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A World Without The Internet: What Would It Be Like? How Different Would Your Life Be?

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Internet after all is not without enemies…
The Internet has become the Archimedean point in our daily life. Almost nothing gets done without it nowadays. The more we rely on it, the more it seems impossible to live without it. It is undoubtedly the most reliable machine Man has ever made. However, could this blind dependence of ours in itself be a threat to mankind? Are we investing too much in this new medium that we are risking to lose too much if we ever were to live without it?

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Why is the Internet so successful? How does it invade all aspects of life? The Internet, as a matter of fact, is the only manmade machine that has an organic structure. The way everything is wired up is unbelievably complex. Seeing that it has this organic structure, it seems to fit the properties of vitalism perfectly, and all aspects of human daily life. It fits the structure of society and how people connect to each other.

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Life spreads by networking. The body itself is an information processor. Memory resides not just in brains but in every cell. No wonder genetics bloomed along with information theory. Gleick (2011:07)

Every newly added part, be it a computer or a smartphone for example, fits perfectly within the larger whole of the global network without disrupting the function of the rest of its parts, just like organic living cells. This is because “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” (Aristotle 384-22 BC). Besides, the Internet could also be seen as a virtual reduplication of society and reality as a whole. Therefore, it enjoys social compatibility. The Internet is capable of acquiring new intelligences, which is an aspect of the human brain. There is always room for improvement, but if its success is not due to its organic structure, then maybe it is due to the fact that Internet is an efficient tool that circulates, measures, organizes and processes information, boosting human knowledge. Thus, the Internet is unique for its potential to store and easily access human knowledge and above all, its promise for the ideal democracy.

Could this huge machine we call the Internet be something ephemeral in human history? Is it possible that somehow it may not be around in the near future? Most people go about their daily lives as if Internet has always been here and always will be. However, its success and mere presence are not proof of its permanence. It would be unwise to think it will always be around. Actually, we have no guarantee that it will. It is evident that it is so reliable but yet at the same time it is so vulnerable. Its destruction is a legitimate probability although there isn’t much fuss about it.

Thanks to its omnipresence, the Internet has redefined the concept of power. On one hand it has empowered the people; structured them and unified their voices. Power is no longer strictly identified by missiles and bullets, but rather by ideas and people. On the other hand, the Internet has also empowered governments. It has enabled them with new ways of censoring, controlling, and manipulating people. This makes the thousands-years-long strife between governments and citizens even more intense.

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…this has obviously empowered individuals in a broad and complex set of ways, but as our lives become more and more dependent on the internet, it has also provided governments with a single point of contact for nearly ubiquitous surveillance. Kevin Drum (2013)

The Internet plays in favor of both parties. This can make the suppressed and overpowered party, be it the citizen or government, target the very same weapon with which the one in power exerts power.  Using Egypt as an example, it is almost unthinkable to picture the Egyptian uprising without social networking. When the government awoke to the danger of the people protesting, they immediately shut down the Internet and cellphone services as a form of resistance on January 28th 2011, OECD (2013:36).

In contrast, a worldwide rage among citizens of some countries is growing over the fact that their governments are trying to sensor the Internet. Consequently, movements and organizations such as Anonymous and Wikileaks have emerged and threatened many governments as well as Internet security. The possibilities are endless to what the masses can do when they are upset, as history has shown.

It would, perhaps, be shocking for citizens of respected democratic states to discover that foreign forces were influencing their lives in small but meaningful ways. It’s a universal issue and one that is highly controversial by its nature and though its sheer audacity. Bilal Khalid (2012)

In the two given examples above, it is shown how governments and citizens alike can constitute a threat to Internet stability. It seems it is the Internet that is primarily targeted whenever one party reacts. This sort of struggle between governments and the people is not ending anytime soon, and it can, and may, have huge repercussion with the presence of the Internet in the near future if things escalated. Now, with that being said, and since globalization is pushing us towards a single one-world government, let us apply this small incident of Egypt on a larger scale. What would happen if all citizens were at odds with the governments over power?

Similarly, what if the Internet granted citizens unconditional freedom that would threaten the firm grasp governments have over their people? Wouldn’t the Internet be susceptible of being the cost of this struggle for control? Wouldn’t it be, and maybe it is, the battlefield that is at the risk of its own destruction? Weapons by nature inherently bear the seeds of their own destruction, and the Internet is being used as a weapon– a very vulnerable one. No one would care about the survival of the Internet as long as its survival intervenes with one’s own interests. Internet after all is not without enemies. The more technology advances, the more we meet those longing for antiquity and the medieval life when things used to be simple. Ultimately, if the Internet were really to be destructed, it would be destructed not despite of, but because of its success.

If the threat does not come from amongst ourselves, it can very well come from the outside. While browsing the Internet we don’t worry about what’s happening in the center of our galaxy or on the surface of the sun. Getting used to seeing the sun rises every morning at a precise and predictable time makes us forget that the earth is actually floating in a violent and brutal universe filled with random comets and asteroids. Space Weather, for example, can have great impact on the global communication system, which could potentially put the entire global connectivity at the mercy of space. Not long ago in 1998, several satellites blacked out simultaneously because of a sun flare and many services went down instantly such as web pages and TV channels. Add to that, 12 satellites so far have been lost because of space weather, ESA (2004:05).

We are affected by the sun’s mood whether we like it or not. We can be subject to a future massive solar flare just like we are subject to the sun’s rays. The most gigantic one, known as the Carrington Flare, took place in 1859. It crippled the telegraphic communication all across North America and Europe. Computer engineers and space physicists are well aware of what a solar flare the size of Carrington would do to today’s extremely vulnerable communication infrastructure.

A major solar event could theoretically melt down the whole Internet. What earthquakes, bombs, and terrorism cannot do might be accomplished in moments by a solar corona. Eagleman (2012) 

Electromagnetic storms are very common too. Quebec’s power went down in 1989 for 9 hours because of one — affecting 6 million people’s lives. The cause of this geomagnetic storm was a Coronal Mass Ejection from the sun that took place on March 9th, 1989 and did not reach earth until 4 days after. From the micro perspective, IBM estimates that there is a new software error every month in every 256 MB of computer RAM caused by cosmic rays (Ziegler and Lanford, 1979:19-40, Tom 2008) despite the earth’s magnetic shield. These cosmic rays are unstoppable charged particles with high energies originating from the depth of space or the center of the Milky Way.

Now with the increase of chips miniaturization (Moore’s law), errors are expected to increase (Tom, 2008) since electronic components will increasingly be affected by cosmic rays. Let alone the worst-case scenario if the flux of cosmic rays increased. This confirms the weak spot communication technologies have vis-à-vis outer space. The earth magnetic field, which serves as a shield that protects the earth from violent solar flares, has been weakened the past decade. This is because the earth, as some scientists believe, is at the verge of a probable pole magnetic reversal (Wicherink, 2008:150), which is not an unprecedented event in the long history of earth. Thus, the current weak magnetic field and the vulnerability of our global communication infrastructure put the Internet at a greater risk of disappearing. On-going events of space weather can be predicted but only a few days ahead, and there isn’t much we can about them.

The Internet can be damaged in different ways. If the damage is not physical it could be virtual. Cyber-warfare and cyber-terrorism aren’t fictional concepts but real ones. Because the Internet will own every bit, and because every datum is connected to one single organism, the whole thing is at the risk of disappearing in bulk and at once. One single virus might have the potential of damaging every bit connected to the gigantic web.

We are living in a digital age in which any new piece of information is primarily poured into the internet, if not born in it already, before being committed to paper. In that sense, Internet is not a bunch of wires and servers connecting people, but there is more to it than just that. The Internet has become humanity’s huge database that hosts human knowledge. It follows that whatever harms the Internet would inevitably lead to the loss of human knowledge.

Ironically, one important consequence of the shift to digital publishing is that it leads to a potential loss of knowledge. Curt Rice (2013). 

Such a horrible event is not unprecedented in human history. Civilizations, such as the antediluvian civilizations, lost a massive wealth of knowledge in the remote prehistory (Bauval and Graham, 1996). Even more recently, a similar event took place in Alexandria with the destruction of the Royal Library of Alexandria (391 AD), which was the hub of knowledge in the ancient world.

The Internet has proved to be efficient in processing and storing human knowledge, yet it hasn’t proved to be stable, permanent, or sustainable. The only reasonable way to store human knowledge is to diversify the means of storage, which is not something being seriously taken into consideration. Gathering and centralizing human knowledge into the-binary-system medium isn’t a cleaver idea. With all due respect to Claude Shannon, a backup storage with a medium of a different nature should be going in parallel; books for example.

Why are we in a state of heedlessness about the probability that the Internet may not be around in the future? Is it because we never contemplate the idea of a world without Internet although it always used to be the case? When asked the question: “What is life to you without internet?” some people responded: Life then would be “without colors,” “very slow,” “tasteless,” “lifeless,” or “I would feel locked up in a cell.” According to these sorts of reactions, which may be the case for the majority, life seems nihilistic without Internet. Is it possible that the Internet has given new meaning to life? Probably, because it seems as if the Internet has shifted from being ‘a means’ to being ‘an end’ in itself, and the slogan nowadays has become, “I am on-line therefore I am”. It seems we are putting our entire human worth and essence into a lifeless machine. Freezing all that is vital in us into ‘…01001010110…’

The Internet has empowered people; it has empowered nations, bridged gaps and brought the world together. However it is now being used to tear the world apart. Bilal Khalid (2012)

All in all, what does this change? What sort of attitude should we adopt if we were to approach Internet as something temporary in our life in particular, and in human history in general?

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This is article was originally published on Morocco World News on November 26th, 2013. It has been re-published here on Collective Evolution with the full permissions of the author Zakaria Bziker. You can view the original article by clicking HERE.

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Sources

Bauval, Robert, and Graham Hancock. Keeper of Genesis: a quest for the hidden legacy of mankind. London: Heinemann, 1996. Print.

Geomagnetic Storms Can Threaten Electric Power Grid, Earth in Space, Vol. 9, No. 7, March, 1997, pp. 9–11 (American Geophysical Union)

Gleick, James. The information: a history, a theory, a flood. New York: Pantheon Books, 2011. Print.

Moore, Gordon E. (1965). “Cramming more components onto integrated circuits” (PDF). Electronics Magazine. p. 4. Retrieved 2006-11-11.

MORRIS Meaghan Elizabeth, “Banality in Cultural Studies”, Logics of Television, Patricia Mellencamp (ed.), pp. 14 -43, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990

OECD e-government studies: Egypt 2012. Paris: OECD, 2013. Print.

Tom Simonite, Should every computer chip have a cosmic ray detector?, New Scientist, March 2008

Wicherink, J., and N. Haddon. Souls of Distortion Awakening: a convergence of science and spirituality. Eindhoven: Piramidions, 1032008. Print.

Ziegler, J.F. (Jan 1996). “Terrestrial cosmic rays”. IBM Journal of Research and Development (IBM) 40 (1): 19–40.

Extreme space weather: impacts on engineered systems and infrastructure” Royal Academy of Engineering- Prince Philip House, n.d. Web. 7 Nov. 2013.

Space Weather effect” ESA Space Weather Web Server. The European Space Agency, 1 Dec. 2004. Web. 8 Nov. 2013.

Bilal Khalid, Muhammad. “The Internet – A Tool of Power and Control.” Bertelsmann Future Challenges The Internet A Tool of Power and Control Comments. N.p., 22 June 2012. Web. 25 Oct. 2013.

Drum, Kevin. “Quote of the Day: Control Over the Internet Is the “Struggle of Our Generation“.” Motherjones.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2013.

Eagleman, David . “Four ways the Internet could go down” – CNN, n.d. Web. 12 Oct. 2013.

Rice, Curt. “How the internet can make knowledge disappear and 2 ways to stop it.” Curt Rice. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2013.

Taky Eddine, Omar. “Reflection on on-screen vs. print reading.” Morocco World News RSS. N.p., 9 Oct. 2013. Web. 9 Nov. 2013.

Oussama Bziker, Sami Alioua, Somaya Bahji, Amina Bakassi, Abdelmajid Bahimi. Interviewed by Zakaria Bziker. Kenitra, Morocco. Nov 5th, 2013.

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About The Writer
zakariaZakaria Bziker is a student at Ibn-Tofail University (Kenitra, Morocco), currently pursuing a master’s degree in Education. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in General Linguistics.

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Consciousness

The Study of Fundamental Consciousness Entering the Mainstream

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Consciousness is appearing to be a fundamental property, just like liquids, solids and gas, consciousness and its connection to the physical material world is now gaining big time credibility.

  • Reflect On:

    How much do we have yet to discover? Are we ready to abandon what we thought we knew in light of new discoveries and evidence?

The world-renowned neuroscientist Christof Koch, spent nearly two decades working alongside the co-discoverer of the DNA molecule, Francis Crick. Their mission was to find the neurobiological basis of consciousness. They discovered many insights into cognition and the functioning of perception, yet the central enigma, the nature of consciousness itself, remained mysteriously elusive.

In 2009, Koch shocked the scientific community by publishing his conviction that consciousness probably isn’t just in brains, but is a fundamental feature of reality. This is a view known to philosophers as ‘panpsychism.’ The theory Koch is now dedicating his research to is called ‘Integrated Information Theory’ or ‘IIT.’ It is the brainchild of neuroscientist Giulio Tononi of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In explaining his theory, Tononi asks us to consider a simple light sensitive photo diode like those found in a digital camera. A simple diode might respond to just two states: light or dark. We could present our diode with any number of images, yet regardless of the picture, the diode conforms to one of only two possible states. Is it light, or is it dark?

Now consider yourself looking at the same picture, lets say, of the Eiffel Tower on a beautiful spring day in Paris. For us, looking at this image results in a reduction from a near infinity of possible states. Not an image of the Andromeda galaxy, not a childhood picture of your mother, not cells dividing in a Petri dish and so on.  Because of the vast number of images we are capable of recognizing, each one is highly informative. For Tononi, the vast amount of information capable of being integrated in the brain means that we have a comparatively huge capacity for consciousness.

Tononi’s theory, that consciousness is born out of networks with high integrated information, has novel ways of being tested in the laboratory.

In studies with sleeping participants, Tononi and his colleagues used transcranial magnetic stimulation to send a ripple of activity through the cortex of sleeping participants. The researchers found that when dreaming, this ripple reverberated through the cortex longer than when participants were in stages of dreamless sleep. This demonstrated that during dreaming, when the brain is conscious, the cortex has a higher degree of integration.

In another experiment, the researchers built tiny robots known as ‘animats’ that were placed into mazes. The animats used simple integrated networks capable of evolving over sequential generations. To their surprise, the greater the degree of integration that the animats evolved, the quicker they were able to escape the mazes. For Tononi this finding suggested that consciousness may play a more central role in evolution than had previously been thought.

The mathematical value of integrated information in a network is known as phi. But Tononi’s theory, now the topic of serious mainstream discussion, has an extraordinary implication. Phi didn’t just occur in brains, -it is a property of any network with a total informational content greater than its individual parts. Every living cell, every electronic circuit, even a proton consisting of just three elementary particles have a value of phi greater than zero. According to Integrated Information Theory, all of these things possess something, albeit but a glimmer of ‘what it is like’ to be them. Tononi states:

“Consciousness is a fundamental property, like mass or charge. Wherever there is an entity with multiple states, there is some consciousness. You need a special structure to get a lot of it but consciousness is everywhere, it is a fundamental property.”

Integrated information theory is in its infancy and there are still many questions it must face. Did the information of brains operate at the level of the neuron, or the protein, or something deeper still? The electromagnetic field of the brain, as observed by psi researcher Dean Radin, is always re-establishing its quantum connection to the entire universe. Could a much richer informational interaction exist than has yet been imagined?

Physicists such as John Wheeler have laid the groundwork for a radical new understanding of reality, in which matter, the laws and constants of nature, and indeed the entire universe is best described, not in terms of physical objects, but through the play and display of a fundamental dynamic information.

Quantum mechanics suggests that at the deepest level of nature, the entire physical universe is interconnected. Might the total information of the universe be integrated in some deep sense? Is it in a mysterious way conscious of itself?

As spiritual traditions throughout the ages have long asserted, instead of isolated and separate experiencing beings, we may experience on behalf of the greater evolving system in which we find ourselves.

In Koch’s highly anticipated 2012 book, ‘Consciousness – Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist’, he states:

“I do believe that the laws of physics overwhelmingly favored the emergence of consciousness. The universe is a work in progress. Such a belief evokes jeremiads from many biologists and philosophers but the evidence from cosmology, biology and history is compelling.”

Regardless of the validity of Tononi’s theory, today increasing numbers of scientists and academics are convinced that the existence of consciousness simply cannot be sensibly denied. The study of fundamental consciousness is now entering the mainstream. This movement consists of thinkers in and outside of the mind sciences. Yet despite their different academic backgrounds, they are united by two common convictions: that consciousness is an intrinsic rather than incidental emergence in the universe, and that any complete account of reality must include an explanation of it.

 Sources:

 Koch, C. (2009, August 18). A complex theory of consciousness: Is complexity the secret to sentience, to a panpsychic view of consciousness? Scientific American.

 Tononi, G. (2008). Consciousness as integrated information: A provisional manifesto. Biological Bulletin, 215(3), 216-242.

 Edlund, J. A., Chaumont, N., Hintze, A., Koch C., Tononi G., & Adami, C. (2011). Integrated information increases with fitness in the evolution of animats. PLoS Computational Biology, 7(10).

 Radin, D. I. (2006). Entangled Minds: Extrasensory experiences in quantum reality. New York: Simon & Schuster.

 Koch, C. (2012). Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist. MIT Press Books.

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Alternative News

If You Could Power Your Entire Home With 60 Minutes Of Cycling, Would You Do It?

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Mechanical energy, converted into kinetic energy can provide the energy that we use on a regular basis to power our homes and electronic devices.

  • Reflect On:

    Rather than focusing on the current problems in our world it is great to change gears and have a look at all of the solutions that are popping up all over the world.

Imagine if your morning workout could power your home for the entire day, all the way until your next morning workout. Well, you may not have to imagine, as this technology exists now. Manoj Bhargava has invented a new exercise bike that can power some homes for 24 hours after use for only sixty minutes per day.

This invention was a part of a new initiative to bring electricity to places that undergo frequent power outages or may only have access to power for a few hours during the day. In our modern age, going without electricity can really separate a person from the rest of the world. Bhargava’s mission is to bridge the gap for those who suffer from poverty and make it easier for them to access the same information as the rest of the world, potentially giving them more opportunities in life.

The Free Electric

The above heading is also the name of this awesome and innovative bike serving as a solution to a pretty significant issue in the underdeveloped nations of the world.

According to Bhargava, the Free Electric is meant to lead to “better health, more leisure time, better access to education and opportunities for entrepreneurship.” He also feels that it could, “literally change the world.”

Power to change the world? Bold statement, but if this is able to be implemented worldwide, I would absolutely have to agree with him. This technology not only has the capacity to assist those in poverty, but can also be used by the rest of the world as well as more and more people around the world who are aiming to reduce their usee of fossil fuels. I have a feeling that Millennials (such as myself) and younger generations would be all over this if its made available! Not only is it a great way to get your cardio in, but it provides FREE electricity that produces no other pollution.

As mentioned in the video, it is also a great solution in the face of natural, or even man made disasters because this type of electricity would not rely on that generated and sold by power companies. Perhaps even one day a way to stock up and store this energy will be possible — then, the opportunities here will be much more plentiful and could be a huge factor in reducing the amount of pollution our current methods of energy production are creating.

The Future Is Friendly

As much as there is sometimes destruction all around us, there is also innovation and ingenuity. Human beings have tremendous potential. Even though there are many problems that we as a society are facing, solutions are popping up and fast, and in most cases they already exist. Finding solutions doesn’t seem to be the problem, so ask yourself, what is?  It’s so great to see ideas such as these being conceptualized and then created and put into use so efficiently, it shows how our species is capable of stopping and potentially reversing some of the destruction that we have caused over the years.

This is absolutely a double win! We are constantly bombarded with news stories and articles that are telling us to be more active, stop sitting so much, and now with the Free Electric, we will have to be active before we can relax and enjoy the use of our precious technology.

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Discover

Physicists ‘Grow’ A Man Made Diamond From Nuclear Waste That’s Able To Generate Electricity

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Scientists have developed a technology that can convert leftover radioactive materials into diamond batteries to power a wide range of electronics.

  • Reflect On:

    Could this be the solution to use op all the radioactive materials on the planet and shut down nuclear power plants worldwide?

Currently there is more than 2 billion tons of nuclear waste across the globe. This nuclear waste is a hazardous threat to the environment if not disposed of correctly. Scientists have recently begun attempting to transform nuclear waste into batteries that could last for thousands of years. If they are successful with this conversion project it would be a double win, less nuclear waste contaminating our environment, and a way to reuse energy that was generated to give power to whatever requires it.

Diamond batteries that use the energy from leftover radioactive materials have been developed and tested by researchers at the University of Bristol. They are now hoping to be able to recycle the waste leftover from decommissioned nuclear power plants in the UK. According to the University, “New technology has been developed that uses nuclear waste to generate electricity in a nuclear-powered battery….A team of physicists and chemists from the University of Bristol have grown a man-made diamond that, when placed in a radioactive field, is able to generate a small electrical current.” (source)

How Does This Work?

According to The Independent,

Carbon-14 isotopes extracted from graphite blocks produced by the plant are infused with wafer-thin diamonds to create the batteries, which researchers say are capable of providing power on a “near-infinite basis”.

Potential applications range from powering hearing aids and pacemakers, to extending the range of spacecraft to distances much further than are currently possible.

“Eventually, a highly powerful version of a diamond battery could power a mobile phone,” James Barker, from the University of Bristol’s Faculty of Engineering, told The Independent.

“Primarily though, they are best for devices requiring long lifetime, low power and where it is difficult to replace energy sources.”

In order to make these diamond batteries safe for medical and consumer use they are encased in a non-radioactive diamond layer, which will absorb any radiation given off by the C14 source.

According to the University,

Unlike the majority of electricity-generation technologies, which use energy to move a magnet through a coil of wire to generate a current, the man-made diamond is able to produce a charge simply by being placed in close proximity to a radioactive source.

Tom Scott, Professor in Materials in the University’s Interface Analysis Centre and a member of the Cabot Institute, said: “There are no moving parts involved, no emissions generated and no maintenance required, just direct electricity generation.  By encapsulating radioactive material inside diamonds, we turn a long-term problem of nuclear waste into a nuclear-powered battery and a long-term supply of clean energy.”

Could This Be The Solution We’ve Been Searching For?

“The ultimate aim is to have a factory based at one of the former power stations in the South West that takes Carbon-14 isotopes directly from the graphite blocks for use in diamond batteries. This would significantly reduce the radioactivity of the remaining material, making it easier and safer to manage,” said Professor Tom Scott, director of the South West Nuclear Hub.

“With the majority of the UK’s nuclear power plants set to go offline in the next 10-15 years this presents a huge opportunity to recycle a large amount of material to generate power for so many great uses.”

Time will tell how effective this method that scientists have come up with will be able to be implemented worldwide, but if it is, just imagine the implications of what this technology could represent.

Is It Time To Move Away From Nuclear Energy?

You’d think since the Fukushima disaster there would be a worldwide agreement for countries to stop generating power from nuclear reactors and to safely shut down these plants. Nuclear disasters have devastating effects on our planet and all of it’s inhabitants, recovery from such accidents can take tens of thousands of years to lose their hazardous radioactivity. Take the Chernobyl disaster that occurred in 1986 and is now contained under a metal shell, this site will likely remain radioactive for up to 20,000 years.

Instead of waiting for these disasters to occur, shouldn’t we be safely dismantling these sites before any more devastating disasters occur? Thankfully many countries are vowing to shut down their nuclear power plants and we can only hope that the rest of the world will follow suit.

The Future Is Here

There are so many amazing technologies that have the capacity to revolutionize the way we use energy on this planet. Of course many of those are hidden from us, especially if they cannot be in some way profited from, and unfortunately as it seems, if they don’t exploit the environment and our resources in some way.

As innovative ideas abound and technology continues to rapidly develop, we have to assume that safer and more innovative means of producing electricity will be uncovered. Hopefully these technologies will also have the capacity to undo some of the damage that we have done to our planet.

At the end of the day, using nuclear energy is not needed anymore, and in reality nuclear waste should not even exist at this point in our development as a collective.

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