Antony Hing believes that grid computing will help overcome the problems that face environmental sustainability in the future.

Antony Hing was one of the featured guests at an green building fringe event held in Melbourne in February to co-incide with  Green Cities 2010 conference.

By Andrew Starc

– 25 March 2010 – Since its widespread establishment in the late 1990s, the internet has opened up a limitless avenue of potential for individuals and organisations interested in promoting environmental sustainability. Now emerging new computer technologies are providing cutting-edge ways for environmentalists to interact, collaborate and spread their message.

Antony Hing, a digital media consultant for some of Australia’s largest food and beverage brands, believes that harnessing the power of grid computing, the synergistic combination of computer resources and technology from multiple locations around the world, is key to finding solutions for the environmental problems of the future.

“Grid computing will provide a means by which human knowledge and problem solving, otherwise known as the ‘collective problem solving know how’, will be able to advance exponentially,” he says.

“Fully harnessed, grid computing has the potential to transmit data at 10,000 times the rate of broadband transmission, making it possible to facilitate collaborative thinking amongst environmentally sustainable interest groups through emerging technologies, leading to an exponential increase in human knowledge.”

Hing was one of the featured guests at a green building network fringe event held during the Green Cities 2010 conference in Melbourne this year. The group, started by Elena Bondareva, and now known as  KNOWCHANGE, hopes to stimulate new thinking and inspirations for a sustainable built environment through individual participation, with members asked to leave their corporate hats at the office.

For his segment, Hing chose a video he has made to signify the future, following an average worker through his daily life as he moves seamlessly through the physical and digital world.

“The video was first and foremost about hope,” says  Hing. “The many voices of fear we hear today around our un-sustainable practices can be seen as a cause to come together to look proactively for answers that affect us all rather than to withdraw and passively accept ‘fate’s hand’.”

Composed of two parts, the first considered how our collective “know-how” and interaction will increase exponentially with the advent of “The Grid” a global computer network that will bring people, information and answers together 10,000 times faster than today’s broadband. The second part of the video gave a glimpse of just how quickly technology is evolving to enable us to move seamlessly through the physical and digital world that exists at work and in our homes.

“We are on the path to becoming better, faster problem solvers, even as the magnitude of our challenges appears to be on the rise. An irresistible future is as much an option to us in the future as is one of doom and gloom. The Grid will give us greatly increased know-how. It is up to us to use the many tools available to us (such as social media) to generate the will,” says Hing.

One of these tools now emerging thanks to the latest cutting-edge technology and The Grid is holographic teleconferencing. Already in use by organisations such as Virgin Group and CNN, the technology allows communication over long distances through a virtual representation of yourself, effectively allowing you to be in two places at once.

“The Grid will transform how we communicate: ‘Beam me up Scotty’ will become a common catchphrase with holographic videoconferencing readily accessible and enabling us to be virtually in more than one place at once, allowing people to communicate through body language and decreasing the need to travel to distant locations,” says Hing.

While the next generation of multimedia communication is still to become widespread, the current generation of Web 2.0 applications, namely social networking and video sites, are proving to be potent weapons in promoting the ideas of environmental sustainability.
Already prevalent among internet users, these applications provide an easy way for individuals to counter the more traditionally distributed propaganda of multi-national corporations with vested interests in protecting the environmental status quo, Hing says.

“The Grid will make Social Networking the ‘new normal’ in turn enabling us to participate in more interests simultaneously and harness the power of collaboration to solve big problems like low carbon energy, environmentally compatible communities and social equity. Beyond know-how, social networking will help us generate the “will” and momentum necessary to implement solutions while exposing contrary vested interests.”

Predating the internet but now more accessible than ever because of it, Hing says film is one of the more established mediums also capable of spreading the message of environmental sustainability.

“Films, by nature of their visual dimension, are often able to portray a message in ways that books, newspapers and other forms of media simply can’t. When a film is successful in engaging its audience and passing on a message, two questions need to be asked; is it because the story is compelling or was it the way the story telling was executed that made it successful. Films like Avatar, with its extensive use of CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) special effects, are indicative of the power of computer technology in being able to capture the attention of an audience even if the story isn’t that compelling.”

With a new arsenal of emerging computer based technology helping those on the front lines spread their message of environmental sustainability, Hing is optimistic that the environmental problems of the future will be overcome with the help of the technological solutions predicted to emerge within the next decade.

“These three examples, that is holographic teleconferencing, social networking and film show how The Grid will help us to create a brighter future. But there are thousands of other ways The Grid can benefit us. For example, incurable diseases will become less so, as in the case of finding a cure for malaria, The Grid has enabled researchers to model 420 standard PC years in just 10 weeks in the search for a cure.”

“At the moment, the collective problem solving know how seems to be somewhat eclipsed by the magnitude of problems facing the environmental sustainability community. But problems that seem insurmountable now and in the short term will become solvable in the medium term – if we can generate the will.”

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