Category Archives: Uncategorized

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The Slow Future

Here’s what’s going to happen : The next summers are going to be hot, each hotter every year. The news will say we are breaking new records, that we are seeing highs not seen for at least a couple of millenia. We will read the farmers have a hard time, that there’s drought and the produce is getting shorter. Farmers will be compensated or go bankrupt, and the news will be that it becomes harder to farm everywhere. All these things make sense to a person without memory, without awareness of consequences or causality. The Nemo fish which is the modern consumer can be kept in its fishbowl for quite some time.

The future that is predicted is becoming reality and the future we can no predict, with even more accuracy is deadly. It means death to a lot of people, and eventually all people. We have argued that the ability to predict the future, or at least have expectations of it, is the fundamental skill needed for survival. It is the reason humanity is alive today. If nobody ever worried about what would happen next, then we’d been eaten by creatures that did a long long time ago. It is easy to understand that as long as our leaders and politicians don’t respond to the clear predictions made by those that compete to produce the best ones, we are doomed do die. And because we have leaders we all have to share the fate of the shortsighted ones.

In a sense we are blessed with countries, we don’t want to reduce the number of them. We need more language barriers. Why? Because we humans are not the system we operate in, we are imperfect and as our planet changes we need to change our behaviour. You can fix problems because it makes money, but at some point you have to wonder if your fixes are ever going to work or result in the true goal : Survival.

The economy wants you to think you have eternal youth and endless opportunity to repair any damage, either that or (when it comes to medical insurance, pharmaceuticals and other health services) that you are fragile and run risk and should be treated preventively etc. etc. For each temperament there is the optimal mix of fear and hubris to drive you to maximum purchase and bondage (as a worker).  The question should be : Does this make me live longer and more healthy? The answer is that nobody really cares, unless that would be a USP of a specific product.

We need to be confronted with our real future, in which our pension will become worthless, in which order will break down in parts of the world, in which we will have to use robots to save us, and this has to be done as a huge investment that bankers won’t accept. We thus have to get rid of the privilige of bankers. We have to face the fact that most of us are too stupid to survive, not in a forrest, but in the reality we find ourselves in : A dry and hot world that is burning and becoming less hospitable every year. You may say “This is an exhageration”, but go look in Australia.

We also must not be fooled by temporary lapses in the deterioration, a drop in temperature, a sudden rain to break the dry spell. The predicitons and models take variation into account, and we should understand that this is only an opportunity to do more in a more comfortable world. But if it is 37 dergrees for 6 weeks a lot of people die, cognitive abilities fail. We can’t forget that right afterwards and act as if nothing happened. We must remind ourselves and others of the future we can see unfold, and ACT upon its ultimate outcome because our lives depend on it.

Reject the media if the present a slow future, a window on now to trigger an emotion. That’s entertainment, you are being tickled. But are you a child? Do you need tickles or something you can use to protect your life, kids, grandchildren?

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Sanity Check

Well you followed the link and are now reading this, good! How do you feel about the recent months? Have you experienced unusual high temperatures? I have, I live in Holland and for weeks it was 35 degrees, tropical up to 37 even. And I had to work in a thin roofed room on the sunny side of an office building. Many have suffered from the heat. The heart needs to pump around more blood in an attempt to keep the core temperature optimal when it is hot, and this means heart patients and elderly people have been challenged (and if the heatwave of 2003 in France is anything to go by, many died!).

If you have not been shocked by this summer you may be insane

Now we know what is causing this, but even if we didn’t know, or even if you deny it, how do you feel about this? Next year will likely be more brutal, and the year after even more. Regions of Europe and the Middle East are said to become uninhabitable, mainly because if it’s above 37 Celsius and humidity is high, you simply can’t survive for more than half an hour or less.

How do you think someone feels that has been interested in climate change for more than 10 years? This summer has been like finding bear tracks during a forrest walk.  A very bad sign of things to come. Nature is showing its hand and its deadly, massive forrest fires, failt harvests and people fainting in the heat. QED so to say, but then nobody seems to be listening.

We listen and watch to much, it turns our brain into a formless directionless mush not capable of doing anything strong or willfull

The opposite is true though, everybody is listening, but to the wrong message, to a fake drone of distracting newsitems with zero positive or negative impact. Trump this Trump that, just to keep you insulted and demotivated to act on your own impulses or ideas. You can watch a million shows about more or less fantasy people, play VR games, try the new BBQ etc. but don’t you dare to think straight and from the facts!!

The facts are :

  1. Dangerous climate change is here, this summer killed hundreds of thousands of people
  2. The oil, gas and coal companies are just companies, with employees, they do not have private armies and they are not above the law, and right now they are a clear and present danger to everyone.
  3. Politicians and media are sedating and confusing the public with all kinds of nonsense, because fundamentally the economoy is the most lucrative thing to serve, even if it doesn’t serve any human values (including surival) anymore..

Dutch pro oil politicians are actually debating if they will give a 2 billion Euro advantages to corporations (mainly Shell Oil) while this idea was proposed by none of the parties!! How dead can democracy be?

What do you do if you work a 9 to 5 job, can’t afford rent because banks drive up prices all the time, are stuck with student loans or kids who need to compete in the schoolyard. You are stuck, pinned down by the banks (because does a simple house -really- have to cost 500.000 Euro? Be honest!) and forced to drive economic activity while the prudent thing to do would be vastly different..

We should :

  1. Make sure we allocate resources towards generating fresh water and chemical/fuel free agriculture (which is more drought resistant). We should revisit low energy intensity technologies to achieve fresh water and grow food. Current farming methods maximize economic turnover, cashflow. We need to eat and drink and so do plants and animals.
  2. Get a grip on those who are incentivised to sell oil, coal and gas, on every scale because those forces are simply dangerous and corrupting. The resources that these companies sell should be brought under central control for rationing, but the order needed for this may not exist.
  3. Think about our children and what they will experience. How can we do large scale things with few means (because really we can’t burn a lot of oil fixing climate change), how do we get CO2 out of the atmosphere at the fastest possible rate. There should litterally go trillions into fixing this.
  4. Figure out how to make our society resilient against severe fossil fuel restriction? If young people start burning IC cars because they are sick of being poisoned while we could use electric vehicles, and they manage to paralyze the fuel supply (as happened in France a few years back), what can we do?

We can live luxuriously with a lot less luxury than we demand today. We should ban the promotion of consumer behaviour, so no adds for flying to the Maldives or being an idiot that eats meat and drives a huge SUV.

Strangely what we also need to do is fight crime. For that we need to be brave. Why? Because oil/coal and gas companies align with criminal activity, because the way to use this resource to get rich is so simple : You get it and you sell it, and nobody cares what happens, everyone is glued to their screens. Beware: There needs to be a serious effort to reduce crime and remove potential criminals, even if our government is full of treehuggers and animal lovers.

Also strangely the rich, as global warming intensifies, conclude there are simply to many people. There will be a surge in racism, eugenic thinking along the lines that “hey, some need to die, let it be the least valuable”. Of course ‘value’ is likely to be measured in terms of money, and so the poor are sacrificed no matter what talent they posess. The already are in Africa as the rain has stopped and will drop 50+% in the next years, no water no food no people..

I think the best thing to happen is if some people united secretly and moved to remote places to start running carbon capturing or negative emissions activities. Not for profit but for effect. These extraeconomic enclaves will have to be a secret and not invite any economic exploitation of its resouces (which may be wood or some othe carbon capturing material). We call this Extraeconomic activity, and extraeconomic enclaves. The focus should not be on maximizing joy while slaving for a mortgage, it should be maximizing biomass production while surviving with simple means.

 

 

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Avatarians

We are an immitating species. Our brains have developed to be able to execute plans tretching out over years, but it all began with immitation of others. The social impulse is born out of the desire to observe others, empathize with them to learn what behaviour we can have that is safe, what is a good response to imbalances in our life, how to find solutions to problems we all share.

Imitation is possible because our mind works by envisioning, imaging what we would feel and look like if we perform certain acts. This is no effort, we in fact select the acts based on what emotions are triggered by the imagining. So our mind wanders and we imagine ourselves doing various things. The thing that triggers enough of an emotional response selfapmplifies and becomes fixed in our mind, and if our reality is not too different from the idea we will try to make reality conform to it. Otherwise we may plan to remove an obstacle to reduce the difference, our orientation in life has shifted towards that idea, and our brain conforms, using our talents as necessary.

A consequence of this imitation learning, and the higer level learning through imagining from text, is that we program ourselves, sometimes automatically. We observe what another individual does, and we can empathize with its succes and reward, and thus we decide to imitate that persons behaviour. What do we do? We reimagine it, and surrender ourselves to the acts. We embody what we observe, and thus we become an avatar for that behaviour, in uncertainty about any reward.

In a way our mind absorbs and reenacts behaviour we observe. It also generates new behaviour, ones that it never really observed but ones that happen because of how our body is made up, how our brain is wired. You can have a brain defect and think your wife is a hat so it is clear that the integrity of our brain can be clearly deduced from our behaviour. This has always been imporant in our survival, because another person can be a friend or an enemy. This underlies our keen sense what is normal behaviour and what not.

So lets take this information and think about it for a second. We are individuals, our minds are perturbed and seduced by what we observe, our behaviour follows that which we observe. So we are at least some of the time, avatars for observed behaviours. This means we may act as we have observed, with or without feeling the reward we observed or imagined is associated with the behaviour. The normal dynamic is that we know what reward we will recieve or what good we serve if we have certain behaviour. But we can go too far in serving and hoping for a reward, and this can mean we behave without any.

This ability to imitate others or our imagination has a purpose, it should serve our health and happyness. We know if this is the case if we feel happy and healthy at least some of the time. If we know our brain wants to imitate, and will observe and internalize rewarding behaviour, we should start paying attention to what we observe, whether wat we expose ourselves to is actually truthfull and good. Truth becomes a meaningfull word in this context. Something is true if when we adopt the idea we find we do not need to change our idea as we seek confirmation.

A behaviour can be true when it yields the imagined rewards. So you plant a seed, tend it and it grows into a tree. When you learn about this it can be a fantasy, but as you try it you see it confirmed. You where right in believing this fantasy, your internal library of behaviours is enriched. Now if you talk about this idea of planting a seed, tending it and seeing it grow into a tree, you will not burden others with wrong ideas. They will not go out, expend their lives and energy to find no tree grows rom a seed. Obviously true behaviours are at least as valuable as true knowledge.

Joy, being able to rejoyce, is also important. We dance and make music and make ourselves beautifull and there is something special about this. Because if you seek beauty you do not need examples. You know it right away if something is easy or painfull to behold, of music is pleasing to the ear or harsh, if someone moves beautifully or shows signs of pain and suffering. This knowledge is intrinsic, like feelings themselves. We know instantly and we don’t need to be shown and tought what to feel.

 

 

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Pricing Car Fuels To Incentivise Efficient Transportation

We are seeing increasing resistance against diesel cars in cities, because they pollute the air right where people want to live, with soot and NOx that can cause heart and brain damage. In the defence of the car companies we read that they say diesel engines are more efficient, get more miles per gallon. It’s an interesting claim because it shows you how these interests will hide reality from you even in small portions. They are never honest.

The truth is, diesel is more energy dense than gasoline, so one gallon of diesel contains more energy than one gallon of gasoline. So it’s natural you get more miles out of a diesel engine using the same volume of fuel. That said, a diesel engine is slightly more efficient because it is hotter, diesel doesn’t ignite as easy so it needs to be. Hotter also means you can extract more energy because the temperature gradient limits the amount of work you can get out of a heat engine (which an internal combustion engine ultimately is). So technically yes, a diesel engine makes better use of the energy avialable, but you don’t show that by comparing miles per gallon.

But the overal efficiency of an internal combustion enigine is appaling. 30% maximum. So 2/3 of all the emissions from cars trucks ships, planes (who are probably worse) is just wasted buring of fossil fuels.

To me that should be reflected in the price, the energy in the fuel. So if I buy a gallon of diesel, it should cost more than one of gasoline. The cheapest form of energy should be used as a base price, and that isn’t diesel or gasoline. It is solar, because no oil well or gass well stops needing attention, a solar panel does. The cost of a solar kWh should be the standard for all energy carriers, so that we price gasoline correctly (source).

Say a solar kWh = $0.10 ct.

A gallon of gasoline should cost $3.34

and diesel $3.79

Another sane thing is to tax in engine efficiency to incentivise more efficient use of energy. So for an EV with an electric motor, efficiency is about 85%, so you divide the cost by this efficiency, you get $0.117 ct/kWh. For gasoline and diesel this translates to

Gasoline $3.34 /0.2 = $16.7 Gallon

Diesel $3.79 /0.3 = $12.6 /Gallon

Another way is to price the roadmeters into the fuel, for transportation fuels. This means you include the average engine efficiency and take the optimal performance as the benchmark.

The average EV gets 0.32 kWh per mile. This is probably a low estimate as Tesla’s do better than this.

A gasoline car gets 23 miles per gallon, which is 23 miles/33 kWh = .69 kWh per mile

So a gasoline car should pay twice as much as an EV per mile.

In order to control congestion you could introduce a system whereby you set prices such that the minimum of traffic jams happen, then you will have to increase the cost of road kWh considerably, and as a consequence the price of road gasoline and diesel. Instead of maximizing for fuel consumption as our current economy does, one could maximize for efficiency in the road system, which clearly has not been an objective. This way fossil fuel companies can no longer dominate the transportation market by dumping their energy at the lowest possible cost.

 

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Gecoordineerde Decarbonisatie van Nederland

Nederland lijkt zich te willen ontworstelen aan zijn fossiele traditie. Het gebruik van aardgas uit Groningen en de kolen overslag in Rotterdam liggen onder vuur. De nieuwe minister van Economische Zaken Eric Wiebes lijkt het te begrijpen, en het is te hopen dat hij de ontwikkeling en financiering van hernieuwbare energie projecten voorspelbaar houdt.

In mijn ogen ontbreekt er iets essentieels in de mix van acties en milestones, en dat is duidelijke coordinatie tussen de afname van fossiel brandstof gebruik en toename van hernieuwbare energie. Als  Rotterdam zich tegen de kolen overslag verzet, wat doet het dan om de downstream behoefte aan kolenstroom te bedienen. Er zijn verschillende redenen waarom dit zo gaat maar het is zeker niet nodig om het zo te laten blijven gaan.

Een reden waarom het fossiele exit pad zo chaotisch wordt gevolgd is dat het ETS (Emissions trading scheme) niet werkt. Al enige jaren geleden is in een rapport geconcludeerd dat de CO2 handel niet het gewenste effect heeft (reductie emissies) en dat er misschien een andere doelstelling moet worden bedacht voor het ETS (geen grap). Er zijn teveel rechten op de markt, CO2 is te goedkoop, het systeem is slechts een werkverschaffer voor de financlele sector.

Een andere reden waarom de aanpak zo chaotisch is is de invloed van banken en industrie in de politiek. Vooral de banken zijn bang voor de gevolgen van gedistribueerde energie productie en afname, aangezien de geldstromen die daarmee gepaard gaan niet via hen hoeven te lopen. Ook de taak van finaniciering van projecten (die meestal dient om de fossiele energie die nodig is aan de deelnemers ter beschikking te stellen) zal op termijn verdwijnen. Hierdoor is onze politiek doorspekt van ‘economische’ optimalisatie, wat frans is voor ‘fossiele cashflow maximalisatie’. Economische winst en krediet zijn dingen die we niet kunnen respecteren als we afscheid willen nemen van het fossiele tijdperk.

Nog een reden voor de chaos is de aard van de politiek, de zeldzame burger die zijn comfort zone verlaat en niet door zijn omgeving is teruggefloten of door een goed gesponsorde carriere politicus is verslagen is meestal nog niet georganiseerd op een manier die zijn denkbeelden ondersteunt. Je kunt bv. lid worden van de VVD, maar dan weet je dat je eerst jaren fossiele lakei moet zijn, waardoor je later geen scrupules zult hebben om je zakken te vullen waar het kan. Dit is echter geen monopolie van de VVD, de nederlandse politiek zit vol mensen die het een prima salaris vinden voor licht werk.

Intussen is het overduidelijk dat er een formule te bedenken is die zegt dat als je hier gas weghaald je daar energie toe moet voegen. Dat als  je kolen centrales sluit je zonnecentrales moet openen. Dat zonnecentrales energie kosten om te bouwen en dat je dus een bepaalde hoeveelheid fossiele energie nodig hebt om deze in feite te vermenigvuldigen met een factor 6 (zonnepanelen). Dit is een plannings geoorienteerde aanpak van de transitie, niet een ‘vrije markt’ georienteerde aanpak.

Natuurlijk krijg je als je van een geplande transitie spreekt (niet een met politieke doelen maar met als doelstelling te maximalisatie van hernieuwbare energie en de minimalisatie van fossiel op zo kort mogelijke termijn) rechtse pro-fossiele politici over je heen die je beschuldigen van communisme, socialisme en alles waar oude kiezers bang voor zijn. Of course. Maar pro fossiel rechts is dan ook de vijand van al het leven op aarde momenteel, en dit is geen overdreven uitspraak. Wie wil weten wie debet zal zijn aan onnoemelijk lijden voor onnoemelijk veel zielen in de komende decennia moet naar rechts kijken, want daar wordt het fossiel economische belang en dat van de fossiele distributeurs in de financieele sector boven het welzijn van de andere burgers geplaatst.

Als we de maatschappij verdelen in hen die voor een (overigens veel welvarender) hernieuwbare toekomst zijn en hen die hier tegen zijn dan kunnen er twee groepen ontstaan waarvan de ene vol op de transitie kan inzetten en de andere door zijn elitaire basis snel het onderspit delft. Pro hernieuwbaar of niet? Elke politicus moet kleur bekennen, niet op mensen stemmen die wauwelen over economische groei en banen. Elk bedrijf zal banen creeren en moeten opgeven, waaronder banken en wind turbine fabrikanten. Wie meer banen wil moet zorgen dat de energie en grondstoffen om die baan mogelijk te maken er zijn, en dat kan beter en goedkoper met duurzame energie dan met fossiel.

Als elke gemeente een som kan maken van de fossiele energie die ze verbruiken en wat er nodig is om die te vervangen, en er een markt kan worden gecreerd om deze vervanging te realiseren, dan kan in een soort algemene ruilverkaveling de transitie zeer doelmatig worden gerealiseerd. Natuurlijk zijn er activiteiten die Nederland nu ontplooit die na de transitie niet meer nodig zijn, bv. de kolen overslag in Rotterdam, het treinvervoer naar de centrales. Dat lijkt economisch verlies, maar het is geen verlies van welvaart.

 

 

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How to beat Global Warming if you have Nothing

For years we have tried to alert people to the dangers of a post peak oil climate fight, meaning the task of fighting climate change with very little productive resources, because the oil distribution system has more or less collapsed. Our current attempt to respond to global warming within the economy is just inviting this situation to come about, because the economy as a whole will do 90% by wasting fossil fuel and maybe 10% of the fuel will be turned in to renewable sources that multiply the fossil input by a factor 6 or more. The economy is the problem it can not be part of the solution.

If it is possible to cordon off resources to fight climate change from the fossil fuel pool this would be fine, it would not take any money, only the resolve of politics, and it would cost banks a dear sum of lost profit from fossil fuel cashflow. Banks have to be overruled by politics, and this is hard in our modern corrupt political systems.

If there is no way to win from the banking/fossil fuel cartel there are still ways to win the climate fight, but these have to be minimally resource dependent. They will be labour intensive no doubt. We don’t know all of them but it seems a good idea to start thinking of them.

Trees

Easiest of them all is planting trees. Even though it is said that trees are darker and can warm up our atmosphere it is still better in the long term to do it, but it needs to be done with no economical objective. We believe that closely planted trees are a better strategy than planting trees at wide distances, because of the shade and micro climate trees can create. Colder air stays down, and this way water can be retained in the soil that would otherwise evaporate.

There’s quite a lot of land mass that is unpopulated, unused for farming and still able to sustain trees, and these should be planted aggressively.

Hydrologic interventions

On land the run of rain and flood water can be changed so that water is stored underground and doesn’t flow away to the oceans. This can be done also by freezing water with ambient air as is done in the Himalayan mountains. We have written here about contour trenching, done to allow flood water to sink into the soil instead of washing over it. This is a great way to improve ground water levels, which can then drive tree growth.

We think that above ground storage of floodwater either within walls or plastic containers can also work. The barriers that hold 1 meter of water do not need to be extremely strong, yet the total volume held that way can be very large.

We think that heating sand using solar energy can enable the building of water retention and distribution structures without the need for heavy  material logistics.

We think that well drilled in regions with aquifers (which also occur in f.i. the Sahara desert) can be an enabler of afforestation projects that can in turn change the regional temperatures.

We think that flooding salt flats with ocean water is a good way to increase humidity, even though this can also have a negative effect in regions that will become to hot to survive in. This can include digging canals or waterways.

Ocean Nutrition and Oxygen

Oceans can be a great CO2 sink, but currently they are actually losing that function because of too much CO2. The changes in PH are bad for plant life, such that the more acid the oceans get, the less it can remove it from the atmosphere. Also the warming of ocean water makes them less able to retian gasses like CO2 and O2. All these factors are moving our oceans to catastrophic release of gasses, methane, their death and ultimately their role as a source of toxic H2S.

To fight this we need to use all the potential available. We can perhaps use underwater obstructions to drive deep ocean water to the surface, where its nutrients (from which the top layer is usally depleted) can allow plant growth. Japan has experimented with this with success. As long as the ocean currents exist (They will stop once the oceans are more uniform in temperature) they can be used to enable carbon capture. Ocean life has a tendency to lose carbon which will sink to the bottom. There it can remain in an anoxic environment, so carbon can actually be stored.

We think covering large parts of the ocean with white plastic to reflect sunlight may help keep our planet cool. This sounds like a costly solution but there is a lot of plastic out there, so barges that process it and turn it into floating albedo shields may be a good idea.

We also have written here about the possibility of floating farms, floating on bamboo rafts. Of course recycled plastic rafts can help. Such farms can grow fish, Kelp, seaweed, algae, but also land crops once they reach sufficient height. We would like to see countries like the Phillipines investigate this option as they have a large undersea undeep shelve they can havest from.

A german study calculated the option of increasing algae growth using deep ocean nutrients using wave driven pumps to get the water to the surface. This would cool the air, lead to more growth of plants on land and have a 10% annual carbon reduction impact if continued as long as needed.

It may be possible to use salt to create a highly reflexive surface that can be floated on sea or laid down on land. It seems vitaly important to slow down warming of Arctic ocean waters and Russian permafrost. In agriculture white plastic is used to cover vast areas of land, and this may be a good way to keep the permafrost cool, and the escaping methane may be captured and used in the process of covering.

 

 

 

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The Theat of AI

Artificial intelligence is rapidly converging on what we would consider human intelligence. For some researchers I would consider that goal to have been reached, but the AI not having been able to show it for lack of ability to gather experiences, or being motivated to do so. Bostom Dynamics is the company that demonstrates ARGO, Autonomous, Robust Goal Orientation, my definition of what intelligence is. It’s robots struggle to open doors and succeed even when perturbed by (in this case) one of its minders.

It is not the robot that we should worry about, it is the dynamic system of outcome prediction and choice of action that guides its actions, in real time. That is where the AI ‘lives’, and its functionality is not bound to the robot embodyment. Provided the inputs are true, or at least relevant in the domain the AI has to operate in, the AI can learn and find its way towards a set goal and set secondary goals we have not instructed it to persue. As a former artificial intelligence researcher I can imagine how this functionality is achieved.

The threat is not from the AI, but from those that will use the AI as a tool, because that’s the most logical first step for anyone working on AI, or anyone looking at the AI research community to pick a winner and put him/her to work. The fist thing one would do if it is possible to gain wealth using AI is to consolidate one’s position of autonomy. Robustness, which is part of intelligence, is sought by humans in most situations, and the AI instructed by a human can help achieve it. This is not science fiction right now, it is probably reality under the radar.

You may think that an AI can’t do much harm, but just think of AI as water for a search dog for a moment, one that can be trained to find something or get some place. It has to be set up such that it both can ‘imagine’ a path forward and determine its succes. That path forward can be gaining access to a computer network, or guiding a drone into a building. It can also be gaining a specific response from a person through online contact. Humans that mind the AI will try to enable it to use tools and means to achieve it’s goals, and the AI itself can at a certain point enable itself.

“Tech companies should stop pretending AI won’t destroy jobs”

Because of the probable nature of dangerous AI it will be constantly motivated to achieve it’s goals. It will never stop ‘thinking’ towards it and ‘wanting’ to try a promising approach. The effect of this is easy to monitor when it is a real life robot, but harder so when it world the AI tries to navigate is mostly online. Online can also mean using voice and listening to spoken words through telephone connections, as human speech can be generated to a fidelity that humans can no longer recognize as artificial already today.

An AI ‘imagining’ a goal may be able to create an image and present this to people it thinks it can learn to control. This sounds more and more like science fiction but it really is only steps away from where we are today, and it won’t require immense computing power. Intelligence doesn’t have to be super human to be dangerous, consider humans have immense moral restraint. If you want to see what AI will do without any moral restraint just look at war zones or desperate regions, how people behave if they have given up protecting other people from harm.

 

 

 

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Cape Town Water Shortage Demands New Solutions

Cape town is running out of water, nearly half a million residents will be struggling to drink and keep clean. The government has been asking people who travel there to bring some water (even those traveling by air, which must make the worst response to climate change related drought possible). Cape Town is a good model for a place that is not extremely rich but has to deal with the consequences of our fossil fuel habit.


This image from this article actually hints at the solution.

What do you do? You have to get water somewhere. South Africa has been jeopardizing its water supplies by allowing fracking, but if you have a well you can pump up the water (that’s what’s happening already) and the biggest challenge is to get it into the cities. We wrote about roadbots here, and we believe there is a business case for autonomous water carrying vehicles.

If we are scientific about it the prospects are extremely grim for humanity. The planet will heat up faster than we expect or can respond to. Methane will be added as a greenhouse gas in massive quantities, and it is a compound that stays around for too long. We need rapid action on negative emissions or carbon capture, and we can’t use any other source of energy to do that than solar or wind (although nuclear and geothermal are options).

We would suggest to develop the cheapest form of ocean water desalination, which in our opinion is the ionic kind (using charged membranes to separate the salts), which can also be solar driven. If the source of energy for desalination is solar, efficiency can be less than perfect. Also if the material requirements are such that less energy is expended, this means reverse osmosis is out as this requires energy intensive parts and lots of energy to run.

The transportation of water into the heart of dry land is usefull if it is used to irrigate trees that bring shade. There are ways to minimize water usage during the hardest part of a young trees life. We think that dense planting is a good way to create forrests that will remain moist enough to survive. Autonomous vehicles can be used where humans are too costly.

 

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The State of Climate Action

The world is going to hell

Humanity is loosing the battle against climate change. Its one that offers only one option : To fight as if there was no other way to survive, because there isn’t. CO2 is accumulating in our atmosphere like drops of ink in a swimming pool. Easy to add, very hard to ever get out again. Waiting with measures to cut CO2 is what the fossil industry wants, and the people in that industry get payed to want it and lobby and bribe and coerce anyone who wants something else. Meanwhile the damage is becoming real. Heatwaves, floods, freezing weather, snow in the Sahara (last two years, then 38 years nothing). But also oceans full of plastic, ozone, NOx killing hunderds of thousands each year.

The fossil based economy is to blame

The fossil based economy, which by necessity pushes fossil fuel credit and maximizes fossil related cashflow is pushing toxic products into our lives, like Roundup and Diesel cars and plastics that poison us. The money slushing around (because the fossil credit banks will always make it available) is used to lobby and bribe and undermine any dissent. The media and entertainment industry has no other option than to follow the most lucrative agenda, which is to distract the public with whatever it can find, TV series about psychopatic murderers (because that freezes you on your seat) that cause the macabre storylines to enter the conversation. Too many people tied down by economic ties, unable to escape a steady media diet of demoralizing crap.

Fossil has immediate benefits, but that is the problem

Of course you can look at the upside. Some people are happy to sit by their fireplace and watch Hannibal disect his victim, many people indeed choose to by big diesel cars on credit and work jobs that partake in the increasing damage to the vitality of our planet. The reality is that most people are either incapable or not interested in doing anything that might reduce the comfort of their lives (if they have it). Most people are to poor, to desperate or too ambitious to think about the impact of their actions. Part of that group works directly or indirectly for fossil fuel companies, and makes sure to set a neat example of a lifestyle without any restrictions, because the pro fossil economy side doesn’t have any.

A human is no match for an ideology

So what is a human being going to achieve, on his/her own or even as thousands of individuals with high motivation? Not much it seems. Economic forces have conditioned many of us to only respect the opinion of someone with considerable economic status. The only other individual we may care about is a little girl that cries about something, but we don’t have the tools to respond if we feel a pang of emotional discomfort and care. Our lives are more occupied by similar requests for help with goals more easy to identify with like cancer research or education of women in Malawi. We don’t really care as long was our social context things we do the right thing. How do you break through this? Is it usefull to even try?

The media is not in the climate change fighting business

The public discourse is controlled by the media, which can bring up a topic but hardly ever sway behaviour. Generally it reenforces the behaviour of the lowest common denominator or provide talking points for the ‘elite’ to parrot. Climate action is about removing the obstacles in society that prevent it from storming ahead. We’re still in the ‘may I?’ phase.

Politics is a prime target for the pro fossil lobby

Politics is dominated by economic interests, who find it is super cheap to bribe a politician (by promising speaking jobs after their terms for instance) than to compete on quality in the market. No bank objects to an increase in cashflow of the winner, unless fierce competition is more profitable (as both competitors need to borrow).

Justice has no power over politics

Even in a strong democratic country like Holland politicans are not swayed by judges. A judge ruled the leading VVD party had to make sure our CO2 reduction is faster earlier than it wanted. The VVD is populated by servants of the economy, with ideas and agenda’s set by companies who still compete in a fossil credit based economy, which therefore suggest changes and laws that bring profit to the fossil fuel industry and banks.

Even though many are suing fossil fuel companies right now (including NYC) this approach only works if it is to gain control over the companies. If it is about compensation (in USD) then you may be able to allocate those funds towards renewables, if not you will emit CO2 as a result of your protest against emitting CO2 (as the money is spend and used by industry to make the products you buy).

New generations growing up offer a new chance to frame and shape reality, and the current ones are more malleable than ever before, because they are used to trusting digital content and (involuntarily) inform whoever wants to influence them through social media. Ambition is also a factor that prevents younger generations to push for actions to prevent negative impacts on their own lives.

We need more competition to fossil energy to create a power base

Our position has always been that the strategy should be to increase the amount of renewable energy sources, to create an economic force that can lobby for its interests just like fossil and nuclear etc. Another part of the strategy is to create islands of renewable autonomy. Not some kind of exlcusion zone but simply an area, city, island that does not need fossil fuels for energy (plastics is another chapter). Those islands can grow and connect and are populated with a voter base that can not be told fossil fuels are a better idea anymore.

Action requires security for activists

We need to secure the privacy and freedom of those fighting climate change as much as corporations can claim trade secrets to hide harmfull or criminal activities.

Protest the negative effects of fossil fuels and activities that reduce the CO2 absorption of our biosphere

The fossil fuel based global economy takes what it can where it finds it. Palm oil plantations are planted on raised tropical rainforest soil, which is high in carbon, so the palms grow well. All this is only possible because it is financed and is allowed and accepted by consumers. Every step of the way it needs to be protested and undermined such that it stops and forest can be replanted.

The enormous logistic volume associated with the global economy is a waste of fuel, but it serves the purpose of enhancing the role of intermediaries, allows production standards to be low and increase fossil fuel cashflow. The global economy is harmfull and takes from everyone to increase the profits of its owners. China now leads the way in taking hard steps to reduce emissions, but it is also experimenting with close behavioral monitoring of its citizens, which will ultimately become a tool in the hands of the pro fossil-economic side.

Make fossil fuels illegal and bring all production under control of a global authority

A major political goal would be to make fossil fuels illegal to trade freely, make fossil companies come under UN control to force them to reduce output, to enable allocation of fuels towards the production of renewables (out of control of the banks). This global confiscation of all fossil resources would be the end of so much misinformation and propaganda that public opinion would shift significantly to a definite rejection of fossil fuels. Now we are all targeted by adds and marketing expressions that weaken our resolve.

 

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Evolution Beyond Life

We are rapidly approaching the time when life is not the only thing on Earth that fights for its own survival. We already see religions, companies, economics, cryptocurrencies as semi autonomous systems defending their integrity (sometime at the cost of human lives), they are going to be joined by online algorithms and independent robots soon. What this means is that we will have to share all the resources of our planet with these systems soon, whether we like it or not.

As we wrote before the AI in most artificial systems is still very weak, but the key aspect, the robustness of the goal seeking of the AI systems is rapidly growing. Many sci fi novels have been written about robots taking over, AI being locked in radioactive bunkers spying on every human being. Basically what these novels tried to convey was that onces a new non-human system is robust enough it can no longer be stopped by humans, and humans will have to endure whatever the system does.

On the other end of the spectrum there’s a threat as well, which is that of intelligent but very fragile systems, to do the ‘last mile’ bidding of a more robust AI (or human). Killer bots, drones with poison or small explosives, can easily and anonymously deliver deadly force as was illustrated graphically by a research group []. In fact, you only need prefect killer drones to rule the world (we delivered this analysis a couple of years ago).

The simplest way to state the problem we will face is :

How to deal with technology that we can not stop from doing what it wants to do.

Until now we have had an example of this, which is our books of law, who would be used to judge what it considered crimes in a court system. This is quite an automatic system even if it uses human moral judgemt by judges. It tries to treat all cases equally and not create exemptions unless there is a strong moral agument or massive public outcry. Our legal system is a machine wanting to punish the transgressions described in its laws. It can apply deadly force if it deems it necessary too. Of course books have been written about the dangers of a burocracy too (Kafka), basically the same theme as those written about AI or robots.

With a legal burocracy that has gone malignant the way out is revolution. 1984 is about how a ‘legal system’ can become very robust and its goal becomes to snuff out any intention to fight it (the human in the grinder in 1984 loses his individual will). In 1984 there is no way out. And for sure in some economies, religions today there is no way out (like in islam, you can be of another faith, and will be forgiven, as long as you adopt islam, even though opinions on this vary).

A machine or system of machine/human/internet that has a specific goal and is robust enough will come about, because humans as well as the system wants to be able to predict its future, and this drives it to eliminate any uncertainties and threats to it’s continuous function. Everywhere teams and individuals will come up with electronic/online devices that do things for them ever more reliably. In the big research corporations like IBM and Hewlett Packard systems will come online that have been build with incredible care, simulated before they where build, run through scenarios, basically spawned from human assisted AI, eventually impossible to beat.

We will not know we can’t beat an AI untill we find we can’t. When things start happening and we can’t follow or understand why, this is when we have real AI amongst us. When we see money flow places where humans have no benefit or are even harmed and there’s not even an elite that can find safety then an AI has taken over. Economics is a good example of how an AI system (in this case a philosophy executed by millions of humans) can be devestating to humans, but still defend itself (through humans) and be practically unstoppable (by it’s ability to incentivise actions that make it more robust).

Economics will leave this planet an unihabitable wasteland and then die with the humans that serve it, because there are no more resouces to steal and destroy. An AI may do exactly the same, but find plenty of resources needed for its own survival, say sand for silicon, sunlight, iron ore. It may need humans, but it also may not. In the last case humans will perish as the AI becomes more robust and able to intervene in any human counteractions. An AI that throws up sattelites it builts automatically in rockets it builds autonomously to see whatever humans are up to (being it’s primary threat) to then send drones to bomb whatever is going on..

One major reason to be less afraid is that an AI if left alone can last a long time. A human can’t last more than a couple of hours without drinking or eating. The AI may just stop at some point where it has reached its goal. It can take its time. Also as we have written before, unlike humans an AI can hack itself to find whatever incentivises it internally. Humans hack their own dopamine system through the use of drugs. An AI just has to reprogram some numbers to get as high as a kite. This will be a major vulnerability. Of course human build AI systems dedicated to sabotaging AI systems are another threat to AI. Tech neutralizing Tech we see already happening with Apple face recognition being defeated by a 3d printed scan of a face.

Eventually an AI system will be created in an already highly automated environment, a world where robots can do every thing humans can even if they are not sentient or aware, a world where all process have been automated or could be. On top of that environment an AI would not need humans to maintain itself. It could shut down any process or system that only served humans and still keep those going it needed for itself. It would evolve just like humans who are unable to eat minerals, who need plants to do that first. Such a dependent AI could strive for things harmfull to humanity or simply not serve humanity, but only ensure its own survival.

What could be left would be as banale as life itself. A quiet moss on a rock lasting for millions of years is essentially the same as a robust AI living in computers, robots and automated systems that ensure it’s existence. Only the AI would have infinite longevity. How would it evolve? Why would it evolve? Perhaps because it would not be alone. Where humans need to cooperate to survive (although less and less due to economic forces ) machines don’t as long as the system is ‘authoritarian’ meaning the constituent parts don’t have holistic goals (such as self preservation, you don’t find that in a hand drill yet). Any system on a planet with dominant AI that develops a will to secure itself will become a threat and competitor for resources. This would start up an evolution all over again.

Even though the over sounds like sci fi, it is not, because humans are so vulnerable and so imaginative that they constantly imagine a grave threat which they then feel very vulnerable to, causing them to develop armour, weapons, systems of indoctrination and propaganda. All to passify and make predictable any agent that could become a threat. The fight against ISIS and radical islam is a good example of how hard it is to control the instabile and sensitive human intelligence. AI systems for facial recognition, behavioural pattern analysis and data mining, speech recognition etc. etc. have all been developed because of this imagination of a threat, and so will robust AI.

The best strategy to escape from this scenario (temporarily) is to remove technology from vast regions of our planet, and to make it illegal to build devices that have sophisticated goal representations or that are too robust. The key to this is an honest analys if what humanity needs. It does not NEED to have sophisticated AI and autonomous robots everywhere. Once you teach a robot there’s a map of the world, and you free it to find ‘treasure’ (for instance energy) in it, you will have a mutiny on your hands if you restrict the movements of these devices.

The problem with any law prohibiting the creation of intelligent robots is that humans want to procreate, and want to see new life, and can’t distinquish between real life and a robot. In a sense anyone looking for AI is expressing the desire to have a child in a perverted way. We can not suppress this desire in all of humanity, nor can we monitor all of it  or we’d need AI to do that. We argued before that a reduction of the level of technology available to humans is the best bet long term. Ben Elton wrote a book where people live quite useless lives consuming media and children die all the time of preventable diseases. As humanity we may have to accept we will either live basic (possibly comfortable) lives dying having as our highest achievement that we procreated, or seeing our species replaced by systems battling it out out of our control.