Virtual Middlebury

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Distancing and Machine Intimacy: Robots, Drones, and Waste Conversion in the Covid Era
Peter Wynn Kirby, M. Phil., Ph.D. (Cantab), Senior Member Saint Antony’s College University of Oxford.

Many communities around the world betray signs of change brought on by measures to address the novel coronavirus pandemic—domestic confinement due to lockdowns; home delivery of items previously found in local shops; curb-side pickup of food purchased online; avoidance and masks worn to prevent transmission; and greater reliance on long-distance communication. Robots and drones are widely seen as covid tech conveniences whose time has come. Yet this poses the question of what might happen to the millions of tons of detritus that will enter future e-waste streams, and whether the material conversion of such waste can be made more efficient and sustainable through decisions made at a relatively early stage in the sector’s development to improve upon the miasmatic consequences of previous iterations of production, consumption, disposal, and scavenging on a toxic planet. 

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Sponsored by:
Environmental Studies

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Hunt, Lily