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Interview with Max Masi, on “Total Renewable Energy: A Tale of a Decarbonized World”

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By Massimiliano Masi, Andrea Gori

· 8 min read

Andrea: Welcome, Max, and congratulations on your insightful new book, "Total Renewable Energy: A Tale of a Decarbonized World, empowered by AI". It's a riveting read - I was completely absorbed throughout the weekend! It would be great if you could share what drove you to pen down such a thought-provoking piece.

Max: Thank you, Andrea. My increasing concern about the escalating global climate crisis was the primary catalyst behind this novel. I start introducing the concept of the S curve in the book. Derived from the logistic curve, this idea illustrates how the initially inconspicuous impact of climate change could rapidly become exponential, leading to potentially catastrophic consequences, once a certain threshold is crossed. We are experiencing a kind of cognitive dissonance, underestimating or even overlooking the gravity of the climate crisis we are actively contributing to, and I felt the urgency to address this issue.

Andrea: That's a grim but compelling concept, Max. It underscores why it's crucial for us at Illuminem to spread awareness about global warming and the necessary steps we must take. Could you perhaps illustrate this S Curve phenomenon with some examples from recent history?

Max: Absolutely, Andrea. Look at the nuclear disasters of Chernobyl and Fukushima. Initially, the situation seemed under control, but as soon as the crisis reached a critical point, the nuclear reactors underwent a meltdown, leading to devastating long-term consequences. I fear we are nearing a similar tipping point with climate change. The impact of natural disasters like wildfires, hurricanes, floods, and droughts have always been there but now are intensifying. The proof is in the average temperatures that year after year increases. Just recently, in Northern Italy, we witnessed disastrous flooding due to unprecedented rainfalls over a few days. It's sobering to contemplate the potential devastation if such extreme weather lasted for weeks instead of days. This can be representative of moving from the base of the ‘S’, almost flattish, to the rollercoaster of the middle of the ‘S’.

Andrea: That's an alarming scenario, indeed. Given such escalating crises, why do you think people and institutions are failing to respond appropriately?

Max: There's a multitude of reasons, but a significant psychological element is the "normalcy bias". This bias is a tendency for humans to underestimate the potential impact of disasters, hoping that things will soon revert to normal. We've seen this during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, when many perceived it as just a severe flu outbreak, until the reality of the global catastrophe fully unfolded. Covid was everything but a flu, as all of us in our heart and mind deeply hoped for at the beginning of what we lately metabolized was a severe pandemic.

Andrea: It's frightening yet illuminating how these concepts intertwine, underscoring the urgency of addressing global warming. Let's pivot towards the heart of your story. Can you share more details about your main characters - Ava, Jeff, Sofia, and Daniel, and how they contribute to the narrative?

Max: Each character is unique, with their own specialized fields - Ava is entrenched in climate science, Sofia is an ardent environmental activist, Daniel is an AI whiz, and Jeff excels in complex project execution. They band together in a common mission to revolutionize the renewable energy sector, creating a convincing case for a future where solar, wind, storage, and AI can entirely replace our reliance on fossil fuels. This echoes the broader message of the book, emphasizing the need for multidisciplinary collaboration to counter climate change.

Andrea: Interestingly, I noticed your narrative steers away from establishing a single hero or leader. What is the thought behind this approach?

Max: That's a very sharp observation, Andrea. It's a deliberate choice to highlight the importance of collaboration over individualistic leadership. Unlike conventional narratives where a single hero saves the world, "Total Renewable Energy" emphasizes equal contribution from all characters, who face victories and setbacks collectively. I believe that transitioning to renewable energy necessitates a unified effort, not a competition among technologies, individuals, or organizations. Resistance to change often stems from inflated individual egos, hence the introduction of AI characters, which are, at least for now, objective and untouched by personality biases.

Andrea: The integration of advanced AI in your narrative seems integral. Could you elaborate on the role AI plays in our quest for renewable energy?

Max: AI indeed plays a central role in the narrative and in our real-world efforts towards renewable energy. Renewable energy sources like solar and wind are intermittent, which presents a challenge in managing the energy grid. This is where AI comes into play - advanced AI systems are capable of forecasting weather patterns, balancing energy supply with demand, utilizing energy storage systems to fill any gaps, and ensuring a consistent, seamless flow of energy in real-time.

Andrea: That's fascinating. Your book also delves into the ethical implications surrounding AI. Could you shed some light on this?

Max: Indeed, the ethical dimension of AI is a recurring theme in the book. An AI managing energy distribution should be unbiased. It should not discriminate by routing electricity preferentially to wealthier neighborhoods over poorer ones. Similarly, it should prioritize critical infrastructures like hospitals during emergencies. This ethical dilemma surrounding AI's decision-making process is extensively discussed in the book.

Andrea: Your book introduces an AI entity acting in a coaching or mentoring capacity. Could you please elaborate on this novel character and for my understanding is it even more that a fictional character?

Max: I'd be happy to. As a certified professional coach with an evident passion for artificial intelligence, I was inspired to craft the character of CoachKing. This virtual AI coach aids renewable team members in maintaining their focus amidst very challenging circumstances. Yes, it is absolutely real! I've made CoachKing accessible to readers as well, offering them a taste of AI-based coaching, there is a link at the end of the book everyone can click to start having a conversation with their personal AI Coach!

Andrea: Great! Next level of the game triggered for the weekend! Your narrative spans numerous global locations. Could you explain the relevance of this international perspective in the context of your story?

Max: The global scope of the narrative serves to emphasize the universal applicability of renewable energy technologies. By situating the story in diverse geographical regions, such as Europe, California, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Australia, and other locations, I wanted to highlight that renewable energy can be viable and efficient anywhere in the world, provided there is unity and cooperation among stakeholders to surmount the inherent resistance to change, such as permitting, providing data, access financial resources to name a few.

Andrea: The narrative also involves conflict with an entity known as the SQ Foundation. Could you clarify what this represents in a broader context?

Max: Absolutely. The SQ Foundation stands as a metaphor for the entrenched resistance to change, particularly in relation to our dependence on fossil fuels. It is a reflection of the real-world hurdles we encounter in our push to transition towards renewable energy. The narrative asks us to question whether the energy industry's titans are truly prepared to invest wholeheartedly in renewables and abandon their firmly established fossil fuel assets.

Andrea: Innovation features prominently in your book. How does it tackle the contentious question of whether innovation should be open to all or remain shrouded in secrecy?

Max: This indeed is a challenging topic. On one hand, open innovation can catalyze collective progress, promoting shared knowledge and collaboration. However, it also leaves the process vulnerable to destructive and malevolent criticism and potential regulatory roadblocks. For instance, take the crypto ecosystem’s experience whether you find it right or wrong. Conversely, maintaining secrecy allows for controlled innovation but inhibits wide-scale collaboration and necessitates a stringent observance of confidentiality, limiting 360 degrees contributions. This tug-of-war between openness and secrecy in the realm of innovation forms a recurring theme in the book.

Andrea: Totally, the role of information management is crucial for the success or sinking of any innovative initiative, therefore social media also seems to play a significant role in your book. Could you elaborate on its impact on the narrative?

Max: Yes, no doubt about it. In the book, reactions on social media platforms often lean towards hyperbole, reflecting real-life scenarios where sensationalism often prevails to capture likes or incite controversy. I intended to underline the importance of critically assessing and interpreting information in this digital age. As we all know, social media can both enlighten and mislead us. Hence, the ability to sift truth from fiction is a critical skill in any sphere of our contemporary society.

Andrea: Absolutely, and illuminem too is committed to providing accurate and transparent information on the most pertinent topics on sustainability. Your book doesn't shy away from delving into intricate descriptions of cutting-edge renewable technologies, notably energy storage, which is vital for the continuous operation of renewables. Yet, it's not just a technical manual; it's also a gripping read with a plethora of unexpected plot twists.

Max: I'm glad you found it engaging. My aspiration is for the book to inspire the younger generations to play an active role in the energy transition. Moreover, I hope it contributes to persuading those in decision-making roles to trial and scale up zero-emission energy systems. We can't afford to while away time on fruitless debates. The ‘S’ shape is going to hit very hard in the next few years. Instead, we need to unite our efforts to make a decarbonized future a tangible reality in the next 2 or 3 decades.

Andrea: Max, our discussion today has truly been enlightening. We're excited to delve deeper into "Total Renewable Energy" and we eagerly anticipate engaging with you more in future blogs and forums.

Max: I appreciate your support, Andrea and Illuminem Team. My sincere hope is that the book sparks thoughtful discourse and disseminates meaningful dialogues about our shared renewable energy future.

illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the authors

Massimiliano Masi is the General Manager of Magaldi Middle East. He is a veteran in the energy and renewables industry, with extensive experience in Italy and the Middle East.

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Andrea Gori is an entrepreneur & global expert in sustainability, green tech and energy transition. He is the founder & "Chief Earth Officer" (CEO) of Previously, he served as BCG's Global Green Champion, delivering projects on sustainable investments around the world. He has been awarded one of Italy's Leading Innovators of 2023 and Angel List’s Top Startups in Europe.

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