Persistent things

This article is part of the Futures in Long-termism series. You can read all other related blogs by following the links at the bottom of the text.

There’s an exuberance of energy on the surface of the Earth. As Georges Bataille suggested “[…]there is generally no growth but a luxurious squandering of energy in every form!” This excess of energy is stored in things. However, our production systems dissipate this energy willingly and catastrophically through institutional infrastructures, activities and organisations that fail to reinvest things within recuperative regimes or frameworks. We have failed to notice that matter can be designed to persevere. Persistent Things interrogates how we can change our relationship to materials to ensure they persist over time.

Manufactured matter (tables, cars, buildings…) is characterised by its raw materials, its various components, design details, assembly processes, dates of manufacture, transportation routes, price tags, certifications, copyrights, licenses, warranties… The collection of these attributes dictates how we govern and use objects. By now, it’s accepted that the legal and economic drivers behind the production of objects favours wasteful consumption (e.g. manufactured obsolescence). We now have such an abundance of things that it’s impossible to contain them, with waste accumulating in the oceansreaching far corners of the world and entering food chains.

What if manufactured matter, from phones to roads, was designed to be repairable and to have an inherent disposition to persevere, encouraging restrictions on wasteful products and establishing a new aesthetics and economics of repair?

In her book Doughnut Economics, Kate Raworth argues that productive systems should fulfill human needs without violating external boundaries, pointing to the fact that one of the main weaknesses of the current political economy is its inability to recognise and deal with ‘externalities’ (e.g. environmental costs caused by economic actors that are not accounted for). We have no structural solutions to fund regenerative activities except mostly ‘after the fact’ or through regulations that are imposed from outside the production system by governments. As a result, the production system with its logics of scarcity—leading to deliberate destruction—and accumulation—driven by metrics that is destroying our planet—remains profitable and companies keep ‘covering their tracks,’ providing meaningless solutions characterised as greenwashing. We have to develop solutions at the heart of the production system itself.

We need to recognise that objects are society’s co-producers. If we accept that manufactured matter literally builds our societies alongside politics, economics, sciences, and other fields, why don’t we design objects that inherently have a disposition towards the society we want to build!

How can we redesign our production system to ensure it does not squander the inherent energy of matter?

 

Experimental probe : Self-sovereign matter

Self-sovereign Matter proposes the design of objects that have an inherent disposition to persevere, encouraging the creation of repair economies. To achieve this, objects could be self-executing—using smart contracts and IoT technologies, objects could self-monitor their performance and send notifications when in need of repair, creating a demand and incentivising hacking and repairing. At a second level, products could be self-owning; that is, the decision to be hacked, repaired, adapted or reused belongs to the object and cannot be overwritten by the economic interests of other actors in the production system.

Initiatives to design objects or infrastructures that are self-executing already exist. In Africa, Mobilized Construction, gathers data from sensors located on private cars and analyses street conditions (e.g. topography and bumpiness) to identify which roads are in need of repair. If a problem is identified, the system issues autonomous micro-contracts to employ incentivised individuals to repair the road. Similarly, startups such as TWO IoT and Ecube Labs, are using IoT and blockchain technologies to transform waste management. Small and cost-effective sensors in bins measure fill levels and communicate data providing real-time monitoring. Implemented in Dublin’s airport, the amount of bin changes was reduced from 1200 to just 93 per day.

Another project that creates a self-regulating system for street maintenance, initiated by ARGO, develops further the idea of self-executing objects, by enabling streets to have agency in terms of their transactional capabilities. A street owns a wallet which provides it with the ability to spend money on its behalf. The result is a network of streets capable of independently surveying street conditions before and after repair, and paying for maintenance—removing the need for a centralised verifying authority.

Other initiatives include the expanding Open Hardware movement that has been fuelled by 3D printing, computer-controlled tools and community-based making. Most importantly, open making and distributed manufacturing has developed a series of protocols that re-structure and democratise supply chains to establish practices that are less wasteful. These protocols include real-time data that represent open-making supply chains and allow for hackable warranty models. Such an Open Production System could enforce the idea of Self-sovereign Matter since IP will no longer be tied to a specific legal entity.

Another important step towards self-owning matter, would be to create awareness in objects of their effects. For example, Provenance creates a digital log of the supply chain of products and MuSIASEM detects and analyses patterns in the societal use of resources to calculate environmental impacts and create restrictions on the use of depleting materials for production processes.

Creating interoperable objects that are self-executing and self-owning, would be the first step in building a democratised and distributed maintenance economy. To truly create participative repair economies we would need to address the cultural barriers that can lead to actual behavior change towards our relationships with objects and material energies.

This is one of another six experimental zones and probes we’re investigating as part of our work on Futures in Long-termism.

These pieces have been co-authored by Chloe TregerIndy Johar and Konstantina Koulouri. The visuals were developed by Juhee Hahm and Hyojeong Lee.

This portfolio of experimental probes is part of broader system of interventions being prototyped by the Long Term Alliance.

The Long Term Alliance is co-founded by EIT Climate KIC, Dark Matter and a cohort of partners focused on five Areas of Action, which when combined seek to leverage systemic impact—changing behaviour, mindsets and action towards a long-term oriented society.

Our five Areas of Action are: Resetting the Rules of the Game for Regulation and Governance; Rethinking Notions of Value to Reform the Financial System; Empowering Individuals through Information Transparency, Capability Building & Behaviour Change; Enabling Collective Action & Creating New Democratic Spaces to Create the Ground Swell Pressure for Change; and Shifting Culture & Narratives to Promote Long-Term Mindsets.

In parallel and in recognition of the scale of change necessary, EIT Climate KIC together with Dark Matter and our partners are also experimenting with new instruments, mechanisms and vehicles that can invest over longer time frames, invest in the institutional deep code experimentation necessary, invest vertically in portfolios spanning deep culture change to new institutional infrastructures to accelerate the transition of Europe towards a long-term society.

Futures in long-termism

The Long Term Alliance is co-founded by EIT Climate KIC, Dark Matter and a cohort of partners focused on five Areas of Action, which when combined seek to leverage systemic impact—changing behaviour, mindsets and action towards a long-term oriented society.

 

This article first appeared on Dark Matter’s Medium account.

 
Location
Articles you may be interested in
In The News
Glasgow City Region pioneering forest economy innovation to drive climate acti...

Scotland’s largest city region is actively tackling climate change...

Glasgow City Region pioneering forest economy innovation to drive climate action
In The News
Forging sustainable timber construction in Europe

EIT Climate-KIC and Built by Nature, announce an initiative...

Forging sustainable timber construction in Europe
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC launches new Circularity Thinking training programme

EIT Climate-KIC is launching Circularity Thinking courses to tackle...

EIT Climate-KIC launches new Circularity Thinking training programme
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC announces four winners of EIT Community Booster

EIT Climate-KIC selected four cleantech start-ups to be part...

EIT Climate-KIC announces four winners of EIT Community Booster
In The News
Science reveals last paths to stop irreversible planetary damage

Climate change is going to get worse, but curbing global warming is...

Science reveals last paths to stop irreversible planetary damage
In The News
EIT Community presents New European Bauhaus Ideation Awards winners

Supported by the EIT Community, the New European Bauhaus...

EIT Community presents New European Bauhaus Ideation Awards winners
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC joins forces with the Government of Ireland to stimulate clima...

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and the Marine of...

EIT Climate-KIC joins forces with the Government of Ireland to stimulate climate innovation in the agri-food sector
In The News
Climate Lab: EIT Climate-KIC co-initiates hotspot for Vienna’s climate ambit...

Climate Lab in Vienna will give climate actors an...

Climate Lab: EIT Climate-KIC co-initiates hotspot for Vienna’s climate ambitions
In The News
Seven takeaways from the latest IPCC report

On 28 February, the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (AR6)...

Seven takeaways from the latest IPCC report
In The News
EIT launches new Global Outreach website

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) has...

EIT launches new Global Outreach website
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC and Amazon launch call for sustainable start-ups

Working on transformative, systemic innovation to accelerate a net-zero...

EIT Climate-KIC and Amazon launch call for sustainable start-ups
In The News
Votes open for the 2021 New European Bauhaus Ideation Awards – Audience Awar...

Do you want to support innovative solutions that integrate...

Votes open for the 2021 New European Bauhaus Ideation Awards – Audience Award
In The News
Brill Power’s new innovation radically increases battery life and storag...

Brill Power, supported by EIT Climate-KIC, has launched the...

Brill Power’s new innovation radically increases battery life and storage capacity
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC CEO Dr. Kirsten Dunlop gives TEDx Talk

EIT Climate-KIC CEO Dr. Kirsten Dunlop delivered a talk,...

EIT Climate-KIC CEO Dr. Kirsten Dunlop gives TEDx Talk
In The News
Putting theory into practice: EIT Climate-KIC Pioneer innovating the Greek mar...

To tackle complex climate challenges, we need a broader...

Putting theory into practice: EIT Climate-KIC Pioneer innovating the Greek maritime sector
In The News
EIT launches call for proposals to boost innovation in Higher Education Instit...

Unlocking the potential of higher education institutions for innovation...

EIT launches call for proposals to boost innovation in Higher Education Institutions
In The News
Dolomites forging climate resilience

The Italian Dolomites, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are...

Dolomites forging climate resilience
In The News
People-powered resilience: Andalusia announces new climate action plan

The region’s climate action plan has been announced, with...

People-powered resilience: Andalusia announces new climate action plan
In The News
Built by Nature: new initiative to accelerate the transition to sustainable co...

The built environment accounts for close to 40 per...

Built by Nature: new initiative to accelerate the transition to sustainable construction in cities
In The News
The State of California and EIT Climate-KIC advance partnership for climate in...

Glasgow, 8 November – The California Governor’s Office of...

The State of California and EIT Climate-KIC advance partnership for climate innovation
In The News
COP26: UN Climate Change and EIT Climate-KIC partner to establish new Global I...

A new digital Global Innovation Hub has been launched at...

COP26: UN Climate Change and EIT Climate-KIC partner to establish new Global Innovation Hub
In The News
ClimateLaunchpad announces 2021 competition winners

EIT Climate-KIC’s ClimateLaunchpad – the world’s largest green business...

ClimateLaunchpad announces 2021 competition winners
In The News
EIT Cross-KIC New European Bauhaus launches Ideation – Deadline Extended

EIT Climate-KIC has launched a call for ideas on...

EIT Cross-KIC New European Bauhaus launches Ideation – Deadline Extended
In The News
Call for proposals: Scaling the New European Bauhaus Ventures

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) has...

Call for proposals: Scaling the New European Bauhaus Ventures
In The News
Glasgow City Region in the race to resilience

Glasgow, which is hosting this year’s UN Climate Change...

Glasgow City Region in the race to resilience
In The News
Gipuzkoa’s quest for sustainability

Gipuzkoa, the smallest Spanish province located in the Basque...

Gipuzkoa’s quest for sustainability
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC to host week-long celebration of climate innovators

The EIT Climate-KIC Week of Action will celebrate, recognise...

EIT Climate-KIC to host week-long celebration of climate innovators
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC launches new series of circular economy courses

As companies and practitioners around the world are looking...

EIT Climate-KIC launches new series of circular economy courses
In The News
NetZeroCities: the new project leading European cities’ transition to net-ze...

Starting in October 2021, the new project NetZeroCities will...

NetZeroCities: the new project leading European cities’ transition to net-zero emissions by 2030
In The News
In the face of complex challenges, Europe stronger together, says EU President...

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen outlined her...

In the face of complex challenges, Europe stronger together, says EU President von der Leyen