What will life be like in the year 2050? In the coming decades as global demand for energy increases and the world’s population reaches nine billion new solutions to the worlds energy problems will be needed. Will the emerging energy technologies currently in development allow us to adapt and overcome the challenges of the coming future? Will we be able to collectively recognize the need to innovate our energy production, distribution and usage? How will we deal with emissions and their impact on human health and longevity? As the debate over climate change rages on innovators around the world have moved forward in their thinking, beyond the debates toward how to adapt to the world we will face as we approach the future.
Inventors Dr. Gordon Danby and Dr. James Powell, are working to build the nations next generation transportation system based on Superconducting Maglev rail. Large scale transportation infrastructure plays a vital role in a nations economic success. In the United States both the Transcontinental Railroad and the Interstate Highway System provide the primary backbone for the free movement of goods throughout the country. In recent years however the situation both in the US and around the world has changed dramatically. As countries compete for scarce oil resources, more efficient transportation systems will become necessary to ensure the world’s economic stability and future growth. One unique feature of Danby and Powell’s system is the ability to carry fully-loaded trucks which could allow freight carriers to roll-on and roll-off the train at a fraction of the cost of normal shipping methods. This innovation could lead to a much smaller carbon foot print for the commercial shipping industry and less wear and tear on our Interstate Highways System.
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In May of 2010 the Rockefeller Foundation and Global Business Network produced this report outlining world scenarios that could emerge as a result of future technological development. The stated goal of the report was to “explore the many ways in which technology and development could co-evolve — could both push and inhibit each other — in the future, and then to begin to examine what those possible alternative paths may imply for the world’s poor and vulnerable populations.” What came out of the report was a set of plausible futures each with its own unique set of advantages, disadvantages and challenges.
The first scenario known as “Lock Step”;paints an image of a world ruled by top down government control and authoritarian leadership, with limited innovation. In this world governments try to control the research, development and proliferation of advanced technologies for health, safety and national security reasons.
In the second scenario “Cleaver Together”; the report illustrates how the emergence of highly coordinated citizen based strategies for addressing global issues can come from the work of innovators via collective global action. In this world; cooperation between NGOs corporations and communities drive innovative solutions to problems such as climate change, energy shortages, world hunger and poverty.
In the reports third and darkest scenario “Hack Attack”; we read of a world transformed as governments across the globe weaken, criminals thrive and dangerous technological innovations emerge onto the world stage. In this world natural disasters, climate change and disease begin to tear away the very fabric of global society. Technically proficient and organized criminal networks conduct massive cyber attacks on critical government systems, banks and vital database systems globally resulting in an “internet overrun with spam and security threats”.
The fourth scenario “Smart Scramble”; individuals and communities develop localized, makeshift solutions to a growing set of problems. In this world “the United States lost much of its presence and credibility on the international stage due to deepening debt, debilitated markets and a distracted government.” This scenario seems closest to the world we live in now, sharply marked by a DIY approach to local, national and transnational problems. Individuals are compelled to create their own innovative solutions by leveraging the technology available to them. Interesting to note; the report mentions how “widespread micro-manufacturing, using 3D printers, enables the fabrication of replacement components for engines and machines, allowing “perpetual maintenance” to compensate for broken trade links.”
You can read the full report here entitled “Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development “
Liquid fluoride thorium reactors could provide safer form of nuclear energy to solve the worlds growing energy problems. With ongoing research in nuclear waste recycling thorium reactors could play a critical role in our move away from crude oil based fuels.
The LFTR is unique, having a hot liquid core thus eliminating fuel fabrication costs and the need for a large reactor. It cannot have a nuclear meltdown and is so safe that typical control rods are not required at all. This design topples all the conventional arguments against conventional energy sources in such areas as:
* Waste Production
* Capital Costs and Location
* Environmental Impact
* Social Acceptance
* Grid Infrastructure