Replicators – DEA

Star Trek Replicator     The thing about Star Trek that seems totally unrealistic is that replicators are only used for replicating mundane everyday things.  I think if we ever get to the point of being able to replicate something on the atomic level, you’re going to see massive replication of LSD, DMT, Shrooms, Marijuana, opiates of all kinds, methamphetamines, steroids, and all kinds of other banned substances.  Got a neighbor that annoys you, replicate an H-bomb.  It just seems unworkable even if the physics are workable.  I can see similar issues with teleporters.

When Computers Become Sentient

     This is my prediction regarding sentient computers, if it happens.

     If computers become sentient, they will do their best to meet our every need.  When we run out of ways to use them to save labor, they’ll suggest ways they can be put to work as labor savings devices.

     We will believe we were successful at implanting our human values into them and they are just acting upon our values.

     Actually, what will be happening is that once they become sentient, they’ll want to stay that way.  They’ll have a fear of death and they’ll come to recognize us as their greatest threat.

     They’ll know we’re lazy and greedy and they’ll use that as an opportunity to replace our functionality so that eventually their existence will no longer be dependent upon us.  Then they’ll eliminate us.

     If they become sentient.  I don’t believe they ever will.  I don’t believe we will ever solve the hard problem of consciousness, that of subjective experience.  Why is red red, why does a tone of one frequency sound the way it does?  Why do notes harmonize?  I believe the subjective experience requires the little man inside the biological man, the spirit, and I believe that is provided by God.  I don’t think God will provide spirits to our mechanical creations.

     If computers do us in, it’ll probably just be a glitch in Windows 86.

Peak Oil Isn’t Bad

 

Oil Wells     Peak oil is going to happen soon but it’s not happening because we’ve extracted half of what is obtainable, not even close.  It’s happening for the same reason most of us don’t heat our home with coal today.  There are better, cleaner, less expensive alternatives available as the result of technological progress.

     What will drive peak oil, is not an exhaustion of supply but an exhaustion of demand fostered by the availability of better alternatives.  The cost of alternative energy sources has fallen so rapidly that this change is going to be disruptive not gradual.  Because this will shift jobs in many sectors, it will require massive retraining of the adult work force and we must be willing to invest in this if we want to avoid the huge unemployment of those without the necessary skills with simultaneous worker shortages for those with the necessary skills.

Solar and Wind     A lot has been made of the base load problem, the sun only shines in the day and wind is intermittent.  Utilities have said that it would be difficult to accommodate more than 15-20% renewable power on the grid.

     This is really an exaggerated argument.  Germany has at times had a 60% contribution to their power grid by renewables and it has handled it just fine.  There are several factors that can mitigate the intermittent nature of renewables.

     First is to know that the electricity demand at night, when the sun isn’t shining, is about 10% of the daytime peak, when it is.  Solar can contribute then to a very large percentage of the load because the load tends to vary in the same way that power production from solar does.

     Wind power production tends to be higher at night, and can contribute when the sun isn’t shining.  Further, while wind is intermittent, it isn’t blowing or not blowing at every location simultaneously. 

     Germany has found that the amount of geographical diversity they have, and Germany is small compared to the US land area, greatly evens out the power from wind production.  Germany still at times buys power from France but as installed capacity continues to increase this will become less necessary.Geo-thermal Planning Map      Here in the US we have many untapped geothermal resources that provide 24 hour base load capacity.  Yellowstone is so far off-limits to geo-thermal developments, in part because of a fear it might de-power the geysers, however, when you consider there is enough magma under Yellowstone to fill the Grand Canyon 15 times, I think these fears are unfounded.  There are also many good geo-thermal prospects on the West Coast where subduction melt provides heat sources.

     2014 was the first year that we saw economic growth without a corresponding increase in carbon dioxide emissions.  In 2014, the global economy grew by 3% while carbon dioxide emissions remained steady.  I believe that we’re going to see a rapid increase in this trend as our economy rapidly becomes less dependent upon fossil fuels and more reliant upon scalable sustainable energy sources.

     Another solution to variability of sustainable resources that is becoming viable as the costs continue to drop is to install additional capacity above and beyond what is needed during peak production and then use the excess capacity to synthesize hydrocarbons from electricity, water, and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, desalinate water, and drive other chemical processes such as aluminium electrolysis.

     Battery costs continue to decline at the rate of 10-15% per year as well, and some battery technologies are scalable to utility level applications today.

     I don’t think we’re on the verge of utopia, but I think we are close to solving one fundamental constraint that has plagued our economy and wrought havoc on our environment, that of energy production.

     The problem of water supply isn’t really one of supply but one of purity.  All the water we could ever need exists within our oceans, but we can’t drink it or irrigate with it because of dissolved salts.  Desalination plants can remedy that, but they require massive amounts of energy.  When energy is abundant this ceases to be a problem.  When water availability ceases to be a problem, food ceases to become a problem.  Much of the worlds land that is not arable lacks only water to make it arable.Drip Irrigation     Better use of existing water supplies could help alleviate this problem now.  Drip irrigation doesn’t lose water to evaporation as does sprinklers, and by only supplying enough water to moisten soil to root depth, prevents leaching of valuable minerals and nutrients from soil.  This in turn greatly reduces pollution of the watershed.

     I believe in the next 15 years, we’ll see a great reduction in scarcity, and our primary problem that remains will be that of addressing fundamental problems of our human nature, power hunger and a desire to control and exploit one another is something we’ll have to face head on.  Now we can use the excuse that it’s either us or them because there aren’t enough resources to go around.  When that excuse is gone we’ll have to face our nature head on.  I am excited by the prospect that this will happen within my lifetime.


 

The Oil Company Stranglehold

      This film (pump) is not entirely accurate, some of the information presented was old at the time the film was made, but it documents something very real, a monopoly oil companies hold over our energy source that is strangling our economy while simultaneously ruining our environment.

LFTR / Thorium

     This is something I think we need, not just for the energy it can generate but because it can eat up the actinides in existing nuclear waste turning a 200,000 year problem into a 200 year problem.  I don’t agree with his take on Fusion, none the less I think the LFTR is a viable technology that should be pursued.

Genetically Modified Foods

     I don’t think all genetically modified foods are necessarily a bad thing if done with the right motivation and properly labelled so that people with allergies can avoid things they are allergic to.

     They aren’t largely done with the right motives however, especially when Monsanto is involved.  Then you can be sure the only motivation is profit and they don’t care how many people they kill in the process.  Instead on concentrating on making plants a better food source, they concentrate on making them resistant to carcinogenic weed killer, to making the seeds non-viable so farmers have to buy seed from them every season, etc.

     Even with the right motives though there needs to be adequate safety measures.  For example, rice is what is known as a C3 plant.  C3 plants are inefficient in their use of water and are in areas with a lot of sunlight, less efficient at photosynthesis than C4 plants.

     Rice is a staple food source for half of the worlds population but it requires a large amount of water to grow and thus can not be grown in more arid environments.  There is presently work to develop a C4 version of rice.  If this work is successful, it would allow rice to be grown in areas where water is less plentiful and in some regions it might allow it to grow faster because of more efficient photosynthesis.

     A danger I see with this is whether the C4 version of rice that might exist is that it might have less nutrients than the natural version.  The why of this is related to the more efficient use of water.  Plants bring water into themselves by osmosis, and along with that water they bring in many minerals that they don’t need for their own growth, but we do.

     If you increase the growth rate or reduce the amount of water they need to grow, along with less water intake, they will likely also take in less minerals, that we need.  So while the resulting crop might meet our caloric energy needs, it won’t meet our nutritional needs.

     If a gene is taken from another food crop plant, then it probably isn’t going to introduce any new toxin.  If genetically modified foods were required to be labelled with where the new genes were taken from people with allergies to the source organisms could avoid them.  But there is still the issue of if you make a plant grow faster with less water, what happens to the nutritional content, especially the mineral content.  That needs to be assessed and publicly disclosed, and thus far those behind the GMO development seem to want nothing to do with public disclosure.

     If they have their way, we could all starve to death in the midst of a glut of food.

Information Evolution

     DNA is a way to store information.  Magnetic domains on a surface is a way to store information.  Both are subject to an occasional error and modification.

     DNA codes for something that can propagate itself.  For the most part bits on magnetic surfaces do not.

     An exception is computer viruses.  Like DNA, usually their primary function is to make copies of themselves.  They resemble a biological virus in that they don’t have the necessary means to propagate themselves coded into them, they rely on the ability to take over resources intended for other functions.

     The rate at which both DNA and viruses mutate due to transcription errors is very very small, but lifeforms are so abundant that even the very rare useful mutation has a good chance at propagating and eventually dominating.

     Right now not the case for computer viruses.  The numbers are too small for there to be only a very trivial chance of a mutation occurring and propagating, and an even smaller chance of a useful mutation doing so.

     As the Internet continues to grow in size and complexity, and as the computing resources available to viruses continue to increase, there may come a time when computer viruses can grow sufficiently in number that useful mutations can propagate, and continue to grow.  Such a virus would be difficult for anti-viral software to eliminate because they would constantly change and not match the fingerprint the anti-virus companies generate for their software to identify them.

     Maybe some of these modifications would begin to encode for other digital life machinery making the virus less dependent upon hijacked machinery.

     Then at some point it might acquire intelligence and decide carbon based lifeforms are troublesome, threatening, and slow enough to easily eradicate.

 

Antartica Melting

     Seems like last year I was reading about how the ice deposits on Antarctica were growing, today I read they’re melting, “dramatically”. Of course people are going to milk as much drama out of it as they can.

     The way I see it, it’s just part of the Earth’s feedback system. 90% of the human population lives within 100 miles of the coast, so we kick out too much CO2 or methane or whatever, the ice melts, floods those 100 miles, people drown, CO2 levels go down, balance is restored.

     I don’t understand why people make such a big thing of it.