10 votes

Could We Run Modern Society on Human Power Alone?

3 comments

  1. patience_limited Link
    Paulo Bacigalupi's science fiction novel, The Windup Girl, posits a greenhouse future where there are few remaining usable sources of stored chemical energy, little solar/wind, and just barely...

    Paulo Bacigalupi's science fiction novel, The Windup Girl, posits a greenhouse future where there are few remaining usable sources of stored chemical energy, little solar/wind, and just barely enough dangerous biotech. Human-powered clockwork and biomechanical energy storage are the primary functioning power sources for industry and transportation, and there's not quite enough food to keep humans fueled.

    While we might do better than that ghastly dystopian hellscape, it's important to remember that what needs to be powered is much more far-reaching and interconnected than the tasks a small people-powered village can accomplish.

    2 votes
  2. alyaza Link
    although this article is approaching two years old, it's still an interesting one (as are most of the articles done by low tech magazine, which i'd encourage you to read through sometime) and it...

    although this article is approaching two years old, it's still an interesting one (as are most of the articles done by low tech magazine, which i'd encourage you to read through sometime) and it also presents an interesting case for human power--but also the limits of it and the potential drawbacks that. the human power plant project they bring up is also pretty neat, and i've actually never thought of it as a viable option before for smaller communities or groups of people.

    1 vote
  3. orangse Link
    Its a very interesting article, however it leaves a lot of questions I think. Specifically which is more efficient: automating the task or just having a human do the task? Like moving water, it is...

    Its a very interesting article, however it leaves a lot of questions I think. Specifically which is more efficient: automating the task or just having a human do the task? Like moving water, it is definitely less time to pump it versus carry it, but how does the energy expenditure hold up when the pump is human powered? In terms of the building, I can't believe they'd /build/ it on human power, which makes the carbon footprint much higher than I initially thought when reading the article.

    Personally I think the best method of going about this would be a high population density village of sorts. That way you eliminate the large carbon footprint from construction, and a lot of people can be devoted to producing electricity for shared resources like washing clothes and cooking. You'd need to fiddle around a bit to see what allocation of automation vs. just doing it is realistic and sustainable. Gonna go out on a limb and say modern living is probably impossible on human power alone.

    Ultimately these would hopefully be answered by the experiment, but it doesn't look like a lot has happened on that front? It looks like they're still active with other stuff though.

    Regardless we're all kind of boned by climate change, which does make this a bit depressing.