Mark Stevenson, author of ‘An Optimist’s Tour of the Future’, is confident that things can only get better. We asked him which five future technological breakthroughs might most improve the lives of Londoners...
Like all cities built around rivers, London is at risk from rising sea levels caused by climate change. But don’t despair! Klaus Lackner of Columbia University has worked out a way to scrub CO2 cheaply and efficiently from the ambient air – and now he’s looking for $20 million to create a production prototype. He’s no flake – his biggest advocate is ‘the grandfather of climate science’, Wally Broecker. If you want to send them donations visit www.giving.columbia.edu.
Joule Biotechnologies is already using genetically altered photosynthesising bacteria to take in waste CO2, mix it with sunlight and make diesel and ethanol. Within a couple of technology generations (less than ten years) we could have carbon-neutral petrol, meaning you could drive around the Big Smoke without making big smoke.
The rocketing price-to-performance ratio we’ve seen in computing is now starting to ramp up in medicine and manufacture, thanks to nanotechnology (the branch of science dedicated to items broken down to individual molecules and atoms) which can look at matter the same way computers look at data. Similar technology heralds a stepchange in desalination, averting a threatened water crisis for London.
On average, worldwide, per capita, we’re killing each other less than we ever used to. In the UK, just 0.0006 per cent of all deaths were attributed to ‘assault’ in 2009 – a figure which doesn’t seem to live up to the image of an increasingly violent society promoted by newspaper headlines about knife and gun crime. If this trend continues, the London of the future will be the safest ever.
London’s corporations will finally come round to the fact that they’re in the same
boat as the rest of us – stewards of the planet, not the tenants abusing the landlord’s investment. Researchers have found that between 2000 and 2008 the proportion of top businesses’ mission statements that reference ethical practice has risen from three per cent to 30 per cent. Greenwash? Maybe – but it’s encouraging nonetheless.