. This slickly produced, high tech conference won the event of the year last year and they sure put on a show. The co-host was a humanoid robot called Pepper that had the audience break out in to fits of applause and more than one smile.

On the main stage a variety of speakers posed unanswerable questions about the future of humanity since Artificial Intelligence (AI) is developing at such a rapid rate no-one can really predict the impact on our development other than to say that we are in for the ride of our lives.

But it was not just robotics and the technological revolution that was of interest. There are remarkable developments in food technology and some rather curious innovations that could positively impact how the world is fed. Cue Daniel Vach who originates from Prague and has the largest cricket farm in Thailand that is producing high protein flour made from crickets.

SENS foods had a huge PR boost in early June with the launch of their high protein SENS bars and new product, SENS bread, to the Rewe group, a retail chain in the Czech Republic. It appears the European market is on the verge of accepting cricket and other insect-based products as “completely okay”.  This is going to give impetus to the emerging insect industry and 2018 is becoming the year of the cricket all around Europe.

The protein bars are already in many shops, gyms around Europe. As Daniel explained: “By 2050, we need to double our production of food. There is a shortage of protein and farming more cattle or catching more fish is not a solution. Even now, we simply overstretch our natural resources. That cannot last long. We need to look into alternative sources of protein, or there will not be enough food to feed everyone.”

I had these thoughts in my mind when I facilitated the seminar on Food Security and Agriculture at Sustainability Week in Tshwane just two weeks after meeting Daniel and the figures on South African food ‘insecurity’ are staggering. According to Mandla Nkomo – the managing director of Solidaridad, the number of people in South Africa who are food insecure equals the entire population of Zimbabwe (13.6 million). Solidaridad is a global organisation that provides solutions for agricultural sustainability and was responsible for the development of Fairtrade and other certification labels that were created to eradicate poverty in the lives of farm workers. But as he later said, “you cannot certify workers out of poverty”. What will bring change and set to balance the lives of the hungry with what the earth can provide? It is not the lack of science or technology that is holding true change back but the fact that people are not connecting the ‘dots’ in agriculture and food supply. Could the cricket be that dot? If the United Nations is already promoting eating insects as a solution to the coming food crisis (insects are already eaten regularly by 2 billion people all over the world). The figures add up; to produce the same amount of protein, crickets require 12x less feed, 2000x less water and produce 100x less greenhouse gases than cattle. The whole cricket farming industry is at its beginning, and SENS bars taste great, are highly nutritious and an example of insect-based food products that can’t be overlooked.

Of course, I had to try one but was warned that if I had a shellfish allergy (I don’t) I would not be able to eat cricket. On my best days I am a vegan, on a few days in the year I eat wild meat prepared by friends, but on none of them have I ever (knowingly) eaten an insect.

The surprising thing about it was it tasted just like any other protein bar I have eaten, only it had less sugar. If the European market is waking up to the unique aspects of this product, could that happen in South Africa? Once upon a time the South African mass market did not eat pilchards, but clever marketing soon made canned fish a meal served up on more than three million South African plates a day.

SENS gives the figures: 11 crickets = 1 gram of flour. I protein bar uses 55 crickets and the super high protein bar uses 132 crickets.  The flour has a shelf life of two years and does not need to be refrigerated. This means it can be distributed with less impacts on GHG emissions and higher quantities can be produced for longer shelf life without the need for preservatives. Could cricket flour become the staple flour of SA?

I asked Daniel why he had become interested in this endeavour and what was his inspiration. He said he “hated wasteful consumption patterns” and wanted to come up with a solution that would change that and solve the food crises. Cricket farming is a true example of a circular approach to agriculture. The crickets are fed on organic waste streams from rice husks and the cricket’s excrement – called “frass’ – is an excellent fertiliser; one waste stream that is useless transforms in to two products that are useful, and by farming crickets the reduction in GHG emissions is measurable as is the use of water which in meat production is a serious cause for concern.

My vegan heart was confused: crickets, they sing don’t they which prompted me to ask what his cricket farm sounds like. He looked at me rather perplexed and then laughed and said, “Well actually they are quite quiet.” Ja, probably because they know they are going to be eaten I thought but who knows. Being a cold-blooded creature, the cricket is literally frozen to its end before being processed, unlike what happens to cattle, chickens etc.

I finished the cricket protein bar and enthusiastically discussed it with the head of the Bayer Foundation, Thimo Valentin Schmitt-Lord who is searching the world for mass produced solutions to end hunger. I said to him I have seen the future of food. Lab grown meat may be a part of it but to think that conventional animal production can do the job based on water usage, deforestation and GHG emissions is not it given the planet’s current environmental crises.

Autonomous driving – just around the corner

I was fortunate enough to attend my second Pioneers event, held in Munich, Germany. Its focus: Game-changing technologies set to govern the future of mobility. To get there I took a bus from Vienna in Austria, thinking I would use the time to catch up on things. What I didn’t expect was a 10-hour journey complicated by log-jam traffic and punctuated by the bus driver’s union regulations that require him to stop for 30 minutes every six hours no matter what. The journey ended with a road-side stranding in sub-zero temperatures on a snowy highway just outside of Munich. What would autonomous driving have to offer this crisis, I wondered, and would technology ever be able to outsmart the weather?

As ever, the organisers of this Pioneers event curated a stage of mind-blowing innovators who are grasping the future with all their imagination and combining blue-sky solutions with the very best of technology to create products and services that will provide a variety of solutions to redefine our concept (and experience) of mobility. The future looks like a space-age version of the present, with plans for flying cars and artificial intelligence geared up to not only drive you around but map your route, monitor environmental conditions and sort out a few of your administrative tasks like the best PA. Linked to these innovations are increased security interfaces and new solutions for machine-to-machine payment that will enable transactions to happen in real time and with absolute transparency thanks to blockchain technology.

The event was opened by European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, who leads the project team Energy Union. In a video address, he said: “Thanks to your ideas, today’s kids might never have to learn to drive,” adding: “The concept of car accidents might be something they learn about in their history books. Air pollution could sound like a medieval epidemic to them.”

Certainly, the acceleration towards clean, connected and automated mobility could bring reductions in carbon emissions and an increase in road safety – but how will consumers feel about getting into a car that drives itself?

Rise of the machines

More than 20 start-up pitches were presented, each with their own game-changing technology and inspired solutions for the future of transport. The overall winner was Swiss start-up embotech, which has developed software that enables a car to literally drive itself and is already being explored by top vehicle manufacturers in Europe.

Electric cars were also under the spotlight and opinion is that autonomous driving will go hand in hand with electric vehicles, making human drivers obsolete in the process.

In his 2014 book The Rough Ride to the Future, scientist and futurist James Lovelock predicts the role artificial intelligence (AI) will play in changing the face of future humanity, noting how AI is already integral in our lives. He points out that aeroplanes are already able to fly themselves, but consumers can’t accept the fact that no pilot is required – we are not quite ready to hand over to a machine, no matter how smart it is.

Changing consumer perspectives is obvious and key to mass acceptance of the driverless car. Christoph Stadeler, Facebook’s Head of Automotive Strategy, delivered a keynote address reflecting on the role this social media megalith can play. However, with all high-tech solutions the threat of hacking into systems to steal information or conduct fraudulent payments is ever-present. It is dangerous territory, but therein offers opportunities for high-tech security innovations.

Stadeler said that the four main things driving automation are connectivity, electrification, shared mobility and autonomy with the number one interface being your mobile phone. This makes consumer centric software a necessity; consider a smart car that offers a range of digital services with mobility an added extra.

A revolution in transport

Peter Campbell, renowned British motoring journalist from the Financial Times, said, “Driverless cars will bring a revolution in transport,” and begs the question: “Why would anyone ever buy a car again?” Consider the freedom of movement these cars will give to the elderly, the disabled and millions of carless commuters, not to mention the reduction in road accidents. Worldwide millions of people are killed every year due to human misjudgement on the roads – could automated cars solve this?

The innovators leading the development of the software for autonomous cars believe so. This new way of driving is will soon be making headlines despite the barriers to uptake that currently exist, including outdated legislative rules and regulations that have not caught up with new technology yet. Despite these barriers, my sense is the future of clean, connected and automated mobility is just around the corner.

Future Mobility Pioneers to keep an eye on

Electrification winner: ChargeX

Electric supercar: Rimac Automobili

Connectivity winner: High Mobility

Cyber Security: Karamba Security

Blockchain technology: Slovakian developers FinID

Shared-use technology: Getaway

About Pioneers

Founded in 2009 in Vienna, Pioneers establishes and facilitates direct, meaningful business relationships between start-ups, corporate executives and investors to champion growth and innovation. It is the ultimate one-stop hub for global tech innovators to access high-value, curated and qualified information about new and Series A European start-ups. Its annual flagship event takes place in the 500-year-old Hofburg Imperial Palace in Vienna from 24-25 May. The award-winning event will unite a community of 2 500 founders, investors, executives and public-sector representatives from over 100 nations.



Normal is Over is a documentary that uncovers the financial and economic paradigm underlying our planetary problems

The budget required for project ‘Save Civilization’ is estimated to be 1/3 of the U.S. Military Budget, which at the time of making this documentary was set at $598bn – this is according to Prof. Lester R. Brown, founder of the Worldwatch and Earth Policy institutes. And if you think about it, it’s a one-time investment with a handsome return.

Normal is Over is by no means the first documentary about environmental degradation, the evil’s of economic globalisation and our grotesque relationship with consumption – but it differs in that it uncovers the financial and economic paradigm underlying our planetary problems and it intends to inspire and motivate positive thinking and action by showing that there are real solutions, being carried out by ‘real’ people despite the overwhelming issues to address.

Shot over a period of five years, this award-winning film documents the incredible journey taken by investigative journalist, Renee Scheltema, as she goes on a global search to find out what’s going wrong and if it can be fixed. She shares the ideas of some of the world’s finest contemporary thinkers, the likes of Prof. Lester Brown, Dr Ian McCullum, Dr Vandana Shiva, Prof. Bernard Lietaer, Charles Eisenstein and a host of others.

The film recounts how human habits of consumption, the industrialisation and control of our food production and the use of a ‘single currency-positive interest rate’ economic system have brought about species extinction, climate change and the depletion of critical natural resources.

There is an element of myth-busting that takes place in this story too. The panel of economic experts all conclude that the current monetary system is absolutely unsustainable because of the consequence of widening the inequality gap, primarily through positive interest rates and a debt currency. In the film they propose some very exciting and feasible alternatives to this economic model that can offer hope of salvation to the world and benefit the other 99%. Normal is Over gives heaps of validation to the ‘green fight’ and offers well thought out strategies on how best to tackle it.

It is definitely worth a watch for those starting out on an exploratory understanding of global exploitation and decline. But equally so for those suffering from Green Fatigue because it offers new perspective and with it, hope. It’s surprisingly entertaining for a documentary offering rich visuals along with intelligent and humorous banter between Renee and her guests.

To find out more about screenings, organising a screening or how to stream the film please go to http://normalisoverthemovie.com/

Water Expert, Dr Anthony Turton on Cape Town’s Water Crisis

Cape Town residents queueing for water at one of the city’s mountain spring pipes.

Former senior researcher at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Dr Anthony Turton talks to Radio New Zealand about Cape Town’s current water crisis.

Dr Turton, who was suspended from the CSIR in 2008 on the grounds that the findings of his keynote address, ‘A Clean South Africa’ would bring the council into disrepute, warns the country’s decision-makers of the water crisis the country is headed for.

Dr Turton expresses his opinion in the interview that drought is a normal condition in South Africa and that this reason is, “a red herring that politicians are putting out there to deflect the blame away from themselves.”

To read the paper which caused Dr Turton’s suspension, go to : http://www.anthonyturton.com/assets/my_documents/my_files/Keynote_Address_CSIR_2008_Ver_2.pdf

How to find your purpose

By Si Ekin

One of the most important questions we can ask ourselves as human beings, I believe, is, “what is my purpose?”. This article explains how to find your purpose.

When we can achieve congruence between our purpose and our actions, it’s a winning formula. It’s a great place to come from and provides an easy reference point. If we don’t, we risk a life of endless wheel spinning.

You might find that finding your purpose is easier than you think. You can learn how to find your purpose. Here’s how I found mine…

What is my purpose?

It was one of those sweltering, humid Durban days as I strolled back home from school. I was seven years old. It was 1975. Apartheid South Africa was in full swing.

I walked up the hill, crossed Innes Road and walk up our road, Venice Road. At first, I couldn’t place the sound, alien in the humdrum of my day-to-day suburban life. Singing and pounding.

I rounded the corner and saw about 20 Zulu men digging a ditch and singing and chanting, as they dug and pounded in rhythm with pick-axes. These sweating, working, bare-chested men.

I wandered into the house. It was quiet and cool. I closed the door and said hello to my dad who was walking down the stairs, and strolled into the kitchen to see my mum who was doing some baking.

Then it hit me, something is not right here. Why was it that these men were sweating and toiling and my parents were not? Why was it that, as far as I could see, the people with dark skin worked hard and had hard lives and us -the light-skinned people – didn’t work so hard and had easy lives?

“Please can we take some drink to those men out there, it’s not fair and it’s not right,” I said to my mother, which she agreed to. Ten minutes later, I walked out to the group of men, with a tray of lemonade and glasses.

I looked up at the expressions on the faces of those men: laughter, gratitude and appreciation; I can see it as if it were yesterday.

In that moment, I made a decision, the type of decision that indomitably- spirited seven year old might make; my purpose was born, my ‘why’ was created: I am going to make the world a better, fairer, more loving one.

It took years to find it, it’s a process, but when you find it, you feel it.

​How to find your purpose

What’s your why, your purpose?

It’s taken me a long time and much work to get mine. It’s fine if you don’t know, because it’s a journey.

Here are two questions that might be useful to you:

  • What do you feel strongly about?
  • When you think back on your childhood, what is the first and strongest memory you remember having?

Write down your answers and you will begin the process of learning how to find your purpose in life.

​Sign up to my e-newsletter and receive my free eBook on ‘The Art of Courage’ – click here!

Introducing TheTreeApp, South Africa


It’s that time of year when we settle into summer and start taking advantage of some time off. Perfect for going on picnics, meandering hikes and exploring our beautiful country’s vegetation. But how often do we admire a tree – it’s flowers, its unusual leaves or its spectacular size and shape – and not know its name? How awesome would it be to quickly identify it, learn more about it and share the knowledge with your family and friends?

Nowadays we are spoilt for choice in accessing information and the biggest challenge is being able to sort the accurate from the incorrect. That’s where high quality, research-based smartphone and tablet applications (apps) offer the most value. With a couple of taps you can sound like an expert, thanks to the experts who have developed an app that assists in the identification of trees.

A team of ardent pioneers, including Val Thomas, Dr Robbie (Ernest) Robison and Herman Van den Berg, have made South Africa’s vast array of tree species the subject of the award-winning app, TheTreeApp South Africa.

It is beautifully illustrated and constructed allowing for easy navigation. It only requires Wi-Fi once, to download the app. Thereafter it won’t require any more data connection for its usage. An initial thorough going-over of the ‘Help’ section, will make the tree identification experience a lot more engaging. It is highly absorbing so prepare to have to drag yourself out of the garden if you need to get any holiday chores done.

Using the phone’s location setting, the app offers up options that are relevant to any specific area within South Africa, within a range of a 12,5 km radius, to help the user narrow down the possible species. This aspect of the app is most helpful, considering that, in total it features more than 1,100 species including 979 indigenous trees and 135 invasive species.

Identification can be made using leaves, flowers, fruit, growth, form, woody features, thorns or latex. The number of potential options is reduced with every identifier until a positive identification can be made. The structure and terminology are designed to appeal equally to the layman (being available in all 11 official languages) as well to those more familiar with the Latin terms and scientific information.

To find out more about this useful app visit: http://www.thetreeapp.co.za/

Eco-Logic Awards – 2018 Entries

It’s that time of year when entries are called for, for the Eco-Logic Awards 2018. You are invited to nominate an eco-champion that you believe is making a positive contribution towards creating an eco-logical society and environment – or nominate your own organisation, product or project under one (or more) of the 13 categories, to name a few,  The Biodiversity Award, The Climate Change Award, The Water Conservation Award and The Municipalities Award.

The Eco-Logic Awards identify individuals, organisations and communities that positively contribute towards a sustainable world – and we encourage consumers to support them by purchasing  their products and services.

The Enviropaedia established the Annual Eco-Logic Awards in 2011 and it has since grown into South Africa’s most glamorously green eco-calendar event, receiving extensive TV, radio, print media and online coverage.

See what past winners have said about how winning this award has furthered their cause to establishing a more sustainable world.


For information about the award categories, judging criteria and how to enter go to:

1 Day Left! Chip In on a Zero Waste Shop.

Thundafund, is South Africa’s leading rewards-based crowdfunding platform and they are currently working with a project called Shop Zero, which is a waste free, organic grocery store opening up in Cape Town.

Shop Zero will be the the place to shop at if you are looking for a completely zero waste retailer serving bulk food, toiletries, soaps, household products and cleaners without disposable packaging. Shop Zero’s intention is to make zero waste living easier, cheaper and more accessible to everyone. Also on offer will be options for earth-conscious customers who want to leave no trace of their consumption.

Products will be decanted into your own containers and you’ll pay for it by weight, effectively minimizing waste that is generated through packaging. Reusable containers and compostable bags will also be available for purchase in store.

Shop Zero won’t only be a zero waste, package free, one stop, ‘all you need to live a less wasteful life’, store, it’ll be a community. The team at Shop Zero, believe in bringing people together, sharing ideas, presenting tutorials, and celebrating the amazing achievements of people in the zero waste community. This is why they plan to host lots of events in store!

Saving two Birds with One Buy – What They Need & What You Get

Shop Zero needs backers to help them start a revolution, and everyone is invited to join the global movement to eliminate plastic from landfills, streams, oceans, and beaches and change the way Capetonian’s shop. By purchasing one of Shop Zero’s project related rewards, you will become a contributor, helping to make this project a reality and helping to lessen your impact on the environment.

Hurry though, there is only 1 Day left to help realise this fantastic and much needed outlet. Go to https://www.thundafund.com/project/shopzero and pledge.

Pioneers’17 Start-ups Inspire – Empower- Re- Create

Melissa Baird stepped out her comfort zone and attended the Pioneers17 Top 50 Start-up event in Vienna Austria to discover how Artificial Intelligence and smart tech innovation is changing the world one app at a time and at a rapid eye movement pace.

The venue was Vienna’s Hofburg palace; an astounding architectural masterpiece (and relic) of the grand Austro – Hungarian empire replete with ornate frescoes on its ceilings, wide staircases and thick marble columns in enormous halls lit by glossy chandeliers and whispering ballrooms that spoke of a glamorous past, and survival in the face of the destruction of war.

There were five stages showcasing the best in tech and inspiration, info -tainment and empowerment; masterclasses to help start-ups pitch their product to investors – and the media – and inspiring interviews with the likes of Virgin Galactic (yes, they are going to the moon) Google discussing their AI assistant (you can ask it anything and it will search your files for the answer and the whole internet too).

I listened to start up pitches as the inventors took the challenge to present their ideas to investors. They included BeeAnd.me – smart monitoring for bees that enable apiarists to monitor changes in hive behaviour and develop scientific knowledge about the habits of the world’s most precious and productive pollinating resource. Another included using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to enable doctors to make better diagnosis and have access to the latest research – who on earth can read 150 000 research papers and still have a life or enable it in a patient? No problem – AI can do it and feedback. Sen wants to ‘consumerise space’ by recording videos and capturing space data to send it back to earth – what is out there soon to be ‘brought’ to you by a famous brand. Their aim is to share information ‘universally’ so what happens on earth is also taken out there for there to the Moon and Mars (missions planned) “as the space economy and activities expand in these worlds” – yes other than earth.

That was just the first few hours and, while I was taking lots of deep breaths as I processed the information overload, I met a robot named Pepper that responds to human touch through mechanical undulation and murmurs sweetly like a cat would purr. Astonished I was at ‘her’ responses and I challenged her creator Dimitrios Prodromou, the co-founder of Humanizing Technologies GmbH, to explain how emotions could be mechanised; what of love, could that awe-inspiring and unstoppable force ever be programmed?

Smart homes are the homes of tomorrow. They are energy efficient and can control temperatures for better living conditions. I interviewed Morten Bremild co-founder of Anyware Connected Living. They have created a smart device that acts as both energy regulator and intrusion detector in your home. The device looks like a light bulb, is as easy to install and what will be of interest to South Africans is its one system sensors that can detect intrusions, turn lights on and off while you are away and regulate the temperature of your home. The indoor climate monitoring sensor detects humidity levels and if above 75% humidity the sensor alerts you. Their aim is to make smart homes simpler and – Morten is very keen to find partners in the energy utility and insurance industry in this country.

Currently smart homes are in the realm of the early adopters of technology (16% of the overall market) and their target is for the early majority market who want a meaningful smart home experience so the product is easy enough for anyone to install and there is valuable data for insurance companies and energy companies to give back to the customer in terms of health and safety.

The device was a great success at the largest consumer expo in the US and the product will also be available via Amazon.com. From an energy perspective, a household can save 5-7% per degree Celsius – over a year if temperatures are regulated correctly.

There is an app to help you develop your happiness muscle – HiMoment that I have been trying out.  The ‘happiness industry’ is massive (USD 60 billion) but this is not about encouraging more social media narcissism, rather it is a personal timeline of sorts but complete with videos, images and voice records. A good ‘get out blue’ use for your phone. I rely on my memory and pictures for that but I could see its point and purpose.

On the music front an amazing speaker Zylia.com that can record all the instruments in a room making sound engineering unnecessary and helping musicians record top quality clips without having to spend fortunes on sound studios. In sport, there is a fabric (SUPA.AI) that records your biorhythms and reports on fitness levels.

Capitalising – or aiming to – on the legal cannabis growing industry is a start-up called Leaf that has created their own fridge which is a grow room and monitoring system -all in one -so medical cannabis can be grown free of pesticides and by individuals who require the prescription. The developer calls it the ultimate gardening and health tool.

But it’s Artificial Intelligence that is making the biggest impact on our present and – ergo- our future. James Lovelock – in his Rough Guide to the Future speaks of this as being the single most disruptive technology event ever. It will impact how we manage our home life, investments, diagnose illness, have sex and work. If you are stuck on any question or need to speak a different language – just ask Babel or Google’s assistant (being engineered to outsmart Apple’s Siri). The live demonstrations of the capabilities of these interventions was astounding.

This gathering of new economy CEO’s was like a fashion shoot for the world’s top hipsters and they were well supported by engineers, musicians, doctors, scientists and investors. This reinvention space shows a snapshot of how the world is changing and at a pace that most won’t keep up with.

But what really grabbed my attention was the concept of impact investing – Silicone Valley is the home of the start-up and Ela Madej who is the founder of Fifty Years – an impact investment fund that is there to solve the world’s biggest problems spoke clearly about the fact that all business is being called to understand the finite resources of the planet and adapt. The venture capital market has never been called to account for the impacts of the investment itself; what it does to the planet, does it help solve climate change, social inequality and injustice? Technology and capital need to be in service of the planet – not purely profit. Research shows that most MBA students would take a cut in salary to align their work to the personal values they espouse. There is a new generation of business leaders emerging who see the solutions need to come from business as well as consumers who have more developed intrinsic values.

What was alarming is that AI already makes high level investment decisions and will do so more in the future. But you can’t transfer your values to a piece of software that is programmed to seek out profit above anything else. “More and more aspects of the economy are not being run by humans” she said and therefore we need impact investing. Charly Kleissner of Impact Assets – also Silicone Valley based – agreed and he said the human face of investing – the ‘consciousness’ is what is needed above just great algorithms.

Consider the impacts of industrial agriculture on water and animals and the dystopian future is already here. In the future, all meat will be farmed outside of mass animal farming – in laboratories “cellular agriculture” as animals no longer can be efficiently farmed for their meat and by products. In 1931 Winston Churchill predicted laboratory meat and this turns out to be the most resource efficient (and ethical) way of eating meat. You can do whatever you want with animal cells without hurting the animal or taking away valuable water resources used for industrial abattoirs and factory farming.

Impact Investing throws away the Keynesian perspective that business is above humanity and success is measured by profit alone. Now more than ever before the global corporations are being called upon to solve the world’s problems and not capitalise on them.

But what about sex. there is an app for that too and the intimacy problems that are resulting from a disconnected world – sex robots exist, sex toys exist but what of an intelligent sex toy? One that reads your body and your pleasures? Is this a sexual revolution that doesn’t involve people?

I was asked the question what happens to start up when they grow up? I reckon they just might offer astounding solutions to some of the problems this world is facing.  Technology is replacing people and helping them too – but what is the balance and where will it be found?