Make All Your Christmas Presents at Home
While Americans rush en masse to Wal-Mart and other retail outlets on this traditional "Black Friday" start to the holiday shopping season, why not just make presents for your loved ones at home?
There was a time when making a gift at home meant knitting a sweater. You can still do that if you wish, but in five years, you could quite painlessly manufacture all kinds of presents like toys, bowls, and lamps at home. How? By using a special printer in which you can print almost any 3D object. A 3D printer looks like an oven and is connected to a computer. If you want to make a plastic bowl, for instance, you'll buy the bowl’s design or make it yourself using a software program like Autocad. Then, when you press “print”, the 3D printer will create the bowl by dripping pieces of plastic layer by layer to the exact specifications of your design. When printing is complete, you will open the door and voila! your beautiful bowl awaits you. You have to admit it beats your 2D printer in which the most you can do is print out a picture of the object in color.
Take a look at this astonishing NY Times video for the way in which 3D manufacturing works:
So what happens in a world where you can pretty much manufacture almost any everyday object at home? There will be some winners and some losers. Designers will become rockstars; after all, apart from a one-time payment for the printer and periodic investment in materials, you will will spend the bulk of your money buying the blueprint of an object. For example, when you purchase a toy on Amazon, you will in fact buy and download an encrypted design document from which you can print out the toy at home. We’ll probably see a rise in small Mom and Pop stores that can design beautiful personalized objects for people now that the cost of producing just a few items of a kind will be extremely cheap. If you’re considering a career change, desktop design may be a good field to consider.
If you flip over your iPhone, you’ll notice it says “Designed by Apple. Manufactured in China.” This will one day read, “Designed by Apple. Manufactured at Home.” But then what will happen to China’s manufacturing treasure chest, which is filled by low-cost workers shipping the likes of 140,000 iPhones to the US every day? China and other industrial design factories will have to seriously rethink their strategy to survive in a world where even replacement parts will be printed at home. The factories creating 3D printers and materials will meanwhile thrive as demand spreads like wildfire amongst consumers.
Clearly the planet will be a greener place because energy will not be wasted transporting objects. Consumers will never have to pay “Shipping and Handling” fees again. This might have a negative effect on the revenue of transportation companies and petroleum prices in the long run.
Some people have expressed concern that copyright and patents of digital designs will be difficult to maintain. This is a valid concern. In the beginning, we’ll probably see the equivalent of what Napster was for digital music: a peer-sharing platform where people will distribute copyrighted blueprints for free. In this case, designers, like musicians before them, will see a dip in profits. Eventually, however, an iTunes for digital designs will be created. Just as Napster was shunned for its legal liabilities and substituted with the low-cost convenience of iTunes, we’ll see the digital design market also stabilize without constant copyright infringement.
The endless convenience of home manufacturing means that instant gratification will take on a whole new meaning. It might spark a consumption mania we haven't seen in a long time. Think about it. Do you buy a lot more books now that you can have them on your Kindle in a few seconds? If you do, then you are in danger of falling in love with your 3D printer. It might be best to put the printer in a room and give the keys to your mother-in-law for a while.
So how far are we from a world of home manufacturing? 3D printers already exist. The cheapest 3D printer today is about $5000. If you don’t want to invest in one, you can hop over to a hacker space in your city and “print” some objects there (NYC Resistor in New York has a makerbot). The 3D printer can use a variety of materials including plastic, powder, and steel. For digital blueprints and ideas, take a look at thingiverse. If you have any doubt that this is absolutely real, visit the phenomenally popular Maker Faires that have taken place in San Francisco and New York this year; thousands of enthusiasts have come to show off their home manufactured objects here. And in case you think 3D printing is only for dinky little objects, check out the car that was printed in 3D.
But coming back to the more important topic of the day: Christmas shopping. Don’t we all just dread those lines, the crowds, the fighting over items on sale … no wonder we keep putting Christmas shopping off. Wouldn’t it be nice if our printer just made everything while we slept? A 3D printer can. Maybe that’s the real reason they also call them fab printers!
Ayesha and Parag Khanna explore human-technology co-evolution and its implications for society, business and politics at The Hybrid Reality Institute.
It's just the current cycle that involves opiates, but methamphetamine, cocaine, and others have caused the trajectory of overdoses to head the same direction
- It appears that overdoses are increasing exponentially, no matter the drug itself
- If the study bears out, it means that even reducing opiates will not slow the trajectory.
- The causes of these trends remain obscure, but near the end of the write-up about the study, a hint might be apparent
Scientists think constructing a miles-long wall along an ice shelf in Antarctica could help protect the world's largest glacier from melting.
- Rising ocean levels are a serious threat to coastal regions around the globe.
- Scientists have proposed large-scale geoengineering projects that would prevent ice shelves from melting.
- The most successful solution proposed would be a miles-long, incredibly tall underwater wall at the edge of the ice shelves.
The world's oceans will rise significantly over the next century if the massive ice shelves connected to Antarctica begin to fail as a result of global warming.
To prevent or hold off such a catastrophe, a team of scientists recently proposed a radical plan: build underwater walls that would either support the ice or protect it from warm waters.
In a paper published in The Cryosphere, Michael Wolovick and John Moore from Princeton and the Beijing Normal University, respectively, outlined several "targeted geoengineering" solutions that could help prevent the melting of western Antarctica's Florida-sized Thwaites Glacier, whose melting waters are projected to be the largest source of sea-level rise in the foreseeable future.
An "unthinkable" engineering project
"If [glacial geoengineering] works there then we would expect it to work on less challenging glaciers as well," the authors wrote in the study.
One approach involves using sand or gravel to build artificial mounds on the seafloor that would help support the glacier and hopefully allow it to regrow. In another strategy, an underwater wall would be built to prevent warm waters from eating away at the glacier's base.
The most effective design, according to the team's computer simulations, would be a miles-long and very tall wall, or "artificial sill," that serves as a "continuous barrier" across the length of the glacier, providing it both physical support and protection from warm waters. Although the study authors suggested this option is currently beyond any engineering feat humans have attempted, it was shown to be the most effective solution in preventing the glacier from collapsing.
Source: Wolovick et al.
An example of the proposed geoengineering project. By blocking off the warm water that would otherwise eat away at the glacier's base, further sea level rise might be preventable.
But other, more feasible options could also be effective. For example, building a smaller wall that blocks about 50% of warm water from reaching the glacier would have about a 70% chance of preventing a runaway collapse, while constructing a series of isolated, 1,000-foot-tall columns on the seafloor as supports had about a 30% chance of success.
Still, the authors note that the frigid waters of the Antarctica present unprecedently challenging conditions for such an ambitious geoengineering project. They were also sure to caution that their encouraging results shouldn't be seen as reasons to neglect other measures that would cut global emissions or otherwise combat climate change.
"There are dishonest elements of society that will try to use our research to argue against the necessity of emissions' reductions. Our research does not in any way support that interpretation," they wrote.
"The more carbon we emit, the less likely it becomes that the ice sheets will survive in the long term at anything close to their present volume."
A 2015 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine illustrates the potentially devastating effects of ice-shelf melting in western Antarctica.
"As the oceans and atmosphere warm, melting of ice shelves in key areas around the edges of the Antarctic ice sheet could trigger a runaway collapse process known as Marine Ice Sheet Instability. If this were to occur, the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) could potentially contribute 2 to 4 meters (6.5 to 13 feet) of global sea level rise within just a few centuries."
The world's getting hotter, and it's getting more volatile. We need to start thinking about how climate change encourages conflict.
- Climate change is usually discussed in terms of how it impacts the weather, but this fails to emphasize how climate change is a "threat multiplier."
- As a threat multiplier, climate change makes already dangerous social and political situations even worse.
- Not only do we have to work to minimize the impact of climate change on our environment, but we also have to deal with how it affects human issues today.
Human beings are great at responding to imminent and visible threats. Climate change, while dire, is almost entirely the opposite: it's slow, it's pervasive, it's vague, and it's invisible. Researchers and policymakers have been trying to package climate change in a way that conveys its severity. Usually, they do so by talking about its immediate effects: rising temperature, rising sea levels, and increasingly dangerous weather.
These things are bad, make no mistake about it. But the thing that makes climate change truly dire isn't that Cape Cod will be underwater next century, that polar bears will go extinct, or that we'll have to invent new categories for future hurricanes. It's the thousands of ancillary effects — the indirect pressure that climate change puts on every person on the planet.
How a drought in the Middle East contributed to extremism in Europe
(DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Nigel Farage in front of a billboard that leverages the immigration crisis to support Brexit.
Because climate change is too big for the mind to grasp, we'll have to use a case study to talk about this. The Syrian civil war is a horrific tangle of senseless violence, but there are some primary causes we can point to. There is the longstanding conflicts between different religious sects in that country. Additionally, the Arab Spring swept Syria up in a wave of resistance against authoritarian leaders in the Middle East — unfortunately, Syrian protests were brutally squashed by Bashar Al-Assad. These, and many other factors, contributed to the start of the Syrian civil war.
One of these other factors was drought. In fact, the drought in that region — it started in 2006 — has been described as the "worst long-term drought and most severe set of crop failures since agricultural civilization began in the Fertile Crescent many millennia ago." Because of this drought, many rural Syrians could no longer support themselves. Between 2006 and 2009, an estimated 1.5 million Syrians — many of them agricultural workers and farmers — moved into the country's major cities. With this sudden mixing of different social groups in a country where classes and religious sects were already at odds with one another, tensions rose, and the increased economic instability encouraged chaos. Again, the drought didn't cause the civil war — but it sure as hell helped it along.
The ensuing flood of refugees to Europe is already a well-known story. The immigration crisis was used as a talking point in the Brexit movement to encourage Britain to leave the EU. Authoritarian or extreme-right governments and political parties have sprung up in France, Italy, Greece, Hungary, Slovenia, and other European countries, all of which have capitalized on fears of the immigration crisis.
Why climate change is a "threat multiplier"
This is why both NATO and the Pentagon have labeled climate change as a "threat multiplier." On its own, climate change doesn't cause these issues — rather, it exacerbates underlying problems in societies around the world. Think of having a heated discussion inside a slowly heating-up car.
Climate change is often discussed in terms of its domino effect: for example, higher temperatures around the world melt the icecaps, releasing methane stored in the polar ice that contributes to the rise in temperature, which both reduces available land for agriculture due to drought and makes parts of the ocean uninhabitable for different animal species, wreaking havoc on the food chain, and ultimately making food more scarce.
Maybe we should start to consider climate change's domino effect in more human and political terms. That is, in terms of the dominoes of sociopolitical events spurred on by climate change and the missing resources it gobbles up.
What the future may hold
(NASA via Getty Images)
Increasingly severe weather events will make it more difficult for nations to avoid conflict.
Part of why this is difficult to see is because climate change does not affect all countries proportionally — at least, not in a direct sense. Germanwatch, a German NGO, releases a climate change index every year to analyze exactly how badly different countries have been affected by climate change. The top five most at-risk countries are Haiti, Zimbabwe, Fiji, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. Notice that many of these places are islands, which are at the greatest risk for major storms and rising sea levels. Some island nations are even expected to literally disappear — the leaders of these nations are actively making plans to move their citizens to other countries.
But Germanwatch's climate change index is based on weather events. It does not account for the political and social instability that will likely result. The U.S. and many parts of Europe are relatively low on the index, but that is precisely why these countries will most likely need to deal with the human cost of climate change. Refugees won't go from the frying pan into the fire: they'll go to the closest, safest place available.
Many people's instinctive response to floods of immigrants is to simply make borders more restrictive. This makes sense — a nation's first duty is to its own citizens, after all. Unfortunately, people who support stronger immigration policies tend to have right-wing authoritarian tendencies. This isn't always the case, of course, but anecdotally, we can look at the governments in Europe that have stricter immigration policies. Hungary, for example, has extremely strict policies against Muslim immigrants. It's also rapidly turning into a dictatorship. The country has cracked down on media organizations and NGOs, eroded its judicial system's independence, illegalized homelessness, and banned gender studies courses.
Climate change and its sociopolitical effects, such as refugee migration, aren't some poorer country's problem. It's everyone's problem. Whether it's our food, our homes, or our rights, climate change will exact a toll on every nation on Earth. Stopping climate change, or at least reducing its impact, is vitally important. Equally important is contending with the multifaceted threats its going to throw our way.
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