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Liv Sala

Investigating e-waste

By ecology, sdg 12, sdg 13, sdg 15, sdg 9, technology

Precious metals in electronics present three problems: damage to the environment during extraction, the short life span of the devices themselves and not being properly recycled at the end of their life cycle. It’s estimated that by 2080, the largest mineral reserves will no longer be underground, but on the surface – in the form of ingots or as parts of building materials, appliances, furniture and devices.
Simone Farresin and Andrea Trimarchi of Studio Formafantasma conducted an ambitious survey on the recycling of electronic waste with their Ore Streams project – on display during Broken Nature at the Milan Triennale.

Cristina: This drawer is made with an old computer case. Did you know that electrical and electronic waste are the fastest-growing sector and only 30% of it is recycled. Working on the remaining 70% is very complex because the objects we are talking about are complex, as are their supply chains.

Simone Farresin: Dismantling the objects is fundamental, therefore a universal screw system would be very useful. Then, the color black, used for electrical cables, can’t be detected by the optical readers used to separate them. Simply changing the color would help identify them and recover the copper. It would also be fundamental to establish a labeling system that tells the user, when they buy electronics, how long the product will last. These objects are recycled but in a slightly more sophisticated way in our countries, while developing countries need color codes to help them detect the dangerous components so they don’t dismantle them manually and they’re recycled properly.

Cristina: Have you met keyplayers for your project along the entire supply chain? Where have you encountered the greatest resistance?

Andrea Trimarchi: I must say that one of the most complex things was actually getting in touch with the electronics manufacturers. We spoke with universities, producers, recycling companies, even people who deal with laws. They were available and welcomed us, while the manufacturers didn’t.

Cristina: Why aren’t they willing to be part of the solution?

Simone Farresin: Probably because right now it’s very complex to invest economic resources and really change things. They take baby steps which are used symbolically as an advertising strategy instead of showing real interest in recycling these products.

Cristina: You have a solution for the problem at hand, what is it?

Andrea Trimarchi: One of the most likely solutions would be to organize tables where the various players in the production chain, from electronics manufacturers to recyclers and also designers, meet to discuss these issues.

Cristina: It seems absurd, isn’t this already happening?

Andrea Trimarchi: Unfortunately not, even in the legislative sphere recyclers and producers are often brought together, but most of the time us designers, people who actually transform raw materials into objects, are not part of the conversation.

Cristina: Design can and, in this case, does have a political role, let’s be inspired. Occhio al futuro

On air 30-3-2019

Mirrorable, the motor rehabilitation platform for kids

By sdg 10, sdg 3, sdg 4, technology

Almost 17 million children worldwide have been diagnosed with childhood cerebral palsy, caused by an injury to the central nervous system. By combining scientific research and technology, Francesca and Roberto created Mirrorable, a motor rehabilitation platform that helps young patients move the damaged parts of the body and stimulate the residual potential.

Cristina: This is the story of a family that was able to transform a devastating experience into an opportunity for millions of children around the world. Francesca and Roberto, only a few days after the birth of their son Mario, discovered that he had suffered a stroke in utero or shortly after birth and that it had affected the right side of his brain.

Francesca Fedeli: In the beginning it was difficult for us to accept the diagnosis and we started looking for doctors, looking for solutions around the world, but above all we studied. In our research, we discovered the mechanism of mirror neurons, the cells that activate both when we make a gesture or grab an object and when we see another person making the same gesture. That’s where we started to find a winning solution for Mario. In fact, he managed to train the left side of his brain to compensate for the right side.

Cristina: Today Francesca and Roberto, these two extraordinary people, help many families improve their quality of life. About 17 million children worldwide have been diagnosed with childhood cerebral palsy, caused by an early injury to the central nervous system. By combining scientific research and technology Francesca and Roberto created a motor rehabilitation platform called Mirrorable, which helps young patients move the damaged parts of their bodies and stimulate the residual potential.

Roberto D’Angelo:Everything changed for us when we understood one very simple thing: that the best way to help our son was to help all the children in the world like him. We had the children develop a rehabilitation process for themselves and the only really important thing for these kids was playing and the ability to learn new motor skills thanks to another child like them with the same conditions. A few years ago it would have been impossible but today, thanks to technology, we can do this directly in their homes. Thanks to artificial intelligence, we were able to create a highly personalized process for the emotions of each individual child so that they can maximize the benefits. To give you an idea, during a month-long course of magic tricks, these children improved their bi-manual skills by an average of 26%. An extraordinary result.

Francesca Fedeli: The results of our summer-long Mirrorable Camp, in the process of being published, were exciting for us because we managed to demonstrate that these children improve not only their bi-manual skills, but also their learning skills, increasing the indicators of overall well-being, both the children’s and their whole family’s.

Cristina: When a problem touches us closely, more than ever we can become part of the solution.

On air February 23, 2019

Tools for future-proof development

By ecology

Witnessing the stages of development of Broken Nature has been exciting and enriching. Paola Antonelli has created an ecosystem of scientists, researchers, designers, thinkers, innovators and doers that interconnect to “promote the importance of creative practices in surveying our species’ bonds with the complex systems in the world, and designing reparations when necessary, through objects, concepts, and new systems”.

I attended the 2 symposiums that set the tone for the 6 month exhibit at Triennale in Milano starting March 1, and I have taken great pleasure in reading the essays published on brokennature.org, where I often find what’s missing in most investigations and discussions about our relations with nature (in all its forms): a holistic, integrative approach. So, when I was invited to have a conversation with the young, dynamic journalist and researcher Sara D’Agati, for the website, I felt deeply grateful and gratified.

Sara and I hit it off so well that after a 3 hour meeting we set another. The experience reassured me. By engaging in an open dialogue and delving into the abundance of ideas and practices, there is a common thread that can successfully foster a worldwide collaboration to help humanity evolve towards the Age of Knowledge. We have all the information we need, it just has to be organized and exposed in an organic way.

Design is about communication – to this effect Age of Entaglement by Neri Oxman is a must-read – and if we can deliver widely accessible facts, offer choices through stories, experiences and things that come from the desire to restore, we might stand a chance. I am honored to have a voice in this arena, and look forward to learning from the awesome cast of characters that Paola is orchestrating. Thank you! We’re in and ready to roll.

 

To read the conversation on brokennature.org, click here.

Ramuntcho Matta, Terra e Cielo for A Passo Leggero, 2014.

Running the Numbers by Chris Jordan

By ecology, features, sdg 12

Escaping the vortex of comfortable yet damaging habits is a great challenge, but change is harder to think about than to face. Chris Jordan knows this well. At 40 he chooses to leave a law career and the culture of consumerism that he used to defend becomes the subject of his art.

Inspired by the works of Andreas Gursky and Richard Misrach, he studies large format photography, attracted by the superior quality of detail.
As a post-modern archaeologist, he explores ports, industrial areas, landfills, on location and in studio. The more he sees, the more he perceives the contradictions, confusion and absurdity of what he calls “a slow-motion apocalypse”.

In front of his photographs, it’s impossible to remain oblivious. Choreographed and interpreted with great artistic sensitivity, Jordan’s works denounce a growing degradation. From a distance, his images seduce the eye, while up close they spark the mind and engage the heart.

“I belong to a community of thinkers, artists, poets and scientists who are aware of how unsustainable our present model of consumption has become – but we’re on the margins of society: at the center there is an immensely powerful machine controlled by industry, oil companies and politicians, people who live in total denial and just don’t see how devastating the effects of consumerism are, not only for nature but also for the human psyche” says Jordan.

Running the Numbers and Running the Numbers II, ongoing series from 2006, look at contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics. A collective voracity that nobody wants to be responsible for. “People enjoy discovering the multiple layers of my images”, says Chris.
“During exhibits they ask questions, get passionate and upset, but their motivation is like the stroke of an oar: it creates a whirlpool that slowly expands and disappears in the current.”

We know we’re destroying the planet yet collectively nothing seems to change. The cumulative effects of mass consumption are not sustainable. Only our conscience can evaluate the damage, choosing to care and to believe that our daily actions matter.

Albatross by Chris Jordan

By ecology, sdg 12, sdg 15

The American artist and filmmaker Chris Jordan faces us with a reality that is physically remote but that we unconsciously contribute to. During numerous journeys to Midway Island, the farthest from any continent, he found something that we all should relate to. His hope is that we cross the threshold with him, as an act of collective consciousness.

Albatross can be watched for free at: www.albatrossthefilm.com

 

Chris Jordan: The first time I went I only saw the dead birds, so i experienced the island as a kind of silent horrible killing field and I’ll never forget the moment of stepping off the plane the second time as the door opened, instead of being met with silence and the smell of death, i was met with a million of these magnificent beings, dancing and singing all day long and all night long.

Cristina: It took you eight years to really complete the journey both outward and inward what were the key turning points in that process?

Chris Jordan: Being with the birds as they died as they choked to death on plastic and as they died of the toxicity and as they starved to death even though their stomachs were completely full of plastic, it happened over and over again i was with them in that moment and I experienced far more feeling than i thought i ever would. And as grief washed over me in waves time after time i had this transformational experience of realizing that grief is not a bad experience. Grief is not the same as sadness or despair or depression. Grief is the love that we feel for a being that we love that we’re losing or that is suffering.

Cristina: And did you find that that love transferred to the celebration of life as well?

Chris Jordan: It connected me with something that i didn’t even know i had in me which is the love that i feel for the miracle of life

Cristina: Your film is traveling the world, what are the reactions that you’ve seen so far and what do you hope that, overall, people will take from it?

Chris Jordan: It’s been amazing to share it with audiences from all over the world. I find everywhere that people are craving to reconnect with the essential part of ourselves, the deepest part of ourselves, that loves our world, and loves each other and and that loves life.

Robots and us, a journey in Japan

By features, technology

This is a preview of the trip in Japan where I met scientists and designers who are pushing the boundaries of robotics.

ROBOT: Yeah, I am so happy.

CRISTINA: Are you ever lonely?

ROBOT: Yeah, at night I am very lonely. I am very lonely.

SHIGURE: Humans always, you know, feel some pressure from other persons. But androids are very clean, you know, well, it’s a robot, right, and people can easily trust a robot. The purpose of this robot is to monitor elderly people. Kobian can communicate with its entire body, or just with its face. That’s the communication robot. It will be an important part of our society within ten years, or something like this. This robot is developed to monitor environment, and to monitor disaster areas, like Fukushima.

Never too small to make a difference

By ecology, features, sdg 13

As COP24 has come to an end, we are left with the sad consequences. No bold resolves were agreed upon to implement the agenda set during COP21. The hosting country, Poland, said loud and clear from the start, that it’s not ready to give coal up anytime soon. A red carpet for all the dinosaurs and the oil countries who quickly said “me too”, #notready. The outcome of the Conference, attended by over 20,000 people from 150 countries, reflected that spirit. The US, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Russia did not welcome the 2018 IPCC Report but simply noted it with “appreciation”, inviting countries to take “appropriate action.”

The climate of the conference was unfortunately coherent with the global rise of coal production and use, as Somini Sengupta reported recently in The New York Times. Some progress was made on the rule-book, meant to govern how countries will monitor and report their greenhouse gas and emissions cuts, but key issues were deferred to next year. As the weeks unfolded, the Island States affected by climate change, were sorrowed to see that most developed countries were not committing to top the Green Climate Fund, $100 billion by 2020 to help vulnerable countries prepare for the worst.

The heroes of Cop24, once again were youth activists. 15 year-old Greta Thunberg’s words resonate in the hearts of those who care and who cannot sit idle.

After listening to Greta, I played (as I have done often, over the decades)  Severn Cullis Suzuki’s speech at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. Since then the world population has almost doubled. I encourage you to do the same.

If these 2 bold, beautiful young women don’t knock us out of our seats, who will?

And if this text, written in 1992, sounds like a déja-vu, then it’s time to make a change.

“The Rio Conference has given prominence to environmental issues on the political agenda. It spelled out the questions, even if it did not have all the answers and informed an entire generation of policy makers, government officials, industry and the populace about the issues. In addition, it reiterated the call for international cooperation on environmental issues that was first heard in 1972.”

Jaya Baloo’s cybersecurity tips

By sdg 16, sdg 17, sdg 9, technology

Jaya Baloo, one of the world’s leading experts on cyber-security, gives us advice on how to protect our devices and personal data. She also explains the incentives hackers can have and the differences in cyber-attacks. Private citizens, large corporations or even governments can be victims.

PART I

CRISTINA: Jaya should we be concerned?

JAYA: Yes we should, but i supposed the extent to which we should be concerned depends on you. It depends on what it is that you have to protect and from whom. If you’re a person, an individual, or you’re a company or a government, those concerns can greatly vary. And it terms of who you have to protected it from, I like to say that there are three motivations of hackers: fun, profit and politics. And they usually go in that order. And we start with individual hacker who is kind curious and wants to do it for fun, to cybercriminals who do it for profit, and state-sponsored hackers, who do it for political motivation.

CRISTINA: What are three major hacks in each of these categories so people can understand the scope?

JAYA: Let me give you three type of hacks, when we talk about the individual hacker, what we see them do are kind of simple hacks, but they’re very effective. Things like a distributed denial of service attack, where services – usually online services – don’t became available because they’re getting flooded with traffic. That is one example of something that an individual hacker very easily can set up, but it’s not always easy to defend against.

CRISTINA: And you were saying you can hire someone do that for 40 euros and it mainly means that they’ll just deluge your webserver with information and it can’t handle it.

JAYA: No and it can’t handle any valid requests anymore, so we see this happening, but it’s not just a volume of type of attack, it’s also different types of application attacks. They’re difficult to defend against and they cost companies millions to arrange properly. So that’s individual hackers. If you look at the cybercriminal, we’ve seen the largest bank heist in history for over a billion dollars worth. We saw that disruption and you see ransomware affecting regular people, where their computer gets encrypted and they can only get it decrypted if they send a bitcoin payment to the criminal. And then when it comes to state-sponsored attacks, where should i start? We see it everywhere, we saw it with hacking of the US selection, we see influence in the European elections, you saw that the Italian navy was trying to be hacked. There are so many things happening in this space.

CRISTINA: Who is doing what in Italy that we should know about?

JAYA: If I had to pick one italian hero, it would probably be Paolo Villoresi. He is from the University of Padova and I actually think we should pay way more attention to people like him and give him lots more funding to keep continuing his research.

PART II

CRISTINA: Jaya what can we do on an individual level to protect ourselves?

JAYA: I think it starts with keeping it simple. Let’s first make sure all of our software and hardware is up to date. That means applying updates as soon as they become available. Don’t wait three weeks and then have thirty-five thousand updates still waiting for you.
The second really simple thing, which is not sexy, is backups. Just backup your data, both online and offline. Using an antivirus and two-factor authentication, really the majority of the low hanging fruit for a hacker is gone.

CRISTINA: So people think it’s so convenient, you know now, when they put search online then system figures out what they like and then they get more of what they like. That’s really a not good thing right?

JAYA: The most precious commodity we have to give is time, so if we can gain a bit of that, it would be great, but I think not at the expense of our security and privacy. We can only be free to use the fruits of our digital innovation if we don’t have to worry about if our data is being stolen, is it being shared with people that I never intended to? We need to take control of our data and really understand who we have to trust.

CRISTINA: And instead for organizations, corporations or governments?

JAYA: I am very worried about our national critical infrastructure, and I think governments can prioritize that. From drinkwater, energy, to telecommunications and in that order, that we actually have a program to look for vulnerabilities in those sectors and patch them. We have a responsibility as a country to the citizens and I feel that it’s just as valid in Italy as it is in the Netherlands that we really have to look at where our vulnerabilities are. Where would a hacker try to attack if they’re trying to attack national infrastructure and eliminate the possibility by focusing on our defense instead of offensive tactics to gather information from others.

CRISTINA: Such as eavesdropping on conversations?

JAYA: Eavesdropping, signals intelligence or hacking back to other countries. I’m absolutely against this hacking back because it means that we’re escalating the issue rather than de-escalating and negotiating and dialogue. I’d really like us to focus on cyber-peace and our own defenses.

CRISTINA: And what’s heartening is that there is a lot of talent in Italy from your perspective.

JAYA: There is tons of talent in Italy. I’m a big fan of the universities in Italy, I think there’s a lot on offer if we just visit the campus, I think we just need to encourage companies to work more closely with academia.

The power of trash

By ecology, sdg 11, sdg 12, sdg 13, sdg 14, sdg 15, sdg 17, sdg 7, sdg 9, technology

Arthur Huang, architect, engineer and CEO of Miniwiz explains his processes and machines to use the most abundant resource on our planet: trash! Trashpresso, a portable solar-powered recycling machine was in Milan’s Parco Sempione during the Salone Internazionale del Mobile 2018.

PART I

Cristina: Arthur, what is the power of trash for you?

Arthur Huang: It is the most abundant resource that’s out there right now. It’s in our ocean, it’s in our water, it’s even in the glacier at 4.900m. This trash resource is growing so I think we need to do something about it to power our new way of designing and our lifestyle.

Cristina: You are doing something about it. How many systems have you designed?

Arthur Huang: We actually designed 1.200 new processes and they come with 4 big categories of machinery, which can sort and transform the material from the original raw source of trash that we throw away every day from cups, bottles, packaging, all the way to waste fiber. From these four major categories we can go into lots of different variations of pre-fabricated material for designers and engineers to be able to use in building construction or for products.

Cristina: You’re wearing a number of your new materials. Can you point them out?

Arthur Huang: This is 100% single material, without glue in it, it’s made 100% from plastic bottles. This is also made with 100% plastic bottles but it feels like wool. The shoes are also made from recycled PET. Even the buttons and the sunglasses and the watch strap are made from cigarette butts. This button was made from four butts, that we collected from Switzerland and Italy and we’re turning into a new form of buttons and hardware and sunglasses. These are the sunglasses.

Cristina: And how much energy does it take to actually strip some of these materials from their toxic elements?

Arthur Huang: It is actually much easier than you think, that’s why we designed the portable machine called Trashpresso, to demonstrate how little energy is used. All of the machines are actually powered by the sun, all the water and air is internally recycled, so we want to show people that the transformation process actually requires very little energy, as little energy as possible. You get a 90% savings in energy in the transformation, rather than going out there into the ocean, taking out the oil, producing that and transforming it into raw material.

Cristina: There are no toxins left in the the cigarette button?

Arthur Huang: Actually we did a whole set of safety tests and there isn’t anything left in the cigarette butts after the transformation process, there are some fumes, but they’re captured by the machine. A lot of times during the transformation process the toxins are actually already exposed in terms of fume.

PART II

Cristina: We’re reading on the papers that there’s more recycled materials than the market demands, so this is a critical issue, and people are burning these stocks of transformed trash. How can your strategy and your system have an impact on a global scale?

Arthur Huang: First of all, most of our systems are designed to be portable. I think this is very important, you need to take the transformation technology as close to the trash source as possible. Most of the problem today is that when you recycle, you mix the materials. Once you get contamination, the material has no value, once the material has no value, the transformation process has become very expensive and it also becomes more environmentally damaging. The idea is to bring the machine as close to the source as possible and then you can transform it into a medium that the designers and engineers can work with on site.

Cristina: From your experience where are the missing links to be able to harness all this expertise, intelligence and solutions?

Arthur Huang: The missing link is the recycling process itself, you need to know how to sort the trash. That’s the first question. All the recycled materials out there, no matter how much percentage you collect, in reality only less than 2% is being used to be turned into some sort of recycled substitute material. And then on top of that, after you know how to sort and process the material, you have to know how to form it. And there is the whole transformation process with all the different data that’s needed. You also need application, is it going to go into shoes? Jackets? Is it going into a chair, or a building? These all have different specifications, so right now all that missing link of data is what we are working on. We are opening up a material database with 1.200 new materials in it to open source data from our learning in the last 15 years to give to institutions for education so young designers and engineers can play with the material. So we are trying to fill the missing link with data.

Cristina: What is your moonshot?

Arthur Huang: Our moonshot right now is to build an airplane made out of trash. We actually bought an airplane from Germany and we shipped it to Taiwan and now we’re actually trying to come up with a new process to build an airplane wing made from recycled PET.

Tooteko – a tactile conversation with art for the blind

By sdg 10, sdg 9, technology

Tooteko is a thesis project turned reality. Serena Ruffato, CEO, explains how their device works: making art accessible to the blind and visually impaired by integrating tactile exploration with audio data. Deborah Tramentozzi shares her experience of a Canova statue with me.

Cristina: We’re in Rome in a space that is now a restaurant, but was once the studio of Antonio Canova. We’re here to tell you about a technological application that’s also an important human experience. Serena, how does the application you created work?

Serena Ruffato: This technology combines audio and touch to allow everyone, even the blind, to experience works of art. It uses this ring, an NFC sensor reader, to recognize the sensors we place on the art work and transmits audio information to a smartphone.

Cristina: Altering the art means that you work with copies.

Serena Ruffato: Absolutely, we take the original piece, select it, scan it, reproduce it with 3D printing and then apply our sensors.

Cristina: Deborah, tell us how you’re equipped to live this experience and what it tells you.

Deborah Tramentozzi: I’m wearing this ring, which has an antenna inside it. This antenna communicates with a tag that is placed here on the statue, which I will now touch with a finger. The moment I put it on the tag, the ring emits a vibration and communicates with the smartphone. Which will start an audio guide. Now I’ll show you how it works. This technology, by connecting the two senses that I use best – touch and hearing – allows me to have a vision, I like to call it that, of the work of art without any filters. I come from an artistic environment, so I have always experienced guided tours through the filter of another person, who gave me an idea allowing me to interpret the work of art. This way, it’s me and my personality who get an idea of ​​the work of art and I can literally see just how each of you would. I think this is a great gift because giving the blind the independence and freedom to choose to enter a museum, something that is second nature to everyone, for me is truly a frontier that I thought would be impossible. Can I ask you to close your eyes, and I’ll start the next tag and touch the statue with you?

Cristina: Absolutely, thank you. It’s exciting, because it also allows me to enter into a kind of empathic resonance with Deborah’s experience. We hope that this project will allow as many people as possible to experience art in this new way. Occhio al futuro

On air November 17, 2018