It was interesting to see two articles on alternative energy sources today, outside of a “series” on such things. One on the approval of the new tidal power generators at Kaipara Harbour and one, a bit more “blue sky” on the realistic possibility of the first practicable fusion generators. Both of these may be realised within a decade, which is good news. Even the most pessimistic “peak oil” proponent thinks the black gold should last twice that long, giving us a reasonable amount of time to roll out those new technologies. As an added bonus, the technologies are both carbon friendly, though I’m not convinced we will be too concerned with that in a decade.
The identifying feature of most “crises” that have been proposed over the past 50 years (and probably longer) is the propensity for linear thinking. Basically the line (literally) goes “the trend goes like this and if we continue it to here – we’re all gonna die“. But given the sheer pace of technological change, it seems strange that we continue to insist that trend lines play out inexorably.
I am aware that this sounds a bit like I am proposing that we ignore those dangerous-looking trends, in the hope that some sort of deus ex machina will pop out of the box and save us. But this is not the case. What I am saying is that we all need a little more long-term perspective on our so-called crises. Instead of running around stirring panic and proposing draconian solutions that threaten to cause more problems than they will solve, we should be prepared to step back and look at the range of technological solutions available to us. All too often in the past, the so-called crises have either not materialised or been overcome by technological advance. There are plenty of potential game-changing technologies like the two at the start of this post, yet the funding for research such as this is a tiny fraction of the sort of money we tend to spend on our very linear solutions to our linear trend problems.
What we probably need is not merely more lateral thinking, but more lateral funding.
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