Better than You Think? Part 3: Environment, Energy, and Food

Phil and Stephen conclude their discussion of unexpected and often unnoticed positive change, looking at recent encouraging developments related to the environment, energy, and food production. The starting point for this series is a recent article by Peter Diamandis:

Why the World Is (Still) Better Than You Think—New Evidence For Abundance

Update for Wednesday’s Show

Polio to be eradicated this year!

  • According to Dr. Wenger, there are only 12 known cases of the wild poliovirus in existence today, in just two countries: Afghanistan and Pakistan. “In the last couple of years, we’ve seen unprecedented progress.
  • The reason: a mass immunization effort to orally vaccinate 2.5 billion children in 122 countries, bolstered by the 1988 launch of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

Environment

Peter’s examples

  • the global annual death rate from natural disasters has plummeted over the past century
  • Faster, cheaper, easier, and more accurate tracking of animals via drones
  • Fighting deforestation via drones and machine learning

Our example

The Billion Oyster Project

  • The Billion Oyster Project (BOP) is a long-term, large-scale plan to restore one billion live oysters to New York Harbor over the next twenty years and in the process train thousands of young people in New York City to care for their marine environment.

Energy

Peter’s Examples:

  • more people around the world have access to electricity than ever, and the absolute number of those without access to electricity is dropping (despite population growth).
  • India has gone from 45 percent access to electricity in 1990 to nearly 80 percent in 2014
  • Afghanistan [went] from 0.16 percent of the population in 2000 to 89.5 percent of the population in 2014.
  • Around the world, solar prices are still dropping.
  • the US Department of Energy announced in September 2017 that utility-scale solar has officially hit its 2020 cost targets three years early — with generation costs of $1 per watt and energy consumption costs of $0.06 per kilowatt-hour

Our Examples

Basic Power

Alternative Energy and the Future

Food

Peter’s Examples

  • Globally, 18.6 percent of the population was undernourished in 1991; by 2015, it dropped to 10.8 percent.
  • Human-Free Farms: In a 1.5-acre remote farm in the UK, Harper Adams University and Precision Decisions recently harvested their first crop of barley. The farm is run autonomously– uses autonomous vehicles, machine learning algorithms and drones to plant, tend, and harvest.

    Food From Electricity: Finland — researchers are creating food from electricity, a machine that runs on renewable energy to produce nutritious, single-cell proteins. The system is deployable in a variety of environments hostile to traditional agriculture, and future iterations will be able to produce food anywhere, from famine-stricken deserts to space.

  

Our Example  

Child and teen obesity rates soar globally, WHO reports

Bonus      

IBM scientists say radical new ‘in-memory’ computing architecture will speed up computers by 200 times

  • IBM Research announced Tuesday (Oct. 24, 2017) that its scientists have developed the first “in-memory computing” or “computational memory” computer system architecture, which is expected to yield 200x improvements in computer speed and energy efficiency — enabling ultra-dense, low-power, massively parallel computing systems. (optimized for AI)
  • Their concept is to use one device (such as phase change memory or PCM*) for both storing and processing information. That design would replace the conventional “von Neumann” computer architecture, used in standard desktop computers, laptops, and cellphones, which splits computation and memory into two different devices. That requires moving data back and forth between memory and the computing unit, making them slower and less energy-efficient.

GEEK OUT!

A new movie in the old Captain Eo cinema. Plus — bring back the unspecial editions!

WT 363-673

 

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