Imagine Houston's Future
Looking UP: Seven great ideas that promise a better & brighter future for Houston
We want to know what is next. What will our lives and this great city look like in 2040? Right now, Houston – and the world – is full of people making amazing breakthroughs in science, art, business, and the humanities, breakthroughs that are determining now what the future will be. But we, like you, also have busy lives and a stack of books on our nightstand that we want to read, books full of the ideas we believe will help us live, work, and play better.
We are passionate about making the future our priority. We seek out the thinkers, authors, experts, innovators, and leaders who are shaping our future; the future of our kids; the future of our hometown city; and our collective, global future and bring them and their ideas to Houston.
For years, we’ve traveled the country and heard about the trends that shape our world from the people who either started or are rethinking them. Innovations that were beyond comprehension a few years ago are now reality.
From these roots grew The UP Experience, Unique Perspectives from Unique People, an intense, one-day event here in Houston that allows us to bring together a community of Houston’s greatest minds with 14 renowned experts to share their visions of the future, live and in person. It is our hope that this community, this mixing and mingling of ideas across perspectives and industries, will spark new points of view and new partnerships and be a small drop in a pond that starts a ripple of amazing innovations for Houston.
Each year has brought unforeseen insight and innovation. The first year, Apple innovator Steve Wozniak rolled across the stage on a Segway and told us that robots will probably never deliver us a newspaper and a cup of coffee. This past October, philanthropist Jessica Jackley received a standing ovation as she explained the impact and importance of $25 loans to Third World neighbors.
For each of the last three years, Houstonians have spent a day of their lives participating in this “idea summit” that explores, explains, and prepares us for what’s ahead.
Here are just a few of the most exciting visions for Houstonians to capitalize upon:
The Code of Life Is Coming
Juan Enriquez is former director of Harvard’s Life Science Project and author of the global bestseller As the Future Catches You. He predicts that just as the Digital Revolution shaped the future we’re living in now, the next wave of industries, innovations, and wealth will probably come from the Genomic Revolution. This is great news for Houston’s renowned Texas Medical Center, which should become and stay the leader in Life Code.
Education Is Essential and Personal
Veteran educator Dennis Littky has achieved astounding success with students in some of the most underperforming school districts in the country with the highest dropout rates. His secret: Allow the high school students to develop a curriculum that is personally meaningful to them, have them work and study outside of school, and get their family’s support.
This is a lesson that could change the future of education here in Houston, which also struggles with a high dropout rate.
This “outside-the-box” thinking is one reason we created The Junior UP Experience, a companion event to The UP Experience, which has given more than 700 high school juniors access to the people creating their world and is inspiring them to take an active role in their own futures.
You CAN Live Long and Prosper
UP Experience presenter, National Geographic author, reporter, and world adventurer Dan Buettner discovered the Blue Zones, areas around the world where people live very long, healthy lives. According to Buettner, “Only about 10% of how long the average person lives is determined by our genes, and the other 90% is a result of our lifestyle and environment.”
A great way to ensure long and happy lives for more Houstonians is to support all the Texas organic farmers and use more local, naturally grown foods.
We need also to make our city more beautiful by creating more exercise trails, green spaces, nature areas, and outdoor recreation areas available for all. One of the most exciting areas of opportunity is the Bayou Greenway Initiative, which is dedicated to creating linear parks along the more than 2,500 miles of bayous to exercise in, enjoy, and explore.
Do Less with More
Bill Nye the Science Guy brought us this thought from Rick Smalley, who helped create nanotubes, which are 10,000 times stronger than steel, weighing just a sixth as much: “The key to the future is not to do less, but to do more with less.”
Nanotechology and biosciences will help Houston rise to the top. Nanotechnology is the next revolution that will shatter common wisdom about what is possible in all industries. We should be proud that Houston is at the forefront, and is home to nanotech education and research facilities on the cutting edge of this field.
Address Alternative Energy Plans
Anne Korin, UP 2009 speaker, is chair of the Set America Free Coalition, a national organization that advocates freeing our country from its dependence on foreign oil by breaking oil’s monopoly on transportation. She sees the dependence on a commodity from unfriendly countries as a threat to our way of life. The solutions proposed are innovations, more flex-fuel cars, greater competition, and more common-sense choices.
Houston, as a global energy headquarters, can attain an even greater edge by embracing this technology and leading the way with new energy.
Create a Creative Working Class
World creativity guru Sir Ken Robinson electrified and challenged us with these words in 2008: “Imagination is the most extraordinary capacity we have. It is responsible for the language, art, science, technology, having a memory of the past, anticipation of the future, the essential capacity of humanity.”
Houston needs to invest in a creative working class, harness it, and attract it to live and work with the existing resources we have and to be bold. Imagine a Houston Foundation umbrella organization, owned and operated by the people of the city (not the government), that applauds and rewards creative thinking, innovation, and education toward Houston’s betterment.
Success Doesn’t Happen in a “Blink”
Malcolm Gladwell, author of the global bestseller Blink, gave us two very different paradigms for success. Picasso became successful and famous earlier in life, while Cezanne achieved greatness from the lessons of a lifetime. As we look to the future here in Houston, let’s remember to be patient. And let’s make sure our civic leaders understand that building a great city with enduring greatness requires vision and a long-term commitment.
Houstonians have amazing opportunities ahead as long as we stay adaptive and entrepreneurial. The many experts we bring to Houston for UP have left our city with a new understanding and greater appreciation for the people and positive future of Houston. And Houstonians who have participated in UP have experienced a broad spectrum of new ideas and concepts to better understand and prepare for the Houston of tomorrow.
Sheryl and Ernie Rapp are founders of The UP Experience. The next day-long conference is Oct. 27.