If one fine evening the genie with the magic lamp were to appear before me, and offer me one wish for the planet, one alone and no more, it would not be an easy choice. There are so many things that this planet’s inhabitants need. But if I were to make one wish that could effect everyone on the earth, I would ask the genie to give the earth’s population equal access to electricity. Equal and nearly free, or at least at a cost close enough to nothing so that nations would not have to scramble for this resource.
Think about what the implications would be if electricity were distributed to every village on earth, no matter how poor, or distant from the metropolis. Electricity to read by, to learn to read by in the evening hours for all those who work fourteen hours a day and have only the night in which to extend their minds. Electricity to power wells in the desert, all over the desert, and for every garden plot. Electricity to heat the shacks in the tundra, to survive in the vast steppes of permafrost. Electricity to recharge batteries—mobile phone batteries all over the world so that even in the smallest village, people could talk to their relatives who have emigrated to Manhattan. Electricity to run power tools, to build houses, to build hospitals, to sterilise equipment in hospitals, to run copying machines, to distribute information, to power small vehicles….the list is endless.
Suppose everyone had access to this electricity, as it could be gathered from the sky nearly on site and redistributed in smaller or larger radii as needed, to every hamlet, and every town. Suppose it was no longer necessary to pump oil out of the ground for the present day power plants, transport it halfway around the world, squabble about it at multinational levels, threaten other governments because of its price fluctuations. As it happens, electricity is the most necessary resource to bring the largest number of people into the third millennium, to give them access to dialogue: to provide them with the raw material for democracy. Suppose wind power were to supplant oil and coal. Crude oil would then go back to its original use, as it was described by Marco Polo seven hundred years ago when he passed through Baku on his way to China. At that time it was used to cure the skin diseases of camels. It took quite a while before it moved up to internal combustion engines.
It might be logical to respond that this is a vision of which fairy tales are made. Perhaps people said the same thing when Benjamin Franklin first ‘pulled down’ electricity from the sky to a crude battery by means of a kite. Or when Leonardo da Vinci drew his first flying machine. Or when Rutherford noticed that certain atoms radiated an infinitesimally small amount of energy. It is often an unpredictable route, from the first theoretical intuition to a practical implementation that has a mammoth effect on mankind. One cannot always say a priori what the obstacles may be and how long it may take. However, for the sake of argument, suppose that the large scale construction of KITE GENERATORS were to make war obsolete. Just suppose.