3 World-Changing Technologies

THERE’S A GREAT BIG BEAUTIFUL TOMORROW

This is the promise sung throughout Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress, a ride dedicated to showing technological progression and its effect on daily life.  In today’s world of climate change, instant news on every catastrophe and global conflict, it is easy to lose our optimism that the future really will be a bright place worth living. However, despite the problems we face, real solutions are being found to not only alleviate the stressors and sufferings of our modern world, but bring a tomorrow that truly is big, bright, and beautiful for everyone.

Here are just 3 of the incredible innovations in development today.

VERTICAL OCEAN FARMS

WHAT IT IS: 

Winner of the 2015 Fuller Challenge, the GreenWave‘s 3D ocean farming technique is a revolutionary new approach to aquaculture. Invented by Bren Smith, a career fisherman, the farm combines columns of seaweed crops with scallop and mussel nets and clam and oyster cages (See diagram here).

WHY IT MATTERS:

GreenWave challenges everything we consider normal about farming. For one thing, it is, in Smith’s words, “zero-input”. Everything it needs to grow is provided by the the sun and surrounding sea. Additionally, far from damaging or detracting from the ecosystem in which it is grown, these 3D farms provide habitat for indigenous marine wildlife and absorb excess nitrogen and phosphorous from land-based agriculture runoff. They also absorb CO2, which is the main driver of ocean acidification. These offshore farms also serve as storm-surge breakers for their coastal communities. Finally, seaweed is not only nutritious, but can grow over an inch a day, making it an excellent and reliable source of food.

Smith has managed to create a farming model that benefits the environment, is profitable, and meets the needs of humans; which just happens to be the definition of sustainable. The GreenWave model has set a new benchmark for what is possible with sustainable agriculture.

WHERE TO LEARN MORE:

Watch Bren Smith’s TEDx talk, visit the GreenWave Website, or apply to become a GreenWave farmer yourself!

ARTIFICIAL PHOTOSYNTHESIS

WHAT IT IS:

Most simply put, Artificial Photosynthesis (AP) is a human controlled, chemical process that mimics photosynthesis.  It uses light, CO2, and water and converts these inputs into a desired output. This video featuring Daniel Nocera, a lead researcher in the field of AP explains the applications of AP research.

WHY IT MATTERS:

Not only can AP be used to solve the decades old conundrum of storing energy, it can also be used to produce everything from plastics to fuels – in a carbon neutral process.

As this article from Scientific American puts it:

“Like a real leaf, this system would use only CO2, water and sunlight to produce fuels. The achievement could be revolutionary, enabling creation of a closed system in which carbon dioxide emitted by combustion was transformed back into fuel instead of adding to the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

While the technology needs further development before commercialization, its possibility has moved from a hope to a reality.

WHERE TO LEARN MORE:

Read about Nocera’s research, this MIT Technology Review of the process, or watch this TEDX talk on Artificial Photosynthesis.

DRONE APPLICATIONS

WHAT IT IS:

Drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), have been under constant debate over past years, as this ideas.TED video shows clearly. As Drone Technology continues to encounter human ingenuity, hundreds of applications, both virtuous and violent, have been conceived.

Drones: Will they save us or destroy us? from TED Ideas on Vimeo.

WHY IT MATTERS:

Drones are changing the world we live in, and not just through the military. Conservation researchers are using drones to fly over vast wilderness spaces for non-invasive evaluations of ecological health on a scale once thought impossible.  Farmers are using drones and the imagery they can gather from the air to switch to techniques of precision farming, far reducing the time, energy, and inputs associated with large farming operations.  Drones are now being used to deliver medicine and food to otherwise difficult to reach communities. There is even a hashtag, #Drones4Good, dedicated to promoting the multitude of ways drones could be and are being used to make our world a better place.

This TED article says it well:

 For all the rhetoric, you might think that this is a zero sum game: Drones will either destroy the world, or they’ll save it. The truth, of course, is that, well, they’re set to do both. Sophisticated developments see extraordinary advances on the part of the military, while the same technology is being harnessed and applied for life and planet-saving reasons, too. The key is for us to be careful and thoughtful about all, and not blindly stumble into dystopia despite ourselves.

WHERE TO LEARN MORE:

Check out TED’s archive of Drone talks and topics, read up on UAV applications from Ascending Technologies, or follow Drones4Good on twitter and facebook.

Click here to read about some more game-changing technological advancements
Click here to see more brilliant Fuller Challenge innovations
Click here to watch the mind-blowing talks of TED Prize Winners

 

 

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