Oct. 6, 2006 Future Salon Bruce Cahan

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On October 6, 2006 at SAP in Palo Alto, Bruce Cahan addressed the Bay Area Future Salon on how fixing finance might save a planet.

At some point you just get tired of being scared and intimidated all the time. Last spring John Robb, a noted security expert on terrorism talked about the rise of asymetrical warfare and the vulnerability of our infrastructure to attack. A dark future seemed inevitable.

Bruce Cahan, President of Urban Logic had other ideas. No stranger to Wall Street finance or Byzantine local, state and federal politics, Cahan thinks the future can be fixed. It will involve a lot of hard work and cooperation.

While current finance, insurance and market forces may have brought us to this point, changes to those structures can result in more secure and sustainable growth. Current systems externalize risks and costs resulting in a NIMBY or ‘it is not my problem’ attitude. By recognizing these risks, consumers and citizens can make informed decisions about the products they buy and communities they live in. Such Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) and Socially Responsive Debt is gaining popularity as people invest with their values.

The result is building infrastructure that is more resilient to disaster. For instance, setting aside a wetland versus building a seawall is choice a city may have to make. Both may give flood waters a place to go rather than city streets and homes. A wetland is self-sustaining. A seawall may not be high enough. It also is vulnerable to terrorist attacks. As Cahan said, no terrorst will blow up a wetland. If cities are designed with these choices in mind, they can be made less fragile to the threats John Robb described last spring.

If these decisions are made, investors will find less risk and lower bond interest rates. At this point, Cahan dived into the numbers and showed how difficult it is to find out how much money is being spent by governments and business. One solution might be an extensible business reporting language (XBRL?). This financial metadata structure could allow review and comparison of different accounting systems to get accurate data for informed decisions.

Hiding from danger is easy, finding solutions is a lot of work, but not impossible. In the past, people faced problems with fewer resources and less information than we have. They survived and we can too.

For more information:

http://www.futuresalon.org/2006/10/index.html

Copyright 2006 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

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