Welcome to the Club of Amsterdam Journal.
Artificial Intelligences (AIs) are being increasingly used in real applications. An example, discussed here, is using them to mimic the goings-on in a simulation of a real city (or even country), from traffic flow to electricity and water consumption. This allows us to play with possible variations (which energy sources to use, extreme scenarios etc.) and make wiser decisions about the real city. But hang on; if the AIs can figure this out, why not let them manage the city for us? – Paul Holister
The Future Now Show: Digital Twin Cities & Artificial Intelligence with Igor van Gemert
Felix F Bopp, Founder & Chairman
Biomimicry, Climate Change & Architecture: an interview with Michael Pawlyn
by Biomimicry Institute | Jul 30, 2017
Megan Schuknecht, the Biomimicry Institute’s director of design challenges, is interviewing the world’s foremost thought leaders in biomimicry and sustainability to explore nature-based solutions to the world’s most pressing climate change issues. With each interview, we’ll delve into the top three areas where climate and sector leaders think we should intervene to affect the most change, take a deeper look at the most promising solutions on the horizon, and explore where they think the next big opportunity will be.
Michael Pawlyn is an architect and has a well-earned reputation as a pioneer of biomimicry.
Megan: What’s one surprising thing about climate change that most people DON’T know?
Michael: I always find it kind of absurd when I meet some property consultants in London who insist that buildings have to be air-conditioned and that increasing temperatures will make that even more the case. When they do that, I point them to the example of the Eastgate Centre, the office building that’s pretty close to the equator and works without any air conditioning.
Megan: Within the built environment, what are the top three areas where we need to intervene in order to truly impact climate change?
Michael: A lot of people would argue that it’s refurbishing existing buildings, and I think that is a pretty strong case because in the U.K. we only rebuild about 1 percent of our building stock every year, which means a hell of a lot of the buildings that will be standing by 2040 or 2050 are the ones that already exist. And by 2040 or 2050, we need to almost completely decarbonize our economies and our built environment. So that makes it clear just how big the challenge is, and of course, the sooner we do it the better. So that’s definitely one.
The context for which we are designing is becoming more and more demanding of radical change.
The other thing is, I’m constantly frustrated that the pace of change is so slow. We have nearly all the solutions we need to make buildings much more efficient for new build or existing buildings, and yet this stuff is just not getting implemented. And that’s a serious problem. If anything the construction industry in the UK is getting more conservative, when the context for which we are designing is becoming more and more demanding of radical change.
The whole aspect of transport and the public realm in cities needs some urgent rethinking. That can, and should, have a big impact on climate change, and thankfully, most of the changes we need to make will actually improve people’s quality of life as well. So it shouldn’t be too big an ask to bring about those kind of changes. And of course the kind of changes I’m referring to are shifting away from single-occupancy private cars towards much more sustainable forms of transport – walking, cycling, and forms of mass transit.
Megan: Is there a nature-inspired solution out there that makes you hopeful, related to climate change?
Michael: Well, one of the projects we’ve been working on, which is perhaps the most radical in a way, is one that’s called the Biorock Pavilion. The starting point for that was the Vostok ice-core graphs. The part that everyone focuses on is the bit showing how CO2 and temperature have risen exponentially since the start of the industrial revolution. That’s the bit that people tend to focus on, for good reason, because it does look alarming. But in many ways I find the earlier part of the graph more interesting, because that shows how for nearly half a million years, and probably for much longer still, the CO2 and temperature levels varied within a fairly steady band, which raises the question of — what is the controlling mechanism that used to maintain that equilibrium?
The conclusion you could draw from [James Lovelock’s Gaia theory] is that the way biology would solve the challenge of climate change is to make more things from atmospheric carbon.
The most persuasive explanation I’ve heard is the one that is related to James Lovelock’s Gaia theory, which says that it is coccolithophores and other marine microorganisms that have boomed during periods of higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations. So they make their skeletons partly out of carbon in the form of calcium carbonate dissolved in the ocean. Because they’ve got quite short lives and they fall to the ocean floor as what’s called “ocean rain” when they die, they build up layers of limestone, and by doing that they transfer carbon from the atmosphere into the lithosphere and restore the balance. The conclusion you could draw from that is that the way biology would solve the challenge of climate change is to make more things from atmospheric carbon.
So we’ve been looking quite a bit at the idea of how you can grow materials. Wood is an obvious example. But biorock appealed to us because it allows for greater control of the forms that you can create. It’s a way of growing structures in seawater using electrodeposition of minerals. It’s mainly calcium carbonate and magnesium hydroxide. And it’s simple – you put a steel frame in the seawater, you pass a very low-level electric current through it, perfectly safe for wildlife, and you get fairly rapid deposition of minerals on that steel frame. After about a year, it can be 20-25 mm thick and it can be as strong as reinforced concrete. So we’ve proposed growing a whole building that way.
We’re also looking at other ways of making materials out of atmospheric carbon. Some of the things that Neri Oxman is doing at MIT are very interesting, basically 3D printing with biologically-derived polymers. If we could really scale that up as a proposition, then we would be doing what we need to be doing, which is taking carbon out of the atmosphere and turning it into building materials.
Megan: So the Biorock Pavilion is something you’ve made using the mineral deposition technology?
Michael: Not yet. We experimented with Biorock in our Sahara Forest Project in Qatar where we grew some structural elements. And we’ve done a design for the Biorock Pavilion, but we haven’t gotten as far as actually doing any prototyping work yet.
Megan: Going back to something you said earlier – basically, I think you were referring to the fact that we also need a shift in mindset – the science is there but you’re frustrated that we aren’t implementing things more rapidly. Do you think there is a role for biomimicry in encouraging implementation of existing solutions?
Michael: Yes, I do, and probably in a number of ways. But the way that comes most immediately to mind is the way that biomimicry helps tell persuasive stories. And when I say that, I don’t mean that in any kind of belittling way at all. Telling stories is becoming increasingly important, or at least the importance is becoming increasingly apparent. We’ve seen in recent years that there are a lot of people who just aren’t interested in data. You can talk to them about numbers until you’re blue in the face, and it won’t actually change their minds. You need to communicate on a slightly different level. What I’ve found can be very useful about biomimicry is you can start off with a story about a biological organism that does something pretty fantastic, and then you can show how you can translate that solution into something that suits human needs. So one example would be, if I were to get up in front of an audience of people and say, “Yeah, this thing’s called the Sahara Forest Project, and we thought we would make water in the desert and turn the desert green and make energy” and so on, I think most people would be crossing their arms and looking at their watches and thinking, “How long is this guy on for?” Whereas if I start with describing how the fog-basking beetle harvests water, then people are immediately grabbed and they’re leaning forward thinking, “Well, if a beetle can do it then we ought to be able to do it because humans are ingenious,” right? So I’ve found that biomimicry can be very useful for grabbing people’s attention and then getting them over a kind of skepticism threshold so that they are receptive to a new way of looking at things.
Megan: I think you just addressed this in a small way, in terms of helping people get over some skepticism and possibly thinking about doing things in a new way, but do you have any advice on how to get more people involved in addressing climate change issues? We could also limit it to your sphere, how to we get more people in the built environment engaging with climate change issues?
Michael: I always try to get people excited about positive possibilities, rather than getting them depressed about gloomy realities. In truth we need a bit of both. But, at least in this country, people have heard all of the gloomy stuff. They know that biodiversity is plummeting. They know that climate change is happening. And what we need is a much more lively conversation about solutions. In my talks and when I teach students and so on, I always try to get them to think positively about how you can shape the future. So rather than thinking about the future as something that just happens to you, think about it as something you really can shape. A bit like the way Hans Rosling said you should be neither an optimist or pessimist, because both of those positions imply some sense of inevitability. What you should be is a serious possibilist. You should decide on the kind of future you want and then you set about creating it. Be deliberate about shaping the future. I think that kind of call to action does address one of the problems that a lot of people – this is less true of students, but still some students – are rather lackadaisical when it comes to grabbing hold of something and implementing it.
Biomimicry can be very useful for grabbing people’s attention and then getting them over a kind of skepticism threshold so that they are receptive to a new way of looking at things.
Megan: Along those lines, we do work with a lot of young people who are very excited about shaping possibilities. But they don’t always know how to get past or work through or stay excited in the face of doing things in a very different way and becoming young inventors or young entrepreneurs. Do you have any particular advice for young biomimics?
Michael: In the second edition of my book [Biomimicry in Architecture], I did include an expanded sort of primer on how to actually apply biomimicry. One of the things I say to students, and to architects, is when you’re doing these biomimetic approaches, you can run into difficulties, particularly if you’re trying to mimic ecosystem levels. It can get really complicated, and there’s often a strong temptation to just go back to something that is simpler and more familiar. I’ve noticed this particularly with ecosystem models, where you’re trying to get a number of different elements to be synergized, so the output for one becomes the input for something else. You’ve actually got quite a lot of interconnected flows and interdependencies, and sometimes it’s quite difficult to see what’s going to happen if one link in the chain gets broken and so on. There’s a lovely quotation from an author called Ben Okri who said, “Adversity is not the end of a story, but where there is courage and conviction, it’s the start of a new story, a richer one than existed before.” So if you run into difficulties, I always encourage people to try to apply the same level of ingenuity and imagination as you did at the start rather than feeling defeated. Think about what you can add to the system to solve the problem rather than simplifying it.
A good example of this would be the Biorock story. On Sahara Forest Project in Qatar, one of the key inputs to the whole system is seawater. We were told that our seawater pipe would get encrusted with scale very quickly, and our industrial partner said that they would have to use large quantities of bleach to keep the pipes clean. We thought that sounded insane, but they were serious about this being a problem. So we thought about this. The scale is not a problem per se, it’s quite a hard, useful material. It’s just forming in the wrong location. So we proposed the idea of actually growing structural elements in the sea pipe that is supplying the project using biorock. That would take the scale out of the seawater and it would accumulate on these elements of steel structure rather than on the pipe itself. Then the seawater within the pipe downstream would be slightly more acidic, which would be enough to prevent scale formation on the rest of the pipe.
Think about what you can add to the system to solve the problem rather than simplifying it.
The serendipitous discovery was that the Biorock process also releases very small amounts of chlorine into the water, enough to suppress biofouling, which was another one of our concerns about the pipes getting clogged. There was something very nice about being able to grow elements to expand the project within the pipe that is supplying the project. And it showed that by being imaginative about problem solving, we were able to add a significant new element to the system.
Michael Pawlyn established the architecture firm Exploration in 2007 to focus on environmentally sustainable projects that take their inspiration from nature.
He has lectured internationally on biomimicry and innovative approaches to sustainability. In 2007 Michael Pawlyn delivered a talk at Google’s annual ‘Zeitgeist’ conference and, in 2011, became one of only a small handful of architects to have a talk posted on TED.com.
In the same year, his book Biomimicry in Architecture was published by the Royal Institute of British Architects.
Prior to setting up the company Michael Pawlyn worked with Grimshaw for ten years and was central to the team that radically re-invented horticultural architecture for the Eden Project. He was responsible for leading the design of the Warm Temperate and Humid Tropics Biomes and the subsequent phases. He initiated the Grimshaw environmental management system resulting in the company becoming the first firm of European architects to achieve certification to ISO14001.
Internet Society Global Internet Report 2017
Paths to Our Digital Future
The Internet has profoundly shaped our world and has changed our lives in both big and small ways. The technology change around us has happened both quickly and imperceptibly. The very first connections between computers nearly fifty years ago have been transformed into a wave of connectivity that covers the planet. New devices and innovations have given us more ways to harness the power of connectivity wherever we go and have given us functionality we could never have imagined.
Vint Cerf Interview
The Future Now Show
Every month we roam through current events, discoveries, and challenges – sparking discussion about the connection between today and the futures we’re making – and what we need, from strategy to vision – to make the best ones.
Shape the future now, where near-future impact counts and visions and strategies for preferred futures start.
Do we rise above global challenges? Or do we succumb to them? The Future Now Show explores how we can shape our future now – where near-future impact counts. We showcase strategies and solutions that create futures that work.
Every month we roam through current events, discoveries, and challenges – sparking discussion about the connection between today and the futures we’re making – and what we need, from strategy to vision – to make the best ones.
The Future Now Show
Igor van Gemert
Artificial Intelligences (AIs) are being increasingly used in real applications. An example, discussed here, is using them to mimic the goings-on in a simulation of a real city (or even country), from traffic flow to electricity and water consumption. This allows us to play with possible variations (which energy sources to use, extreme scenarios etc.) and make wiser decisions about the real city. But hang on; if the AIs can figure this out, why not let them manage the city for us? — Paul Holister
Yuval Noah Harari on the Rise of Homo Deus
Prof. Yuval Noah Harari is the author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow.
He was born in Haifa, Israel, in 1976. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Oxford in 2002, and is now a lecturer at the Department of History, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
He specialized in World History, medieval history and military history. His current research focuses on macro-historical questions: What is the relation between history and biology? What is the essential difference between Homo sapiens and other animals? Is there justice in history? Does history have a direction? Did people become happier as history unfolded?
News about the Future
A Sustainable Future Powered by Sea
OIST researchers develop turbines to convert the power of ocean waves into clean, renewable energy. Professor Tsumoru Shintake at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) yearns for a clean future, one that is affordable and powered by sustainable energy. Originally from the high-energy accelerator field, in 2012 he decided to seek new energy resources—wind and solar were being explored in depth, but he moved toward the sea instead.
“Using just 1% of the seashore of mainland Japan can [generate] about 10 gigawats [of energy], which is equivalent to 10 nuclear power plants,” Professor Shintake explains.
Whether you grew up tinkering with radios or cars or built gadgets from scratch, your hobbies might have inspired you to become an engineer. That same sentiment is now spreading far and wide in what’s called the maker movement.
In this special report, The Institute takes a look at IEEE’s involvement in the movement. IEEE volunteers are setting up booths at some of the world’s largest maker fairs, which attract tens of thousands of people. We also showcase several members’ projects, including an android named Ken, a robotic Rubik’s cube solver, and 3D-printed prosthetic hands.The 3D printer helped usher in the maker movement, and its capabilities have evolved impressively. We feature a bioprinter being used in classrooms so students can print living organisms for experiments. And the Gigabot 3D printer from the startup re:3D is making it affordable to produce large objects, like airplane parts and flooring tiles.
To help turn your big idea into reality, Alon Hillel-Tuch, cofounder of RocketHub, shares his tips on how to raise money by crowdfunding. We also profile IEEE Senior Member Samir Chatterjee, a professor who is transforming classrooms at two schools with the makerspace concept: equipping students with tools to solve problems and to help them turn their ideas into prototypes and even profitable ventures
MycoTree is a spatial branching structure made out of load-bearing mycelium components. Its geometry was designed using 3D graphic statics, keeping the weak material in compression only. Its complex nodes were grown in digitally fabricated moulds.
MycoTree is the result of a collaboration between the Professorship of Sustainable Construction at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the Block Research Group at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zürich. It is the centrepiece of the “Beyond Mining – Urban Growth” exhibition at the Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism 2017 in Seoul, Korea curated by Hyungmin Pai and Alejandro Zaera-Polo, and will be on display in Pavilion i7 at the Donuimun Museum Village from September 1st to November 5th 2017.
Utilising only mycelium and bamboo, the structure represents a provocative vision of how we may move beyond the mining of our construction materials from the earth’s crust to their cultivation and urban growth; how achieving stability through geometry rather than through material strength opens up the possibility of using weaker materials structurally and safely; and, ultimately, how regenerative resources in combination with informed structural design have the potential to propose an alternative to established, structural materials for a more sustainable building industry.
A Necessary Paradigm Shift
As populations and aspirations grow, so does the demand for materials and resources to support them. Although such resource demands were once satisfied by local and regional hinterlands, they are becoming increasingly global in scale and reach. This phenomenon has generated material flows that are trans-continental and planetary in scope and has profound consequences for the sustainability, functioning, sense of ownership and identity of future cities. However, the global concentration of the construction industry on a selected few materials puts high pressure on our natural resources. If we talk about the future city, it is clear that it cannot be built with the same resources as existing ones.
The 21st century will face a radical paradigm shift in how we produce materials for the construction of our habitat. The linear concept of “produce, use, and discard” has proven itself unsustainable in the face of scarce resources and exponentially increasing urban populations. Instead, to achieve a cycle of production, use, and re-use, we must explore alternative materials and approaches to construction. Materials that were previously considered unwanted and low-strength may present possibilities to end this undesirable state of affairs. Building with materials that can be effectively cultivated on site or nearby and designing in compression to produce structures that can span space despite the low tensile capacity of their components may bring about changes that are desperately needed.
In this wide-ranging survey, Peter J. Bowler explores the phenomenon of futurology: predictions about the future development and impact of science and technology on society and culture in the twentieth century. Utilising science fiction, popular science literature and the novels of the literary elite, Bowler highlights contested responses to the potential for revolutionary social change brought about by real and imagined scientific innovations. Charting the effect of social and military developments on attitudes towards innovation in Europe and America, Bowler shows how conflict between the enthusiasm of technocrats and the pessimism of their critics was presented to the public in books, magazines and exhibitions, and on the radio and television. A series of case studies reveals the impact of technologies such as radio, aviation, space exploration and genetics, exploring rivalries between innovators and the often unexpected outcome of their efforts to produce mechanisms and machines that could change the world.
European Inventor Award 2017
The European Inventor Award or European Inventor awards (formerly European Inventor of the Year Award, renamed in 2010), are presented annually by the European Patent Office, sometimes supported by the respective Presidency of the Council of the European Union and by the European Commission, to inventors who have made a significant contribution to innovation, economy and society in Europe. Inventions from all technological fields are considered for this award. The winners in each category are presented with an award shaped like a sail. There is no cash prize associated with the award.
ULTRANOW BRIEFINGS: A MOUNTAIN AND MACGYVER
ULTRANOW briefings are advisory bullets traversing every sector of civilization – providing forecasting, analysis and advisory insights on how to prosper integrously.
ULTRANOW briefings are brought to you by Ultra-Agent Industries Inc. and UAI CEO Lise Voldeng. UAI is an accelerator. We train individuals to lead themselves, their lives, their organizations, and their countries with joyous, prosperous integrity. We forecast developments across every sector of civilization. We develop product solutions for every sector of civilization. And we invest in, advise, and mentor individuals and organizations.
ULTRA-AGENT INDUSTRIES INC.
[ worldbuilder luxe. for warrior worldbuilders. ]
ULTRANOW ICRECREAM BRIEFING: A MOUNTAIN AND MACGYVER
Insight courtesy of UAI CEO Lise Voldeng. Title credits music courtesy of UAI CEO Lise Voldeng and Elad Marish. Supported by the Club of Amsterdam.
What did I do when I got stuck in a bathroom (while doing laundry in said bathroom) in a cabin on 7 isolated acres on the side of a mountain, where no one else was expected to visit for at least 3 days? I listened to my own knowing, I breathed, I swore, and I morethanMacgyvered, my way.
Lisa (Lise) Voldeng: CEO, creator, futurist, and investor. Runs accelerator Ultra-Agent Industries Inc. Loves icecream and integrity.
Voldeng consistently forecasts global developments (across every sector of civilization) and successfully implements solutions to help us prosper. She builds brands, markets, organizations, platforms, products, and experiences. She invests in, advises and mentors individuals and organizations who want to prosper integrously.
Futurist Portrait: Chris Skinner
Chris Skinner is known as an independent commentator on the financial markets and fintech through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling bookDigital Bank and its new sequel ValueWeb. In his day job, he is Chair of the European networking forum: the Financial Services Club. He is on the Advisory Boards of many companies including Innovate Finance, Moven and Meniga, and has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), one of the Top 5 most influential people on BankInfoSecurity’s list of information security leaders, as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News.
Described by Seth Wheeler, Brookings Guest Scholar and Former Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy at the White House, as “one of the most authoritative voices on Fintech anywhere”, Chris has previously written many books covering everything from European regulations in banking through the credit crisis to the future of banking. His new book is a sister to his last book, Digital Bank. ValueWeb describes the impact of Fintech and how mobile and blockchain technologies are changing the face of finance in building an internet of value. As a result of the emerging internet of value, banks have to become digitalised, and Digital Bank provides a comprehensive review and analysis of the battle for digital banking and strategies for companies to compete.
The Financial Services Club is a network for financial professionals, and focuses on the future of financial services through the delivery of research, analysis, commentary and debate. Founded in 2004, the Financial Services Club meets regularly in Austria, England, Ireland, Norway, Poland, Scotland, Slovakia and Sweden.
Mr. Skinner is a regular commentator on BBC News, Sky News, CNBC andBloomberg about banking issues; he is a Judge on many awards programs including the Asian Banker’s Retail Excellence Awards, as well as working closely with leading banks such as HSBC, the Royal Bank of Scotland, Citibank and Société Générale, as well as the World Economic Forum
The future of money, trade and finance – Chris Skinner, at USI