Crowd farms: Welcome to The Matrix

October 15, 2007

The search for new forms of energy production took an interesting turn with the invention of the “Crowd Farm” by two architecture students at M.I.T. This uses the energy of human movement in urban settings. A small amount of energy from an individual becomes a large amount when combined from enough people, for example 28,527 footsteps could power a train for one second. But what’s the dark side?


The CSMonitor provides a more extensive lookat the context of piezoelectric technology, which is worth the read. However, there are some arguments yet to be marshalled against the acceptence of footfall power.The claim that this doesn’t cost a dime isn’t actually true. The energy that’s going to be taken from your footsteps comes from somewhere. This is your food budget in the first instance, although you might claim it’ll make up for that luxury chocolate cake you had between meals. Beyond that, if your food budget increases, more energy will be required to produce and transport that food.

You might well ask whether someone else should be allowed to use your energy for running trains. Should you give the energy for free? Will you get a rebate on your season ticket? If commercial railways benefit, isn’t this just another example of the way businesses pass their costs to the customers? And if it’s public transport that benefits, it’s just a way to sneakily tax the fat!

Ultimately, it’s just the short end of the electric wedge. Next we’ll all be plugged into The Matrix, our bodies supplied with nutrients, no need to move as our bodies radiate heat to keep the Machine going.

The upside is that we won’t need to commute anymore.

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5 Responses to “Crowd farms: Welcome to The Matrix”

  1. Peter Manson Says:

    The complaints sound like PC-gone-mad, especially with the school now having to go to the expense of writing to all parents.

    I am totally against discrimination, and the decision may not have been the brightest one ever made, but is anyone seriously suggesting that being at one end of the line rather than the other is discriminatory, that being at one end put those pupils at a disadvantage?

  2. Peter Manson Says:

    Indeed it was meant for that thread – does your software have a glitch? (Checked cache at this end and definitely looks like I posted to the right one).

  3. Peter Manson Says:

    Crowd power – someones really claiming this as a new idea? Haven’t the human race (and others) been using crowd power since, well, forever really? Isn’t huddling together for warmth crowd power in its basic application?

    If you want to get more specific and talk about harnessing the power of footsteps – what about footpaths? Humans (and many animals) have been harnessing footsteps to create paths – the route that many people follow becomes compacted and clear of vegetation, making it easier for others to walk it. That in my view is conceptually identical to powering a train.

    Getting a bit more modern, there are a number of shoes on the market that actaully generate power, either to power your ipod or to just make pretty lights flash. I wonder if there are any situations in which these have been used for the benefit of a number of people rather than just the wearer (I’m thinking of leading groups of people around during power cuts maybe?)

  4. infomancie Says:

    Dynamos (on cycles, etc.) are an example – in the same vein as these shoes, or self-winding watches – of a well-established energy-transfer technology: portable transfer devices (dynamo) which power a local running device (cycle lights) on a while-in-use basis.

    The crowd farm transfers energy from lots of people, a small amount each, into a somewhat larger “device” (building), so they are part of a conceptual range.

    Huddling is indeed a good example of crowd behaviour, particularly noteable in penguins. Surely though one can say that as a *designed* technology this is new?


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