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Home » Global Change, Sustainability

Cyborg Planet: where the clouds twitter and the forests all have facebook

Submitted by on March 26, 2010 - 4:34 pm
File:GPS satellite constellation.jpg

Now that we’re busy hacking the planet, we need all the help we can get. We humans are pretty good at solving complex problems like choosing the next move in chess- better than most machines. But as Gary Kasparov notes in Clive Thompson’s Wired piece on the Cyborg Advantage, “a weak human with a machine can be better than a strong human with a machine if the weak human has a better process”.

When it comes to really complex problems, like making food and energy available to everyone on earth fairly without crashing the climate system or the biosphere, the cyborg advantage may be our only hope. Enter Cyborg Planet, where machines have made humans one with the Earth system.

We already have a lot of the right machines. Satellite eyes to see, climate models to forecast, smart grid models to allocate resources, and social networks to connect with one another. Yet we still seem far too weak when it comes to finding a “better process” of planetary stewardship. Copenhagen anyone?

The first step to a better process is to get comfortable with our postnatural relationship with Gaia. We’re all grown up now and need to take care of ourselves- we can no longer expect mother Earth to take care of us. On the contrary, we need to take care of her in her old age. No more free ride. This is the Anthropocene.

Next, we’ll need to make nature more human than ever and a central part of our daily lives. Cyborg planet doesn’t keep people out: it brings nature in. Machines are already keeping us in touch with each other. Now we need the clouds to twitter and the forests to join us on facebook (Earthbook?) and all of Earth streaming towards us on youtube (if Gore’s satellite ever flies). We’ll need a wired nature, as connected as we are. When nature can interact with all of us in our own languages, we’ll be better able to understand her and feel for her and help her.

Now we’ll just have to keep working on the family part. We’ll get it right eventually.

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