Enlightening Lunch: Clark Miller

April 26, 2017

Human Centric Energy Transitions

Over the next half century, humanity will spend approximately $40 trillion to create clean energy systems. These transformations will have enormous implications for what it means to be human — who we are, how we live and work, where and how we travel — as well as our relationships with nature on planetary scales. The next few decades will thus comprise a profound exercise in the design of the human future. Yet, to date, the principle design criteria for renewable energy is that it be carbon-free. If we spend $40 trillion and achieve little more than carbon neutrality, that will be a disappointing outcome. Worse, future energy systems — or the transitions to them — could replicate the destructive outcomes of existing energy systems or create new pathologies. On the other hand, $40 trillion in investments represents a significant opportunity to invest in thriving human futures. Can technology transitions of this scale be designed to be human centric? What would that mean for the design of infrastructure systems and the social reconfigurations that occur alongside them?