The Internet of Things: A Proto-technate

InternetOfThings

via inoviagroup.se

By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

It becomes increasingly clear that the future we are shaping for tomorrow will be considerably different from today, and that the 21st century can potentially become even more dramatic than the 19th century in terms of techno-social development. While the future is indeed shifting, we can see two competing trends which will shape the future. The first one is the increasing exponential pace of ecological devastation, which threatens to destroy the current biosphere and usher in a new dark age for humanity. The second trend is exponential technological development, in terms of computational capacity, information technology, miniaturization, bio-tech, renewal energy and space research development.

These trends will undoubtly transform not only our civilization, but our planet as well. Therefore, it has never been as important as now that we establish a common ground on which we can shape the future existence of the human species and its interrelationship with the planet. To a large extent, social and technological development is not intentional, but a result of emergent processes – meaning that when a new technology is introduced, it will change the way in which human beings interact with the environment and thus eventually transform society and even – in the far perspective – human culture.

While it is difficult to predict the future, it is far from impossible to see towards where technological development could lead us if taken to its logical conclusion. While some are believing that the history of the human civilization is deterministic and will naturally lead to its end-state – the post-1991 realignment in most cases – that is only appearing to be so. In fact, while emergence strives to flow like mighty currents, we fundamentally do have the power to steer it towards the direction where we can see the optimal goals from the perspective that our civilization has chosen to embrace.

We argue that one of the potential logical conclusions of the implementation and development of the Internet of Things is the establishment of an intelligently managed and integrated infrastructure. Such an infrastructure can be utilized in order to create a near-total overview over the usage of resource flows, energy, trade, production and distribution. Thus, from the emergence of the Internet of Things, a technate can be formed.

TL;DR Summary

  • Integrated computer technology and miniaturization means that applications can interconnect to optimize communication and information to optimize functionality within various fields.
  • This process leads to the formation of intelligent cities, which in their turn will interconnect with one another and form larger and larger networks.
  • Eventually, this could mean the establishment of a global integrated network which allows for a total overview over energy-, infrastructure- and resource management on our planet.
  • This would present a great opportunity to exponentially increase our ability to manage resources sustainably while providing a good quality of life to all human beings, but also increases the risk for totalitarian centralized control.
  • Therefore, it is paramount that we establish a dialogue on whether this transition is desirable, in what way it should be implemented and how we could ensure popular influence over the transition process.
  • Fundamentally, the struggle is about who and how technology should be controlled during the 21st century.

Technological determinism and evolution

via kryptonradio.com

via kryptonradio.com

It is easy to imagine that the world we are living in today is the natural consequence of capitalism, industrialism, the scientific revolution and parliamentary democracy. To some extent, it is also true. For example, the rationalization process that the growth-oriented economy initiates when it transforms eco-systems into mono-cultures is the direction towards which the logical conclusion of Smithian Economics point. However, some characteristics of our current economy are to a large extent dependent on co-incidences.

One example is the ascendancy of the private automobile. Motoring has for three generations been such a natural part of western civilization that most people generally are taking it for granted. In the United States, a large part of the surface territory consists of highways, parking lots and the suburban regions made possible by the culture of motoring. The reliance on combustion engine cars have greatly affected climate change during the 20th and early 21st centuries.

However, neither the culture of motoring or the reliance on fossil-based fuels was a historical inevitability. During the early 20th century, there were cars that were powered from various differing sources, and it was not at all certain that the combustion technology would win the techno-evolutionary competition and become the dominant energy model for transport during that era. It was due to a series of historical accidents and investment patterns that this model won out.

Another example of a historical co-incidence was how the wild horse was hunted to extinction in North America during the older Stone Age, but how a small group survived on the Eurasian landmass and was domesticated. If the horse had gone extinct in Eurasia, or survived in the Americas, history as we would have known it would have been entirely different.

Thus, we need to look at technological development not as deterministic, but as evolutionary. Technology is developed on the basis of what has been tried before and proven to work, and thus constantly improves with baby steps. When new technological areas are discovered, the same process generally applies to them (unless these new technologies are outcompeted by established rivals that achieve the same aim). This also means that we can consciously choose what technological development we want to emphasise, and to a limited extent direct what effects on society this progress will have by consciously adapting our infrastructure to the future we are setting the course for.

On the Internet of Things

Robot Hummingbird

The Internet of Things can be defined in many ways – one of the simplest if to say that it is an observed trend. More and more, the minaturization of applications have allowed for a digitalization of previously non-digital technology. This means that the operational intelligence of everyday household items and infrastructure will increase, and that these items will be able to be a part of a large communications network.Picture-6

If this technology becomes widely available in the market, we can imagine that it would not be unusual to see integrated homes, which reminisces of the kind of computerized homes seen in old sci-fi shows from the 1960’s, where people are operating their home environment through their voice or through small chips placed inside their own bodies.

Let us think further. These systems can make homes inter-communicate, allowing for example a more optimal energy distribution between houses within the same neighbourhood, or why not integrated fire warning systems, that would alert the nearby homes of a fire in an application? Or what about integrated waste management systems and automated aquaponics production systems within every habitat, as envisioned by Alexander Bascom?

Eventually, there will be smart cities where all of the infrastructure consist of fully integrated systems, that can monitor energy and resource usage, set up alternative plans for resource usage or assist in the making of such plans, and also to some extent self-manage.

This interconnectedness will grow out from the cities, connecting through power grids, roads and railways, and eventually entire states and continents will be interconnected. This will inevitably – if taken to its logical conclusion – make the existing economical, social and political power arrangements outdated and lead to a complete transformation of not only the human civilization, but of the very concept of civilization itself.

Eventually, what will emerge will be a planet united through a network which allows for the transparent overview and the centralized, de-centralized or integrated management of energy and resources. In short, humanity will be within the reach of establishing if not The Singularity, so at least a Singleton.

The risks of neo-totalitarianism

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While there are many causes to celebrate aspects of the ascent of the Internet of Things, there are also profound risks that need to be analyzed and put into context. The foremost of these risks is the issue of power. Already today, we are seeing tendencies towards a greater and greater concentration of wealth and power in supranational financial institutions and in multi-national corporate entities.

If such structures are given control over the Internet of Things, we would most likely see a very predatory process, the reduction of popular sovereignty and the increase of surveillance and centralization. What could become a system that can help save the biosphere and empower humanity, can under the wrong conditions instead become a virtually un-overthrowable neo-totalitarian Brave New World scenario.

Therefore, the role of the Earth Organisation of Sustainability – and similar organisations aiming for a socially, economically and ecologically sustainable world – should be to increase the availability of this knowledge, but also of the applications and the ability to construct the applications themselves, to the general public and to local communities, within the context of a consciously evolving proto-technate.

What is a proto-technate?

Smart-Cities-1

A proto-technate (a term defined by dr. Andrew Wallace), is a consciously evolving infrastructure management system, which includes and empowers all participants through transparency, de-centralization and constant availability for education. The system is evolving by learning from its previous mistakes, and the goal is increased sustainability, as explained in The Three Criteria.

This means that the control of the Internet of Things within the context of a proto-technate would be given not to corporations, governments or supranational institutions, but to local, voluntary groups that would utilize these technologies to manage their own local environment and the sustainability of their neighbourhoods. This would also allow for a more diverse array of solutions adapted to the local and regional needs of communities and individuals.

In the city of Umea, we in the new EOS Board are aiming to establish an intellectual and practical centre for the development and utilization of technologies to be adapted for the transition towards a sustainable society. The first step would be the establishment of an eco-lab in Umea, through which many local groups – as well as the public – can become connected and learn how to make their imprint in the process of developing and implementing techniques.

Ultimately, if we have a vision of how the world should look like in 100 years, we must work locally and together with individuals and communities to make this a reality. Our main goal in this respect should be to help ensure that the control of the knowledge and the new technologies is in the hands of the people and that it is used in a context of forming a sustainable civilization.

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Intelligent cities as a step towards a technate

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by Enrique Lescure

Introduction

One integral part of the design we in the Earth Organisation for Sustainability envision is that humanity needs to utilize information technology in order to establish a better overview of the resource flows that we use on the planet, as well as the planet’s own capacity. More of this can be read in the article “The Three Criteria” on this blog. Ideally, it will mean the formation of a self-aware infrastructure that allows the public to have a full picture over our local, regional and global usage of resources. Such a system that monitors resource flows and includes the public to participate in the monitoring processes and the decision-making can be designed in various differing forms – but if the form is adhering to the definition laid forth previously in this sentence, the system can be called a technate.

This article will argue that the technological development in the spheres of information technology, and how it integrates with infrastructure and resource monitoring in terms of so-called intelligent cities – is an engine that drives society towards adopting the technate model as a standard for the future.

This is fundamentally a positive development, since it creates a model for data gathering that allows decisions to be made with better access to data and less flawed information, as well as creating a unified data pool which can alleviate some of the problems with multiple reality consensuses at the same time.

However, the transition towards a technate model also poses a few risks. For example, it might be used to control the citizens rather than to monitor the resource flows. Therefore, there needs to be a holonic model with checks and balances instituted both by design and through legalistic and institutional/cultural means.

What is a technate

gizmodo.com

gizmodo.com

What is a technate?

The shortest possible definition is a technical operational geographic area in terms of resources, infrastructure and technology. It is not a government, nor a socio-economic system (a technate can exist and support any kind of economic system adapted to modern-era and cybernetic-era technology), but basically infrastructure managing itself consciously. It can range anywhere from total centralization within the context of a singleton or The Venus Project, into anarchic de-centralization or holonic self-governance. So there is no single clear definition, and even if a technate is established and consolidated, that technate would undoubtly not be the same after a century has passed.

Within the EOS, we hold that forms should be adapted after functions, not the other way around, and the two limiting factors should be our values and the Earth. With this in regard, we do not believe that there will be a single date in history when the technate will be “declared”, just like the Industrial Revolution was not declared by a political statement or celebration.

Rather, what increasingly appears as the most realistic way for a technate to emerge is through an organic evolutionary approach, where information technology is integrated into infrastructure, appliances, vehicles, industrial resource flows, products and recycling centres, which means that what was previously an “unintelligent” economy driven by insufficient information gradually will become more and more self-aware, and the bottlenecks will be reduced to conscious attempts by industries to separate themselves from the grid or to conscious political decisions to protect traditional forms of industrial management with legislations and use of force. Another threat is of course viruses, which can serve to offset the transition.

What is an Intelligent City?

beinformed.com

beinformed.com

It is really difficult to really spot a difference between a technate and an intelligent city. In many ways an intelligent city as defined by most actors striving to establish such cities is what the EOS defines as a proto-technate, namely an incomplete technate or a hybrid between today’s industrial system and a technate.

Intelligent cities are cities which utilize the emergent “Internet of Things” to monitor the status of various functions in society, such as utilities, waste management, energy and collective transit. This allows for more information to be shared and decisions to be made faster and with better information at the disposal of the decision-makers. Here is a comparison between intelligent cities in China and the European Union.

What is needed in order to transition from an Intelligent city to a Technate?

Bettery_Teaser_SciFi-768x332

The only thing that is needed is that the current trends continue to their logical conclusion, in terms of depth and scope. In terms of depth, it would mean that we would strive to be able to monitor all resource flows and include better and better monitoring systems to improve performance. This information will not be used only to manage the current system as efficiently as possible, but also to transcend towards a more circular system by finding and eliminating bottlenecks and identifying areas where different actors can converge to create symbiotic interrelationships between for example food-, energy- and waste management, increase the level of participation in local communities and localise production to increase the resilience and autonomy of the citizens, as well as increasing the self-confidence of communities in managing their own destiny.

In terms of scope, we can not stay happy with only looking at the resource management of a city. No matter if a city is a local town or a super-metropolis, most interconnected cities in the the developed world are today consuming resources from the entire planet. We need to extend the monitoring of the flows to the original source of the resources, both to allow citizens to make informed and ethical consumer choices, and in order to extend sustainability beyond the city’s borders. Thus, we would get an emergent living data bank that would serve to increase our collective intelligence, empathy and wisdom and can help decision-makers from politicians to managers to citizens to make better and more informed decisions, and encourage them to take initiatives to improve the flow where they can see it is lacking.

Risks and challenges

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One of the main issues regarding this transition from industrial cities to intelligent cities to emergent proto-technates is the risk that it could serve to centralize power into the hands of unaccountable elites and that information rather than being open and transparent regarding the flows and regarding administrative accountability will be inaccessible for ordinary citizens through technological centralization into the hands of organised financial capital, and that the powers that be will use legal frameworks to shield themselves from public inquiries while utilizing the technology to install surveillance policies over the general population in the names of terrorism and intellectual property rights.

Another problem which shall not be omitted is when corporations assume the ownership of utilities and local natural resources, leading to the people being excluded from vital parts of their own lives. This would serve to threaten the social autonomy of communities and put the control into the hands of interested parties whose lives are not affected by worsening local living conditions.

What the EOS can do in this regard is to connect groups and initialize projects aimed towards utilizing these new emerging ways of using information technology into supporting local communities. We need to act as a transmitter of knowledge and technology to local communities in order to strengthen their confidence and their autonomy, and to ensure that technology is utilized in accordance with responsible, sustainable and transparent methodologies and goals. The people needs to be included in the transformation towards an intelligent civilization, otherwise there is a great risk that the new technologies would be utilized to cement the narrative of power we increasingly have seen emerge since the 1970’s.

Conclusion

thevenusproject.com

thevenusproject.com

Today we are moving towards an integrated society, where Information Technology soon will connect the infrastructure in an information flow. The Earth Organisation for Sustainability must actively and consciously emerge in this process in order to shift the emphasis towards inclusive technology that is utilized to increase the knowledge, participation and autonomy of local communities, in a manner which empowers individual citizens and give them power over their own lives.

The development towards intelligent cities is ultimately a positive force, but it is a force which must be introduced in a manner where all of society participates and shapes the future, rather than small elite groups. Therefore, our main goal at the moment must be to engage communities in projects that utilize technology, and form networks with said communities where they can interact and transform themselves to better adapt to the conditions of the future.

Our goal must be to play a substantial positive part in this transformation.

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Happy 46th Earth Day

nature-balances-herself

By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

For 46 consecutive years, we have celebrated Earth Day, and yet the status of this planet is worsening. On the sixth Earth Day, in April 1975, we were in the process of the first overshoot of our global footprints. Since then, we have used up a larger and larger share of the Earth’s diminishing reserves, crowding out eco-systems to replace them with linear activities.

We have all the opportunities in the world to change the course, and a lot of things are undoubtly done. What is happening now however is that improvements are local and implemented within either regions (by political demand) or within companies (due to genuine convictions and green marketing), but in the same time, things like fracking and tar sands are exploding on the market, the cattle industry and meat production beats all-time records, and the main concern for decision-makers within both the western sphere and the BRICS sphere is how to maximise economic growth.

What forces are genuinely interested in saving this must plead, beg, work hard for little to no economic gain and almost apologise for struggling to save the lives of all of us, while those who are more responsible for the current state of our world would never have to worry about being homeless, about having to move around or whether they would have to buy food or medicines.

This post is devoted to those heroes of our time.

The tale of Alexander and Ann-Sofie

Alexander Bascom and Ann-Sofie Svensson. Alex and Ann-SofieA young couple in Umea, Sweden, who are passionate about innovation and aquaponics, they founded Green Free Will back in 2012, and sought resources to realize their dream of constructing automated biodomes which would transform our entire relationship with food. Their tale is one of love, struggle, many setbacks and triumphes.

Entering a collaboration with the Earth Organisation for Sustainability, Green Free Will was awarded an agricultural development grant from the European Union, which however took a long while before it arrived due to the bureaucratic structure of the application. When it finally arrived, we were all overjoyed, and so the construction could commence during the late summer of 2014.

Today, I feel privileged to announce that the last part of the grant was recently transferred to EOS, and is now transferred to Green Free Will, so they can do the last work on the dome before the next phase of the project begins. It fills me with happiness that Green Free Will’s project will receive a much needed morale booster.

Alexander’s and Ann-Sofie’s story is awesome, though not unique. Everywhere throughout the world, there are idealists struggling both to make their household economics hold together, and to initiate revolutionary innovative projects that will change the way we look at the world. This vanguard of the garages is a bright hope for humanity during Earth’s darkest hour in 65 million years.

One of the purposes of the EOS is to cooperate with and help people who burn for projects to realize them. As a small organisation, we sadly do not have unlimited resources. By helping us, you will help people like Alex and Ann-Sofie and organisations like Green Free Will to network and expand.

Ultimately, what we all are struggling for is the very foundation for our existence. In this matter, you are either for life or for death.

So thank you Alex and Ann-sofie, Richard, Jonathan, Stefan, Maria and the others! You are making the world a better place!

On Space

nasa.gov

nasa.gov

By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

I’ll admit it. I love space.

Partially, I guess my mother is to blame. When I was a child, she used to tell me Star Wars, Terminator, A Space Odyssey and Alien as stories. Soon, I had been hooked on Star Wars (though my greatest love before age nine was dinosaurs). I still do love space, and as soon as there is a live sending of the landing on a planetary body or any other celestial object, I must see the press conference, and will follow the research data as it pops in.

When I need to relax, I use to put on ambient music and explore a brilliant programme called Space Engine. I love to slowly traverse the stars, watching how they swirl around majestically like magic snowflakes in romantic renderings of blizzards.

The thought of all the billions of worlds out there, worlds with awe-inspiring landscapes, exotic environments, life and creatures that exist, breathe, see and sense their world. Civilizations beyond the stars, gazing up to their skies and wondering from where they came… it’s a thought that is deeply humbling.

Yet, I would use this post here to criticise the notion that the immediate short-term solution to our problems on Earth is to be found out there.

It is not.

The allure of Mars

MarsTransitionV

“Fuck Earth” ~ Elon Musk.

At the dawn of the 21st century, actors in both the west and the east take a great interest in the Red Planet, which for a long time has pre-occupied the minds of astronomers, xeno-biologists, sci-fi authors and conspiracy theorists alike. Mars One sought to establish a human colony on Mars by the 2020’s, but the project has all but fallen apart. Despite this, interest remains very high, and Elon Musk has built his goals around helping to establish a Mars colony.

According to Musk, we need to spread humanity through the solar system and the Milky Way, to guarantee our long-term survival. According to him, our top priority should be to place one million humans on Mars.

I am in agreement with Musk. In order to optimize our future survival as a species, we need to spread to other bodies in the solar system, and perhaps also build new space habitats in orbit around the sun, especially as the human population will continue to increase in numbers (albeit at a slower rate).

But I am also in disagreement with Musk. I do not consider it our top priority right now.

Mars terraformation is alluring as a prospect, but the fact is that we (as a species) currently unintentionally are leading a venusformation of Earth, by upsetting the planet’s climate, and a marsformation by creating artificial linearly arranged environments – environments which on their own cannot support life.

This goes not only for Musk, but for large parts of the space industry. I do not believe that the motivation in this case is primarily greed or power, but rather imagination and curiousity – and tragically passion. The very same passion for “the final frontier” that I myself holds dear.

This passion can under the wrong circumstances contribute to the destruction of the Biosphere of the planet. But I move ahead of myself.

Rocky_Mars_Surface

This, ladies and gentlemen, is Mars.

A frozen radioactive wasteland with extreme temperature variations, a very irregular orbit around the sun, a weak atmosphere with little protection from dangerous UV rays, the north being a plain with raging dust storms (and radioactive dust at that), and the south a barren rocky landscape.

The only place vaguely reminiscent of this on Earth is located in the far south…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

wattsupwiththat.com

Humans have part-settled Antarctica since the late 19th century (whaling stations) and today mostly have presence through research stations. These stations are dependent on supplies by shipments from the US, Brazil, Russia and other countries that have bases on Antarctica. Of course, people are growing food there as well, in expensive greenhouse stations, and to some extent are producing their own supplies.

Elon Musk hopes to replicate this on Mars, but with far more people and in a far more hostile environment. Leading such a project would cost billions, to not speak of the terraformation of Mars which would be necessary to create a long-term flourishing colony.

The colony would be dependent on supplies shipments from Earth, on fuels for transporting colonists, and would mean that thousands of scientists would commit themselves to this project, while the Earth is burning.

breartonbooks.com

breartonbooks.com

The first priority

Elon Musk and other visionaries are the kind of people that our planet is needing at this moment. And with “this planet”, I’m not referring to the Red Planet, with its many alluring mysteries. Rather, I am referring to Earth, our cradle and cosmic ship, with which we are undertaking a journey throughout the galaxy, dancing with the stars.

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How can you think of saying “fuck Earth“, mr Musk? This world has brought to you your life. The complex biosphere in which you have been born and raised, have given humanity the opportunity to rise to gaze at the stars. No matter how fascinating Mars is, it is essentially a dead world – a radioactive desert on which you hope to plant the seeds of human civilization.

At this very moment, in basements and laboratories throughout the world, geeks are dreaming of terraforming Mars – while Earth burns in pain.

If we have the power to terraform Mars, how come we cannot save Earth?

nature.com

nature.com

On Earth and on life

What kind of values would you like us to spread throughout the stars? Should we spread the values of McDonalds? Of acquisition? Of real estate? Or should we try to aspire to greater things as a civilization?

I would argue, that the greatest thing there is in the Universe, is Life.

Intelligent civilizations, wherever they are located, should all be humbled by the fact that they arose from the humble origin of primitive organisms on their home planets, and that they have been nurtured by the biospheres of their home planets. Life creates diversity, opportunities, experience, and from what I can observe, all living things want to live.

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It makes no sense for a species that can create culture, arts and music, to devastate and murder their own planet for nothing else than to maximise the outcome on a curve for the fastest possible rate. I would argue that humanity as a whole owes a thing to itself, namely to prove itself worthy by turning our way around and saving this “fucking” Earth (as Musk would say).

If we can terraform the Moon, Mars and Venus, it would be an easy task saving the Earth.

Summary

palaeos.com

palaeos.com

The kind of habitats we imagine on other worlds, with biodomes, green energy and recycling/upcycling/downcycling facilities, must be realised on Earth on a massive scale tomorrow. We can build self-sufficient arcologies, housing thousands of people, in habitats spread out over artificial islands in the Pacific. We can create irrigated sustainable cities in the Saharan Desert and on the Arab Peninsula. We can satisfy the world’s energy needs by solar alone.

With the resources and creativity of humanity, we can achieve wonders, but we need to focus.

Like Elon Musk, I dream of humanity crossing the Great Void of Ginnungagap, to journey beyond this Middle Earth, towards Vega and Alpha Centauri, towards Tau Ceti and the Pleyades.

But first, we have to sort out the mess we have created on Earth. If we retreat from that responsibility, we would have lost an opportunity to show ourselves from our best side.

Sincerely, Enrique

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