Biodegradable Technology is a term that sounds like "biotechnology" -- something that exists today in a multitude of forms. But when you examine the phrase "biodegradable technology" you can see that it is not exactly the same as the more popular term "biotechnology," which is largely a medical field. I first wrote much of this essay in 1986, discussed it with many, and mailed it to a person that is big in the experiment arts network in 1986.
Biodegradable technology is concerned with manufacturing science -- fusing the pollutive processes today with a more advanced science based on the mechanisms of plant genetics such as photosynthesis. It is in the avant-garde of science today.
I'm not that sure what I think about the future of biodegradable technology. To me, all life is sentient and I will not purposefully cause suffering to any living creature. But, humankind has really got itself in a mess when it comes to global warming and toxins. We all know today about the real problems of global warming. Having technology grow slowly without the heat of manufacturing plants will create less global warming. Air pollution is the kind of problem which we can't always fully see: due to a lack of oxygen people change slowly, over the years, and few can tell the difference. The less healthy we are, often the less conscious, alive, bright with emotions and intelligence we become. We owe it to ourselves to take more seriously the condition of our air. There are several ways in which we can filter smog, control air pollution before it is released into the atmosphere and maintain more vegetation to continue the process.
The essay "Biodegradable Technology" discusses many different subjects one of which is the idea of the genetic engineering of plants. When I wrote the first edition of this essay, in 1985, there was no interest in the problems of genetically modified food.
The ethical aspects of plant genetic engineering are quite strange. Genetic engineering of plants seems plausibly a way that future humans will interact with the earth. We can hold in check human progress by our own human virtues. If people are at a low level of virtue, then I'm not for a rush into plant genetics because the profit motive will always be more important to some than the ecological and human health motive. But if all people were saints, then plant engineering might be a part of the ethical pattern of higher civiliations.
Here is a 1995 version that has survived the demise of most of the Usenet archives. I called the piece, in a temporary ploy for media attention, the Anti-Unabomber Manifesto. I'm posting it here to show my early relationship with these ideas.
One can at least see this essay as symbolic.
Note: Around January 10th, (2004?) I saw the author Freeman Dyson discuss this idea almost verbatim on a television program, which I have had on the web now for about ten years, and which I wrote and circulated back in the mid-1980's.
It's interesting that Al Gore and his administration released a long document about future technology which has some of the flavoring in this essay. To quote from another government document, the first on our page of links:
A naturally occurring protein may serve as the basis for development of advanced optical switching, optical data storage, and holography applications. When irradiated with visible light, bacteriorhodopsin (BR) absorbs light and proceeds through a complex cycle. Under certain conditions, some of the intermediate states persist for a long time; under other conditions, BR has intermediate transition states that change in less than one picosecond. The capability of BR to exist in two states makes it a potential candidate for use in molecular electronics, molecular switches, and the lithographic fabrication of nanometer-scale patterns. In Federally supported research, physicists and materials scientists have succeeded in stabilizing BR in a self- assembled, two-dimensional, multi-layered lattice at temperatures as high as 140¡ C. The capability to stabilize BR in the desired state is key to developing advanced applications.
The essay here has stated that plant proteins could be used for this very reason way back in 1986 when it was written as the humorously titled work, "Hard Science."
This essay is a request towards those who have the resources to take new steps in research and development. Not only do we need to find different means of transportation, there are many industrial processes which can be changed. We are all benefited by fresh air, free of the carcinogens that industrial factories have produced. In some countries today, air pollution causes one in twelve of the total deaths per year. If this doesn't have to be, then it will take government regulation to enforce. The ideas talked about in this essay may seem far off, but in reality they may only be a few years away.
Biodegradable Technology Links
For more links, simply go to a good web search engine and type in "Biodegradable Technology."