Orbital mirrors with 100 km radius are required to vaporize the CO2 in the south polar cap. If manufactured of solar sail-like material, such mirrors would have a mass on the order of 200,000 tonnes. If manufactured in space out of asteroidal or Martian moon material, about 120 MWe-years of energy would be needed to produce the required aluminum.
The use of orbiting mirrors is another way for hydrosphere activation. For example, if the 125 km radius reflector discussed earlier for use in vaporizing the pole were to concentrate its power on a smaller region, 27 TW would be available to melt lakes or volatilize nitrate beds. This is triple the power available from the impact of a 10 billion tonne asteroid per year, and in all probability would be far more controllable. A single such mirror could drive vast amounts of water out of the permafrost and into the nascent Martian ecosystem very quickly. Thus while the engineering of such mirrors may be somewhat grandiose, the benefits to terraforming of being able to wield tens of TW of power in a controllable way would be huge.
Scientists think they’ve found a way to terraform Mars — and all it takes is a thin blanket of insulation over future space gardens.
A layer of aerogel just two to three centimeters thick may be enough to protect plants from the harshest aspects of life on Mars and create viable greenhouses in the process, according to research published Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy. While there are a host of other problems to solve before anyone can settle Mars, this terraforming plan is far more feasible than other ideas that scientists have proposed.
Two of the biggest challenges facing Martian settlers are the Red Planet’s deadly temperatures and unfiltered solar radiation, which is able to pass through Mars’ weak atmosphere and reach the surface, New Scientist reports. At night, it can reach −100 degrees Celsius, which is far too cold for any Earthly crops to survive.
How might future changes in the structure of business and the nature of work impact the environment?
While governments around the world are wrestling with the potential for massive on-rushing technological disruption of work and the jobs market, few are extending the telescope to explore what the knock-on impacts might be for the planet. Here we explore some dimensions of the issue.
Although replacing humans with robots has a dystopian flavor, what, if any positives are there from successive waves of artificial intelligence (AI) and other exponentially developing technologies displacing jobs ranging from banker to construction worker? Clearly, the number of people working and the implications for commuting, conduct of their role and their resulting income-related domestic lifestyle all have a direct bearing on their consumption of resources and emissions footprint. However, while everyone wants to know the impact of smart automation, the reality is that we are all clueless as to the outcome over the next twenty years, as this fourth industrial revolution has only just started.
There is a dramatic variation in views on the extent to which automation technologies such as AI, robotics and 3D / 4D printing will replace humans or enable wholly new roles. For example, A 2016 McKinsey automation study reported that, with current technologies, about a third of most job activities are technologically automatable, affecting 49% of the world economy, an estimated 1.1 billion employees and $12.7 trillion in wages. China, India, Japan, and USA account for more than half of these totals. The report concluded it would be more than two decades before automation reaches 50% of current activities.
More dramatically, The World Economic Forum’s 2016 Future of Jobs study predicts 3.5 times more jobs lost than created between 2015 and 2020 through labor market disruption — suggesting potential reductions in the associated resource and emissions impacts. The study also estimates that 65% of children entering primary school today would work in job types that don’t yet exist – implying an as yet unknowable ecological footprint.
Automation seems likely to herald tidal waves of automation and change — which will in turn drive a reframing of the concepts of jobs and work itself. In the next few years we will be challenged to ask ourselves fundamental questions about the foundational role of paid employment in society. What is a job? Is it a series of tasks for getting things done? Is it a marker of socio-economic distinction? Is it the only means of making a living? Though the answers to these questions seem obvious today, there is good reason to think that — by the time the next generation of college graduates enters the workforce in around 2029 and beyond—they are terms that may be on the path to becoming obsolete relics of the last few centuries. As smart new tools encroach on our knowledge, skills, and functions as workers and producers, we can begin to expect the future to be radically different from the past. Indeed, some observers go as far as suggesting the notion of jobs and incomes may all but disappear in western societies over the next 15–20 years — replaced by infinite leisure time, the pursuit of individual purpose and guaranteed basic incomes (GBI) and services (GBS).
Leaving aside these social, moral and ethical considerations, workplace automation should bring significant ecological benefits. A smart office, with few humans, widespread use of AI and online ‘cloud-based’ solutions should reduce requirements for space, energy, resource, lighting, heating, ventilation, and sanitation, curb waste generation and cut commuting — all of which would have positive impacts on carbon footprint, sustainability and the bottom line. These cost savings might then be channeled into paying for some form of automation taxes or robot levy that would be required to fund the provision of GBI and GBS.
New human possibilities could also emerge as the environmental outlook improves, for example slowing carbon output enough to offset rising temperatures and heat waves could generate renewed interest and opportunities in outdoor activities – ranging from ecological farm work to personal trainers and customized tour operators. Highly personalised services might create jobs that AI will struggle with for some time to come—jobs involving deeper human contact and engagement, interpreting subtle verbal and behavioral cues, and using the insights to create highly personalised services. Of course, eventually almost any entrepreneurially-minded soul will be able to access extremely advanced AI cheaply or for free and the technology will get smarter – further eroding the human-machine boundary e.g. providing tailored dietary advice, fitness regimes and meditation routines.
Healthier design decisions to make the workplace desirable, sustainable and comfortable could also be facilitated by AI – e.g. automating office layouts based on individual preferences for natural light and privacy. Such personalization would require us to compromise privacy — for example, constant surveillance would allow an AI to make smart suggestions on modifying human behaviors to minimize carbon footprint. Is this desirable?
With millions of workers displaced from their jobs in cities, some form of GBI / GBS seems inevitable – and governments around the world in countries such as Finland and Canada are already conducting experiments to understand the mechanisms and second and third order effects of such provisions. Indeed, greater government procurement of services could help to enforce tougher environmental standards and GBS could be used to incentivize the purchase of products with stronger ecological and sustainability credentials. Furthermore, urbanization trends may reverse in this scenario — since the potentially lower cost of living in rural areas could give people the opportunity to do more with less. This effect would be magnified if the changes gave a boost to growth of decentralized networks of local economies – with the combinatorial effects of new technologies such as 3D printing and drone transport enabling the localization of most activities – further reducing the ecological footprint of manufacturing and transport.
We are clearly at a crucial point in history. Disruptive technology is in and of itself neutral – it has no intention or meaning until humans make decisions about why and how to use it. Hence, society can take the opportunity to think sustainably and use technology as a tool for good, in terms of creating new outlets for human talent and helping control our impact on ecological systems. Masking such choices and the skills required to ensure survival, stewardship, and sustainability of the planet are domains that, for the foreseeable future, AI can only supplement, not drive. We believe humans must be behind the wheel.
Educating people to bring a sustainable mindset to new jobs may become another source of invigoration for the employment outlook— with internships and job training programs for green industries providing teaching, training, coaching, and mentoring opportunities for experts in a number of areas. It will take careful training and emotional support to help lawyers retrain as organic farmers or landscape gardeners and for displaced retail workers to be able to take jobs in nature sanctuaries, as the wildlife once endangered by office/retail development is restored to a safer habitat.
While today’s workers largely unconsciously create an ecological sustainability burden, it’s possible that the changing nature of the workplace and tomorrow’s jobs could help us harmonize more with nature. It’s an ironic scenario—workplace automation leading to ecological nirvana – and destruction of jobs enabling survival of the planet. The AI we know from sci-fi movies seems cold and impersonal, and very far from nature. Yet, the shrinking of the workforce via automation may in fact generate new excitement for jobs with environmental purpose and an economic system able to sustain (instead of just exploit) natural resources. The jobs of the future might be extremely automated and green.
Values are the drivers behind our social behavior and patterns of consumption. Currently, most societies are governed by “modern” values like competition and achievement. These ideas have fed the paradigm of the pursuit of infinite growth and consumerism as a driving assumption for business strategies and a policy cornerstone for governments. However, there is a growing sense that a shift in social values is on its way, with greater interest in “enoughness”, sustainability, transparency, and collaboration. This shift could increasingly change both the decisions made by consumers, and also the choices about where a person works and under what conditions. Thanks to automation and AI, the future workforce is likely to be smaller in numbers, but equipped with greater information, insight, knowledge and an enhanced capacity to act effectively and in an ecologically sound manner. By bringing foresight to the entire issue of technological change, we can ensure that the outcomes serve both humanity and the environment in more sustainable ways.
About the Authors
The authors are futurists with Fast Future who specialise in studying and advising on the future of travel, hospitality and the meetings industry. Fast Future also publishes books from future thinkers around the world exploring how developments such as AI, robotics and disruptive thinking could impact individuals, society and business and create new trillion-dollar sectors. Fast Future has a particular focus on ensuring these advances are harnessed to unleash individual potential and enable a very human future. See: www.fastfuture.com
Rohit Talwar is a global futurist, keynote speaker, author, and CEO of Fast Future where he helps clients develop and deliver transformative visions of the future. He is the editor and contributing author for The Future of Business, editor of Technology vs. Humanity and co-editor of a forthcoming book on The Future of AI in Business.
Alexandra Whittington is a futurist, writer, faculty member on the Futures programme at the University of Houston and foresight director at Fast Future. She is a contributor to The Future of Business and a co-editor for forthcoming books on Unleashing Human Potential: The Future of AI in Business and 50:50 — Scenarios for the Next 50 Years.
April Koury is a foresight researcher, writer and publishing director at Fast Future. April has worked on a wide range of future studies including a recent one for Sky TV on the impact of media on people’s lives. She is a contributor to The Future of Business, and a co-editor of Technology vs. Humanity and a forthcoming book on Scenarios for the Next 50 Years
Maria Romero is a futurist, foresight researcher and recent graduate from the University of Houston Masters in Foresight program. She has worked on projects for consultants, NGOs, for-profit organizations and government. Maria is currently working on a major study on the future of AI in Business.
Essentially a moss-covered wall, each CityTree removes CO2, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter from the air while also producing oxygen. A single tree is able to absorb 250 grams of particulate matter a day and remove 240 metric tons of CO2 each year—a level roughly on par with the air purification impact of 275 urban trees. Thirteen feet tall, with a metal frame, the CityTrees are easily installed in a public space, and they even have built-in seating at their base.
Terraforming is coming to Surviving Mars in a spectacular way. Not only can you make the atmosphere breathable for humans, but it also allows you to engage in new mechanics previously absent from the experience.
The city of the future is a symbol of progress. The sci-fi vision of the future city with sleek skyscrapers and flying cars, however, has given way to a more plausible, human, practical, and green vision of tomorrow’s smart city. Whilst smart city visions differ, at their heart is the notion that in the coming decades, the planet’s most heavily concentrated populations will occupy city environments where a digital blanket of sensors, devices and cloud connected data is being weaved together to build and enhance the city living experience for all. In this context, smart architecture must encompass all the key elements of what enable city ecosystems to function effectively. This encompasses everything from the design of infrastructure, workspaces, leisure, retail, and domestic homes to traffic control, environmental protection, and the management of energy, sanitation, healthcare, security, and a building’s eco-footprint.
The world’s premier cities and architects are competing to design and build highly interconnected smart environments where people, government and business operate in symbiosis with spectacular exponentially improving technologies such as big data, the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, hyperconnectivity, artificial intelligence (AI), robots, drones, autonomous green vehicles, 3D/4D printing, smart materials, and renewable energy. The architectural promise of future smart cities is to harmonize the benefits of these key disruptive technologies for society and provide a high quality of life by design. Some have already implemented smart city architecture and, as the concepts, experiences and success stories spread, the pursuit of smart will become a key driver in the evolving future of cities as communities and economic centres. Here we explore some of the critical trends, visions, ideas, and disruptions shaping the rise of smart cities and smart architecture.
Smart Cities – Purpose, Engagement and Vision
The evidence to date from smart city and smart architecture initiatives around the world is that the best results come when we have a clear sense of what the end goal is. However, in a fast-changing world, it can be hard to develop a clear future vision and strategy when stakeholder goals are not aligned, where every sector is being disrupted and all our planning assumptions are being challenged. A city vision might take 5–15 years to roll out – for many businesses and individuals it is almost impossible to think about their needs 24 months from now. However, the challenge must be overcome and City governments have to work together with architects to create inclusive processes that inform citizens about the forces shaping the future and the possibilities on the horizon, and then engage the population in dialogue concerning the kind of future city we want to create. We have to explore what a liveable city means to its people and be clear on how we will design and build the structures to support that vision. Alongside this we need to articulate a clear vision and direction around education, environment, public services, access to justice, city administration, and civic engagement. These pillars then provide the guiding requirements which will in turn influence the design of the physical, digital and human elements of the infrastructure and building architectures that enable a smart city.
Big Data: Smart Architecture to Power a City
Smart cities are designed to inform decisions by capturing massive amounts of data about the population and its patterns, such as water use and traffic flows. This information gathering results in big data, which is essentially gathered via different forms of surveillance. The ease and affordability of cameras, sensors, AI and advanced analytics in the future will mean this data gathering function may become completely automated. Indeed, the data will be collated from a constantly evolving and expanding IoT, encompassing traffic lights and cameras, pollution sensors, building control systems, and personal devices – all literally feeding giant data stores held in the cloud. The ability to crunch all this data is becoming easier due to rampant growth in the use of devices, algorithms, AI, and predictive software that all run on networks of high performance computing and storage devices.
Singapore is a leading example of a smart city, and is constantly evolving its “city brain,” a backbone of technologies used to help control pollution, monitor traffic, allocate parking, communicate with citizens, and even issue traffic fines. Singapore’s “brain” is also attempting to modify human behaviour. For example, one system rewards drivers for using recommended mapped routes, and punishes those who do not. Now imagine expanding this use of big data into human foot traffic around and within the very buildings of a city. For years now, companies like Pavegen and Veranu have been developing flooring that harvests the energy of walking and converts it into electricity. By analysing foot traffic patterns, smart architects may actually design entire buildings powered solely by their inhabitants’ movements.
Internet of Things: Redesigning Spaces
Smart cities rely on advanced technology to make sense of massive arrays of data. Indeed, the amount of information on the internet is expected to grow exponentially as a result of the IoT. Essentially IoT means that everything (“things”) – and potentially everyone – will be networked beacons and data collection devices, gathering data on ambient and behavioural patterns from our surroundings – feeding this information to the city brain in the cloud. Hence, after data, the IoT is the second driving force behind the rise of smart infrastructure: For everything from air conditioning to parking meters to function effectively and seamlessly in a smart city, the use of microphones, sensors, voice recognition, and all sorts of other high-tech gadgetry must be hooked up to the IoT.
Architects and planners are already beginning to explore the possibilities – indeed, technology players like IBM, Hitachi and Cisco are all betting big on IoT-enabled smart buildings. Exhaustive monitoring of internal building conditions offers the potential to provide future occupants with seamlessly and continuously optimised living conditions while reducing energy and space wastage. Today’s smart sensors can recognise occupancy patterns and movement to switch on air conditioning or lights for a person before they even enter a room, and shut off these systems as they exit. The more we know about the specific individuals, the more we can tailor those setting to their personal preferences.
In the near future, buildings will potentially be built on a smart IoT grid that monitors, controls and automates smart lighting and intuitive HVAC to create the perfect environment while drastically decreasing energy wastage. Furthermore, IoT devices combined with big data analysis may help architects redesign and readapt buildings to minimise energy wastage, and maximise space usage — both shrinking resources in our every growing cities. Single use facilities like meeting rooms – traditionally unused for periods of time – may be redesigned as multipurpose spaces that support a whole host of day-to-day business activities based on analyses of data gathered via IoT. Indeed, a smart building may even take on the management of meeting rooms to sell vacant space to third party users on a per minute basis.
Sustainability: Smart Building Materials
Finally, from architectural design perspective, all this data and awareness will enable decisions that make the best possible use of all material resources with an emphasis on sustainability. This is a very logical outcome and benefit of the merging of big data, AI and IoT which is feeding into the rise of smart architecture.
Given that the UK has recently broken energy use records with solar meeting almost a quarter of energy demands, there is significant potential for the sun to become a mainstream power source in current and future building designs. There is also a new scientific forecasting tool to predict solar weather, which will make the rollout of solar on buildings (and in homes) a more feasible option. Eventually, with a growing array of such distributed power solutions, a centralized energy distribution grid for homes and businesses may not be necessary.
Additionally, the exponential growth in and reduced cost of solar technology may lead to entire cities designed to generate their own electricity. Rather than glass windows, skyscrapers could be covered in transparent solar panels that, through IoT monitoring, turn slightly opaque as the sun moves over them throughout the day, allowing the darker panels to not only gather more energy, but also shade the building’s inhabitants and decrease cooling costs. Researchers at RMIT University in Australia are currently working on a solar paint that absorbs moisture from the air and turns it into hydrogen fuel, one of the cleanest sources of energy available. Soon, architects may begin designing buildings based around maximising the benefits of these next generation ‘smart’ materials.
Cities Get Smart
The smart city movement has the potential to transform the organisation of people, materials, and physical objects in a way that transcends urban development as we know it. The shift to smart architecture is not simply fashionable or aspirational; in many ways, it appears to be a critical enabler of the future sustainability of cities. It can be argued that the future of human life on the planet rests on a smooth transition to cities that are more efficient, less wasteful, and more conscious of the impacts of the individual upon the greater good.
It is now possible to create and deliver a city vision with citizens at its heart and that is enabled by forward thinking infrastructure coupled with judicious use of enabling technologies. A well thought through vision, enabled by robust and well-executed smart architecture, could provide a foundation stone for the next stage of our development, where science and technology are genuinely harnessed in service of creating a very human future.
About the authors:
The authors are futurists with Fast Future who specialise in studying and advising on the impacts of emerging change. Fast Future also publishes books from future thinkers around the world exploring how developments such as AI, robotics and disruptive thinking could impact individuals, society and business and create new trillion-dollar sectors. Fast Future has a particular focus on ensuring these advances are harnessed to unleash individual potential and enable a very human future. See: www.fastfuture.com
Rohit Talwar is a global futurist, keynote speaker, author, and CEO of Fast Future where he helps clients develop and deliver transformative visions of the future. He is the editor and contributing author for The Future of Business, editor of Technology vs. Humanity, and co-editor of a forthcoming book on Unleashing Human Potential–The Future of AI in Business.
Steve Wells is the COO of Fast Future and an experienced Strategist, Futures Analyst, and Partnership Working Practitioner. He is a co-editor of The Future of Business, Technology vs. Humanity, and a forthcoming book on Unleashing Human Potential–The Future of AI in Business.
April Koury is a foresight researcher, writer, and publishing director at Fast Future. She is a contributor to The Future of Business, and a co-editor of Technology vs. Humanity, and a forthcoming book on 50:50–Scenarios for the Next 50 Years.
Alexandra Whittington is a futurist, writer, faculty member on the Futures programme at the University of Houston, and foresight director at Fast Future. She is a contributor to The Future of Business and a co-editor for forthcoming books on Unleashing Human Potential–The Future of AI in Business and 50:50–Scenarios for the Next 50 Years.
Maria Romero is a futurist and foresight researcher with Fast Future. A recent graduate from the University of Houston Master in Foresight, Maria has worked on projects for consultants, NGOs, for-profit organisations, and government clients. She is currently working on a study of AI in business.
In an interview newly published by Popular Mechanics, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk shared his thoughts on colonizing Mars — from how the first settlers will grow food to the friendly vibe he envisions at the first base on the Red Planet.
“For having an outdoorsy, fun atmosphere, you’d probably want to have some faceted glass dome, with a park, so you can walk around without a suit,” Musk told the magazine. “Eventually if you terraform the planet, then you can walk around without a suit. But for say, the next 100-plus years, you’ll have to have a giant pressurized glass dome.”
It is a few years since I posted here on Lifeboat Foundation blogs, but with the news breaking recently of CERN’s plans to build the FCC , a new high energy collider to dwarf the groundbreaking engineering triumph that is the LHC, I feel obliged to write a few words.
The goal of the FCC is to greatly push the energy and intensity frontiers of particle colliders, with the aim of reaching collision energies of 100 TeV, in the search for new physics . Below linked is a technical note I wrote & distributed last year on 100 TeV collisions (at the time referencing the proposed China supercollider ), highlighting the weakness of the White Dwarf safety argument at these energy levels, and a call for a more detailed study of the Neutron star safety argument, if to be relied on as a solitary astrophysical assurance. The argument applies equally to the FCC of course:
The LSAG, and others including myself, have already written on the topic of astrophysical assurances at length before. The impact of CR on Neutron stars is the most compelling of those assurances with respect to new higher energy colliders (other analogies such as White Dwarf capture based assurances don’t hold up quite as well at higher energy levels). CERN will undoubtedly publish a new paper on such astrophysical assurances as part of the FCC development process, though would one anticipate it sooner rather than later, to lay to rest concerns of outsider-debate incubating to a larger audience?
Hope springs eternal. Hearing that folk from China’s IHEP were later in contact with the LSAG on this specific issue, one infers due diligence is in mind, albeit seemingly in retrospect again, on the premise that as CERN take up the baton, significant progress in collecting further input for the overall assessment (eg from cosmic rays, direct astrophysical observations, etc) is expected in the ~20 years timescale of development.
Meanwhile those of us keen on new science frontiers, and large scale engineering projects, have exciting times ahead yet again with a new CERN flagship.