Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Inevitability of Singularity

The internet is full of supposedly educated, self-professed prognosticators from what I can only describe as "an earlier era". They do not understand and cannot comprehend the transformation we are currently undergoing. "Technology cannot continue to evolve in a finite world." So they claim. What sort of nonsense is this?

Sure, there are limits to resources. There may even be limits to how many humans can coexist on this planet before we cause irreparable damage to the biosphere. I disagree, but I can see that argument. But those erudite prognosticators confuse these limits with the limits of technological growth. In reality, there are no such limits. Even in the worst case scenario, technological progress will not be stopped. I doubt it would even be slowed in any measurable sense. Yes, even if things get so bad that 50 million Americans lose their homes. Even if oil production really has peaked and entered inexorable decline. Yes, even if oil production is 20% lower 10 years from now. Yes, even if World War III claims the lives of 2 billion people. Yes, even if industrial civilization collapses to 1/10 of its former glory. None of that matters. The genie is out of the bottle. What is done cannot be undone.

Surely you've seen one of those "Did You Know?" videos, yes? They all toss around a bunch of facts and extrapolations for the future. Here is one example:

For less than $500, anyone can buy enough storage space to store the entire library of congress. In ten years, it will fit on a thumb drive.

For the same $500, anyone can go to Best Buy, and get a PC with enough power to:

- Store all the documentation needed to completely rebuild a technological civilization from the ground up. All the blueprints, all the schematics, all the bills of materials, everything.
- Run all the necessary design and documentation software.
- Print all the necessary documentation.
- Even store the instructions on how to rebuild an entire civilization, step by step.

There is no way that this knowledge can be lost, except in the event of a planet killing asteroid or something on a similar scale.

Once the wheel was invented, there was no way to uninvent it. And now, there is no way to lose any of the vast sums of knowledge we have accumulated. That is why technological progress is secured regardless of how far the average human's standard of living declines.

In 10 years you will be able to store the entire library of congress on a mobile device. Eventually an iPhone probably wont even have a screen. It is likely to be the size of a thimble. What good is an iPhone or an iPad without a screen? Well, the screen will be a high resolution 3D display embedded in a pair of eyeglasses! Not long after that, it will be a contac lens. Rest assured, the input interfaces will be equally advanced. People can already play Pong without using their hands, using a cheap device called the OCZ NIA. Yes it is gimmicky, but so was the iPod when it first came out.

In 20 years, I predict that at least 1 billion people will be spending the majority of their waking hours plugged into some kind of advanced interface, for both work and play. The work is the key. Right now, that sort of interface is mainly recreational. But soon millions will be making a living doing actual work in a completely virtual world.

Can this transformation really occur so rapidly? Have you been to a concert recently? All you see now is screens. On one hand, it is pure insanity. But it is a transformation nonetheless. I didn't say it was a positive one; I'll reserve that judgement for others to make. I'm just stating what will happen, not what should happen. Look at Japan. Many people there live in houses the size of my closet. And my closet is not that big! Surely you've seen the "japods" some of them sleep in?

Now take that image and combine it with feeding tubes, 3D display implants, and an electronic input interface and what do you have? The Matrix comes to mind.... Now with that disturbing image in mind, imagine a bunch of greedy multinational corporations hiring a million Chinese to "live" in this Matrix-like environment to do work. Say $100 for a month of being plugged in. My guess is that many will "choose to never leave". They will be upgraded with the better and better technology at regular intervals. Do you really have any doubt that they wont do this? Greed knows no bounds! Not only will they do this, but if you have a 401k, you're going to fund it, whether you remain blissfully ignorant of it or not.

That is all disturbing, for sure. But what is even more disturbing is when you introduce self replicating nanotechnology into the picture. I believe that is the next big step. And it will be here in twenty years. Even if it takes a million Chinese living in the "podmatrix", working 12 hours a day for months on end to make it happen. It will happen. It is inevitable. And once it's here, everything changes. Nanomachines can be programmed to build anything that we can design. So you can have millions of humans plugged into machines, each one furiously working to program a nanomachine to build something. Something. God knows what. It wont really be like building, per se. It will be more like painting or drawing. Much like CAD now.

Maybe it was delusional to envision things like this ten or twenty years ago. Now, it is delusion to deny it. It cannot be stopped.

Let's go back to those self-professed prognosticators I mentioned. These are all the people in the so called "sustainability movement". Also, they are anyone who says we need to return to subsistence farming. Basically, anyone who thinks the world is going to de-complexify due to resource constraints. Or that we're all going to grow gardens in our backyards. "Relocalization" is their mantra. These people live in a fantasyland that has no bearing on reality or any actual human history. Human beings are not wired to make the sort of changes required by these philosophies and ideologies. It can not, and therefore will not happen. So all these people, good intentions or no, are just urinating into the wind. And that makes them pretty dumb.

Ok so obviously I don't believe any of that nonsense is actually going to happen on a societal scale. Sure, people who are currently middle class might become poor, in which case they have no choice but to live "sustainably". But notice that "sustainably" is nothing more than a euphemism for destitute. What these relocalization advocates are really saying is "You got ripped off by a bunch of banksters and a demonic educational/entertainment system which left you totally ill-informed and unprepared for what was coming. And so now you have nothing. You can either learn to survive with nothing, or perish." It is not such an appealing message is it? So they try and dress it up. But to me, its just lipstick on a pig. There is no way to dress up the reality of what happened to the middle class in America. So why play these semantic games? How about the truth? "You were lied to. You were robbed. You gave trust to that which should never have been trusted. You watched American Idol and played World of Warcraft, when you should have been reading Ayn Rand and Bertrand Russell. And most of all, you let this demonic system teach you to laugh at and denigrate anything and anyone who tried to tell you the obvious. You deserve nothing less than what you get." What a wonderful campaign slogan that would make!

Regardless of what happens to these sheeple who got fleeced, the system will continue on its path. Technological progress will continue unabated.

What exactly is technological progress? It is nothing less than the gestation phase of a new form of life. New to us anyway. In reality it probably predates us. One could argue that this lifeform in fact exists right now, even though it technically has not yet been born. It is only our inability to properly understand Time which prevents us from easily comprehending how this new form of life can actually exist before it has even been created. If it helps, you can think of it as an embryonic form. Think of the human race and the planet earth as a mother, pregnant with a rather unusual offspring. (Mother earth! Such a revolutionary concept eh!?) As it grows and develops, we encounter instincts never felt before. Unexplainable compulsions. Technological progress is one such compulsion. At this point is is deeply embedded in our culture. This compulsion is no different than the force which compels any pregnant female to radically alter her diet to obtain the nutrients the fetus requires. It is an occult force, one of many at work on humanity.

Now if humanity was actually undergoing some kind of conceptual pregnancy, you would naturally expect the race as a whole to become extremely protective of the embryo it is carrying. And there is certainly plenty of evidence of that. Governments abuse their citizens in the name of "progress". (Progress toward what? They never answer that with anything that makes sense, do they?) Large corporations abuse consumers so that they can make more money to invest in better technology. But why? Why get on this treadmill? Why struggle to make a smaller iPod? What use is a smaller iPod? It can only be explained by an unnatural compulsion. Profit motive is purely inadequate as an explanation. A steady state technology is much more profitable. If a company can make the same phone for 10 years, they can make immense profits. But today, it is all transitory. Even the products themselves are specifically designed to be transitory. They are not built to last. They are not meant to last. Because none of this is meant to last. It is meant to transition. To evolve. To what end? That is the question.

I predict that it won't be long before this topic, whatever you want to call it, becomes known and understood by more than just the fringe of the fringe. It goes beyond singularity. There isn't really even a name yet for what I'm talking about. Geotechnovita? Geotechortis? At any rate, it is real. And the closer we get to it, the more people are going to talk about it.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Karl's Nervous Breakdown?

Karl were you long the market today? Lol. That is the only way to explain the arrogant childlike drivel you’ve been posting today.

First you attacked Kunstler, in a very immature manner. I dont agree with Kunstler on everything, sure, but there's no need for holier-than-thou saber-rattling pettiness when simple facts can suffice.

Kunstler's long view, his term "the long emergency", is spot on. The United States oil production peaked 40 years ago. You can talk about thermodynamics till you're blue in the face, but doing so only illustrates your own ignorance. We didnt peak 40 years ago because we didnt "drill baby drill." The environmentalists played no part in the peaking of US oil production. The US peaked precisely due to the basic laws of physics.

And then there’s coal and shale. I have written about our "vast" shale reserves in the past.

Coal has a way of revealing people's ignorance. A great deal of damage has been done to this country due to the belief that has been programmed into Americans’ heads about America's vast unending coal and shale supplies. You have fallen victim to that propaganda. I have seen this happen many times, and it is not pretty. I suggest you do some research into our real coal and shale supplies, before you discredit yourself by sounding like a complete moron every time someone brings up the subject. I give both you and Kunstler a pass on 9/11, because there is a “tactical benefit” to willfully suffering cognitive dissonance on that subject. (It is cowardly, but undeniably easier to just "accept" the 9/11 story you were spoonfed.) But on the subject of coal you just sound like a damn fool. And for that I may as well just turn on “tout tv”, as you call it.

The United States already passed "peak btu's" for coal. The more btu's per year we want, the more damage must be done to the environment, in an EXPONENTIAL manner. With all the railing you do over people's failure to understand exponential function, surely you would not dare to commit the same act of foolishness? There is no way to replace our liquid fuel consumption with coal. Only a country in a state of collapse would dare attempt something so foolish so late in the game. Like the Nazis in WWII.

EREOI is NOT a crock of ****. Your logic for calling it such is deeply flawed. So what if EREOI is always negative if one includes the input of the Sun? What does that have to do with anything? Does the word relevant mean anything to you? The input from the sun is a given, as such it is universally agreed upon that it is irrelevant in energy investment terms. You are making a straw man argument. Again, you sound like a damn fool by even saying such things. Sunlight does not matter for calculating EROEI because it of its low energy density. The only exceptions would be situations where sunlight energy is lost in the process of mining. For example if we tear up fertile land to mine tar sands, we might lose some of our food supply, which then has to be replaced with more fuel-intensive farming of non-fertile land elsewhere. That would lower the EROEI of tar sands, but probably only slightly. As I said, the sun's effect can largely be ignored.

EROI is at the heart of everything. What does NOT matter for EROEI is how much oil costs in dollars. The dollar cost is fiat. What matters is how much ENERGY it takes to produce a barrel of oil. It MUST cost significantly less than a barrel of oil worth of energy to produce a barrel of oil. It does not matter whether that oil COSTS $20 a barrel or $200. You have it exactly backwards, and no amount of tantrums and bansticks are going to change that. EROI matters. Ore grades matter. Threatening to ban people because they refuse to accept your misunderstandings of thermodynamics is just sad.

It does not matter how many antelope are out there in yonder field. If it takes more energy for Mr Tiger to catch one than he gets from eating it, then Mr Tiger will not survive. That too is just simple math.

You say The EREOI folks are 100% full of **** and I, for one, am tired of the lies and intentional misdirection they run, when they KNOW they're full of crap as they tolerate a HORRIBLE EREOI every single time they turn the key in their vehicle.

Again here is a logical reasoning error. The 20~30% energy efficiency of a gasoline engine is not in dispute by anyone, so you are making yet another straw man argument. Pretty weak stuff here. How can you possible expect to win any argument using grade school logical fallacies? Oh yeah, you have a ban stick. lol.

Going back to coal. If you graph the amount of btu's of US coal energy production per year, AND subract the amount of equivalent btu's of energy it took to mine that coal each year, you can see that it has peaked. If you just look at the number of tons of coal produced each year, you can't see it. When making an EROEI calculation you have to also subtract the amount of energy used to clean up all the disasters caused by the coal mining. There is a long list of energy costs associated, and they cannot be ignored, even by some 6 year old spaz waving a magic ban-stick. What CAN be ignored is the sun's role in producing the coal. That is just absurd nonsense in terms of EROEI discussion.

My guess is you hate the "EROEI folks" because they go over your head and make your brain hurt. But anyone serious about energy knows that you cannot ignore these hidden costs, as they are very real. For example, take the lake that is polluted by coal mining, causing thousands of tons of fish to be lost. What happens then? Well it means someone now has to venture further out into the ocean to catch fish to replace that part of the food supply that was lost. And guess what? Bingo, it costs more energy to do that. And the BP oil spill in the gulf? Again, it costs energy to clean that mess up and also to look elsewhere to replace the lost food supply. Yes, that does count against the EROEI of oil production! And no, waving your stupid magic stick around does not change that fact. These neverending and ever-expanding "collateral costs" of energy production MUST be factored into the true energy content of our energy sources. That is the essence of NET energy. If we do not get NET energy production, we get severe economic contraction.

Finally, one last thing. You repeatedly mention how $9 or $15 a gallon gasoline will mystically solve the energy problems, because then it will be cheaper to produce alternatives. Dead wrong. What it will do is cut off those who cannot afford the expensive energy. People will be forced to make do with less. And in that process, the economy contracts. Capital becomes scarce. Alternative energy does not get produced because the energy input costs are too great, bankrupting anyone who tries it. (It's that damned EROEI again...) What ultimately happens is that gasoline prices collapse after enough people become destitute, and demand collapses. Then gas is cheap again. The only difference is there are a million or two people who used to live a decent life, but are now living in tent cities and consuming no fuel. But you dont give a damn about them do you? It's not your problem. It's only your faulty arrogant reasoning that helps create such devastation. It is endemic to our propagandized culture.

I once read a comment on the web (probably on Oil Drum) many years ago, about how our post peak world could literally be soaked in oil, like the Gulf Coast is destined to be. How can that be, I thought? Because our reckless and extremely dangerous pursuit of hard-to-reach energy causes so much devastation that it leaves our entire planet in ruins. Such a scenario is possible. And even so, we could still be producing many tens of millions of barrels of oil per day. But we'd still be past the peak of oil production. And most of the civilized world would be in a state of collapse. But I'm sure there'd still be plenty of jackasses cruising around in their SUV's thinking the world is just peachy. Please dont be one of those.