TED Conversations

Hans Rosling

Director, Gapminder Foundation

TEDCRED 200+

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What are your thoughts and questions on "the magic washing machine"?

I will be answering questions on my new TED talk today at 11.30 -1.30 pm EST.
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  • Mar 24 2011: This was a terrific talk. It framed our global conundrum of development versus resources and environment extremely well. The same kind of revolutionary innovation that freed your grandmother and 2 billion others to read and think and move over the "wash line" can occur again, but it will look different. The next innovation must not only free intellect and time, but also use a fraction of the resources and have a fraction of the environmental impacts. The washing machine helped get us here, but it will not get 7 billion people across the "wash line." Yet that doesn't mean we can't have clean clothes, continue development, and protect our environment.

    Here’s an important distinction: it wasn’t the washing machine - the physical object itself - that freed 2 billion women’s intellect and time (which could then be reinvested in solving problems). It was the washing machine’s function: cleaning clothes with less labor.

    The future must be defined by design that delivers drastically more function (in this case, clean clothes) with drastically less resource mass (fewer tons of fuel, water, and materials). Innovation in resource performance, or dMass, will make it possible to get or keep clothes clean with little water or electricity, perhaps without a washing machine at all. This is not just a question of conservation, it is the nanotech and biotech design revolution. We are already beginning to see clothing that requires much less washing and washing machines that require a fraction of the energy and water; but this is just a scratch on the surface of what we can and must do.

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