Hi! I am Javier, one of SEC Newgate EU’s sustainability consultants, and I am introducing my first #TechAways. Yesterday, we held a special edition of #BrusselsCalling on the war in Ukraine, inspiring me to write this introduction. Once dismissed as impossible – or at least, hugely improbable – from one day to the next, EU revolutions, provoked by the crisis in Ukraine, have been happening thick and fast. Though history will be the judge of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, one thing is clear: it is likely to be remembered as an event that turbocharged the energy transition in Europe and put energy security alongside climate as a top priority. The European Commission’s REPowerEU agenda clearly portrays this.
Influenced by the war in Ukraine, which is shaping the rules of engagement for renewable energy technologies with potential for energy independence, countries across Europe began to announce ‘freedom energy plans’ to accelerate the transition and dash from Russian gas. Just recently, the German Economy Minister Robert Habeck made headlines by announcing a plan to achieve a grid powered entirely by renewable energy (or freedom’s energy) by 2035, with the pace of capacity expansion for wind, and solar set to triple. As a country particularly dependent on gas imports, Germany is sending a strong sign for the rapid and early decarbonisation of electricity. But there is more. Belgian Energy Minister Tinne Van der Straetenhas now called for the country to raise its 2030 offshore wind target to 8GW – a pioneering move for a small country with a tiny coastline of 67km! To deliver on the target, Belgium is planning to replace the existing turbines with more efficient models, breaking new ground here and inspiring other countries to follow. Another example is found in Denmark, where the urgency of the situation has led the Government to set a new goal to produce 4-6GW of green hydrogen annually by 2030 — one of the highest targets in Europe – to power aircraft, ships, and trucks.
The question whether the current efforts to bolster renewable energy technologies to achieve the ambitious EU targets remain, but certainly the stage is set and momentum is building. Stay tuned for more news.
Stop trying to make telepathy happen, it’s not going to happen [Vice]
In a Marvel-esque turn of events, the newly released CIA reports from the Cold War revealed Soviet attempts at cybernetic telepathy, also known as ‘extra-sensory perception’ (ESP). Following the belief of cybernetic enthusiasts that human behaviour can be transposed onto machines using math, ESP was supposed to allow for direct, telepathic communication between humans and machines. That type of research was not USSR-exclusive, as the US did its own trials on the other side of the Iron Curtain. While unsuccessful, cybernetics has inspired many new fields of study and superheroes alike. One question remains – what would Marx say?
The future is fact [APRFLSNews]
The future is here in the most unexpected way! Morning news in Brussels revealed the reason for the radical weather change in the capital on Friday morning. Brussels based tech start-up Futurium has accomplished its first real-life experiment with its weather-modifying product Futurium Clima 12.8 on the early morning of April 1. The founder of Futurium, Ada, explains that the machine of her dreams has reached its full capability following years of testing. With the co-founders of Futurium, Rita and Martin, the three engineers developed a machine, which alters weather conditions by interacting with satellites in space, forecasting weather and tracking climate changes on the surface of the Earth. The core of the machine, a super AI, analyses disruptions and unusual weather behaviour, alerting the Futurium Clima to modify weather in areas diverting from their climate characteristics, often caused by global warming. This is why it should be no surprise for residents to wake up to a snowy Brussels.
Cash, but make it digital [The Verge]
The e-cash race is on, as the US joins the EU and China in exploring digital currency options with its Electronic Currency and Secure Hardware (ECASH) Act. The bill is co-sponsored by several progressive Democrats and unlikely to pass but captures the zeitgeist of recent fintech developments. Digital dollar would not use blockchain, unlike cryptocurrency, or require banks to validate payments. On all levels except physical, it would be like regular cash — with its privacy, convenience, and lack of fees. However, without a ledger to keep track of the transactions, e-cash would be lost if the device or card holding it goes missing — bad news for those of us who misplace things on the regular!
Stop tracking your loved ones [Wired]
As ironic this might sound, even though people are tending to become increasingly socially isolated, we’re connected more than ever through the digital sphere – maybe a little too much. With the advent of family network sharing apps, families can rest assured that their children are safe, or that they’re picking up the groceries as requested. However, this can dangerously spill over into constant stalking that can negatively affect you. You may even do it unconsciously. In this story there are several ways one can avoid pitfalls of tracking and suggestions to get your stalking instincts under control.
Taking headphones to the next level [Techradar]
As smart watches and other digital wearables are becoming more mainstream, innovation doesn’t seem to stop. Dyson has used its expertise in airflow, filtration, and motor technology to create the first-ever air-cleaning headphones. You might ask ‘why?’. According to The World Health Organization (WHO), 9 in 10 people globally breathe air that exceeds WHO guideline pollutant limits and Dyson is proposing a solution to this serious health issue. We cannot deny that there is, of course, noise pollution all around us, so the company’s first wearable could be killing two birds with one stone. While this all seems amazing in theory, will it ever become mainstream? Are we open to covering half of our face with technology and will this ever be affordable to the general public?
The bright side of dark patterns (DataEthics)
There seems to be a bright side of dark patterns. While we have all been tricked at some stage by the design of a digital service to spend more time on it or to give away our data (or money!), we might not know systems based on a similar principle can bring us benefits. The use of design elements in the user interface to influence its behaviour (nudging), can also be aimed at protecting its privacy. Privacy-nudging guides users to make “better” decisions regarding their privacy and leads them to their informational self-determination.
About this week’s editor: Javier Garrido
I joined SEC Newgate EU in October 2021 as part of the sustainability team, where I focus mainly on energy and environment issues. I come from a country with perhaps the highest natural potentials for the generation of solar energy in the EU – thank goodness the EU put an end to the ‘sun tax’- and have spent most of my professional life in Brussels. Beyond policy, lots of sports, including hitting balls at ping pong, keep me busy. If you have any tips to get a better topspin, drop me a line!
In case you haven’t had enough
- Spiders Don’t Have Ears, But They Can Eavesdrop Through Their Web [CNET]
- Rise of the five-year-old ‘TikTots’ [Yahoo]
- This burger vending machine is a restaurant in miniature [Digital Trends]
- The Batman’s Gotham Takes Inspiration From a City That No Longer Exists [Gizmodo]
- DeepMind’s New AI Helps Restore Damaged Ancient Texts [Gizmodo]