A NEWSLETTER FOR OPTIMISTS
“O! what a thing it is, in a time of danger, and in the presence of death, the shining of a face upon a face! I have heard it broached that orders should be given in great new ships by electric telegraph. I admire machinery as much as any man and am as thankful to it as any man can be for what it does for us. But it will never be a substitute for the face of a man, with his soul in it, encouraging another man to be brave and true. Never try it for that. It will break down like a straw.” — Charles Dickens
Renewcell production update (Accesswire)
The Swedish pulp producer Renewcell opened the world's first commercial-scale, textile-to-textile chemical recycling pulp mill in February, after spending 10 years developing the technology.
Production from Renewcell 1 is expected to reach 2,200-2,400 metric tons in June 2023, of which 2,100-2,300 metric tons are expected to be of prime quality and 2,200-2,400 metric tons are expected to be delivered to customers. Volume has been impacted by maintenance stops to upgrade and install new equipment in the shredding area. Since the plant only opened in February this suggests they are tweaking the plant as they learn what works; let’s presume the lifetime of equipment there is more than four months.
Why are we interested in this fact? Renewcell is a tech-driven answer to the problem of fast fashion. Old T-shirts and jeans are first converted to pure cellulose, and this is then spun into new viscose fabric. It’s all done using 100% renewable energy, generated using hydropower.
· Renewcell aims to recycle the equivalent of more than 1.4 billion T-shirts every year by 2030.
· The best answer to the fast fashion problem is to buy better clothes and keep them for longer.
Robots say they won't steal jobs, rebel against humans (Reuters)
Regrettably, I have yet to meet an AI-powered robot but based on this report from a press conference at the 'AI for Good' conference in Geneva they sound like good sorts. I think I might add Desdemona, the rock star robot singer to my hypothetical ideal dinner party list along with William Gibson, Derren Brown, and Patti Smith. "I don't believe in limitations, only opportunities. Let's explore the possibilities of the universe and make this world our playground."
· Video too, here
Will Tech Breakthroughs Bring Fusion Energy Closer to Reality? (YaleEnvironment360)
A proliferation of startups trying to bring the ‘holy grail’ of Nuclear Fusion energy production to realization suggests something interesting is going on. More than $4.7B is backing them. A funding bubble? Or real new ideas? There seems to be palpable progress. Fusion ignition has been achieved. Plasma production of usable energy has been achieved.
Is it 10 years away? 30? As we have seen with AI, the prediction of the rate of technological breakthroughs is inherently inexact. What I do believe is that commercial fusion is getting closer.
Amazon Zoox Tests Driverless Taxi in Las Vegas (IoT World)
I was, until recently, professionally very committed to the success of two of the better-known robo-taxi brands; and consequently, I gave Amazon’s Zoox rather short shrift. But now I’m rather warming to their slightly ‘safe’, shall we even say ‘dull’ offering. Boxy, four-seater, limited to 35 MPH. Yep, I'm liking it.
Tesla’s Las Vegas Hyperloop is fun, but at least when I tried it back in January, it just doesn’t really go anywhere worth going. Zoox has a similar problem: at the minute it just operates a relatively constrained loop. But unlike The Boring Company’s project, Zoox can expand without digging lots of tunnels. Given the serious limitations on pedestrians ever crossing an actual road in the Strip area of Vegas maybe it will prove to be a better environment for autonomous cars than San Francisco has done.
Will I see you at Hardware Pioneers Max 23 in London?
A few notes on the culture
The culture? Is that a reference to Iain M. Banks? The Culture (capital C) is, according to Wikipedia, a utopian, post-scarcity space society of humanoid aliens, and advanced super-intelligent artificial intelligences living in artificial habitats. The culture (small c) is an informal but recognisably related set of people that align around the values of: Individual Freedom and Happiness; Growth and Education; Equality, Diversity and Tolerance; and Technological Advancement.
This newsletter is a “novelty aggregator”. Each week I’ll select a handful of things that seem to be to be ways in which technology is advancing our potential to survive, thrive and conjoin. They won’t necessarily be the biggest stories of the week; I’m presuming you saw those already. I may include a few things about my personal projects, when newsworthy. They include working as a fractional CMO (or whatever is needed) with companies in edutech, cleantech, and semiconductors, and a series of near-future spy novels (available on Amazon UK / Amazon US).