The Rise of Methane and What to Look forward to

The title above is slightly misleading. As a long term observer of climate science and investigator of kinds of what industry knows about the trajectory we are on, the rise of atmosepheric methane is no surprise. Its explained by some to originate from decomposing biomass in the permafrost, but it has been locked up in ice in the soil and at the bottom of our oceans for millenia, and is mostly just being released. Its “bacterial farts” and the gas can make a complex with frozen water called clathrate. When the ice melts the methane is released.

Worst case predictions are a rise in temperature of up to 12 degrees, this has happened in the Earths history. That’s simply unsurvivable for humanity, it may even become “Hothouse Earth”, which seems to be a state of our atmosphere that heats up somewhat like Venus. We are lucky with mostly nitrogen, Earth is not Venus, but constant evaporation of water will not cool Earth down, but instead will lock more heat into the atmosphere.

The endgame we would face if we where all cats or dogs would be that the oceans become to hot for fish to survive (too little oxygen), and start to rot and emit H2S, which would then kill most life on land, life that is already parched. So the hot planet with storms and heatwaves and floods and droughts would have a biting atmosphere that would not allow big oxygen breathing animals like humans to survive. If we where cats and dogs.

This is all terribly bad. The discourse is on a completely other level. Oil companies can still simply go about their business. The neat suit never loses ist power to lull people into positive expectations. Neat people can be complete cunts, and oil companies simply don’t care about humanity, they have known for decades of the dangers of what they are doing. Our minds are local, we can easily slip into the illusion everything is ok if we don’t see what goes wrong elsewhere.

Why wouldn’t we lose hope in the face of this new climate threat. Reason nr one is that that would be less fun. Let’s not be pussies, lets live a little.

Reason nr two is that we have technology, we are not sheep led to slaughter, even though industry wants us to behave like that : Drone like consumers without a sense of past or future. But we lack ways to organize, we are now invited to organize as a party, but there’s no time for that. That’s why there are demonstrations, people want to organize in a usefull group now, change laws immediately. Social media can not be used to achieve this, because they suppress such developments and allow individually targeted psychological manipulation.

Its better to start cooperatives and societies to at least find those that want to help you and who you can help to change things. Just withdrawing from fossil fuel dependence is an enormously important step. The biggest obstacle here are banks, who have everyone in this illusory debt. Debt in a fossil credit economy has only one embodyment : CO2 in the atmosphere. That’s where the fossil fuel went as we burned it. We can not replace that fuel, we can not pay our debt. Banks create new debt to pay the old debt, the control they lord over us is a complete fiction, and you find that out when you go bankrupt or have no debt or fossil fuel need.

Create local groups that are outside the fossil economy, what we call Extraeconomic enclaves. They should produce resources but not sell them in the fossil economy, so for instance plant trees but not burn or cut them down. Buy land, grow your own food, aquire renewable energy sources so you can sell the energy in return for whatever you need. The shift to solar/wind/electric is essential to be invulnerable to a fossil industry that suddenly falters.

Reason nr three is that we have mastered the art of mass manufacturing. Only a couple of hundred years ago we could not replicate anything to any degree of precision. Now we curn out millions of exactly identical items. That means that once we develop a lightweight bipedal manually dexterious robot we will be able to mass produce them, and even use them to mass produce themselves. This is not technooptimism because we are not talking Thorium reactors that have never worked. Tesla just revealed a powerfull roadbot the Cybertruck. That thing will be able to drive through firestorms and haul all kinds of usefull machinery to help fight either the cause or the effects of climate change.

We need to create those systems. We need to create systems to plant trees that we can mass produce, we need to deploy wind turbines in the Arctic that spray water into the air so more ice forms. We should look for ways to make more plants grow on the ocean so that the solar heat doesn’t penetrate too deeply. We should be looking for ways to turn sand into a more reflective material (cover with salt) or ways to capture fresh flood water and mass produce fresh water storage devices. Or ways to oxygenate ocean water (we have a great concept) and bring nutrients to the surface.

Reason nr four is that there are better ways to organize our lives. We need to free ourselves from the basic economic process that is soo stuff oriented. We are easy to manipulate if we are tired and trying to distract ourselves consuming TV or other media, but we should not be so weak as to always have to pay for everything. The wet dream of the economy is that we are soo afraid to do anything we behave exactly as shown to us in the media, and consume exactly what we are told to consume, and when we become unattractive or lack the money to consume anymore, fuck off to hand our insurance money to the health care industry. Why? Because we can’t be fighting corruption and commecial influences as we fight climate change. Vote to make all the services everyone needs public.

If the deserts are what we are left with then this still doesn’t mean we can’t survive. The species that did survive the climate extinctions showed in the image above lived underground. Plenty of ways to make that work. As long as we build technology to revert the atmosphere to one that keeps our planet cool (and this will take thousands of years) we have a chance. There are plenty of constructions left over from up to 5000 years ago. We can build structures that convert CO2 into Carbon or even hydrocarbons. What will make the absolute difference is that we don’t waste time organizing to actually do such things. We may also have to move into regions that are cheap and where we can act in freedom.

How AI is Taking Jobs

Automation has been taking jobs since the first mechanical loom was constructed. It replaced many small workshops where women wove fabric with big factories where minors ran under weaving machines to replace spindles. You could say it improved life because it made fabric cheaper while it reduced happyness by stealing the bread from the artisans. Since then our economy has adopted automation wherever it made economic sense and this trend is not stopping, in fact it seems to be accelerating. It does lead to better products at lower prices in large volumes, it allows more people to share in the western lifestyle, more dreams and desires can come true, and this is a good thing.

AI is adding a new aspect to this trend, and this will be a challenge to the economy. The economy needs consumers, people that buy the products and services it produces, and for that to happen people need jobs. Its obvious that if the production machine cuts jobs it reduces the demand for products and services or at least pushes demand down to the level of the “basic income” (also named social security). We have written before that to see the dillema we can ask ourselves the following question:

If we had a machine that made everyting everyone needed, would that mean nobody has a job, so nobody has money to buy anything and everyone would strave, or would that mean everything the machine produces is free? 

We wrote before that in a fossil fuel powered economy humans compete with machines for the -same- fossil fuels.  Because we distribute fossil fuels to anyone with money, money is the distributing medium for fossil fuels, and so machines compete with humans for money. Machines win because they require less money themselves, while generating profit, than humans in most cases. In short, producers will replace humans with machines whenever they can.

“I profit therefore I exist” (the primary economistic directive)

In an economy based on renewables one can facilitate human consumption with renewables, as well as running the machine, so both don’t compete. A factory with solar panels on the roof may be able to run its machines so cheap its products don’t need to be expensive, and as a result the humans have more to spend and can live wealthier lives. This was also the case in parts of the west during the oil glut. Being wealthy was easy, now it is getting harder.

Now we are facing a new variant of machine vs consumer, and this is RPA or Robotic Process Automation. This is about the tedious jobs, but soon it will be about every job. If you sit behind a desk staring at a screen, or you interview people and then process the information, chances are RPA will get your job. This is because RPA uses next generation classification and detection systems of the kind produced from soo called deep learning AI. This kind of AI can do advanced recognition at the level and speed (sometimes higher) humans can, which includes reading texts, classifying items, recognizing items, dealing with variations in form input etc. etc.

Inbox Outbox life

Inbox Outbox life

RPA is like robotics but more geared to services, not products. So for example a company recieves invoices from different suppliers, these need to be scanned and entered into the accounting books. The lady that did that is replaced by a digital system that takes documents from an inbox, reads them, fills in the necessary fields in the accounting application, sends an email to request additional data etc. etc. Many many jobs are like this, just keeping things working administratively.

So small companies are being competed against by large ones more able to automate (and lose jobs), and both small and big companies will automate administrative tasks and will lose jobs. And these jobs will not be replaced! Today some AI based companies advertise drones that fly autonomously through factories to check machines, reading the gages into the digital system. This would require perhaps serveral workers before. Artificial intelligence is still developing, in terms of language processing and process modelling, so we are just at the beginning of a profound reduction in the need for skilled people.

Making people redudant

Making people redudant

The way our economy deals with this is the same it as it deals with anything : As long as profits are being made, nobody should worry. So we are told people will do other things and find other jobs, this was always the case. The flaw in this argument is that this expectation is baseless. If you make people that do basic paper shoving redundant you lose a lot of jobs while no new ones are created, except perhaps that of RPA system consultants. So it is possible that the economy will suffer because the new jobless can’t spend anymore. The incentives in the economic system are causing it to eat itself. The machine that makes everything anyone needs is growing, but the number of people that can share in this wealth is dropping.

It is quite clear the economy does not listen to public outcry. Right now politics is so pro economy that you can see it making every effort to keep polluting and destroying nature even though the public wants this to stop. Humans are not setting the limits to what is done in industry, industry still behaves as if it ist working on the moon or some dystopian wasteland. With surveillance anyone with to little credit can even be kept away from places where they can demonstrate, they certainly can be discouraged from it and manipulated based on social media behaviour. This is without the obvious attempt to divide people in harmless camps by the media and politics.

It seems that if you care about all people, you need to start handing out cash to ensure consumption. If you don’t care about all people, you can keep going the way it is, and hope the people that become poor die early. The reason this seems to be the approach is because we use fossil fuels, and fossil fuels are finite. Because the allocation of fossil fuels can only be optimized by competition (including between human and machine) humans are not protected. The way to make this all work is thus to increase renewable energy use in automated production chains, so that the product costs can drop and the machine does not compete for the same energy as the human (of course the energy allocated per human is used to grow food, provide healthcare and education etc. the cost of of which can also be reduced by using renewables). That is the way towards what we call the Roboeconomy, which is the economy in which robots make most of what we need, using renewables and are used to restore the ecology and fight climate change. In this economy the basic income is a renewable energy credit that can be allocated to the products and services of choice.


The risks of Neuralink

We wrote this post before, but it somehow disappeared. So this version will be a bit shorter.

Elon Musk is developing a system (Neuralink) to safely and rapidly implant electrodes in the human brain. A small hole is made in the skull and very thin slivers are ‘sowed’ into the brain tissue underneath. This system is a major improvement over the original method, which involved rigit needles that would cut through the neural tissue as the monkey moved around. The brain is not very stiff.

We saw the first example of this in the late 90’s, when a brazilian scientist managed to allow a monkey to control a robot arm using only its brain. It took a while for the monkey to get the hang of it, first also moving its real arm(s) but eventually it could control three arms seperatly.

This milestone taught us a lot, because it turned out that you could read out the arm position using only a few 16-64 electrodes (who would read multiple neurons each). This said a lot a about how the brain encodes stuff, because the regions that are ultimately active when you move an arm contain billions of neurons.

Thin strands of electrodes are inserted in the soft brain tissue..

Thin strands of electrodes are inserted in the soft brain tissue..

Elon Musk hopes to increase the “bandwith” between humans can computers through the neural implants. He fears that Artificially intelligent systems will overpower humans and the only way to stay on top is to somehow become a symbiot with them. We are already semi-android because we use our mobile devices continuously and depend on digital systems so much.

We have studied neuroscience for a decade and been highly focussed on understanding what the brain actually does. How it works so to say. This gives us a hopefully interesting prespective on the risks and opportunities of the neuralink technology.

Every brain is different. We all develop in our unique way, due to genetic and factors during pregancy (such as air pollution and alcohol) and early development every brain even has different sensitivities to start with. So one can not expect to plug into a brain and read out data as if it was an ethernet connection, for every neuralink connector the subject needs to teach the system the relationship between what the connector reads and what the subject thinks or says.

In fact it is highly unlikely a neuralink system can read from regions that are not sensory or motoric, so what you hear, feel, see or which action you wish to execute now. This is because where the primary senses are mapped quite predictably in specific cortex regions, more abstract concepts can really be anywhere (in the associative areas). They will certainly be in different places for people. It is likely to take a lot of time to train the neuralink to recognize them.

The difficulty to map more abstract concepts also becomes an issue when you try to connect two persons through their neuralinks. It is possible to imagine the Broca area of one person, which drives speech, to be connected to the Wernicke area of another person, at which point they could each know what the other is saying, still this would be very invasive (two neuralinks each). Airpods would be a cheaper solution..

No Homunculus and Brain plasticity

To understand how to think about the possibilities of Neuralink we need to understand a bit more about the brain. An important aspect of how it functions is that it does not know what it does, or what it is, its just a bunch of neurons who actually compete against each other to be usefull. A neuron that gets few inputs will become more sensitive and grow until it finds itself in regular use. This ‘plasticity’ is the reason why our brains survive all the small damage we do to it every day. The brain has stem cells that will repair damage for as long as you have them. A temporary change in environment can trigger significant changes in how colors are encoded. If you start driving an Uber your brain will adapt to facilitate navigation. Every time you learn something your brain basically rewires itself.

If you add neuralink input to your brain the neurons will not know where the signal comes from. If you put them in a color recognition region you will likely see colors, or rather, experience them. There are no senses for pain or touch in the brain so the activity of the neurons to the brain can have only one explanation: There’s a color out there.

If you add neuralink to the Wernicke area (which we use for interpretation of speech), you are likely to have an experience as if someone said something specific. You may also hear someone (you know or yourself) say it.

It may turn out that if you input activity in an associative region, and the subject can control it, you end up with the option of adding senses. So when the subject demands it the system inputs signals in the auditory cortex that signify the state of a server or whether there is someone behind them. This would then have an associated sound (can be anything) which the subject recognizes. For this purpose however one could use backward facing radar and input into the headset as well. The take home message is that any input will simply be integrated into the experience. The neurons in the active region will simply work with what is being put in. This leads to a possible problem.

Ignoring input may be impossible

The way our brain works is that a region that is active silences other regions. This mechanism doesn’t work well with epileptic patients, who have runaway activity in cortical regions when they have an attack. This inhibition is local and also lateral, so between the left and the right brain halves. You can interpret it as kind of a sending state of a brain region, so that it determines the activity elsewhere. The sending region is always the one with the most activity, so any region with high activity (allowed by local inhibition) will dominate al the others. It is easy to see that if you put enough power into a neuralink you will dominat the brain of the subject. There are other more interesting regions to make a neuralink to that can enable even stronger control, but the awareness of a person recieving sufficiently strong Neuralink input will be filled with the modality where the neuralink is planted. So there is a potential for abuse.

Knowing the incredible connectivity of the brain and its plasticity one can also imagine another use of Neuralink, which is simply to use the compute power of a persons brain, like a deep learning neural network of sorts. Plug in two neuralinks in one brain, send with one and read with the other. The person in question may have experiences, and for it to work its awareness will be dominated by the activity. This is not super likely to work and it will at least mean serious discomfort for the subject.

When we speak we hear outselves because the Broca brain region is connected to the Wernicke region. This is also how we hear ourselves think..

When we speak we hear outselves because the Broca brain region is connected to the Wernicke region. This is also how we hear ourselves think..

So we think that expecting Neuralink to increase the bandwith between man and machine is optimistic. Its ability to recieve control signals has been proven, and this can lead to human controlled exoskeleton cyborgs, and maybe the sensory input wil become sophistcated enough that the subject can hear and sense (also controlling the sensing devices) a lot like we imagine ourselves, pointing our ears and nose and squinting our eyes, maybe that will become scannning frequencies or peering into the infrared or checking server statusses or other flags.

Beyond our attentional capacity, our ability to comprehend a situation and place the input signals in their appropriate context, its unlikely a direct input into the brain would enhance things, unless it would become abusive, so perhaps a rougue AI using Neuralink to control humans or a lab using captives with Neuralinks to do difficult computations. The development of this technology will be a blessing for paraplegics and can enhance human ability to deal with complex environments, but it also has some potential for being abused.


Moondust Bombardments to Cool the Earth

Geoengineering is any proces by which humans physically intervene in the normal Earth biochemical processes. Its been smeared as dangerous, but if we hear Rex Tillerson of Exxon, some companies have been involved in it knowingly since the 80’s. Still usually it is associated with spraying sulfur particles in the upper atmosphere to deflect sunlight to cool the Earth. This idea although it would work, is highly impractical and would mean sulfur rain all over the planet, so it would utlimately be damaging.

There are other options, and we should not reject any option just -because- it could be called geoengineering. Driving a fossil fuel powered car is geoengineering. it should be judged on its effectiveness and sustainability, as if (big shock) we would like the Earth to be habitable for future generations!

Global dimming is a thing

Now that the reuse of rockets has been demonstrated and the cost of launching anything into space has dropped considerably the cost of manned missions to the moon, as well as the establishment of a permanent moon base has become much less. This means that in time there will be a military base there, holding the ultimate high ground over Earth. As we would then have a stabile base observing Earth with massive amounts of dust available, it becomes imaginable that we cause solar dimming by sending moondust to Earth. The energy required for that is modest. If you shoot a rifle bullet up in the sky from the moon it comes down! Basic canons could suffice to shoot material to Earth, or a railgun system driven by solar power.

Sunlight is already being dimmed, even if we don’t notice, by soot from fossil fuels. Strangely if we drop fossil fuel emissons the Earth would warm and the sun would become brighter, causing more warming! Some argue that we should therefore reduce emissions slowly because having a cooler planet is essential for food production, so a sudden drop would spell disaster.

It seems therefore that we would be wise to look for alternatives to soot as a solar dimmer. Many plants can do with 12% of full sunlight and still grow normally, so cooling the Earth by blocking sunlight would mean its plants can suck up a considerable amount of CO2. Sending the moon dust directly to Earth would mean that any effect is realtively short lived. The effect of CO2 emissions takes 20 years to fully express itself. This could be modelled and some experiments could show its effect.

Its not clear how fast the moon will be colonized, but we think it will happen in the next 10 years. It would make sense to not only speak about the military threat of a moon base but also about the opportunity to fight global warming from Earths celestial compagnion.

The RoboEconomy and ExtraEconomy Part 2

Economic thinking is incomplete, it takes the perspective of a hunter gatherer in a new unpopulated environment. This is a result of its deeply introvert attitude, as it has only one motivational drive profit. Every modern economic activity happens in the artificial context of bank financing. Projects will always go to banks to ask for a loan in order to build capital to do whatever it tries to do. There are exceptions once a company or individual can amass enough cash. Whatever activity is done with cash directly can be very disruptive, as we have seen with Tesla and Apple in its haydays.

To drill down to what an economy is about we would define it as a process of combining three factors to generate wealth for people. These are :

  • Energy -> muscle energy, electricity, steam pressure, solar heat, fire
  • Skills -> brain power, intricate mechanisms, computer power
  • Materials -> all stuff that grows, walks around, flies or lies around or can be dug up etc.

Wealth  = Energy + Skills + Materials

Originally it was a human being that combined skills and energy to shape materials into whatever it needed. fundamentally a human being doesn’t need much more than food (energy) and a place to live to exist. Humans existed for milions of years just eating and being in all kinds of ways.

Recently we have seen the introduction of coal, oil, gas and before that of wood being burned. They are a source of energy. Used in machines one creates a source of wealth independent of humans. The machine can incorporate human control skills, like the governor on a steam engine, or the movements of sowing in a sowing machine. These mechanically implemented skills where transferred to all kinds of media until today they are mainly heald on silicon in computers.

Developments in AI are pushing the complexity of skills that can be represented in computers close to human skills. Autonomous robots that would create wealth that benefited humans would be the ultimate positive outcome. Right now autonomous bots that kill humans are the most advanced type though. This is mainly because wealth can be defined negatively, in the absence of consumption of resources by an adversary.

Modern economic thinking has been biased because of the desire for banks and fossil fuel companies to make a profit. and as they where on the top of the credit food chain they have been able to keep it this way until today. The economy does not strive for general increase of wealth, and it does not consider the context in which it operates. It only looks at the parameter of profit, which ensures security of banks, because when everyone wants profit, there is continued money shortage, and bank credit will remain in demand and a controlling factor of new activities.

The Transtion to the Roboeconomy

Renewable energy are changing the economic dynamics because they can be owned by individuals, companies or the state. Because most people don’t understand the occupying role of banks these ‘assets’ are currently mixed into the fossil based economy, loaded with debt by banks and thus owned and their existence managed by them. Privately owned renewable resources without debt are a threat to the credit hegemony of banks and fought. Ultimately this will be a losing battle and all individual owners of renewable energy resources will become creditors to the roboeconomy.

You would think the replacement of fossil by renewables does not change the lack of consideration of the economy for the environment, but it does, even if it is not the final answer. This is because renewable energy resources are still sized to the actual demand. This means there is no ‘economic pressure’ like with fossil energy. In the fossil economy banks can always take more fossil fuels out of the available resource pool or try to. They simply create credit and the fossil resources can be controled by the recipient of that credit. When this happens it means profit for the bank so this is why all kinds of projects are being pushed and why “economic growth” is the main goal of governments dominated by the fossil economy. There is even an 18 month lead time before profit or demand is to be expected. These kind of rules where made up to drive fossil fuel use expansion for decades. With renewables there will be no pressure to do more, at least until we have 100% replaced fossil fuels. This “economic pressure” also means we could save enormous amounts of emissions right away by stopping economic activity that has insufficient benefits, or is are simply wastefull (like 80% of holiday air travel).

Credit in the Roboeconomy

Capitalism used to mean the management of production resources to maximize wealth. This included everything that would not be consumed, so machines, labour, skills. The way it was allocated could be directly or through trade using gold and silver backed currencies. With the arrival of fossil fuels this became a limit on development, as the extention of credit was limited by the amount of gold and silver (a problem already addressed with fractional banking). So the gold and silver standards where abandoned and today a US dollar is not backed by anything, at least so it seems. Now money is considered to be capital, and banks can print dollars and hand them over to allow projects to go ahead.

The fossil based economy depends on cooperation between oil companies and banks. This cooperation can be managed even if none of the players is explicitly aware of it

This only works because the credit buys fossil fuels or some other form of energy (renewables are still caught ni the same debt based credit system). This is not evident to most people but it is true. You can buy a running shoe, but if the money you buy it with does not allow the manufacturer to buy new plastic for more running shoes, and if it doesn’t allow the supplier of said plastic to buy the oil it needs to make the plastic, the manufacturer would be a fool to accept the money. Every product in our fossil based economy has a fossil fuel cost, often many types, and the money needs to be able to buy that fuel, and this is possible of a fundamental deal made with fossil fuel companies who gain only very little from it. Credit is carboncredit.

The Watertrap

Around the world countries are drying up, the rising average global temperatures cause water to stick around in the air, instead of raining down. Australia is one of the hardest hit, where the natural graslands used for cattle is simply turning into desert, and farmes are crying because they get no more support.

Water has been touted as a commodity, where the CEO of Nestle said of course everybody has a right to a basic ration of water, but above that, its a free market! We are now seeing all the signs of an attempt to corner humanity as a whole in a scarce water market. If the global economy has any power, it will succeed in forcing us to pay for every drop in the near future. After all being fossil credit slaves, we will become water credit slaves.

How do we know? Because the videos about desalination are misleading. Below video is called “Solving the worlds water crisis” but it is actually a story of two technologies, one really and how there are drawbacks so we should not want either of them. True.

Not all options are mentioned..

The options described are evaporative desalination and reverse osmosis or RO. RO is the most common form and there is a simple reason for it : It is complicated and generates (fossil) cashflow. It requires high pressure pumps and pipes and a lot of energy. This is the dumbest thing to do if you want to be water secure, but if you want to get rich as an industry cooperating with banks and energy companies, its the bomb.

The risk of this ‘economistic’ approach is clearly demonstrated now in Zimbabwe. It has a big desalination plant serving millions, but it can’t afford the fuel anymore, so now millions are suffering, the elderly dying, because they adopted a technology that is economically desirable, but existentially risky. And this is the technology that is put forward to ensure money will always play a role in desalination.

We notice that descriptions of other ways to desalinate are disappearing from Youtube. One very good example we can’t show but it was one of the cheap methods. There are three at lease :

1. Freeze desalination
2. Vacuum evaporation destilation
3. Ionic desalination

Freeze Desalination

Simply put when water freezes it forms a lattice that pushes ions out. Salts fall apart in water, into Natrium Na+ and Cloride Cl- for example. These ions are what makes the water salty. If you freeze water the molecules H2O get closer together, and squeeze the Na+ and Cl- out. So you can simply cool water until you get an ice slush, pick out the ice, thaw it, repeat the cycle until the ice is fresh enough. This is waaay more energy efficient than boiling water, or RO.

Vacuum Evaporative Destillation

Water boils at about 100 degree Celsius at sea level. On top of Mount Everest it boils around 71 degree Celsius. The energy required to make water boil is enormous. So boiling water to desalinate is very energy intensive. The simple solution is to lower the air pressure so water boils at a lower temperature. Create a low enough air pressure and water boils at ambient temperatures or even below freezing! Of course it is easier to create such a vacuum than to push the water through a RO filter at high pressure, it is waay cheaper!


Its know technology

Ionic desalination 

Ionic desalination comes in several forms. The key idea is to pull on the Na+ and Cl- (which we will allow to stand for all salts in this post). They are charged particles. If you create an electric field through water the + particles will move in the opposite direction of the – particles. The water itself will stay where it is. This is one way to separate out the salt from the water.

If you let the water with the salt flow thorugh a magnetic field you will also cause the + particles to move in another direction than the – particles, and the water will again flow as if nothing happend (even though it is a polar molecule, we are no 100% sure). This is also a way to separate out the salt! It is even a way to generate electricity!

Last but not least the – particles will be able to move through a positive charged membrane, while the + paricles will be repulsed. Same with a negative membrane. If you create a setup where the water can flow straight but the particles can move to a positive or negative compartment through a negative or positively charged membrane, you are also desalinating!

temperature swing solvent extraction (TSSE)

Salts bind to amines, which can be separated from the water by increasing the temperature (not boiling it)

The Roboeconomy

The fossil fuel economy wants to sell fossil fuel, and this is done by promoting technology that consumes fossil fuel. Why would it want this? Because the fuel is traded in USD, credit and banks live off supplying and managing it. Renewables will cause a serious drop in work for banks! The products we are supposed to buy today all have this ‘bank tax’ build in, and this is why the stories about water do not include ‘low yielding’ technology, meaning low yielding for banks!!

We are however moving into the Roboeconomy, which is the economy where robots running on renewables make almost everything and are also restoring the ecosystem. Renewables change the equation, and banks are NOT part of that equation.

Right now all technology has to make money for banks, has to be super optimized within that constraint, all because even though banks want to profit, they also want to last long, so the rate of consumption of fossil fuels should be low. In reality the oil and gas companies are flaring (even without burning) 8 million car years worth of methane every year, but that loss doesn’t hit them. The take home message is that with renewable energy you don’t have to be super efficient. The irony is that all of the above desalination technologies ARE more efficient, up to 80%!!

So water is becoming more scarce, and if we all listen to the mass media we feel there is no way out. That is because they help capturing us mentally and physically so we can work in the water economy. This economy is mostly created out of a misplaced extrapolation of current economic thinking. If you want to escape that scenario help promote the above better ways to desalinate, you will certainly save lives and make people happy. And you will help usher in the Roboeconomy!

2001 A Space Oddessey Was Not Wrong, or : AI will cheat!

Science fiction lovers know Stanley Kubrics movie 2001 A Space Odyssey to be one of the defining movies of its genre. Not only for its visual effects, but also for its plot : HAL, the onboard AI of a spacecraft send to investigate a possible sign of alien life, becomes problematic as it makes up its own mind and breaks the first rule of robotics as stated by Isaac Asimove : “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.”. This definitely happens because HAL tries to protect itself.

The above report on AI algorithms finding ways outside the expected bounds, so in a way cheating on the challenge given to them shows that a scenario like in Kubrics movie is not far fetched. This can be understood if we consider that in many forms of current AI we do not restrict the use of the tools of the AI. The model of the AI can be simplified to

Input -> Processing  -> Output

In this model the Input are signals from sensors of video feeds or clocks etc. The output can be a datastream (words) but also angular momentum given to actuators, so the movement of a real or simulated robot arm, wheel axle. To the arms and wheels one can attach drills, or paintbrushes etc.  Most interesting AIs can observe itself or at least get feedback on the succes or failure of their actions.

An AI is asked to find the most efficient way to achieve an objective. But is the objective defined in such a way that it is safe to consider every possible avenue?

The implicit risk we take in building an AI and giving it ways to manipulate our world is that we may not have defined the objective in a safe way, and there are ways to manipulate the world to achieve the objective when it is interpreted in another way, more sparsely. A simple example is that you ask an AI to clean the room and you return to find the AI has remove all furniture from the room through the window! The mistake is to think the AI will take into account the constraints you take into account as a human.

A good recent example is that a bug in the Python programming language caused errors in scientific results. In this case even the human programmer who clearly understands the world and the objective did not realize the results where false because the tool used was faulty.

What if we ask an AI to use Python to build a new Hyperloop pod that keeps humans safe over the span of a 1 hour yourney, and the AI decides killing the humans right after the pod leaves is safest because it never learned about harm coming to humans after death?

This echo’s the case in which there could be no (positive) safety rating for Model 3 Teslas because there where too few accidents! Once you start thinking about it, weakly defined objectives and opportunistic intelligence is causing problems everywhere.

We thus need to brace ourselves for AI in the wild. An AI is basically us allowing things to happen we don’t really understand and which might even kill us, a bit like the global economy, which feeds the people who support it but destroys all life because it prefers fossil fuels.

Like laws governing humans a first step is to have laws governing the capabilities of AI, the access, the actuators and magnitude of angular momentum they can give to arms and legs. Also the failsaves. One simple trick would be to build in a breaker that stops a robot in public space if it comes to close to a warm body or smartphone, if the robot has no business.

Geimproviseerde Hepa/Koolstof filter

Wonen aan een drukke straat in de Randstad is niet gezond. Daar komt nog bij dat er vaak restaurants zijn met lage schoorstenen en dat het stoken door de buren een deken van rook over een wijk kan leggen. Luchtfilters zijn echter vrij duur en meestal niet gefocust op chemische vervuiling maar meer op stof, zn HEPA filters zijn dan de beste. We hebben maar eens een minimaal apparaat in elkaar geknutselt.


Hierboven ziet u een flinke koolstof filter, met flens en een ventilator die in de flens past..


Dit kan op twee manieren, maar de goede is met de blazende kant boven, zodat lucht via de deken in de filter naar de ventilator stroomt. De lucht is dan meestal vrijwel van chemische stoffen gezuiverd, koolstof filters zijn verbazend effectief!


Wat ontbreekt is de HEPA filter. Die zijn erg duur, maar voor 20 Euro moet je er een kunnen  vinden. De onze hadden we al een tijdje. De kunst is nu om alle lucht ook door deze filter te krijgen anders komt er misschien koolstof mee en dat is niet gezond.


Met wat geknutsel hebben we een doos gemaakt, die op de ventilator past en waarvan de bovenkant uit de filter bestaat. Lang leven ducttape!20191005_111124De verpakking van de filter wordt zo herbruikt. Het bodem stuk komt uit een sinasappeldoos.20191005_111226En zo is onze koolstof-HEPA filter klaar voor gebruik (snoer hadden we nog). Deze kan veilig blazen. Het geluid valt zelfs mee. Voor huisgebruik kun je hem natuurlijk in de bijkeuken zetten of in het ventilatie systeem verwerken.


Betere filter optie, iets groter oppervlak

Totale kosten van dit systeem zijn 70,- Euro ongeveer. We denken dat een kit met een paar onderdelen voorbereid 100,- kan kosten. Die kunt u bestellen via of met titel HEPA filter.

A Climate Challenge Related Currency

The world doesn’t seem to realize it but we are facing the biggest challenge to humanity since the bubonic plague. Society is carrying a large contingent of climate uncaring people with it, who don’t understand or care about the problem.Banks, oil companies, big corporations that don’t want people to stop consuming are all weakening retoric. Governments are staffed by seemingly greedy lackeys for industry, where the consequences of actions in two generations is not part of the bottom line. Money itself is still mainly carboncredit, and there is no easy answer to how credit is distributed if a society runs on renewables. We need a power grab by those that do care, but that is not possible in a world owned and run by banks!

The solution is to introduce a new currency, which can only be exchanged and shared by people who restrict their behaviour in ways that conforms with the challenge we need to meet. The greedy climate ignorers will immediately call it communism, but that is not what its about, it is about being responsible without suffering. If you want to meet the challenges you need to stop doing a couple of things, and start doing many other things. Work needs to be focussed on reducing emissions and pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere. Work needs to be focussed on actively cutting emissions of companies, groups and individuals that do not restrict their behaviour responsibly.

This currency will meet strong opposition to begin with, it will be fought by the current carbon credit monopoly. On the other hand people will not think much of it, a cryptocurrency, who cares. Maybe it should not even be a crypto currency as they are known today because its undesirable to drive such an energy intensive kind of money system. Maybe it should be a coin. The coin would however come with a contract :

1. A person can recieve the coin or a balance in its account if he/she is actively driving real climate solutions
2. You recieve the balance from peers who measure your actions against the best scientific models of what the effects are democratically
3. Any balance can be taken out again by distribution over all others if enough holders agree and if there is a clear reason
4. At the time horizon of 2030 nobody will be allowed in government or positions of power who does not hold climatecoins
5. Anyone who wants to get elected needs to recieve climatecoins


Global Knowledge Hub for Shifting away from Intensive Farming

The world needs to shift away from intensive agriculture. Its been said as early as the 1980’s by people in the agroindustry that the model was not sustainable. They meant that they where making money by increasing the economic activity and cashflow in farming, but knew this would not last for the simple reason that fossil fuels would run out. Today for every intensively farmed calorie 10 fossil fuels calories are burned.

We wrote about this years ago, and in the mean time several tests shown that production of non-intensively farmed land is about equal to the intensively framed kind, except of course you need to rotate. The crops have become more productive through genetic modification for instance. and no matter how much you spray or fertilize, the weather determines a large part of how crops fare.

Reducing the fossil input in farming to near zero is possible with electric equipment, logistics, fertilizer production (using Wind also written about in this blog). Even pest control can be done by small robots, nutrient application can be highly efficient through the use of satelite or drone data analysis. There was never a better time for farms to go CO2 negative like now.

The biggest problem is the soil. The use of artificial inputs has depleted it, the carbon content is near zero, it has no fungal life to capture nitrogen. And it takes about 5 years to bring that back. The good news is that one can put fungi into the soil (there’s an example from Australia). This shift also makes sense from a water conservation point of view, good soil doesn’t dry out as easily as a lot of water is held as reserve by living organisms.

Now as we wrote earlier, if there was a catastrophic reason for a cut in fossil fuel availability the West would suddenly have a food production problem : The soils would not produce on their own! The “Post fossil food gap” would last 5 years in which the unlucky population would be decimated. Sadly this scenario is now more likely than ever, either because of rising global tensions and because a growing part of the public wants to cut emissions and be more secure.

A global expertise center needs to be created to guid countries that are willing out of their fossil fuel dependence in agriculture, and establish renewable sources to replace for instance the gas inputs into fertilizer production. Other base nutrients have to be recycled and collected using renewables as well. This is a huge undertaking but it can not be started early enough. The positive side is that is is relatively cheap to do it.