Curiosity is an idea, a way of thinking that comes into the therapy room a good deal. We are taught and coached from an early age to judge activity, people, experiences and objects; to like and increasingly to hate.

The problem with these pronouncements is that they stop thinking and exploration in their tracks. For those struggling with their mental health these black-and-white judgements get people stuck into deep furrows of thinking and emotions. Curiosity is the escape, it breaks down the black-and-white into diverse elements, like diffracting white light into a myriad of different colours. Even negative ideas and feelings can be broken down into many different strands some of which can be used to find and weave a new perspective.

For me, curiosity is bright, coolly energetic, imaginative, the suspense of judgement until the last moment. Curiosity is optimistic, believing that through understanding comes the potential for improvement. Without curiosity, humans would simply not have developed and without curiosity now we will remain stuck in our industrial greenhouse.

In my curiosity, I decided I wanted to know the answer to a simple question. Having been involved a little in a project to look at the production of carbon-neutral synthetic aviation fuel and conversations about the replacement of coal-fired power stations with small nuclear energy generation; I wanted to know how many small nuclear plants it would take to replace the totality of aviation fuel. Given that it seems that using agricultural biofuels is a cul-de-sac; I imagined all the synthetic fuel being fixed from CO2 in the atmosphere.

Now I am aware that my calculations may be wrong, I used good, referenced papers and information, but I can make mistakes. The answer I came to was, at first, shocking. Data suggests that the demand for Kerosene within 10 years will be 100 billion Gallons per year. To produce this amount of synthetic Kerosine from CO2 will need approx. 1x1013 Mj of energy. With the output of a small nuclear plant being about 1.4x1010 Mj you would need about 800 plants. 

In the world today there are less than 200 nuclear submarines and about 440 full-scale nuclear reactors which have been developed in the last 70 years since the first in 1951. So purely to replace aviation fuel we must exponentially increase our ability to deliver hardware. And of course, it doesn’t have to be nuclear. 50,000 wind turbines would also deliver the required power, in the world today there are already 350,000.

Industrialization of the past advanced many things for humans, but it has also led us into this deep furrow. The fourth industrial revolution has often been proclaimed as that of AI, Machine Learning, the Internet of Things, but the fourth industrial revolution needs to be about decarbonisation. This will be about the industrialization of wind, wave, water, solar power; industrialization of energy saving, carbon-capture and energy storage. All this must be done with the lowest embedded carbon methods we can find, while also protecting and supporting the natural world to begin to thrive again.

This is no simple task. However, we know that the systematization of methods, super-charged with developments in creative technologies, is a proven way to exponentially industrialize, as it has in the last 100 years. Approaches which modularize process plants and utilities move construction techniques into mass production techniques. Building platforms move us away from bespoke design and delivery into repeatable, lean methods of construction. Approaches to standardization and mass-customization allow us to adapt solutions to the real world while protecting and massively improving productivity. These approaches are already being explored and applied across sectors. 

We also know that we can achieve industrialization within the context of a cherished natural world if we have the intent and the imagination.

So, curiosity led me to a degree of anxiety at the size of task which confronts us, while also giving me flickers of hope that we have done, and can do, extraordinary things. We need that hope and the energy that curiosity brings to imagine and realize the solutions. 

Professor John Dyson spent more than 25 years at GlaxoSmithKline, eventually ending his career as VP, Head of Capital Strategy and Design, where he focused on developing a long-term strategic approach to asset management.
While there, he engaged Bryden Wood and together they developed the Front End Factory, a collaborative endeavor to explore how to turn purpose and strategy into the right projects – which paved the way for Design to Value. He is committed to the betterment of lives through individual and collective endeavors.
As well as his business and pharmaceutical experience, Dyson is Professor of Human Enterprise at the University of Birmingham, focusing on project management, business strategy and collaboration.
Additionally, he is a qualified counselor with a private practice and looks to bring the understanding of human behavior into business and projects.
To learn more about our Design to Value philosophy, read Design to Value: The architecture of holistic design and creative technology by Professor John Dyson, Mark Bryden, Jaimie Johnston MBE and Martin Wood. Available to purchase at RIBA Books.