Anthropo-scene #10: From Thoughts to Geology
It’s more than two years since I have started this exploration of the Anthropocene for Next Nature for you. We have visited many places together, places I have traveled to as a reporter, author, biologist: we have entered a graphite mine, where ancient algae are turned into high-tech gadgets, we have discovered a former military training areas that has become a neo-natural ecosystem, we have encountered plants and birds that try to live and thrive in the new geological epoch we are about to name after ourselves, the Anthropocene. The Anthropocene will not be a smooth ride, but an exciting one.
Anthropo-scene #8: Anthropocene Rabbit
I was on my bike, cycling to Berlin’s Gleisdreieck area to attend Re:publica, Germany’s hip and cool digital culture event, when a pile of rubble caught my attention. “Gleisdreieck”, or “rail track triangle”, has in recent years become a hotspot of urban development. For decades, the area had been a kind of inner-city wilderness, an urban savannah with little formal use.
Hacking Human Cells to Use Solar Power
Our cells are not that different from a car engine: they depend on carbon-based fuels for energy. But using carbon for energy is an inefficient process. This is what the biotech startup BiPlastiq seeks to resolve, using solar energy instead of carbon and oxygen, by hacking our cells.
The founder of BiPlastiq, Christopher Powell believes that by hacking our mitochondrial structures to use solar energy, the power output of our bodies might increase dramatically. This upgrade could arguably transform human bodies into regenerative machines and extend human lives by decades.
Anthropo-scene #7: Anthropocene Bird
What does it mean to be a bird in a world massively altered by human actions? This White-tailed Kite (Elanus leucurus), a beautiful raptor, is finding it out while hovering above Baylands Park near Palo Alto, California.
Humans have made not only the Dodo, but dozens of bird species, vanish from Earth in the past decades, through hunting, habitat destruction and the spread of cats, rats and dogs with the help of ships. Globally, 1300 out of a total of 10,000 bird species are seriously in decline. Other birds have learned to live with humans and profit from their presence.
Plastivore – A Bird that Feeds on Plastic
Imagine humankind would magically disappear from the planet today. We would leave the ruins of cities, roads, cars and… plastics. Since its invention in 1907, plastic steadily worked its way into the geology of Earth. As plastics hardly break down they could survive humankind.
Artist Britt Duppen envisions that, in due time, new species might evolve that could feed on plastic. Her speculative ‘Plastivore’ bird (Latin for ‘plastic eater’, plasticio meaning ‘plastic’ or ‘food that contains particles of plastic’ and vorare meaning ‘to devour’) thrives on a diet of fungi and plastics.
High-Speed Driverless Taxi for the Sky
How do you feel when you get stuck in the traffic jam? Have you ever fantasized about escaping to another space? An innovative solution to a better way for transportation has been proposed by NASA Space Act company skyTran: an autonomous, high-speed, elevated Personal Rapid Transportation system.
Genetic Modification Could Prevent TB
Tuberculosis might sound like a thing of the past but it is still a serious problem, causing an estimated 1.3 – 1.5 million deaths in 2013 alone. The main root of tuberculosis is infected cattle, which is transferred to humans via consumption of unpasteurized dairy products. However, it has recently been announced that genetic modification allowed scientists to produce cattle resistant to tuberculosis.
Diseases Of The Future
Nowadays humans suffer from diseases that didn’t exist in the past, a trend that will probably continue into the future. A wide range of new disorders, especially related to the latest technologies, may affect us.
The disease of the future are related to our modern lifestyle, they affect the psyche but, in the long run, can also debilitate the organism. Computers, video games, office work, virtual realities, and their lumbering presence, are just some of the elements that have changed the context in which we live and the way we spend our time. Technology has found our new weaknesses and will exploit them.
Even if it’s impossible to know which pathogens will afflict us in the future, we can explore the health issues that could emerge as a consequence of technological advancements and our inability to cope with them. Virtual Reality Addiction, Nature Deficit Disorder, Computerization of the Personality, Nanotech Poisoning, shown below a selection of third millennium diseases.
Interview: Bruce Sterling on the Convergence of Humans and Machines
Bruce Sterling is a prominent science fiction writer and a pioneer of the cyberpunk genre. His cyberpunk novels Heavy Weather (1994), Islands in the Net (1988), Schismatrix (1985), The Artificial Kid (1980) earned him the nickname “Chairman Bruce”. Apart from his writings, Bruce Sterling is also a professor of internet studies and science fiction at the European Graduate School. He has contributed to several projects within the scheme of futurist theory, founded an environmental aesthetic movement, edited anthologies and he still continues to write for several magazines including Wired, Discover, Architectural Record and The Atlantic.
In the interview below, we had the honor of hosting Bruce Sterling in our Next Nature Network headquarters to talk to him about the concept of the convergence of humans and machines. Sterling weighs in on the issue with a rather challenging perspective.
Cities Evolve in Similar Ways as Galaxies
Satellite images of Earth at night evoke ambiguous feelings: While on a ground level our cities appear as purely cultural artifacts, a traveler from outer space might just as well marvel at them as beautifully glowing organic fungi-like structures that sprouted on our planet. Less than a millennium ago, the Earth at night was all dark. Today it is all glowing and blossoming.
Scientists think the laws governing the structure of galaxies in outer space are the same laws underlying the growth of cities. Henry Lin and Abraham Loeb at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics have used models for showing how galaxies evolve based on matter density to propose a unifying theory for scaling laws of human populations.