At best, all our attempts to create sustainable societies can only be regarded as feeble: with recycling that does not work; energy sources and transportation that continue to pollute; and industries continuing to operate at very low ecological efficiencies. Recycling bins, solar panels and electric vehicle have a great feel-good factor, but mostly incur far cost more than they save! The big gains can only be realized by an industrial and supply chain revolution. Continuing to polish what we already have merely put off the day of collapse.
Despite understanding the ultimate cost of climate change and the denuding of planet earth of irreplaceable materials, most nations choose to turn a blind eye to focus on the national interest. At the same time, human populations consume over 1.5 planets worth of renewables every year.
"We have to stop producing more and more for the few and start supplying sufficient for the many”
At the core of this complex situation, a prime solution occurs at the cusp of nano-tech, biotech, AI and robotics. Here we can create the new materials and processes that far exceed the performance of everything we have today. It is here the amplification of limited human thinking, imagination and creativity occur. The ability to create and recover materials at high efficiency, manipulate and form them at minimal energy, is the ‘lynchpin’ of ID4.0.
Pulling turbine blades from a single crystal, 3/4D printing of plastics, ceramics, and metals to create manifolds and other complex forms are now common examples. However, R&D engineers and scientists are realizing programmable materials using plastic and biological alternatives that can self-repair, change-colour, store energy and offer programmable shape on demand. Unprecedented strength to weight ratios and performance with minimal processing cost and maximal material recovery are also emerging.
Today, components traverse the planet many times from producer to assembly shops and then the final system integrator, but if we move to material printing and programming close to, or on, the site of use, we would only have to ship materials in solid, powder and/or fluid form with massive logistic cost reductions.
Add to all this: vertical farms in cities and towns growing food at the point of need; the dispersement of energy generation and storage, and we are far closer to reality, rather than politically correct, sustainability. And how comfortable it all sits with the internet, IoT, BlockChain, GigEconomy, Publishing, eCommerce and Social Nets