x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

iPad app tackles survival of mankind

Two Dubai-based residents have identified 15 threats such as global warming, poverty and terrorism and have devised a method for working out which threats pose the greatest danger to mankind.

DUBAI // An iPad application that identifies the greatest threats to mankind and suggests ways to tackle them is due to be launched by two Dubai women next month.

The Human Project has been developed by Anna Stillwell and Erika Ilves, who will reveal the app's content at the TEDxDubai conference.

They say the initiative is intended to "start an epic conversation on the future of our species".

The pair have identified 15 threats such as global warming, poverty and terrorism. They have devised a method for working out which pose the greatest danger to mankind but will not reveal the results until their presentation next month.

They will also suggest how these perils can be avoided, but they stress that they do not have all the answers and want others to put forward their own solutions, as the main aim is to promote discussion and debate.

Ms Stillman and Ms Ilves, who have a management consultancy, said their experiences in working with clients gave them the idea.

"To advise people on vision and strategy, they really needed to understand the wider context in which they were operating," Ms Stillwell said.

"They needed to understand the world and some of the global challenges that are coming. Initially we tried to study that space and make sense of it, only to find that it made no sense to us.

"We found throughout various global forums and different scientific and technology communities that some people would list some issues and not others."

The pair found different types of specialists tended to stress the threat posed by issues they studied, rather than taking an overall view.

"Everybody was saying their issue was the single most important issue facing humanity," Ms Stillwell said.

"The scientific community largely talks about the threat of comets and asteroids, super-volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.

"So we stepped back from that and thought: 'How do they know? Is there a master list that explains all of this?' And there wasn't, so we decided to make one from the perspective of the species as a whole."

The first step was to identify the greatest challenges to humanity and its development.

"Once you have that list you can't prioritise or organise it unless you have a vision of where the species should head and why," Ms Stillwell said.

"So we're advancing the notion that as a species, now is the time to start asking the really big questions: who do we want to become, where do we want to go and why?

"We've laid out our framework but we're not saying our framework is the right one. We're saying please improve this."

The two realise some may find their approach controversial and they expect to face some criticism.

"A lot of people will likely say: 'Who are you to decide what we should do?'" Ms Stillwell said.

"And we'll say: 'We're two concerned members of the human race who've been looking at this for a while. We're trying to get the conversation started. Here's what we've been thinking about it, please come up with a better way'."

People are being invited to back the project through Kickstarter, a US online funding platform.

So far, 233 people from around the world have pledged a total of US$43,326 (Dh159,132), comfortably passing the $25,000 required to make the app available for free.

The deadline for pledges is next Wednesday and the pair are hoping to reach their second target of $50,000, which will be enough to develop the app for other platforms such as Android and the internet.

"I think it's a great approach and I believe that Anna and Erika are quite capable of having great innovative ideas," said Imke Pinz-Cochran of Dubai, one of those who backed the project on Kickstarter.

Ms Stillwell, an American, and Ms Ilves, an Estonian, said the app would not be available for downloading until November.

They are among the first confirmed speakers at TEDxDubai, at the Dubai World Trade Centre on October 22.

csimpson@thenational.ae