3D/4D printing and self-assembly materials trigger at the same time fear and skepticism: fear that masses of workers in the manufacturing industries will find themselves structurally redundant, skepticism that complex systems can ever be manufactured using these emerging technologies. Both this fear and this skepticism are misplaced, because they are based on the faulty assumption that new manufacturing/assembly technologies will replace old ones like-for-like.
More than half of humanity now lives in cities, a proportion that is expected to rise to three-quarters within the next 30 years. Squeezed between the critical mass of cities and the realities of the global economy, the traditional power of Nation-States is waning. Nationalists and protectionists of all kinds may not like it, but there is no way back. Nations are becoming ineffective at driving change, as politicians on any national stage are increasingly perceived as out-of-touch and their now structural inability to mobilize capital makes them irrelevant. Conversely, cities are rapidly appearing as the right perimeter to implement change. This is why this year’s MIT Europe conference “a blueprint to the future” is so heavily focused on urbanism.
“The future has a way of arriving unannounced.”
- George Will
I recently participated in the selection for the ArtScience Prize Paris, an educational program in which 10 groups of students from engineering schools and schools of design work on new ideas around a given theme. On the 2013-2014 theme “Energy of the future” two groups have emerged as the winners: Pokiwa and InnerG.
InnerG developed a connected wrist band that enables the user to manage electric power for surrounding devices by simply waving at them, thereby creating a cool way to drive energy efficiency up.
Pokiwa came up with a radical idea: to harness the movement and acoustic vibrations of zillions of insects in their natural habitat to generate enough electricity to provide clean and safe lighting in deprived areas. A short animation illustrates the concept beautifully (a few words in French, but very visual and easy to understand).
Pokiwa and InnerG will develop their idea further for presentation at the international workshop in June 2014 at Le Laboratoire in Paris, and will display their prototypes at Harvard University in late 2014. I can’t wait to see them!
In Mark Twain style we could claim that reports of the advent of a post-growth world have been vastly exagerated. In fact while we almost certainly find ourselves at the end of the long economic cycle that started with the industrial revolution, we might well be on the eve of a new century long growth cycle.
The industrial revolution harnessed mechanical power to free-up or leverage human physical power. In production or transport, tasks that would have otherwise taken muscle and time could be done with increasing effectiveness through people operating machines. The lever of mechanical power enabled economies to tap into a massive productivity reservoir, unleashing two centuries of phenomenal growth. Today, Read more…
On a quiet Boxing Day morning (young ones fully occupied with new electronic goods, teenagers still unwakeable) I stumble on the surprising 17th century story of the making of Versailles fountains, in Erik Orsenna‘s wandering biography of André Le Nôtre. Versailles’ surroundings have no natural water reserves, whether lake or river, posing a major challenge to the running of the many fountains that Le Nôtre, the King’s Gardener in Chief, has planned for Versailles.