Here’s another good example of speculative design. Elie Ahovi imagines gigantic semi-autonomous underwater drones collecting vast amounts of oceanic plastic in gigantic nets.
Looks like a toy, but imagine it at scale:
Plastic-Eating Underwater Drone Could Swallow the Great Pacific Garbage Patch via Popular Science
A new underwater drone concept could seek and destroy one of the ocean’s most insidious enemies, while earning a profit for plastics recyclers. This marine drone cansiphon plastic garbage, swallowing bits of trash in a gaping maw rivaling that of a whale shark.
Industrial design student Elie Ahovi, who previously brought us the Orbit clothes washer concept, now presents the Marine Drone, an autonomous electric vehicle that tows a plastic-trapping net. The net is surrounded by a circular buoy to balance the weight of the garbage it collects. It discourages fish and other creatures from entering its jaws via an annoying sonic transmitter, and it communicates with other drones and with its base station using sonar.
This design forces us to consider the implications of the plastic in the ocean, since the designed object changes the possible costs of cleaning the ocean. If it is no longer impossible — or no longer too costly — to clean the ocean, how much are we willing to pay? A $100M a year for 10 years? 20 years?
I hope that this design sparks a real discussion, and not just another TED inspirational moment where we see a cool idea, and then turn back to the status quo, satisfied that in some techno-utopian future smart technologists like Elie Ahovi will save us, even when our leaders hopelessly fail to even address the issues, let alone solve them.
We’re not living in some Independence Day movie, where two guys can steal a hot-rod space ship, do a drive-by, and save the day. We need speculative designers to force the discussion by creating imaginary appliances that can break through the logjam, and get real discussions going, and then real actions taken.
I for one think that we should have NOAA start an Oceans Clean-Up program, a long-term project to get the plastic and other garbage out of the oceans, and we should fund it just like the Mars Lander program, which has been given $2.5B.