Every day since 1990 over 137,000 people have left extreme poverty. The world is rapidly getting better on most fronts. Despite this, a majority of people think the opposite is true. And when we discuss new technology, it is often about the negative aspects or possible negative aspects. Just mention artificial intelligence and the first things people end up talking about are killer robots or mass unemployment. When we instead could be talking about how we could save a million lives every year through self-driving cars or make the right diagnosis for a cancer patient.
Instead of whining about people whining I decided to do something about it.
"I'll buy lunch," I said to a group of people I knew shared my frustration, "if you bring ideas about what we should do about this." The ideas were many over meatballs and pasta, but first we decided to see if anyone else shared our view.
So we started arranging meetups and told people that during this hour, you are only allowed to be positive. All discussions should be focused on opportunities, not problems. This was very popular and we went from 25 people attending to almost 300 people, after just five meetups.
At one meetup we announced we were starting Warp Volunteers and a couple of weeks later twenty people showed. We went around the table and everyone presented themselves. The first person was a journalist and former editor-in-chief of Computer Sweden, one of Sweden's largest tech newspapers. The second person was doing a Ph.D. in how to live on Mars. The third person was a marketing director at a startup. And like this it went. People who would be very welcome at any organization had shown up and wanted to spend part of their spare time helping Warp Institute with our mission.
Warp's mission is to make the future come sooner. We don't want to wait for all the good things the future brings. If AI can help us with better diagnoses, let's make that happen sooner. If self-driving cars can save millions of lives, let's accelerate that development. If solar energy can reduce carbon emissions and provide cheap electricity, let's do that asap.
But to see these opportunities, to see the positive future, we can't just be talking about all the negative or dream up negative aspects. Of course we, as a society, also need to discuss the possible negative outcomes, but that need is already well covered by others. Warp's mission is to only focus on the opportunities and balance out the negative discussions.
"No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the horizon of the spirit," said Hellen Keller.
That's why we bring all the world's optimists together in our community. Maybe not all of them, but at least, one million of them. As a start.
With one million people we will have a strong community, all over the world, to spread our message. Of course we need to organize this online. So in the summer of 2017, we started Sweden's Most Optimistic Facebook group. The only place on Facebook where you are only allowed to be positive. The group has grown rapidly and now has several thousand members.
As soon as we started bringing people together another thing happened: Ideas were born.
The most famous moonshot is the actual moonshot, set out by John F. Kennedy in 1961. Today Peter Diamandis and his Singularity University – a great inspiration to us – teach moonshot-thinking. Alphabet actually has their own moonshot factory and its boss, Astro Teller, writes: "X has had a single mission: to invent and launch 'moonshot' technologies. [...] An X project must solve a problem that affects millions or billions of people."
That is all good, and X has delivered some cool and important projects, the most famous being self-driving car company Waymo. But if you think about moonshots, it should not only be focused on solving a problem. Putting a man on the moon didn't solve a problem for millions or billions of people. Putting a man on the moon was an opportunity. That didn't make it less important. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepping out on another celestial body was the most giant leap in human history.
If we, in the Warp Institute, succeed in bringing one million optimists together, new ideas will be born. The most exciting ideas in the world. Together we will decide which ones are the most important, and try to make them come true. A global moonshot factory.
One of those crucial ideas has already been born. In 2017 I met the founder of Beyond Atlas. His idea was to make it much cheaper to explore deep space. And he wanted to show the world how by sending the first private mission to an asteroid. We kept in touch and I saw him gathering a team of experts, like the Swedish astronaut Christer Fuglesang, and engineers who had been involved in several satellite and probe missions.
But in the summer of 2018, the project had run out of steam. The design of the spacecraft was done and they had all the parts, they had a launch contract, and had found their target, an asteroid in orbit around Earth, called Earth's second Moon. What was lacking was money. The project was about 50 percent funded, and without the rest of the money, the project would die.
"Don't you think this could be crowdfunded?" I asked them in June of that year.
"Maybe," they answered. "We have talked about it, but no one knows how to crowdfund."
When I talked about it with Magnus Aschan, one of the volunteers who had shown up a year earlier and now had become an essential part of Warp Institute, he liked the idea but said it should be more than just crowdfunding one space mission. "What is the long-term goal?"
That got me thinking. The long-term goal was of course to make humanity's future in space come sooner. But what role could Warp play in this, besides crowdfunding this mission? Lying on my back in my hammock later that summer – where I do my best thinking – I thought about Magnus' comment. To be able to crowdfund this first mission, we needed a community. If we succeeded with one mission, then this community of course could find another mission to fund. And another. And another. If we could do this several times, we would have our own space program.
We would make the future in space come sooner, but also show the world what a global community could do. The internet and digitization are giving powers to ordinary people that only kings, queens, presidents, and prime ministers had before. If regular people could have their own space program, what could they not do then?
Our first moonshot is therefore an asteroid shot.
Co-founder and executive chairman.
If you are a sci-fi fan you know that warp speed is a faster-than-light speed, most famously used in Star Trek. We want to go towards the future in warp speed.
But warp also means to bend something. We want to bend, to warp, the curve of progress so we'll much faster reach a better future.
And as a bonus, warp speed is not really that the spacecraft travels faster than light. Instead, the warp drive warps space-time and travels a much shorter distance between two places. Just like today the development of technology accelerates – Moore's Law – and we want to bend that curve so we reach the other point faster.
The lunch buddies who came up with the idea of creating the Warp Institute: Kristian Hultqvist, director at JKL. Peter Kjällkvist, spokesperson Malmö police. Waldemar Ingdahl, journalist. Patrik Nyström, CEO at LocalLife. Christoffer Littorin, managing director at Dugga. Jesper Petersson, web and growth analyst at Telenor. Mathias Sundin, executive chairman and former Member of Parliament.
Mathias Sundin and Patrik Nyström are the founders of the Warp Institute Foundation, registered with the County Administrative Board in Stockholm.
Mathias Sundin is the executive chairman and leads the daily work. Magnus Aschan started out as a volunteer and now has an important role as editor-in-chief of our online activities. Patrik Nyström is one of the co-founders and is today on the board.
Richard Maltsbarger, CEO and former COO and President International of Lowe's.
Birgitta Ohlsson, former Minister of European Affairs and former Member of Parliament.
Karin Nilsdotter, CEO of Spaceport Sweden and future astronaut.
Tom Skalak, senior advisor to Clara Wu at the Joe Tsai Foundation (one of the Alibaba co-founders) and former founding Executive Director of Paul Allen's Frontiers Group.
Here are some books you should read to understand how Warp Institute views the world.
Mathias Sundin, TEDx, Why ideas are worth spreading.
Kurzgesagt, A selfish argument for making the world a better place.
Steven Pinker, Is the world getting better or worse?
Hans Rosling, The best stats you've ever seen.
Peter Diamandis, The future is faster than you think.