Les Elkind's site

Not yet Mr. Fusion, but…

When I begin wondering if I’m really just an escapist weirdo, avoiding reality with my futurist hopes for our rescue by paradigm shift, I occasionally come across something that reminds me how fundamental change really could be closer than we generally imagine.
Think about a world in which what we do with our organic waste (shit, to the plainspoken) is generate electricity from it, reclaiming the energy that went into creating all those biomolecules. And not, importantly, doing it by a process releasing undesirable intermediate forms, like greenhouse gasses. Sounds like Mr. Fusion from the Back to the Future movie, doesn’t it? Is such a device plausible? Read this linked article, which is really quite short, and form your own opinion. I’d say if not today, clearly tomorrow.

With such waste treatment/power plant technology even remote populations could convert their inevitable outflows into the indispensable inflow of energy necessary for civilization. I guess that means even Bushmen and Bedouins will have a sustainable way to power pumps, light their rooms, and do all the other things that civilized living entails. And they’ll also have a way to plug in their iPads and join the rest us. Or not… At least the choice would be up to them.

OK, now think about the thousands upon thousands of other such initiatives currently being pursued around the world, in materials science, molecular engineering, bio-engineering, and similar fields. The almost daily advances become, just a day later, woven into our assumptions about how things are supposed to be in our day to day lives. We’ve come to expect cell coverage everywhere we go, when only a few decades ago there was no such thing as a cell phone. While we can all recognize this kind of change, we seem to have a hard time perceiving change in the rate of change of this day to day life of ours. And that is basically what acceleration is, after all, a change in the rate of change. Accelerating intelligence is our technology building on our understanding of the world around us to enable us to shape that world, and ultimately ourselves.

It seems that the acceleration aspect of this phenomenon has been difficult for us to fully comprehend. But now, as all these worldwide currents of technological development converge, the praxis of our civilization appears poised at the steepest part of the Curve of Change, about to take us on a ride of hard to fathom dimensions. I’d say it’s about time to fasten those seatbelts.

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