The rise of the global middle class – an UP Experience Post

dambisa-moyoWhen there is a strong middle class on the ground, government accountability follows.

It is time for America, as in The United States of, to wake up, says international economist Dr. Dambisa Moyo.

The world’s population will grow from its current (2012) level of 7 billion to 30 billion by 2050. The bulk of that growth will be in citizens from developing countries born into the economic middle class, with all their inherited expectations for a quality lifestyle, for themselves, and a good education and bright future for their own children.

Already, 60% of Chinese citizens live in the economic middle class: they want, for example, cars, not bicycles. And they have higher expectations of their government to provide economic opportunities, including good jobs.

China, in 2004, began investing for the future by buying rights to essential manufacturing commodities it does not have, such as copper and coal, and building good relations with developing areas such as Africa, South America and Eastern Europe. Through this investment and mutually beneficial trade, China has made new friends, particularly in the developing countries of the world, where 90% of the world’s population live and where 90% of the future middle class population will come from.

Ask Africans what they think of China and you will hear good things: there is now a trans-Africa road, reaching from Cape Town to Cairo, 9,000 miles long, and paved – and at every border crossing there is a sign that says, This Road Courtesy The Republic of China. It’s not all altruistic: a defining characteristic of the middle class is to hold their governments accountable, no matter what the political structure, to honor the social contract between citizen and state. With the growth of the middle class comes growth in the expectations of government, including provisions for good health care, education, and economic opportunity.

It has taken the world awhile to realize that there can be more than one kind of capitalism than “Western.” There is Russian capitalism, India capitalism, and Chinese capitalism. With the rise of the global middle class, good economics matters more than ever – but not necessarily political structure. The world’s Western-style economies (France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK, US, Canada) have had to learn to include in their plans the world’s Developing-style economies as well (South Africa, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, China, South Korea, India, Indonesia, Turkey, European Union, Saudi Arabia, Australia).

The West is not the sole shining example of how to govern and grow any more… but the reason may be surprising: It has succeeded, and still succeeds, in showing new ways for countries to operate. But the lessons have been noted and put into practice by others, albeit a little differently in each case.

We are in a new circumstance where a majority of the world’s population has a better chance of a quality lifestyle than ever before in history. Already, half the world is middle class. But the growth of the middle class between now and 2050 is going to make for unprecedented needs for arable land, water, energy, and minerals.

This means understanding the new circumstances and thinking ahead. For all their growth, China and the world’s other developing nations are, still, technically poor. The US needs to become their partner in economics rather than their preacher on politics. Because when there is a strong middle class on the ground, government accountability follows.

Photo courtesy
The Telegraph
See also
The UP Experience 2012 speaker announced – DAMBISA MOYO
The UP Experience

Affordable green energy – an UP Experience Post

donald sadowayWe are 30 seconds away from darkness at any time.

By 2014 we will have liquid metal batteries big enough and cost-effective enough to back up national electric grids, says Dr. Donald Sadoway, John F. Elliott Professor of Materials Chemistry at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Batteries have long been the weak point of portable electronic devices: they don’t last long between charges, they are expensive, and their manufacture requires rare earth elements such as lithium.

The circumstances are worse for generated electricity that powers our homes and workplaces. We only realize it when the power goes out and our rooms go dark. We are 30 seconds away from darkness at any time, should something go wrong in the grid. Why isn’t there backup electricity available when a power line goes down? The problem, in a word: batteries.

Our personal computers are better protected than we are: many PC owners have UPS’s (uninterruptible power supplies) that charge up between power outages to keep equipment running. But even UPS’s only last long enough to turn the equipment off safely.

All this has the potential to change. Dr. Sadoway and his team have developed a technology, and started a company to make the technology commercially available, that is big enough, reliable enough, and cheap enough for power companies to buy and install as backups to their grids. The solution, in a word: batteries.

Or, as Dr. Sadoway says, “colossal batteries that are dirt cheap because they are made from dirt” (earth abundant elements, such as magnesium and salt).

Like all batteries, Dr. Sadoway’s have a positive terminal, a negative terminal, and a power holding medium (electrolyte) in between. Unlike conventional batteries, Dr. Sadoway’s are liquid, inspired by 1886 industrial aluminum smelting technology, and can be made as huge as railroad shipping containers.

Unlike backup fossil-fuel generators, Dr. Sadoway’s batteries provide power while silent, with zero emissions, and requiring no fuel to operate. Unlike backup solar and wind generators, Dr. Sadoway’s devices can be produced and sold at acceptable market price points without need for government subsidy.

Look for Dr. Sadoway and his team’s liquid metal batteries to be available around 2014. Their mission, beyond economics, is “science and service to society.”

Photo courtesy
Chemical & Engineering News
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The UP Experience 2012 speaker announced – DONALD R SADOWAY
The UP Experience

Humanity, technology, and innovation – an UP Experience Post

Burt Rutan White_Knight_HandshakeBurt Rutan is a pioneering aerospace engineer. I had a chance to meet and sit at lunch with him and several others, just prior to his scheduled presentation at this year’s The UP Experience. The hot topic at table was the record-breaking, supersonic, free fall parachute leap completed by Felix Baumgartner 11 days earlier. Jumping from a balloon 24 miles high, Baumgartner could see the world round and whole and entire.

Mr. Rutan spoke to the topic, "Inspiration for Innovation and the Race for Space." He and his company, Scaled Composites, are experts in the use of composite (specially combined) materials, such as carbon fiber filaments and resins, for aircraft design and prototyping. Rutan adopted composite technology early in his career because it was faster to use for building, than is metal, and required no tooling.

Rutan’s Voyager, in 1986, was the first plane to fly around the world without stopping or refueling. Rutan’s SpaceShipOne, in 2004, was the first private rocket plane to put a man into suborbital space. For Rutan, it is a matter of record that achieving major breakthroughs and discoveries requires far out goals and calculated risks.

SpaceShipTwoRutan co founded, in 2006, The Spaceship Company, which offers suborbital spaceships to the paying public, science missions, and industry. Opportunities for profitable investment in suborbital industries are immediate, Rutan stated, and will lead to further technology development enabling profitable orbital industries.

Rutan, now in his late 60’s, was inspired in childhood by technology and inventors, and the attitude of the times that "I can do it." By seeing the world from on high, Rutan foresees countries becoming defined by shared values and beliefs, not just shared geographical location. With the latest digital technologies, “reality”, as in flying a plane, and “virtual reality”, as in remote flying a drone, are becoming transparent to each other.

Mr. Rutan concluded that, regarding humanity, technology, and innovation, we are just getting started.

Photos courtesy
The Spaceship Company
See also
The UP Experience 2012 speaker announced – BURT RUTAN
The UP Experience

Physics and possibility and new intuition – an UP Experience Post

Dr. Boaz Almog

Dr. Boaz Almog is research physicist and member of the superconductivity group at Tel Aviv University in Israel. Dr. Almog spoke at this year’s The UP Experience to the topic, "The Future of Quantum Physics," by demonstrating and explaining the phenomenon of quantum levitation.

Quantum levitation occurs when an electrical superconductor interacts with external magnets. The magnetic field lines passing through the superconductor are constrained to behave like quantum particles (flux tubes), locking themselves (and the superconductor) in place.

Quantum levitation research comprises three generations of work to date. It forces new intuitions of physical behavior because it is quantum made visible. Practical applications, years away, include stronger magnets (allowing smaller MRI units for broader healthcare services), more powerful particle accelerators (for cost effective research), more powerful motors, mechanical energy storage for electrical grid buffering, and superconducting wires.

The demonstration – quantum made visible

Dr. Almog took a 3 inch disk, coated in superconductor, that had been sitting in liquid nitrogen. Using tweezers, Almog placed the disk over a strong magnet. The disk hovered in place over the magnet, not touching it. Although this looks like simple magnetic levitation, Almog explained, it is not. To prove it, he turned the magnet upside down. The disk hovered exactly in place without falling. There were gasps from the audience. Almog explained that the magnetic lines that are going through the superconductor are being pushed away by the superconductor. Since it can’t push them all away, it has to let some of the lines pass through. It does this grudgingly, and actually "locks" them in place. In whichever position you place the disk over or under the magnet, the superconductor will lock it in place. Almog demonstrated that the disk would hold firmly in position, even when placed at a 45° angle. It did not have to be flat relative to the magnet, as in simple levitation.

Almog gave the disk a spin, explaining that this was near frictionless rotation. Only air pressure could slow the disk’s spin. If placed in a vacuum, the disk could spin for weeks.

Dr. Almog moved to a 2 foot diameter circular railroad track made of magnets, and set the disk to slide along the track. Instead of sliding off the far end, the disk stayed perfectly lined up on the circle going around and around at speed. To remind us again that this is a new intuition, he moved the disk underneath the track where it slid at speed just as easily as before. Finally, Almog took two disks and slid them in opposite directions on the same side of the track, where they proceeded perfectly without ever bumping into each other.

The physics

A superconductor has zero electrical resistance. When a superconductor encounters an external magnetic field, it attempts to expel the external field by creating its own internal field via resistance-less electrical currents. The interaction between the fields creates the magnetic field "locking" at the quantum level. The disk is held suspended between upper and lower antagonists: quantum levitation. This is quantum made visible!

Practical applications are being investigated. Current superconductors typically require tremendously cold temperatures (e.g., liquid nitrogen). They also require special alloys (e.g., Yttrium) and substrates (sapphire).

Image courtesy:
Video courtesy:
See also
The UP Experience 2012 speaker announced – Dr. Boaz Almog
The UP Experience

Resilience, games, and post-traumatic growth – an UP Experience Post

Jane McGonigal is Director of Game Research & Development at Institute for the Future and Chief Creative Officer at SuperBetter Labs. She is author of the New York Times best seller, Reality is Broken.

Ms. McGonigal spoke at this year’s The UP Experience to the topic, "How Gaming Will Change the World." She began by quoting “the number one question my friends, family, and audiences ask me,” which is: "Jane, on your deathbed, won’t you regret having spent so much time playing games?"

McGonigal decided to research the actual regrets of people interviewed on their deathbeds. Their top five regrets were, "not enough time spent: 1) with family, 2) with friends, 3) feeling happy, 4) better understanding their true selves, and 5) living true to their dreams."

McGonigal argues that game designers are actually “happiness engineers,” and are experts in making difficult tasks engaging. McGonigal stated, "when you turn a challenge into a game, you engage your innate abilities of creativity, determination, and requesting help." For those who don’t like the metaphor, “game,” she offers the alternative, "SuperBetter."

McGonigal’s model for challenge as a game is: “1) having a secret identity and a mission, 2) having allies to help you, 3) having bad guys to fight, and 4) having the ability to ‘power up’ to help you and your allies fight the bad guys.”

McGonigal gave a personal example of gaming helping her own happiness. "A while back I suffered a head concussion. I had constant head pain and was under doctor’s orders to restrict all activities over a period of several months. I told myself, Jane, this is either going to kill you or you are going to turn it into a game.” So McGonigal turned it into a game called, “Jane the Concussion Slayer" (in homage to "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") and asked for the help of family and friends. "And it worked."

Researching this personal experience further, McGonigal discovered that she had gone through a period of “posttraumatic growth”, similar to many others who had gone through a life threatening experience. “Posttraumatic growth often results in a clearer sense of life priorities, feeling closer to others, better understanding oneself, and having a clearer sense of purpose and focus.”

McGonigal wondered if there were an alternative to trauma to reach this kind of growth. “I discovered that there are four contributors that can be developed to result in similar benefits: physical, mental, emotional, and social resilience.” This is the approach that she calls, "SuperBetter."" SuperBetter has already engaged hundreds online in improving their health and happiness."

McGonigal has created a web page with links to the connections between gaming and well-being at: Show Me the Science! Resilience, games, post-traumatic growth, and more.

The UP Experience is an annual thought-leader conference held one day each October in Greater Houston. The next conference is scheduled October 24, 2013.
Image courtesy
See also

The UP Experience 2012 speaker announced – JANE MCGONIGAL
The UP Experience