Monthly Archives: November 2017

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Evolution Beyond Life

We are rapidly approaching the time when life is not the only think on Earth that fights for its own survival. We already see religions, companies, economics itself, cryptocurrencies defending themselves (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 all the resources of our planet will now have to be shared with these systems, 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.









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Circumventing the Glass barrier for Solar

We know solar panels as big flat frames with glass in front and an aluminium rim, plastic at the back. They are quite heavy, for instance the 320 Wp LG Neon Black panel we recently used in a 10 panel installation weighs 18 Kilogram.

Strangely there is no real need for both the aluminium and the glass in these panels, but they have been required by law for panels imported in the EU. Solar panels have been put under severe scrutiny from the beginning (apart from Shell basically killing the industry for 20 years) simply because they compete with the then very rich and ruling energy cartels. You can find many examples of how the fossil energy interests have stifled development or market entry of renewable energy sources, this is just another one of them.

Saint Gobain has a lot of Building Integrated PV experience

For ‘bespoke’ panels or ones made in Europe rules must be different. 10 years ago already we say simply laminated plastic panels measuring 3 by 4 meters about, at the Saint Gobain factory when we visited to test some glass laminated panels. Once you have a big machine that can melt the EVA you can make panels using UV resistant plastic that last a long time. Those panels with big cells (20 cm x 20 cm) where not for sale as far as we know.

Tesla Solar Roof tiles are made of laminated hardened glass and meant for a more esthetic roof

Now there are new types of glass. Thin films of glass can be laminated together to build bridges and car roofs (like in the Tesla Model 3, X and S). Glass when thin is more elastic and the lamination distributes forces to make it even more resilient to cracks and impact. This seems to create a loophole in the “a solar panel needs a glass front” rule.

Solarion glass foil panels

The above panels look like the 12 volt laminated ones for caravans and boats, but apparently they are 210 Wp roof PV panels. Frameless yet with glass fronts. We think this is an important product to come on the market, because it is greener to produce, it is as effective but less of a hassle to install.

“The Solarion M210 glass-foil modules are encapsulated framelessly between a glass panel and a plastic roofing membrane”

There’s a trade off between solar panel angle and the yield per rooftop m2. Say you have 17 meters by 4 meters, you can fit 40 320 Wp solar panels on that space and produce 12800 Wp with less yield because they lie flat or you can make two rows of 10 panels each at a 30 degree angle (in Holland) and produce 6400Wp with maximum yield. For some the total output of the roof is the most important thing. Compare

Stuff needed for normal solar installation :

  1. Panels
  2. Supports (22 x 25,-)
  3. Balast (about 900 Kg)
  4. Lots of manpower and time

vs. the flat roof installation:

  1. Panels
  2. Glue?
  3. Less manpower and time

The cost advantage is not only in less stuff but also in the panel itself and in the hassle of its logistics. The glass/aluminium framed panels are heavy and fragile, they are 4 cm high typically so you need space and power to move them. They require a serious logistics chain to produce, from bauxite mines to desert glass melting plants (in Mauritania for instance).

Flush (traditional) panels in Australia

All in all we think this type of panel, along with the Tesla Solar Tiles will quickly start to dominate the market. We are at least happy a product like this is available to speed up introduction of solar to its maximim, because that is what is needed. They are not for “Low load bearing roofs” but for breaking through the idiocy of heavy glass/aluminum panels!


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Climate Anger or the coming “Climate denial shit no longer flies” moment..

The world is slowely discovering it is screwed, at least the world that’s not to preoccupied with competing for their part of the fossil driven world economy (or too desperate because they’ve been excluded from it wholesale).

Africans should be angry, because the western countries and their fossil credit banks are still eyeing and working to get a hold of their minerals and ores, forrests and whatever else isn’t welded or bolted to the ground. In Asia people are suffocating because of either palm oil fires, coal power plants or drought induced wildfires.

Indeed the above tweet says it all. Neoliberalism and related pro fossil credit political philosophies have (for indivdual commerical reasons) all sold out to perform a dance to entrance the public, ravel it in fake conflicts and antagonisms, just like the main stream media have been doing. Whoever consumes media is at risk of drowning in an upsetting storm of irrelevant memes and tropes, all to paralyze us and disable us from exiting the current economic model.

Regional government states that even existing plans will have to be altered to conform to zero-emission housing targets.

To escape any situation anger is called for. What does anger do? It fixes our minds on something that’s either out of our comfort zone or moving out of our reach because of external pressures. An angry mind persists hoding on to an idea, whether this is a territory or a self image or the relationship with someone else. Anger means we can drop everything in order to protect whatever idea we are angry about. To say “To hell with the world, but the world is not going to hell!” sounds contradictory but it isn’t.

We will hopefully see more “must change” or “Will be altered” “Scrapped” “Revised” and other expressions of hard line climate action even against strong lobbies (like coal). This is anger at work : What we where hoping to do is wrong and bad for our future, we will discard those plans and make new ones that take into account the need for people to survive, not that of the banks and fossil energy cartels.

We’re heading to a “climate denial shit no longer flies” moment. Lies kill people.

On a more human level this will mean we will see more doing in spite of objections and warnings, but this time not building a gas pipeline in spite of resistance, but shutting down pollution plants in spite of it’s resistance, or maybe even scrapping gas pipes in spite of whoever is backing it. The anger is there and it is building because one can take only so much fake incompetence and lying.