Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"Solving humanity’s most pressing problems". Comments?

The Buckminster Fuller Challenge
"Each year a distinguished jury awards a $100,000 prize to support the development and implementation of a strategy that has significant potential to solve humanity’s most pressing problems and the 2009 results are in!"

(All text and graphics here taken from prize announcement at )

From Buckminster Fuller Challenge release:
Congratulations to the winning proposal by the Smart Cities Group at the MIT Media lab: Sustainable Personal Mobility and Mobility-on-Demand Systems.

2009 Grand Prize Winner: Sustainable Personal Mobility and Mobility-on-Demand Systems

And here it is:

* For full article click to

Your comments are warmly invited here.

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  1. Do I smell a hint of irony in the text ? :-)

  2. I know Bill Mitchell and this lab very well. They are a great group that thinks far outside the box -- and this how I would characterize the role of the Media Lab (although I am not an expert).

    They have done a terrific job of capturing the public's imagination. And they have offered up an image (and images) that the press adores and gets used often. We can and should learn from that. I have.

    Is a row of shared cars for short-distance travel a good use of dense city curbsides? No.

    Is the idea of inductive power generation along major blocks throughout metro areas a realistic option (especially financially) any time soon? no

    Are one-way shared vehicles going be operationally viable in the near term? No (witness Velib).

    Does the one-size vehicle replace car ownership in cities? No, doesn't meet all call mobility needs.

    Does a one-form factor of vehicle take advantage of the diversity of vehicles that distinguishes car sharing from car ownership? No.

    Bill and his lab have heard me say all these things. I continue to like them and admire their work. They are doing a lot of things right. Note, they got the award.

  3. In my humble opinion, the winning concept (Personal Mobility on Demand- PMOD) is by far not as brilliant as the honorable mention (Cycle for Health- CFH) in every count of the judging critiria:

    • Comprehensive — addressing the interaction of key issues responsible for present conditions; aims to solve multiple problems without creating new ones;
    • (PMOD create new problems by demanding a new infrastructure, CFH truely solve multiple problems without creating new problems)
    • Anticipatory — factoring in critical future trends and needs as well as potential long term impacts of implementation;
    • (human powered mobility will always be more sustainable and benifitial to human life than motor powered version)
    • Ecologically responsible — reflecting nature's underlying principles while enhancing the Earth’s life-support systems;
    • (same as above)
    • Feasible — relying on current technology and existing resources;
    • (resuing old bicycles is anytime more feasible than creating a whole new infrastructure for electric cars)
    • Verifiable — able to withstand rigorous empirical testing;
    • (bicycle has been tried and tested for century, electric cars still need to prove itself)
    • Replicable — able to scale and adapt to a broad range of conditions.
    • (bicycle solution is already being rapidly replicated in many cities)

    I think electric car will come, but bicycles deserved much more attention for it's eco and human quality of life values.

    Chu Wa


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