22 November 2019

Aridia ~ Towards Oasis Cities in the Drylands?

The WEF writes about Desertification: what is it and why is it one of the greatest threats of our time?
"The combined impact of climate change, land mismanagement and unsustainable freshwater use has seen the world’s water-scarce regions increasingly degraded. This leaves their soils less able to support crops, livestock and wildlife. This week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will publish its special report on climate change and land. The report, written by hundreds of scientists and researchers from across the world, dedicates one of its seven chapters solely to the issue of desertification."
The 30 year climate map illustrates the geographies involved (plus see also Koppen climate maps)... In this light, it's worth inverting the issues and seeking opportunities in such drylands.  The big technological achievements of the past half-century are solar power and desalination.  But there's more, including much greater sophistication around water use, shades of greywater, cycling, and design and landscaping for water retention.  Furthermore, reforestation, for instance in the Sahel, has been done with hardier plant varieties and is increasingly including soil modification or assistive techniques to both preserve water and make maximum use of every little bit.  On arid but foggy coasts (e.g. Atacama, Namibia, etc) inexpensive materials are boosting the effectiveness of fog harvesting.  And we can learn from classic desert cities and ancient techniques (e.g. Petra, the medinas, etc) about greening the desert.  In any case, when you stitch all the existing and emergent ideas together, I believe there's a blossoming new category of "oasis cities" in arid regions.

04 November 2019

Desalination Brine ~ Side Effect or Opportunity?

The BBC spotlights Concerns over increase in toxic brine from desalination plants...
"Desalination plants around the world are pumping out far more salt laden brine than previously believed [...] The salty effluent is a by-product of efforts to extract fresh water from the sea. [...] The brine raises the level of salinity and poses a major risk to ocean life and marine ecosystems. [...] There's been a major expansion of desalination plants around the world over the past few years, with almost 16,000 now operating in 177 countries. It's estimated that these plants produce 95 million cubic metres of freshwater per day from seas and rivers -- equivalent to almost half the average flow over Niagara Falls. But the success of the technology is coming at a price. This new study estimates these plants discharge 142 million cubic metres of extremely salty brine every day, a 50% increase on previous estimates."
All challenging and yet therein also lies opportunities, including the mining and refinement of salts, minerals, and metals.

31 August 2019

Sci Fab ~ Envisioneer & Futurecraft ~ Fall 2019

My MIT Media Lab colleagues Dan Novy, Joe Paradiso and I are (finally) re-offering our Sci Fab class this Fall 2019 starting Monday night September 9th from 7-10pm!
In Sci Fab, we read and watch science fiction, and use the inspiration it provides to envisioneer and futurecraft something epic. First, we explore worldbuilding -- imagining science fictional universes across domains and scales. Second, we focus on exemplar artifacts that iconify those worlds, without violating the laws of physics, and iterate towards functional prototypes.

Remittance Flows ~ FT Infographic on Pathways

The FT writes about Remittances: the hidden engine of globalisation...
"The number of people in the world who live outside the country of their birth has risen from 153m in 1990 to 270m last year according to the World Bank, swelling global remittance payments from a trickle to a flood. As migration has increased, these financial snail-trails have become one of the defining trends of the past quarter-century of globalisation -- the private, informal, personal face of global capital flows. For many developing economies, it is a lifeline. [...] Some governments have sought to channel remittances into development efforts; Indonesia is the latest country to consider a “diaspora bond” in a bid to tap the savings of its wealthier overseas residents."

28 August 2019

Global Ventures ~ Inclusive Prosperity ~ Fall 2019

My MIT Media Lab colleagues Alex (Sandy) Pentland, Ramesh Raskar and I -- together with instructor colleagues Beth Porter, David Shrier, Indu Kodukula, Thomas Hardjono, and Nathan Eagle -- are co-hosting an upgraded incarnation of our Global Ventures class this Fall 2019 at the Media Lab top-floor E14-633 starting Thursday afternoon September 5th from 10am-12noon.
Also known as Development Ventures, this class has been offered since 2001 and is part of the D-Lab family. GV seeks scalable solutions & exponential innovations for emerging markets and underserved communities anywhere. This class is about planning ventures which deploy solutions reaching as many people as possible with positive impact and maximizing progress towards inclusive prosperity. The most promising class projects have formed the basis for real ventures, including such alumcos as MAX, Sanergy, Wecyclers, Jamii, PEN, WAY, MDaaS, and dozens more. Those interested are invited to join us at our kickoff class session on 9/5/2019!

27 August 2019

Revolutionary Ventures ~ Bold Ideas ~ Fall 2019

My MIT Media Lab colleagues Ed Boyden, Joe Jacobson and I are co-hosting the latest version of our Revolutionary Ventures class this Fall 2019 in a new bigger classroom at the Media Lab -- top-floor E14-633 -- starting Thursday afternoon September 5th from 2-4pm.
This offering is the closest MIT comes to having an "Institute-Wide Elective" and is listed in four of our five Schools. Revolutionary Ventures is a project-oriented Action Lab course on envisioning and building ideas and organizations to initiate and/or accelerate engineering revolutions. The overall course focuses on emerging technology domains -- such as synthetic biology, materials, energy, neurotechnology, imaging, AI / machine learning, gerontechnology, and bio-and-nano fabrication -- and their commercialization. The most promising class projects have formed the basis for real ventures, including such alumcos as Elektra, Hive, C16 Bio, Leeruniek, BioBright, and more. Those interested are invited to join us at our kickoff class session on 9/5/2019!

21 July 2019

Creative Class Growth ~ Mapping Rise of Rest...

Richard Florida writes in CityLab that Maps Reveal Where the Creative Class Is Growing in the US...
"A growing chorus of economists and urbanists suggest that we may be seeing the “rise of the rest,” a result of both increasingly unaffordable housing in established hubs and the improvement of the economies in less-established hubs. [...] The map shows the percentage growth in the creative class from 2005 to 2017. A number of Rustbelt and Sunbelt metros which have previously lagged now show robust growth. Salt Lake City posted the fastest growth, with Pittsburgh and Cincinnati next in line. Las Vegas, which had the smallest creative class share of large metros in 2005, also saw significant growth. Of leading creative class metros, only Seattle and Baltimore registered comparable gains. [...] The even better news is that the creative class -- which often garners the highest paying jobs -- appears to be growing as a percentage of total workforce employment across the board."

06 July 2019

Ike's Road Trip ~ 1919's American Expedition!

Today is the centennial of the start of America's "worst but most important" road-trip! Engineering News-Record writes Eisenhower's 1919 Trip Helped Pave Way for the Interstate and shares archival footage showing the...
"Grueling 1919 trek [which] helped shape then-Army officer Eisenhower’s later views that played a part in launching the Interstate system during his presidency."

Cognitive Bias Codex ~ Live-Linked Infografic

The live-linked Cognitive Bias Codex on Wikimedia!

Connected World ~ International Collaborations

Nature shares Connected World infographic spotlighting patterns of international collaborations from 1 February 2018 to 30 January 2019 as captured by the Nature Index...

04 July 2019

Liberty ~ Increasingly AWOL from US... WTF!

As this amazing country celebrates its birth -- an epic achievement made possible ~230 years ago by righteous, civic-minded, and wise men who despised and indeed fought the grotesque evil, "political correctness", and geopolitical stupidity of their day -- let's think earnestly about the subsequent violations of the US Constitution and seemingly neverending erosion of and painful decimation of hard-won liberties, including...
  • Gerrymandering and Illegitimate Non-Representation 
  • Illegitimate Warfare, Invasions, and Offensive Actions
  • Unwarranted Searches and Seizures in both Physical and Digital Realms
  • Unfunded Mandates, Conscription, and Similar Unconstitutional Equivalents to Slavery
  • Taxation without Proper Representation or Proportionality including Rapacious Income and Wealth Taxation
  • Criminalization of Victimless Vices including Drug Use, Prostitution, Gambling, etc 
  • Unequal Treatment of Voting Age Citizens via Drinking, Smoking, Driving, and other Illegitimate Age-based Discriminatory Laws 
  • Myriad Unconstitutional Impositions upon peoples Freedoms of Religion, Speech, Commerce, Migration, and Choice 
  • An enormous Governmental Bloatocracy, endless Illegitimate Entitlements, and increasingly Outrageous Debt
  • Absence of Reason, Facts, Evidence, Logic, and Thought in far too much of what the Government does
The list goes on and on and it's painful to recite all the evil incarnate that left and right wingnuts in office have perpetrated. It's urgent to return ASAP to the moral middle, the sensible center, the authentic pro-freedom libertarian core of America.

28 June 2019

Women in Space ~ Astronautical Advantages...

Nadia Drake in NatGeo writes Here’s why women may be the best suited for spaceflight...
"Physically and mentally, women have the right stuff for lengthy missions in space. So why send men when you can send just their contributions to the next generation, collected and cryopreserved in tiny vials? Sending an all-female crew and a sperm bank lets a space program economize while also increasing the genetic diversity of the parental pool."

01 June 2019

PV Potential ~ Mapping Sunpower Worldwide...

The Sun is a giant thermonuclear reactor in the sky powerbeaming 24x7. A tiny sliver hits the daily rotating Earth and then you have to discount for angles and overcasts. When all's accounted for, here's the resulting worldmap of terrestrial potential for PV or photovoltaic sunpower... Curiously enough, most maps like this only show land incidence. But surely we could float massive solar panels out on swathes of ocean? In fact, perhaps we should hoover up the massive ocean gyres of waste plastic and convert these into floatation for PV paneling.

27 May 2019

Protected Planet ~ Goal of 50% of Earth by 2050

I'm particularly interested in seeing half of Earth be protected by 2050.  Towards this goal, Protected Planet shares the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) covering both terrestrial and marine protected areas and tracks progress... The IUCN has a half dozen so-called "Protected Area Management Categories" -- and those are important and worth adding to directly, but I hope we can especially push for enhancement of Category VI "Sustainable Use" with particular eye on private conservancies, land banks, forestry reserves, flood management zones, and potentially even the careful extractions of natural resources. Finally, I hope that we figure out how not to ravage the other half of Earth but rather we green it appropriately (e.g. our cities), share it with nature, and refrain from eco-devastation generally.