material, energy, intelligence and information. In reality they are all so enormously abundant that it's incredible to think that there are people in this world who are still going without the basic human necessities.
In the past a lack of technology could be considered a significant cause of scarcity but that is certainly not a reason any more. Despite common perceptions, there is no actual lack of material or energy available to us. Emerging methods of co-operation and advanced automation have the potential to unlock these resources to provide a good standard of living in all parts of the world, while causing minimal harm to the natural environment - a combination that although is hard to imagine today and might appear at first glance to be contradictory, is very much possible.
An important trend in technological progress is the tendency of products and processes to steadily become more effective while using less material and energy – i.e. doing more with less – something that Buckminster Fuller termed ephemeralization .
Main Page > Fundamental resources
Extracting these plentiful elements (and their compounds) to create useful material essentially involves energy (which is also plentiful) and the right processing methods. From a technical point of view there is practically no limit to the volume of material we could extract and make use of, if we so wished, even while minimally disrupting complex and fragile ecosystems. The reserves of raw materials needed to sustain civilisation are simply not going to run out, because the entire Earth's crust is made up of them. However this is no excuse to be unnecessarily wasteful in our consumption. Advanced recycling will reduce the need to extract material from the ground and more efficient design will allow us to do more with less .
The point is that any existing material scarcity actually has little to do with the reserves at our disposal.
One significant aspect is that information can now completely describe the physical structure of man-made items, and can be communicated to automated fabrication machines which can then manufacture the product, reducing the requirement to transport material goods great distances to the end user, as happens generally now. Most of the journey will effectively be spent as information travelling at the speed of light. (See section on turning virtual designs into physical objects).
Humanity consumes 15 terawatts of energy and this is projected to rise to about 30 terawatts. This is a tiny amount of energy compared to what is available around us: 72 terawatts of available wind energy at ground level, 150 terawatts in the jet streams, 44.2 terawatts of geothermal energy , 2 terawatts of easily-exploitable wave power and 174,000 terawatts of solar energy. We clearly have tens of thousands of times the energy we need, the key is our ability to harness this energy. This article explores existing and emerging technologies for doing this.
Steadily increasing energy efficiency due to improved system design and increasing cultural awareness should become a significant factor in our energy usage.
The issue currently is monetary economics. The bottom line is that with the current economic framework it is still 'cheaper' to pump oil out of the ground and burn it to produce power than use other more plentiful, renewable and environmentally benign sources. These alternative energy sources are sitting right in front of us waiting to be harnessed. It may be that open-source methods can bypass the incumbent economic system to enable plentiful, environmentally-friendly power.
Moore's law ). Not only are the total number of information processing units multiplying rapidly, but the relative computing power of each one is increasing exponentially too.
On top of that algorithms and programming techniques are improving all the time to make more effective use of the hardware, as are distributed computing techniques which are able to make use of idle processor time between connected units.The ever increasing sophistication and capability of computers mean that progressively more complex tasks can become automated.
Important secondary (derived) resources
depleted and rainforests have been cut down to make more room for farming. Farmers are moving into cities at the rate of over a million a week , and our appetite for meat is growing. These trends means that food demand is rising, but there are fewer farmers to supply it, while the basis of our agricultural production is under strain. It would indeed seem that we are heading for a food crisis.
But this story misses a key point: there are far better ways to produce food than the ones now in wide use. While it is true that conventional plough agriculture and monoculture is driving the world towards a food crisis, there are ways to grow food using very little land, very little labour and no pollution. The aim of this page is to explore these methods and show how they can comfortably sustain a growing population. Any food shortage is really a shortage of applying this know-how to food production.It is possible, with current know-how, to create a food-production system that can provide tens of billions of people with abundant, local, nutritious, tasty food, textiles and wood, while economizing water, restoring soil, building communities, saving energy, creating pleasing landscapes, preserving wilderness, stopping diseases, needing virtually no inputs and benefiting not just people, but the rest of the biosphere as well.
water for farming ) expected to grow by 70% , rivers becoming polluted and one in eight people already without clean drinking water , some have warned that we are heading for a 'peak water' crisis with people lacking the necessary water to survive, and wars breaking out over the access to water supplies . Already, about half of all infectious disease is caused by contaminated drinking water. A grim picture, indeed. But fortunately, an entirely avoidable one. Water is one of the most abundant resources available to us on this blue planet. The only problem we may face is synthetic scarcity; this article aims to show that there is no real shortage of water, nor of techniques to purify and manage it. If we simply apply the water-management techniques — many of which are extremely simple, low-tech, low-cost things — we have all the water we could ever need.
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