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An Early Vision of Transhumanism, and the First Proposal of a Hydrogen-Based Renewable Energy Economy. (February 4, 1923)


On February 4, 1923, British-born geneticist and evolutionary biologist John Burdon Sanderson Haldane (J.B.S. Haldane), delivered a speech at the Heretics Society, an intellectual club at Cambridge University, entitled Daedalus; or, Science and the Future. In this work, which is considered an early vision of transhumanism, Haldane foresaw the exhaustion of coal for power generation in Britain and proposed a network of hydrogen-generating windmills. This was the first proposal of a hydrogen-based renewable energy economy.

"his [Haldane's] "vision of a future in which humans controlled their own evolution through directed mutation and use of in vitro fertilization ("ectogenesis") was a major influence on Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. The book ends with the image of a biologist, much like Haldane himself, in a laboratory: 'just a poor little scrubby underpaid man groping blindly amid the mazes of the ultramicroscope... conscious of his ghastly mission and proud of it' " (Wikipedia article on Daedalus; or, Science and the Future, accessed 10-20-2013).

"Personally, I think that four hundred years hence the power question in England may be solved somewhat as follows: The country will be covered with rows of metallic windmills working electric motors which in their turn supply current at a very high voltage to great electric mains. At suitable distances, there will be great power stations where during windy weather the surplus power will be used for the electrolytic decomposition of water into oxygen and hydrogen. These gasses will be liquefied, and stored in vast vacuum jacketed reservoirs, probably sunk in the ground. If these reservoirs are sufficiently large, the loss of liquid due to leakage inwards of heat will not be great; thus the proportion evaporating daily from a reservoir 100 yards square by 60 feet deep would not be 1/1000 of that lost from a tank measuring two feet each way. In times of calm, the gasses will be recombined in explosion motors working dynamos which produce electrical energy once more, or more probably in oxidation cells. Liquid hydrogen is weight for weight the most efficient known method of storing energy, as it gives about three times as much heat per pound as petrol. On the other hand it is very light, and bulk for bulk has only one third of the efficiency of petrol. This will not, however, detract from its use in aeroplanes, where weight is more important than bulk. These huge reservoirs of liquified gasses will enable wind energy to be stored, so that it can be expended for industry, transportation, heating and lighting, as desired. The initial costs will be very considerable, but the running expenses less than those of our present system. Among its more obvious advantages will be the fact that energy will be as cheap in one part of the country as another, so that industry will be greatly decentralized; and that no smoke or ash will be produced" http://vserver1.cscs.lsa.umich.edu/~crshalizi/Daedalus.html, accessed 10-20-2013).