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Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being. (Albert Camus)
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    Where forward thinking terrestrials share ideas and information about the state of the species, their planet and the universe, living the lives of science fiction. Introduction
    Featuring Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames, based on an idea by Kees Boeke.
    Loosely translated from Chinese as : "May you live in interesting times".
    This is the first of a series of articles jointly written by Wildcat and Spaceweaver, summing our
    techno-optimistic view of 2008 towards a better future of humanity.

    A principal function of our minds is to receive clues from the environment, to form an appropriate plan of action based on these clues and to direct and monitor our activities specified by the selected plan of action, born of these clues in space and in time, we call this “how we live our lives”. For this we need clues, and lots of them.

    This post is about clues, interesting clues, clues from our info environment, clues that came our way during the past year, 2008.

    It will not be an exaggeration to state that 2008 was a year of super abundance. The immense amount of information that came our way this past year is nothing short of awe inspiring, let us state that again, Plethora! Plethora! Plethora! A plethora of infodata and news, on all fronts and from all directions of human endeavors has assaulted us.

    Interesting times? We could say that again.

    The Chinese, some say, think about the statement:”May you live in interesting times” (Pin-Yin Shi Shi Zao Ying Xiong ) as a curse, they might mean times of imbalance, disrupted harmony, insecurity, chaos and confusion and no doubt we have enjoyed plenty of these lately. Crises this past year seemed to appear wherever we cared to look: The recent collapse (still in full swing) of the economical and financial sector, enraging political and cultural conflicts that seem to stay with us forever, climate change threatening the long term survival and very existence of civilization, and deeply disrupted environment seemingly on a slippery slope towards an inevitable collapse, diminishing resources especially of energy, clean water, and food, and ever growing divides between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’.
    On top of all these, regrettable and supposedly natural human traits such as ignorance, greed and pointless aggression, we all agree to be aspects of an already obsolete version of ourselves, seem to rule the day (for one enraging example, see: A world enslaved), and motivate the choices and actions of many individuals as well as whole nations. At the end of year 2008, even the most optimistic amongst us are bracing themselves. It appears that it is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. If it gets better at all…
    And yet,
    Is it really so?

    Are we to be so weak spirited and media influenced so as to fall prey to the mass hysterics of the doom and gloom culture, unwittingly making us creatures of frightful disposition?

    We, the “we” of progressive thinking, consciously aware intelligent minds, in this instance, need take a stance, for are we not: terrestrials living the life of science fiction today?

    We therefore offer a view that cannot afford and will not bow to such dubious indulgence of pessimism and grim thoughts, because ours is the self appointed challenge of describing, in the midst of this great motion of disruptive transformation the possible paths into a truly interesting future.
    We believe that human resourcefulness and ingenuity; authentic courage and inventive compassion, can stand to the formidable challenges of this age and era. We believe in the power of humankind to reinvent itself and evolve from childhood into maturity.

    We accept the responsibility of optimism.

    2008 was a year of innovation and creativity of proportions rarely witnessed before in the history of humanity. There seems to be a pattern to the chaos, a pattern of unadulterated effort of individuals and communities to embrace change, to embrace challenge and to face the future not with despair but with sobriety, sanity and practical creativity. Our sensibility of possible futures is not only about facts but rather what we wish to see in them. We must not escape from seeing our true condition, but neither should we understate the profound transformation taking place around us, in us.

    We propose here a brief account of the interesting times of year 2008 highlighting how close we are, perhaps closer than ever and closer than we thought to a free mature and prosperous humanity, to a collaborative effort of historic proportions, to truly make this world of ours a better place.

    See for yourself:

    In a 1964 article on searching for extraterrestrial civilizations, the Soviet astronomer Nikolai Kardashev suggested using radio telescopes to detect energy signals from other solar systems in which there might be civilizations of three levels of advancement: Type 1 can harness all of the energy of its home planet; Type 2 can harvest all of the power of its sun; and Type 3 can master the energy from its entire galaxy.

    Based on our energy efficiency at the time, in 1973 the astronomer Carl Sagan estimated that Earth represented a Type 0.7 civilization on a Type 0 to Type 1 scale. (More current assessments put us at 0.72.) As the Kardashevian scale is logarithmic — where any increase in power consumption requires a huge leap in power production — we have a ways before 1.0.

    From: Toward a Type 1 civilization by Michael Shermer (LA times July 2008)

    So we need energy don’t we?

    2008 has seen a surge of understandings, proposals and actual projects concerning energy from a variety of sources and directions.

    Imagine the following formula sun+water= fuel, beside the sheer magnitude of the idea the thought that Artificial photosynthesis could provide a practical way to store energy produced by solar power, freeing people’s homes from the electrical grid is a liberating thought in itself. But it does not stop there, look through windows that not only provide a clear view and illuminate rooms, but also use sunlight to efficiently help power the building they are part of. MIT engineers report a new approach to harnessing the sun's energy that could allow just that .

    Other options involve wave and wind power such as the fascinating project Sea Monster in which a Portuguese utility plans to install wave-power generators like these

    or the even more astonishing Kites that can generate electricity for up to 100,000 homes, but the truly awe inspiring project is the 1km tall, giant solar tower that could and hopefully will generate the power of the future.

    The problem of renewable energy production is generally exacerbated by the inability to produce a constant supply of electricity to consumers. However, scientists now believe that they have found a way to solve the supply and demand problem. Arnulf Jaeger-Waldau of the European Commission’s Institute for Energy, speaking at the Euroscience Open Forum (ESOF) in Barcelona, believes that the creation of solar farms in the Sahara desert could produce enough energy to meet all of Europe’s energy needs by 2050.

    No single technological field has seen an explosion of innovation and creativity as witnessed in the field of alternative energy. Harnessing the evolutionary powers of life itself, J. Craig Venter, by now legendary for his part in sequencing the human genome, is now busy founding the exciting brand new field of synthetic life. Laboratory made microorganisms will soon be engineered to produce clean fuels out of waste materials, and greenhouse gasses they will feed on. Other microorganisms can be designed to reverse environmental pollution, and even global warming. There is no doubt that this rapidly growing field of Synthetic life is a game changing prospect in many fields such as energy, ecology, chemical industry, medicine, agriculture and many more. Synthetic life is literally going to change the way life manifests on this planet.

    Clean fuels made by engineered synthetic life forms, as incredible as it might sound, are not science fiction any more. Yet the emerging technology of synthetic life is only one example of exotic and potentially limitless energy technologies that have crossed the fine and lately fading line between science fiction and realizable technology. First to mention is the late Dr. Robert Bussard invention of the Polywell electrostatic plasma confinement concept. Working for many years with a bunch of dedicated scientists on a shoe string budget compared to the 13$ billion dollars already consumed by ITER’s more conventional and thus far huge resource consuming project. Bussard’s founded company EMC2, is showing very promising proof of concept towards realizing a cheap safe and clean nuclear fusion reactor which can be built within 5 years.

    Black Light Power is claiming to have discovered a breakthrough primary energy source based on what they claim to be a newly discovered state of the hydrogen atom, the hydrino. Black Light Power’s claims were repeatedly dismissed by main stream scientific institutions, but unlike other endeavors of such kind, they managed to raise considerable funds and recruit leading energy experts to their board of directors, and lately even verify some of their claims and sign a first commercial contract for using their technology. This is one company to watch for, because if their claims are valid Black Light Power spells a world wide revolution in energy producing.

    Back to here-now Lawrenceville Plasma Physics, Inc has just got the funds necessary for a proof of concept experiment of focus fusion. From LPP website: This work, which was partially funded by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is aimed at producing an extremely economical, compact, environmentally safe and essentially inexhaustible source of energy that could be fifty to a hundred times cheaper than existing sources. It has already achieved major experimental milestones, including the achievement of plasma confinement at energies equivalent to two billion degrees, high enough to fuse hydrogen and boron. Watch the interesting video presentation here.

    Energy is undoubtedly the food of civilization. With enough cheap and clean energy, we can produce unlimited clean drinking water, to grow almost unlimited food in the desert, to reverse climate change, and eventually to control the weather, and sustain space settlements. As our civilization grows its energy needs are growing exponentially. To sustain such growth, an exponential increase in investment will be needed to develop the infrastructure of energy production. The great promise of these innovative energy sources mentioned here is in their very low price, relative simplicity and limitless resource. Compared to more conventional future sources such as solar and wind energy, or even synthetic fuels, these alternatives represent the next step in allowing a very rapid growth of energy production within the relatively very short time frame of a few decades.

    Continued on part 2.

    Thu, Jan 1, 2009  Permanent link
    Categories: Technology,Futurism,
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