Deus Ex Machina – To Invent is Human

I’ve run across some recent reporting which, again, illustrates how vital technology is to improving the common good of humanity.

Here are some notes on what is in the works:

1) Small, modular nuclear reactors to generate electricity are getting support from governments. The E.U. is considering classifying nuclear energy as green energy.  President Joe Biden put $8.5 billion in his recent infrastructure program for nuclear energy.  Britain, Russia, China, Japan and South Korea all want a bigger role for nuclear energy.

2) Electric grids are planning to add gigawatts of battery storage capacity to their distribution networks.  The price of lithium-ion battery packs has fallen dramatically.

3) A professor at Arizona State University in the U.S. has developed a mechanical tree that removes CO2 from the atmosphere one thousand times more efficiently than natural trees.  The pretend trees rely on wind to blow air past resin-encrusted disks which absorb CO2.

4) The company, Footprint, sells plant-based biodegradable, compostable, recyclable, alternatives to single-use plastics.  Use of Footprint’s material has eliminated 60 million pounds of plastic.

5) Tammy Hsu has programmed microbes to mimic the way color compounds occur in nature, using sugar to enzymatically produce the same blue shade as indigo dye does.  But indigo dye is produced with formaldehyde and cyanide, which are toxic to workers making blue jean fabric and the environment.  Hsu’s dye can safely be made in factories.

6) The company, Heliogen, uses precisely positioned mirrors to concentrate sunlight to produce thermal energy up to 1000 degrees Celsius, hot enough for steel and cement production.  At present, steel and cement production uses heat that generates 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

7) A sister company of Heliogen takes dirt and waste materials that can store energy and makes 35-ton blocks to stack in a tower, keeping the energy intact until it is needed.

8) New markets are emerging to take and resell slightly used clothing, reducing demand for new clothes.  Most of the clothes thrown in landfills in America are good enough to be resold, if they can find a market.

Clothing manufacture and distribution account for between 2% and 8% of global carbon emissions, more than aviation or shipping.

Internet technology is reducing the friction preventing markets from redistributing clothing.  Think of the innovations brought about by Airbnb and Uber.

Technology can now quickly match sellers with buyers, making markets for used clothing liquid.  There are now online clothing resellers.  Three are publicly listed.  In 2021, the total spent on used clothing was $36 billion, more than the $30 billion spent on “fast fashion.”

Where there is capitalism, there can be real hope for improving the human condition.