There are many movies and series about dystopian futures lately -although, unfortunately, many of them have been heavily distorted from the original book version to make them easier to digest by teenagers-. One of the most interesting ones, though, is, in my humble opinion, BBC Black Mirror. Each episode of the series plays around a single concept, like the impact of public opinion in major political decisions in the age of social networks or the effect of recording every second of life (in an eidetic memory fashion) on human relationships.
I’m going to focus here on episode 2, “15 million merits”. I’m not going into reality shows, virtual reality worlds and the like this time (the real target of the episode), but simply in energy harvesting in a world of dimming resources packed with electronics consumers. The outline of the story is simple: people of lower status are expected to spend most of their time working out in a static bike to pay for their basics: a bed, bland food and access to virtual entertainment (they also need to pay to avoid spam ads and other unwanted stuff). If they provide more energy, they get better rewards. I’m not going any further to prevent spoilers, I’ll just say that this was one of the most disturbing episodes of the series for me, and if anyone has watched “National Anthem”, this is saying a lot.
This idea is not that strange. In Ready, Player One (Ernest Cline), the main character uses a bike device for electricity in his den. This is also, reportedly, the only exercise most people do in a world where they spend most of their time in virtual immersion. In this case the idea has its perks: you save money in your juice bill and keep fit at the same time.
The concept has somewhat been put in motion by the Go Green Fitness center. And in an even more profitable fashion, too. Instead of getting paid to generate energy, you pay yourself to do it: your spinning class is used to power up the facilities. Many of us have used our bike to power up a bulb riding a bike at night. In extreme, a typical group cycling class with about 20 bikes has the potential to produce up to 3.6 megawatts a year, reportedly enough to light 72 homes for a month. Your reward: a reduction in carbon emissions by over 5,000 pound.
If you feel that whatever you generate should be yours and yours only, there are other portable devices that might do the trick. Orange Dance Charger, for example, promised 15 minutes of talk time in exchange for 1 hour-workout (reportedly 85% efficiency).
More on renewable energy in Got Wind