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Future Imperative

What if technology were being developed that could enhance your mind or body to extraordinary or even superhuman levels -- and some of these tools were already here? Wouldn't you be curious?

Actually, some are here. But human enhancement is an incredibly broad and compartmentalized field. We’re often unaware of what’s right next door. This site reviews resources and ideas from across the field and makes it easy for readers to find exactly the information they're most interested in.

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The future is coming fast, and it's no longer possible to ignore how rapidly the world is changing. As the old order changes -- or more frequently crumbles altogether -- I offer a perspective on how we can transform ourselves in turn... for the better. Nothing on this site is intended as legal, financial or medical advice. Indeed, much of what I discuss amounts to possibilities rather than certainties, in an ever-changing present and an ever-uncertain future.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Twin Meltdowns: Saving the Japanese People & the U.S./EU Economies

Japan, as is becoming increasingly clear, is facing an incredible crisis as one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded, followed by a massive tsunami, has led to critical damage to several reactors in the quake-stricken region, including as many as three reactor meltdowns and a risk to several hundred thousand spent fuel rods at the Fukushima Daiichi site.

Meanwhile, in seemingly unrelated economic news, high-risk national bonds sold by a number of European economies are now rolling over and have to be refinanced, in spite of the fact that a few of the countries offering them appear to be on the verge of bankruptcy and that the Japanese government -- the main buyer at the last round of European national-debt sales -- will now need to sell a great many assets, such as bonds, to deal with its staggering problems at home.

Neither situation can really be overstated at this point. Radiation from a multi-reactor meltdown, combined with the meltdown of most of the spent fuel on site (most of which was apparently stored directly above the reactors, including the four now either immediately threatened or in meltdown) could release enough radioactive isotopes to force the evacuation of a relatively nearby city -- greater Tokyo, with a combined population of 35 million -- and an unknown area of the home island of Honshu.

The European Union, on the other hand, is looking at a devastating economic and financial picture, with no effective way to roll over its national debts and an unstable currency. Though slightly less acute, the United States is also faced with major financing problems related to its debt, which the Treasury and Federal Reserve have generally managed to paper over.

Private-sector financial institutions in the U.S. and EU have mostly suffered great losses as a result of the meltdown of their real-estate industries and in many cases hold title to large numbers of "non-performing" mortgages (that no one is paying off) and foreclosed properties. And because the U.S., Britain and most other nations involved in the real-estate bubble now have considerably more properties than they can afford, there is no reasonable way to dispose of these properties without taking a massive loss.

Which brings us to one partial solution to these seemingly unrelated crises. Japanese who need to be resettled can have homes and certain goods purchased for them, by their governments, in countries around the world, though in particular in Europe and North America. Whole developments of McMansions stand empty in even some of America's relatively viable large cities, and more to the point, whole towns in the fading counties of the Great Plains stand practically empty, and the city of Detroit, despite its favored position beside a Great Lake and its grand industrial history, has vast swaths of all-but-deserted neighborhoods.

But generally a host of homes, large and small, are available across the North American and European landscapes, so shopping for a few good properties should be relatively easy to accomplish. Also, a sudden injection of funds into all of these economies, from whatever source, and by whatever financial path, should create at least a temporary boom in most local economies.

Personally, I would emphasize the development of independent, mostly self-sustaining local economies in these settlements, whether free-standing or part of larger towns or cities. Given the extreme issues the world is now facing with regards to food and energy, as well as its overall economic and environmental crises, an emphasis on frugality -- both monetary and energy-wise -- and the local, sustainable, high-intensity production of sustenance, seems prudent. A mix of methods could be used to provide both food and energy -- low-impact farming, gardening, greenhouses, aquaponics and the planting of fruit and nut trees on the one hand, and geothermal, solar thermal, solar electric, and wind and micro-hydro turbines (among other tools) on the other. These options, obviously, could also be funded by the sale or barter of bonds.

And who would be willing to accept these national bonds in exchange for real estate and other goods of some presumed cash value? Well, in the U.S., the Federal government, the Federal Reserve and pretty much every bank in the country. Given a choice between dumping assets that in the present market and given the present size of the population have considerably less than their face value, and recovering something from what is otherwise a dead loss -- while staving off general economic catastrophe for the institutions in question... well, that will probably look like a good deal to quite a few organizations.

If I were managing such an operation, I would start quickly but do it in stages. If a relative trickle of people went out who were relatively mobile and ready to go -- like just about every college student with a vague grasp of English and a desire to visit an English-speaking country some day -- I would sweep those people up, send them off to their newly purchased apartments in the university towns where they might be taking classes, acquire for them some food stores -- purchased at bulk rates as a massive coop, with all the economic advantages that offers -- and shuffle them around later, if they end up studying or working somewhere else in their destination country. In the meantime, they can work on their English. And gardening, and/or other potentially useful skills, such as Arduino.*

Other obvious candidates would be farmers from stricken regions, who could not only help kick start new farming in relocation towns in, say, the Great Plains, but work with local farmers to learn about local conditions, and help direct other workers who showed up later to help expand these new farms. Translators, permaculture and aquaculture experts would be other obvious first arrivals.

Given that metals in irradiated areas can be washed free of fallout, trains (and some of their tracks) might also make an appearance in new host countries, perhaps deployed wherever they would make the most difference -- such as giving Detroit something it badly needs... a decent mass-transit system.

I should add... Many Americans have a very high opinion of the Japanese and their culture in general, and there is a wide familiarity with many products of Japanese mass culture, in particular manga and anime. While language would initially be a barrier, well-translated anime movies might be a way to help students of either language pick up the basics of the language faster than through study alone -- although obviously full immersion would probably be most effective, were many people not already shocked and overwhelmed by recent events.

Whatever path the Japanese choose to take, I wish them all the best. Like so many in the rest of the world, my heart goes out to them, and they remain in my prayers.

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December 01, 2015 11:59 PM  

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