No one expects the machinery of progress to roll backwards, but sometimes it seems that no one is watching the speedometer (or manning the brakes, assuming any exist). Is this a fair assessment? If so, should we be worried — and what can we do about it?
In this feature, experts on technology, risk, science, policy and neuroscience discuss risk, innovation and how our values affect our conceptions of both.
Stable, nontoxic refrigerants changed the world, transforming food storage, expanding Sun Belt populations, even helping early movie theaters succeed. But they also wrecked the ozone layer — Earth’s shield against harmful ultraviolet radiation.
Today, as stockpiles dwindle — and prices rise — due to phase-outs set by the Montreal Protocols 30 years ago, the future of Freon and its successors remains in doubt.
April 2015 saw Tesla Motors’ entry into the home and industrial battery market. Thousands of pre-orders – and more than a little hype – attended the announcement, and it’s easy to see why: The promise of a cost-effective home battery, one that could make self-storage an equal or better option for solar customers than the prevailing sell-and-buyback model, could revolutionize the solar industry.
Yet some experts argue that the battery is not all it’s cracked up to be, while harsher critics accuse Tesla of using the storage cells as big green stalking horses, part of a plan to bilk taxpayers into subsidizing the company’s massive battery factory and R&D facility in Nevada. Read on as I make the connections in …
Fire is frightening and dangerous – that’s why they call it fire. So it’s a little strange that we have laws requiring us to stock canister extinguishers but not regulations requiring that we learn how, if or when to operate them. If you’re like most people, you probably don’t even know what kind of fire your extinguisher is rated for, and you likely have no idea when you last serviced or inspected the device, if ever.
Recently, a few companies have begun marketing new kinds of extinguishers, updated versions of fire grenades intended to make fighting fires as worry-free as possible. Lightweight and easy to use, they rely on the most basic of human skills: throwing. Which raises the question:
Somehow the future we get is never quite the one we were promised. Then again, sometimes the very ideas wrapped in the pages of sci-fi and Popular Science are right under our noses, in disguise. After all, we have hand-held sensor-communicators and miraculous supermaterials – they just take the rather mundane form of carbon-fiber-wrapped smartphones.
Maybe our blindness arises from our physical and electronic architecture. Has exchanging Googie buildings for Google caused us to overlook the flying-car equivalents that fill our everyday lives, or soon will? Read on.