Transhumanist and Singularitarian, Marco Antonio Attisani is a visionary entrepreneur, expert in renewable energies and smart technologies. He is the Executive Officer and Founder of Watly: a technology which provides “clean water, electricity and connectivity for a world of abundance for all”.
For TEDxBrussels, Marco explains the idea behind his awards-decorated technology and shares his vision of entrepreneurship and the world in the “Deeper future”.
1/ The theme of TEDxBrussels 2016 is the "Deeper future". How does your work relate to that?
We are creating a new technological paradigm, meant to benefit humans, yet beyond humans in its essence. We are still at the very beginning of a long process but if you carefully look at the H-shaped machine we are building, you will easily associate it to the first letter of the word “human” that by coincidence also resembles the shape of a chromosome.
We are creating a technology that will ultimately become a new form of artificial life. Today, we are still building things, we call them goods or tools, but soon we will build living entities that will help humanity to evolve into something else.
Genetics, nanotechnology, robotics and Artificial Intelligence are the new Bible, Torah and Koran of the XXI century. As Fritjof Capra writes in The Tao of Physics, science and technology are merging with metaphysics and religion. The future is Divine in an atheistic sense.
Technology is the new God. Through technology, we become Gods or Demons. It is just a question of how we use it. We are facing the same dilemma in today’s conflicts among religious beliefs. Some believers do good, others kill people. Both actions are perpetuated in the name of God.
Look around you: millions of sensors, computers, cameras, satellites, Internet nodes, solar panels surround us. What do you think will happen when every single thing on Earth is connected and self-powered? When this “Global Brain” will eventually awake and gain consciousness? Don’t you see how we are creating the next form of Divinity?
The moment a machine will phrase for the first time in human history “Cogito ergo Sum” (I think therefor I am), well, that moment humans will become a second class form of intelligence. We have only one possibility to survive: to merge with our own creations. This is the deepest future as I can possibly imagine it.
2/ What was the idea behind Watly? How did the concept of engaging those three main pillars - electricity, water and connectivity - develop?
Modern society relies on electricity, easy access to water and connectivity which are still a luxury in many parts of the world. These three aspects are also closely intertwined: the poorest populations largely live in environments with little to no access to water and very precarious infrastructures. Regions such as Africa, South America and parts of Asia, are heavily affected by the consequences of climate change despite being left behind in the industrialization process that caused it, while their most abundant resource, the sun, remains underexploited.
These are the basic needs of modern civilization and we simply could not design a modern solution without integrating these three elements. Inspired by the principles of the 3rd Industrial Revolution described by Jeremy Rifkin, we have conceived Watly as one of the pillars of the future “Energynet”: the real Internet of things, in which Internet fuses together with water and energy altogether.
Watly is a thermodynamical computer, an intelligent, versatile and scalable machine that works on solar energy. As such, it performs multiple tasks. Some critics have been telling us that our technology lacks focus and that we should limit Watly’s capabilities to cleaning water or producing electricity alone. This kind of criticism is absolutely inconsistent with its actual technological possibilities. Would you ask your smartphone manufacturer to make a phone that has only a keypad for calling, and another one that has just a camera for pictures and videos? I doubt it. If a mobile phone can do 1.000 things, why should one limit a computer that weighs 10 tons and is 35 m long?
Watly provides multiple services because each one is closely related to the other. We do not compete with water filtration systems or off-grid electricity generators. We are in the aerospace and computer industry. We do not build water filtering but spaceship that instead of flying to Mars, conquer the most difficult and inhospitable places on Earth.
3/ What are your essential values when developing new ideas/generating business?
Since I am the leader of this company, I have the privilege to define its core values and long-term vision. This faculty is by all means the ultimate reason why I am an entrepreneur and not a manager working for some other major company.
Watly's mission is to improve global living standards, by focusing on the people in-need; the 5 billion citizens living in the developing world. We strive to empower them with new possibilities. We help them to become healthy, so that they can dedicate their vital energy to social evolution and education, rather than to mere survival. We believe this better future we are aspiring to achieve, starts by not leaving any of us behind.
I have once read a book that has since guided me while building this company. This book entitled “Abundance - The future is better than you think” - by Peter H. Diamonds, Steven Kotler - raises a very relevant question. I would like to report an extract of the book’s prologue since no better sentence can convey my message:
“For those of us living in the developed world, why should we care? After all, there are plenty of important issues facing us here at home. Both US unemployment rates and foreclosure rates are soaring, so humanitarian reasons aside, should we really waste our time working toward an age of global abundance?
The answer to this question is: “Yes”
“Our days of isolation are behind us. In today’s world, what happens “over there” impacts “over here.” Pandemics do not respect borders, terrorist organizations operate on a global scale, and overpopulation is everybody’s problem. What’s the best way to solve these issues? Raise global standards of living.
Research shows that the wealthier, more educated, and healthier a nation, the less violence and civil unrest among its populace, and the less likely that unrest will spread across its borders. [….] there is a direct correlation between quality of life and population growth rates, as quality increases, birth rates decrease. The point is this: In today’s hyperlinked world, solving problems anywhere, solves problems everywhere.
Moreover, the greatest tool we have for tackling our grand challenges is the human mind. The information and communications revolution now underway is rapidly spreading across the planet. Over the next eight years, three billion new individuals will be coming online, joining the global conversation, and contributing to the global economy. Their ideas—ideas we’ve never before had access to—will result in new discoveries, products, and inventions that will benefit us all.”
4/ I have red about you being confident that the world will save itself anyhow. It's just a question of time. Would you expand on this thought? How can the world save itself?
I am a Singularitarian and Transhumanist (Ray Kurzveil The Singularity is Near - Zoltan Istvan The Transhumanist Wager). That means that the future does not reside in the opportunistic and predatory human nature, but in the transcendence of humans to another form of intelligence and life.
I believe in humans for who they will become rather than for who they still are.
There is a common destiny for us all as transcendent entities, that will give us the opportunity to rebuild what we have destroyed and possibly to make it even better. Needless to say that this is just a possible scenario in which we are there [in the world] to enjoy our transcendence; the Universe will awake with us still living in it.
The other possible scenario contemplates human annihilation and complete planet destruction instead. In this scenario, the Universe will lose one planet full of life, but I think this will not equal with the end of life. If we do not prove to be worth of the future, it is better to die and let a chance to Nature to start all over again.
The end of the human era is in both cases inevitable. I am not a catastrophist, I am a realist.
5/ What would your advice be for the young entrepreneurs/people who care about the deeper future?
Poverty is the result of a lack of access to energy and technology. In protecting the benefits of few from the misery of many, we are producing energy and goods by shaping the face of the Earth into an ugly grimace. It’s all about oil, human exploitation and natural destruction. Our economy based on fossil fuels and cynical capitalism is collapsing. The result is that pessimism, unemployment and social threats are now on the rise all over the world.
My personal advice to young XXI century entrepreneurs would then be: do not believe in what you see today, because what you see it is a lie poisoning our human spirit. Believe instead in what you want the future to be. Do that by visualizing a better world and acting towards this new vision. Ultimately, we will create this better world together.
We have historical proofs that the right balance between technology, people and capital can meet any challenge. We can create a world of abundance for everybody but one thing is certain: this better world starts by not letting 5 billions of us, behind.
A XXI century entrepreneur believes that a company can only strive by delivering revolutionary products to people. A XXI century entrepreneur believes that sustainable business creation comes from providing benefits to customers, not by exploiting them.
I have a personal maxim that drives me in my daily actions - I’d love other people to embrace it as their own:
“What we do can change the world for a moment. Why we do, can change the world possibly forever”
In my opinion we must believe in our personal “Why”. Underneath the “What” we might find a lie, whereas the “Why” never lies. The “Why” might lead us to salvation or destruction, but at least, if we end up destroying our civilization, we would have done it because we thought it is right to do so, not because we accepted the lie suggesting that all was inevitable.
Interview by Jakub Rusek