One thing one can say about our world is that usually, anything that can happen will happen. It is an insecure environment now that technologies are proliferating that we haven’t yet had the time to understand the implications of. This is apart from the delayed effect risks of what we may invent. A good example there is plastic, which is about to be in the bloodstream of most animals and humans for a long time as it is ground to dust on our beaches and landfills.
Information technology seems harmless. It has one big vulnerability, it is energy intensive. We have no clue what it will do to us once virtual reality reaches its maturity. Will it captivate a large portion of the affluent population? Will it drive men away from women as they can find virtual partners to coexist with? What will artificial intelligence add to VRs ability to drive our minds crazy. Dreams will come true, but they will remain dreams. This kinds of unknowns are now on the horizon.
In every field there are now new options that wheren’d there or simply wheren’t used before. 3d printing, genome sequencing, near autonomous and freely mobile sensing platforms. You can’t tell whether your phone is listening to your conversations (through speech recognition) or actual people, The biggest problem is control. We don’t have it. We are floated on a stream of positive projections of the future, marketing new technology as a benefit, just like in the 50’s.
One can wonder : Who is paying for all this, and why. The answer is simple. Its the fossil industry. Simple motives as well : 1. It distracts us 2. It drives fossil fuel consumption. Just like the 50s where a time where the demand for oil could not keep up with supply, and onstacles had to be removed to allow the explosion in fossil fuel use (and revenue), like the gold standard, now we need to drown out the call for renewables by offering a plethora of opportunities. To much is on offer, what should we choose, what should we worry about. and oh, yes. climate change.
The forces that are corrupting our governments, turning them into lakeys of industry, is also eroding our ability to control what comes into our world. It is not hard to make a virus or sequence DNA, create chemical compounts or a drone that can do harm. It is very easy. As one that has experimented with small computing platforms I know this is a watched space. Not everyone can get access to easy to work with microcontrollers (smal customizable processing units).
The question should be : How to make this mayham safe. The answer is simple : By making it independent and unrelated to fossil fuels. The reason is simple : The need to sell fossil fuels, and create fossil fuel cashflows is behind the push of this new techno-renaissance. Without it it would be organic. Now it is used as a tool to blind and confuse us.
Because we need to make this avelanche of technology safe, we have to, we create clear priorities. The source of productivity, development, mining, etc. has to be green. Solar, wind wave energy. The use of the technology should go towards greening our planet. This makes some of the technology usefull, other parts not. Even though large insurers are already creating a genome bank for EU citizens (for example) and all kinds of selective treatment are waiting to increase insurer profits, this is not the worst problem if we manage to remove the fossil fuel sales incentive.
The need to sell fossil fuels to create cashflow
distorts and directs the application of new technology
As soon the fossil fuel cashflow driver disappears a process or technology will be treated differently. For example, a motorcycle running on fossil fuel keeps a gas station owner happy, and a whole logistics chain all the way to the refineries and wells. A wind turbine with a electric charging station can exist autonomously, powering many electric motorcycles. But the owner doesn’t care about highways, about a whole army of other people that need to keep their jobs. He/she can care about the best service, about the sustainability of the operation. About local issues, and is not forced to present a dominant force.
Our current fleet of internal combustion cars requires a huge complex network of elements that get and supply the fuel. You get adds with oil motor monsters telling you you need to grease your engine with special oil, you have to burry the elderly that no longer can take the NOx and CO, VOC your inefficient noisy engine spews out. No innovation there, unless you go electric. Then you can have independent solar farms that could (in theory) produce their panels locally from scratch. Solar plants whose assets can be 100% recycled given there’s enough electricity to do it. No global head office for charging stations. It may exist, but it is not necessary.
On the other hand, the elimination of fossil fuel as main driver for economic developemt also creates new opportunities to use the new technologies. Now the fossil logistics chain and economic utility of a region determines how it is developed. It is unlikely a buzzling Dubai style hub will emerge in Alice Springs Australia. It did arise in Dubai because of the fossil fuel wealth in the region, because the oil sheiks wanted their own Paris, because it makes no sense to be rich if you can have your own parties. It also arose because it made builders rich. It provided an opportunity to get rich building, even though the place has very little to offer. Now that the hausse is over, money has changed hands, the place is a cost center, consumming massive amounds of fossil fuels daily. Building with slaves is common, anyone with something to sell that boosts some ego can go there and sell. Is it sustainable? No. That’s the point of the entire thing.
With renewables one could start a dubai in Alice springs. First one would plant forrests around the place, irrigated with water brought there using solar electric logistics, at next to zero cost. The climate would change, the air would become more humid, buidling could commence with only solar and sand. The land would be able to feed people and all the things people needed could be furnished, all the while the area of new forrest would be expanded. No need for an airport or rampant building, the newest technology, robotics could be used to develop the place so it sustains its population and visitors. In the long run the whole of dry Australia could be turned green and almost no cost would be associated, because the solar energy, stored in wood and susequent fuels, plastics and solid structures, would be its own driver for expansion and security for the community. The people would always be in charge, and never be subject to a class of economically brainwashed lakeys of fossil expansion.
The techno optimist is right, but rather than driving him/herself into some technology frenzy, with things doubling and millions and billions etc. it is possible to view it like a new toolkit, that we have to find a user for that is not driven by profit or economic expansion or adressing the anxieties of the elites, but by creating sustainable communities, by restoring our ecosystems, by maximizing life. Those goals are in themselves sustainable, they will bring health, happyness, freedom and companionship for all. They will usher in the Roboeconomy 😉