Technomoral vignettes

The presidents decision

  • D: Dr. Davidson
  • G: Chief engineer Gray
  • P: President Brenson
  • C: Chief Counselor Smith
  • H: Household adviser Johson
  • A: Ambassador Kumba
  • O: Or-Ban-Himi
  • S: Soldier

The year is 2017 - Dr. Davidson is presenting a new technological approach

D: Here you can see the old approach of a former iGEM Team. The team meant to use carbon dioxide and electricity to generate isobutanol. This technology was thought to engage several problems we are still facing. The idea to store the electricity in isobutanol was taken up by my work group for further research. We were able to modify the bacteria strain in a way that it is able to produce significantly higher amounts than before.

P: What do you want to say, Dr. Davidson?

D: Mr. President. We hold the technology in our hands to change the world we know. It will be possible to reduce the emission of industrial facilities, the emission of cars or to store unused regenerative energy.

P: “Mr. Gray. What is your opinion about the project?

G: In first trials we could see the functionality. It will be possible to increase the batch size. The amount of energy stored and isobutanol produced is still low but with some time we can increase this amount. It can grow to become an interesting application.

P: Build a larger one and do some tests on our testing ground in Alabama, Mr. Gray.

The year is 2019 - Biosafety meetup in Washington

D: Here you can see the measured amounts of electricity and carbon dioxide which was bound. The other line shows the amount of produced isobutanol at the testing ground in Alabama.

P: The curves look good but how about the safety issues?

D: The implemented safety system succeeds in all three forced accidents. First we drilled a hole in the fermenter. The bacteria pouring out died immediately. No living bacteria survived. Secondly we increased the electricity input which killed all bacteria but result in no further damage. Thirdly we simulated an explosion with nuclear radiance. Although mutations happened, all bacteria died cause of the two step safety system.

P: So you think this system is safe?

D: We did all conceivable tests in the lab and at the testing ground. At the moment I would say it is safe.

The year is 2020 - Committee meeting in the White House

C: Dr. Davidson presented his results. The technology is ready to be applied at any feasible site. The executed tests succeeded. The risks are low.

P: Mr. Johnson. What potential does this technology have in your eyes?

H: Mr. President. This technology is a real gold mine. The sale of this system will generate lots of revenue. In addition we will be able to achieve the carbon dioxide reduction goals much earlier than any other country which will encourage them to follow us.

C: If you give the permission, Mr. President, the position of our country will increase day by day.

A: Mr. President. I think that we should test this system again. I cannot and will not believe in the power of this development. The results of releasing the technology are ambiguous. Think of the oil industry. Where should they get work after such fermenters are built?

H: Ambassador Kumba. Every time there will be some critics. Dr. Davidson did all necessary tests in which the system succeeded. The people who lose their work can find new work. There are victims with every new invention. Many people die because of car accidents but the benefit of using the car is just enormous.

C: Sir? How do you decide?

P: You have my permission. Publicize the results and start the production of the system. We will be the first country to undercut the carbon dioxide reduction goals.

The year is 2026 - In a tavern in the middle east

S: Give me a drink, Or-Ban.

O: You cannot pay, do you?

S: Man, I am a soldier. I need a drink!

O: *sigh* This guy will get very angry if I do not give him his drink. But man, what has happened here. I doubt that this situation can be changed again. Who should pay those guys. They will get aggressive and all of us will suffer from the foreign invention. Man, here you have your drink but now you are indebted to me.

S: Indebted? What you want, man?

O: Isn't it possible that you speak with someone? You are a soldier. You have contacts.

S: So what do you expect of my contacts?

O: We have to resist those new technologies. We have to defend ourselves against the incoming poverty. Please. Let him understand what I mean. We are dependent on the oil and we are dependent on the wages of this industry.

S: You exaggerate.

O: No. The poverty will come. We are not weak. We are a strong nation. Think about my words... please

The year is 2026 - Chief counselor Smith approaches President Brenson

C: Sir, the petrol federation imposed new threats against us again.

P: Again? *sigh* What did they demand this time?

C: The petrol federation demands us to destroy the new technology and return to petrol. Their economy crushed after the need of oil subsided throughout the years. They aim to regain the trade benefits, otherwise they threaten to pull out of their investments here.

P: We can't kick out this technology. We are dependent on this!

C: Sir?

P: Call a meeting, chief counselor.

The year is 2026 - 10 minutes later, chief counselor Smith is still missing

H: Sir. What do you think?

P: How many households depend on the technology, Johnson?

H: Who's not dependent, Mr. President? I would say about 90%.

P: Oh Lord. We cannot restore this much households to fossil fuel do we? Are we able to restore the traditional energy supply immediately?

H: No, sir. I knew. The idea was good. The wealth is still good. Our country is greater and more prosperous than ever before.

The year is 2026 - Suddenly, chief counselor Smith arrives

C: Mr. President the forces of the petrol federation attacked one of our base camps in the middle east. The federation against this technology by former oil export countries has become a pest.

P: What? How many died? What happened? Do we have contact with survivors?

C: We just got an emergency signal but have no contact. We have to expect the worst, Mr. President.

H: This technology has turned to such a wealth but for what price?

P: Mr. Johnson?

H: Oh sorry. I just meant that synthetic biology changed so many lives all around the world. This technology enables efficient storage and transport for energy. We were able to close nearly all atomic power plant. Clever distribution of produced energy led to such benefits. I cannot believe what happened with our invention. Who could have thought of this outcome? If we just had known what will happen. Did we not do all test that are needed?

P: Wrap it up, Mr. Johnson!

H: Yeah what I just wanted to say. Scientists developed such a great technology which transforms energy into a power source with which we are even able to drive. It was a great idea. Can it be changed now? Can we alter what already has been altered in such a way? We have to return to the old days. What can be changed now?

P: But now we have a worldwide crisis, Mr. Johnson. You should wake up. African states founded the petrol federation to fight for their commerce. The middle eastern countries followed. The collapse of their economic gave rise to Chaos began to grow and terror rises upon civilians. They started to attack our camps and troops. We really have to fight them now. I did not want to start a fight like this but I have no choice. We have to defend ourselves. We cannot change what we have done. It is too late to rework our society.

H: That’s what I wanted to say. It is such a wealth. But for what price? ...And who is going to pay the price?

On the road to Amberville

Amberville was a small town right in the middle of a famous park where the energy was simply generated out of regenerative sources. It was a very new project for which some villages decided to only use regenerative energy sources. The citizen of Amberville liked their project because they knew that they were doing a good job for the environment and that they were an example for many people out there. Everyone in the village could see how good they were doing because of their displays. Each citizen of Amberville carried a watch which allowed to see how much energy was produced by which source. So many people wanted to change their lifestyle because of Amberville’s usage of energy.

It was a cloudy day back then when suddenly everything became dark in Amberville. They just asked themselves what the problem was because every electronic machine abruptly turned off. Someone pointed up in the air and the view of everyone followed his finger. They became afraid. The sun was dark, covered by the silhouette of the moon. The first citizen began to cry and scream. They fear the depletion of their reliable energy source from one moment to another. The energy of the sun was gone in a matter of seconds. A few hours later their machines turned on again because the sun became uncovered slowly. Suddenly they realized how dependent they were. The fear was huge that such an incidence would happen again. They talked to each other about their fears and the first citizen started to leave Amberville to move to another city that still used traditional energy sources.
The murmur was great after the incident when the citizen looked at their displays showing their energy balance. Many houses were producing more energy than needed. They knew this before but no one was interested in this fact. They were just happy with the knowledge to use only regenerative sources. But now, as they realized that their energy was not as safe as they thought, they started to think about possibilities to use this overflow. But nobody had an idea what to do. A few days later there came a man. The citizen talked to him and he heard about the problem of their energy system. He had a smile on his face. Storage and transport systems were his profession. He talked about a new upcoming system which converts surplus energy into a storable form.
The days and weeks were passing until there was another incident. One moment all machines turned off again. The people looked up to the sun immediately but the sun was there, uncovered. They wondered how this could have happened. Many looked on their displays which were partly working without the energy. The income of solar energy was high enough but there was a zero at water energy. They turned around and ran towards the river where many hydroelectric power stations were built. With a surprised looked they realized the truth. There was no water left in the river. It took several minutes until they found the reason for the depletion of the river. There was a landslide which blocked the river bed. The river bypassed in another direction where no hydroelectric power stations were positioned. Everyone took his shovel and they worked together for many hours to dig the landslide from the river bed. As the river flowed again, the electricity also returned.
The murmur began to become louder after this incident. Many citizens said that it could not go on like that. They began to understand their dependence on natural sources like the power of the sun as well as the strength of the river. Both were needed to fit the energy demand of Amberville. A solution had to be found because so many people were dependent on electricity in this modern society. Many people began to talk about their feelings with their neighbors and friends. The discussions often tackled the recent events with fear and doubt. Others talked about the past and how good it was back then. Nevertheless a few began to talk about solutions. But there was none. And that was what they really start to fear. The society they were living in was based on regenerative energy and they were not allowed to change their lifestyle back to conventional energy sources. Some proud and brave men began to speak with the mayor of Amberville but he did not have the right to change the society. The fear increased day by day. The citizen piqued each other until another three or four families left Amberville.
The man came back again and turned out to be an agent of the government after the incidents had got public. He did a presentation about these experimental villages like Amberville. There was a problem in the electrical power supply. The government thought that it would be possible to base only on regenerative energy sources but the experiment did not succeed. The people realized their addiction to high energy demand, established through the regenerative energy sources. The citizen began to fear that they would have to leave Amberville but there was another idea. The agent presented a new system which used electricity and carbon dioxide to produce a storable substance which was called isobutanol. Isobutanol could be used as an additive for fuels for example.
The citizen did not understand why they had to change their lifestyle but the agent explained it. There was a problem with stability and dependency. The energy which was produced by regenerative sources could be used during the production and few hours later. But there was no feasible possibility to store the energy. The resulting problem was the dependency while the electric net is not stable. The instability was caused by a blackout of one or more sources.
The new system could grant stability through generating a storable substance. The substance could be easily combusted to generate energy again. The system was biologically based. Bacteria would use electricity to generate energy for their growth and carbon dioxide to provide pyruvate for the synthesis of isobutanol. So with this new, innovative system, the village would be able to use the regenerative produced energy and store the excess energy as an emergency supply.
The agent told the citizen that the village would be renamed. Every village like Amberville got a name for the kind of energy which grants the highest energy outcome. The village Amberville got its name because of the yellow color of the eponym. In Amberville it was the generation via photovoltaic panels.
Now the project made its first progress because the experiment showed that regenerative energy could not be the only source. With the conversion to energy storage the village would be named Malachiteville. The green color of the malachite should symbolize the turn towards the biology as well as the usage of regenerative energy. In the next years it would not matter which energy source produces the most part of the energy. It would just matter that energy could be stored and reused.