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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

Scientific breakthroughs need to serve humanity

Humanity is facing an unprecedented opportunity to step forward into an era of global harmony, prosperity, and awakening, but capitalizing on this unique moment in history requires a refocusing of the use of science and technology to transform billions of lives.

Scientific breakthroughs need to serve humanity
[olezzo / Adobe Stock]
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Humanity is facing an unprecedented opportunity to step forward into an era of global harmony, prosperity, and awakening, but capitalizing on this unique moment in history requires a refocusing of the use of science and technology to transform billions of lives. This is particularly relevant in light of the current wave of hardware and biological innovations across areas like energy, transportation, neuroscience, longevity, and agriculture.

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While the application of science to create advanced technology for human betterment has been a theme of the past 200 years, beginning with the industrial revolution, there has simultaneously been concern about the use of scientific technology to further isolate and divide us as a human family.

The advent of the internet and social media over the past two decades has demonstrated that we must be extremely thoughtful in how we design and integrate technologies into society to ensure they are forces for good in our lives. We need to look to the teachings of beings such as Sadhguru, Eckhart Tolle, Byron Katie, and Tony Robbins to make sure we raise our consciousness in conjunction with the technological advances we are making.

Let’s look at a few examples of cutting-edge technologies that either already are or will soon be available and have the potential to harness the power of science in service of a better future. However, for each application of breakthrough science, we also need to consider the pitfalls that must be avoided to optimize the impact on our planet and civilization.

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First, consider the widely publicized commercial space race involving companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic. These companies enable a wide array of uses of space technology, including space tourism, satellite communications technology for rural and mobile internet, lunar and asteroid mining, in-space energy production, and data centers. Well executed in service of humanity, these applications can remind us of the importance of our precious planet and our fundamental nature as part of a common humanity and, even more broadly, Earth family.

Additionally, we can move intensive resource extraction and production processes off of Earth. At the same time, we will soon need industry players to work together to address potential issues around satellite collisions and space debris. These are eminently addressable challenges and, if well managed, space will further accelerate the spread of material abundance across our planet and contribute to the alleviation of poverty in underdeveloped parts of the world. I also look forward to a future in which every human being sees Earth from space and viscerally comprehends how interconnected we all are.

Another example is the mental health pandemic afflicting our civilization, which is partially the result of how people are using internet technologies. Millions of people across the globe are diagnosed with disorders such as depression and anxiety, and many are likely suffering to some degree from a feeling of isolation. Fortunately, the most powerful and ancient medicines known to mankind, psychedelics such as psilocybin, LSD, and DMT, are experiencing a renaissance and being tested in clinical trials.

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These medicines have thousands of years of evidence demonstrating their effectiveness in not only treating but actually curing mental health challenges, including depression, anxiety, and an exaggerated sense of separation. There are, of course, tremendous risks to using these powerful tools in the wrong settings or for purely recreational purposes. That being said, if psychedelic medicine is well-scaled to serve humanity over the next decade, we are perhaps at the precipice of not only spreading wealth and prosperity to every being on the planet but also awakening a new global consciousness rooted in connectedness and happiness rather than separation and angst.

Space and psychedelics are just two of the dozens of areas (hydrogen fuel, nuclear fusion, carbon capture, electric vehicles, autonomous airplanes, hypersonic travel, robotic manufacturing, advanced semiconductor processes, clean water technology, faster telecommunications, indoor vertical farming, lab-based meat, longevity medicine) that present enormous promise in the coming 20 years.

However, the key to successfully deploying these breakthroughs in science to serve humanity is advancing the level of consciousness and caring of the leaders who are inventing and commercializing these technologies. I believe that such advances are accelerating just in time to steward this tremendous technological revolution.

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Dakin Sloss is the Founder and General Partner of Prime Movers Lab, the world’s leading partner of breakthrough scientific startups.