2013: The Year of Ongoing Social Unrest or Strong Tech-Centric Recovery?

October 15 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: Economics   Year: 2013   Rating: 3

Half Empty, Half Full contrasts extreme positive and negative future scenarios. To create and submit your own Half Empty, Half Full simply follow this link, download the template by clicking on the thumbnail, open it in an image editor such as GIMP (free), then go to town creating totally original Yin & Yang futures.

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Is Brazil an emerging energy giant?

October 03 2008 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: Beyond   Rating: 9 Hot

Few people think of Brazil as an emerging global energy player. Even the most widely cited future of energy scenarios do not put Brazil into the elite group of energy resource-rich nations.

While it is best known for its domestically produced sugarcane ethanol, Brazil’s real source of energy wealth and future geopolitical power is likely to come from exports of oil and natural gas extracted from its deepwater reserves.

Energy pundits are now tracking early indicators hinting that Brazil is awakening to its full potential as a uniquely diversified energy economy growing around traditional hydrocarbon resources while simultaneously expanding its own renewables and bio energy solutions. Brazil’s rise as a global energy powerhouse will take decades to unfold, but it might turn out to be one of the more interesting geopolitical energy stories of the next century.

Who might follow in Anadarko’s footsteps
On Thursday, Houston, Texas-based Andarko announced a successful deepwater field discovery offshore of Brazil in its Campos Basin region. This could be the beginning of a string of announcements to come from energy majors tapping the deepwater oil fields of Brazil.

Announcements are likely to come from companies based around the world. Everyone is looking to partner with Brazil in advancing deepwater drilling and securing access to their growing reserves. While the general public might see the oil industry organized neatly into brand names like BP, Shell, Exxon and Chevron, the reality is that these companies are all betting on each other. Most projects have a lead company, but the financial risk is spread with smaller stakes held by competitors and specialized development firms.

Brazil’s emergence as an energy giant might be quiet, but they are not going to do it alone. Now that it has overcome the technical challenges of deepwater drilling, it must navigate the complex geopolitical landscape of energy politics.

Brazil: Deepwater brings new opportunities & challenges

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The future of electricity: A guide to the Smart Grid

October 02 2008 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: 2015   Rating: 3

“Our lights may be on, but systemically, the risks associated with relying on an often overtaxed grid grow in size, scale and complexity every day.”

What if our greatest energy dependency challenge was not related to the global flow of oil, but the one way flow of electricity coming from distant power plants to our wall sockets?

The world runs on electricity. Demand for electron power in emerging economies is often 3-4 times greater than demand for oil. Because the old model of the electricity grid does not seem adequate in meeting the new demands of the 21st century, many energy pundits argue that access to electricity is the world’s biggest strategic energy issue.

Realizing the ‘Smart Grid’ Vision
The conversation about electricity infrastructure is likely to change very soon as governments and the private sector build out the vision of a smarter, electricity web that is infinitely more reliable, robust and profitable.

The US Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability is hoping to push the ‘smart grid’ meme out into the public sphere. The office has released a 50 page publication The Smart Grid: An Introduction in an effort to advance the public’s ability to talk about smart grid infrastructure.

‘The electric industry is poised to make the transformation from a centralized, producer-controlled network to one that is less centralized and more consumer-interactive. The move to a smarter grid promises to change the industry’s entire business model and its relationship with all stakeholders, involving and affecting utilities, regulators, energy service providers, technology and automation vendors and all consumers of electric power.

A Smart Grid means many things. At The Energy Roadmap.com we believe that the most disruptive elements are software,sensors & storage. The good news is that these three systems might finally be reaching a tipping point in cost and performance that allows us to turn the ‘smart grid’ vision into a reality. While this US DOE Guide might not be the definitive guide to the future of smart grid systems, it is certainly a step forward in helping to spread the meme and outline the fundamentals!

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Detroit to World: Nobody has Killed the Electric Car

September 24 2008 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Environment   Year: 2010   Rating: 11 Hot

It is a great time to be a professional futurist working in the automobile sector!! We see clearly how quickly change can happen- and how the public’s most deeply held assumptions about the future can be revised in only a few years.

The recent string of announcements coming from Detroit, Japan, China and the rest of the automotive sector suggest big changes ahead. Yes, it will take years to unfold, but the shift toward the electrification of the world’s transportation sector has begun.

Between 2010-12 consumers can expect to see first generation all-electric vehicles from nearly every major automobile manufacturer. The monopoly era of liquid fuels and the combustion engine has started its descent. By 2025 the industry might be in a position abandon this 19th century propulsion platform and begin a new era of electric propulsion with the help of batteries, hydrogen fuel cells and capacitors.

What happened? Accelerating change happened. We are now adjusting our outlook to reflect a convergence of new market conditions, shifts in the regulatory environment and new consumer expectations for positive change. And of course, materials science technology changed.

Detroit (and others) seem to be saying – “Nobody Killed the Electric Car, but would someone Please Kill the Combustion Engine!!

Last week General Motors released production model details for its all-electric extended range Volt. GM now seems to believe that the internal combustion engine might best be used to power the battery not the vehicle itself..

Yesterday Chrysler announced its plans for a full lineup of electric vehicles beginning with a production model in 2010

Who else has made statements about planned electric models for 2010-12? How about Toyota, Renault, BYD (China), Tata (India) and Mitsubishi?! And what about start ups like Tesla, Fisker, Zap, and Morgan.

And that doesn’t include all the aspiring vehicle makers in China and India who might see profits ahead around leap frogging into electric power train systems. Or visionaries in Ohio and Michigan who realize that electric vehicles could be a very good thing for revitalizing the ‘Rust Belt’ around high value added manufacturing. Now we have a green light for politicians to speak confidently about electric cars. The stigma is gone.

Yes, things will take time to change. But the public tends to focus on the new growth rather than the old technologies that fade away slowly. Adoption rates for electric vehicles might surprise us!

And I don’t expect to see Who Killed the Electric Car Part Two.

[Continue—- How Nissan’s Ghosn flip-flopped, what drives the shift towards electrification, and what about hydrogen fuel cells?]

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How do you see the Future of Energy? (Poll)

September 22 2008 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Environment   Year: 2018   Rating: 3

Futurists often use scenario archetypes of world views to speak in general terms about forecasts on the future.

When most people talk about the future of energy their core set of assumptions fall into one or two major forecasts of change. These four archetype scenarios are useful in revealing the wide spectrum of assumptions about the future:


‘Green’ forecasts of the future of energy are usually oriented towards strategies that address climate change issues and advance the growth of cleantech industries. The core assumption is the emergence of an entirely new energy industry built around new low-cost renewable technologies and the rapid shift away from traditional hydrocarbons. Critics argue that these forecasts often overestimate the rate of change, the complexities of energy science and the push back from the powerful landscape of industry incumbents. But proponents believe that this ‘cleantech’ future taps the disruptive power of breakthrough science and technology, and entrepreneurial business that could re-write the rules of energy systems. ‘Green’ and Cleantech are a big memes in the future of energy!

‘Business-as-usual’ forecasts expect marketplace forces to shape the future. What does the future look like? Simply extrapolate today’s energy sector forward! They imagine the same players, relationships and attitudes towards energy to continue. These forecasts are based on compelling realities of incumbent business interests, ‘growth at any cost’ attitudes within emerging economies, and the market value of traditional hydrocarbon energy resources. Critics believe that these ‘business as usual’ forecasts often underestimate the long-term implications of disruptive change and advances in science, engineering, regulatory shifts and new business models. We believe new memes will emerge around ‘business-as-usual’ forecasts like the ‘greening of hydrocarbons’ and that the incumbents will rapidly expand the role of biology (bio energy) in carbon utilization (e.g. algae biofuels)!

Read on—‘Techno-optimist’ and ‘Overshoot & Collapse’

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Is the Right to Bear Arms Totally Moot?

August 26 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Security   Year: General   Rating: 3

A general returning from the Russian battlefront has overthrown the U.S. government and is calling herself dictator for life. Democracy has been crushed beneath the weight of America’s military engine. In every major city the National Guard has assumed control, weeded out dissenters, and executed former public officials. You, having seen Red Dawn over fifty times, grab a gang of friends and escape into the forest with a vast array of munitions you had stashed in case of such an emergency. Your rebel group sets up camp in a cave where you plan to organize your resistance and hopefully assist in overthrowing the martial government. You post lookouts and spend time working on a sweet patch for your team jackets.

Then an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle flies overhead, locates your entire group via infrared sensors and blows you all to Kingdom Come.

This is not a totally implausible future scenario. If military advancements in technology continue to get better, which it will, what hope does armed citizenry have against advanced weapons systems and automated robotic armies?

In a famous essay titled What Good Can a Handgun Do Against an Army? written by Mike Vanderboegh of the Alabama Militia, he decries that although military technology is advancing, a simple pistol can make all the difference. His theory, much like the movie Red Dawn, is that with a pistol you can kill your way to better weaponry. Killing one soldier with a pistol will get you a rifle or “perhaps you get very lucky and pickup a light machine gun, two boxes of ammunition and a haversack of hand grenades.” From there you could use the grenades to attack larger targets which yield even more supplies. A pistol will get you a rifle, a rifle will get you a machine gun, and so on until you eventually start capturing tanks, constantly upgrading your way through the enemy.

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The Technology Waiting Game

August 21 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: General   Rating: 5

It seems like everyday we’re greeted with yet another energy-saving device that is not only more efficient, but cheaper to boot. A quick romp through the Future Scanner using the terms “energy” and “efficient” bring up more articles than you could digest in a single sitting. There are nano-crystals that increase thermoelectric power by 40%, low-cost super-efficient solar cells that may put current solar panels in the same bin with the 8-track, and even a dye that could increase solar efficiency by over 50%.

So with technology accelerating at such a fast pace, why do we spend money on soon to be outdated technology?

In California’s push towards responsible energy, they’re planning to build two solar power stations whose total wattage production will come out to a breathtaking 800 megawatts and will cover an estimated 12.5 square miles of land. This is part of the ground work the Golden State is laying in order to have more than 20% of its energy come from renewable resources. But are they wasting their time?

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Dear Al Gore, Did you forget about harvesting carbon for bioenergy?!

August 05 2008 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: 2018   Rating: 16 Hot

In his bold speech calling to transform the energy industry, Al Gore forgot to say one of the most important words of the 21st century – biology. He forgot to mention that if we wanted to ‘grow’ energy, carbon could become a profitable feedstock rather than an economic and environmental liability.

Gore is now calling on America to launch a major Apollo-style program to ‘decarbonize’ the electricity sector by 2018 using renewables, geothermal and carbon sequestration efforts. He imagines a world beyond ‘fossil fuels’, but might be overlooking our greatest potential investment in the energy sector – tapping biological systems that ‘eat’ carbon and ‘grow’ energy resources such as biofuels (for transportation) and hydrogen (for electricity generation).

What is possible by 2018? Within a decade we could transform the role of carbon into a profitable feedstock for clean, abundant energy by tapping the power of biology.

The phrase ‘fossil fuels’ is misleading. Coal and oil are not ancient bones or animal matter, rather they are ancient plant life and microorganisms that locked up hydrogen and carbon molecules using the power of the sun. Coal and oil are bioenergy resources. And rather than extract ancient bioenergy from the ground, we can grow the same hydrocarbon chains ourselves without adding new carbon to the atmosphere. (cont.)

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How Exactly Will Our System Get Smarter?

July 25 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: Beyond   Rating: 5

A favorite debate topic for many futurists, humanists, advanced defense theorists, sci-fi authors and Future Bloggers is the nature of future terrestrial intelligence increase. As change accelerates, how how exactly will we and/or the system around us get smarter?

The most popular scenario by far is Artificial General Intelligence , aka AI that equals or surpasses that of humanity, probably because it is the most immediately relatable and due to the fact that so much money is being poured into AGI research. In fact, some researchers are predicting a breakthrough in the field in just 5-10 years.

But there are a variety of other scenarios that could either outcompete this paradigm or conspire with it to accelerate intelligence in our system. These include human-based, alien-based, deeply systemic, or even exo-systemic possibilities.

Applying your particular brand of intelligence, which of the following do you think is the most optimal path to intelligence increase in the acceleration era? (Survey at end of post)

AGI: Human-generated machine intelligence such as in the films 2001: A Space Odyssey and A.I..

Individual Intelligence Amplification: Individual humans that grow vastly smarter due to hard, biological and/or soft cognitive upgrades, such as Bean in Ender’s Game.

Social Intelligence Amplification: A group or humanity as a whole collectively grows smarter, thus taking on the stewardship role for our Earth and species.

Biological Intelligence Amplification: One, more or all of the other species on Earth evolve or emerge, aided or automatically, the foremost intelligence on the planet. This could be viewed as a Gaiian awakening.

Alien Contact: Through efforts like SETI or those of the aliens themselves, we come into contact with some extra-terrestrial intelligence based in our universe that either stewards us or gives us a nice boost, a la the Vulcans in Star Trek, although this would likely be considerably more extreme.

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Bucky Fuller Returns?

July 23 2008 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Environment   Year: General   Rating: 10 Hot

By Garry Golden

If curators at New York’s Whitney Museum are correct, the world might once again turn towards Buckminster (Bucky) Fuller for inspiration in addressing global challenges.

Bucky Fuller (1895-1983) is widely recognized as one of the world’s great modern visionaries of the 20th century. He was a natural Futurist, not because of his intellect, but his wisdom to challenge widely held assumptions from the world around him.

He blended his skills as a writer, thinker, and engineer into a concept he called “Comprehensive Anticipatory Design Science.” Bucky believed that the essence of human life on the planet is to solve problems and continue expanding our awareness and views of what is possible.

New York’s Whitney Museum has re-opened the question of Bucky’s outlook towards the world with its latest exhibition Buckminster Fuller Starting with the Universe running through September 21, 2008.

Our best strategy for addressing problems of the 21st century might be to revisit the core principles of his philosophy related to design, shape and energy. If the Whitney curators, are correct, Bucky Fuller might turn out to be one of the most influential thinkers of not one, but two centuries.

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The Future of Space Travel is Yucky

July 14 2008 / by jcchan / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Space   Year: Beyond   Rating: 7 Hot

Ah, space tourism. You ditched Paris or Tokyo to the dismay of your spouse and now sit some 600 miles above Earth with an ice-cold Mojito in hand. “See, honey? This isn’t so bad.” As you take a sip the pilot speaks over the intercom about some turbulence. That’s fine you think, it can’t be bad as the bumpy airplane trips to Los Angeles back when you were a kid.

Just then, you see gold specks scream pass the window at 17,500 miles an hour, followed by the loud thud of a space helmet that leaves a considerable dent in your window outside. The entire space-plane trembles violently as red lights flood on. The pilot reassures that it was just space turbulence and to strap on seat belts. “This wasn’t mentioned in the catalogue” you thought, your spouse giving you a look that you know all too well.

This may not be the common vision of space tourism but the reality is that since the Soviet Union launched Sputnik back in 1958 there is an estimated one million pieces of junk floating in orbit. Of those, 9,000 objects are bigger than a tennis ball, large enough to cause catastrophic damage to moving space shuttles, satellites, and space stations. Most are pieces from old satellites and garbage left behind by previous missions. Adding to this mess are nuts, bolts, and screwdrivers that have errantly drifted into space from missions, and an expensive Hasselblad camera with exposed pictures still inside.

According to the European Space Agency, of the 5,500 tons of material in orbit, 93% is junk that includes parts of old spacecraft, depleted rocket boosters, garbage bags ,and even nuclear coolant. Each piece can and are dividing into more pieces. Only 7% of the material in orbit is operational spacecraft in use.

Besides posing an ethical problem of using our orbit as a landfill, the junk pose a big problem to current and future missions because of their ultra-high velocities in orbit. At 17,500 miles per hour, a millimeter speck of paint has the same amount of energy as a .22 caliber long rifle bullet, a pea sized piece has the lethal potential of a 400-lb safe traveling at 60 mph, and a tennis ball sized piece of metal is essentially 25 sticks of floating dynamite.

So what can we do about this junk? Is there a way to get it out of orbit? Perhaps zap it? Or give it a nudge? (cont.)

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Orgasm please computer.

July 08 2008 / by Virulent / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Relationships   Year: 2020   Rating: 12

An oldie but a goodie.

Brain-pacemakers are being used to treat patients suffering from severe depression and the potentials of the technology are being expanded on. What happens when brain stimulation is safe and not only reserved to people suffering from disorders?

“Brain pacemakers” are used to treat people who suffer from epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, clinical depression and other diseases. The pacemaker is a medical device that is implanted into the brain to send electrical signals into the tissue.

For those of you who don’t know what they are the paragraph above is the first sentence from the wikipedia article and as you can see the treatment the technology provides is quite vast and immediate.

Lets look down the winding road a little bit and consider what a world it would be like if these pacemakers become easy to implant and remove self maintaining and powering. A nanobot for stimulation?! what scientist would dare consider such a thing.

Well i found an article a while back in wired which had this to claim:

Implant Achieves Female Orgasm

One woman undergoing treatment for back pain may have discovered a cure for the thousands of woman frustrated by the inability to achieve orgasm. While Dr. Stuart Meloy was putting an electrode into the woman’s spine in an attempt to ease her chronic pain, he not only reduced her back pain, but gave her an unexpected – but delightful – side-effect. (cont.)

“She said, ‘You’re going to have to teach my husband how to do that’,” Meloy, an anesthesiologist and pain specialist in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, said. The discovery is published in Wednesday’s issue of New Scientist.

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