27 results for “Save The Humans”

The world’s plastic problem is bigger than the ocean

Christopher J. Preston
December 10th 2018

As you read this, a strange object that looks like a 2,000-foot floating pool noodle is drifting slowly through the central north Pacific Ocean. This object is designed to solve an enormous environmental problem. But in so doing, it brings attention to a number of others.…

Internship at Next Nature Network

NextNature.net
November 3rd 2017

To all students! It's that time of the year again. We have six wonderful intern positions opening up in February 2018. Six! From editorial talent to design heroes to marketing geniuses to software wizards, to name a few. Is your name among these disciples? Apply now and learn how to love the future!…

Robotization Makes Work More Human

Van Mensvoort
October 19th 2017
Imagine being 16 and studying for a job that soon won't exist. What kind of future is that? New occupations will come thanks to robotization.

The Robots Are Coming!

Van Mensvoort
October 16th 2017
Robots are getting stronger and smarter every day. They are taking over our whole lives. How long will I have my job before a robot steals it?

Letter to Humanity

Van Mensvoort
April 22nd 2017
NNN director Koert van Mensvoort writes a letter to humanity.

Happy Earth Day!

NextNature.net
April 22nd 2017
Today we celebrate Earth day, here is why.

Van Mensvoort Writes a Letter to Humanity

NextNature.net
April 18th 2017
On the occasion of the Earth Day, 22 April 2017, philosopher Koert van Mensvoort wrote his Letter to Humanity.

Drone Hits Crash Test Dummy for Your Safety

Ruben Baart
February 6th 2017
Researchers at Virginia Tech are studying the risk of injury from a drone collision by hitting a crash test dummy in the head.

“Death School” to Learn Love Life Again

Monika Kozub
November 22nd 2016
At Hyowon Healing Centre in Seoul you can experience the emotional cost of a suicide during "Death School" classes.

Cellphones Go Feral

Alejandro Alvarez
November 7th 2016
After reports of Samsung phones causing serious damage, plane delays and even hospitalization, the company made a first recall. However, the new phones were still bursting into flames.
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As you read this, a strange object that looks like a 2,000-foot floating pool noodle is drifting slowly through the central north Pacific Ocean. This object is designed to solve an enormous environmental problem. But in so doing, it brings attention to a number of others.

There are an estimated five trillion pieces of plastic floating on and in the world’s oceans. The massive pool noodle will move through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, driven by the wind and currents and picking up the plastic it encounters along the way. Ocean Cleanup, the organization that developed the device, promises “the largest cleanup in history.”

If it works, the device – blandly named System 001 – could make a dent in the enormous amount of ocean-borne plastic. But once that plastic is collected the options are not good.

That’s where an environmental ethicist like me starts thinking about where this plastic will end up next. The ocean is better off without it, of course, but the plastic problem has many more layers than it first appears.

The struggle of sorting

Recycling plastic is only possible if it can be meticulously separated into its various chemical types. What people generally describe with the single word “plastic” encompasses seven main types of materials – the ones used to make soda bottles, trash bags, cling wrap, shopping bags, yogurt containers, fishing nets, foam insulation, and non-metal parts of many household appliances.

Recycling each of these types, which you might know by their acronyms – such as PETE, LDPE, PVC, PP and HDPE – requires a different chemical process.

That’s why many household recycling programs ask residents to sort their plastics – and why communities that let people put recyclables of all types into one big bin employ people and machines to sort it after it’s collected.

Sorting won’t be easy with the plastic in the ocean. All the different kinds of plastic are mixed up together, and some of it has been chemically and physically broken down by sunlight and wave action.

Much of it is now in tiny pieces called microplastics, suspended just below the surface. The first difficulty, but by no means the last, will be sorting all that plastic – plus seaweed, barnacles and other sea life that may have attached itself to the floating debris.

Recycling or downcycling?

Ocean Cleanup is working on how best to reprocess, and brand, the material it collects, hoping that a willing market will emerge for its uniquely sourced product.

Even if the company’s engineers and researchers can figure out how to sort it all, there are physical limitations to how useful the collected plastic will be.

The act of recycling involves grinding up materials into very small pieces before melting and reforming them. An inescapable part of that process is that every time plastic is recycled, its polymers – the long chemical sequences that provide its structure – become shorter.

Generally speaking, lighter and more flexible types of plastic can only be recycled into denser, harder materials – unless large amounts of new virgin plastic are added to the mixture.

After one or two rounds of recycling, the possibilities for reuse become very limited. At that point, the “downcycled” plastic material is formed into textiles, car bumpers or plastic lumber, none of which end up anywhere else but the landfill. The plastic becomes garbage.

Plastic composting

What if there were a way to ensure that plastic was genuinely recyclable over the long term? Most bacteria can’t degrade plastics because the polymers contain strong carbon-to-carbon chemical bonds that are different from anything bacteria evolved alongside in nature.

Fortunately, after being in the environment with human-discarded plastics for a number of decades, bacteria seem to be evolving to use this synthetic feedstock that pervades modern life.

In 2016, a team of biologists and materials scientists found a bacterium that can eat the particular type of plastic used in beverage bottles.

The bacteria turns PET plastic into more basic substances that can be remade into virgin plastics. After identifying the key enzyme in the bacteria’s plastic-digestion process, the research team went on to deliberately engineer the enzyme to make it more effective. One scholar said the engineering work has managed to “overtake evolution.”

At this point, the breakthroughs are only working in laboratory conditions and only on one of the seven types of plastics. But the idea of going beyond natural evolution is where the ears of an environmental philosopher go on alert.

Synthetic enzymes and bacteria

Discovering the plastic-eating bacterium and its enzyme took a lot of watching, waiting and testing. Evolution isn’t always quick. The findings suggest the possibility of discovering additional enzymes that work with other plastics. But they also raise the possibility of taking matters into our own hands and designing new enzymes and microbes.

Already, completely artificial proteins coded by synthetically constructed genes are acting like artificial enzymes and catalyzing reactions in cells.

One researcher claims “we can develop proteins – that would normally have taken billions of years to evolve – in a matter of months.”

In other labs, synthetic genomes built entirely out of bottles of chemicals are now capable of running bacterial cells. Entirely synthetic cells – genomes, metabolic processes, functional cellular structures and all – are thought to be only a decade away.

This coming era of synthetic biology not only promises to change what organisms can do. It threatens to change what organisms actually are.

Bacteria will no longer just be naturally occurring life forms; some, even many, of them will be purpose-built microbes constructed expressly to provide functions useful to humans, such as composting plastic. The border between life and machine will blur.

The plastics polluting the world’s oceans need to be cleaned up. Bringing them back to land would reinforce the fact that even on a global scale, it’s impossible to throw trash “away” – it just goes somewhere else for a time. But people should be very careful about what sort of technological fixes they employ.

I cannot help but see the irony of trying to solve the very real problem of too many synthetic materials littering the oceans by introducing to the world trillions of synthetically produced proteins or bacteria to clean them up.

This story is republished from The Conversation by Christopher J. Preston, Professor of Philosophy, The University of Montana under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Imagine being 16 years and discovering you're studying for a job that soon won't exist. What kind of future is that?
Although the figures on disappearing jobs are accurate in themselves, the conclusions being drawn are far too negative. Everyone talks about job losses, but we rarely hear about the new occupations that will come into being thanks to robotics and AI. This not only evinces a poor understanding of technological development; worse, it shows a serious lack of imagination with respect to the future.The elimination of jobs by new technologies is nothing new. Before the Industrial Revolution, people worked as farmers, fishers, hunters, bakers, butchers, soldiers, or lords and ladies of the manor. The vast majority of workers were involved in food production. Over the past century, however, many of these jobs have disappeared. Today, in industrialized countries just one in 50 people works as a farmer. It's no longer necessary for large numbers of people to toil in the fields for 10 hours a day – and we’re better off for it. Thanks to the wave of automation ushered in by the Industrial Revolution, today one farmer can feed 49 other humans. So what do those people do? Don’t they have jobs? Of course they do. They’re web designers, gym owners, personal coaches, community managers, game programmers, social media marketers, cybersecurity analysts. None of these job titles existed a few decades ago, and they would have been unimaginable to our great-grandparents.
If we want to survive the coming wave of automation, we’ll need to come up with new occupations for the future
The Industrial Revolution rendered our muscle power superfluous; in the 21st century, our brainpower is being computerised. If we want to survive the coming wave of automation, we’ll need to come up with new occupations for the future. In a world of smart machines, we human beings must think about what we can add, and what we wish to add. Rather than fighting the robots, we must work with them. Horses can run faster than humans, but nobody’s claiming that they’re going to make us obsolete. Just as a person riding a horse is more interesting than a race between a person and a horse, a person working with a robot is more interesting than a battle between the two.We must develop new jobs in which people and technology work together. HUBOT, the employment agency for people and robots, looks for these occupations. Imagine a mover in an exoskeleton whistling as he carries your piano outside, thanks to his motorised suit that enhances his muscle strength. Such technology would open up traditionally strenuous jobs to women and older people. Then there’s the bricklaying robot, which saves workers from having to kneel in the street. Instead, bricks are delivered to the robot, which does the hard work. It might sound futuristic, but the bricklaying robot is already on the market. And other applications are being developed. Will home care workers soon have time to chat with patients again, thanks to cleaning drones? Robotisation makes it possible. Still not convinced robots and humans can work together? Visit a Shiva physiotherapist: with four extra robot arms plus her own, she can deliver a perfect six-hand massage, human touch included.
Rather than fighting the robots, we must work with them
New technology will lead to new occupations, ones we can scarcely imagine today. Who knows – before long we could be hiring virtual reality architects to design our digital existences; digital detox coaches to help us handle the deluge of likes, apps and tweets in healthy ways; even organ designers to adapt our bodies to our wishes. Still can’t picture it? That’s understandable. Our grandparents couldn't have imagined we’d be hiring personal trainers and interior designers either. You can bet we’ll be just as surprised at the new professions our grandchildren will be practising someday. Let's prepare young people for that world.______________________________This text is translated from Dutch and was originally published in the Dutch newspaper Trouw. The article is part of the “HUBOT weeks” to contextualize our latest project HUBOT, the job agency for people and robots. Want to learn more about this project? Join NNN and we will keep you in the know! [mc4wp_form id="72385"] [post_title] => Robotization Makes Work More Human [post_excerpt] => Imagine being 16 and studying for a job that soon won't exist. What kind of future is that? New occupations will come thanks to robotization. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => robotization-makes-work-more-human [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-04-18 10:40:47 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-04-18 09:40:47 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=77876/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 77736 [post_author] => 4 [post_date] => 2017-10-16 08:47:45 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-10-16 06:47:45 [post_content] => Robots are getting stronger and smarter every day. How long will I have my job before a robot steals it? And they're taking over our families, our houses, our cars... basically, our whole lives. Visions of the future in which people are dominated by superior machines have always been with us. Sometimes they turn us into human livestock; in other scenarios, our appliances actively try to exterminate us. Though Hollywood movies usually depict robots as metal people, the reality is more subtle than that.
The machine has long since grown around us: we are living inside the robot.
For decades, robotization has been used widely to accomplish work that used to be done by people. The industrial revolution rendered human brawn redundant; now the digital revolution is computerizing cognition. This development is not only taking work off our hands, it is changing our very nature. After all, highly productive, precisely functioning machines require highly productive, precisely functioning people. As a side effect of standardization, mass production, computerization, bureaucracy and globalization, human beings have been robotized to an advanced degree. While we wait for the day when a humanoid robot will shake our hand and introduce itself as an artificial intelligence, the machine has long since grown around us: we are living inside the robot.
Why is the relationship between people and machines always painted as a confrontation, never a collaboration?
It's odd that we worry about cyber implants and complex genetic engineering technologies robbing us of our humanity when there are much simpler ways of becoming inhuman. It has to be said; sometimes it seems as if it's the people who are best at imitating systems who get awarded the highest social positions. The robots are taking over in an unexpected way. Why is the relationship between people and machines always painted as a confrontation, never a collaboration?For instance, look at chess competitions. In the 1990s, the machine was supposed to prove its intelligence by beating a human being at the game. It succeeded and these days, a grandmaster can't even win against his own phone. But we also realize that chess is a limited game that illuminates intelligence in a one-sided way. There's so much more to human beings than that. How ridiculous would it be if we staged competitions between people and horses to see which of them could run faster? People on horses make for a more interesting outcome.
It will be better if people and machines work together to build a better world.
There are differences between cognition and calculation. So let's recognize that robots aren't the same as people. Rather, they're a new species, with which we can coexist on earth just as we do with other plants and animals. Why would we become robots when we already have robots? It will be better if people and machines work together to build a better world.______________________________This text was originally published in Save the Humans! and is part of the HUBOT weeks, to contextualize our latest project HUBOT, the job agency for people and robots. Want to learn more about this project? Join NNN and we will keep you in the know! [mc4wp_form id="72385"] [post_title] => The Robots Are Coming! [post_excerpt] => Robots are getting stronger and smarter every day. They are taking over our whole lives. How long will I have my job before a robot steals it? [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-robots-are-coming [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-10-19 09:41:13 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-10-19 07:41:13 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=77736/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 73263 [post_author] => 4 [post_date] => 2017-04-22 23:00:27 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-04-22 21:00:27 [post_content] => The Letter to Humanity is addressed to all 7 billion people on Earth and available in twenty-five languages. It encourages a new perspective on the role of humanity on Earth. The letter urges humans not to be slaves or victims of technology, but to use technology to enhance humanity. Dear Humanity,It feels strange writing you a letter, I admit. Letters are generally addressed to an individual or a limited group of people. It’s unusual to write to humanity as a whole. You don’t even have a postal address, and I doubt you get much correspondence. Still, I thought it was time I wrote.Obviously, I realise I can’t possibly reach you completely – if only because humanity not only consists of every person who’s alive right now but also of everyone who’s ever lived. That’s an estimated 107 billion people. And then there are all the others who haven’t been born yet – hopefully there will be a great many of them. I’ll return to that later, but before we talk about the future, I’d like to look back.We’ve come a long way, dear humanity.No other animal has shaped its surroundings as thoroughly as you have. It started sometime around 200,000 years ago. Back then, there was no Nobel Prize for coming up with the brilliant idea of using animal skins to keep warm, or controlling fire, or inventing the spear or the shoe. All those were exceptionally clever inventions that not only enabled you to survive in your unruly original natural habitat but allowed you to shape it to your will and to dominate it.Human beings weren’t always so powerful. For long time, you were a marginal, unremarkable species located somewhere in the middle of the food chain, with no more control over your environment than gorillas, butterflies or jellyfish. You stayed alive mainly by gathering plants, catching insects, stalking small animals and eating carcasses left behind by much stronger predators, of which you lived in constant fear.
Did you know there’s more genetic variation in the average chimpanzee troop than there is among the 7 billion people living on earth today?
Did you know there’s more genetic variation in the average chimpanzee troop than there is among the 7 billion people living on earth today? Researchers believe this is because human beings once nearly became extinct and today’s entire global population descends from a few survivors. This fact compels us to be modest. Actually, it’s a miracle we’re here at all.Physically, compared to many animals, human beings are surprisingly fragile creatures. What other animal enters the world naked, screaming and relatively helpless, easy prey for any predator that comes along? A newborn lamb can walk within a few hours; it takes a human child about a year to stand on its own two feet. Other animals have specific senses, organs and reflexes that enable them to survive in specific environments, but you aren’t naturally equipped for any habitat in particular. Yet this apparent weakness has also proved to be a strength, enabling you to spread from the savannah to the North Pole, the ocean floor and the moon! That’s a unique achievement.
Some people even think you should go beyond the earth and populate the universe
Some people even think you should go beyond the earth and populate the universe. In itself, that’s a fine idea, if only to prevent your being wiped out someday when a massive meteorite hits the planet. That would be a shame. To be honest, though, I think it’s a bit early for you to seek refuge on other worlds. First, let’s try to sort out some issues on our home planet. Because it has to be said that your presence on earth has caused problems: global warming, deforestation, plastic in the oceans, ionising radiation, declining biodiversity. It’s enough to make a person depressed. It sometimes seems as if you do more harm than good!I often encounter people who believe the planet would be better off if you weren’t here at all. I hope I won’t offend you by saying this, dear humanity, but I feel obliged to tell you that there are those among us who mistrust you, look down on you with scorn, or simply dislike you because they think you’re ruining the planet. I hasten to add that I’m not one of them myself. I’ve always had trouble understanding such misanthropy, because ultimately it’s a form of self-hatred.
Where does this mistrust of humanity come from?
Where does this mistrust of humanity come from? On further investigation, I discovered that those infected with it have a particular image of humanity that is, to my mind, completely incorrect: they see it as an anti-natural species that doesn’t truly belong in romantic, beautiful, harmonic nature. I believe this is a naive prejudice that won’t help us to move forward, and we should get rid of it as soon as possible. To understand this idea, we need to start at the beginning.The earth came into being more than 4.5 billion years ago. At first, it was no more than a lonely rock in space, and it took more than a billion years before the planet’s biosphere began to form. After that, it took about 2 billion more years for the first multicellular plants to evolve. Another billion years later, during the Cambrian explosion, an entirely new kind of life form appeared on the planet: animals.
Evolution goes on
The first animals emerged on the scene 500 million years ago. We don’t know how plants, which had been around for a billion years already, felt about animals showing up. As you know, plants like to be left in peace; they don’t move much and draw sustenance from the sun and soil. Now, I don’t know what plants think, since I can’t talk to them, but it doesn’t seem impossible that they found it hectic and uncomfortable having to put up with animals all around them. Perhaps they even saw animals as unethical, not just because they were fundamentally rootless and lived at an unimaginably fast pace but more because they did something that in those days was completely new, unheard-of and abominable: animals ate plants.All things considered, the arrival of animals couldn’t have been much fun for plants. Evolution goes on, though, and while an earth populated solely by plants was fine as far as it went, it was also a bit dull, or at least less exciting than one that contained animals too (I’ll spare you a description of what it was like back when earth had no plants, only rocks, which was even more boring).
Just as the emergence of animals shook up the plant world, your arrival, too, has duly caused trouble
So, back to the role of humanity. Just as the emergence of animals shook up the plant world, your arrival, too, has duly caused trouble. Remember, you only just got here. Animals have been around more than 2,000 times as long as humans, and simple plant life more than 7,000 times as long. But I’m not saying that to compel you to modesty, because I think you’re amazing.Although you are fundamentally a species of animal, there’s something entirely unique about you, which has less to do with your physical human build – which, as I said, is less than impressive – and more with your inherent tendency to use technology. While other industrious animal species transform their surroundings – think of beaver lodges and termite mounds – none of them does it as radically as you do. I’m using the word “technology” in the broadest sense: by “technology”, I mean all the ways human thinking has an impact on the world around us – clothing, tools and cars but also roads, cities, the alphabet, digital networks, and even multinational corporations and the financial system.
Technology needs us in order to spread out and reproduce
Ever since you came into being, you’ve been building technological systems to liberate yourself from the wilful forces of nature. It started with a roof over your head that protected you from a storm and has proceeded all the way to modern medicine for treating deadly diseases. You are technological by nature. But like the fish that doesn’t know it’s wet, you tend to underestimate how intimately your life is intertwined with technology and how much it’s done for you. Look at life expectancy, for example. At the beginning of your existence, the average human couldn’t expect to live much beyond the age of 30. Partly because of high child mortality rates, you could count yourself lucky if you stuck around long enough to reproduce. From Mother Nature’s perspective, this is entirely normal. If you see a pair of ducks with a dozen ducklings swimming behind them in springtime, you shouldn’t be surprised if there are only two, or with luck maybe three, left by the end of summer.Technology is part of us, in the same way as bees and flowers have evolved to be interdependent. As bees collect nectar, they help flowers to reproduce by spreading their pollen. Human beings are dependent on technology, and vice versa. Technology needs us in order to spread out and reproduce. And humanity, what a huge help you’ve been on that score! Technology has become so omnipresent on our planet that it has ushered in a new environment, a new setting, that is transforming all life on earth. A technosphere – an ecology of interacting technologies that evolved after your arrival – has developed on top of the existing biosphere. Its impact on life on earth can hardly be underestimated and is comparable to, and perhaps even greater than, that of the emergence of animals 500 million years ago.
I can’t think of another species whose presence has sparked an entirely new evolutionary phase
From an evolutionary perspective, all this is business as usual. Nature always builds on existing levels of complexity: biology builds upon chemistry, cognition builds upon biology, calculation builds upon cognition. But from your point of view, it’s exceptional. I can’t think of another species whose presence has sparked an entirely new evolutionary phase, breaking free of a DNA-, gene- and carbon-compound-based evolution billions of years old. Just as DNA evolved from RNA, your actions have made possible a leap to non-genetic evolution in new materials, such as silicon chips. Although this wasn’t a conscious act, the consequences are no lesser for it. Your presence has transformed the face of the earth so fundamentally that the impact will still be visible millions of years from now. This is your doing, but as yet, you barely seem to realise that, much less have you been able to take a clear position toward it.Now, I understand that this is far from a simple task, if only because you, humanity, are not a single thinking being but a teeming mishmash of billions of individuals, all with their own thoughts, needs and desires, who aren’t really biologically equipped to think on a large-scale planetary level. Nevertheless, it seems to me to be the most pressing issue of the moment. You are standing at a crossroads. And that’s why I’m writing to you.
Every coevolutionary relationship runs the risk of becoming parasitic
With respect to the future, I see two possible paths along which you might develop a co-evolutionary relationship with technology: the dream path and the nightmare one. Let’s start with the nightmare. Every coevolutionary relationship – whether it’s between bees and flowers or between humans and technology – runs the risk of becoming parasitic. Parasitic relationships, in contrast to symbiotic ones, lack reciprocity. A leech, tapeworm or cuckoo gives nothing back to its host; it only takes. Could the tension we feel around technology have something to do with this? In spite of the fact that we’ve been using technology since time immemorial, because it serves us and extends our capabilities, human beings are in danger of ending up being the ones who serve technology, of becoming a means instead of an end, of becoming technology’s hosts. An example can be seen in the pharmaceutical sphere. Medication is undoubtedly a life-saving technology, but when pharmaceutical companies try to maximise their own growth figures by convincing everyone who deviates from the statistical average in any way that he or she has a disorder and needs the appropriate drug, we have to ask whether they’re truly serving humanity or just satisfying the needs of the industry and its shareholders.Where exactly is the boundary between technologies that facilitate our humanity and ones that box us in and rob us of our human potential? The ultimate spectre is that you, humanity, ultimately become nothing more than the sex organ a larger technological organism requires in order to reproduce and spread. Life forms encapsulated within larger ones can be found elsewhere in nature: for instance, think of the intestinal flora that perform various useful tasks inside our bodies. Will we soon be no more than microbes in the belly of the technological beast? At that point, humanity will no longer be an end but a means. And I don’t see that as desirable, because I’m a person, and I’m playing for team human.
I’m playing for team human
Now for the dream.The dream is that you wake up and realise being human isn’t an endpoint but a process. Technology not only alters our environment, it ultimately alters us. The changes to come will allow you to be more human than ever before. What if we used technology to magnify our best human qualities and support us in our weaknesses?We could call such technology humane, for lack of a better word. Humane technology takes human needs as its starting point. It would play to our strengths rather than rendering us superfluous. It would expand our senses rather than blunting them. It would be attuned to our instincts; it would feel natural. Humane technology would not only serve individuals but, first of all, humanity as a whole. And last but not least, it would realise the dreams we humans have about ourselves.
Listen, humanity: you were once a relatively insignificant species, but your childhood days are over
So what do you dream of? Flying like a bird? Living on the moon? Swimming like a dolphin? Communicating by sonar? Telepathy with loved ones? Equality between the sexes and races? Empathy as a sixth sense? A house that would grow with your family? Do you want to live longer? Maybe you could live forever.Listen, humanity: you were once a relatively insignificant species, but your childhood days are over. Thanks to your inventiveness and creativity, you have raised yourself up out of the mud of the savannah. You have become an evolutionary catalyst that’s transforming the face of the earth. This process is not complete. You are a hinge between the biosphere from which you sprang and the technosphere that arose after your arrival. Your behaviour affects not only your own future but the planet as a whole and all the other species who live on it. That’s no small responsibility.
Technology is humanity’s self-portrait
If you don’t think you’re equipped for this, you should have stayed in your cave. But that’s not your style. You have been technological since the day you were born. The desire to get back to nature is as understandable as it is impossible. It would not only be cowardly in the face of the unknown, it would deny your humanity. We cannot imagine the future of humanity without thinking about the future of technology. You must move forward – even though you only just got here. You’re a teenager, but it’s time to grow up. Technology is humanity’s self-portrait. It’s the materialisation of human ingenuity in the physical world. Let’s make it an artwork we can be proud of. Let’s use technology to build a more natural world and map out a path to the future that works not only for humanity but for all the other species, the planet and ultimately the universe as a whole.In closing, I’d like to ask you to do something. I’d like to invite every one of you – living and not yet born, on earth and elsewhere – to ask one simple question of every technological change that appears in your life: does this increase my humanity?
If all of us consistently opt for technology that increases our humanity, I know you’ll be OK
The answer usually won’t be black or white, yes or no. More often, it will be something like 60 percent yes, 40 percent no. And you’ll sometimes disagree with other people and have to debate the matter before you can come to an agreement. But that’s good. If all of us consistently opt for technology that increases our humanity, I know you’ll be OK. How? That remains to be seen. No one knows what human beings will be like in a million years, or whether there will even be human beings, and if so, whether I would recognise them as human. Will we accept implants? Reprogramme our DNA? Double the size of our brains? Communicate telepathically? Sprout wings? I don’t and can’t know. But my hope is that in a million years there will still be such a thing as humanity. Because as long as there’s humanity, there will be human beings.
Humanity is all of us
From the core of my humble, imperfect humanity, I wish you happiness, love and a long, exciting journey. In the anticipation that you will bring forth trillions more people.All the best,Koert van MensvoortPS Note to the individual reader: After you read this letter, please pass it along to one of your fellow humans. If you’d like to do more, you can also copy, translate, reprint and further distribute it. Humanity is all of us.www.lettertohumanity.org [post_title] => Letter to Humanity [post_excerpt] => NNN director Koert van Mensvoort writes a letter to humanity. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => letter-to-humanity [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-09-28 10:19:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-09-28 09:19:16 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=73263/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 73610 [post_author] => 367 [post_date] => 2017-04-22 10:00:03 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-04-22 08:00:03 [post_content] => Today we globally celebrate Earth Day. What better occasion to read and share the Letter to Humanity written for all of us by NNN director Koert van Mensvoort? Humanity is at a crossroads, there are two paths along which our relationship with technology can develop: a dream or a nightmare. That's why the Letter to Humanity urges us, humans, not to be slaves or victims of our own technology, but rather to use it to enhance our life on this planet.US Senator Gaylord Nelson initially introduced Earth Day day in 1970 to protest an oil spill in California. Today it is about the relationship between man, nature and technology, as technology is becoming a nature of its own. Until date, Earth Day is among the most widely celebrated eco-events across the world. Acknowledged in 192 countries, today it focuses on creating awareness about our planet and demonstrating support for environmental protection. It's a day to celebrate our planet, that despite all the differences between people, we still share.For NNN this day is the opportunity to spread the Letter to Humanity. Because after all, humanity is all of us. Read, share and inspire via #lettertohumanity or visit lettertohumanity.org. If you'd like to do more, you can also copy, translate and further distribute the letter, or write your personal one! [post_title] => Happy Earth Day! [post_excerpt] => Today we celebrate Earth day, here is why. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => happy-earth-day [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-04-21 10:29:53 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-04-21 08:29:53 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=73610/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 73512 [post_author] => 367 [post_date] => 2017-04-18 12:00:41 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-04-18 10:00:41 [post_content] => On the occasion of the Earth Day, 22 April 2017, NNN director Koert van Mensvoort will share his Letter to Humanity. In the letter he urges humans not to be slaves or victims of their own technology, but instead to use technology to enhance humanity. His hope is to encourage a new perspective on the role of man on Earth. Translated in over twenty‐five languages, the Letter to Humanity is addressed to all 7 billion people on Earth. Stay tuned! [post_title] => Van Mensvoort Writes a Letter to Humanity [post_excerpt] => On the occasion of the Earth Day, 22 April 2017, philosopher Koert van Mensvoort wrote his Letter to Humanity. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => van-mensvoort-writes-letter-humanity [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-11 19:21:56 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-11 17:21:56 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=73512/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 70860 [post_author] => 873 [post_date] => 2017-02-06 15:56:50 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-02-06 14:56:50 [post_content] => Drones are becoming an integral part of our life. In the future they might control the weather, supply medicines, or maybe even become our best friends. Until that moment, we should consider developing drone regulations for our own safety. Researchers at Virginia Tech are studying the risk of injury caused by drone collision using a crash test dummy.Virginia Tech is one of the FAA-approved drone test sites that by way of biomechanics and crash test science aims to gain a better understanding to the level of injury risks when it comes to using drones in everyday settings. The Federal Aviation Administration is working to develop acceptable risk thresholds and regulate the flight of unmanned aircraft over people in certain situations.“The majority of applications would be much more effective if they weren’t restricted from operating over people, but you have to demonstrate that it can be done safely” says Mark Blanks, director of the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership“The risk of injury is very low, particularly with small aircraft. This research can mitigate those risks further. And we have the world’s best team doing it”.At the moment, it is not allowed to operate drones over people unless a special permit has been granted. By safely flying drones into the faces of crash test dummies embedded with sensors, the research team is gathering data to assist the Federal Aviation Administration in its decision-making to evaluate the risks provoked by flying quadcopters to anyone on the ground.Source: VT News [post_title] => Drone Hits Crash Test Dummy for Your Safety [post_excerpt] => Researchers at Virginia Tech are studying the risk of injury from a drone collision by hitting a crash test dummy in the head. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => drone-crash-test-dummy [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-02-06 21:58:21 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-02-06 20:58:21 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=70860/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 68603 [post_author] => 875 [post_date] => 2016-11-22 12:01:40 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-11-22 11:01:40 [post_content] => At Hyowon Healing Centre in Seoul you can experience the emotional cost of a suicide during "Death School" classes. People of all ages come to face their fear and learn how to cope with life. First you have your photo taken, then you write a farewell letter to your loved ones and finally you are closed into a wooden coffin for ten minutes. Afterwards, Jeong Yong-mun, head of the centre, addresses the participants: "You have seen what death feels like, you are alive, and you must fight!"This controversial idea is an attempt to deal with increasing number of suicides among South Koreans. The World Health Organisation reports that 28.9 among 100.000 country's citizens commit suicide. Specialists point out the probable reasons of this dramatic situation: the extreme pressure of modern life, an hyper-competitive society and the ever-growing financial burdens. The giant shift in South Korea's economy questioned the traditional lifestyle and offered no easy answers. No matter how strange the "heal-dying" method seems, there's no harm in trying, fortunately.death-school-south-koreaDeath School Participant in SeoulSource: Daily Mail [post_title] => "Death School" to Learn Love Life Again [post_excerpt] => At Hyowon Healing Centre in Seoul you can experience the emotional cost of a suicide during "Death School" classes. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => death-school-will-help-embrace-life [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-11-24 11:38:48 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-11-24 10:38:48 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=68603 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 67070 [post_author] => 874 [post_date] => 2016-11-07 11:46:09 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-11-07 09:46:09 [post_content] => In the wake of Samsung burning phones scandal, news websites promptly followed the development of the story. After reports of their flagship phone catching fire and causing serious damage, plane delays and even hospitalization, the company made a first recall to substitute the batteries with the ones of a different provider. Nevertheless, the new phones were still bursting into flames. After a second recall, a strong warning followed to urge consumers to turn off and "stop using the device”.After this The New York Times reported that Samsung would kill their phone, as it turns out the testers were incapable to reproduce the explosions in the laboratory and to pinpoint were the problem was.It's tempting to put it in a horror story perspective, with a Frankenstein made of complex electronic bits and pieces hidden in your pocket, threatening with immolation and the creator of this advanced gadget left perplexed and pushed to kill his dangerous and misunderstood creation.The incident evidences how, in order to create an advanced individual piece of technology, first a complex ecosystem of providers and fabricants must exist and work in a symbiotic way with constant communication. This last point is exactly what Samsung lacked according to an anonymous former employee who revealed that the corporate culture of the company originated a top-down workflow that impeded proper communication and forced tight deadlines coming from directors that didn't quite understood how the technologies worked.As Park Chul-Wan, former director of the Center for Advanced Batteries in Korea, said: "The Note 7 had more features and was more complex than any other phone manufactured. In a race to surpass iPhone, Samsung seems to have packed it with so much innovation it became uncontrollable". In the end, Samsung gave us another example of a second nature that became dangerous and out of control.Source: The New York Times. Image: The Verge [post_title] => Cellphones Go Feral [post_excerpt] => After reports of Samsung phones causing serious damage, plane delays and even hospitalization, the company made a first recall. However, the new phones were still bursting into flames. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => cellphones-go-feral [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-11-07 11:47:29 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-11-07 09:47:29 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=66646 [menu_order] => 2 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 ))[post_count] => 10 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 91647 [post_author] => 1858 [post_date] => 2018-12-10 12:50:27 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-12-10 11:50:27 [post_content] =>

As you read this, a strange object that looks like a 2,000-foot floating pool noodle is drifting slowly through the central north Pacific Ocean. This object is designed to solve an enormous environmental problem. But in so doing, it brings attention to a number of others.

There are an estimated five trillion pieces of plastic floating on and in the world’s oceans. The massive pool noodle will move through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, driven by the wind and currents and picking up the plastic it encounters along the way. Ocean Cleanup, the organization that developed the device, promises “the largest cleanup in history.”

If it works, the device – blandly named System 001 – could make a dent in the enormous amount of ocean-borne plastic. But once that plastic is collected the options are not good.

That’s where an environmental ethicist like me starts thinking about where this plastic will end up next. The ocean is better off without it, of course, but the plastic problem has many more layers than it first appears.

The struggle of sorting

Recycling plastic is only possible if it can be meticulously separated into its various chemical types. What people generally describe with the single word “plastic” encompasses seven main types of materials – the ones used to make soda bottles, trash bags, cling wrap, shopping bags, yogurt containers, fishing nets, foam insulation, and non-metal parts of many household appliances.

Recycling each of these types, which you might know by their acronyms – such as PETE, LDPE, PVC, PP and HDPE – requires a different chemical process.

That’s why many household recycling programs ask residents to sort their plastics – and why communities that let people put recyclables of all types into one big bin employ people and machines to sort it after it’s collected.

Sorting won’t be easy with the plastic in the ocean. All the different kinds of plastic are mixed up together, and some of it has been chemically and physically broken down by sunlight and wave action.

Much of it is now in tiny pieces called microplastics, suspended just below the surface. The first difficulty, but by no means the last, will be sorting all that plastic – plus seaweed, barnacles and other sea life that may have attached itself to the floating debris.

Recycling or downcycling?

Ocean Cleanup is working on how best to reprocess, and brand, the material it collects, hoping that a willing market will emerge for its uniquely sourced product.

Even if the company’s engineers and researchers can figure out how to sort it all, there are physical limitations to how useful the collected plastic will be.

The act of recycling involves grinding up materials into very small pieces before melting and reforming them. An inescapable part of that process is that every time plastic is recycled, its polymers – the long chemical sequences that provide its structure – become shorter.

Generally speaking, lighter and more flexible types of plastic can only be recycled into denser, harder materials – unless large amounts of new virgin plastic are added to the mixture.

After one or two rounds of recycling, the possibilities for reuse become very limited. At that point, the “downcycled” plastic material is formed into textiles, car bumpers or plastic lumber, none of which end up anywhere else but the landfill. The plastic becomes garbage.

Plastic composting

What if there were a way to ensure that plastic was genuinely recyclable over the long term? Most bacteria can’t degrade plastics because the polymers contain strong carbon-to-carbon chemical bonds that are different from anything bacteria evolved alongside in nature.

Fortunately, after being in the environment with human-discarded plastics for a number of decades, bacteria seem to be evolving to use this synthetic feedstock that pervades modern life.

In 2016, a team of biologists and materials scientists found a bacterium that can eat the particular type of plastic used in beverage bottles.

The bacteria turns PET plastic into more basic substances that can be remade into virgin plastics. After identifying the key enzyme in the bacteria’s plastic-digestion process, the research team went on to deliberately engineer the enzyme to make it more effective. One scholar said the engineering work has managed to “overtake evolution.”

At this point, the breakthroughs are only working in laboratory conditions and only on one of the seven types of plastics. But the idea of going beyond natural evolution is where the ears of an environmental philosopher go on alert.

Synthetic enzymes and bacteria

Discovering the plastic-eating bacterium and its enzyme took a lot of watching, waiting and testing. Evolution isn’t always quick. The findings suggest the possibility of discovering additional enzymes that work with other plastics. But they also raise the possibility of taking matters into our own hands and designing new enzymes and microbes.

Already, completely artificial proteins coded by synthetically constructed genes are acting like artificial enzymes and catalyzing reactions in cells.

One researcher claims “we can develop proteins – that would normally have taken billions of years to evolve – in a matter of months.”

In other labs, synthetic genomes built entirely out of bottles of chemicals are now capable of running bacterial cells. Entirely synthetic cells – genomes, metabolic processes, functional cellular structures and all – are thought to be only a decade away.

This coming era of synthetic biology not only promises to change what organisms can do. It threatens to change what organisms actually are.

Bacteria will no longer just be naturally occurring life forms; some, even many, of them will be purpose-built microbes constructed expressly to provide functions useful to humans, such as composting plastic. The border between life and machine will blur.

The plastics polluting the world’s oceans need to be cleaned up. Bringing them back to land would reinforce the fact that even on a global scale, it’s impossible to throw trash “away” – it just goes somewhere else for a time. But people should be very careful about what sort of technological fixes they employ.

I cannot help but see the irony of trying to solve the very real problem of too many synthetic materials littering the oceans by introducing to the world trillions of synthetically produced proteins or bacteria to clean them up.

This story is republished from The Conversation by Christopher J. Preston, Professor of Philosophy, The University of Montana under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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