If you take 30 steps linearly, you will walk 30 meters. But if you take 30 doubling steps, going 1 meter in the first step, then 2 meters, then 4, then 8, and so on, by step 30, you will have traveled 1 billion meters or 26 times around the globe. This is how Salim Ismail, the founding executive director of Singularity University, described exponential thinking.
This article urges humanitarian and aid organizations to adopt exponential thinking in tackling the Sustainable Development Goals.The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by world leaders in September 2015 to improve the lives of people everywhere, by aiming to end extreme poverty, fight inequality & injustice, and fix climate change.
Doing so requires considering not only what is possible today, but also what breakthrough technologies — such as computation, artificial intelligence, and robotics — will bring tomorrow. A growing number of development professionals and organizations are heeding that call. Highlighted as one of these organizations is UNICEF for its work on utilizing new technologies to strengthen its ability to advocate for the protection of children’s rights around the world.
Some of the areas that will require exponential thinking include urbanization, migration, climate change, pandemics, and disenfranchised youth, said Chris Fabian, who helped launch the innovation unit at the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, or UNICEF. Like a growing number of global development agencies and organizations, his office is applying exponential thinking to their work. “This is exactly where our heads are right now,” he said.
UNICEF is currently testing the use of autonomous drones to deliver medicine in partnership with Matternet, a “flying vehicles and intelligent software company” that was born out of Singularity University in 2011. Drones, rather than motorbikes, could make deliveries of blood samples from rural HIV clinics more efficient, meaning fewer delays in initial diagnosis, and therefore quicker access to treatment.
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