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                                                    Future fantasy !!
 Here are some visions of the future, there are several, some good and some bad.
         (If you cover enough options, you might end up partly right!)
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1 Global warming threat
2 UV radiation kills crops
3 Computer lifeforms
4 Are we ants in a colony?
5 Is technology alive?
6 Energy use damages the ecosystem in strange ways
7 Small robots to do the agricultural work?

 Pessimists with valid dreams We might not survive.
          Some people think cheap energy is the answer to all our problems.
                      It may well be the cause of many of them

              Yoo hoo all that energy! Energy to run cars and boats and planes.
              Energy to break free of this fouled up planet.
              We might not survive.
 
  1 Global warming may be runaway. Nobody knows yet. Our demise might
              be swift if surface temperature went to say, 70 degrees centigrade,
              for a few years.
 
 2 The ozone hole is spreading over southern Chile now. I read reports
              of sheep blinded by UV in new scientist several years ago.
              UV radiation (let in through the hole) could cause massive crop
              failure worldwide (even in the US!).
              But we can grow it in greenhouses! Perhaps. Perhaps not.
 
3. Its life, Jim but not as we know it, Captain
              (These were words from star trek, spoken by an alien)
              A leading researcher with the worlds premier computer technology
              company (Sun microsystems) speculated this year that
              intelligent sentient computer life will be here in the next 20 years.
              He was frightened by the prospect. Will it be hostile? Will it be
              shared on napster? Suppose it cut your cable connection. Can you
              survive without TV? The Internet?
 
4. More life Jim, Maybe. What IS the meaning of life?
              Suppose corporations or countries are lifeforms! We (mere cells or ants) are
              never even going to recognize them as alive, are we?
              Corporations react to stimuli, compete with each other and have kind
              of brains (Boardrooms). I didn't say they were
              intelligent or had a feeling of self or consciences. Most of
              biological life isn't very smart either, but it lasted a long time.
              Corporations love shedding their cells (people!) and replacing them
              with stronger stuff.
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5. Is technology alive and absorbing us into itself? Why do people
              watch so much tv? It doesn't make them smarter, or more
              attractive. Why do motor cars (theoretically 2 to 5 person vehicles)
              almost always have 1 person in them (especially at rush hour). Is
              technology dumbing us down and drugging us into believing that it is
              working for us when the reality is the exact opposite?
6 Energy use damages the environment in many unusual ways

My personal opinion is that the ecosystem suffers collateral damage
from wasted energy.
Consider an electrical light lighting a room.
A fire is usually burning somewhere to supply that light.
A few insects get fried by it. The light in the room attracts
moths who waste their fertile hours tapping on the window.
I have cycled on a narrow hill road in Germany where the stench of
squashed toads (migrating to breed) was overpowering. (Even though the
Germans make tunnels for them).  Here in Canada, the toads have even
less chance because the roads here are a lot wider.
(The ill effects use of energy in transport)
The damage to the web of life is everywhere and some of the effects
are really subtle. I think that there is a limit somewhere.
Natures limits are soft and elastic. You can push through them for a
while but when they push back, it can be devastating.
I try to turn off  the light. By the way, there are "brown outs' in
California at the moment. Brian White
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                                  It is not all bad news
Little robot helpers  Before pesticides, grandma, the kiddies and all the family had to
              spend all their time out in the fields hoeing weeding and removing
              damaged produce. Experiments have started with small robots to do
              this work.
              The first experiments are aimed at slugs. Slugs damage wheat
              crops to a significant degree, the usual remedy is very toxic (and
              slugs are not particularly fast runners).  I have not checked back
              (the experiments are about 2 years old) but if and when it becomes
              successful, there will be clear advantages for the eco system and
              energy use.

              For instance,
 A The robots might be solar powered. If they can reliably tell the
              differences between weeds and food plants, non chemical weeding will
              become very attractive. It might end up as a system with  relatively
              static energy collector robots and smaller killer robots.  The small
              ones take their charge from the bigger ones.

  B There need be no drift of chemicals  to the wild places. The robots
              might be fenced in with sensors like those used in undersoil dog
              fences. This would be a giant step forward because most spray misses
              the target.

  C The robots would be programmable (using something like java,
              or symbian's EPOC os). A different weed infestation, a late germinating
              infestation or the need to clip off diseased leaves might require a
              tweaked program. This can be done several times during the season as
              the crop matures.

              The things would be useful at the cat or mouse size or smaller.
              The pesticide industry is a gigantic energy user. The energy savings
              might be quite dramatic and food would be safer too!
 
              Brian White
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