Chapter 1: Security and Technology

The world around us is one that both feeds and clothes us as well as one that may cause much destruction. More people have died from the effects of earthquakes, tidal waves, tsunamis, and acts of God or acts of nature than all the world wars and smaller hot wars combined. We need to strive, nevertheless, to enhance and develop new technologies in all fields and in all areas to ensure that we have greater security. Technology presents a cost effective platform and an avenue to work towards better mitigation of risks in areas wherein science can actively contribute towards enhancing safety and security.

1.1 Food Security

In the 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore while the planners worked very hard, they did not focus on food security in a comprehensive manner. At the 2010 Youth Olympic Games, 21 members of the YOG organizing committee workforce were struck by food poisoning. The vendor for the YOG in Singapore in 2010 prepared the food under hygienic conditions. The vendor then used approved packaging to divide and transport the food to the YOG volunteers. However, it was probably because the food remained in plastic/ Styrofoam for too long that the level of bacteria rose disproportionately. Hence, when the volunteers for the YOG ate their food, it was already contaminated. Another example of [X, Y] and [Y, X] may be seen in food security. So whose fault is it? This situation could have been avoided if the food vendor had prepared the food for Just-in-Time delivery. Alternatively, perhaps it was not the vendor or vendors’ fault but the fault of the organisers. Did the organisers request for the food too early? Was it in fact the facult of Vivien Balakrishnan who was the minister at the time and mistook or miscalculated the cost of the YOG by $200 million. The Opposition had a field day. $10-20 is an honest mistake. But $200 million by one of the highest paid political ministers in the world? That is resignation time. But he was somehow forgiven and remains a minister today. At least he owned up. Know any Southeast Asian political leader who hasn’t owned up to some form of subterfuge? Who still thinks that he is innocent of the abuse of power and corruption? Or was there a delay in the timings along the way so that the volunteers had no time to eat. Alternatively, it could have happened in a different manner.

In 2015, during the SEA Games, Singapore and Malaysian Cyclists were hit by food poisoning. Between 26 and 30 December 2012, a total of 453 people came down with severe stomach flu after attending weddings and company events on separate occasions at Man Fu Yuan, a restaurant at Hotel InterContinental. A total of 183 people came down with food poisoning after consuming durian pastries from the hotel's bakery between the middle of March and April 2016. The investigations showed that there were instances of poor personal and food handling hygiene practices during the preparation of durian pastries at Goodwood Park Hotel. In this instance, could the illnesses and deaths have been forestalled? Examples of first generation food security would include such basic measures seen in early forms of food preservation using salt, vinegar, hot lava rocks, or food kept fresh in cold water streams. This is closely tied with the environment as well as health. Early humans had higher tolerance for higher levels of bacteria. People in modernity have had their levels of tolerance shift from high to low. Indeed, increasing amounts of allergens in the environment are itself a security hazard. These food/health/ energy security issues were often learned from interacting with the existing environment.

The organisers of the various events may not have been given proper instructions or they may have had inexperienced leaders who did not plan carefully. One might even question the values that the volunteers themselves had – were they hygienic? Did they eat without washing their hands? Was the food left out in the sun? Was the food contaminated along the way? As we can see, there are many possible variables in our analysis. But the conclusion must be that it cannot be the fault of the volunteers since there were many of them and all those who ate from the food packets fell ill. It is difficult to anticipate everything. Today with technology, pH meters, infrared thermometers, wearable prompting guides and automatic cleaning systems are just a few of the many technology advancements in the food industry. (Mushrush, 2017)

1.2 Absence of Overt Systems

Another example is the absence of significant and overt measures to protect Singapore’s water supplies from toxification and terrorist attack. Many Singaporeans believe that in Singapore, “something” must happen before something is done. One example would be when the security technology is insufficient as in the case of the Swiss national and his accomplice who broke into the Singapore MRT “base” depot to paint a train with some relatively creative “graffiti”.

Source: JSTOR

We know from this example that security encompasses a far greater realm and girth than most ordinary people anticipate. No one person can claim to know everything about security. But given the right resources, the dangers from human activities can be learned.

With technological advancements, the Internet of things, or IOT, and the use of sensors scan facilitate the reporting of real time data and can be seen by the food industry as a means through which to track shipping to in-store displays. In this instance, the “automated temperature monitoring systems can spot problems promptly and alert management to take immediate corrective actions to prevent excessive product temperature abuse that can impact its safety and quality.” (Mushrush, 2017).

1.3 Energy Technology

Founded in 1974, International Energy Authority (IEA) was initially designed to help countries co-ordinate a collective response to major disruptions in the supply of oil, such as the crisis of 1973/4. While this remains a key aspect of its work, the IEA has evolved and expanded significantly. (International Energy Authority, 2019) In 2018, the world energy authority noted that “(major transformations are underway for the global energy sector, from growing electrification to the expansion of renewables, upheavals in oil production and globalisation of natural gas markets. Across all regions and fuels, policy choices made by governments will determine the shape of the energy system of the future.” (World Energy Authority, 2018) The report additionally noted that “governments will have a critical influence in the direction of the future energy system. Under current and planned policies, modelled in the New Policies Scenario, energy demand is set to grow by more than 25% to 2040, requiring more than $2 trillion a year of investment in new energy supply.” (World Energy Authority, 2018).

Energy technology is composed of various types. Fossil fuels are fuels formed by natural resources such as anaerobic decomposition of buried dead organisms. The age of the organisms and their resulting fossil fuels is typically millions of years, and sometimes exceeds 650 million years. The fossil fuels, which contain a high percentage of carbon, include coal, petroleum, and natural gas. Fossil fuels range from volatile materials with low carbon-hydrogen ratios like methane, to liquid petroleum to nonvolatile materials composed of almost pure carbon, like anthracite coal. Methane can be found in hydrocarbon fields, alone, associated with oil, or in the form of methane clathrates. It is generally accepted that they formed from the fossilized remains of dead plants and animals by exposure to heat and pressure in the Earth's crust over millions of years.

Fossil fuels are non-renewable resources because they take millions of years to form, and reserves are being depleted much faster than new ones are being made. The production and use of fossil fuels raise environmental concerns. The burning of fossil fuels produces around 21.3 billion tonnes (21.3 gigatonnes) of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, but it is estimated that natural processes can only absorb about half of that amount, so there is a net increase of 10.65 billion tonnes of atmospheric carbon dioxide per year (one tonne of atmospheric carbon is equivalent to 44/12 or 3.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide). Carbon dioxide is one of the greenhouse gases that enhances radiative forcing and contributes to global warming, causing the average surface temperature of the Earth to rise in response, which most climate scientists agree will cause major adverse effects. A global movement towards the generation of renewable energy is therefore under way to help meet increased energy needs.

Climate change concerns, coupled with high oil prices, peak oil, and increasing government support, are driving increasing renewable energy legislation, incentives and commercialization. New government spending, regulation and policies help the industry weather the global financial crisis better than many other sectors.

As articulated on their mission statement, the IEA is focused on the following four areas:

  1. Energy Security: Promoting diversity, efficiency, flexibility and reliability for all fuels and energy sources;
  2. Economic Development: Supporting free markets to foster economic growth and eliminate energy poverty;
  3. Environmental Awareness: Analyzing policy options to offset the impact of energy production and use on the environment, especially for tackling climate change and air pollution; and
  4. Engagement Worldwide: Working closely with partner countries, especially major emerging economies, to find solutions to shared energy and environmental concerns. (International Energy Agency, 2018)

The role of the IEA has become more pertinent today than ever before as they navigate the resonant challenges of climate change and the continued politicization of this climate change initiatives globally. Much of this is seen to play out even as the US Presidential elections are slated in 2020 with the presence of the Green New Deal.

Source: JSTOR

1.4 Environmental Technology

Renewable energy is a more sustainable form of energy that is environmentally friendly. Renewable energy is energy, which comes from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, and geothermal heat, which are renewable (naturally replenished). The Renewables 2018 Global Status Report is a series that contributes to the stipulated objective of the UN Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All. The report broadly underscores the status of renewable energy usage.

The world's largest geothermal power installation is The Geysers in California, with a rated capacity of 750 MW. Brazil has one of the largest renewable energy programmes in the world, involving production of ethanol fuel from sugar cane, and ethanol now provides 18% of the country's automotive fuel. Ethanol fuel is also widely available in the USA.

While many renewable energy projects are large-scale, renewable technologies are also suited to rural and remote areas, where energy is often crucial in human development. Globally, an estimated 3 million households get power from small solar PV systems. Micro-hydro systems configured into village-scale or county-scale mini-grids serve many areas. More than 30 million rural households get lighting and cooking from biogas made in household-scale digesters. A total of 160 million households use biomass cook stoves.

The ability to make large-scale technology accessible to the masses continues to be a challenge. Poverty, lack of access to economic resource harnessing of technology of this scale impacts the manner through which technology is availed to the masses.

1.5 Health Technology

Health technology is any intervention that may be used to promote health, to prevent, diagnose or treat disease or for rehabilitation or long-term care. This includes the pharmaceuticals, devices, procedures and organizational systems used in health care. Medical technology extends and improves life. It alleviates pain, injury and handicap. Its role in healthcare is essential. Incessant medical technology innovation enhances the quality and effectiveness of care. Billions of patients worldwide depend on medical technology at home, at the doctor’s clinic, at hospital and in nursing homes where wheelchairs, pacemakers, orthopaedic shoes, spectacles and contact lenses, insulin pens, hip prostheses, condoms, oxygen masks, dental floss, MRI scanners, pregnancy tests, surgical instruments, bandages, syringes, life-support machines are available.

The term health technology may also refer to the duties performed by clinical laboratory professionals in various settings within the public and private sectors. The work of these professionals encompasses clinical applications of chemistry, genetics, haematology, immunohematology (blood banking), immunology, microbiology, serology, urinalysis and miscellaneous body fluid analysis. These professionals may be referred to as Medical Technologists (MT) and Medical Laboratory Technologists.

1.6 Food Technology

Food technology is the application of food science to the selection, preservation, processing, packaging, distribution, and use of safe, nutritious, and wholesome food.

Louis Pasteur's research on the spoilage of wine and his description of how to avoid spoilage in 1864 were an early attempt to put food technology on a scientific basis. Besides research into wine spoilage, Pasteur did research on the production of alcohol, vinegar, wines and beer, and the souring of milk. He developed pasteurisation—the process of heating milk and milk products to destroy food spoilage and disease-producing organisms. In his research into food technology, Pasteur became the pioneer into bacteriology and of modern preventive medicine.

Following Pasteur, there have been some important developments in food technology, which include: