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With lockdown policies in place in most countries due to the Corona pandemic our impact on the environment becomes more apparent each day. With people isolating at home, not travelling, and planes staying on the ground nature seems to recover from pollution: clear canals in Venice, reduced air pollution in China and major cities all over the world, and a fallen global carbon emission. Still, climate change has not stopped, with a record heatwave in Antarctica, which has impacts on all of our planet's climate, and countries like Germany, which are usually blessed with a lot of rain, facing droughts. Realizing how our own actions can positively or negatively affect our environment is a wakeup call for everyone, as we cannot deny the positive impacts of the lockdown on our environment. So, as the official motto of Earth Day 2020 is climate action, we want to discover what technologies may help us in stopping climate change and creating a better future.
Saving Earth with Blockchain
An important aspect of saving our future is to rebuild what we have already lost. Regan Network is a blockchain technology, which tracks, verifies and rewards ecological system improvement. Roland Harwood, founder of the Liminal Collective Intelligence Community, is very excited about this project: "They [Regan Network] gather data with satellites, sensors and observation, and upload it to a data marketplace. Governments, institutions and businesses can pay for accurate ecological data, and the results they want, from farmers anywhere in the world. It makes it possible [for governments and organizations] to financially reward ecological progress, like improved soil, cleaner rivers and replanted forest."
Sun, water, wind or even biowaste: Earth has a lot of natural resources we could harvest for energy without them running out or polluting nature like fossil fuels do. Green energy is one of the most efficient actions for cities and whole countries towards becoming carbon neutral and thus should be a priority moving forward, says Andrew Winton, Vice President of Marketing at Kaspersky. "The possibilities around kinetic energy are almost limitless, beyond the hybrid cars we're most familiar with. Devices can charge your phone by the movement of your running shoes as you jog. Kites can use more powerful wind speeds high in the sky to produce more energy than ground-based wind turbines."
We Create Change
A lot of us preach change, but sometimes we tend to forget that change starts within us. If we want to save the world, and stop climate change, we are the ones who have to take action. "The best way to protect the earth isn't technology. It's us. If we change the way we think and act, we will change the future. We're only just getting started. Technology is more of an amplifier of thoughts and actions," says Irina Bock, eCommerce Director at Kaspersky. To want to change we have to understand the value of earth. Tomorrow Unlocked author Marco Preuss is certain, that sending people in power to space to have a look at Earth, could help in driving green policies: "I had the chance to talk to astronauts, and they all agreed, once you see Earth from space, you realize how wonderful and fragile it is, and you think differently. You value it more."
- Tomorrow Unlocked > Is kinetic energy the power source of the future? ›
- Tomorrow Unlocked > Using technology for reforestation ›
Spicing up the supermarket in our future-focused tech series
Food retail has always been an earlier adopter of transforming technologies. As most of us are open to anything that makes the everyday more fun and interesting, supermarkets are ideal places to experiment with innovative tech. Which unexpected technological items will we see next in the bagging area? Fast Forward audio doc episode 2 explores the aisles.
Supermarkets of the tech revolution
Visiting the supermarket isn't as mundane as it might seem, suggests broadcaster and cultural theorist Ken Hollings, in the second episode of our audio documentary series Fast Forward, Scan purchase for maximum score. We got used to barcodes, QR-codes and interactive in-store experiences with little fuss, so what's next?
Design researcher Benjamin Parry imagines the supermarket experience of the future. Today's supermarkets are relatively interchangeable, but Parry believes future-focused stores have a lot to play for. In the episode, he describes the innovative way a Korean supermarket blended shopping with commuting.
But the big wins, says Parry, may be in ethical and sustainable shopping. "People want to make more ethical choices, but they don't know how. If they can shop with a supermarket that helps them make those decisions, it gives the retailer an edge over competitors."
Are checkout operators history?
It started with our suspicious then suddenly enthusiastic acceptance of self-checkout, which morphed into 'frictionless stores' like Amazon Go, where registered customers walk out the door with their goods. Will we see the end of the supermarket workforce as we know it?
Kaspersky Security researcher David Emm has a new angle on the technological unemployment debate: How sure are we that processes replacing humans are secure?Emm mentions research that found much personal e-commerce information selling on the dark web for peanuts: 1 US dollar or less. "The retailers' responsibilities are to make sure they're only holding data they need, they have consent to do anything with it and they hold it securely."
While the challenges of validating ethical claims shouldn't be sniffed at, when it comes to replicating the experience of squeezing a lettuce or tomato for freshness, the digital space has its work cut out.
Italian architect, engineer and director of MIT's Senseable City Lab research group Carlo Ratti believes nothing less than enjoyment will be at the heart of future shopping experiences. Cutting-edge supermarkets are zeroing in on the stories people associate with their food and shopping experience.
"During lockdown the supermarket was one of the few places you could go and be around other people. If you need toilet paper, say "Alexa, get new toilet paper," and it will be delivered the next day. But for things with an experiential social component, the supermarket has an important role."
Ratti believes the advantages of living in towns and cities depend on it too. He goes into detail in the podcast, and his reasons might come as a surprise.
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It began when one inventor cut a wooden template to the size of his pocket
Inventor of the audiocassette Lou Ottens' death at age 94 in early 2021 gave media and technology fans everywhere a chance to stop and think. In the age of Musks and Zuckerbergs, it's easy to forget how much Ottens changed the game. New audio series Fast Forward explores how we can explore technology's future by looking to the past.
From the pocket of the world
Before the audiocassette, the home and studio audio standard was heavy, bulky and easily damaged open-reel tape. Ottens began with the idea of something conveniently carried, cutting a piece of wood to the size of his pocket as a template.
When Phillips introduced the audiocassette to market in 1963, it was a tiny sound revolution – light and compact, it made data transportable and accessible in ways never before possible. And it traveled everywhere from car dashboards to zero-gravity space vehicles.
Small sounds goes big
From the 80s, cassette players were used to load software and games onto early home computers and record telephone messages. When the Sony Walkman appeared in 1977 – a cassette player small and light enough to be worn clipped to a belt – along with longer life batteries, it took audiocassettes further still. Before cassettes receded into obsolescence around the late 1990s, the penetration of Lou Ottens' innovation was total.
But the audiocassette stayed influential. Ottens also helped develop the Compact Disc, which stored more and lasted longer. But its use and distribution patterns followed those established by its predecessor, the cassette. Encrypting data onto CDs and later flash USB drives followed similar patterns, from storing and erasing files to transport and distribution as 'removable memory.'
The cassette's influence didn't end there. Symbols on PlayStation, Xbox and other game controllers mimic those introduced with the audiocassette. In fact, the controls on almost all audio-visual players, from smartphones to professional editing software, share those the audiocassette used first: A right-pointing triangle for play, double triangles for fast forward and rewind and parallel vertical bars for pause.
Of all the cassette's symbolic introductions, pause is the most welcome at times of rapid, disruptive innovation. Technology-led progress suggests we must track the latest innovations, the newest platforms, the boldest business models without pause – it's all fast forward until we don't where we are anymore. That's when we need to press pause – maybe even rewind.
Past lessons invaluable for future success
Such a frantic pace can distract us from learning from the past. The influence of the audiocassette, far beyond its apparent obsolescence, is a case in point.
Our new Tomorrow Unlocked audio documentary series Fast Forward is devoted to examining trends from the recent past shaping today's technology. It explores practical lessons that might otherwise have been lost in our rapid forward momentum.
Clayton M Christensen and Joseph Bower coined the term 'disruptive' to describe game-changing technologies in their 1995 article, Disruptive technologies: Catching the wave. Although 'disruptive' has since been overused, Bower and Christensen first identified the idea of disruptive technologies by taking the long view of innovation's history.
Overuse tends to stretch meaning to the point where the original definition is all but lost. Disruptive technologies, often coming from outside an existing system of established firms and products, create new markets that eventually displace that system.The concept can be crushed down to Mark Zuckerberg's infamous (former) motto for Facebook: Move fast and break things. What 'move fast and break things' lacks in nuance, it makes up for in commitment – which is fine until you remember moving fast and breaking things is what bulls do in china shops.
Launching unfinished business
The current rush to disrupt in tech industries condemns customers to live in a 'beta' universe where bugs become features. But as entrepreneur Andy Budd observed in a recent blog post, "Without a clear picture of what you're building, it's almost impossible to predict problems. We're encouraged to learn about the future not by thinking, imagining or researching outcomes, but by launching products and learning from the results."
The law of unintended consequences governs the 'beta' universe. Taking the long view can help swing those consequences from negative to positive. It's unlikely Lou Ottens foresaw the deep, long-term impact of the audiocassette while cutting that block of wood to fit in his pocket.
Ottens was just five in 1926 when Thomas Edison died. Edison invented the phonograph, which made mechanical sound recording and playback possible for the first time.
During his life, Edison broke a lot of things. He first tried to market the phonograph by putting it inside a doll that recited nursery rhymes and wished its owner a happy Christmas. The doll was a dismal failure, withdrawn from shelves after most were unsold or returned by disturbed customers.
For Edison, trial and error were part of the process, to be repeated until the product was ready for the public. His customers didn't want a talking doll, but they did want to hear a famous tenor like Enrico Caruso in their parlors.
"I have not failed," Edison said about his repeated setbacks while inventing the lightbulb. "I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." Sometimes the long view still offers the best lessons.
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