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The Future Of Transportation: What I Learned In San Francisco

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I recently spent a month living in the hustle and bustle of San Francisco—car free. It’s a bit of a shift to go from the instant mobility of having your own car, especially a sweet little EV like my Fiat 500e, to relying on public transit, walking, and cabs and car sharing. But I have a feeling that living sans car is the big wave of the future for a lot of people, particularly those living in urban environments.

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I knew, more or less, even before I came to San Francisco, that Silicon Valley and the City are the epicenter of much of the innovation in transportation today. Living there for a month I had the chance to use and witness many of these innovations firsthand.

Is the end of the ICE (internal combustion engine) age coming soon? If San Francisco is an indication of the global future, that answer is “yes.” This article is a follow up to my article here, taking a broader look at the future of cars and electric vehicles.

So what did I learn in the big city? Let me tell you.

Battery Swapping Is Getting Closer To Reality

Better Place, an Israeli company that pioneered the battery swap idea for electric cars, unfortunately went bankrupt because it couldn’t get buy-in for its ideas soon enough. The idea of battery swaps has not, however, died, and it’s a fundamentally sound idea. The point is that rather than charging the battery in the vehicle, which can take a long time, you just swap out the battery for one that is fully charged. This process can be far faster even than filling up a gas tank in an ICE.

Tesla is now pilot testing its battery swap option at a single location in California. Given the relatively plodding pace of Tesla’s battery swap program, I’m not particularly optimistic that it will become widespread anytime soon.

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A particularly exciting new battery swap model is coming out of Taiwan. Gogoro is now offering a polished and stylish electric scooter with swappable batteries that it calls the world’s first “smartscooter.” It started selling these scooters in Taiwan this summer. Gogoro’s business model rests on the viability of its GoStations, which are small kiosks distributed widely in urban areas (in those cities that have been selected by Gogoro). The smartscooter carries just two of these easily swapped batteries and it takes only moments to pull up, swipe your card, and swap out your scooter batteries. Each swap gives the scooter about 120 kilometers of range, according to the company.

Gogoro’s vision is to use these energy hubs for all kinds of electric vehicles in the future. GreenTechMedia’s Julia Pyper wrote in a piece about Gogoro last year: “The company, headed by former HTC execs, quietly raised $150 million to build its urban scooter of the future. Over time, Gogoro’s modular battery-swapping infrastructure could serve other types of vehicles and products.” This seems like a highly viable model to me, at least for smaller vehicles in urban areas. For larger vehicles, however, I’m not sure how practical swapping out a number of batteries will be for the average user.

People Want To Design Their Own Vehicles

An exciting option that may become real before long is the ability to design your own car. An increasing number of cars allow many personalization options for colors and other features. Going much further, we now have options to co-design cars from the ground up, working as part of a “crowd.”

tamhunt-solarLocalmotors.com is one of the more viable sites allowing designers and enthusiasts to design all sorts of vehicles collaboratively. The site describes itself as a “global co-creation community … made up of enthusiasts, hobbyist innovators and professionals. We are designers, engineers, and makers. We operate a growing global network of microfactories. Each destination is a place where innovators create amazing products and consumers come to marvel and shop.”

With the widespread availability of home-based 3D printing and access to creative individuals online, making one’s own car is actually not a pipe dream anymore. Here’s a list of the cars that teams are working on at various stages of completion at Local Motors. One of my favorites at the site: an adult Big Wheel powered by a hub-mounted electric motor!

I learned about crowd-designed cars from Peter Diamandis, entrepreneur and author of the new book, Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth, and Impact the World. Diamandis writes about crowdsourcing car design here.

Owning Your Own Car Is So Last Year…

The future of transportation may be having no car at all for most of us. Ride-hailing services like Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar (all of which happen to be based in San Francisco) have taken the transportation world by storm. Uber may be worth over $40 billion now and it’s just a few years old. It seems that the sky’s the limit for this model, but it is limited of course to urban areas for now. The large majority of people live in urban areas now (over 80 percent in the U.S.), however, so this isn’t much of a limit.

Uber’s gross revenue is expected to hit $10 billion this year, and smaller competitor Lyft’s revenue about 1/8th that amount, both up from, well, nothing just a a few years ago. That’s market transformation for you. Under this current trajectory, Uber and its cousins may take over the taxi market in just a few years.

I used Uber regularly in SF and many other places and I enjoy their newest low-fare option: UberPool. This option allows you to pay just $7 to go anywhere in some cities by splitting a ride with up to two other people. You might wait a bit longer to get to where you’re going but you know the price in advance and if you’re lucky you’ll meet some cool people while you ride.

Right now there is no necessary connection between ride-hailing companies and EVs, but as EVs become more pervasive and the fuel-saving and ride-quality benefits of EVs become more well-known, we can rest assured that ride-hailing services will include more and more EVs.

The next step in ride-hailing and car sharing will be a combination of these new app-based services with self-driving cars. This will be unfortunate for those drivers who want to continue to make money from driving, but users will still benefit from these services. Rather than rely on human drivers to comb the streets waiting for a fare, self-driving cars can remain parked until needed or simply cruise the streets like drivers do today until required by a fare. The big question with this business model is whether cars will be legally allowed to drive themselves with no human on board as a back up plan at any time in the foreseeable future.

Who Needs Drivers?

When will fully automated cars arrive? Tesla, for example, is releasing new autopilot features this summer, including self-parking and the ability to summon your car to your front door with an app. These are exciting new abilities and we’ll find out soon how robust these features are. Musk also stated that the cars are “technically capable of going parking lot to parking lot” in self-driving mode, but this ability won’t be enabled because of the dangers inherent in driving in urban areas.

That qualifier in Musk’s statement turns out to be a pretty big deal. There are a ton of hurdles to overcome before fully autonomous driving will become a reality and it seems that a lot of companies are playing market positioning games as much as they are working on the underlying technology. What is clear, however, is that we’ll see incremental additions to the suite of automated driving options in the coming years, a continuation of the already existing trend among various automakers, including Mercedes, Audi, Tesla and others.

The big question is when will fully autonomous cars become reality? One expert I’ve spoken with recently, Steve Casner, a research psychologist at NASA who has done some work on autopilot issues in relation to airplanes and cars, suggests that it will likely be far later than 2020 before fully automated cars are a reality and that many of the companies today suggesting that full automation technology is already here are blowing smoke.

A number of other analysts at a conference last year feel the same way, according to the MIT Technology Review: “The 500 experts in attendance were not optimistic such problems would be solved soon. Asked when they would trust a fully robotic car to take their children to school, more than half said 2030 at the very earliest. A fifth said not until 2040, and roughly one in 10 said ‘never.’ ”

The essence of the problem is that driving requires the skills acquired by humans to make sense  of and navigate their environment over a period of almost four billion years (since life originated). What we take for granted as easy and intuitive is the end process of this eons-long evolutionary process. We are, each of us, the latest in a literally unbroken chain of organisms that were successful in navigating their environment and reproducing. Teaching a computer that same process is a difficult problem indeed, given the unpredictability of the world around us.

Casner has also explored the difficulties of partial automation and the transformation of drivers into “drivengers” (passenger/drivers). Drivengers may find it difficult to step in when and if required by partially autonomous cars and we might find this a difficult hurdle in getting to fully autonomous vehicles.

From a big picture perspective, however, it doesn’t matter very much whether full self-driving cars arrive in 2020 or 2030. The fact that they are very likely coming before too long is what is important. Even though I fully recognize the difficulties in achieving full automation, and the diversity of expert opinion on this issue, my feeling is that we have reached a tipping point in investment, interest, and technical ability on this issue, such that it’s just a matter of time before the software, engineering, and legal hurdles are resolved.

Last, history has shown that betting against Elon Musk is a bad idea. So even if he’s off by a few years in his projections for fully automated driving, we’d still see such cars sometime sooner than the mid-2020s. Time will tell, as with all things.

My time in San Francisco was a lot of fun and educational at the same time. I have seen the future of transportation and it is bright.

Tam Hunt is a lawyer and writer, owner of the renewable energy consulting company Community Renewable Solutions LLC, and author of the new book Solar: Why Our Energy Future Is So Bright.

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Scientists Receive Green Light To “Resurrect The Dead” Using Stem Cells

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Biotech company Bioquark has been given the green light to 'resurrect' the clinically dead using stem cells. They are attempting 'the reversal of death.'

  • Reflect On:

    How do you feel about this? Should we be trying to stay alive forever, in a sense? Do we, as a society, view death in a healthy manner? Should we know what happens at death? What are the implications of 'living forever?'

Death is a controversial subject in the medical field for many reasons. People rely on doctors to save them and their loved ones, but when fate has its way, the whole world can feel out of order. And while the death of a loved one may not feel final at first, we soon come to realize that, at least for the living who remain, it does mark an end.

That’s why it seems like a controversial yet incredible move for a US biotechnology company called Bioquark to have been given permission to recruit 20 clinically dead patients and attempt to bring their central nervous systems back to life. They hope to eliminate patients’ need to rely on machines by reanimating parts of the upper spinal cord, where the lower brain stem is located, to potentially energize vital body functions like breathing and heartbeats.

Trial participants will have been declared certified dead and kept alive solely through life support machines. “This represents the first trial of its kind and another step towards the eventual reversal of death in our lifetime,” said CEO of Bioquark Inc., Ira Pastor. The team, who was granted ethical permission from an Institutional Review Board at the National Institutes of Health in the US and India to begin trials on 20 subjects, is looking to recruit patients for its ReAnima Project as soon as possible.

The team will first complete a phase 1 trial, referred to as a non-randomized, proof-of-concept study. This will determine whether or not they are capable of reversing clinical brain death through drug administration, nerve stimulation, and laser therapy. They’ll also be looking at whether or not they can affect any changes in the meninges of the brain, layers of tissue located between the skull and the surface of the brain. Specifically, the team will be investigating improvements in the patients’ pulse, blood oxygen saturation, blood pressure, and respiration.

The team will first seek permission from the families of the clinically dead, and then will proceed to treat the 20 chosen individuals over a six-week period in Anupam Hospital in Rudrapur, India. These will then be monitored for several months, where the researchers will determine if any changes have been made. “We hope to see results within the first two to three months,” Pastor said.

To attempt to bring the patients back from the dead, Bioquark has administered four different types of treatments, which include:

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  • Injecting simple protein chains called peptides into the patients’ spinal cord on a daily basis.
  • Injecting stem cells into their brains twice weekly.
  • Using the non-invasive treatment called transcranial laser therapy to activate the body’s natural recovery processes.
  • Using another non-invasive technique called nerve stimulation, which involves delivering electrical impulses to the median nerve of the upper limb.

“To undertake such a complex initiative, we are combining biologic regenerative medicine tools with other existing medical devices typically used for stimulation of the central nervous system, in patients with other severe disorders of consciousness,” Pastor noted.

The researchers are hoping that, if they can get patients’ brains to work again, and since many clinically dead can retain certain functions, like processing waste, digesting nutrients, healing wounds, and growing and maturing, people will have the chance to regain some semblance of life. But for now, the team is just trying to take it one step at a time.

“It is a long-term vision of ours that a full recovery in such patients is a possibility, although that is not the focus of this first study – but it is a bridge to that eventuality,” Pastor said

And Sergei Pavlian, founder and president of Bioquark Inc., added:

Through our study, we will gain unique insights into the state of human brain death, which will have important connections to future therapeutic development for other severe disorders of consciousness, such as coma, and the vegetative and minimally conscious states, as well as a range of degenerative CNS conditions, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease,” said Sergei Paylian, the founder and chief science officer of Bioquark.

Check out the trial outline here.

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Consciousness

The Remarkable Brainwaves Of High-Level Meditators

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Expert meditators are constantly producing high range brainwave frequencies, even when they're not meditating. A normal human being rarely hits these brainwave frequencies.

  • Reflect On:

    Meditation could help people of all ages, create more peace in their lives. As it becomes a global collective practice, it will make a big impact on world peace and overall quality of life.

Listen To This Article

Measuring brainwaves while in altered states of consciousness is a fascinating way to see what happens to the brain during these states. It makes me feel that factors associated with consciousness exist separate from the brain, and that the brain is simply a receiver of this non-material input from some unidentified part of ourselves.

When it comes to meditation, scientists have been able to measure the brainwaves of high-level meditators. They found that some meditators are consistently operating in the gamma brainwave range, approximately at 40Hz. I’ve written about the brainwaves of lucid dreamers before, and those studies also show that when someone is lucid dreaming, they are also operating within the gamma brainwave range. This brainwave range is associated with a conscious state of heightened self-awareness, an even more conscious state than when one is awake.

Human beings don’t operate anywhere near these frequencies when we are in our normal wakeful state, and we operate at an even lower frequency during sleep states.

There are delta brainwaves, which are most pronounced in premature babies, then there are theta brainwaves which are characterized by light sleep, REM sleep, dreams and hallucinations.  Alpha brainwaves are an even higher frequency, which are most prominent during relaxation, contemplation and a lack of visual stimuli. These occur when you are not distracted or focused on the external world too much, and their frequency is approximately 8-12 Hz, so you can see why the jump to Gamma brainwaves for meditators is quite significant, which range from 40 – 100 Hz.

These are the fastest brainwave frequencies known to man.

It’s been more than a decade since researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, found that Zen Buddhist monks show “an extraordinary synchronization of brainwaves known as gamma synchrony – a pattern increasingly associated with robust brain function and the synthesis of activity that we call the mind.”  (Scientific American)

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 Meditation has always been intertwined with “superhuman” abilities. During a visit to remote monasteries in the 1980s, Harvard Professor of Medicine Herbert Benson and his team of researchers studied monks living in the Himalayan Mountains who could, by g Tum-mo (a yoga technique), raise the temperatures of their fingers and toes by as much as 17 degrees. It is still unknown how the monks are able to generate such heat. (source). The researchers also studied advanced meditators in Sikkim, India, where they were astonished to find that these monks could lower their metabolism by 64%. (source)

It’s important to mention that meditation has also shown significant changes in the brain, with an increase in brain matter and in other ways. It’s also shown to be successful for the treatment of multiple ailments, like Irritable Bowel Syndrome. You can read more about the scientific benefits of meditation in a recent article we published, here.

In the video below, psychologist and science writer Daniel Goleman discusses his work along with his colleague and research colleague, neuroscientist, Richard Davidson. Fascinating stuff.

Expert meditators, as described below in this case, were flown in from all over the world and put in a lab.

Their brainwave, shows gamma very strong all the time as a lasting trait, no matter what they’re doing…it’s not during meditation alone, it’s just their every-day state of mind. We actually have no idea what that means experientially, science has never seen it before. We also find that in these olympic level meditators, when we asked them to do a meditation on compassion, their level of gamma jumps 700/800 percent in seconds. This has also never been seen by science. There is a state of being which is not like ordinary states, sometimes it’s called liberation, or enlightenment. There’s really no vocabulary that captures what that might be.

How To Meditate, What is Meditation?

I’ve always thought that meditation can be multiple things, but at its core involves the non-judgement of the thoughts that arise during the practice. Just let them come, and let them go as is. It also involves multiple states of meditation, as mentioned above, these experts are constantly in that “state of mind.” Many high-level meditators express how this is exactly what meditation is. That being said, sitting down, and meditating with intention and a goal in mind could also be very beneficial.

There could be multiple depths to meditation, and you don’t always have to sit cross-legged and do it a specific way. You can meditate in the shower, while you are on a walk, one person doing laundry could perhaps be in the same state of mind as another who is in a deep meditation, therefore both accomplishing the same experience, at least from a brainwave perspective that is. Just like the video explains above, they’re always in gamma range.

You want to begin by getting in a comfortable position. Take deep breaths, slow them down, and allow whatever comes into your head, to simply exit. That’s the general way start out if you’re just beginning your journey into meditation. The intention behind the meditation can be anything, including to simply experience this other state of consciousness and get closer to “source.”

The Takeaway

Imagine what would happen if 7 billion people on the planet all meditated together for world peace, would it manifest? It’s amazing what we now know about mediation, and what it can do to our biological realty. Perhaps it can do a lot to physical reality as well. These types of findings go to show that our most natural inner state is one of peace. Why else would it be the state that’s most beneficial for our body, and that allows us to operate at a higher capacity?

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Scientists Publish A New Study Examining Humans’ Ability To Accurately Predict Future Events

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A new study outlines the scientific experiments under controlled conditions that have been conducted to see if precognition is actually real.

  • Reflect On:

    The implications of non-material science are huge, what would happen if mainstream academia accepted these results without any bias?

Precognition, is it real? If you examine the research that’s been published in this field, from peer-reviewed publications and controlled experiments, combined with the declassified literature from parapsychology programs from multiple governments around the world, the evidence for the ability of humans to accurately predict future events is overwhelming to the point where I am not sure why it would or could be considered ‘pseudoscience’. But given the current parameters of science, it’s understandable, and from this perspective, the evidence may not be ‘overwhelming,’ but you can decide that for yourself.

So what exactly is precognition? It’s essentially the ability to have a premonition of a future event that could not otherwise be anticipated through any known process.

The current parameters of science definitely need to be changed and adjusted, they allow for an observed phenomenon, although sometimes unexplainable, to be completely disregarded, no matter how many times it’s replicated or performed under controlled experiments. This is a result of scientific dogma, rules and laws of science that have been set in place and seem to stay there due to the fact that new concepts of reality simply disrupt belief systems. Take the concept of metaphysical realms for example, the implications and realizations of these realms, if confirmed, would result in a complete worldview paradigm shift and perhaps the disruption of multiple religious teachings. That being said, a lot of religion and ancient eastern philosophy does not argue against these realms but speak of them too.

“There seems to be a deep concern that the whole field will be tarnished by studying a phenomenon that is tainted by its association with superstition, spiritualism and magic. Protecting against this possibility sometimes seems more important than encouraging scientific exploration or protecting academic freedom. But this may be changing.”
 Cassandra Vieten, PhD and President/CEO at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (source)

When it comes to precognition, the new study recently published by scientists at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) examines multiple, scientifically controlled experiments that have yielded significant results. They examined multiple areas of research, multiple studies and meta-analysis showing how the scientific evidence for pre-cognition is measurable and continues to grow.

The authors are careful in their writing, pointing out the observed effects:

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If positive empirical evidence continues to accumulate, especially if the methodological recommendations suggested by ourselves and others are followed, then a time may come when we are forced to think the unthinkable. Indeed, the implications of retrocausation are so remote from engrained ways of thinking that the first reaction to this line of research is that it must be flawed. The second reaction may be horror that it represents a previously unaccepted fact about reality. (source)

The authors provide further studies within this one for the reader’s consideration, so be sure to check them out. But the above point is great, perhaps it is our fear of such confirmations that holds us back?

Another interesting concept discussed in the study is time, as you cannot really have a discussion about pre-cognition without the concept of time. When you think about pre-cognition, as with most parapsychological areas of study, you also have to consider quantum physics, because these two disciplines are deeply related to each other. Studies conducted over the years in quantum physics alone has shown how human intention, and other factors associated with consciousness, can and do interact with our physical material reality.

When we talk about future events, and time, if we look at matter on a quantum scale, future events are represented as a wave of possibilities, and don’t really manifest as physical matter until we, the observer, click it into existence with our own consciousness. In 2007 (Science 315, 966, 2007), scientists in France shot photons into an apparatus and showed that their actions could retroactively change something which had already happened.

“If we attempt to attribute an objective meaning to the quantum state of a single system, curious paradoxes appear: quantum effects mimic not only instantaneous action-at-a-distance, but also, as seen here, influence of future actions on past events, even after these events have been irrevocably recorded.” – Asher Peres, a pioneer in quantum information theory (source)(source)(source)

So, the concept of time, which is intertwined with the precognition phenomena, is very important to acknowledge, even if we can’t really understand it because it’s so puzzling. What happened in the past can change the future, and what happens in the future can change the past.

Apart from the scientific literature, I also mentioned the Department of Defence programs. Dr. Paul Smith, one of the army personnel involved in the STARGATE program writes in his book, The Essential Guide to Remote Viewing: The Secret Military Remote Perception Skill Anyone Can Learnabout an event where he was involved in successfully predicting future events for the Department of Defence. This was all part of the remote viewing program, which allows one person to perceive and describe the physical characteristics of a location when they are only given the location coordinates. It’s been used a number of times for intelligence collection, as shown by the declassified literature. In 2014, Smith also published a study in the journal of scientific exploration about stock market prediction using remote viewing. (Smith C. C., Laham D., Moddel J. (2014). Stock market prediction using associative remote viewing by inexperienced remote viewersJ. Sci. Explor28, 7–16). 

So, along with all of the scientifically controlled experiments, it’s also important to consider time, and all of the functions parapsychology has served, and mostly still do serve in the black budget world, especially when we are talking about pre-cognition. This area of government study is something that the peer-reviewed studies don’t really refer to much as a tool of evidence.

I also published an article a few years ago about a study (meta analysis) in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience titled “Predicting the unpredictable: critical analysis and practical implications of predictive anticipatory activity” which examined a number of experiments regarding this phenomenon that were conducted by several different laboratories.

These experiments indicate that the human body can actually detect randomly delivered stimuli that occur 1-10 seconds in advance. In other words, the human body seems to know of an event, and reacts to an event that has yet to occur. What occurs in the human body before these events are physiological changes that are measured regarding the cardiopulmonary, the skin, and the nervous system.

More than 40 experiments investigating this phenomenon in humans have been published over the past 36 years (including: Hartwell, 1978Radin et al., 19952011Bierman and Radin, 1997Radin, 19972004;Don et al., 1998Bierman, 2000Bierman and Scholte, 2002McDonough et al., 2002;Spottiswoode and May, 2003McCraty et al., 2004a,bSartori et al., 2004May et al., 2005;Tressoldi et al., 200520092011Radin and Borges, 2009Bradley et al., 2011). This is what promoted the meta-analysis.

The analysis concluded that:

“The predictive physiological anticipation of a truly randomly selected and thus unpredictable future event, has been under investigation for more than three decades, and a recent conservative meta-analysis suggests that the phenomenon is real.” 

Takeaway

Humans with ‘special abilities’ have been reported throughout history, here’s an example straight from the CIA’s electronic reading room. The point is, we can use these concepts to develop techniques to improve our lives, and the lives of all life on planet Earth. Perhaps we will one day be able to perceive future events that are not in humanities best interest and then take steps to change that potential future. I believe those who possess gifts for perceiving the future might be picking up on potential timelines, sort of like the wave of potentials in the quantum double slit experiment.

The main takeaway is that we have many more abilities that we’ve been made to believe, and still some we have yet to discover. At the end of the day, it’s the consciousness behind these discoveries that determine whether or not they will be used by humanity. It’s just like technology, do we weaponize it or use it for the overall good of humanity?

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