Sunday, June 12, 2011

Creating the Future

Working as an engineer, I find old and new technologies juxtaposed on a regular basis. As an engineer concerned about our future, I think sometimes we look for the latest, greatest, highest technology solution, when sometimes low-tech will do the job.

Here are three four posts that mesh with some of what I've been thinking regarding wealth.

Umair Hague at the Harvard Business Review describes it as the difference between hedonic opulence and eudaimonic prosperity in his post Is a Well-Lived Life Worth Anything?

From J. Money's Budgets Are Sexy blog, comes this question:
Would you rather be rich 100 years ago, or average today?

Because 100 years ago, without combustion engines, bore *some* resemblance to the world of the Change mentioned in my earlier speculative fiction post about wealth.

In his more recent "The Opulence Bubble," Umair Hague challenges us to create the future.

The saying in engineering has long been: "Better, faster, cheaper--which two do you want?"

I've pinged on electricity, and the "Dies the fire" concept a lot recently. I've done so for three reasons.

1) Disaster preparedness. A recent Time Magazine graphic maps the probabilities for disaster in the United States. As the map shows, no place is immune.

My futurist friend and I had many discussions about how the costs of hurricane damage are getting higher and higher, and I suspect that the story for tornadoes is much the same. More, denser, and more expensive development in areas that are struck by disaster.

2) Energy poverty. 1 out of 4 people on the planet are not connected to the electric grid, have no energy in their life.

This is why I like examining non-electric, typically called "low-tech" solutions.

At least two of the Grand Challenges for Engineering address energy:
-- Make solar energy economical
-- Provide energy from fusion

3)Increasing energy demand. Thomas Friedman's Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution--and How It Can Renew Americadiscusses how our demand for energy is rising faster than our supply is filling it. As in, we would need to build more than 100 nuclear power plants to meet the rising demand.

Non-electric "low-tech" solutions make no demands on the grid.