Monday, November 28, 2011

Rachel Armstrong: Beyond Sustainability 25 Points 6

Here is the final segment of Dr. Rachel Armstrong's Twitter lecture titled, Beyond Sustainability, through the Swedish Twitter University.

21. How do we create an economic system that justifies financial investments with returns >10 years away & where people/systems > products
There is no magic bullet answer to this questions, but there are some good directions we can move towards to achieve this goal.  Corporations must be encouraged to invest in long-term R&D.  One proposed way is for the American Research and Competitiveness Act of 2011, sponsored by Representative Eshoo from California's 14th district. In her webpage for this legislation she states,
While the United States was the first nation to offer a tax incentive for research and development in 1981, the U.S. now ranks 24th in the most recent study of the strength of R&D tax incentives by the international Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Meanwhile, the U.S. share of global research and development has fallen, while China’s share has increased fourfold since 1999. Research and development typically takes years, but the R&D tax credit has always been extended on a short-term basis, requiring 14 extensions in the past thirty years. The American Research and Competitiveness Act of 2011 would make the credit permanent to provide certainty for companies that make long-term investments in R&D. It would also strengthen the credit by increasing it from 14% to 20%. The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation estimates that these enhancements will increase annual GDP by almost a hundred billion dollars and create 162,000 jobs in the short-term alone.
The chart below published by the OECD (Office of Economic Co-Operation and Development) is very illustrative of where the United States and Europe stand in the number of patents in key areas of environmental technology.
click to enlarge

22. Real change is not easy. It requires commitment, practice & education but we need it urgently or we may soon face extinction scenarios.
This point is underscored by a talk given by Rachel Pike a researcher in climatology, presented at a TED conference in July 2009.  We post this to illustrate the amount of work that is being done on the subject of climate change.  Here is the link in case you cannot see the embedded video

Whether the temperatures will rise more or less, or discussions about how sensitive the climate is to CO2 emissions, set aside, does it not make sense to prepare for the worst and hope for the best?  Do we see the topography of the earth as a static thing hardly likely to change in the near or long term future?  Does our view of what will happen with the climate justify the pollution (apart from CO2) that is produced by our present practices?  Is our present way of harnessing energy and dealing with waste products one which is a picture of efficiency?  We doubt many would say yes to these questions.  If a possible extinction is even possible, then all efforts should be made to avoid the "possibility" of that outcome.

23. Open innovation, distributed manufacturing systems, crowd funding and open sourcing of ideas & inventions are possible change catalysts.
Open Innovation - Open innovations produces discoveries and breakthroughs originating from the general public, not originating mostly, according to the industrial revolution model, from business with professional researchers.  So the consumers become designers.  This produces and explosive number of innovations and products.  We produce an older but effective presentation on open innovation by Charles Leadbeater delivered on TED in July of 2005.  The principles behind this lecture are even more established than they were then.  If you cannot see the embedded video, here is the link:

Distributed Manufacturing Systems - There are several definitions of distributed manufacturing.  One of these for example, equate to what has been called Just-In-Time manufacturing, dealing with stocking products only to the extent that you need them and afterwards being able to obtain them very quickly as demand ramps up.  This is not the definition we are interested in.  Probably the simplest definition is that distributed manufacturing deals with "...being able to produce what you need close to where you are."  Closely related to this idea is Peer-to-peer (P2P) manufacturing.  The use of 3D printers is instrumental to this kind of manufacturing.  Fablab, still in its infancy is a,
....small scale workshop with the tools to make almost anything. This includes technology-enabled products generally perceived as limited to mass production. A fablab is a portable machine shop / manufacturing facility under development at the MIT Media Lab. A small number of fablabs have been deployed around the world. Fab labs are a common platform for open design, a.k.a. open hardware, allowing designs to be shared around the world electronically, and manufactured locally.
Once fully developed, this will be a paradigm-shifting technology.

Crowd Funding - Crowdfunding is not something new.  The idea of collective cooperation and networks of people who pool their money to help other people and organizations was a model designed by charity organizations.  One form of crowdfunding is something called micropatronage.  This was pioneered by a blogger named Jason Kotke.  In this particular model each user donates a small amount instead of a few supporters with donating large amounts.  We include this short video to explain to our users who are visually oriented.  If you cannot see the embedded video, here is the link:

In the United States there is a push for legislation allowing more freedoms to crowdfunding organizations.  A September 25, 2011 New York Times article titled, NYT OP-ED: Pennies from Many, explains the impasse in America,
It’s the sort of person-to-person (or P2P, in industry jargon) funding that characterized financial transactions for millennia, before our mediated, securitized financial system took hold. The popular appeal of crowdfunding can be seen in the success of sites like Kiva, a microlender, and Kickstarter, which lets people donate money to artistic ventures. In its first six years, Kiva has arranged nearly $250 million in loans from more than 600,000 individuals to microentrepreneurs around the globe. Kickstarter users are pledging funds at a rate of $2 million a week. But let’s be clear: this is philanthropy. In the case of Kiva, lenders get their money back (assuming there is no default), but earn no interest. And beyond a few tokens of appreciation, Kickstarter members get only the satisfaction of seeing an undertaking they support come to life. That’s because if either site were to allow members to earn a return on their money, they would be subject to federal and state laws governing the sale of securities. Under those laws, crafted largely in the 1930s, the sites would have to either limit the fund-raising to wealthy investors, who the S.E.C. deems sophisticated, or go through a registration process that would prove too costly given the small sums being sought.
For more information on this, we  post a video explaining a pending legislation that has already passed the House of Representative and is awaiting Senate approval.  If you cannot see the embedded video here is the link:

Open Source of Ideas & Inventions - The classic explanation of this concept was done by Yochai Benkler at a TED conference in 2008.  He distinguishes between and industrial age informational technology and the internet informational technology we have now.  In the industrial era we had the radio, the telegraph, the telephone, television, movies and eventually the mainframe.  These technologies were market based or government owned.  Michael Bauwens from we_magazine, stated,
Before the advent of the internet as a tool that can now be used by at least one billion humans, there were already three ways to conceive of production. The first is the, now almost-defunct, state-based system that was typified in the Soviet system, in which the productive resources were state-owned, and where the state organized production and allocated resources based on centralized planning. The second is of course, market-based capitalism, in which the means of production are privately owned, corporations are internally organized as hierarchies, and resources are allocated through the signals that are given through market prices. If the profit is interesting enough, corporations will allocate resources in that direction and pay the necessary staff. The third and minor form was cooperative production, in which workers or other members would own the collective capital, and have some form of internal and more democratic decision-making. However, such cooperatives would still generally operate in the marketplace and subject to the same external dynamics as corporate firms. In our context, I will therefore not consider it as a separate mode of production, but rather as a variant to the market. Peer production however is a genuinely new form of production, which is based on what I call permission-less self-aggregation around the creation of common value.
This new paradigm for business, as Bauwens explains it,  is based on three aspects when the model is full deployed.
  1. Input - this begins by voluntary contributions of software, which is free of restrictive copyrights so that the software can be freely improved and modified.
  2. Process Side (peer governance) - the software is designed for inclusion.  It is validated by the community of users.  It has a low threshold needed for participation.
  3. Output side - the software creates "commons."  The licenses to use this software are that allows all equal use to the software and services provided, thus creating a new layer of open and free "...material that can be used for the next iteration."
We will allow him to explain this concept.  If you cannot see the embedded video, here is the link:

24.  New solutions for our cities must engage and captivate the imagination of its residents that can act as sensors and effectors of change.
An excellent article appeared in Scientific American, titled, The Smartest Cities Will Use People as Their Sensors in September 2011.  In Singapore this already a reality.  In the spirit that a picture says a thousand words, we post this video cited in the Scientific Article demonstrating the work of Senseable City Lab at MIT.  If you cannot see the embedded video, here is the link:

Carlo Ratti, directs this MIT Lab.  He delivered a presentation on March 1, 2011 at TED.  We include this presentation as well.  Here is the link if you cannot see the embedded video,

For some links to various projects they explained in the above video, we list them.
Real Time Rome
Trash Tracking
Dancing Atoms
The Cloud

25. Our cities must be more than sustainable – they must be evolvable.
Dr. Armstrong cites a great example of an evolvable city in a CNN interview on October 14, 2011.  The evolution of a "living" building could occur in stages.
  1. Combine a protocell programmed to produce limestone when exposed to CO2 would be applied (or painted) to the surface of a pre-existing building.  This process would absorb CO2 from the atmosphere.
  2. An "evolving" side-effect of this limestone process would be to heal the micro-fractures in walls doing so through tiny breaks.  This extends the life of the building that it was painted to.
  3. The thickness of the limestone grows over time providing insulation from the outside weather, thus saving energy to heat it or cool it.  This whole process could take anywhere from a year to a decade to form around the building, depending on the amount of CO2 in the air.
Another example is the direction that Phillips corporation seems to be heading in.  One particular example of energy efficient lighting is bioluminescence. They call it Bio-light.  The technical aspects of bioluminescence have been known for a long time.  Phillips explain the process,
Luminescence is the phenomenon where light is produced at low temperatures, as opposed to incandescence, where light is generated as a result of high heat. Bioluminescent organisms produce an enzyme, luciferase, which interacts with a particular type of light-emitting molecule called a luciferin.
Click to enlarge

So how would this work?   
The bio-light uses different biological technologies to create ambient light effects. The concept explores the use of  bioluminescent bacteria, which are fed with methane and composted material (drawn from the methane digester in the Microbial Home system). Alternatively the cellular light array can be filled with fluorescent proteins that emit different frequencies of light. Each cell is connected via silicon tubes to the food source, (which is drawn from a reservoir at the base) creating a closed loop system for the living material. The food source could potentially be drawn out of the sludge from the methane digester that forms the centerpiece of the kitchen in the Microbial Home. This represents a new genre of ‘living’ biological products. We have involved the microbial community in the home to provide the soft mood lighting typical of luminescence by using energy stored in our waste streams. Potentially biological products could be self-energizing, adaptive, responsive, self-repairing, act as biological sensors to environmental conditions, and change the way we communicate information.
There are some drawbacks to this type of lighting from our conventional lighting at the moment.  The article explains,
Bioluminescence produces low-intensity light, more suitable for tracing, warning, ambience and indication than functional illumination. Its speed of generation, being dependent on chemical reaction, is slower than most conventional light sources and the life form itself must be kept alive. But it needs no wires and is independent of the electricity grid. The living nature of the material provides interesting possibilities for changing, unpredictable, environmentally responsible ambient effects.
Another project Phillips is working on is their Microbial Home.  To us, it is a welcome perspective.
The Microbial Home is a proposal for an integrated cyclical ecosystem where each function’s output is another’s input. In this project the home has been viewed as a biological machine to filter, process and recycle what we conventionally think of as waste – sewage, effluent, garbage, waste water.
click to enlarge
There is no doubt to us that initiatives like these are the future direction we need to take to turn our homes, our cities and our lifestyles into those that adapt to our local environment and are in harmony with the laws of nature.

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