Are capitalists hoping to harness unicorns to lead the charge to a zero carbon economy? Some experts think so and are calling for investment in unicorn incubation programmes with the promise of great returns. Recently the unicorn has lent its name to the elite group of billion dollar startup tech firms, and now looks set to sire a whole new breed of firms focused on facilitating low carbon living. As icecaps melt, sea levels rise, and global overheating threatens human extinction, can a magical horse with a pointed hat save the human race? Some hard-headed technologists are advocating this, so is it time we understood this beautiful beast and its future a bit better?
The unicorn has captured the human imagination since the earliest days of India, appears in the Christian Bible, in medieval bestiary books illustrating beasts of every alleged kind, and has often been harnessed as a symbol. Typically understood to be a forest-dwelling white horse with a single, spiralling and pointed horn sticking out of its forehead, it might initially have been the ancients’ remote misinterpretation of actual one-horned animals such as the ibex or rhinoceros, or of profile representations of cattle, but it developed a mythical presence in the Middle Ages in Europe which lives on to this day.