Wednesday, June 29, 2005

I managed to make it through 3/4 of the vendor hall yesterday and found some interesting new products that I think will be of interest to you. I’ll be describing them in the upcoming Summer Blockbuster VITALNews.

Now, I am listening to Joel Barker, author of Five Regions of the Future: Preparing Your Business for Tomorrow’s Technology Revolution. The ballroom here in the Pennsylvania Convention Center is packed. He just described his definition of technology and it sounds a lot like mine: technology is used to solve problems. But he also maintains that we currently have more solutions than problems and most of those solutions are technology related.

His essential theory is that technology falls into five regions or categories. He calls these regions TechnEcologies, each offering a positive vision of the future even though each is very different. He believes he has created a new paradigm for how technology is developed and evolves. Each region has four rules.

Super Tech: This is the best known region which has dominated the 20th century. The remote control is the Super Tech icon because it makes our lives easier. In addition, the Super Techers believes that we have a superabundance of everything including energy:
  • Tar Sands
  • Undersea methane hydrates
  • Satellite solar power
  • Fusion Power
In addition, these future looking people are looking for a way for us to move beyond Mother Nature with our inventions including staircases to the stars, super SUVS, and robots to do the work.

Limits Tech: He uses Rachel Carson as an example of the limits person. Limits to Growth was the first simulation. These people are the opposite of the Super Tech because they do not believe in superabundance or the promise of technology. We have wasted energy and now we need to start thinking about preserving.
  • Negawatts/conservation
  • Aerogel insulation
  • LED lights
The limits people are mostly concerned about population and resource savings. They look for ways to use technology to preserve. For instance, using satellites for communication is efficient because it doesn’t require pulling wires. The limits people want to use large array computer simulations that can help us make careful decisions.

Local Tech: Tangential to the Super and Limits because it believes there is enough in the world. Joel Schumacher is the auhor of the region. “Small and local is beautiful.” When this is applied to energy, then we choose that energy to which we have access:
  • Windmills
  • Wave Power
  • Solar Power
  • Geothermal
He points out that the Segways did not catch on because while they are a local tech, the creators tried to sell them to Super Tech people. He points to Denmark, Karala, India, and Mondragon Spain as places where local tech is being used.

Nature Tech: All human needs can be fulfilled using Nature’s systems. Our job is to find them rather than inventing new things. One rule of this system is that our work is to learn to live well with nature. He gives the example of agriculture: when we started farming, nature became the enemy. His energy examples include ethanol, hydrogen producing bacteria, and the diesel tree in the rainforest that produces sap that can run diesel engines. In addition, he gives examples of caffeine as an insecticide. This is the most likely to split into two categories.

Human Tech: This region lays underneath the other four. It is the ocean and the other four are islands in that ocean. It is what we humans are born with. In this region, mother’s milk and enthusiasm are the energies he describes.

There is a category called Universal Technologies. Each region uses these technologies in different ways.

What about creating a hybrid world that pulls from each region? He and his co-author tried to find hybrid ecosystems on the planet and they found that nature doesn’t do that. However, he believes that you could create a simulation to see how different regions would work together.

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