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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.


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, June 07, 2011

Bitcoins: The World's First Decentralized, Digital Currency

Bitcoins are a fascinating foray into an alternative, decentralized, online economy. I don't know that they will become a major force in the world economy, but for what they are, they certainly seem viable. I suppose the next step would be making Bitcoins available on your smartphone, so that you could spend them at a brick & mortar (real-world) store instead of just at online storefronts. But I suspect such an app will not be long in coming...

Fukushima Daiichi -- "We Nearly Lost Northern Japan"

Michio Kaku (physicist and co-creator of modern superstring theory) says that according to recent government revelations, we now know Fukushima Daiichi experienced a 100% simultaneous meltdown of three of the site's six reactors. The only thing that saved Japan from complete disaster was the government overriding TEPCO and ordering the utility to run seawater into the plant, a last-ditch effort which absorbed the excess heat and prevented the cores from exploding outright.

If the seawater had not worked, Dr. Kaku remarks, we would have had 3 simultaneous Chernobyls, and northern Japan would no longer be habitable.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Indian Whistleblower Website Exposes and Stamps Out Corruption

The BBC is reporting on IPaidABribe.Com, an Indian website which allows visitors to report on bribes they have been forced to pay by local officials. The pressure this site has brought to bear has already been notably effective in the State Transport Department of Karnataka, where the commissioner in charge was able to use the reports to gather support in his office for an anti-corruption drive.

Text reports and uploaded videos enable individual Indians who want their voices heard on what is reportedly one of the most vexing aspects of life in their country.

Readers of this blog may remember a February article on Future Imperative entitled "How Facebook and Cell Phones Can Stop Street Crime and Corruption in Egypt, and Everywhere Else...," which discussed how some simple cell-phone photos and an out-of-country website could enable citizens to report crimes even in countries which lack India's civil rights and longstanding democracy.

"Hackers" Gather Worldwide to Fight Climate Change

Random Hacks of Kindness, a grassroots effort of problem solvers looking to find powerful-yet-inexpensive solutions to major problems, is now underway worldwide. Originally brought together in 2009 by the combined resources of Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, NASA and the World Bank, RHoK draws from a very deep pool of talent beyond those founding organizations.

"RHoK works by bringing together experts in development and volunteers with a broad set of skills in software development and design. The goal is to produce practical open source solutions to development problems." CNN covers the latest gatherings here.

The open-source movement is best known for its work in assembling major software projects (such as Linux). But open-source advocates have become increasingly involved in trying to solve practical, real-world problems beyond the field of software alone -- for example, the OpenFarmTech project, which strives to put open-source designs for all major farm and manufacturing devices into the public's hands, so that "the means of production" can be owned by all.

Global Village Construction Set in 2 Minutes from Open Source Ecology on Vimeo.

Such efforts can seem ambitious, but such is the power of innovative thinking and the leveraging of minds from around the world that many global problems can be addressed by these conferences. Local problems, on the other hand, are proving to be very well understood by people committed to dealing with them in those locations, and hence workable solutions emerge to deal with each region's specific, relevant problems. And given the skills mobilized at each assemblage to target these issues, solutions can not only be found, but put into practice.

Here are a couple of brief videos showing some of the problems targeted by local Random Hacks of Kindness projects in Philadelphia and Toronto.

 RHoK Philadelphia...

RHoK Toronto...

More videos can be found at RHoK's site.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Global Warming Threatens Many Region's Agricultural Viability

Rising global temperatures imperils long-term food production not only in southern Asia and Africa, but within two generations, China and Latin America as well. Meanwhile, substantial ocean acidification could threaten oceanic aquaculture, especially in sensitive species.

Of course, the series of agricultural disasters which have hit the world in the last 15 months have already been epic in their regional impacts. As I have said in the recent past...

"The droughts in Russia, the flooding in Pakistan, the drought in western Australia and the floods in eastern Australia, the desertification of cropland in China, the collapse of the "fossil" water tables in India... combined with more minor events, such as the Midwestern ice storm affecting winter wheat in the U.S., and major damage to vegetables in Mexico and southern China, these suggest a planet whose agriculture is already in crisis. In many less wealthy nations, people normally spend up to half of their income on food, and food prices have risen dramatically in the last year."
A number of the "potential, long-term impacts" of climate change already seem to be upon us, whether agricultural disruptions or wildly unpredictable and often dangerous weather. As individual harvests are destroyed on a national basis, and events such as half-mile-wide tornadoes hammer American towns, perhaps we should remember that according to the scientific community, climate change has still barely made an impact compared to the effects that a global heat-up of another degree or two would create.

Given how harsh these -- relatively mild -- events have been so far, perhaps we should change our path before we can find out fierce nature can be when she means business?

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The World Bank and the World's 40 Largest Cities Reach Climate Deal

The World Bank has reached an agreement with the C40 Group (the mayors of the world's 40 largest cities) to help finance their efforts to adapt to climate change. These cities, which represent 12% of global human greenhouse emissions, would be able to more easily access the up to $6.4 billion in funds the Bank is making available for climate relief.

Bank President Robert Zoellick suggests that private initiatives could increase that number up to $50 billion.

This agreement is an important one. $100 million, much less $1 billion, well spent can make a tremendous difference in places like Jakarta, Rio de Janeiro or Mexico City. But in terms of getting the ball rolling on critical projects -- such as breaking the "heat island" effect raising temperatures in all major urban areas, using methods as simple as planting trees or painting rooftops or road asphalt white -- simply getting the money flowing to meaningful operations can make all the difference, especially in the present economic climate.

Further, these cities are seen as leaders in their countries, and when major changes take place in their environs, particularly changes for the better, people take notice. Their ability to lead by example can not be underestimated.

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