We have entered the era of unlimited replica rhino horns. I’m not sure I’ve ever written as silly a serious sentence but it is true. In an interesting attempt to discourage the ivory trade, a Seattle based biotech firm named Pembient has created a synthetic rhinoceros horn using keratin and a 3D printer.  Keratin is the substance hair, fingernails, and rhino horns are made of.  The goal is to produce a biofabricated horn that is indistinguishable from the real thing on all but a cellular level and to thus save the endangered rhinoceros. Welcome to 2018, the year of good people doing good things with the grace of knowledge, talent and technology available to them.

This might seem redundant but it is constantly amazing how much knowledge and technology is available for free to anyone with an Internet connection. One can earn a university level education by taking courses available from dozens, if not hundreds of the greatest schools on Earth for free. They might not be credited with the accomplishment but the knowledge conveyed is theirs for the taking. Advertisers have access to seemingly unlimited amounts of data about people and their communities via Facebook. Since anyone can become an advertiser, anyone can access this information. In fact, if anyone wanted to, they could learn to code their own version of Facebook, for free, by learning from information available freely online. What one does with high technology and the knowledge to use it could be the basis of one’s own business. There’s never been a more interesting time for learners.

Along with all the muck and the ugliness, we have achieved one of the original noble goals of the Internet. We have created a digital world of virtually unlimited opportunity, one in which a number of persons with high school educations, tonnes of talent and curiosity, and the personalities to push ideas into absurdly Herculean levels of successful reality can literally rule the flow of information. Actually, that wasn’t a goal as much as it was a result but things change quickly online and it’s hard to keep track of such things. The Internet has become the central processing unit and storage system upon which thousands of extraordinary applications are freely available to entrepreneurs and businesses. It is also the central computing unit for a quarter of the world’s population and, increasingly, all of our businesses. And, for the price of a high speed connection, most of it is absolutely free.

This, of course, brings up a troubling prospect for many a business model. Until now, the underpinning of business success wasn’t the cornucopia of prosperity but the very real prospect of scarcity. The very dictum of a capitalist system, supply and demand, relies on the reality that there is a limited number of any given thing and the less of something the more valuable it is. Knowledge itself used to be a measureable commodity with the purest and highest forms reserved only for the intellectual and spiritual elite. Today, our economy is built on application of knowledge and knowledge itself is, again, virtually free. It is a lot for even the most learned among us to wrap their heads around because the changes wrought are happening in real-time and almost seem incremental but for their rapidity.

We are entering this new year under one of the darkest clouds of fear, uncertainty, and doubt in living memory. As scary as our times are, it is worth remembering we are also on the cusp of realizing so much of what we perceive as human potential. Business, fair trade, good will, and collaboration is what will propel us forward into a future we can’t afford to miss out on. We have the technology, the knowledge, and for those reading a business blog, the passion to get things done. Happy New Year 2018. Let’s make this the year we do our very best.