Technology Breakthrough Solutions for Food and Energy Crises

Ever since textile, iron and steam innovations launched an industrial revolution over two centuries ago, our world has relied on technological innovation for new products and improved lives. In energy, we moved from wood to coal to petroleum, electricity and nuclear. In agriculture, technology refuted Malthus. As we face renewed challenges in both energy and food, can we again rely on technology to provide new answers to what appear to be overwhelming challenges?

This course evaluates progress and potential for innovation in life sciences, informatics and other technologies to bring us new and more productive food sources as well as improved and renewable energy options that are cost effective, available and acceptable. The outcome will determine whether we can continue to rely on technology breakthroughs for solutions that lead to better lives and a world in which to live them.

Technology Breakthrough Solutions for Food and Energy Crises

Ever since James Watt’s perfection of the steam engine over two centuries ago, we have relied on technology to regularly and dramatically improve our daily lives. Steam freed us from the limits of wind, wave and muscle for transport power and the heavy manual labor of agriculture. Later application of steam and other technologies to agriculture would refute Mathus’s forecasts on food and population growth. A century after steam, electricity became the driving force to light our world, spread instant communication and underlie today’s world of information technology.

Our question today is whether these and other past advances can be supplemented with the promise of biotech and other technologies to solve today’s challenges, particularly in the closely related and critically essential worlds of food and energy. Technology Breakthrough Solutions for Food and Energy Crises provides an understanding of how far we have progressed, the titanic challenges that remain and what is needed to surmount these dual food and energy obstacles to a better future.

As we learn why food and energy and their solutions are inextricably linked, we will see why using corn to produce ethanol to reduce gasoline dependence raises food prices and adds to global warming. But that example is just the tip of the many now melting icebergs of food and energy links. These must be understood before a path to solutions to both can be realized. Toward that goal, this course will build on the fundamental linkage of food and energy: both originated as stored and later processed solar energy. That food and energy supplements the sun each day to enable all life in our world to survive and thrive, life that we are fighting to nurture, preserve and advance against global warming and other threats.

In our daily lives, we often miss linkages that may be key to finding solutions. We do this when we ask: how can we stop global warming; what can we do reduce gasoline pump prices; why are food prices rising so fast, without realizing how intertwined all these questions are? How often do we think about the sun rising each day as being responsible for all our energy and food? More importantly, do we ever wonder if that same sun can be complemented by our innovative discovery and application of new technologies to yield answers to most threatening global food and energy problems?

It is interesting that nearly all of the vast investment in what we term as biotech has gone into the narrow segment of finding blockbuster drugs that might extend or make a few individual lives better. In comparison, the life science fields focused on food and energy, which could enhance and extend all life have received scant attention and funding until recently.

Even more intriguing is electricity, the single most important non-life science advance since the industrial revolution, and its potential as catalyst for both food and energy solutions. The attached class outline for Technology Breakthrough Solutions for Food and Energy Crises indicates how the proposed course will evaluate and explore these and other approaches to understanding and meeting the challenges of the linked food and energy crises we face. In summary, it will assess how the greatest marvel of all in life sciences, the human mind, can weave, solar, electricity, biotech and other technology breakthroughs in ways that solve energy and food challenges, just as we have surmounted past barriers on the way to better lives and world in which to live them.



Food and Energy Links

Technology Solutions

Electricity Transportation

Food Biofuels Biotech

Global Warming and Renewable Energy

Renewables Cost Benefits Conclusions

Smart Grid Food Energy Technology Conclusions

Energy Conclusions

Bibliographical Books Article s Links

Class Session Introduction and Highlights

Instructor Background Comments

Breakthrough Industry Timelines

Other Industry Timelines

Technology Timelines

Inventors Hall of Fame Summary

Inventors Hall of Fame Detail

US Business Innovators

US Innovators, Builders, Business Hall of Fame

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