RI Columns Chapter 5

Do the right people, make the right decisions?

What can we learn from The Joker in The Dark Knight?

What can we learn from The Joker in The Dark Knight?

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If you’ve seen the movie Batman: The Dark Knight you probably remember the scene where there were two boats filled with explosives (if you haven’t seen it watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4GAQtGtd_0 ). One of the boats had all the cities criminals aboard and the other the regular citizens. Both boats had a remote to destroy the other one. If one of the boats was not destroyed before midnight, both boats will explode. When you look at this scenario, there is a clear decision to be made (blow or not to blow) and a clear risk (dying).

In psychological science, they distinguish 2 forms of risks, risk as analysis and risk as feelings. If you look at the scenario from an analytical point of view, you could argue that there is no point waiting to blow the other boat up. Either the other boat will blow you up first or you die anyways at midnight if no boat is blown up. Rationally seen you would blow the other boat up ASAP, because that is the only option where you don’t die yourself.
In the movie this doesn’t happen. The feelings and emotions on both boats prevent the people from blowing each other up while knowing the risks of this decision. On the boat filled with citizens there is a voting about the decision. There is a large majority that is in favour of blowing the other boat up. Because nobody wants to get their hands dirty, one man stands up and will make the decision. He first argues in an analytical way why the other boat deserves to be blown up, but then as soon as he has the detonator in his hands, he stops. He remains quiet and his feelings prevent him from blowing up the other boat. In the end, luckily nobody dies. With this social experiment I want to highlight two things: the different between risk as analysis and as feelings, and the democratic aspect of decision-making that involves risk.

Politicians, companies, they all make decisions that can influence the lives of other people. Some of these decisions involve risk and benefit analysis. They tend to be fully analytical when dealing with risks and uncertainties. As the previous example showed, making a decision on a pure analytical basis would have resulted in a bad decision. Of course the scenario was in a fictional movie, but science shows also the importance of feelings when making decisions about risks. That is why I think our politicians should stop with their analytical tendency to asses risks and start listening to the people and their feelings.

This takes us to the democratic aspect of decision-making that involves risks. In our post-democratic system we choose people to make decisions for us. One can think this system is good or bad, but that is for another discussion. It does however, give a small group of people the decision power about topics they might not be familiar with. These people are influenced by expert opinions, media and lobbyists when they have to make decisions. A decision outcome relies a lot on what people talk to the politicians and what information is provided to them. History shows that corporations sometimes provide biased information to politicians to favour their own agenda. When a decision involves risks, this biased information can be devastating for the results of a decision. If you look at the following list of careers that attracts psychopaths, doesn’t it trouble you what people make decisions and what people provide information for decisions? CEO’s, Media, Journalists and civil servants. Are the right people making the right decisions?

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Bombing oil-rich Middle East leads indeed to refugee streams

Recently, I have noticed in the Netherlands a lot of people, also political parties, are concerned about the flow of refugees, crossing the borders of many Eastern European countries, seeking for rest and peace in Western European countries, e.g. Germany, France and the Netherlands. The question is whether this concern could have been foreseen. A simple calculation: bombing country A leads indeed to refugees of country A.

Recently, I have noticed in the Netherlands a lot of people, also political parties, are concerned about the flow of refugees, crossing the borders of many Eastern European countries, seeking for rest and peace in Western European countries, e.g. Germany, France and the Netherlands. The question is whether this concern could have been foreseen. A simple calculation: bombing country A leads indeed to refugees of country A.

Where bombings lead to..

Week 5 of the Responsible Innovation MOOC learns us about how to identify and manage risks of new technological innovations in order to protect future generations, safety, security and economic durability. In my previous columns, I mainly took environment-related issues as a topic to write about, like the Electric Vehicle and the gas drillings in Groningen. Quite easy issues to come up with innovative ideas when you compare these to the current refugee problem. As I saw a lot of columns about refugees and their impact on the Netherlands passing by, I now want to add some more nuance to this problem. Let’s have a look at the cause of the current ‘tsunami of refugees coming to conquer Europe and eventually the whole West’.

When you’re reading this column until now, you would probably argue what the refugee problem has to do with understanding and identifying risk in technological innovations. Well, I thought so too. But let’s take the bombing of several countries in the Middle East by coalitions of (mostly Western) countries as an innovative technology on how to fight terrorism. Now we can look for possible risks.

Let’s quickly go back to 20 March 2003, the day that the Iraq War started. A war between an international coalition led by the United States and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Main reasons for this war were US’s accusations against ‘Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction’ and ‘Iraq’s support for international terrorism’. Though, evidence for these accusations have never been provided and weapons of mass destruction have never been found, neither has Iraq’s support for terrorism. Later, several leading American military and political figures admitted that the great supply of oil in Iraq was key in starting the Iraq War. A war which all the Arab states have opposed to, foreseeing the further destabilization of the Middle East, a region the Arab states are located in, NOT the West.

Libya, 2011. Qadhafi’s regime is fighting against those seeking to take down his government. An international coalition of France, the US and the UK started bombing on Libya, trying to help the rebels get rid of Qadhafi. What the rebels and the international coalition left is an area which can’t be called a country no more, several militants and rebel groups fighting each other till death and a government unable to manage this violence up until today. Where is France now? Where are the US? Where is the UK?

Bombing countries seems NOT to be the solution for fighting Middle East regimes and terrorism. Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, all show that bombing countries only leads to more violence and more hatred against the West. As it is very difficult to distinguish the several groups fighting each other today in Syria and Iraq, I won’t mention the right and wrong ones. All I want to mention is that Western intervention, led by the US, is NOT the solution for bringing back stabilization in this region. How many people in the Middle East have died in the past two decades? Millions.

Let’s go back to the statement I hear a lot now in the media and from political parties: reception of refugees should be organized in the own region. I can agree with that. But only when military intervention is also ONLY organized by the own region (the Arab Liga). You cannot simply make a mess in Syria and Iraq and then refuse refugees, expecting the Arab states cleaning up the mess. It’s a foreseeing risk of an ‘innovative technology’ like bombing that people will flee their country, seeking for safety. And for those who desire a big wall around Europe, keeping the refugees out, be responsible and consequent and please build the wall at such a height that Europe’s F-16’s cannot fly to Syria and Iraq either.

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Will the earth be consumed by a black hole?

Headlines such as “CERN’s LHC will create a black hole that destroys earth” and even the movie Angles and Demons, in which dark matter created at CERN could consume the whole Vatican, created fear. Soon after people started lawsuits against CERN to stop the LHC.

Headlines such as “CERN’s LHC will create a black hole that destroys earth” and even the movie Angles and Demons, in which dark matter created at CERN could consume the whole Vatican, created fear. Soon after people started lawsuits against CERN to stop the LHC.

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Somewhere under the ground of Geneva lies a huge circular tunnel of 27 kilometer. In 1984 researchers started to build a Large Electron-Positron Collider to find out what happened exactly with particles when accelerated really fast. The Large Electron-Positron Collider was put into operation in 1989 and after 11 years of useful work the machine had to make place for the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). From 2000 until 2008  the whole cavern was emptied and made ready for the LHC. Finally on the 10th of September the LHC was finished and ready for testing. Of course authorities wanted it to be completely safe, so some very strict safety regulations were set. So together with the development of the LHC itself, also a LHC Safety Assessment Group (LSAG) was set up. They are in charge of determining if the tests are safe and in case something goes wrong there are enough safety features to maintain the safety of Geneva.

In 2010 the LHC made its first research run until 2013. Since the ordinary people had actually no idea what exactly was going on there, stories about black holes, lethal cosmic rays arose.  People were scared about things they couldn’t comprehend. Even with the report the LSAG, a group of independent researchers, that concluded that the LHC particle collisions pose no conceivable threat. Headlines such as “CERN’s LHC will create a black hole that destroys earth” and even the movie Angles and Demons, in which dark matter created at CERN could consume the whole Vatican, created fear. Soon after people started lawsuits against CERN to stop the LHC.

Lawsuits against CERN all failed and CERN was free to do experiments. Now 7 years after the LHC was completed and the world is still there. The LHC is one of many examples where the absence of evidence and incompleteness of scientific knowledge caused paranoia among some people. To prevent cases like this to happen the Precautionary Principle can be used. The Precautionary Principle states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is not harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking an action. So there needs to be a scientific certainty that there is no or very little chance that it can go wrong. The same thing happened at CERN when in 2003 a group of independent scientists (LSAG) proved that the LHC particle collisions pose no conceivable threat.

So even with minimalized risks, how do you deal with the ignorance of the masses? Some people still think the world will be consumed by a huge black hole created by CERN. Should we always just trust that scientists make the right decisions? Or is ignorance a way of testing the scientific researches by letting them explain what they are doing in normal words instead of scientific terms?

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The influence of the rebound effect

Water scarity is a worldwide problem. Almost every country faces the fear of water diminution. Therefore a new market was created, a sustainable water saving market. New products like water saving washing machines, showerheads and dishwaters were developed. But something unexpected happened in the use of these products and they eventually weren’t that sustainable as everyone thought they would be. Because the products were spare in use, people started to use them different. What was the unseen risk in this market?

Water scarity is a worldwide problem. Almost every country faces the fear of water diminution. Therefore a new market was created, a sustainable water saving market. New products like water saving washing machines, showerheads and dishwaters were developed. But something unexpected happened in the use of these products and they eventually weren’t that sustainable as everyone thought they would be. Because the products were spare in use, people started to use them different. What was the unseen risk in this market?

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When the water saving showerhead entered the market, people thought that it would have a positive impact on the amount of water that was used. This was true. But the time that consumers were showering increased because people knew it was a durable good product.

This effect is called: the rebound effect. In the most general terms, rebound effect (or take-back effect) is the extent to which the estimated energy savings enabled by the enhancement in energy efficiency are reduced by the behavioural response (i.e., higher consumption) to the increase in efficiency (1).

This phenomenon is common in a lot of sustainable products. On the one hand the increasing time of use, which can be seen in the showerhead and a low energy light bulb. On the other hand the size of products, this for example can be seen in energy saving fridges. People will buy a bigger fridge, because they know it’s a energy saving fridge. The following table shows what several studies have encountered:

We can conclude that the influence can vary in different products. The rebound that we discussed until now is the direct rebound effect. The indirect rebound effect reflects the impact of re-spending the money that consumers and businesses save from improved energy efficiency(3). From this extra money consumers can buy more (unnecessary) products. It can also include the fact that as factories and other parts of the economy get more efficient, production costs may be lower, freeing up funds to expand the factory(4).

 

The rebound effect doesn’t ensure that the product failed, but shows that the use is different then expected. The sustainable market is still a promising market, because it creates durable alternative products. We can conclude that the rebound effect is important to take into account in the risk analysis of (sustainable) products. 

 

Sources:

1 and 2 Sheetal Gavankar & Roland Geyer (June 26, 2010 ). The Rebound Effect : State of the Debate and Implications for Energy Efficiency Research. Source:  http://iee.ucsb.edu/files/pdf/Rebound%20Report%20for%20IEE-UCSB_0.pdf

3 and 4 Steven Nadel (august 2012). The Rebound Effect: Large or Small? source:http://aceee.org/files/pdf/white-paper/rebound-large-and-small.pdf

5. Table: Sheetal Gavankar & Roland Geyer (June 26, 2010 ). The Rebound Effect : State of the Debate and Implications for Energy Efficiency Research. Source:  http://iee.ucsb.edu/files/pdf/Rebound%20Report%20for%20IEE-UCSB_0.pdf

6. Image composed by Lisa Gerards

 

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COLUMN 5/7:REWIND RENAISSANCE##99[RESPONSIBLE))))<<<LOOK BEHIND YOU}}[

A chance to get amused, surprised and be carried away from a safe distance, by the opportunities and challenges that take place at the Responsible Innovation minor.
Driven by the motto of the Faculty of Social Sciences; 'Discover people. Discover society!' an Erasmus Student is trying not to get lost in the new world of Technology, Policy and Management.

A chance to get amused, surprised and be carried away from a safe distance, by the opportunities and challenges that take place at the Responsible Innovation minor.
Driven by the motto of the Faculty of Social Sciences; 'Discover people. Discover society!' an Erasmus Student is trying not to get lost in the new world of Technology, Policy and Management.

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How do leprosy and the plague relate to 'Precautionary principles'?

As a real CREATIVE problem-solver, you are probably pointing out the comparisons very precisely. 

There are different ways risk and safety measures can be based on the precautionary principle. To protect the environment, our Planet, The people. From that point of view, behind the image of leprosy and the different plague techniques of risk prevented contamination of the occupants. Leprosy leads to earlier types of exclusion known as expulsion, the plague formed by a military model of inclusion.

Aspects of uncertainty, variability and complexity of our natural systems and processes also can explain an apparent connection between precautionary principles nowadays and in times of leprosy. 

A column about 'Backward-Looking' Responsibility at risk.

There it is the magic ingredient. 

 

The presence that's not so present.

Dutch governmental Framework (2004), safety ' is a necessary condition, a human right, it stimulates citizen participation in Dutch society.

Quality of life '. An efficient and effective fight against insecurity requires a comprehensive, integrated approach that takes into account all factors die de threaten security or promote (Galvez 2000).


The rise of a specific discourse 'integral safety' '. Brought it's own security paradigm, '

The aim of the  Dutch Government is to make citizens more responsible. High impact crimes are shown to city inhabitants at 20:00 clock television. They directly ask you to help and collaborate Fighting Crime. Make that call, thus you can fight back. Feelings of involvement and responsibility are part of a public message. Except for extra helping hands in crime fighting, this responsible citizen is also an object of observation. All citizens are watched in this 24/7  society. Seen as a potential risk by the use of Advanced Technologies a 24-hour observation at public places is a common. 

 

 

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‘The real risk of innovation’

The real risk of innovations are not the innovations on itself. It is the thought behind the innovation.. Most companies pretend to live for innovation. ‘Innovation is the core of our business’ stated IBM for example. But why? Do they really think innovation will make the world a better place? Or do they innovate because of this: $$$. I am not a anti-capitalist but although I am not against capitalism, I think we still can have a critical perspective on private innovations. Is the role of money within the world of innovation a real risk for the innovation itself?

The real risk of innovations are not the innovations on itself. It is the thought behind the innovation.. Most companies pretend to live for innovation. ‘Innovation is the core of our business’ stated IBM for example. But why? Do they really think innovation will make the world a better place? Or do they innovate because of this: $$$. I am not a anti-capitalist but although I am not against capitalism, I think we still can have a critical perspective on private innovations. Is the role of money within the world of innovation a real risk for the innovation itself?

Money is the key to most innovations.

Let’s be clear: the first goal of innovating something is to make something better. Most of us tend to think about sustainable cars or ways to overcome climate change. However, innovation can also be providing an even faster car, just as polluting as it already was. An innovation on itself is not responsible at all. That is why our course is called responsible innovation. When we see innovation like this we understand companies. They need new markets to sell their products. The bases on which they exists is innovation.

Although most innovation is done by companies, some innovations are not. Public authorities or non-profit organizations produce innovations as well. But there is a difference between them. Most of this innovations have a different bases on which they are created. A more responsible bases. Private companies think about their profitability. Money is needed to keep the business running. Innovations of companies are more or less influenced by this. When the innovation is really solving societal issues, but is too expensive, no money is spend. In that way companies are influencing the climate of innovation. If the risk of investing in a responsible innovation is too high, the innovation is not implemented.

This way of thinking is very dangerous for innovations. The money of private companies more or less defines the innovations companies produce. Or even deeper; we define this innovation. Or wishes for new products define the way companies think about innovation. Of course or task is to be aware of all the societal problems we have at this moment. Real responsible innovations are needed! Right now!

Responsible innovations and business profits can go hand in hand. This win-win situation is the optimal point for the society to benefit. A great example is Unilever. The CEO, Paul Polman, realizes that change in mindsets of companies is needed. He believes that customers in the future will not buy any products from environmental unfriendly producers. New responsible products are added to the product portfolio. In this way, Unilever and the society take advantage.

The real risk for (responsible) innovation is the role of money. Nowadays products are developed because of a better profitability. Consumers are a key player in this whole development process. The consumer decides which products it buys. Companies are willing to meet this wishes. Are we aware of our key position? Do we see the real risk of innovation?  

Corné Smaal / Business Administration / Erasmus University

 

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Technology Assessment from a TPM student point of view

The interesting part of TA and how it involves all stakeholders in the development

The interesting part of TA and how it involves all stakeholders in the development

all stakeholders ar necessarily

Technology Assessment from a TPM student point of view

First in order to reduce ambiguities, Technology, Policy and Management is a particular broad study. It could be compared with a Swiss Army knife, you study a broad technical side but also learn what governance and judicial aspects come with the problem or opportunity. With the study you get involved with many different multi-actor and complex problems where it is of great importance to map the complete problem field with every actor involved.

The concept of Technology Assessment (TA) is an interesting topic and Constructive Technology Assessment (CTA) even more. In one of my earlier columns I pointed out the important role of irrational emotional behavior among the stakeholders. In short summary, involved actors develop emotion based on knowledge, which comes from experience and what they have been told or informed with. These emotions have a big impact among stakeholders and their point of view.

TA is the study and evaluation of new technologies; this means that society can reflect on different technologies so that appropriate measures could be taken. A forerunner of TA is Impact assessment and is aimed at identifying the future consequences of a current or proposed action. This type of TA gives time and supports debate about new technologies and its implementation. In this way all the involved actors are able to share their thoughts and think about future scenarios.

Constructive Technology Assessment is even more interesting. CTA involves stakeholder while developing new technologies. In this form of Technology Assessment it is know that new technologies clashes with complex factors as: social, economic, technical and political factors. Which interest might align but more often have significant conflicting interests.

When involving stakeholders during the development, this leads to a longer time schedule of implementing new technologies. Throughout the development these stakeholders should be informed and be able to share their opinion about the technology. This is time consuming and, since time is money, not good for the producer.

So what are the advantages of Constructive Technology Assessment?

-          Involving stakeholders during the process, informing them and let them share their opinion about the technology, creates an iterative process. There is continuously feedback on the steps taken which leads to a continuously improvement of the technology during the development.

-          Involving stakeholders in discussion gives them the opportunity to share their concerns and emotions. If this could be dealt with and adapted, there is more support in favor of the technology

-          By involving stakeholders in the development this automatically promotes the technology. The stakeholders involved already know what the product is and through discussion improved support among them. This is almost free advertisement.

 

It is so import to get all actors in the problem field involved, because of the fact that new technologies are almost always complex problems when it goes to implementation. Every actor has their own vision and point of view, some of them could align others have serious conflicting interest. When involving these actors in the development and let them share their own thoughts and use these thoughts in the development, this leads to major support among the actors. Because of the fact that these actors are taken seriously and they are reassured, it creates a more positive attitude to the technology. It cost more time to develop because of the iterative process but it has more insurance to succeed. 

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The Risk of Waste in Oceans: The Plastic Soup

What are the risks of ignoring the refuse collecting in our oceans and what can be done to ease the problem? This article aims to briefly explore a pivotal challenge facing humanity in the 21st century.

What are the risks of ignoring the refuse collecting in our oceans and what can be done to ease the problem? This article aims to briefly explore a pivotal challenge facing humanity in the 21st century.

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Humanity currently faces many challenges and associated risks: political and international insecurities, resource scarcity and environmental protection to name a few. However, one of the most important and time-sensitive is the global aggregation of garbage known as the ‘Plastic Soup’ or ‘Trash Vortex’. Over the last century, advances in technology and industry, coupled with government institutions which promote free consumer-driven markets have led to an increase in people’s demand for many products. Whether these products be headphones, kitchen knives, vegetables, juice or milk, they all come in plastic packaging of varying sizes, shapes and materials. However, these cheap and light materials have risks many do not consider. The most commonly used plastics in consumer products biodegrade slowly, burn toxically and float readily.

While many developed economies have advanced waste collection and processing systems, none are perfect; some waste falls through the cracks and eventually enters the seas via the coasts or waterways. Moreover, many countries with larger population densities, less waste infrastructure, drinking water issues or poor legal enforcement may generate more plastic input into the sea. In addition to the waste produced by land based activities, many marine activities produce waste as well. In freight shipping, plastics can enter the sea in various ways-- harbour activities, ocean ‘dumping’ or accidents, for example. Ocean cruises, diving and other recreational activities are examples of how tourism contributes to the waste in public waters. Cut or lost nets from fishing activities also generate a large amount of waste. Moreover, it is difficult to oversee, develop and enforce legislation dealing with maritime waste, especially in international waters. This all leads to the oceans taking in a lot of plastics which float or are suspended in salt water and flow with the currents.

If these bottles, bags and other marine debris catch a stronger current they can eventually end up in one of five oceanic gyres. A gyre, in oceanography, is a term used for the large circular currents created by winds and the earth’s movements and structure. In these gyres, the plastic collects, floats, breaks up and is suspended in deep columns. It can be mistakenly eaten by animals or entangle them and can block sunlight, starving algae or other photosynthesizing species. Moreover, it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, polluting the water. The ethical implications for future generations and non-human species are dire. Society risks forever losing species and potentially also habitats, exacerbating climate change effects. The sheer size of the problem is difficult to understand, as these gyres are larger, in surface area, than many nations. The Guardian had the following to say in an article:

“More than five trillion pieces of plastic, collectively weighing nearly 269,000 tonnes, are floating in the world’s oceans, causing damage throughout the food chain, new research has found.”

The issue is an international, value driven and multi-facetted one, whose solution will be layered, require forward-thinking and time. For one, as the world continues to develop and embrace consumerism, waste will continue to enter the sea. The plastics are spread out in remote parts of the oceans and thus retrieving them would be costly. Moreover, as plastics take roughly a century to degrade, this is a problem future generations will have to contend with. Therefore, it should be of chief importance to focus on increasing the level of social awareness and accountability in order to mitigate the amount of waste plastic which enters, passes through, but also leaks out of the economic cycle. We, as a society, should be charged to act on our responsibilities to future generations and leave behind a world with a sustainable future. Every day we wait, the ecological problem gets worse and the solution more difficult.

Sources:
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/dec/10/full-scale-plastic-worlds-oceans-revealed-first-time-pollution
http://www.prisonplanet.com/the-great-pacific-garbage-patch-we-are-literally-filling-up-the-pacific-ocean-with-plastic.html
http://www.plasticsoupfoundation.org/
http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/oceans/fit-for-the-future/pollution/trash-vortex/
Images:
http://www.zeus.aegee.org/
http://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/

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Climate change a national threat?

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During a debate for who is going to represent the Democratic Party in the upcoming elections for United States President, the host asked the contesters a question. “What do you think is the greatest national treat to the United States?” The candidates answered with threats like: The spread of nuclear weapons and the risk of them falling into the wrong hands, cyber warfare, China, the unstable situation in the Middle East and one very surprising answer. Senator Bernie Sanders stated that the biggest national security issue is climate change.

It was quite the statement Sanders made by the national threat he chose and it was no wonder there were a lot of surprised reactions in audience. Because of a sharp comment made on another subject the debate went on in that direction, but the comments afterwards were all on Sanders’s answer to the national threat. It wasn’t a big surprise that Sanders would bring up climate change at one point in the debate, but that he brought it up as a national threat was quite the surprise for his competitors and the audience.

In later interviews Sanders would comment that he wanted to bring up the topic again in the American politic agenda because the last few years everyone was a bit “climate silence”. The subject was too sensitive to have a strong opinion in politics and always addressed as an economic, environmental and public health issue. Sanders is trying to find a way to make everyone realize that climate change is real, and not some other point on the political agenda like abortion or gun control where you can have an opinion on. By figuratively putting a gun to everyone’s head he made it clear that everyone has to do something about climate change and they can’t walk away from this issue again.

The answer Sanders gave to what he thinks is the greatest threat to America is probably not going to help him win the elections, not because climate change isn’t a big enough of an issue. It simply won’t hold up against the more direct threats his fellow politicians proposed. Like the threat of terrorism, or the nuclear program in Iran and North Korea. Nevertheless Sanders didn’t do everything in vain, because in the end he got what he wanted in the first place. Climate change is back on the agenda and everyone is talking about it.

It will be interesting to see how the debate on climate change will continue in the upcoming elections now it’s back on the agenda, and I will definitely be cheering for Sanders in the upcoming debates. If he doesn’t win I would like to thank him anyway, for addressing the importance of climate change again. 

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Climate engineering: did your mom never teach you how to clean your room?

Climate engineering. Placing giant constellations of mirrors in space, scrubbing carbon from the atmosphere and more. To me it all seems like the way children clean their rooms. Not really cleaning them, but moving the mess out of sight.

Climate engineering. Placing giant constellations of mirrors in space, scrubbing carbon from the atmosphere and more. To me it all seems like the way children clean their rooms. Not really cleaning them, but moving the mess out of sight.

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On June 24th Urgenda won a lawsuit against the Dutch government where they demanded that the government would keep its promise to reduce carbon emissions by a certain amount, or at the very least do everything in their might to reach this goal. And whether or not you agree with this verdict, it is an important event. It is an indication that governments, but also people and corporations for that matter, should take the issue of climate change more seriously.

Enter climate engineering, a branch of engineering aimed to tackle human-induced climate change. Current proposals include carbon-capture, artificial creation of clouds and giant sets of mirrors in space. Of course, these projects would cost billions of dollars and it remains to be seen if they are effective. However, a more urgent question would be whether we should pursue climate engineering in the first place. I think that we should not.

Let us assume we are 20 years in the future and one or multiple of these climate engineering projects have been constructed. Let us further assume that they indeed have a decent effect on global temperatures. Space-bound mirrors and artificial whitened clouds reflect enough sunlight while simultaneously carbon is being scrubbed from the atmosphere and stored underground or in the ocean. All of this has caused global warming to halt. Hurray for us!

In this hypothetical case, will all our problem be solved? Most likely not. There will still be problems like deforestation, poaching or overfishing. But the main problem here will be the continued use of fossil fuels. Why should we spend billions on shifting the economy and our way of living towards more sustainability, when we can just build some systems that seemingly solve all our issues.

To me, this feels like the way children clean their rooms. When your mom told you to go clean your room you would most likely just throw all your clothes in the closet and the toys under your bed. And afterwards your mom would come in and tell you that this was not cleaning and you had just moved the mess from the floor to under your bed. Or was it just me?

This is how society nowadays works and climate engineering is a great example of this. The linear, fossil economy with its greenhouse gasses, pollutants, overexploitation of the environment is all just a giant mess. Now is the time to act as adults and start cleaning, really cleaning, this mess. When the foundation of a building is cracked, you do not just paint over it, you really fix it. The same holds for climate engineering. It is a great promise and likely holds some potential for the near future, but there are significant chances it will eventually backfire and make us regret not having tackled the problem by its roots, namely our way of living.

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Hydrogen: Fuel of the Future

Since we're steadily running out of dead dinosaur juice, we need to find other means of energy storage. Let's take a closer look at a potential candidate - hydrogen.

Since we're steadily running out of dead dinosaur juice, we need to find other means of energy storage. Let's take a closer look at a potential candidate - hydrogen.

Honda's first hydrogen car concept, source:squarespace.com

 

Concerns over a risk can have profound effects on an innovation. Unfortunately, the way society perceives risk can also be manipulated, even down-right wrong. For example let’s take a look at the hydrogen vehicle, an innovation that could have been here today, since the concept of a hydrogen vehicle is older than the one of its petrol counterpart we are so familiar with. The biggest issue the hydrogen platform faced was the fear factor the petroleum industry spread during 1950’s. Yes, the hydrogen platform is inherently less safe than the internal combustion engine, but the propaganda exaggerated this safety concern to the point where this innovative idea was dead before it ever had a chance of reaching the market. What this example demonstrates is pure innovation failure, mostly due to anti-propaganda led by a competing industry.

Some odd 70 years later, the scientist at Toyota are making huge progress with their new hydrogen cars. The main concern the general public seemed to have with hydrogen was the inflammability it had when in direct contact with oxygen. The hydrogen storing tanks Toyota produces are safer, even bulletproof! [1] Unfortunately the infrastructure is lacking, you could count the number of hydrogen recharging stations worldwide using your fingers. Looking back at the ignorance cultivated by this propaganda, only for the sake of profits of the petroleum industry, one might ask what would the world look like today, if the hydrogen car use became widespread. Hydrogen combustion, for those of you unaware, does not produce any pollutants, the only byproduct of its reaction with oxygen is pure water! Imagine the potential decrease in environmental damage with the use of hydrogen… Ships, cars, trucks, even factories could use it to produce energy without destroying the environment. There’s a good reason why the science fiction writers of yesteryears perceived hydrogen power as something we will utilize in the furure – it is the future. [2]

Unfortunately, it will probably take a few decades until hydrogen is in widespread use, although electric cars are setting a great example of environmentalism (i.e responsibility). The next big thing the hydrogen vehicles are up against is the lack of infrastructure. No refueling stations means a very limited market region, therefore it is still seen as something futuristic, not yet to come. Thing is, the cars are ready for the market, Honda has had a hydrogen production car on sale since 2008 and Mercedes-Benz has been investing huge sums of money into hydrogen fuel cell design. But the upside of hydrogen is the fact that it can be produced anywhere, using water and electricity, (it might soon be possible to produce it out of air) [3,4]. Imagine a row of wind turbines by the seaside, using electricity generated to extract hydrogen out of seawater and pump it to the nearby refueling stations. It sounds like science fiction, but all the technology necessary is already available!

But with the current changes in the global ecosystem, will this change happen fast enough? Sea levels are rising and oxygen levels dropping, usually faster than even anticipated by climate scientists [5]. Quite a funny contrast we can see here – when we’re told something will put us at harm (i.e. hydrogen car), we’re quick about dismissing the whole concept, but when the climate change is being affected the general population will go on about their daily business without even noticing. It might be too late for our planet, some scientists say [6], but it’s never too late to change your attitude towards environmental innovations!

 

Sources:

[1] - http://gas2.org/2014/01/20/toyota-shoots-hydrogen-tank-to-make-a-point/

[2] - http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/infrastructure.php#id--In-situ_Resource_Utilization--Harvesting_Gas_Giants

[3] - http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/thermo/electrol.html

[4] - http://spectrum.ieee.org/nanoclast/green-tech/fuel-cells/graphenebased-fuel-cell-membrane-could-extract-hydrogen-directly-from-air

[5] - http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-point-of-no-return-climate-change-nightmares-are-already-here-20150805

[6] - http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/have-we-passed-the-point-of-no-return-on-climate-change/

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Interview on Doomsday

Imagine you’ve already graduated. Packed with your certificates, you’ll happily start applying for jobs. Then comes the first response to your e-mails; if you’d like to come over for a job interview? Of course you’d love that, it is what you’ve been studying for your entire life.
The interview goes smooth and you figure there’s a good chance to get that job. But suddenly you are being asked to make a scan of your brains. Under strong protest you agree, scared of not getting the job. The test proves that you have got a mild form of autism. The employer is not too satisfied about that and no longer wants to offer you the job anymore. Disappointed you may try another employer, but too bad! During each and every job interview you are rejected due to the test results. You devote your life to your study to be rejected based on your health.

Imagine you’ve already graduated. Packed with your certificates, you’ll happily start applying for jobs. Then comes the first response to your e-mails; if you’d like to come over for a job interview? Of course you’d love that, it is what you’ve been studying for your entire life.
The interview goes smooth and you figure there’s a good chance to get that job. But suddenly you are being asked to make a scan of your brains. Under strong protest you agree, scared of not getting the job. The test proves that you have got a mild form of autism. The employer is not too satisfied about that and no longer wants to offer you the job anymore. Disappointed you may try another employer, but too bad! During each and every job interview you are rejected due to the test results. You devote your life to your study to be rejected based on your health.

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This doom scenario might seem fictional, but within a couple of years it could be reality.
With these brain scans, the fMRI, the human behavior and their social and emotional intellectcan be investigated. Based on the scans, one can predict what kind of job would be most suited for someone. Also, in this way it can be prevented that applicants with psychopathic tendencies are hired and immediately can be measured if the applicant is rather a great salesman or a superior, as Professor neuro-economy Willem Verbeke during a Pauw and Witteman’s broadcast.

From one point it sounds so acceptable, it would be the solution for finding what kinda person you would be hiring. On the other hand, it’s the question if we should want such a technology out on the job market. It is not even clear if the technology is even able to show objective results.

That would not even be as bad, if it would not lead to discrimination. Unfortunately, it does. What if you are diagnosed as a potential psychopath? In principle it is not so bad to be like that, as long as you simply don’t express the aggression. This aggression needs a trigger to be expressed in the first place. So what do we do? We start excluding all potential psychopaths. If that won’t trigger them into becoming violent, I don’t see how else.
We could better judge people on their acts, then on their potential risks. Otherwise the police could just as well write a speeding ticket for every car driver. After all, they all might drive a bit too fast at some point

Finally, the test doesn’t even provide reliable data. A result that shows strong activation doesn’t necessarily indicate that you’d be talented at that specific field. It could be compensation, too. If people do more effort for completing a certain task, the specific areas of the brain will also start glowing brighter.  Apparently, a stronger activation isn’t always related to competence. A talentless person could do more effort during the test and therefore show a higher activity. The scan has no clear indications and may lead to the wrong conclusions, causing you to lose the job of your dreams.

This situation is typically a Collingridge dilemma. The true risks of a technology only become clear after it is widely spread and extensively used. On top of that, the power of the innovation becomes hard to control, once it is enrooted in society.

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Is innovation always improvement?

An Italian scientist claims that, within two years, it will be possible to put someone’s head on the body of another person. In this way, bodies which are destroyed by cancer or muscular deceases can be saved. In theory the surgery is already possible. But do we really want this?

An Italian scientist claims that, within two years, it will be possible to put someone’s head on the body of another person. In this way, bodies which are destroyed by cancer or muscular deceases can be saved. In theory the surgery is already possible. But do we really want this?

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Let I say first that medical innovation and progression is a thing I really stand for and support. Every day many lives are disrupted by the hearing of cancer, ALS or other deadly diseases. There are (not jet) fully covering treatments, but there has been made a lot of progress the last years.

What I am very afraid of is, that we are forgetting about the enormous risks these new technologies can have. It can have a great positive impact, but it has its downsides too. Think of the large illegal trade in organs, mainly in poor countries, were people are selling their organs to rich people, namely in the western parts of the world, for relatively a pittance. And in some cases people are robbed from their organs and left behind. This wasn’t foreseen when it became known that it is possible to trade an organ to someone’s else body and that people won’t have to die, because of a bad functioning or missing liver et cetera.

This Italian scientist, Sergio Canavero, is very convinced that he will be able to transform someone’s head to the body of someone else. He already found a disabled Russian man, who is willing to cooperate in a surgery, voluntarily! When you hear him explain the technique used by this operation, it even seems to be clear to me. Just cooling down the head, removing the neck weave and cutting through the spinal cord, after which it can be detached to the spinal cord of the other person. Seems to be pretty clear.

But with this technique arises questions. First of all, is it really possible to do this kind of surgery? Second, do we want it to be possible? There are more uncertainties like: are we still the same kind of person in another body? If we don’t want it to be possible, the first question is already answered. Without experiments, we cannot proof that this technique is feasible. Personally, I think that this kind of techniques gives room for more terrorism and harm in the medical sector. What if a rich powerful person needs a head and no one wants to give it to him, what will he do?  He could buy it from a retarded person who is bribed easily with money. He could be forced to give it also. As you see, these are possibilities to happen. We already saw it with the transportation of organs. Do we want to have these possibilities?

As I already mentioned, medical progression and innovation is more than welcome in this already very emotional and painful world of deadly diseases. But we have to take into account the possible downsides of these techniques and the results they will have for everyone on the planet, not just the sick people in question. They may make the world a worse place to live than it already is! 

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Google Glass: Ignorance as NO virtue

When regarding the increased use of social media, many argue that this new form of technology comes with its risks and determinants of poor individual security. Many are ignorant of the snooping, and many argue on whether it is beneficial or not. This column will hopefully provide a solid base to understand both sides.

When regarding the increased use of social media, many argue that this new form of technology comes with its risks and determinants of poor individual security. Many are ignorant of the snooping, and many argue on whether it is beneficial or not. This column will hopefully provide a solid base to understand both sides.

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When regarding the increased use of social media, many argue that this new form of technology comes with its risks and determinants of poor individual security. Many are ignorant of the snooping, and many argue on whether it is beneficial or not. By taking a look at a major innovation, we can shed light on this issue.

Introducing the Google Glass: new innovation technology creating a computer wearable on your head, that just so happens to resemble a pair of glasses. From the onset, this looks like a genius innovation that everyone will rush to the stores to get. Beyond the social pressures of owning the newest technologies, it is quite a cool and interesting innovation. To many, the rewards are considered: Fast, computer able to take pictures, search the web, and get results for queries fast and effectively. The drawbacks: Cost, and maybe how it will fit in everyday life. But the masses fail to consider one major aspect, their own privacy.
The ability to instantly take pictures and go into the web doesn't seem like the most innocent feature to begin with. With heavy research done into combining "Facial Recognition Technology", this pair of glasses can pull up information on someone pulled from a crowd; from their Facebook information, LinkedIn, to even social security numbers. There comes a risk of potential abuse by individuals for clear reasons, and could even mean the end of privacy as we know it today. 

Picture society where a stranger can pull up information on you, from recent trips to embarrassing moments you would like to forget! Having my phone number and address out in the public like that doesn't seem to be something worth taking and considering. However, this is not even the major issue. Awareness of these potential risks and privacy hacks in the first place is. Many are unaware of the fall of privacy in today's society, and the new facial recognition technology idea in the Google Glass greatly personifies this. Increasing awareness of the state of their privacy can provide a far better platform to judge advantages and disadvantages of these technologies. Ignorance here, is no virtue. If facial recognition is in fact implemented in Google Glass, these threats to privacy must be clear and available to everyone looking to purchase them. Clearly, the drawbacks extend far beyond the cost or "how they look on me". 

The Google Glass can provide a relevant case on society's awareness on how their privacy is being used or to the extreme, exploited as your own expense. Many live on Facebook, and are unaware of how their information is being stored or by whom it is being viewed. These innovations have brought great contributions to society and the marketplace today, providing jobs and much easier access to mass amount of data and contacts never done before. It is now possible to keep in touch with loved ones and friends all over the world, but the risks should reach far more individuals than it does now. This is only necessary to create a fair ground to which the success or implementation of these technologies, such as the Google Glass, can be effectively weighed and analyzed.

In my opinion, risks of privacy for the Google Glass, and hence all new innovations such as social media, should be made clear to everyone of all ages accessing these technologies. Instead of the usual, long, drawn out documents which are completely ignored by the masses and only clicked on "Agree, continue". To be honest, i doubt anyone has even read a snippet of the document, and providing a more clear representation of the effect on privacy can prove to be an effective solution. Maybe through pop-up notes on Facebook or similar easy-on-the-eye projections can help the reader or user identify possible risks of their own privacy. It wont require much in essence, its just up to whether enough awareness is raised on the first part.

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The Consciousness of Artificial Intelligence

Do you ever wonder what consciousness is and whether it can be recreated? The discussion between techno-futurists and realists shows us the conflicting perceptions of AI, and the extent to which we want AI to develop.

Do you ever wonder what consciousness is and whether it can be recreated? The discussion between techno-futurists and realists shows us the conflicting perceptions of AI, and the extent to which we want AI to develop.

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Robert Lawrence in his article: ‘The Singularity, Virtual Immorality and the Trouble with Consciousness (Op-Ed)’ discusses the essence and exponential development of technology in general and artificial intelligence(AI). He performs a technology assessment (TA) by evaluating the implementation of this new technology and comparing the various views on the topic. By comparing two types of revolutions, singularity and virtual immortality, he discusses the option of complete digital replication of human brains. Through this process Lawrence touches upon an interesting discussion concerning the pros and cons of AI, by understanding and identifying the possible risks and benefits of this evolutionary technology. The question that comes to mind is whether consciousness is truly measurable, and if so, to what extent do we want to measure it?

The two revolutions that Lawrence discusses are proposed as two possible effects of AI that could radically transform humanity. Singularity is the ability of AI to redesign itself progressively to such extent that it will outgrow human intelligence. The other revolution is virtual immortality, in which we can upload our mental selves to non-biological media allowing it to live on beyond our physical bodies. Using a TA allows us to reflect on the struggle between supporting intelligence and innovation, and the fact that we lack a sufficient amount of knowledge to foresee all the possible outcomes. The ethical implications and embedded moral values that AI brings to the table, are reasons to act carefully with these new possibilities and technology that are entering society.

Constructive TA outlines the act of involving stakeholders when developing new technologies. IA, amongst many other new technologies, has developed with significant conflicting interests concerning the use of the technology. These conflicting perceptions mainly concern one confronting notion; consciousness. Michael Graziano, a neuroscientist at Princeton University, asks whether we can really assess consciousness. He states that ‘an assumption of consciousness is an attribution, a social attribution. And when a robot acts like it's conscious and can talk about its own awareness, and when we interact with it, we will inevitably have that social perception, that gut feeling, that the robot is conscious… All we do is compute a construct of awareness." Graziano identifies the reason why we should take the risks seriously, which is the fact that at one point humans will not be able to distinguish human consciousness versus that of AI. This builds upon the ideas of singularity and virtual immortality, where AI reaches a point at which it can outsmart the human mind and convince it of its awareness.

The risks of innovations are never to be taken lightly, and the assessment of which should be considered a vital element of its process for potential application. The development of AI technology can offer us solutions and new ways of revolutionizing the current technological order. In order for these revolutions to remain as a benefit to society, we should keep control of the possible outcomes that it offers and expand our knowledge on the topic before giving it the power to overrule its own inventor. 

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You don’t want to take risks? Than you don’t want to innovate!

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Something really popular and diffusing at the moment is 3D printing. The first patents for 3D printing were requested in the 80’s (De wereld van 3d-printen, 2015) . Consumers could buy the product since 1988. By then, those  printers were not that popular because they were much more expensive than now. A lot of people didn’t know about these printers, but this changed last years. The development of 3D printers has been much faster the past years. Now you can buy a cheap printer on the market for 400 euros.

Some years ago, I couldn’t even dream of a printer which would be able of printing actual tangible 3D objects. It’s even possible to print food with it! Engineers started last month by building sustainable houses by using a huge 3D-printer (Kraaijvanger, 2015). This printer can be inserted, for example, after natural disasters. Isn’t this amazing?

Great things you can do with it, but unfortunately like most things, it also has another side. Printing sustainable houses doesn’t mean it is durable. According to Gllpin (2014) which describes a research of Loughborough University, do 3D printers consume about 50 to 100 times more electrical energy than injection molding to make an item of same weight. However, on the other side there are no transport costs for products anymore, CAD files can be send via the internet.

3D printers could also be a problem for your health since they produce ca. 20 billion nanoparticles  per minute, which is almost the same as cooking on gas (Stephens, 2013 & Gllpin, 2014). This is not a problem for most people, but it  could cause problems for people which have e.g. asthma.

Another problem is that the most cheapest and therefore popular material for 3D printing is plastic. Last Thursday the 8th of October 2015, I went to AVR in Rotterdam which is a waste processing company. They told me that plastics are not sustainable and that it is difficult to recycle. Steel or glass are a much easier to recycle. Luckily, people who care about the environment can choose for printing with non-plastics.

 There is also a dangerous side about 3D printing. Some plastics which you can use for printing are highly flammable or toxic. People must know those things before they start using their printed products. There is also a possibility to download weapons which you put in a CAD program, which can be easily printed. Also skimming will be easier, same as copying of keys. People can also print drugs or medicines, which can increase dealing, misusing and addiction. But to be realistic, if people are convinced to get guns or medicines, they get it anyway, with or without 3D printing.

Issues, issues, issues. A lot to think about. Now I come at the point where I think: was it possible to prevent these risks? Or should have people thought about the possible risks better? Preventing is always better as healing, but is this always possible? I don’t thinks so. I still like 3D printing, even when I know the risks. I think risks could be also a source for change and innovation. Without risks, no innovations should exist.

With innovation comes risk. And with risk comes thinking about solutions, which can lead to innovation again. Innovations are important to go forward, to the future. The most important thing you have to ask yourself is: Are the risks of technology acceptable and changeable? If the answer is ‘yes’, than you’ve got a responsible innovation in your pocket!

Sources
De wereld van 3d-printen (2015).  Box 2 korte schets van de geschiedenis van 3D-printen. Consulted at the 9th of October 2015, Retrieved from http://www.3dprintwereld.com/13

Kraaijvanger, T (2015). Gigantische 3D-printer kan duurzame huizen printen. Consulted at the 9th of October 2015, Retrieved from http://www.scientias.nl/gigantische-3d-printer-kan-duurzame-huizen-printen/

Gllpin, L (2015). The dark side of 3D printing: 10 things to watch. . Consulted at the 9th of October 2015, Retrieved from http://www.techrepublic.com/article/the-dark-side-of-3d-printing-10-things-to-watch

Stephens, B (2013). Ultrafine particle emissions from desktop 3D printers. Consulted at the 9th of October 2015, Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1352231013005086

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Groningen Gas Extraction; What Will Get Them to Stop?

There have been detected earthquakes in Groningen from 1986 throughout present day [1]. Up until about 2012, public officials, organizations, as well as the operators (Shell and ExxonMobil), denied the connection of earthquakes to the gas extraction. Around 2012 there were significant quakes, homes being damaged and public demonstrations against continued extraction. Only in 2014 did the Dutch government limit gas output from this gas field after growing public pressure. To this day, 30 billion cubic meters of gas per year are still being extracted from this field [1]. What will it take for them to halt extraction?

There have been detected earthquakes in Groningen from 1986 throughout present day [1]. Up until about 2012, public officials, organizations, as well as the operators (Shell and ExxonMobil), denied the connection of earthquakes to the gas extraction. Around 2012 there were significant quakes, homes being damaged and public demonstrations against continued extraction. Only in 2014 did the Dutch government limit gas output from this gas field after growing public pressure. To this day, 30 billion cubic meters of gas per year are still being extracted from this field [1]. What will it take for them to halt extraction?

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The Groningen gas field, discovered in 1959, is the largest gas field in Europe. It’s also a very shallow gas reserve, at about 3 kilometers below the surface. Since the 1960s, the Dutch government has gained an estimated 250bn euro from gas sales to other countries [2]. The Dutch government expects 9.1 billion euros of gas sales this year alone, with 60% coming from Groningen [1]. The money gained is obviously important for the Dutch economy and their customers but at what price? Will they keep gas flowing until earthquakes intensify? Until a sinkhole forms? Until there are casualties?

 

Chiel Seinen, who represents the NAM oil company collective incorporating Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Exxon Mobil Corp. said, ‘Until now we always knew that earthquakes could occur, now we don't know what the new maximum could be,’. When asked if he believed lives could be in danger he replied, ‘You can never exclude anything. If people are in the wrong place at the wrong time…’ [2].

 

After 2012, about 60% of the homes in Middelstum had been affected by the quakes. There are about 60,000 homes in the ‘earthquake zone’ [2]. Historic buildings, people’s property, and arguably people’s right to live in peace are being taken away. Most buildings in Groningen are many years old and were not built to withstand earthquakes. The buildings are mainly concrete structures which grow large cracks from earthquakes and this significantly reduces their structural integrity and safety. The problem has gotten so large that there are structural engineers at TU Delft and other institutions researching ways to increase the safety of these buildings. A proper impact assessment should be performed on the situation before extraction should be allowed to resume.

There are decisions being made under uncertainty of the ultimate outcomes to continue extraction at the expense and without the informed consent of the constituents.  According to the precautionary principle, anticipatory action should be taken to nullify further harm to the people, property, and ecosystems of Groningen.

 

Sources:

Image Source from [1]

  1. Gilblom, Kelly, and Fred Pals. 'Riled Locals Fight Output From Europe's Largest Gas Field'.

              Bloomberg.com. N.p., 2015. Web. 21 Oct. 2015.

     2. BBC News,. 'Groningen Gas Fields - The Dutch Earthquake Zone - BBC News'. N.p., 2015. Web.

              21 Oct. 2015.

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Nuclear power? No thanks!

Jordi Granés Puig - Some people consider the nuclear power as the only feasible way to supply the energy that we consume when the fossil combustibles start to disappear. Nevertheless, are we aware enough of the risks? Does it worth to create millions of tons of nuclear waste only to keep on with our lifestyle for 100 more years?

Jordi Granés Puig - Some people consider the nuclear power as the only feasible way to supply the energy that we consume when the fossil combustibles start to disappear. Nevertheless, are we aware enough of the risks? Does it worth to create millions of tons of nuclear waste only to keep on with our lifestyle for 100 more years?

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The nuclear energy is the key of an actual debate, “the future of the energy”, a debate that will have a high influence in the future of humanity. During the next 10 years we will reach the peak oil and during the next 50 we will reach the oil depletion, which means that humanity will need to find an alternative way (or more than one) to generate the excessive amount of energy that consumes. On one hand, we have the renewable energies, which would be the perfect substitute because they are infinite and virtually harmless against the environment. Nevertheless, as we can see on the image above, it’s impossible to replace all the fossil energy production with renewable energies, so using them as an alternative would imply to have some kind of extra supply or to change our society model in order to reduce drastically the energy consumption. On the other hand, we have the nuclear energy, which could assume the huge amount of energy that nowadays is produced through fossil fuels. That would be great if not for the 2 main problems of nuclear energy: the waste that produces, which remains radioactive for thousands of years, and that, as fossil fuels, it isn’t infinite.

 

 

Apparently the only feasible alternative to fossil fuels is the nuclear energy, if we consider ourselves able to deal with the inconvenients. Nowadays nuclear energy can be generated by two processes: The open fuel cycle, in which the waste remains radioactive for 200000 years, and the closed fuel cycle, which reduces the product’s toxicity and volume substantially but creates additional short-term risks. Obviously if we think on an egoist way we will say that the first one is the best, but is that responsible and sustainable? On an ethical approach, it’s not fair to leave millions of waste tons to the next generations because we are the ones that are getting the benefits but they will be the ones that have to deal with the consequences. On that sustainable approach we should assume all the risk, or at least the maximum possible amount, in order to reduce the risk for the next generations. Then, once discarded the open fuel cycle, we can consider the closed fuel cycle but even with the reduction the waste still being unacceptable.

 

Some people argue that the future technology will be able to deal with that waste and to purify it. That’s a very optimistic perspective so, in my humble opinion, we should apply the precautionary principle. In addition, nowadays we think that our nuclear cemeteries are sure but we can be completely sure of this? Science is the key for human development and every day we know more about nature, nevertheless there might be some risk in our cemeteries, even if nowadays we are completely sure about their safety. As an example the reader should remember that, in the early 20th century, Marie Curie was wearing a radioactive stone on her necklace thinking that it was inoffensive.

 

Ultimately, we can determine that nuclear energy is not a solution to “the future of the energy debate”; it’s only a way to win some decades at a high cost. Nuclear energy is also finite and it will only replace the fossil fuels for a couple of generations, then the next (next) generations will have to deal with a world without energy and full of radioactive waste. Definitely, the energy problem in our society has to be solved through a definitive solution that will probably imply a drastic change in our consumption habits and some relation with renewable energies but knowing that they will never supply enough energy for the whole mankind.

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Risks management view on Fukushima nuclear disaster

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Since I am Japanese I want to let more people know about how exactly Fukushima disaster happened. Let me first talk about Japanese geography. Surprisingly Japan is made of many complex plates underneath. Earthquake happens when those plates rub each other due to volcano activity or break naturally. Do not forget that Earth is also a living organism just like us. There are also similar plates in Italy and in the U.S. When earthquake occur it also causes Tsunami at the same time.

According to nuclear power Company in Japan, they said the power plant did not break due to technological defects. It broke because of earthquake and Tsunami. Do you think this is an acceptable excuse? In my view, I cannot accept it. Japan has always been attacked by earthquake, Tsunami since 4th century which was recorded by written letters. Based on assumption, those natural disasters continuously happened even few thousand years ago. Moreover Japan is the only country where atomic bombs were dropped even twice during Second World War. We have kept promoting that we should not use nuclear energy but the Japanese government did not stop when nuclear power plant was introduced.

According to risk management, at least Japanese citizens are aware that there are many natural disasters happen on century based. Why would we still want to take risk and use this energy? This is because nuclear energy is indeed very efficient way to produce electricity compared to others. For example, thermal power generation creates a lot of CO2 emission which is not responsible for Earth where we live. There are also much alternative energy like wind power and hydroelectric but they all cost so much money compared to nuclear energy. Did you know Japan only generate 6% of energy itself and import the rest from other countries? 90% of energy is produced by fossil fuels and nuclear energy only produces 0.6%. However by 2030, the percentage for nuclear energy will be estimated to nearly 10%. This is because the Japanese government tries to depend less on importing energy.

After Fukushima nuclear disaster occurred, all nuclear power plants were stopped until 2015. Although around 60% of Japanese citizens were against their decision, the government decided to start using them once again. The worst thing about this incident is that the government did not know what to do in order to save victims. In other words, they should have at least prepared well for precautionary principle. Once the government has complete precautionary principle, it might be possible to use more nuclear energy. However this will not be an easy task to do. Because it is impossible to know when exactly natural disaster would happen.     

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Making the unknown known

How ignorance propels us forward.

How ignorance propels us forward.

In 1977, this signal was detected from space by a strong narrowband radio. Evidence that there is life out there?

Ever since I first encountered the term “Responsible Innovation”, about 7 weeks ago now, there has been one thought that popped into my head particularly often: “What a tiresome business this is sometimes.” To really be a Responsible Innovator, you have to take into account so many things. So many what ifs, dilemmas (morally overloaded or not), value conflicts, problems of many hands, risks, uncertainties… And the most fascinating of all: the unknown unknowns. Things you didn’t know you didn’t know. Even if you took every little thing into account, thought about every tiny risk, there’s always that: the surprises.

Just to make clear what is meant exactly by unknown unknowns in the context of RI, take a look at the following table:

If a decision is made under risk, it means that we know what the possible outcomes of the decision are (the so-called probability space), and with what probabilities these outcomes occur. Therefore, risks can be called the known knowns. If we face a decision under uncertainty, the possible outcomes are known, but we cannot assign meaningful probabilities to these outcomes. These are then called known unknowns: the things we know we don’t know. And then there is ignorance. This is basically the situation where we have no idea at all: we don’t know what the outcomes of a certain decision may be and we know even less about their probabilities. To give an example in this last category: Space. We still have no idea what planets outside the Milky way look like. There is no evidence that there is intelligent life out there. But there’s also no evidence that there isn’t. And if there is, will it be friendly? Will it look like us? Should we try to reach it, make contact with it? Or have they already discovered us long ago? Space is full of unknown unknowns.

It was in 2002 that United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made the term “unknown unknowns” famous, when he used it during a Pentagon news briefing. It was during the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and a year before the invasion of Iraq, that a reporter asked Rumsfeld if there was any evidence that Iraq was supplying terrorists with weapons of mass destruction. And then, this happened:

 

Presumably, the argument Rumsfeld intended to use was “just because we can’t find any evidence that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have them”. You can imagine that this comment raised quite some laughter and controversy, but Rumsfeld does have a point here. As he wrote in his appropriately titled book “Known and Unknown: A Memoir”:

 “The information that those in positions of responsibility have access to, is almost always incomplete. […] It is difficult to accept – to know – that there may be important unknowns.”

The more I think about this, the more I agree with it. But this shouldn’t be seen as a problem, but rather as an opportunity. Because isn’t this the exact fact that makes us explore the world around us? That made Columbus sail across the sea, discovering something that he could never have imagined: another continent? That makes us shoot rockets into space, just to find out what’s out there? Making the unknown known is an intrinsic force that drives humans to discover, to innovate. Even if we have no idea what might happen to us, we are willing to take the risk, simply because we cannot accept the unknown to stay unknown. So let me come back to my previous statement that RI is a tiresome business. It might actually be one of the most exciting ones.

Curious about this Rumsfeld fellow? Read this series of brilliant essays for the New York Times by writer and filmmaker Errol Morris, called “The Certainty of Donald Rumsfeld”. Morris also made a documentary about Rumsfeld, called “The Unknown Known”.

Image: In 1977, this signal (now called the Wow!-signal) was detected from space by a strong narrowband radio. Evidence that there is life out there?

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Risk, innovation and engineering

This column discusses what kind of risks engineers deals with and what kind of risks people deal with by an innovation.

This column discusses what kind of risks engineers deals with and what kind of risks people deal with by an innovation.

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Everyone deals differently with uncertainty. If you have two options, one where you can win $100000 but the chance that you win is 5% and the other is $10000 and the chance is 20%. Which one would you choose, do you want to take the risk and maybe get the big prise or do you want to play it safer?

In engineering you too have to deal with risk. In many cases you have precautionary actions that you can take to avoid the harm. If the impact will be high but the certainty will be low, do you still need to take precautionary actions or not? Risk is therefore often measured as harm multiplied with the probability that it will occur. These questions do people deal with when they talk about risk management. Precautionary cautions cost money, so when is it efficient to invest and when is it better to just accept these risks? It is a hard question, because when you are talking about the safety of a plane for example, the question above is translated as how much money is one life worth? I would say that one life is of course more worth than money, so you should do everything what you can to save lives. But this is not realistic. But you can always look for safer alternatives, for example when you know a nuclear plant can really harm many people than you could look for an alternative like wind energy where the risk is much lower.

Safer alternatives means innovation and that means risks. Look for example at the electrical car. Their maintenance costs are lower than a conventional vehicle and that would mean that more people would buy electric vehicles and therefore the CO2 emission would decrease. However, what the study of Institut für Automobilwirtschaft (IFA) did not take in account was the change of battery after ten years. This study was over a period of eight years. When you would do the study over a period of ten years the maintenance cost of the electric vehicle would be much higher than of the conventional vehicle, because the costs of the battery  is the biggest cost of the electric vehicle. Another big constraint for the electric vehicle is the charging time. It takes a lot of time for the electric vehicle to be fully charged. Also there are not a lot charging stations in the Netherlands. The last constraint for the big adaption of the electric vehicle is the range of the cars. The range of electric vehicles are not that big so you cannot take an outside country trip. The government tries to lower the costs of buying and using an electric vehicle by taxes. This means that you pay lower taxes because your vehicle’s CO2 emission is lower than that of a conventional car. You do not have to pay BPM and MRB (mottorrijtuigenbelasting) if you have an electric vehicle. You can even get subsidies to buy an electric vehicle or a charging station. This is done to lower the risk of a low adaptation rate of the electrical vehicle in the Netherlands.

So do you take the risk to buy an electric vehicle or not? 

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Risky Business

What are risks and how can we deal with them?

What are risks and how can we deal with them?

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Understanding risks seems like an easy tasks. When we speak of risk we think about the likelihood of being harmed or better said the possibility of losing something of value. Thousands of experts are paid to study and report on how risky chemicals, treatments, drugs 
or threats really are. So, you might expect that effective risk communication is just a matter of explaining what they know in a way that members of the public can understand.

 Sadly, the realities of risks just don’t work that way, in fact neither of the above two points is as obvious as it seems. So how do we actually define risks and how do we deal with them?

When it comes to deciding what represents a big risk, most people are primarily influenced by emotional factors than by well-documented hard facts. Actually, you could go so far as to say that the risks that get most attention in the media and evidently people’s minds are not the risks that kill or harm the greatest number of people. When speaking of risks it is important to keep in mind the instinctive bias that the public brings to their judgments. Therefore when effectively communicating risks, the realities of how the public’s mind works is very important to take in account. What also needs to be considered is that often the distinction between risks and hazards is not well understood.A hazard is a potential source of harm or negative health effect on a person. Whereas a risk would exist if there was a significant chance that something harmful might happen. The following example explains the difference between the two. If there was a spill of water in a room then that water would present a slipping hazard to persons passing through it. If access to that area was prevented by a barrier then the hazard would remain though the risk would be minimized.

Another misconception we tend to have is that harm is caused by a single cause. In reality there are many contributory factors that lead to harm actually occurring. When thinking about it you suddenly see that thousands of factors that are not usually considered risk factors actually are exactly that. It can even start to seem as if everything is a possible risk or a hazard. The most common idea then is to try to avoid risk by changing a part of the situation, forgetting that this can result in exposing yourself to another different risk. In this way, you can see how trying to stop one risk can in itself be risky.

The simple definition presented before is suddenly much more difficult. So how do we deal with risks if it is such a complex matter? It becomes apparent that there actually is no concrete answer to that. Understanding risks is a critical step in understanding how you want to deal with them. Decisions surrounding risk have a number of consequences and should not be taken lightly. Clearly, every decision point has a cost associated with it, and these costs need to be weighed against the losses. But the reality is that not all risks are known. There is uncertainly in everything that we do, thus when risks can be quantified, it is extremely important to take these serious and make the appropriate decision. Only then can we start to take the first responsible steps into our future.

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Understanding risk? Understanding gain!

Everyone knows the saying; to achieve something great you must accept high risks. But is this possible when objectively analysing risk?

Everyone knows the saying; to achieve something great you must accept high risks. But is this possible when objectively analysing risk?

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Everyone is always taught that a choice isn’t worth it, if it comes with a high risk. And if the risks are not known, well then you should probably really think it over once more. From a business perspective, three different types of risk are known. There is normal risk, where you know what will happen and how likely it will be. Then there is uncertainty, where the possible outcomes of a choice or innovation are known but it is uncertain how likely it is that they will happen. Finally there is ignorance, in which case neither the possible outcomes nor their likelihoods are known. Ignorance, however, is possibly the most important type of risk there is. Think about it, where would we be if some of the pioneers we know from the history books would not have stared right into the face of the unknown and continued their innovations anyway?

Take for example the Wright brothers, famous for being the first people to ever take flight. While the risks when flying now are greatly reduced, but still frequently exaggerated, the Wright brothers faced almost certain death. What would a modern risk evaluation produce in this situation? A prototype flying machine build by two men without any kind of safety measures, any objective method would discourage such shenanigans. But by ultimate bravery, and perhaps stupidity, the Wright brothers became the pioneers of the flying industry. Without their refusal of objective risk evaluation, how long would it have taken any other person to try and attempt flight?

Another case of high risk high gain is that of the first transatlantic communications cable. Since telegraph was introduced in 1839, communications on continents was speeded up considerably, but communications across continents was still slow. From British America, as it was then called, to the United Kingdom it took at least 10 days by ship to send a letter. This is why in 1854 Cyrus West Field and the Atlantic Telegraph Company started constructing a telegraphic communications cableacross the Atlantic Ocean. Four years later, the first telegram was sent across the cable. This reduced the communication time from 10 days to just a few minutes. The project undoubtedly carried a huge risk along with it, because the chances of successfully laying a cable across the ocean floor at that time were just that slim. However, these companies saw the immense opportunities of intercontinental telecommunication. The first cable only lasted three weeks before it broke down, but nowadays there are multiple transatlantic telecommunication cables across the ocean floor.

History shows that if people are able to gaze through the ignorant risks, they are capable of achieving revolutionary things. The examples given above are just two of many cases of truly radical innovations that enabled the way we live today. In fact, I am willing to take the risk of saying that any revolutionary innovation throughout history was only achieved by taking great risks, whether they be uncertain or even ignorant. Truly the only way to achieve high gain, is by taking great risk.

 

Source used: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transatlantic_telegraph_cable

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Be safe, stay inside!

The excess of the precautionary principle if applied on individuals.

The excess of the precautionary principle if applied on individuals.

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We’ve all heard it at some point in our live: Be careful. Now when considering this, it is a very weird suggestion. Most of you probably were not going to get themselves intentionally run over by a car before hearing these two words:  Be careful.

,,Predicting the future is hard.’’ Niels Bohr.

In technology and innovation it makes sense.  When innovating in a responsible way it is important to assess the possible effects of the innovation. There is uncertainty in innovation, just like there is in live. This uncertainty in innovation is translated into the precautionary principle, which is explained by Rafaella Hillerbrand. This principle states that anticipatory actions should be taken to avoid harm, even if we do not know how likely or how severe the potential negative impact could be. This principle is used if there is a potential for harm from an activity, and if there is uncertainty about the magnitude of impacts. In technology the value of this principle is explained by the example of Global warming which is potential harm, we try to avoid harm while dealing with uncertainty about the magnitude of the impact.

Although if we use this precautionary principle for individuals, while including every situation with potential harm, we would have a problem.  To explain this we are going to look at an individual, let’s call him Ben.  Ben lives in the Netherlands, he has a job and he likes doing fun stuff. Firstly he would like to go on vacation, but when considering the precautionary principle we will realise something important. There is too much potential for harm. There could be an accident with the plane or car, Ben might drown, get violently mugged or attacked by a shark et cetera.  

So let us say the vacation is off due to too much risk, now Ben wants to go to work. Ben might get into a car-crash on his way over or he could be attacked by a disgruntled employee. Would this be possible? And should he take precautionary measurements?

Shall we say Ben gets to hang out with his friends at a concert? Maybe there will be a fight and Ben will be stuck in the middle or a part of the sound system will fall down and hit Ben on the head.

What does this mean? Is Ben bound to his house forever? Or is this dangerous as well? Someone might break in, a tree might come crashing into the house and Ben could fall down the stairs.

As seen in the example you would have to find an immense amount of anticipatory actions to avoid all of the potential negative impact. It would seem that although the precautionary principle is a very good principle in innovation, it might not have the same effect when looking at individuals. The principle itself is an excess when applied on individuals. So maybe when using the precautionary principle on people it can be applied on itself to avoid the potential harm of the principle.

As for Ben, he should probably stay safely wrapped in bubble wrap.

 

 

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Reducing harm by applying risk analysis to people: Why we’re different from developing technologies.

The question: “Who are you?” is usually asked by a someone else and answered by introducing yourself, giving your name, occasionally together with your reasons for standing there. And that’s usually it.
But the value of the question changes when you ask it to yourself. Discovering who you are, what values you think are important, and the people you care for the most, is an intrinsic part of life, starting when you enter puberty. These choices can be explored safely, or you might be tempted to aim higher, taking a leap of faith into the uncertain. Risks offer opportunities to learn about yourself, aiding in defining who you want to be.

The question: “Who are you?” is usually asked by a someone else and answered by introducing yourself, giving your name, occasionally together with your reasons for standing there. And that’s usually it.
But the value of the question changes when you ask it to yourself. Discovering who you are, what values you think are important, and the people you care for the most, is an intrinsic part of life, starting when you enter puberty. These choices can be explored safely, or you might be tempted to aim higher, taking a leap of faith into the uncertain. Risks offer opportunities to learn about yourself, aiding in defining who you want to be.

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Not every risk is equal; deliberating on what level of risk is acceptable usually takes more time than taking the risk itself, with good reason: By identifying and understanding the risks your taking, you can avoid harming yourself or your environment. Developing yourself isn’t unlike developing technology. In the latter, strategies have been developed to deal with uncertainty, unknowns and ignorance. But can we apply those techniques toreal life?

The strategy of Constructive Technology Assessment (CTA) aims to reduce the (human) cost of trial and error, by anticipating future developments and their impacts. When new knowledge is available, it integrated directly in the production process. In life, this is especially useful when choosing a study or profession. If you anticipate future developments in certain work fields, you might be able to steer clear of unemployment. Instead, choosing to specialise yourself in a new emerging industry might provide you with a stable income, providing you with more options of developing yourself. Choosing to specialise yourself in this manner means subjecting yourself to uncertainty. New developments have a very clear probability space, but the impact they have, or the probability new technology will emerge is unknown.  

We can also apply the ‘Precautionary Principle’ to the working situation. If you’re working at a firm and you’re observing trends that have the potential to threaten your position, you should think about a Plan B, a strategy that will protect you ‘if disaster strikes’. ‘If’, because the impact or causality usually isn’t known. If it is known, you can make an informed decision on your career options, as it is no longer uncertain, but instead, it became a risk.

Risk evaluation isn’t just for the work environment, but can also be used in dating. When in doubt about asking out a handsome guy or pretty girl, usually you construct the ‘worst case scenario’. You might be rejected, which hurts your feelings of pride and/or love, but in the case the other person says yes, the ‘best case scenario’, your self-esteem and love is boosted. Using a scenario-matrix, based on two values, you can make a more informed decision about taking risks by determining if the worst-case scenario is acceptable, and if not, what its probability will be.

So far so good then, but we have forgotten about this important detail:  As a student you learn the most, not from succeeding, but from making mistakes. People are more irrational than technology development, and some people, unlike technology, will only be improved if they get knocked down and get back up on their feet. Learning who you are starts by putting yourself in challenging environments, not in safe zones. Usually the risks have a very limited probability space (being you and your environment), whereas technologies often have a larger impact. Challenging developing (unfit or unfinished) technologies could introduce an unacceptable amount of risk.

People are like technology, both are always being changed and developed intrinsically. In this column, I have illustrated it could be useful to include principles in developing technology in our decision making. Risks and uncertainties have always been present, and always will be, and by making informed decisions, we can protect ourselves from harm. But protecting ourselves completely takes away opportunities for us to grow as people. Ironically, not knowing what’s coming next could provide us with the most information. 

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Understanding and identifying risks in asbestos

When the material asbestos started being used more, the complications of asbestos were already known. Still it took around fifty years before using asbestos was really forbidden. In the mean time asbestis was used a lot. So the risks were known but nobody listened to them.

When the material asbestos started being used more, the complications of asbestos were already known. Still it took around fifty years before using asbestos was really forbidden. In the mean time asbestis was used a lot. So the risks were known but nobody listened to them.

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When I think about identifying risks it makes me think of waiting, boringness and costs. It makes me think of people who always see a risk in everything and because of that never dare to try anything with risks involved. I believe that is a very boring way of living, but when looking at innovation I do think it is an important aspect to take into account. When for instance asbestos was introduced as a new building material the perspectives were really positive. The material was fire proof, strong, longwearing, isolating and cheap. All in all the perfect building material and ideal for the breaks in vehicles. There was just one downside and that was that it causes cancer. Did they not know this when they started using it in building materials and breaks?

They actually did know, in the 1930’s in England and in the Netherlands there were already warnings given that working with asbestos caused cancer. Still the use of asbestos only increased after this period. Only after the government in 1998 forbid the use of asbestos, people and companies stopped using it. It just makes me wonder how people can actually keep on producing and using a harmful material. I think one of the reasons is that it takes ten to sixty years before the problems of asbestos shows. So people do not really see the risks involved.

Still when asbestos was used significantly the risks were known and the probabilities of occurrence as well. It would have been very logical, looking at it right now, when companies would have stopped using asbestos. Instead they denied the risks or ignored the warnings and in this way exposed their employers to the risks of asbestos. Even society was exposed to the risk of asbestos, because in the open air the amount of asbestos particles increased dramatically in these years. The government at first also didn’t react to the warnings for a long time. So they to exposed others but also themselves to the risks of asbestos. I think this is unacceptable, we shouldn’t accept being exposed to such risks.

I think this is an example where the risks were known but nobody really wanted to know about it because it would give huge implications. I also think that in the end people didn’t really understand the risks although the numbers were there people didn’t experience it. So I really believe that identifying risks is indeed very important when looking at innovations. When these risks are new we should not just set them aside because we don’t understand. As I think we tend to diminish the importance of a risk when we do not fully comprehend the risk. We should instead give extra attention to these risks and we shouldn’t stop before we completely understand them. We should never forget the importance of identifying and understanding risks with innovations. 

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Dangerous printing

Columns on the dangers involving 3D-printing

Columns on the dangers involving 3D-printing

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Risks involving 3D-printing

In my previous column I talked about bringing 3D-printing available to everyone. This would enable the individual back into the mass market by allowing for the customisation of products. In my opinion this is something that is lacking in today’s industry. However with the rise of 3D-printing, a relatively new product for the “average Joe”, comes new risks.

 

With every innovation comes risks, a lot of risks can be mitigated by proper over watch by 3rd party organisations. These organisations can be independent companies but most primarily the government. When a product becomes more broader available, providing over watch on how the product is used becomes more difficult. Does this mean that a product has to take into account on how it will be used by society?

For 3D-printing this of course is a very relevant question, since with a 3D-printer someone can make almost everything. Even products that previously were thought to require metals in their production can now be made to a limited extent with 3D-printers. A great example of this is 3D-printed guns.

3D products are printed by loading a 3D computer model in the printer, this model is made by a computer programme. This means the model can be shared on the internet through regular independent mediums, such as Thingiverse.com.  The result of which is that in principle anyone with a 3D-printer can make a home-made gun.

I do not think I have to express the dangers and risks a 3D-printer brings besides the positive usage. For now the people that make these things have used them to bring it to the attention of the government, which I find courageous. This also shows that the governments are running behind on these new innovations. A lot of times a government can afford it to run a bit behind innovations that are being done by the private industry. In the case of 3D-printing however it cannot.

3D-printing could be changing the way we live by completely changing the basis of the consumer market. 3D-printers can improve our lives but it also makes us our very own creators. Governments should lead the way in policy making regarding 3D-printing to prevent “mad-scientists” running rampart. Being our own creators can improve innovations on other levels as well but there can also be negative side effects of this, such as the self-printed weapons. This policy making should include coming up with a proper infrastructure to make sure the negative sides of 3D-printing are mitigated as much as possible.

 

I have talked about the risks of 3D-printing, the fact that we could become our own creators could lead to new innovations being made but could also lead to negative side effects. These negative side effects can be direct effects (people being able to create a self-printed weapon) and indirect effects (ethical questions; e.g. only rich people being able to pay for certain printed medications). Governments have to be forerunners in steering the development since it could prove to be a fast moving one.

 

Bas Krijnen

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No fear of risk

The amount of risk measures the likelihood of an unwanted or negative outcome of a certain situation or event to happen. What are the odds that I get hit by a car when I cross the street? What are the odds that I will fail a certain exam? There is a difference between low and high risks. An example of low risk is the chance of been hit by lightning. High risk or higher risk events could be the chance of getting the flue or having a car accident. As well as high or low you can define risk as long or short term risk. The examples used so far where short term risks. If we speak of a long term risk you could think about the risk of humanity running out of drinking water or a country not able to pay its depts.

For most people, risk is something negative or at least it is nothing positive. Often fear is associated with risk depending on the probability of the event. Another factor is people’s  personalities. Some do not want to take any risk at all because they are scared or they just want to make sure that nothing goes wrong.  Other people just love risk. They like the kick an uncertain or unsafe situation gives them.

I personally encounter risk often in my free time during rock climbing. Indoor but especially outdoor climbing is full of risk. Risk of falling what can lead to injury or in extreme situations even to death. Fear in rock climbing is very useful. Not in the way that it stops you from trying dangerous things. But that it makes you aware of the risk. If you feel fear you know that you have to give your best. Feeling fear should not be sign of losing control or be a result of it. It should not paralyze you but enhance your skills in order to master difficult situations. For me it is the same with risk. I do not fear it. Facing a risk just tells me to make sure I do not make an easy mistake. Risk even pushes me and gives me a sort motivation. That is what risk and fear should be about. Because risk is nothing negative at all.

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