Tag Archives: future

Water Saving: toilet and shower mods

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SHOWER POWER: Green tweaks for your HOME

FOOD, energy and clean water: apart from having a roof over our heads, these are the things that we need for survival.

In recent columns I wrote about how we could create an abundance of fresh produce in city centers with the use of Dr Dickson Despommier’s sky farms or vertical farms. Growing food in skyscraper-sized greenhouses offers numerous­ benefits over traditional farming methods. Water is held in a closed system and nutrients can be pumped within to yield healthy produce. There is minimal risk of bad weather or insects destroying crops. The land used would be minimal and there would be no risk of farm invasions­.

Furthermore, if food were grown in tall buildings within city centers, inflation would be lower as food wouldn’t need to travel far. This would result in fresher and cheaper fruit and vegetable foodstuffs all year round; not only that, but a lot more of it too.

We’ve got the power!

With regards to clean energy generation, there really is no limit to harnessing more power than we could ever need. With a combined use of solar, wind, tidal and of course, geothermal­ energy sources, we need never burn another finite fossil fuel ever again.

Unfortunately, solar powered technologies are still at a stage where they are very expensive for the home user to implement. A solar geyser for example can save you up to 40% of your electricity bill, but will set you back by about R15 000.

Drink it up

And then there’s clean drinking water­. It has been predicted that wars in the future will not be over land or industrial resources, but rather over fresh water. Despite our planet being more than two thirds water, only about 3% of this is drinkable if it’s not contaminated or polluted.

However, it has long been known that boiling water to the point of evaporation is an effective distilling process. Evaporated water leaves behind contaminants and heavier metals making it pure and safe when re-condensed. What has hindered mass production of this kind was the amount of heat and power constantly needed to boil water at such temperatures.

This has become less of an issue since the invention of heat-exchange devices — devices that produce power but require heat to operate. Coupling this with a water-distilling machine creates a closed loop of energy whereby one device­ feeds into the other. We have now reached a point where we can even create­ fresh drinking water from sewage­ and ocean water.

Producing more for less

What is also starting to sink into social­ consciousness and green living is the idea of creating more with less — an idea which permeates all economic­ sectors of society. The farmer practises producing more food with less land, the architect designs more energy-efficient buildings, and the businessperson, more profit from less work. While there may not be a world war over water in the future, conserving our most precious resource by using it more efficiently should still be high on the social agenda.

Flowing ShowerheadSeveral water companies have been tapping into the water­ conservation market, offering a range of technologically advanced and super green products that will save you thousands. From my experience, I find that the simpler solutions are always better.

Apart from the bath, two of the largest water guzzlers in an average household are the shower and the toilet. It is estimated that a daily five-minute shower uses about 100 litres of water, while a flush toilet uses between six and 18 litres of water per flush.

African Water Controls is one Johannesburg-based company that largely focuses on making the household shower and toilet more efficient.

A toilet­ device, called a WaterStop, allows the toilet user to control how much water is used to flush the toilet simply by holding down the toilet handle­ until the desired water quantity has been released. An unmodified toilet flushes away a full tank of water with one touch of the handle.

For showers, a pressure compensating regulator (PCR) can be used, which can either be fitted behind a hand shower or behind a wall shower. This half-inch connection standardises the pressure throughout a water network and can reduce the amount of water used by a shower by half.

ShowerheadShower heads and fittings such as these come with different flow rates and fittings and can be found in several major stores throughout the country. However, this is the first company that I’ve come across that sells such devices­ so inexpensively, with the shower fitting available­ for around R45 and the toilet WaterStop for around R65.

Creating abundance and conserving energy and water should not have to be as complicated and difficult as it’s often made out to be.

African Water Controls contact details

130 Main Street
Marshalltown, 2001
Phone: 011 331 9425
Email: contact@africanwater.co.za

The Future: energy production and longevity

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THE FUTURE: Drinking water, energy, food production and longevity

WHAT we call “the future” may be closer than we think. The technology and solutions for many global issues already exist both in theory and practice; they just need to be properly implemented. Growing populations, clean drinking water, electricity, food production and even longevity are all on the cards within the coming decades…

Energy production in major cities

electricityFIRSTLY let’s just get something out of the way here. The whole energy crisis mumbo-jumbo is a complete myth. When there is something like load-shedding, this is the result of inefficiency. There is no longer a need to burn finite fossil fuels to produce electricity. Geothermal energy alone (which comes from the Earth) could power the entire planet for billions of years to come.

What’s more likely to happen, however, is that cities will use a combination of sustainable and renewable energy sources. We are all already familiar with tidal, wind and solar power, but some scientists are looking at heavy pedestrian areas as a possible energy source.

American inventor Elizabeth Redmond is looking at ways of generating electricity from human kinetic energy­, or foot traffic, using what she calls the POWERleap Flooring system. Thin and spongy smart panels which contain micro generators, produce piezoelectricity from applied mechanical pressure.

Power is produced and stored on the spot as people walk over them and go about their daily business. Placing these panels over busy sidewalks or pedestrian areas would produce enough electricity to power a large portion of a city’s electrical infrastructure (traffic lights, elevators­ etc.). Not only that, but sidewalks and cities would be a lot quieter too.

Longevity and Ageing

Anti-AgeingIT would be such a shame if all of this was to come to pass and we weren’t around to experience it. Exercise and diet aside, genetics are the way forward if we wish to enjoy longer life spans.

A good start for advancing longevity would be to have a personal copy of your genome or genetic profile. Iceland is already having its entire population profiled, which is a logical start as Iceland is a relatively small and closed population. Having­ an accurate copy of your body’s instruction manual, will allow you to take preventive measures in advance before the unfavourable genes strike.

Advances in modern medicine are also promising to extend our lives within the coming decades. A longevity gene has already been isolated which is currently extending the life span of mice two-fold. Fortunately we all possess this gene, it’s just a matter of triggering it. It may very well be possible to simply pop a “longevity pill” in the near future. You might also be delighted to know that the active ingredient for the longevity gene is found in red wine.

According to Cambridge scholar and founder of the Methuselah Foundation, Aubrey DeGrey, keeping our bodies young and youthful is just a matter of maintenance. DeGrey believes that we can combat ageing by treating it as a simple engineering problem. “When things break, we can fix them”, says DeGrey.

DeGrey’s Methuselah Foundation is offering a whopping grand prize of $4,5 million (roughly R31,5 million) to the research group that can most successfully extend the life span of lab mice by breaking the world record for the oldest mouse. The “Mprize” is designed to directly accelerate the development of revolutionary new life extension therapies, and it’s working.

The Future: What comes next?

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THE FUTURE: clean Drinking water, electricity, food production and longevity

WHAT we call “the future” may be closer than we think. The technology and solutions for many global issues already exist both in theory and practice; they just need to be properly implemented. Growing populations, clean drinking water, electricity, food production and even longevity are all on the cards within the coming decades…

Distilling fresh drinking water

Water splashDESPITE our little Earth being more than two-thirds water­, only three percent of this is drinkable. To make matters worse, a large portion of this miniscule percentage is either polluted or contaminated. Despite what some doomsayers might say, a lack of fresh water is single-handedly the biggest threat to the survival of our species and many others.

So how can we produce more of it cheaply? Simple. Boil dirty water beyond recognition. Boiling water at extreme temperatures not only kills germs, but rising water vapour leaves behind any sediment or pollutants, which don’t vaporise. Water vapour collected via this distilling process is highly pure and drinkable.

American inventor of the Segway, Dean Kamen, has invented a small portable device that can produce clean drinking water from any source — even ocean water and sewage. He calls it the Slingshot, which is designed to produce 1000 litres of clean drinking water a day and can be manufactured for under $2 000 (roughly R14 000).

Of course it takes huge amounts of energy to boil water at such temperatures. To counter this, Kamen uses­ a heat-exchange device which is powered by heat and produces the energy needed to create heat. This closed loop of energy allows the Slingshot to run on less power than a toaster.

Food production in major cities

Sky farmIT is estimated that about 80% of what grows in the ground can be grown indoors under controlled environments. Indoor farms and hydroponics (growing plants without soil) make so much sense when we consider that the majority of the world’s population lives in densely populated urban areas.

Furthermore, growing food directly where it’s needed, will result in lower inflation and therefore cheaper food. No fuel or transport costs would affect the price of staple foodstuffs. Weather conditions would no longer be an issue and we would no longer need to worry about farm attacks.

According to Dr Dickson Despommier from the University of Columbia, a 30-story high sky farm about the size of one New York city block, could consistently feed around 50 000 people per year. The logic is quite simple: to produce food where the people live. The result would be being able to get freshly picked fruit and vegetables easily and cheaply on a daily basis.

Link: The Vertical Farm

Zeitgeist Film: Your Life, Your World

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ZEITGEIST MOVING FORWARD: Your life, your world

IF you were offered an alternative society to the one we currently live within — one that could provide (not promise) a dramatic drop in poverty, a higher level of health care, a rise in education levels and a more functional society, would you fight for it? Would you fight for a self-sustainable system that supports recycling and renewable energy, and, most importantly, holds human concern in the highest regard.

Even if you currently live a relatively comfortable life at present, you’ll at least be aware of all the suffering and violence that persists in the world around us, the increasing levels of stress, illness, poverty, crime and the growing gap between the “haves” and “have nots”. You may even understand that poverty and inequality are the central causes of crime and aberrant behaviour.

Every human being does the best they can to survive and live the highest quality of life possible. The sad reality is that the highest quality of life currently achievable, in technological terms, is lived by a miniscule portion of the global population — less than one percent. This is an embarrassment for the human race which is capable of so much more. And you needn’t blame particular people for our current state of affairs, but you can certainly blame the dominant systems in place that influence such thinking and behaviour.

Zeitgeist Movement

The Zeitgeist Movement website identifies itself as ‘a grass-roots campaign to unify the world through a common ideology based on the fundamentals of life and nature’. It is a free venture that also offers ways that members can get involved. (Image: http://www.thezeitgeistmovement.com)

Every cultural paradigm is likely to assume that they are at the apex of civilisation. What’s more likely is that future­ generations will look back and cringe at the way we once lived.

Society is on the brink of revolutionary change, which I sincerely hope happens while I’m still alive to enjoy it. I have never been more convinced that the meaning of life is spending your time on this Earth, contributing in whatever way you can, towards improving it — creating a heaven on Earth so to speak. The attitude that “that’s just the way it is” and perhaps believing that everything will be okay when you die, is not only unhealthy, but painfully unproductive.

Every educated person should understand that we are in a continual process of social evolution; that the current state of affairs and systems in place are by no means finite. We are all simply doing our best to live within them. However, as global unrest rises, as inevitable economic collapse continues and as we grow increasingly fed up with our political systems, change, too, is inevitable.

Zeitgeist Moving Forward

Zeitgeist: Your life, your world

This belief system and these radical, almost­ utopian-sounding ideas, are portrayed in a simple manner by a film that is fast becoming a global phenomenon­. Zeitgeist Moving Forward is the third film by director Peter Joseph, who has been placed in the media spotlight several times in the past few years.

The film illustrates the current global state of affairs — the systems that govern our living, thinking and behaviour. But rather than just offering a bleak outlook on life as we know it, Zeitgeist­ Moving Forward proposes practical solutions to creating a better life on Earth for all to benefit from.

The central idea is that of a resource-based economy — one where resources, sustainability, technology and efficiency are at the forefront. It proposes that global stock-takes and surveys be undertaken to assess where the greatest needs exist and then acting on this information.

There is far more to the film that can be illustrated here. I can only encourage you to watch it for yourself and draw your own conclusions. It is being freely distributed on the Internet and the entire film can be watched on Youtube. Advocates are even encouraged to make copies of the film and distribute them freely.

Zeitgeist film stats and final thoughts

Since Zeitgeist Moving Forward launched on Youtube in January, it has seen over 200 000 views a day and has now passed the four million mark. Responses have been predominantly favourable and it is likely to break a world record as the most viewed film in the shortest period of time. With the amount of support that the movement is seeing, it would be erroneous to think that nothing is going to come of it.

We needn’t fear for the future. We can all collectively create a world where the relative success of a country is not measured by GDP, but happiness; a world where we do not have to worry about when out next pay cheque is coming­; where we are not divided by education or financial wealth and status­; and where self-worth is not measured by status and material gain, but rather by our contribution towards creating­ a better world in which to live.

Future of Online Gaming

When gaming, the web and reality cross over

GAMING has become one of the fastest growing industries in the world today. With millions of people currently playing single online titles such as World of Warcraft, while still managing to show a steady growth curve, the sky is not even measurable as the limit anymore.

online gamingEven if you’re not an online gamer, nor are you familiar with massive multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs), it is still interesting to know what the future of online gaming may hold and the impact that it will have on the entertainment industry as a whole. We may even see the first attempts at a crossing over of gaming, the web and reality.

The unique aspect of MMORPGs, such as WoW is that they are constantly changing. With continual updates and expansions being developed, as well as the social bonds that are formed between players online, MMORPGs are perpetual by nature. Player activity actively changes these massive gaming worlds, keeping them fresh and ever-evolving.

For gamers, MMORPGs are exciting virtual worlds into which we escape to have countless interesting adventures. For the rest of the world, a MMORPG is a form of entertainment – comparable to books or movies, just more interactive. Games are also able to story-tell like no other genre and newer technology­ is making gaming more visually appealing than ever before.

MONEY, MONEY, MONEY!

To put gaming investment into perspective, to develop a MMORPG the same scale as WoW costs anywhere between $60 million and $100 m. With that sort of money you could theoretically buy a new game every 10 minutes for the next 20 years.

dollarDeveloping MMOs is therefore a life or death risk, but with the decade-long success of WoW (which has certainly set the benchmark — reaping in over $1 billion every year) we can certainly expect to see more MMOs being developed in the foreseeable future.

The only scary part is that online games such as WoW are designed to be played at the exclusion of everything else and thrive on how much of the player’s time they can consume. There was even that case in 2009 where a young Chinese girl died of exhaustion after playing WoW for several days straight. However, MMOs are not something to be feared, and it is interesting to follow their evolution and study their compelling nature.

FUTURE ONLINE GAMING

With WoW having monopolised the online gaming market, it may take some time before we see a new and innovative release come to our screens. However, the fact that WoW only covers a single genre, there is a lot of room for the MMO model to evolve and grow in the future. Not everyone is into orcs and elves and medieval folklore. In the near future we may see interactive home décor­ simulations, fishing games, multiplayer­ motoring games or educational puzzle titles — all playable with others in a 3D online environment.

We’re likely to see a lot more user-generated content driving the development of future gaming too. Player-driven content is the lifeblood of MMOs and the fact that players can change the course of a game’s story will result in unique experiences for every player.

We may also see development of social­ games and web-based games in the future. These have the potential to grow and compel gamers and prove to be profitable at the same time. Sponsorship could come in the form of website links and web adverts. Farmville, for example, could have you visit http://www.jerrysfarmsupplies.com to get your new watering-can game card allowing you to progress further in your virtual farming endeavours.

I like my coffee DarthWe may also see a blending in of reality-based gaming in the near future. Having you visit the nearest MacDonalds or coffee shop in your area could form part of a quest for example.

Such ventures could provide the exorbitant funding that is required to develop online gaming further. This means guaranteed customers for selected stores, exercise and sunlight for gamers­ and the neccessary funds to develop multiplayer gaming further; win-win-win. It may be aggressive advertising at its best, but at least it will get gamers­ off their chairs and into the daylight.

The future of online gaming will certainly be something exciting to behold, no doubt. I leave you with one of my favourite gaming quotes:

“When we look at the future of MMORPGs, we think virtual reality. We dream about being able to lead another life where you are the boss and control everything. In real life, you are influenced by everyone else. In virtual reality, you get to choose your paths and if you think something is wrong, you change it.” — http://www.astahost.com

Automated governance ?

AUTOMATED GOVERNANCE: Computer-controlled city centers

IT was predicted that in the year 2010 planes would consist of a single pilot and a dog. The job of the pilot would be to feed the dog; the reason for the dog is to bite the pilot if he or she touches anything.

artificial intelligenceMany people have developed a genuine fear that artificial intelligence could one day take over the world if it got too advanced and somehow became self-aware. Hollywood is largely to blame for this unnecessary fear. The Matrix trilogy is a prime culprit.

In truth, certain sections of society have become more automated or controlled by AI without many of us even being aware of it. Before, pilots used to quite literally guess what altitudes they were flying at, what the weather may be like higher up and use all their skills and praying power to land a plan safely. Today, we use machines to ascertain such information. No questions asked.

One could cite several examples of how our society is gradually moving closer to automated governance — where room for human error is becoming less of a worry. But why are we not making more use of AI forms of governance? We all know that power breeds corruption in governance. History has tried to teach us this for centuries. There is no need to point any fingers.

Automated governance: An artificially intelligent city

Future City

Computer-controlled city centres are the beginnings of an automated governance system

Image: CG4TV.com

Imagine, if you will, a round city that is built around a central computerized hub. In this hub would exist all forms of governance that keep the city running safely and smoothly. Citizens would be able to approach this AI hub and input questions to receive information, such as “how abundant is the city’s water supply”? If there is a water shortage the automated city-brain could offer calculated suggestions on how best to distribute what’s left.

A centralized, automated hub could constantly monitor the air, the earth and the water supply and gather all demographic information relating to a city, which could then be called up on request. Having a machine monitor the air and automatically eliminate contaminants is not new technology. We don’t all have to live in domes to experience the benefits of such. So why aren’t we making use of it?

The illusion is that AI could get dangerously out of control and start using our air and water for its own evil purposes (that is, of course, once a machine­ learns morality and the difference between good and evil).

A different argument is that a computer of that size and capacity would be very expensive to build. This is also not true. A lot of money is spent every year on sociological research — most of which could be saved by having a computer do the work for us. Quantitative research especially would also be far more accurate in an automated governance system.

Automated governance: AI for mayor?

This proposed form of automated governance is not as radical as you may think. It does not supersede all forms of human decision making. Rather, it suggests that we should no longer fear machines, but instead apply them intelligently enough to improve the standard of human living and create sustainable city life.

Sustainable round city

Sustainable round city

In such a city there would still be a need for a mayoral figure of some kind — a democratically elected person to take every citizen’s inputs into account and make the final digital commands. The rest is just paperwork really.

Of course, it would also be wise to start small when it comes to societal reconstruction. As creatures of habit, we are all set in our ways and many people fear change.

However­, I don’t see what’s stopping the powers that be from at least experimenting with such an idea. Perhaps their job security is at stake.

So if any of you are planning on building a city any time soon, please consider automated governance and understand how much better our cities of the future could be. And if that isn’t enough to make the public feel safe and secure, we could always have two guard dogs instead of one.

  • If you were intrigued by this article on automated governance, I would highly recommend giving the documentary film Future by Design a discerning watch. Alternatively, I have written five related articles based on the film, which you can find under A Resource Based Economy.
  1. Part 1: The power of the planet
  2. Part 2: A world without money
  3. Part 3: Incentive to work in a moneyless society
  4. Part 4: Future by Design
  5. Part 5: Smart Homes

Future Smart Homes

FUTURE HOMES: When applying tech intelligently, the options are endless

WHEN people consider their future dream home many may think of a four-bedroom, two-bathroom, double-story house with a great view — somewhere in the mountains. I think of a house under the sea — one that has a huge window­ looking out into the ocean and one that is fully connected to the outside world … and which cleans itself.

future housingThe home of the future is likely to be far more than just a residence, but an element of lifestyle that will encourage and facilitate learning, inspiration and communication. Furthermore, the surrounding environment would be conducive to creativity and innovation. These are some of the ideas of social and industrial engineer Jacque Fresco.

Future Smart Homes: Architecture

The architecture of future homes will evolve on an entirely different basis from today’s houses. The structural elements­ would be flexible and coherently­ arranged to best serve individual preferences.

According to the Venus Project website: “These prefabricated, modular homes, embodying a high degree of flexibility inconceivable in times past, could be built any place one might imagine­, amid forests, atop mountains, or on remote islands.”

Houses would be prefabricated using a new type of pre-stressed, reinforced concrete with a flexible ceramic external coating that would be relatively maintenance free, fireproof, and impervious to bad weather. The construction of their thin shells can be mass-produced in a matter of hours. Furthermore, with this type of construction, there would be minimal damage to homes from natural disasters.

Future Smart Homes: Lighting and heat

future homeThe interior of smart homes would have no source of light in the form of lamps and hanging fixtures. Instead, all the walls would evenly illuminate — either­ the entire inner surface or particular areas. One would also be able to specify the colour and intensity of the illumination.

Thermopanes would be used to tint out bright sunlight by variable patterns of shading. All these features could be selected by the occupants to supply more than enough of the energy required to operate the entire household.

The buildings would be designed as self-contained residences with their own thermal generators and heat concentrators. Photovoltaic arrays would be built into the skin of the building and into the windows themselves.

Future Smart Homes: Bathrooms and water

A considerable amount of water can be saved by designing bathroom installations into one system. A shower, sink and toilet moulded into one system would be the simplest type of bathroom that would only use one sixtieth the amount of the water used in today’s more common bathrooms. Waste water from the shower and sink would automatically fill the toilet; so instead of telling people to save water, there would be a system built in.

Future Smart Homes

future housesCleanliness and hygiene will become major features of future homes. By building in several sensory devices, homes would be able to detect fire, toxic materials — anything that may threaten the life of a human being. With these nervous systems built in, future homes would be smart homes.

When you leave the building the entire building is clean. With a slight increase in air pressure in the building, no dust would be able to come in from outside. If there are any contaminants in the air it would increase the electrostatic charge, which removes contaminants.

Future Smart Homes: Self-erecting Structures

For apartment buildings and other large structures, Fresco has devised a cybernated construction system. The idea is that computer-controlled robots would handle 90% of the movement and placement of prefabricated components. Special advanced materials are to be developed, eliminating waste and minimising the need for manual labour. Guided by satellite, and using a sophisticated form of artificial intelligence, the buildings will actually construct themselves — a technique Fresco has named “self-erecting structures”.

Evolving homes of the future

One of the most interesting aspects of tomorrow’s civilisation is that people’s homes will change as the people living within them change. As people’s needs and dimensions of knowledge grow, so will the environment in which they live.

“There’s no such thing as a fixed home that a person lives in all their lives … they will choose to live in whatever architectural shape would meet their needs,” says Fresco.

So think again when you consider your dream home and the type of environment you would like to live in. When such ideas finally take off the options could be endless.

  • Smart Homes is the fifth part of a series of articles related to The Venus Project, Jacque Fresco and the film Future by Design. The previous four parts are available under Quite Interesting -> Resource Based Economy.
  1. Part 1: The power of the planet
  2. Part 2: A world without money
  3. Part 3: Incentive to work in a moneyless society
  4. Part 4: Future by Design
  5. Part 6: Automated governance?