Category Archives: Social Trends

Transhumanism – The super breed

What is Transhumanisms?

In general it is a philosophy and an active movement advocating human modification by technological means aiming at enhancement of human possibilities and living conditions of all kinds.
The philosophy detaches itself from our evolutionary concept of natural selection and survival of the fittest and replaces it by humans own wishes and perceptions. The human becomes the steersman of evolution!
At this point many recent and historical leaders of the movement do not follow the nationalistic study and practice of eugenics – state controlled selective breeding creating an advanced human species- but every set of parents has the choice to create a child according to its own wishes and conceivability.
To advance the human intellectually, psychologically and physically the movement wants to make use of various technologies.
The main technologies are: nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive science and hypothetical future technologies such as simulated reality, artificial intelligence, super intelligence, mind uploading, chemical brain preservation, and cryonics.

But as tempting as it sounds to create super humans it also poses many problems and controversies.

At first there is a practical criticism arguing that the necessary technology does not exist and never will. Referring to earlier predictions of genetic engineering that overestimated by far the capabilities of this technology.
Ethics is another critical aspect that should be kept clearly in mind.
Can humans defy evolution and play god?
Can our planet handle a population with access to the fountain of youth.

These are just some questions out of an endless pool that must be posed.
Many dystopian horror-scenarios have been thought and put down in writing our movies recently and in the past. Ranging from The Brave New World, Futurehype: The Tyranny of Prophecy, Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age, … to Terminator or Repo man.

The biggest community with regular meetings is in California, Los Angeles.
Circles of transhumanists are looking for the fountain of youth and I doubt that they are intending to share their findings with the public. I personally think that it is very scary to know that there might be an elite with access to eternal life. So let’s hope that is more hype than reality and we will never have to face theses problems and still know where we belong.

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transhumanism

http://humanityplus.org/

http://www.au.dk/fukuyama/boger/essay/

http://www.changesurfer.com/Acad/TranshumPolitics.htm

http://www.detrans.de/

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Lumenhaus – when light meets design

The project Lumenhaus designed and developed by Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University came in first at the Solar Decathlon Europe 2010 in Madrid.
The Solar Decathlon is a forum for research and development of innovative, eco-friendly energy technologies and high-performance buildings. Schneider Electric, a French global company for electric equipment, sponsors the initiative for the following two years and collaborated on 8 of the 17 introduced projects. Additional the US ministry for economy and technology sponsored the initiative focusing mainly on energy efficiency.

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Lumen is Latin for light and Haus is German for  house, so the name implements the purpose.
The zero energy house points into a future of solar energy and more awareness of environment and ecology. But unlike others the attention was also drawn towards comfort. The project combines optimum energy efficiency with no waiving of luxury.
The energy is supplied by a huge solar panel roof and many more of the newest solar technologies.
An integrated weather forecast station feats the smart home with changing weather conditions allowing the responsive architecture to adapt correspondingly.

In terms of design the project concentrates on an open air feeling as well as an optimal light yield. The entire house can be controlled by a computer or even a smart phone giving the user the power to overrule the computer. A nice feature of the equipped software is an overview of all energy consuming devices in and around the house resulting in a more thoughtful use of energy. And at last for people how like to move a lot, the house is as a whole transportable via special equipped transport devices for a truck.
I personally like the fact that it is on the one hand a zero energy house but on the other hand has no limitations in comfort and design.

If you want to no more see for yourself.

References:

http://www.ep-photovoltaik.de/gesponsort-von-schneider-electric-lumen-haus-gewinnt-solar-decathlon-europe-2010/2010/07/12

http://www.lumenhaus.com/eu/

http://www.solarportal24.de/nachrichten_35011_lumenhaus_gewinnt_solar_decathlon_europe_2010.html

http://www.trendsderzukunft.de/projekt-lumenhaus-das-haus-der-zukunft-ist-da/2010/07/14/

Happylife

In 1983 George Lucas used facial recognition in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. C3PO and R2D2 need to pass the Forbidding Gate and have to undergo a facial scan in order to enter Jabba the Hutts palace.

In 1983 was it more fiction than science but today is it reality. CCTV and other security systems use it for crime prevention making more and more efficient use of the technology.

In 2010 facial recognition peaked out at a joint project, called Happylife.
Happylife is the implementation of  the smart home, a concept that has been around for quite a while. An intelligent home that can read and fulfill your desires via facial recognition technology. The project between EPSRC, Royal College of Art and NESTA was introduced at the Impact exhibition in London, a unique collaboration between science and design that explores the importance of engineering and physical sciences in all aspects of our lives.

The science of the project is described by Zwiggelaar and Bashar Al-Rjoub from the Computer Science Department of Aberystwyth University:

Real-time dynamic passive profiling technique will be based on the modeling of facial expressions, eye movement and pupil changes in both the visual and thermal domains and link these to malicious intent and physiological processes (such as blood flow, eye movement patterns, and pupil dilation). To facilitate this process, one of the initial aspects of the project will be the collection, analysis and development of the dataset used to model the baseline of facial imagery behaviour of the general population against which physiological behaviours in people with malicious intent would need to be detected. Both the baseline and the dynamic profiling will be based on the response to a series of questions. The developed techniques will be evaluated in operational trails at border control points. The multi-modal facial analysis will provide additional information to the current profiling and the developed techniques will have a wider remit into other domains.

A visual display, linked to the thermal image camera, shows for each family member one individual rotary dial and one RGB LED display effectively acting like emotional barometers. These show current state and predicted state, the predicted state being based on years of accumulated statistical data.

In collaboration with Dr Richard M. Turley a narrative based prospect has been written.

We installed Happylife. Not much happened at first: an occasional rotation, a barely appreciable change in the intensity of light. But we felt it watching us, and knew that some kind of probing analysis had begun. After only a few months, we found ourselves anticipating the position of the dials. The individual displays rarely contradicted our expectations, but when they did it encouraged us to look inwardly at ourselves.
It was that time of the year. All of the Happylife prediction dials had spun anti-clockwise, like barometers reacting to an incoming storm. we lost David 4 years ago and the system was anticipating our coming sadness. We found this strangely comforting.
We were all sitting in the lounge, like any evening. Sandra and I were watching some nondescript documentary and the kids were playing with their lego. The moment stole up on us. Paul was first to notice the unusual glow coming from Happylife. It continued to brighten – a gradual, barely conspicuous build up of intensity until we had to look away.
The morning Paul had to go, Sandra’s dial was barely registering. I’d seen it that pale only once; then for obvious reasons it stayed that way for weeks. I tried to comfort her, saying it wasn’t as if he’d be away for ever. She turned to me with her face blank and puffy and then ran out of the room.
I arrived home from the meeting, pushed off my shoes and glanced up at the Happylife display. Sandra’s dial had rotated 2 clicks further than I’d ever seen it. The orb was pulsing wildly. She’d seemed fine when I left.

But as shown there are always two sides of the coin, one may be contributing while the other may be harmful. If the smart home is an enrichment or just another step towards Skynet (Terminator) cannot be said so far. However the smart home is now ready for the first real family and from there on we will see.

References:

http://www.aber.ac.uk/en/cs/research/vgv/

http://www.auger-loizeau.com/index.php?id=23

http://www.nextnature.net/2010/07/happylife/#more-9061

http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/Science-Fiction-News.asp?NewsNum=1133

Qatars bid for green soccer

This weekend starts the Fifa football world cup in South Africa and everybody is keen to watch the world’s best players score. But some people are already planning 12 years ahead. The Emirate Qatar applied with many other to be the venue of the World Cup in 2022. But unlike the other contestants Qatar submitted a very unique proposal to persuade the Fifa selection committee. The proposal contains five renewable energy stadiums manly designed by German Albert Speer & Partner GmbH.
The models are a mixture of local characteristics and modern architecture with special attention to sustainability. Solar power supported by other renewable energy sources shall guarantee the CO2 neutrality and reduce the temperature in the stadium to a maximum of 27° degree Celsius.

Al-Shamal Stadium

Al-Shamals history is coined by fishing so the Stadium will be imitate a Dhow, a traditional fisher boat.

• Al-Khor Stadium

In the northeast situated city Al-Khor the Stadium will be based on a sea shell.

• Al-Gharafa Stadium

The Stadium does already exist but will be additionally equipped with a new facade coating the Stadium in bands in the colors of the participating nations.

• Al-Rayyan Stadium

The Rayyan Stadium will be upgraded with a LED facade screening sport events nonstop.

• Al-Wakrah Sports Complex

Al-Wakrah Sports Complex will be more than just a stadium it will be a complex of relaxing in spas, shopping in malls, living in exclusive hotels and watching first class soccer.

The design and eco-friendliness of the stadiums should position Qatar well in the competition for running as a host for the World Cup in 2022. Furthermore  Qatar has various supporters for instance the former Dutch Barcelona and Ajax player Ronal de Boer who ended his career in Qatar.

References:

All pictures are from AS&P – Albert Speer & Partner GmbH

http://www.as-p.de/
http://www.qatar2022bid.com/
http://www.Stadiumwelt.de/
http://www.trendsderzukunft.de/fussball-wm-2022-katar/2010/05/31/

ECO – valuing the environment

Eco is the proposed name for the common currency that the West African Monetary Zone plans to introduce by 2015 in the framework of ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States). But besides that it is the Idea of introducing a currency that values our ecology with all its ecosystems and living organisms. The idea emerged during the Paralelo Conference 2009 at the MIS in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The conference brought together artists and designers working with media from three different countries – Brazil, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, to discuss different ways in which collaborations across disciplinary and cultural borders can enable research and new insights into global and local ecological problems. Now think tanks like the Next Nature Lab in cooperation with the Eindhoven University of Technology undertake further research into the idea of the Eco currency. Thereby is the basic concept to express ecological value in an economic manner. The Eco currency could be integrated into our official trading currencies and represent natures share of our world.

The currency would prevent detrimental effects on the environment that find their origin in economic hopelessness. viz. a common man in Brazil who owns a small part of primeval forest wouldn’t have to sell his land so it can be deforested and farmed causing high CO2 pollution. But he would be paid a fair amount of money to conserve the forest.
The details of the currency like exchange rates, implementation, appearance, etc. is still in progress but the basic approach to value environment and maybe form it into something economically rewarding coincides with many leading heads on the field of environmental activists. Interest in our ecology is a necessity to achieve environmental advancement.

Recent foundings and further research can be found on http://www.eco-currency.net/

A Scenario of ecological interest designed by the Eindhoven University of Technology.

References:

http://www.eco-currency.net/

http://www.eiolca.net/

http://www.iisd.org/didigest/mar97/4mar97.html

http://www.nextnature.net/2010/05/eco-currency-%E2%80%93-a-proposal-to-balance-economical-and-environmental-value/

http://www.solidwastemag.com/issues/story.aspx?aid=1000217863

Interest in our ecology is a necessity to achieve environmental advancement.

Pig City: A nice view for pork

The Rotterdam firm of architects MVRDV is known for its experimental design and is responsible for a good deal of the present Dutch architectural time. They proposed a futuristic concept to overcome the future pork production struggles in the Netherlands. With a production of 16.5 million tons of pork, the Netherlands is the chief exporter of pork within the European Union. In 1999, 15.2 million pigs and 15.5 million humans inhabited the Netherlands. One pig needs an area of 664 m2, including current food processing: composed of 50% intensive grain production and 50% industrial by-products. In the case of organic farming, pigs would be fed with 100% grain, leading to a required 130% more field surface due to reduced grain production. This would cause a demand of 1726 m3 per pig, including the organic food processing. This would mean that there would be only 774 m2 per person left for other activities. In other words 75% of the Netherlands would be dedicated to pigs (MVRDV.nl).Therefore MVRDV came up with „vertical farming“ instead of expanding the production grounds over the Netherlands they will rise up to the sky forming “Pig City” which comprises 76 towers, each 622 meters high and with floors measuring 87 by 87 meters on which pigs are to be kept, so called „Pig flats“. Each flat will be inhabited by an appropriate to the species’ number of pigs. Even a balcony to watch the sundown is included.

Each floor will be equipped with processing units composing a closed production circuit. An inventive water supply system and the eradication of transport during the production process shall make it eco-friendly. The pig steps into an integrated elevator and takes a ride to the butchers floor. All these aspects as well as the recycling of all used materials shall guarantee the future success of Pig City. The Dutch government partly supports the project financially.

If our future landscapes should be filled with pig skyscrapers is up for debate and I personally believe that eating a little bit less meat and being aware of what you eat would do the deal.

Look at the MVRDV’s proposal

References:

http://archilogy.com/pig-city-mvrdv/

http://www.animalarchitecture.org/pig-city-revisited/

http://www.cityfarmer.info/2009/04/01/pigs-raised-in-skyscrapers/

http://www.classic.archined.nl/news/0107/discussie_pig_eng.html

http://www.mvrdv.nl/#/projects/urbanism/181pigcity

http://www.nextnature.net/author/koert/

Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is the basic concept for public community platforms as Wikipedia or YouTube. Everybody contributes only a little part but these add up to one big community. Now crowdsourcing has established itself on the online fashion market.
The Dutch trend-spotting agency Trendwatching declared in its 2010 predictions that “this decade will see brands championing collaboration instead of an Us/Them mentality”. The consumer will drift away from a standardized passive role (buyer) and turn into an active creative designer.
The idea is that you design fashion for yourself and for others. Often online shops attract the potential designers with contests awarded by prize money. Voters decide which design wins and goes into a production series. One of the first projects was Threadless, which is based in Chicago and began a much-copied online T-shirt contest in 2000 with only $500. Its annual revenue was last disclosed in 2005, when it was $6.2 million. Many others like “Design your dream heels” a Canadian Website where customers hand in design for a pair of white high-heeled pumps. Almost every country has now its own internet t-shirt or shoe online shop. But also other fashion can be self-designed exuve.com a Californian Website has monthly contests for every kind of fashion.

But why is this development so successful?
Companies support customers work by every means because it saves money. A customer is a free worker how enjoys it so much that he invests his own free time for the company. But it is not only creative work that the customer does. Georg Ritzer calls it “The McDonaldization of Society”, we order the food ourselves, we draw the soft drinks, bring it all to the table and clean after ourselves. What happened to service? Ikea sells around 4 million Billy bookcases yearly. Assuming it takes half a hour to assemble and costs 8€ per hour, Ikea already saves 16 million € yearly. A Billy bookcase is therefore not to expensive but what about a cappuccino at Starbucks? Is it acceptable to pay 3€ for a Cappuccino to go?

.

I think that involving communities in design and creative processes is a desirable development but we always have to be aware of what we are giving us up for.

References:

http://www.georgeritzer.com/

http://www.trendwatching.com/about/inmedia/articles/2010_the_youdesign_movement.html

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.06/crowds.html

http://www.zeit.de/2006/39/Do-it-yourself