How Solar Can Benefit Emerging Economies

More homeowners and commercial enterprises are realizing solar energy is no longer just an alternative to the status-quo but the power of the future—and we at Modernize agree. For developing nations, the use of renewable energy is about creating an energy democracy. By taking advantage of the adaptability, low cost, and portability of solar systems, emerging nations across the globe can access agricultural innovations, health care, education, and clean water.

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Agricultural Advantages

Nearly all of the almost two billion people around the world without electricity live in sub-Saharan Africa, subsisting on livestock and often meager crops. Grid expansion concerns have prevented any realistic implementation of electric fencing or irrigation systems, but their solar-powered counterparts now offer a solution to combating droughts and crop- and livestock-destroying pests. Once agricultural products have been harvested, solar power can be used to dehydration and refrigeration it in order to avoid waste and reduce health concerns associated with unsound food products. Solar-powered ovens allow cooking without the need for carbon-producing fuels, which is especially important for poorly ventilated indoor spaces.

Access to Health Care

Many people who live in emerging economies lack even basic health care, for a variety of reasons—even regions assisted by nonprofit organizations struggle with a lack of resources to power vital equipment. The World Health Organization (WHO) asserts only one in four clinics in sub-Saharan Africa is equipped with electricity, and those were mostly unreliable systems due to grid outages and political conflict. Across Haiti, clinics and labs are largely dependent on dangerous and natural resource-draining diesel generators. Consistent power sources are essential to keeping medical equipment sterilized and medications and vaccines stored properly. In the neediest areas, solar energy would provide care as fundamental as proper lighting for treatment. Since 2009, We Care Solar has provided “solar suitcases” to midwives and healthcare officials in remote regions across the globe with enough solar-powered equipment, including medical-grade lighting and blood bank refrigeration, to perform even a Caesarean birth.

Closing the Gap

Even the most dedicated teacher can’t overcome all obstacles. Areas with emerging formal educational systems are often dependent on outdated textbooks, and even basic supplies like pencils and paper get expensive—and these traditional tools aren’t the greenest choice. Organizations like One Laptop per Child (OLPC) have long been providing educational technology to underprivileged areas to reduce waste and ensure students are able to access up-to-date information. But laptops and tablets require charging, and areas without access to electricity are denied the very access many organizations hoped to provide. Renewable solar electricity allows people living in remote or disadvantaged regions to power up in a digital world and engage in today’s job and educational markets. Microfinancing has the potential to help entrepreneurs in developing economies, but without access to communications technology, this point is moot. Solar WiFi is even becoming available, thanks to a nonprofit called GreenWiFi.

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Clean Water

Almost nine hundred million people in the world live without access to clean water. Campaigns to provide bottled water have either been riddled with scandal, greed, inefficiency, or a combination of the three. Water collection often falls to women, who spend hours gathering water that isn’t even clean. Simply boiling water doesn’t destroy dangerous particles of debris and requires a dependable heat source. Although solar disinfection was developed in the 1980s, it was some time before reliable, larger-scale systems became available for personal and commercial use. But the Watly machine—currently being tested in Ghana in sub-Saharan Africa, where thirty-nine percent of people live without clean water—may be just what the world has needed. The system captures solar energy through photovoltaic panels, which then powers an intensive water filtration system, providing nearly fifteen hundred gallons per day, in addition to providing a charging station for electronics and WiFi within a half-mile radius. In addition to providing basic needs, the company predicts that just the process of installation of the machine across Africa alone could create over fifty thousand jobs.

The ball is rolling to increase renewable energy sources for developing nations, and with careful implementation and local ownership, the economies of these regions will benefit as much as its individual citizens.

Guest article by Kelley Walters

Meat without murder. Great idea, terrible name.

We were introduced to the world’s first lab grown beef burger in 2013. But since then, extreme progress has been made in improving the process and cutting the costs of producing these stem cell burgers meaning that mass production may soon become a viable option, since the first lab grown burger had a price tag of $325k, price per lb is now $5k, and this will continue to fall.

Worldwide number cows could be halved as early as 2018, claims Ramat Gan of the Modern Agriculture Foundation.

However, the “meat without murder” hook only touches on a small proportion of what this new fantastical meat production can mean for the environmental impact. An independent study found that lab-grown beef uses 45% less energy than the average global representative figure for farming cattle. It also produces 96% fewer greenhouse gas emissions and requires 99% less land.

Eat green

The sustainability of what could turn a hugely inefficient and resource heavy industry is a factor that is hard to put figures to. But as deforestation continues to make room for cattle, drought from deforestation continues, greenhouse gas emmissions from livestock and transportation continue, we take a bizarre cognitive dissonance as to how bad for the environment eating meat can actually be.

With a focus on localisation of these ‘factories’, powered by renewable energy and the food miles reduced, the industry can become environmentally friendly over-night.

The losers

Whilst the current narrative focusses on the ethical benefit of being able to stop slaughtering animals, (40 billion animals a year according to Vegetarian Times) other industries will invariably lose out as in reality, very little of the animal is wasted. With contributions to other market sectors such as clothing, cosmetics, fuel and others are still going to be reliant on the real thing, demand for livestock is not likely to drop by much too soon.

So whilst everyone is talking about how we won’t need to slaughter what are sentient and cognitively agile creatures, we should also consider how eating “lab grown” meat is probably going to be one of the most environmentally friendly breakthroughs we have ever had.

So as China plan to mass produce animals for consumption by cloning, lab grown meat will be a welcome addition to the local supermarket.

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Do Unto Others Before they Do Unto You

Capitalism and competition and our innate need for more than what we have is what is built into our biology. Since our early cavemen days of hunting for food and fighting for shelter, we have selfishly held onto our assets with very minimal worry about how others are affected.

Greed is a survival tactic in our current society and that is what is causing there to be a huge disparity in the distribution of wealth and leaves us fighting a huge on-going conflict between what is moral vs what is legal vs what we need. And these problems are only multiplied the more powerful you get.

A competition-based society is all about doing unto others before they do unto you. The more ruthless and grasping you are, the more you “win”. Except, we all recognize that it’s wrong and immoral to slaughter babies for money (or rather, let babies die because they have none) and other horrible activities so we then try to make “laws” to force sanctions for people and countries to behave in the diametrically opposed way to what a competition-based approach demands.

So you have an innate, built-in requirement to be a greedy scumbag, and an externally imposed “ban” on being a greedy scumbag.

Obviously things don’t work out. They can’t, not when society and the ruling classes are at war with itself. It just so happens the more that you have, the more you can fight these laws and sanctions.

Really, there are just two ways to go – either we stop caring about the suffering of others and go all out on the competition, let the sharks eat the minnows and go with “every man for himself”, or we retool to a cooperation and sharing-based approach to society where giving everyone a good life of freedom and guaranteed access to resources no longer even requires laws to try to make people act in ways that are entirely conflicting with how society actually functions.

A law or ban is in itself an admission that you’ve failed to solve the problem and just go, much like a beleaguered parent “because I said so, that’s why!”

Change starts within ourselves and if ideas and memes of positivity and caring could spread as easily as a celebrity nipple slip, we might one day be able to fix the world and all the problems therein.

Autonomous Weapons & Artificial Intelligence

When we think about autonomous weapons and artificial intelligence we will often talk about Terminator and Skynet and all the other highly glamorised killing machines portrayed by film and media, but in light of the recent combined letter from more than 1000 experts, we will look to explore exactly what these experts mean by autonomous weapons and the applications behind them.

forget terminators, expect weaponised autonomous quadcopters
forget terminators, expect weaponised autonomous quadcopters

We explored the difference between the different types of AI, Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI) which specialises in one job, Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) that looks a lot like human intelligence with ability to plan, learn and comprehend complex ideas, and Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI) which demonstrates an intelligence many hundred times more powerful than ours, we don’t know how this type of intelligence will manifest itself.

When we consider which of these level of super intelligence could be brought into an autonomous machine, we are coming very close to, if not past the point, where computer processing power can be attached to a vehicle with imaging software and ballistic to be sent out to ‘hunt’ anything that it is programmed to identify.

Realistically, we aren’t waiting for full bodied androids to roam around before they can be weaponised, and this is the point that thousands of AI and robotics experts, Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Wozniak and philosophers such as Chomsky are putting across in their open letter to world leaders.

The precedent that this could potentially send is that these can and will be able to be produced cheaply and on a huge scale. The implications and possibilities surrounding what these could potentially achieve is stated in the letter as they go on to describe autonomous weapons such as these as the “Kalashnikovs of tomorrow,” warning that “it will only be a matter of time until they appear on the black market and in the hands of terrorists, dictators wishing to better control their populace, warlords wishing to perpetrate ethnic cleansing, etc. Autonomous weapons are ideal for tasks such as assassinations, destabilizing nations, subduing populations and selectively killing a particular ethnic group.”

There are obvious and catastrophic repercussions that could unfold if the worlds military powers push ahead with autonomous weapon development, the letter concludes and proposes and outright ban on autonomous weapons, whilst also being careful to highlight the benefits that AI could have on humanity.

“We believe that an AI has great potential to benefit humanity in many ways, and that the goal of the field should be to do so. Starting a military AI arms race is a bad idea, and should be prevented by a ban on offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control.”

Again, the importance between different levels of intelligence is a key factor here, and it is still likely that any “autonomous machines” are created with the idea that a human is at some point in control of the final kill switch, they are still going to be as “effective” as if they were controlled by artificial intelligence.

There are very positive routes that can be travelled down through artificial intelligence and obviously very negative routes, but something that always needs to be remembered is development of weapons is a constant and as long as companies such as DARPA continue to research artificial intelligence, the two paths are likely to conjoin at some point in the future.

We commend Stephen Hawking and the Future of Life institute for putting this letter together, and we can hope for an international treaty in similar vein to the Chemical Weapons Treaty, which many states signed to not use chemical weapons, but the effectiveness, profitability and precision in targeting that Autonomous Weapons will have, may be too large of a draw for states to join.

Motivating Workers in an Automated Environment

The automated work environment has been around since the 1800s. We have the industrial revolution to thank for market growth and new markets emerging. Of course, a lot has changed since then. One thing that remains is that routine, control and specialisation are still key within the manual process in achieving efficiency. Autonomous jobs nowadays include factory machine workers and assembly operators, working  repetitive days in a call centre and fast food restaurant staff. Day after day of these kind of situations can result in struggle and sabotage impairing the workers themselves and the rest of the organisation as a knock-on effect.

In these automated environments, efficiency means choosing the best way to reach the means of a given end. A well defined and standardised process that must be followed. Of course this means that customers are able to obtain what they need easily and speedily but for those involved in the workplace, it can be hard to perform this intense and homogenised labour without feeling dehumanised. Often the tasks the workers are performing are simple and do not require a lot of thought. Predictable work to make more or less identical products is likely to be demotivating and cause workers to become, at the very least, very bored.

Motivation Matters

Motivation grows from a combination of needs that influence behaviour. Performance motivation is needed in order to activate skills, experiences, talents and creative energies in order to reach company goals. There is no definitive  technique for developing motivation, as just like everything else in life there is no method that works for everyone in every situation. Instead, attempts at building motivation should be adapted to fit the circumstances.

Motivation can be influenced by personal or situational factors and not only do these vary from person to person but also are likely to alter with changes in personal, social or other factors. As well as this, how much a person feels connected to business objectives.

Why is Low Motivation Common in an Automated Work Environment?

  • Too much routine
  • Lack of development opportunities
  • No challenges

Because of these factors it may team that short term, extrinsic stimulants for motivation may seem like the only option. By extrinsic, we mean money. If you decide that this is the way that you want to go forward, these rewards need to be encouraged in a specific way. Either outline exactly what needs to be done for a bonus to be achieved or introduce rewards independent of specific tasks. Unexpected monetary rewards may also be appreciated.

Motivate through Company Culture

The goals, values, beliefs and assumptions of the organisation lead to structures becoming codified and systems/processes established to guide organisational behaviour. Success and efficiency is then measured as a perception of the organisational climate. To define, climate is the sense of what is important in a company.

Climate is difficult in organisations such as service firms where an automated environment is the basis of the day of many workers. Obviously, particular service providing values must be within the culture of the company. For the company to be successful, the widespread view is that the customers are the most important within the organisation.

Alongside this view, there is some scope to allow workers more accountability and responsibility. With this, may come motivation and also the ability to be accountable and take credit or criticism for workers own actions.

Implementing Positive Company Culture

In a large organisation, there is likely to already be a positive company culture enforced. However, this may not reach those doing necessary automated jobs as they are often separated from the rest of the organisation. All workers do differ and need different types of attention to be motivated to keep up with the speed and efficiency that is needed in an automated environment. Task significance is important to establish. Show employees the link between the work and the customers and this can lead to feelings of meaningfulness.

Responsibility can Increase Motivation

Responsibility is a factor in increasing motivation intrinsically. Four factors can help employees feel more responsible for their own actions:

  • Clarity – By clearly defining job roles and introducing clear objectives with regular, adequate feedback.
  • Task Completion – Often automated work environments don’t allow employees to see the results of a completed product or result. Job responsibilities are fragmented parts of the bigger picture.
  • Task Significance – If the work feels even slightly meaningful and worthwhile it can lead to increased responsibility.
  • Autonomy – By giving workers freedom and independence in scheduling this will help them to feel it is up to them and not somebody else.

Overall, letting workers feel they have responsibility is crucial despite the fact they can little deviate from the standardised methods. If possible, also broaden the specialised work by adding different related tasks to activities that already exist. Most personality styles will appreciate the ability to choose and participate which will increase commitment and motivation. This minimises the feelings of being used by the system. Appreciation breeds positive concepts of the self and meets needs for self actualisation, growth and achievement.

Managing Autonomy

As with any other employees, people in autonomous industries will want to be managed in different ways, according to their working personality style. Some will look to a charismatic, outwardly happy and caring person. Others want and need someone that is a distinct leader, rather than a friend type. Regardless of this, good managers know that relevant  information about the company as a whole needs to be shared with all workers. Likewise, feedback needs to be given not only on performance but on the bigger picture of the organisation so that workers can see their impact and feel appreciated thus more likely to be motivated.

 

Author Bio:

Laura Morrissey is a writer for Everything Disc. She shares tips for both employers and employees in working to the best of their ability together. Her specialist areas are motivation and team building.

How Home Automation is Turning Us Into the Jetsons By Guest Author Tim Smith

Even for a fictional cartoon family, the Jetsons seemed to have it all: a robotic maid, impossibly thin televisions, video calls, favourite foods at the push of a button. Watching with wide eyes and a heavy heart, never in our wildest dreams could we imagine living in a Jetsons world. However, it would appear that there’s not much left the Jetson family had that we don’t have today in one form or another. Home automation technology is quickly bringing us into the future and the smart home revolution shows no sign of slowing down. Here’s some home automation tech that’s turning us into the Jetsons.

A Modern Robotic Maid

Via Pretty Organized
Via Pretty Organized

It may not be the conversationalist or the sarcastic nurturer that Rosie was for the Jetson family, but we do have a robotic maid in the iRobot Roomba, the automated robotic vacuum cleaner. Like Rosie, Roomba isn’t a tool you use to clean like a broom or a mop. Set Roomba on a schedule or push the “Clean” button and let Roomba do what Roombas — and Rosies — do best. There’s no need to worry about keep Rooma charged because it docks itself to charge when the job is done. Plus Roomba alerts you whenever the bin needs cleaned out. We can only hope that future versions will be able to change diapers and do laundry too. Click here for more info on the best robot vacuums available!

Jetson-Like Electronic Doors

We might not be at the point of having doors in our homes that automatically open and close as we approach, but we’re ebbing ever closer. Our current technology affords us remote control of our doors’ deadbolts. Electronic deadbolts like the Kwikset Kevo and the August Smart Lock allow you to lock or unlock your door from anywhere via the app. Instead of a standard key, your smartphone becomes an electronic key, or eKey. While it’s not quite the same level of automation as the tubes and automatic doors that we saw George Jetson use as he came home from work, the automated door locks available now are certainly a step in that direction.

Futuristic Smart Fridge

The Jetson family had a fridge of sorts, but instead of storing ingredients they’d hit a few buttons and out would pop their desired confections. We’re not quite to that level of technological sophistication — though at the rate that our technology is advancing, it probably won’t be long — but we do have something that admittedly far less satisfying.

The most recent models of smart refrigerators not only store food, but are aware of what foods they store. Whether you’re interacting with the accompanying app or the 8-inch touchscreen embedded in the door, smart fridges like the Samsung 4-door smart fridge can tell you how fresh your produce is, whether you’re due to buy another gallon of milk, and what ingredients you need to pick up for tonight’s dinner. Although access to social media and apps like Pandora come as a standard, the advanced smart fridges of our time have some incredibly advanced, convenient features despite falling short of Jetsons-level functionality… for now.

Home automation is without a doubt the future! Click here to get more ideas and inspiration from the Modernize.com home automation idea section!

Decentralisation and Disintermediation

When looking at futurology, it is easy to get caught up in the world of super AI, flying cars, mega cities, but the overlying trend of the 21st Century is one of Decentralization & Disintermediation – this is the trend that is underpinning all the others and seems to be the most fascinating of all.

The internet has been the key driver to this, our first decentralised utility, and almost everything the internet touches it starts to change under their influence; knowledge (in it’s broadest sense) used to be under the control of traditional gate-keepers that used to pick and choose what came to light and what people would learn – newspapers, libraries, universities, music industry, etc – knowledge has become available to all that choose to read it.

Iif you follow through, as a train of thought, Decentralization & Disintermediationhas a whole range of effects on upcoming technological advancements and change – decentralized energy production is already becoming more commonplace with the improving of solar panels and coming off the grid, decentralized industrial production through accessible 3D printing and potentially nano printers, cheap decentralized education and healthcare (think MOOC’s/Khan Academy & AI Doctors such as Watson), decentralized money (think one of the many blockchain currencies) – everything points to the days of all powerful centralized states being in the past.

The fading of importance of centralization & centralized bodies in our lives will be one of the defining features of the 21st century.

It is how the current powers rise up to retain their centralized power which is going to be the key, they won’t be able to hold onto their power forever.

Accept Crypto Currencies on your Site!

A lot can be said about the worlds fiat money systems, and a lot more has been spoken about Bitcoin and other crypto currencies as the future of currency. Much more will be discussed here at AlternativeMindsets or over on our Facebook page about the benefits of crypto currencies, but now is not the time.

A friend said to me the other day, “what’s the point in all these currencies if you can’t buy anything with them” and apart from reeling off a number of internet shops and a couple high street ones too, it still had little impact. So until more and more internet sites start to integrate a crypto currency payment gateway, then it is going to be a case where people hoard their bitcoin and wait for the next price rush to sell it off. That helps no one, and instead we should start to use it as a currency.

You can start by implementing a crypto currency payment system on your own e-commerce site. It’s really simple to do so, just go over to GoCoin and you can implement with a number of different e-commerce platforms.

gocoin

The sheer number of different platforms now able to accept Bitcoin is staggering and it is only going to grow larger and larger as more and more people start to favour a decentralised system and one that puts the power back into the individual rather than the corporation.

Don’t be threatened by these new technologies, they are the future, and the future is going to be a great place.

Automation vs Job Creation

The economic impact of ensuring a healthy and productive workforce and a low unemployment rate provides is obvious to a countries GDP. But large corporations are hitting a fork in the road where automation and job creation may not work hand in hand.

It is no longer a system only for the assembly line, but many jobs with the service are at risk of being replaced with automation.

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Most of us in the West live under a capitalist system which demands that everyone have work, or be excluded from basic necessities like food and housing.

The argument is that in the not-so-distant future, we will see more and more jobs vanish to companies choosing automation of employment, and if you were faced with the decision over a worker that is error prone, can get ill, may make inconsistent judgements and many more, compared to a completely consistent, loyal worker ‘robot’ that never gets sick or tired, doesn’t require payment, only servicing a couple times a year. The answer is obvious. The jobs will be automated.

Of course, the service sector will grow and absorb some of these displaced people, but not all of them. Even the service sector will see automation, even McDonalds and banks such as Barclays are looking to introduce automation into their day to day operations.

So we are presented with a problem. We will very soon have structural unemployment at levels higher than a capitalist system can tolerate. Indeed, its already beginning. The resulting economic inequity will cause political friction in the form of “class warfare,” as it is termed, this recent study by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission warns that the UK is on the brink of becoming a permanently divided society.

Shortly after the 2nd industrial revolution we saw automation of the agriculture, and further automation in the manufacturing industry. However, after some time, the service sector exploded from a meagre few percent to more than half of all employment. This created more jobs free of automation, and allowed capitalism to continue.

The changing structure of employment during economic development
The changing structure of employment during economic development

But are we going to see the same thing happen again, where are the jobs going to come from? Are they going to move back in to agricultural or manufacturing? One of the big arguments is that with this upcoming round of automation that there is going to be a huge gap in what type of jobs are going to be created.

Speculating which jobs are going to remain is going to take a whole lot of deeper thinking.

CGP Grey takes a harrowing look at the future of jobs in his video, Humans Need Not Apply. Discuss below.