Though it’s been a few years since I’ve heard any fresh thoughts from Joshua Klein, his TED talk on “A thought experiment on the intelligence of crows” from 2008 played a pivotal role in the way I approach engaging my teams in solving for client challenges.
His insights revealed just how intelligent and potentially useful crows can be when humans explore partnerships with the birds as opposed to viewing them as a nuisance. One example is training crows to collect trash after large events and gatherings and depositing it into a machine for a food reward.
Boyan Slat embarked on a rather courageous and daunting journey when he was 18 years old to clean up the plastics that ravage our oceans. He partnered with anyone who would offer their assistance to create a model to use the world’s gyres, or major ocean currents, with outposts that run nearly autonomously to collect surface trash and create a recycling model.
Recent scientific data has alluded to the fact that there may be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050. The destruction to sea habitat from ingesting plastics mistaken for food does not just impact the sea life, but our own health, as we participate in that food chain by enjoying the seafood being affected by PCBs and other chemicals that end up on our plates.
Now at the mature age of 22, Boyan Slat’s first cleanup barrier test will be deployed in the second quarter of this year. Proving that a model can become a reality with the right mix of smarts, determination, and effective team members.
With both of these examples, it is obvious that our global society needs to be more responsible in the way we produce, use, and discard our manufactured goods that take decades, centuries, or millennia to break down. In the meantime, we have some very smart people contributing some brilliant ideas against the effects of our human shortcomings.