It’s time to think small

November 19, 2018
image of desk with a laptop, houseplant, phone and camera

What’s the most advanced technology in this picture?

It’s the $4 houseplant – a biodegradable, carbon-capturing, self-replicating, solar-powered work of art.*

That a common shrub is more advanced than the latest MacBook Pro is overlooked by almost everyone. Most fail to see it for a simple reason: the technological marvels of a plant can’t be seen with the naked eye.

As a result of this bias towards easily identifiable technology, we then focus on and invest disproportionally in these things.

To me, this presents a big problem. You and I are both made of biology and we live on a big ball of biology floating in space. To solve our vexing problems on this planet and beyond, we need to become proficient system administrators of this floating spaceship. So if we’re going to aim and go big as a species, we need to focus on that which we can’t see with the naked eye – atoms, molecules, organisms, and complex systems.

Instead of thinking big, my bet is on the opposite – thinking really, really small.

Read about some of the companies doing this now, solving our most vexing problems at the atomic, molecular, organism and complex system levels.


*Shoutout to my friend and Ginkgo Bioworks Co-Founder Jason Kelly for this observation.