The Imagination Economy

Yesterday and Wednesday I had the opportunity to attend the Alternative Protein Conference: Transforming the Future of Food. What I love about this space is the intelligence and creativity it unleashes. I appreciated talking to people that were open to some of my thoughts, despite the fact that I am a novice. I enjoyed so much of the conference, but in particular Ryan Bethencourt’s keynote Transforming the Future of Food on Day 2. It really resonated with me. Leading off the discussion about cellular agriculture, he delved into it by revealing that the technological applications of this format are endless. We are on the threshold of a seminal moment. The premise of technology should always keep in mind that the very best ideas come from the imagination. The imagination is the chief component for how the world can better address itself and the problems we are all facing. This industry imagines and then innovates. To quote Ryan, who I was chatting with earlier today, “maybe it’s the imagination economy, not the knowledge economy.”

I can really relate to the imagination economy. This is not to say that the term knowledge is being discounted. The best form of thinking comes from a life well lived and the things we experience. People that dream must have the ingredients, which come from experience in the first place. But what I find so exciting is that we can all learn to participate when our imaginations are valued the way they should be. Is this not the point of technology, to liberate our humanity and allow it to flourish? This is what differentiates human beings from Artificial Intelligence. AI is an approximation of the possible, seeing scenarios and running simulations. But human intelligence is unbounded when trained to hop and leap. Or perhaps AI is human intelligence but with clothing on.

We are best served by our own resilience as a species when we notice what it is about ourselves that transcends the ordinary. I am reminded of the novel “The Man Who Fell To Earth” by Walter Tevis, only we are the aliens living in our own world with the potential to harness the stars. Let’s hope that we can subvert the tragic part of that potential and learn to be smarter than where our instincts often lead us. Listening to the passion and the new creative companies that are harnessing science and plant-based tech, I am truly hopeful for our future.