Category Archives: 4 Energy

Waste hemp for cradle-to-cradle and biomimicry

Research shows that “Hemp fibres ‘better than graphene'”.    Scientists have made graphene-like materials for a thousandth of the price – and with waste.   They “cooked” cannabis bark into carbon nanosheets and built supercapacitors, high-performance energy storage devices, which are “on a par with or better than graphene” – the industry gold standard.  Graphene is too expensive to produce, but “hempene” will not be.  A great illustration of cradleto-cradle design and looking to nature for answers.

Scientists presented their work at the American Chemical Society meeting in San Francisco and have described the device in the journal ACS Nano.

The hemp is perfectly legal to grow. It has no THC in it at all, so there’s no overlap with any medical or recreational activities.

BBC: Hemp fibres ‘better than graphene’


Biosphere destruction is being ignored but happening fast and time is running out.

In Dangerous Global Warming Closer Than You Think, Climate Scientists Say, Scientific American outlines two reports encouraging immediate and extensive action, before it’s too late.

The message of the reports is that climate volatility is already here, species extinction is close to a critical level, as are levels of toxic concentrates.  They are now talking in terms of only decades to repair the problems.

Sadly there remain climate deniers who resist the science, using the moderate language of scientific data interpretation to claim that inconclusiveness equates to fallacy.  These few climate deniers influence millions who support their claims, many doing so on religious grounds (which is doubly sad because no god would be pleased with the way the planet is polluted even by faithful climate deniers).

We are getting deeper in to a situation requiring radical change in behaviour, especially with respect to energy consumption and sources.  Everyone  has to change behaviour now.  Use less energy.  Eliminate combustion of fossil fuels.  Everyone.  Now.

PlosOne: Assessing ‘Dangerous Climate Change

National Academy of Sciences: Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating Surprises

Fossil fuel subsidies: over $ 500,000,000,000 a year.

That’s about $112 for each adult in the world.   It’s a lot of money for any industry.  It’s a huge commitment of resources for a sunset industry.  Subsidies must be eliminated.

The Overseas Development Institute (ODI) report notes that “these subsidies outweigh the support provided to fast-start climate finance by a ratio of 7:1”.  That mismatch smacks of corruption, which shouldn’t surprise anyone but will, since we think of the big energy companies are at least legal, if not ethical.

It is sad that we continue to subsidise industrial development that promotes climate change and biosphere degradation when everyone, especially policy makers, knows that humanity needs and wants to clean up.

The ODI report recommends phasing out subsidies by 2025.  That is too late. Fossil Fuel Subsidies Average $112 per Adult

Rebirth of a dymaxion car.

The word dymaxion makes me think of a lattice-work of struts which form triangles which form hexagons, which form a sphere.  The design is intimately associated with Buckminster Fuller.  A mind ahead of his time.

So the idea of a dymaxion car is intriguing.  And then it turned out that even the frame is built from wood (the renewable resource) … brilliant!    There’s still an issue with the energy required to move though.  🙂

BBC: Rebuilding Fuller’s Dymaxion


Divest fossil fuel holdings, or die.

That’s a big picture perspective, presented starkly to attract some attention.  Sadly, few people feel the pressure, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do.  Let’s have a look at some of the detail.

A 2012 article in Rolling Stone , by Bill McKibben of, galvanised a fossil fuel divestment campaign that spread to at least 250 US colleges and universities.  According to a recently published Oxford University report, more than 40 endowments of colleges and universities have divested their holdings in fossil fuel companies.  It appears that a visible, vocal expression  of the desire to support alternative energy by key stakeholders made a difference to the investment policy of endowments of academic organisations.

But it was not easy.  It is shockingly sad that Harvard University, an eminent leader in education, completely discounts ethics from its policy.  Harvard President Drew Faust elaborated in a letter on the college’s refusal to divest. “As shareholders, I believe we should favor engagement over withdrawal. … In the case of fossil fuel companies, we should think about how we might use our voice not to ostracize such companies but to encourage them to be a positive force both in meeting society’s long-term energy needs while addressing pressing environmental imperatives.”  It is self-serving, immoral, Machiavellian argument since the evidence of energy companies hindering advancement of alternative fuels proves the Harvard policy to be ineffective.

In fact, in a recently published paper, the sustainable investment firm NorthStar Asset Management concluded, “Shareholder efforts to convince fossil fuel firms to expand into alternative energy businesses have proven ineffectual and, as a result some fossil fuel firms have even stopped trying. SRI investors and their fiduciaries also have a responsibility to consider the cost of NOT divesting—on people and the planet, as well as on profit.”  This suggests that shareholder engagement is virtually impotent.

The two signals show that individuals changing their investment portfolios is the only way to make a difference.  If energy companies face falling equity values as investors divest, they will either change their behaviour and target alternatives, or they will wither.

It’s us or them.  Either we divest from fossil fuel companies and save the planet and ourselves, or we continue to support fossil fuel companies, continue to destroy the biosphere and we die. Divestment guide

Report by Kachan & Co. and non-profits As You Sow and the Responsible Endowments Coalition: Cleantech Redefined Why the Next Wave of Cleantech Infrastructure, Technology and Services Will Thrive in the 21st Century

Social Funds: Fossil Fuel Divestment only the First Step

Social Funds: As Fossil Fuel Divestment Grows, Cleantech Offers Opportunities for Investors

Social Funds: Engage or Divest?

Outlook 2013: If you haven’t found the answer yet, read this.

If you see some question about what the future holds the ideas outlined in the WFS Outlook 2013 will stimulate.  Even if you have found teh answer it will still feed you brain.  Enjoy it.


Outlook 2013



Human actions could become more accurately predictable, thanks to neuroscience. Nano-sized robots will deliver cancer-fighting drugs directly to their targets. And though many recently lost jobs may never come back, people will find plenty to do (and get paid for) in the future.

These are just a few of the forecasts you’ll find in this latest edition of Outlook, a roundup of the most thought-provoking possibilities and ideas published in THE FUTURIST magazine over the past year.

The forecasts collected in the World Future Society’s annual Outlook reports are not intended to predict the future, but rather to provoke thought and inspire action for building a better future today.

The opinions and ideas expressed are those of their authors or sources cited and do not necessarily represent the views of the World Future Society. For more information, please refer to the original articles cited. Back issues of THE FUTURIST may be purchased at

Your feedback is welcome! Please e-mail your comments to



Many recently lost jobs may never come back, but there’s still a future for work. The economy may become increasingly jobless. Rather than worry about unemployment, tomorrow’s workers will focus on developing a variety of skills that could keep them working productively and continuously, whether they have jobs or not. It’ll be about finding out what other people need done, and doing it. —James H. Lee, “Hard at Work in the Jobless Future,” Mar-Apr 2012, pp. 32-33

Corporate reputation ratings will be even more transparent with augmented reality. In a “Rateocracy,” where organizations’ reputations are quantified, data could be included in geographically based information systems. You might choose one restaurant over another when your mobile augmented-reality app flashes warnings about health-department citations or poor customer reviews. —Robert Moran, “‘Rateocracy’ and Corporate Reputation,” World Trends & Forecasts, May-June 2012, p. 12

Virtual games could accelerate real economic growth. Games played on mobile devices are increasingly enticing players with discounts, coupons, and other real-world rewards. As players use their phones to pay for the games and make purchases, bypassing credit cards, bank accounts, and cash, the so-called virtual economy could grow from $3 billion in 2009 to $300 billion in the next 10 years, predicts Kiip co-founder Brian Wong.World Trends & Forecasts, Nov-Dec 2011, p. 6

Money and even cash will still exist by 2100. Money will increasingly move to digital forms for legitimate transactions, but cash will still be the lifeblood of the black-market economy. Society will likely embrace barter, at least at the peer-to-peer level, but public services such as defense and justice will still be supported via taxes. —Stephen Aguilar-Millan, “Will We Still Have Money in 2100?” Sep-Oct 2012, p. 43

India will become a hotbed of “invisible innovation.” Rather than focusing on tangible consumer products like the iPad, innovators in India emphasize processes that improve efficiency. Future success will depend on modernizing the nation’s university system as well as its intellectual property laws. —Nirmalya Kumar and Phanish Puranam, authors of India Inside, reviewed by Rick Docksai, May-June 2012, p. 54

Upscale opportunities in resource recovery will abound. Going beyond using post-consumer waste to make more stuff—often of inferior quality—upcycling is about harvesting resources to make new products of higher commercial value. For example, the social enterprise Back to the Roots company sells kits that allow people to use recycled coffee grounds for growing gourmet mushrooms. Tomorrow in Brief, July-Aug 2012, p. 2

Sex workers in developed countries will become more responsible for their own branding. With more technologies available to them to work as independent entrepreneurs, sex workers will adopt retailing trends like collective discounts, online reviews, and strategic partnerships. By 2030, mainstream companies will increasingly invest in pornography (such as purchasing product placements) and even sponsor sex workers. —Emily Empel, “The Future of the Commercial Sex Industry,” May-June 2012, p. 39

Career “paths” will become patchwork pieces. Baby boomers’ future career trajectories will more resemble a lattice than a ladder, with more lateral moves on the way up. For younger generations, it will be more of a patchwork quilt: multiple jobs stitched together to form a more flexible work environment. —James H. Lee, “Hard at Work in the Jobless Future,” Mar-Apr 2012, p. 35

Shake-ups in the “C Suite”: New corporate leaders with new skills are on the way. Corporate futures will be shaped by leaders adept in social networking, content management, data mining, and data meaning. Look for such job titles as Earned Media Officer, Chief Content Officer, Open-Source Manager, Chief Linguist, and Chief Data Scientist. —Geoffrey Colon, “Shakeups in the ‘C Suite’: Hail to the New Chiefs,” World Trends & Forecasts, July-Aug 2012, pp. 6-7


Subways, trains, and diesel trucks will become future sources of energy, not just consumers. Since most of the stored energy that vehicles use is wasted as heat spilling out from tailpipes, engineers at BMW, Ford, GM, and other manufacturers are seeking systems to recover thermal energy. For example, a system under development at Dynalloy Inc. would recover heat from a car’s exhaust system, generating enough power to run the car’s audio or air-conditioning systems. Trains would generate even more recoverable waste energy, since they are operated continuously.World Trends & Forecasts, July-Aug 2012, pp. 7-8

Future cars may become producers of power rather than merely consumers. A scheme envisioned at the Technology University of Delft would use fuel cells of parked electric vehicles to convert biogas or hydrogen into more electricity. And the owners would be paid for the energy their vehicles produce. Tomorrow in Brief, Mar-Apr 2012, p. 2

Noise vibrations and other “junk” energy will be harvested from the environment. Researchers at Georgia Tech are developing techniques for converting ambient microwave energy into DC power, which could be used for small devices like wireless sensors. And University of Buffalo physicist Surajit Sen is studying ways to use vibrations produced on roads and airport runways as energy sources.World Trends & Forecasts, Nov-Dec 2011, p. 9

Buckypaper—a smart, superlight material—will increase energy efficiency. Industrial-grade carbon nanotubes are becoming more affordable. One promising use is Buckypaper, which appears flimsy but is 100 times stronger than steel per unit of weight. It can conduct electricity like copper and disperse heat like steel or brass. —Tsvi Bisk, “Unlimiting Energy’s Growth,” May-June 2012, p. 31

Forecasts for bioenergy in the United States may be overly optimistic. As a potential alternative source of energy to help the United States reduce its dependence on foreign oil, biofuels have not met proponents’ high expectations, says the American Chemical Society. One problem is land availability: To meet the goals of the 2007 Energy Independence & Security Act, 80% of current agricultural land would have to be directed toward biofuels. Another barrier is the uncertainty about oil prices, which inhibits biofuel investors.World Trends & Forecasts, July-Aug 2012, pp. 9-10

Alternative energies won’t be enough to solve the world’s energy woes. Alternatives to alternatives are needed. Heavy investment into solar energy, wind energy, and other renewable systems may actually set us back, since these strategies draw resources away from others that might work better, warns University of California–Berkeley visiting scholar Ozzie Zehner. A more practical approach may be to design communities that enable people to live well while using less. —Books in Brief [review of Green Illusions by Ozzie Zehner], July-Aug 2012, p. 53


The next great wave of species extinctions may be in the oceans. By 2050, the scale of extinctions of ocean-dwelling plants and animals may equal the five great global extinctions of the past 600 million years, warns the International Programme on the State of the Ocean. Reasons: a “deadly triad” of pollution, overfishing, and climate change impacting the world’s ocean habitats.“The Best Predictions of 2011,” Jan-Feb 2012, p. 36

“Peak water” may become as big a problem as peak oil. As water tables around the world become depleted, and as growing populations demand more water for personal as well as agricultural use, supplies of sustainably managed water will continue to fall. The consequences could be dire for human health, as water-related diseases proliferate. —Jerome C. Glenn, “Updating the Global Scorecard: The 2011 State of the Future,” Nov-Dec 2011, p. 27

Gadget-happy societies may become more environmentally friendly. The consumer-electronics industries in the United States are building more drop-off sites for customers to recycle outdated devices. Recycling increased by 53% from 2010 to 2011, netting 400 million pounds of gadgets. The Consumer Electronics Association’s goal is to recover 1 billion pounds of electronics by 2016.Future Scope, July-Aug 2012, p. 4

Extinctions are outpacing scientists’ ability to discover new species. New tools enable both professional and amateur taxonomists to identify new species and share discoveries around the world. About 2 million species of plants, animals, fungi, and other life forms have been identified, and there could be another 10 million awaiting discovery. But human encroachment is increasing in species-rich locales such as the tropics, Southeast Asia, and New Guinea, threatening to kill off species before they can be discovered, warns botanist Peter H. Raven, president emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden. He estimates that 30% of Earth’s species will be extinct by the end of the century, due to climate change and habitat loss.World Trends & Forecasts, Sep-Oct 2012, p. 8

Water pollution from pesticide runoff will likely increase. As climate change alters the activity and spread of pests, more farmers in Europe will turn to pesticides to keep their croplands productive. The result may be a doubling of pesticide use by 2090 over the 1990 average, and streams in as much as 40% of Europe’s land mass will suffer increased insecticide pollution, warns the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research.World Trends & Forecasts, May-June 2012, p. 13

By 2100, humans will have become managers of the natural environment. As climate change and population growth claim the planet’s remaining “wild places,” mankind will learn to manage the natural world as a global garden. Species and even microscopic habitats will be monitored and protected via tiny sensors, and managed with the assistance of artificial intelligence. —Brenda Cooper, “Where the Wild Things Are Not,” Sep-Oct 2012, p. 37


An aquaponic recycling system in every kitchen? Future “farmers” may consist of householders recycling their food waste in their own aquariums. An aquaponic system being developed by SUNY ecological engineers would use leftover foods to feed a tank of tilapia or other fish, and then the fish waste would be used for growing vegetables. The goal is to reduce food waste and lower the cost of raising fish.Tomorrow in Brief, Nov-Dec 2011, p. 2

Genetic modification could yield healthier, more flavorful, and longer-lasting food, thus reducing waste and hunger. Vitamin A–fortified golden rice could help prevent blindness among children in developing countries, but it has not yet been approved. Such “Frankenfood” must first overcome opposition from fearful consumers (and from anti-GMO opponents like the $20-billion organic food industry). —Josh Schonwald, “Engineering the Future of Food,” May-June 2012, p. 27

Genetically engineered animals will become a major part of agriculture, but not soon. In the future, creating livestock that grows faster, consumes less feed, produces less waste, and yields leaner, healthier meat may seem a less “extreme” approach to meeting humanity’s food requirements than it does today. Meat production may even bypass animals, if public opinion shifts to favor lab-grown food as a more ethical approach. —Jeffrey Scott Coker, “Crossing the Species Boundary: Genetic Engineering as Conscious Evolution,” Jan-Feb 2012, p. 26

Demands to decrease pesticides and other chemicals on farms could exacerbate food shortages. However, lower crop yields could be compensated for by wasting less food, says environmental researcher Matthias Liess. About a third of all the food the world produces each year is either thrown out or lost in storage, transit, processing, or packing, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.World Trends & Forecasts, May-June 2012, p. 14

China’s growing appetite for meat will strain global grain supplies. China now consumes 71 million tons of meat a year, about twice as much as the United States and more than a fourth of all the meat produced worldwide, according to the Earth Policy Institute. Increased meat production also increases demand for corn and soybeans used for livestock feed. Supplies of these grains are already seeing strain as energy and other sectors compete with food producers.Future Scope, Sep-Oct 2012, p. 4


By 2025, there will be 27 megacities around the world, each with populations exceeding 10 million. The “real population bomb” isn’t the sheer number of world population, but the relentless urbanization in places unprepared for this growth. Megacities in northern Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, China, and Indonesia, where poverty is already severe, will face more environmental pollution and become havens for terrorism and crime, warn defense experts P. H. Liotta and James F. Miskel.Books in Brief [review of The Real Population Bomb by P. H. Liotta and James F. Miskel], July-Aug 2012, p. 55

By 2100, 70% of the world’s 10 billion inhabitants will live in cities. As rural residents move to far-more-complex urban habitats, many will struggle to cope with new institutions and new rules and attitudes. Slums will serve as catalysts for facilitating this psychosocial transition, enabling newcomers to adapt successfully. Instead of “solving” the slum problem, nongovernmental organizations will work to facilitate life with wireless service, educational programs, and “off-grid” power, water, health care, and sanitation services. —Eric Meade, “Slums: A Catalyst Bed for Poverty Eradication,” Sep-Oct 2012, pp. 43-44.

Knowmads may drive growth in micro-urban areas. As telecommuting enables more knowledge workers to work and live anywhere they choose, places with big-city amenities and a small-town feel could have growing appeal. Look for micro-urban booms in places like Fargo, Syracuse, Iowa City, and Roanoke. Future Scope, Sep-Oct 2012, p. 4

A “green” housing boom is under way. U.S. home buyers are increasingly demanding energy efficiency and the use of sustainable materials both in new homes and in remodeling projects. “Green homes” will grow from 17% of the residential construction market in 2011 to 38% by 2016, with a fivefold increase in revenues, according to the National Association of Home Builders.Future Scope, May-June 2012, p. 4


Drug-delivering nanorobots built from DNA could be approved for use in humans within 20 years. Medical nanorobots that carry molecule-sized payloads and can detect and attack cancer are being developed by Shawn Douglas and researchers at Harvard Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. The bots are like complex pieces of fabric, with hundreds of DNA pieces wrapped around a scaffold. When the bot encounters a protein indicating cancer, the nanostructure unlocks itself to release a cancer-fighting antigen.World Trends & Forecasts, May-June 2012, pp. 15-16

Robots may become gentler caregivers. Lifting and transferring frail patients may be easier for robots than for human caregivers, but their strong arms typically lack sensitivity. Japanese researchers are improving the functionality of the RIBA II (Robot for Interactive Body Assistance), lining its arms and chest with sensors so it lift its patients more gently.Tomorrow in Brief, Nov-Dec 2011, p. 2

Humans could one day reach longevity “escape velocity.” Continuous rejuvenation therapy that focuses on repairing cell damage before it accumulates, causing pathologies, may one day allow people to live for a thousand years. As these technologies continue to improve, each new round of rejuvenation therapy will improve upon the previous treatments, and we will stay young indefinitely. —Aubrey de Grey, “A Thousand Years Young,” May-June 2012, pp. 21-23

Full-body firewalls will be necessary to prevent hackers from tampering with your implants. Wireless medical devices designed to manage and monitor drug-delivery systems and other implants are vulnerable to interference. Researchers at Purdue and Princeton universities are developing a medical monitor (MedMon) designed to identify potentially malicious activity. Tomorrow in Brief, July-Aug 2012, p. 2

Cancer survivorship may strain future health-care systems. More people are beating cancer and surviving longer and healthier—that’s the good news. The bad news is that elderly cancer survivors will still need more medical services. In the United States, the aging population is growing while the number of oncologists and geriatric specialists is declining.Future Scope, Jan-Feb 2012, p. 4

Smart helmets will rapidly detect brain injuries. Contact sports will become smarter and less dangerous, thanks to helmets that detect concussions. By 2015, high-school football players could be wearing smart helmets that rapidly detect abnormalities in users’ brain-wave activity. The EEG-reading helmets, under development by Villanova University engineering professor Hashem Ashrafiuon and others, would alert medics on the sidelines if there are signs of concussion. World Trends & Forecasts, July-Aug 2012, pp. 12-13

Better health, but fewer doctors. A projected shortage of more than 90,000 doctors by 2020 will drive technological innovations such as low-cost, point-of-care diagnostics—i.e., Lab-on-a-Chip technologies. A cell-phone-sized device could analyze your blood or sputum while you talk to a health provider from the comfort of your home. —Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler, “The Abundance Builders,” July-Aug 2012, p. 17

Boys will enter their at-risk years earlier than ever. The age of male sexual maturity has been slowly decreasing since the mid-1700s (2.5 months per decade), thanks to changes in nutrition and environmental factors. A similar trend has already been observed among girls. While the “high-risk” adolescent years have been stretched for boys, the dangers may be offset by parents who tend to supervise children more closely when they’re younger.Future Scope, Jan-Feb 2012, p. 4

New approaches to treating alcohol addiction could let alcoholics drink moderately. Abstinence is not always feasible or necessary in treating substance abuse, say researchers at UCLA’s Scripps Research Institute. A chemical treatment approach targeting peptides in the part of the brain that regulates moods and emotions could reduce alcoholics’ anxiety and the urge to drink.World Trends & Forecasts, May-June 2012, pp. 6-8

Disease detection may soon be but a breath away. A Single Breath Disease Diagnostics Breathalyzer under development at Stony Brook University would use sensor chips coated with nanowires to detect chemical compounds that may indicate the presence of diseases or infectious microbes. In the future, a handheld device could let you detect a range of risks, from lung cancer to anthrax exposure.Tomorrow in Brief, Sep-Oct 2012, p. 2


The future Internet could connect the world at the neural level. Advances in neurotechnology will make it possible for us to link our minds, share our emotional experiences, and even feel changes in the collective state of mind. This “telempathy” would, for instance, enable leaders to gauge public anxiety during a catastrophe. —Michael Chorost, “A World Wide Mind: The Coming Collective Telempathy,” Mar-Apr 2012, p. 22

Legal-expert systems will make laws easier for laypersons to understand. “Conversational law” will incorporate statutes, interpretations, precedents, and other elements of the law; the system will query users about their particular situation and provide clear answers on how the law applies. Lawyers may reduce their billable hours but earn income developing specialized legal-expert systems. —David R. Johnson, “Serving Justice with Conversational Law,” Sep-Oct 2012, p. 21

Minority languages will disappear with minority populations. Of the 6,900 languages spoken today, more than half face extinction in the next 100 years. Reason: 95% of the world’s population speak one of just 400 languages, and the remaining 5% of languages are scattered among fewer and fewer speakers. —Lawrence Baines, “A World of Fewer Words? Five Trends Shaping the Future of Language,” Mar-Apr 2012, p. 43

Mobile phones may contribute to political reform in Africa. Web-accessible mobile devices have proliferated in Africa, where text messaging and social networking are giving low-income residents more opportunities to watch their governments. Increased transparency and accountability, such as improving public access to spending on expensive infrastructure projects, could help reduce corruption and poverty, says Matthias Mordi, executive director of Accender Africa.World Trends & Forecasts, Jan-Feb 2012, p. 6

The last newspaper and book will have been printed in 2020. Information formerly contained by print products will be rented by users rather than owned, and will be accessed from the cloud via 3-D mobile media. —Marcel Bullinga, “Welcome to the Future Cloud: Five Bets for 2025,” Jan-Feb 2012, p. 64

Tablet PCs, netbooks, and laptops will be extinct by 2022. Instead of relying on hardware, workplaces will become ubiquitous computing environments, where everything around you (door knob, coffee pot, window) has connectivity and computing capabilities.“The Best Predictions of 2011,” Jan-Feb 2012, p. 30

Communication will become increasingly image-driven. Thanks both to the proliferation of video and to smaller screens for computing and communication devices, graphics and images will be more heavily relied on for ordinary communication. This will foster faster comprehension and possibly stimulate new ways of thinking, but at the cost of eloquence and precision. —Lawrence Baines, “A World of Fewer Words? Five Trends Shaping the Future of Language, Mar-Apr 2012, p. 46

By 2020, data will have a life of its own. Algorithms will talk to other algorithms, things will connect with millions of other things, and sensors will gather even more data, processed by more computers, all scarcely discernible to humans. But data may be becoming too big, and we need to learn how to channel the power of data into making the lives of everyone on the planet better. —Brian David Johnson, “The Secret Life of Data in the Year 2020,” July-Aug 2012, pp. 21-23

The “cloud” will become more intelligent, not just a place to store data. Cloud intelligence will evolve into becoming an active resource in our daily lives, providing analysis and contextual advice. Virtual agents could, for example, design your family’s weekly menu based on everyone’s health profiles, fitness goals, and taste preferences. —Chris Carbone and Kristin Nauth, “From Smart House to Networked Home,” July-Aug 2012, p. 30

Online pornography will become more graphic and more pervasive. As with any stimulant, pornographic imagery must become more intensive as users become less sensitive to its effects. One result will be the creation of an entire generation of young men so desensitized by pornography that they are unexcited by normal sexual encounters. —Roger Howard, “Anticipating an ‘Anything Goes’ World of Online Porn,” May-June 2012, p. 42


Neuroscientists may soon be able to predict what you’ll do before you do it. The intention to do something, such as grasp a cup, produces blood flow to specific areas of the brain, so studying blood-flow patterns through neuroimaging could give researchers a better idea of what people have in mind. One potential application is improved prosthetic devices that respond to signals from the brain more like actual limbs do. World Trends & Forecasts, Jan-Feb 2012, p. 10

The next space age will launch after 2020, driven by competition and “adventure capitalists.” While the U.S. space shuttle program is put to rest, entrepreneurs are planning commercial launches to access low-Earth orbit and to ferry passengers to transcontinental destinations within hours. Challenges include perfecting new technologies, developing global operations, building new infrastructure, and gaining regulatory approval. —Joseph N. Pelton, “The New Age of Space Business,” Sep-Oct 2012, p. 17

Algae could provide the molecular machinery to create ultra-low-cost fuels. Pioneering genome sequencer J. Craig Venter aims to create synthetic life derived from algae, which would be run through a DNA sequencing machine and used to design future cheap biofuels. The technology could also create highly productive food crops, high-performing vaccines, and more. —Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler, “The Abundance Builders,” July-Aug 2012, p. 15

Electron-level data-storage capacity could be achieved in just over 120 years. One of the eight “grand challenges” proposed by the DaVinci Institute is an electron-based storage system that could be manufactured for less than $1 per 100 terabytes. With Moore’s law on our side, we could reach this goal in the year 2133, according to University of Colorado–Boulder neurobiology professor Mark Dubin. —Thomas Frey, “Eight Grand Challenges for Human Advancement,” Jan-Feb 2012, p. 18

Coming soon to sports arenas: the Enhanced Games! Genetically enhanced athletes are nothing new, but rather than leaving the enhancements to luck, future technologies will enable more competitors to choose the alterations that will improve their performance. Officially sanctioned enhanced athletes will thus still compete on a level playing field. —Jeffrey Scott Coker, “Crossing the Species Boundary: Genetic Engineering as Conscious Evolution,” Jan-Feb 2012, p. 27

Genetic engineering could make us superheroes. While we may not become Batman, we may one day find it useful to incorporate specific animals’ traits (such as bats’ sonar-based “vision,” perhaps). —Jeffrey Scott Coker, “Crossing the Species Boundary: Genetic Engineering as Conscious Evolution,” Jan-Feb 2012, p. 27

The dream of “Smell-O-Vision” may soon come true. An odor-release device triggered by heat from an electrical current may one day bring scents into virtual-reality experiences, video games, and other applications. One potential use for such telesmell devices would be for alarm systems, perhaps scaring burglars away with skunk scents, according to engineering professor Sungho Jin of the University of California, San Diego. World Trends & Forecasts, Nov-Dec 2011, p. 8

Robotic pack mules will lighten the load for human soldiers on the battlefield. Toting 100 pounds or more of gear can be a major impairment for troops. Robotic pack mules under development at DARPA could potentially carry 400 pounds on a 20-mile hike without refueling.Tomorrow in Brief, May-June 2012, p. 2


Soldiers will communicate via telepathic helmets by 2020. Abandoning radio transmissions, microphones, and hand signals, tomorrow’s military will rely on helmets that read and communicate soldiers’ thoughts, according to biomedical scientist Gerwin Schalk.“The Best Predictions of 2011,” Jan-Feb 2012, p. 30

Point/Counterpoint: Global Affluence or Global Disruption?

A new era of global affluence, democracy, modernity, and equality is on the way. “Modernity is not a choice,” writes Hudson Institute co-founder Max Singer in his new book, History of the Future.

Singer observes that the rise of globalized communications means that citizens of traditional, poor, and repressed countries are less likely to tolerate their conditions when they can easily watch others become free and prosperous. And, he notes, “as globalization advances, the menu of opportunities for people everywhere expands.” —Max Singer, author of History of the Future, reviewed by Rick Docksai, Jan-Feb 2012, p. 50

A new era of global disruption, resource depletion, and universally wrecked economies is on the way. So projects ecologist Paul Gilding in The Great Disruption. Ecological catastrophes will beget socioeconomic ones unless governments launch wartime-like efforts to avert them. The potential disruptions will spread to public health and spark violence.

Gilding believes that the world’s peoples will unite to transform the world’s destructive systems.Books in Brief review of The Great Disruption by Paul Gilding], Jan-Feb 2012, p. 53

The global Muslim population could increase from 1.6 billion to 2.2 billion (35%) by 2030. The Muslim population is growing at about twice the rate of the world’s non-Muslim population, reports the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Muslims will make up more than one-fourth (26.4%) of the world’s projected population in 2030.“The Best Predictions of 2011,” Jan-Feb 2012, p. 32

Both China and India will experience growing pains over the next decade. India’s population, growing at twice the rate of China’s, is creating an “enviably young” workforce, reports the RAND Corporation. China is viewed as having a better educated workforce than India, suggesting that China’s GDP will continue to exceed India’s through 2025, but the aging population bodes ill for China’s longer-term security. World Trends & Forecasts, Mar-Apr 2012, p. 12

Mandarin Chinese may gain on English’s popularity globally. On the Internet, Mandarin and English have close to the same number of users (510 million and 565 million respectively). However, the number of Mandarin users online increased 1,478% between 2000 and 2011, compared with 301% for English users. The fastest growth was among Arabic users (2,501% increase) and Russian (1,825%). —Lawrence Baines, “A World of Fewer Words? Five Trends Shaping the Future of Language, Mar-Apr 2012, p. 43

Good news and bad news for 2020: The 2011 State of the Future report found reasons to both cheer and fear what global trends portend for the decade ahead.

Where We Are Winning:

  • The percentage of people with access to clean water.
  • Percentage of people enrolled in secondary school.
  • GDP per capita.
  • Infant mortality rates.
  • HIV prevalence among 15- to 49-year-olds.
  • Total debt service in low- and mid-income countries.

Where We Are Losing:

  • Carbon-dioxide emissions.
  • Global surface temperature anomalies.
  • Percentage of people voting in elections.
  • Levels of corruption in the 15 largest countries.
  • Number of refugees per 100,000 total population.

—Jerome C. Glenn, “Updating the Global Scorecard: The 2011 State of the Future,” Nov-Dec 2011, p. 26


How big is your TOE?

A useful benchmark for consumption is Tonnes of Oil Equivalent.

Mineral oil (petrol, diesel, gasoline and friends) has a very high energy content per volume.  That means less weight per joule which is important if you’ve got to move or carry fuel, eg in a car fuel tank.

This comparison list from Wikipedia shows the energy equivalent of other fuels. It is interesting to see that biodiesel is in the range of mineral oil (80%) though bioethanol is only half as energy dense.

  • 1 t diesel = 1.01 toe
  • 1 m3 diesel = 0.98 toe
  • 1 t petrol = 1.05 toe
  • 1 m3 petrol = 0.86 toe
  • 1 t biodiesel = 0.86 toe
  • 1 m3 biodiesel = 0.78 toe
  • 1 t bioethanol = 0.64 toe
  • 1m3 bioethanol = 0.51 toe[3]
  • 1 MWh = 0.086 toe [4] (therefore 1 toe = 11630.0 KWh) [5]

So you could guesstimate your TOE.  Say fill up the tank 3 times (150 litres), plus heating, plus food, … maybe half a tonne to a tonne a week?  It’s a big number.

So moving to solar, wind, hyrdo, bio is helpful, and reducing consumption is necessary.

Dearman engine prototypes high tech eco-steam power.

The BBC headline this morning Liquid air ‘offers energy storage hope’ looked interesting.  I usually start looking at “new solutions” cynically because so often they are misconceived with a “command and control nature” mentality.  But this looks interesting.  The oil companies might not like it.  Though car companies should be ok with it.

The idea is to refrigerate gas to liquid for storage.  The to release teh stored energy the liquid is allowed to warm to ambient temperature, thereby gassifying, expanding and driving a piston.  A similar concept to the steam engine.

The article linked over to this video of Peter Dearman who has developed the technology to bring it within the scope of commercialisation.  There is hope, thanks to people like him.  Let’s hope this technology does not get bought or suppressed like the hydro-gasoline innovations of the 1950s which achieved fuel efficiencies of 100mpg (see Gasholes).

BBC: Liquid air ‘offers energy storage hope’