The Infinite Resource: The Power of Ideas on a Finite Planet
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
We're beset by an array of natural resource and environmental challenges. They pose a tremendous risk to human prosperity, to world peace, and to the planet itself.
Yet, if we act, these problems are addressable. Throughout history we've overcome similar problems, but only when we've focused our energies on innovation. For the most valuable resource we have isn't oil, water, gold, or land - it's our stockpile of useful ideas, and our continually growing capacity to expand them.
In this remarkable book, Ramez Naam charts a course to supercharge innovation - by changing the rules of our economy - that can lead the whole world to greater wealth and human well-being, even as we dodge looming resource crunches and environmental disasters and reduce our impact on the planet.
From solar power to desalination, from next generation crops to next generation batteries, from technologies that could scrub carbon from our skies to those that could turn our garbage dumps into piles of valuable resources - solutions are possible: But only if we invest in innovation, and only if we put the right incentives in place around the globe. This book shows the scope of the problems, the landscape of the solutions, and policy changes we need to make to bring those solutions to fruition.
grains that feed us and that feed the livestock that we depend on. Oil fuels the mining equipment that extracts the ores containing the steel, aluminum, and other metals and minerals that our industrial society consumes. And oil is finite. There is only so much of it that has ever been created by the slow high-pressure cooking of decaying plants. I don’t recall the very first time I heard the idea of peak oil—the notion that the amount of oil we can get out of the ground each year will soon peak
to build buildings and move people and supplies from one place to another. We’ve learned to harness electricity to light and power our homes and offices, and to use the electromagnetic spectrum to communicate our thoughts, words, images, and information of all sorts from one corner of the globe to another. And along the way, radical new ideas have established the rights of the governed to choose who governs them, have reduced our propensity for warfare, and have lifted the well-being and freedom
Arabs took included several Chinese craftsmen skilled in the creation of rag paper. From the battleground in Talas, the creation of rag paper spread south and west into the middle east, then west across North Africa, north into Moorish Spain, and finally into Europe in the 1200s. Meanwhile, Italian painters of the very early Renaissance had developed oil-based paints for use in creating canvases. Gutenberg combined these ideas and brought his own knowledge base as a goldsmith to bear. Why not
turning it completely into steam (and thus freeing it from the salt) and then letting that steam condense into a separate chamber, producing freshwater. The energy needed to not only bring water to a boil, but literally turn all the water one wanted to desalinate into steam made it prohibitive. Newer desalination technologies borrow tricks from nature and from materials science. Biologists have long understood that nature has semi-permeable membranes that can let some fluids and dissolved
Why then didn’t the Renaissance, the Scientific Revolution, and the Industrial Revolution happen in China? Why didn’t the printing press, an invention first created in Germany, accelerate innovation in China the way it eventually did in, say, England or Spain? Given the higher level of affluence and literacy China enjoyed, the head start it had in knowledge base over Europe, surely the odds were in favor of China maintaining that momentum or even pulling ahead. Instead, Chinese technology and the