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The Impossible Responsibilities of a Consumer

We follow the news, we learn what is going on in the world, and it’s not pretty. What we see is that there’s powerfull technolgies, dangerous industrial processes, bands of agressive profit seekers that are not controlled. Talking about the ‘economy’ is just a weak attempt to feign structure and coherence, in fact, the Ubers and fracking companies and other ‘disruptors’ show us there’s only as much prosecution of crime as there is profit in prosecuting.

Here’s the thing : We’re born human. We have a limited capacity to grasp our surroundings, we try to find food, shelter, company. Of course we are raised in a culture where those things are readily available and there’s lives that can be lived with lots of quality and happiness, and then there’s ones that suck, that in some cases matches our talent, in others are the result of oppresion and abuse.

But no human sits in his room and thinks “Lets build a nafta cracker” or “Lets roll out a mobile phone network”. These things have come about because of organizations larger than man. They are industrial products, created by many small steps. Motivated by ‘profit’, which is what you need to be able to take more small steps towards more profit. In the process the people in those industries had better lives for sure, but they never stopped eating, drinking, sleeping etc.

This is all fantastic, and we should thank those that discovered penicillin, then found a way to grow it in eggs, then found a way to industrialize that growth process and make the cure to many infections available across the world. Of course you could thank  banks who invested and supplied the infrastructure to trade and manufacture and get things done, even if their main goal was to 1. own everything and 2. sell fossil fuel credit.

The problem is that a new born child will never grasp all of what’s going into enabling its modern life. Many people living today never really tried to understand how a phone works or a television or the internet. They are what we call consumers. They work at a job that has modest economic value, and they live lives as if they where hamsters in a cage really. If they get sick they don’t know how to cure themselves, if the car breaks down they don’t know how to fix it, if they TV or internet stops working they have no clue… And if a nuclear powerplant or refinery nearby explodes what can we expect of them?

You could answer : There there are fire fighters and experts who fix things. You’d think that. But of course the consumers we described above never made sure that was the case. So maybe there isn’t a fire department, or a well trained body of experts to deal with a nuclear calamity. You’d think industries all have thier safety institutions, but they might not, they might not be up to date, they might have become underfunded because politicians not doing their job.

A consumer can’t tell if a politician that tells them taxes go down and immigrants will be send home also takes care of the risks of industry. We may pretend citizens all have this responsibility when they vote politicians into office, but how can a consumer know who is primarily preoccupied with his/her own life know? How can a voter know what the consequences are of voting for Trump or for Clinton? Now that it is Trump how can a voter be held responsible for what EPA chief Scott Pruitt decides to do? How can we pretend a voter is responsible for policy if the corruption is so blatant (like a member of parliament claiming it’s commonplace to be payed by the industries one makes decisions on, or Trump supporting Puerto Rico recovery by handing $300 mln to a company of one of his campaign donors).

The basic consumer in our economy now is expected to keep a machinery going, keeping it safe and well monitored (which when it harms profits of industry is under threat). How can a consumer be expected to ensure medical services remain of the highest standard. How does he/she know we are executing the best policies to ensure health and future of all, meanwhile maximizing the wealth that people create in their jobs? It is insane to expect that!

A big reason why we should NOT expect a consumer to be able to bear this responsibility is because our economy has incentive loops, local reinforcing effects that instead intice people to be irresponsible, especially when they are in a job that gives them control, a job that is entrusted to them because people believed they could handle the responsibilities.

For example, a medical doctor gets invited to a course by a pharmaceutical company. They produce pills that are twice as expensive and a bit more or as effective as the alternative. They come with a training course held in Aspen, Colorado, in the winter. Of course this doctor will go on this trip, take his wife and children. Then he will prescribe the pills, and more money will flow around the system. He doesn’t know more about the pills than the pharmaceutical company tells him, so if 20 years later the pills prove to have been worthless or toxic who can we blame. No consumer patient of this doctor will ever get to decide or know (in most cases).

The incentive loops and shortcuts seem now to have spawned completely fallacious politicians. Trump, May, those involved in Brexit, they lie and lie and lie, but they make the rules the consumers must live by. The incentive shortcut is so obvious in the US, where campaigns are expensive multi hundred million dollar things. The media breath in that money every four years (unless there is an assasination), and will let opponents compete for add space. This is why channels like Fox and CNN are increasingly partisan, it is simply cheaper to buy a channel than to pay to get on one. But how is the voter to be considered responsible for this?

People are dying of hunger and thirst in Puerto Rico, and Trump plays with their dependency (not even aware PR is part of the US) of course other pars of the US are a mess because climate change was not addressed in time, because of the same incentive shortcuts that have nothing to do with the voter. Members of congress are immune from prosecution for insider trading, so if you want to bribe one, just tell him a stock ticker name so he/she invests. Then you buy a lot of those stocks, raising the price, then the congressman/women cashes in, and you get your text in the bill. Of course no lawmaker will think of a law by themselves anymore, they come al ready to copy paste!

The consumer is left with the choice to either be somewhat informed, angry and unhappy or be ignorant and happy. Of course the latter means the world goes to shit, becuase the incentive loops creep into every safety measure that reduces profits for the companies and industries they work for. Consumers want to work, earn money, enjoy their lives that fullfill their dreams, and thus will not care if clother mean slavery, meat means torture, clean air and water become a thing of the past and the Earth swings into climate chaos..

Even though some consumers feel and act responsibly, they do not know a tiny % of what still goes terribly wrong, and in some cases (like in the US right now) they can’t even fathom all they ways their lives are increasingly contained in an industrially designed straight jacket, while the resources they imagine to exist (because nature movies) are being used up, not replaced. They don’t even know if the life they live is the best possible because control and ownership over the local surroundings is minimized and channeld to stuff that makes them good consumers.

The author of this is old school, empirically minded and raised frugally. Now poverty will depress you and make you more realistic (because depression -is- being aware of the bare reality of your life), and thus less of a good consumer. The consumer ‘trusts’ things go right in parts of the economy they don’t understand. A realistic person just feels anxiety about what can go wrong and affect his/her life that is out of his/her control. A war in the middle east or a nuke fired from North Korea to mainland US, a crash of the financial system, a hacking of a nuclear plant or the grid, release of bubonic plague, hospitals without staff, gas stations without gasoline, bakers without bread, no water etc. etc. It all has to go right and the system that should make that happen is out of your control..

Trump not keeping his promises means that your vote for him (if you voted) gave you no control whatsoever. Your vote for Clinton didn’t either, so that once in 4 year event was a useless exercise. You can’t be held responsible, you did not get the responsibility, you are not responsible. Even Trump is not. Nobody is it seems, there are just (financial.status,sexual) incentive loops, and it takes genuine experience and insight to know which of those we should protect and which we should break, if we are even able to do. But the consumer is not able in most cases.


It should be the job of every citizen/consumer to constantly reduce the power of the most powerfull over them. If power can not be trusted to consider their interest, it should not exist. To vote for congress where every representative is backed by millions makes no sense. The average voter is not going to get served. What the politician will do is to make the voter worry about super irrelevant issues like abortion or immigrants, where changes are not going to change the lives, while tax incentives for campaign sponsors are silently implemented. The voter/consumer/citizen should not believe the hype.

It sounds backwards but today nobody needs to decide to build a nuclear reactor anymore. They are obsolete. We have solar/wind/geothermal and wave energy sources which can be easily understood, controlled and managed. Doing this as local as possible makes a lot of sense, and takes power away from unkown, untrusted entities.

Banking need not be global of super long range in most cases. The essential trade is between farmers and non farmers, because one creates the food the other group needs. All other trade is luxury, when there is no trade necessary in water or energy.  So the logical thing is to more clearly connect the farmers and the consumers, so that both know where the other is. Of course the US shielded itself from famines by using printed dollars to buy food of the world market, leading to hunger in the supplying country in some cases!

Once the focus is more on local autonomy, the incentives to lobby and influence a central government weaken, and lawmaking can once again be driven by widely shared concerns, ones people are willing to sacrifice and change their behaviour for.

A simple example is that in the formation of the new dutch government, a law change was added that didn’t come from any of the cooperating political parties, none had suggested to abandon divident tax, which taxes income from holding stocks and bonds. Who did? The VNO-NCW, a right wing (but pretend neutral) advisory board to the government. Why? To lure in Brexit banks and companies (who think about leaving London). The cost of this measure was calculated to be 1,4 Billion Euro. This was expected to be available for education healthcare what have you, but apparently -no- politician decided to give it away.

A normal consumer tied up in his/her lives never thought about the tax break above, never cared where London banks run their business. But in the banking world, real estate world, expat rental world, a financial incentive emerged to tweak the laws so banks and other companies where more inclined to come to Holland. Politics out of control!

The incredible responsibilities we all have to keep our lives safe from calamities with industrial installations or unintended consequences of laws created for profit seems to dictate that we all make an effort to reduce the existing powers to a size we can understand, and that we limit our consumption to where we can see the origin of what we consume. How else can we pretend to be responsible, and if we don’t want to be responsible, how can we feel safe?















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Moondust Concept

Earth must cool down. The climate is heating up, and positive feedback loops are kicking in. The habit of geoengineering with fossil fuels is not working for us, we need to geoengineer in the other direction.

To cool the Earth different approaches have been proposed. We could cool it by pumping up deep ocean water, which would also increase O2 generation at the surface. The usual reference is to sulfur powder release in the upper atmosphere, which would reflect sunlight. It would also be quite polluting and rain down on Earth like acid rain.

Maybe there is a less chemically or practically challenging way to reduce the amount of sunlight that reaches the Earth, and that is to rain moondust on it. We didn’t calculate but the idea of a giant dust blower on the moon appeals to us.. It would send dust in the general direction of Earth, then the dust would fall through the atmosphere and reflect sunlight. Once the cooling has allowed life to reabsorb enough CO2 the amount of dust can be reduced..


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DigID als Melkkoe

Sinds een jaar of 12 is er DigID, een manier om digitaal in te loggen om zo informatie uit te wisselen met onze overheid. Het heeft gemeenten in de loop der jaren geld gekost, maar ook geld bespaard, en zelfs de service verbeterd. Nu kun je zo van je laptop, tablet of smartphone belangrijke documenten aanvragen, invullen waar je hebt gesolliciteerd of je BTW aangifte doen.

Technisch gesproken is DigID niet zo bijzonder Het is een user/password login, soms met SMS bevestiging. Dat is vrij normaal en zeker niet duur om te laten werken. Je moet het een keer bouwen, maar je kunt de onderdelen letterlijk van het internet plukken. De SMS kost een paar cent per keer. DigID is net zo veilig als de PC of smartphone van de gebruiker. Als die een verkeerde site bezoekt die een keylogger installeert (een onmerkbaar programma dat elke toetsaanslag vastlegt en stiekum naar criminelen stuurt), dan ben je de volgende keer dat je inlogt het haasje. Dat kan beter. De Rabobank heeft een systeem dat werkt met een rekenmachientje dat elke keer op basis van een QR code een nieuw wachtwoord (een getal) verzint.

Enfin. DigID heeft natuurlijk wel een ambtelijk molen om zich heen voor het versturen van brieven enz, en er moet goed opgelet worden of niemand de database hackt of zonder keylogger in gegevens van mensen inbreekt. Maar die kosten vallen in het niet bij de besparingen, en kunnen gespreid worden over ~2200 gemeenten. Het lijkt ons dus niet nodig om iemand te laten betalen voor het gebruik van DigId.

Natuurlijk kan het zijn dat een commerciele partij, bv een energie bedrijf, ook achter het DigId wachtwoord wil, bv. omdat mensen dat makkelijker vinden dan een los wachtwoord onthouden, of omdat dit goedkoper is (en dat is het ook). Die bedrijven mogen betalen omdat ze kosten sparen en omdat ze geen publieke dienst leveren maar een product op de markt aanbieden. Als de concurrentie geen gebruik van gratis DigId maakt zou er prake zijn van oneerlijke concurrentie.

Voor de burger moet DigId echter gratis blijven, of het schiet zijn doel volledig voorbij. De burger zou geld toe moeten ontvangen nu er minder mensen in het gemeentehuis hoeven te werken. Als dat niet zo is dan nog was het niet de burger die hiervoor moet opdraaien, niet bewust althans.

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Niet elke site over duurzaamheid is ook bedoelt om duurzaamheid te bevorderen, de lobby voor fossiel en voor centrale energie distributie (grid) vind plaats op veel niveaus. Het is daarom slim om af en toe een site te checken die lijkt een duurzame uitstraling the hebben.

De site “Low Tech Magazine” trok onze aandacht omdat er een post op kwam te staan die wat opzet en inhoud niet van deze tijd is, maar echter zeer herkenbaar, hieronder de url

Hoe duurzaam is een duurzaam elektriciteitsnet?

Laten we dit stuk eens bekijken, eerste alinea :

“Hoewel het potentieel van wind- en zonne-energie groter is dan de energievraag van industriële samenlevingen, zijn deze energiebronnen niet altijd beschikbaar. Om te verzekeren dat het aanbod altijd aan de vraag kan voldoen, heeft een elektriciteitsnet op basis van wind en zon heel veel extra infrastructuur nodig.”

De voorstanders van het smart grid redeneren dat de variabiliteit van hernieuwbare bronnen kunnen worden opgevangen door stroom van andere plaatsen aan te voeren. Daarvoor zou meer infrastructuur nodig zijn. De energie die van ver komt kan fossiel, getijden, golf of wind zijn. Infrastructuur is een zeer brede term, waar ook batterijen onder kunnen vallen, maar dat wordt hier niet bedoelt. Dat is zo al vreemd omdat batterijen natuurlijk het antwoord zijn op genoemde variabiliteit.

Tweede alinea :

“Die infrastructuur maakt van hernieuwbare elektriciteitsproductie een complexe, trage, dure en onduurzame onderneming. Als we daarentegen de energievraag zouden aanpassen aan het wisselende aanbod, dan kan hernieuwbare elektriciteitsproductie wel heel voordelig zijn. Deze strategie was heel gewoon in vroegere tijden, en moderne technologie maakt ze nog interessanter.”

He? wat? Ok, dus het grid (waar wij doorgaans niks van merken) uitbreiden zoals hierboven noodzakelijk geacht, kan opeens niet. Dat is ook weer een beetje kort door de bocht. Er wordt geopperd de energie vraag aan te passen aan het aanbod, dus geen infra, geen batterijen, maar meeleven met zon, wind enz.. Dat lijkt ons mogelijk (bv. vrieshuizen van veilingen kunnen koude bufferen als er aanbod is van zonne electriciteit, en zo ‘s nachts geen stroom nodig hebben)..

Derde alinea :

“Het idee leeft dat hernieuwbare energiebronnen ons in de toekomst onafhankelijk zullen maken van fossiele brandstoffen. Windenergie en zonne-energie hebben met voorsprong het grootste potentieel. De hoeveelheid energie die Europa praktisch kan uit de wind kan halen, wordt geschat op 30.000 terawatt-uur (TWh) per jaar, of tien keer meer dan het jaarlijkse energieverbruik. [1] Het potentieel aan zonne-energie in de VS wordt geschat op 400.000 TWh, of 100 keer het jaarlijkse energieverbruik. [2]”

Ok, afgezien van de rare zinsbouw…

“In praktijk zijn dit soort uitspraken problematisch. Ze zijn gebaseerd op jaarlijkse gemiddelden, en houden totaal geen rekening met de variabiliteit van windenergie en zonne-energie. In een elektriciteitsnetwerk moeten vraag en aanbod altijd in evenwicht zijn. Dat is relatief makkelijk met fossiele brandstoffen, want die zijn op afroep beschikbaar. Maar de opbrengst van windturbines en zonnepanelen is totaal afhankelijk van de grillen van het weer. “

Daar zijn we weer, die variabiliteit. De eropvolgende alineas zeggen dit over wind en zonne energie, dat is ook bekend. Geen probleem als je de stroom ergens kwijt kan. En de gemiddelden vertellen je dan precies hoeveel stroom je zult kunnen opslaan, als je dat niet doet dan heb je natuurlijk een probleem, maar ook kolencentrales worden bij en afgeschakeld, en in het huidge net zitten al verschillende energie buffers.

“Ten eerste zouden we kunnen rekenen op een reservecapaciteit van klassieke elektriciteitscentrales die op fossiele brandstoffen draaien. Die centrales worden dan ingezet als er onvoldoende wind en zon is. Ten tweede kunnen we veel meer windturbines en zonnepanelen plaatsen, zodat er zelfs bij bewolkt weer en bij lage windsnelheden voldoende hernieuwbare energie is.”

Elk redelijk up to date persoon herkent meteen dat hierboven het probleem kunstmatig in stand wordt gehouden. Dit doe je door fossiele buffering voor te stellen of meer wind en zon zonder over opslag te praten. Dat gebeurt in de volgende alinea’s onder de titel “Strategie 1” en “Strategie 2”. Beide zijn natuurlijk slechte oplossingen, hoewel we grote voorstander zijn van hernieuwbare “overcapaciteit”.

“Strategie 3” is (verrassend) meer grid! Dus Europees Elektriciteitsnet, dat er al is overigens, maar dat uitbreiden :

“Voor een Europees elektriciteitsnet met een aandeel van 60-100% zon en wind moet de capaciteit van het hoogspanningsnetwerk zeven-twaalf keer groter worden.”

Dit zijn berekeningen in de trant van “Als we de boot willen leegscheppen met een theelepel zijn de drie jaar bezig.”. Je kunt zo al zien dat deze denkrichting tegelijk dom en kansloos is. Waarom deze zo uitgebreid aanhalen?

“Strategie 4”. Energie opslag, ok, nu komt het! Het is een goed idee maar er zijn problemen..

“Ten eerste: hoewel er geen nood is aan het bouwen en onderhouden van een reservecapaciteit van fossiele energiecentrales, wordt dit voordeel teniet gedaan door de bouw en het onderhoud van de energieopslag. Inderdaad, dit heet vooruitgang, veel minder complex, een batterij kan automatisch functioneren, een centrale niet!

Ten tweede hebben alle opslagtechnologieën laad- en ontlaadverliezen, en bijgevolg zijn er meer windturbines en zonnepanelen nodig om dit verlies te compenseren.” Het grid heeft ook verliezen, maar die zijn groter. Een van de 40 centrales in Nederland draait alleen om de grid verliezen op te vangen.

“Onderzoek heeft uitgewezen dat het efficiënter kan zijn om windenergie te vernietigen dan op te slaan: de energie die nodig is voor het bouwen en onderhouden van de energieopslag, is groter dan de energie die verloren gaat als de turbine wordt stilgelegd. ” dit is onzin, de Giga factory van Tesla gebruikt zonne energie voor batteij productie, maar in het algemeen is er geen verhouding tussen de energie voor het bouwen van opslag en de energie die een turbine levert.

Er wordt vervolgens uitgerekend dat er vele terrajoules opslag nodig zijn om de hernieuwbare energie te bufferen. Dit lijken ons grote getallen, zoals bv 1,5 maand productie equivalent. Waarom 1,5 maand energie opslaan, dat krijg je niet eens opgeladen! Wat wordt vergeten is dat de aanvoer en delving van fossiel miljarden kost, en ook energie vreet, want kolen zweven niet vanzelf naar de centrales, en gas en olie infrastructuur bouwen zichzelf niet. De energie nodig per vat olie is in de laatste decennia gestegen en kan makkelijk groter dan 1 zijn, dwz voor 1 vat olie op de markt worden 40 vaten olie verbrand. De laatste zin over opslag maakt de tendentieuze aard van de ‘analyse’ duidelijk:

“Er zijn veel andere technologieën voor het opslaan van energie, maar die hebben allemaal unieke nadelen die ze onaantrekkelijk maken bij gebruik op grote schaal.”


“De nood om het hele systeem te overdimensioneren verhoogt ook de financiële investering en de tijd die het kost om een overgang te maken naar hernieuwbare energie.”

 Dan hadden we het over 12 keer niet? Dat vergt minder dan die opslag bouwen? En lost het het probleem op?

“Het bouwen van zonnepanelen, windturbines, transmissielijnen, reservecapaciteit en energieopslag met energie afkonstig van hernieuwbare energie is evenmin een oplossing: ook dan wordt een overdimensionering verondersteld, want we moeten de hernieuwbare energie-infrastructuur bouwen die de hernieuwbare energie-infrastructuur zal bouwen.”

Klopt, maar lokaal, bij de productie faciliteiten. Dat is iets anders dan overdimensionering ter bestrijding van variabiliteit.

“Strategie 5” Vraag aanpassen aan het aanbod.

Tja, dat is een nieuwe versie van efficiency. Het voorkomt de transitie naar een gebuffered energiesysteem, iets dat logisch is want kolen zijn tegelijk een energie bron en opslag medium, windmolens en zonnepanelen zijn alleen brond, dus de opslag is een natuurlijke component.

“In dit scenario wordt hernieuwbare energie ideaal gezien alleen maar gebruikt als de zon schijnt of de wind waait.”

De auteur is niet van deze wereld. Ten eerste is dit natuurlijk al het geval, de wind en zonne stroom komt variabel op de markt, waardoor de stroomprijzen dalen en sommige bedrijven nemen dan juist af (bv. alluminium smelters).

“Als we daarin zouden slagen, dan zou er helemaal geen nood zijn aan energieopslag, reservecapaciteit, of een overgedimensioneerde transmissie- en generatiecapaciteit. “

Tja, maar dan loop je 1. de goedkope energie mis en 2. doe je niks aan het klimaatprobleem en zul je 3. toch extra zon en wind capaciteit moeten bouwen.

De auteur gaat door dat we omdat het bovenstaande ook lastig is, maar tekorten zullen moeten accepteren.

“Dat impliceert dat we afstappen van de verwachting dat we 24 uur per dag en 365 dagen per jaar zoveel elektriciteit hebben als we maar willen.”


“als het Verenigd Konikrijk 65 dagen per jaar een elektriciteitstekort zou accepteren, dan zou het elektriciteitsverbruik helemaal op hernieuwbare energiebronnen kunnen steunen (wind, zon, golf, getijden)”

Natuurlijk is bovenstaande opmerking onzin. De redeneerfout die gemaakt wordt is dat de grote getallen suggereren dat iets niet kan. Maar zo is het ook niet met kolen en olie gegaan. Niemand had benzine of diesel motoren, de aanvoer was er niet tot er steeds meer bronne kwamen en men de motoren en andere gebruikers van fossiele energie ging bouwen (in NL bijvoorbeeld het gasnet). Dat vergde enorm veel energie en grondstoffen, maar het gebeurde wel, omdat er mensen aan verdienden.

Bij wind, zon, golg/gedijden en geothermie (voor warmte en electriciteit) hoort opslag. Al deze industrieen zullen de ontwikkeling en beschikbaarheid van opslag oplossingen ondersteunen en als deel van hun expansie strategie hanteren. Elon Musk heeft voorgerekend dat er maar 100 Gigafactories op aarde nodig zijn voor alle stroomopslag.

Ransoenering van fossiel om capaciteit te gebruiken voor de productie van hernieuwbare bronen en opslag lijkt ons echter wel een goed idee!

Het stuk in LowTech Magazine is niet zozeer slecht omdat het een probleem schets dat wij niet valide vinden, maar omdat het een oplossing suggereerd die voorbij gaat aan de bijna niet te stoppen onafhankelijke initiatief rijkheid van onze wereld economie, waarin bijna elke deelnemer belang heeft bij goedkope energie op afroep. Er wordt gesproken van een ‘succesvolle strategie’ maar wat is dan succes? Dat je geen extra zon en wind of extra grid (wat je niet nodig hebt) of opslag hebt gebouwd? Iedereen snapt dat waar een behoefte leeft die zal worden beantwoord door productie. Daarom vinden we het artikel irrelevante onzin.

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Stop op Uitbreiding Luchtvaart tbv Electrische Innovatie

De groei van het luchtverkeer loopt uit de hand. Steeds meer kleine luchthavens worden bijgeschakeld, en grotere worden uitgebreid om maar aan de vraag tegemoet te komen. De tickets zijn goedkoop ondermeer omdat er weinig belasting over de brandstof wordt geheven. Ondertussen zitten burgers in de smog en het lawaai.

Ten behoeve van de reductie van CO2 uitstoot zou men al die uitbreidingen en toename niet willen. Dit is zeer urgent omdat emissies die eenmaal zijn gebeurt heel moeilijk zijn terug te draaien. Het is zo urgent om iets te doen dat de politiek niet langer in staat lijkt het noodzakelijke tempo bij te benen, als het dat al zou willen. De Nederlandse politiek is iig nog in grote mate in de greep van de banken en fossiele bedrijven, die altijd geld genoeg hebben om iets te beloven, later, als niemand oplet.

Electrische propellor vliegtuigen zijn veel efficienter dan straalvliegtuigen, omdat een straalmotor op hoogte steeds minder goed werkt.

Intussen staat de techniek niet stil. We hebben niet alleen steeds efficientere vliegtuigen, maar tegenwoordig ook het perspectief van het electrische vliegtuig. Zo’n vliegtuig heeft batterijen aan boord, electromotoren en is stiller, schoner en efficienter. Kleine modellen zijn er al, net als vliegende auto’s, omdat je met electromotoren makkelijk een aantal in plaats van twee of vier kunt gebruiken. De belemmering is nu nog het gewicht van de batterijen. Deze zijn echter in constante ontwikkeling, met af en toe een doorbraak.

De meest recente doorbraak in batterij techniek is de uitvinding van solid state batterijen waarin het vloeibare electroliet vervangen is door plastic of een andere stof. Deze batterijen zijn niet alleen veiliger maar ze halen ook capaciteitswinst. Het is een kwestie van tijd tot batterijcapaciteit groot genoeg is voor een transatlantische vlucht.

Het is idioot om in de vijftien jaar die het nog duurt voordat er een getest groot electrisch vliegtuig is onze toekomst te verpesten met fossiele vluchten, zeker als het om vakanties gaat. De alternatieven, trein, auto, bus, hyperloop, zijn veel makkelijke klimaatvriendelijk te maken dan meer vluchten en meer/grotere luchthavens. Het is daarom geen gek idee om een moratorium op uitbreiding van luchthavens uit te vaardigen, tot electrische vliegtuigen beschikbaar zijn, danwel om de groei van luchthavens te koppelen aan investering in electrische vliegtuigen.

Goedkope vluchten ondermijnen de ontwikkeling van energie efficientere, schonere alternatieven

We genieten enorme welvaart door het benutte van fossiele hulpbronnen, maar deze welvaart wordt nu ook door deze bronnen bedreigd. Het is een goed idee eens een kleine pauze in te lassen voor we blindelings de economische krachten volgen. Deze hebben ons in de huidige rampzalige situatie gebracht, en zullen deze (als we de luchtvaart laten toenemen) nog rampzaliger maken. Een moratorium tot we veiliger, gezondere manieren hebben ontwikkeld om te vliegen lijkt ons fair.




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How to “Pick up the Tab” of pollution, as the UN wants..

The above makes perfect sense. Pick up the tab, like a rock band that destroyed a hotel room, our pollutors, when it comes to CO2 or other harmfull ‘externalities’ need to pick up the tab. Pay for the restauration, cleanup. We have seen this in many oil spills, Exxon Valdes, the Gulf oil spill and most probably now in Athens, which has had a major oil diseaster nobody reports on.

Clean this up oil dickheads

But money on it’s own is not the best remedy against such events, whether it is toxins that kill small animals, bees in the US right now, or some mine who’s toxic basins have overflowed in a storm or the dams of which have broken, like it happend in Spain. All these events have and would cost enormous amounts of money to deal with, and these companies (for example BP) would be fighting the claims all the way, or simply fall over like TEPCO, go bankrupt, and go home.

Our money is carbon credit. If it doesn’t buy fossil fuels it is still useless, This is not an accident. Our economy is a system to distribute fossil resources (and indirectly all others) to maximize the cashflow for private banks and profit for private oil companies.

We have been writing about something we call carbon credit. This is our money. It has value in our economic system anyone who owns it can buy fossil fuels with it. This is the hidden fundamental assumption in our economy. Most people think of money in terms of some universal trading token, but it isn’t universal, there is an mechanism at work we need to aknowledge, and this is the competitive distribution of fossil resources through competition for money.

Just try to think of a world in which the Euro or Dollar bought everything except fossil fuels. You could work but you can’t heat your home with your paycheck. You could not drive anywhere. You could not buy bread because the baker needs something to heat the ovens. You could not buy clothes because the logistics of them is fossil based, the growing of cotton is fossil fuel based. You could not go to a movie because the projector needs electricity from fossil powered power plants. Even if the mix is shifting today, our credit system relies on fossil fuels, not renewables. That is why we call it the carbon credit system.

If you ask for money to restore nature you will recieve fossil credit, and using it will destroy the world some more.

“Picking up the tab” in this system, so lets assume for a second there’s no renewables at all, means the pollutor has to allocate money to buy fossil fuels to fix things. The diesel in the ships that clean up an oil spill, the diesel in the trucks that deliver the chemicals that clean the birds, or those that plant trees. In some cases there is no other measure but time, and then the victims are awarded money because their lives have been shortened or destroyed. That money is spend on trips and food and clothes, so on fossil fuels. In the end, as our economy dictates, no real progress has been made, we are stuck in a profitable near misery and mild stress. The disaster has been forgotten, the claim money stream blocked pending a court case the claimants can’t afford. The mentality of the industries that is causing these problems is really that grim.

So how to deal with pollution from industry in general. The key is to avoid the ‘economy’. The key is to allocate resources towards the creation of an independent capacity to restore and revive our environment or ecological resources. Up until now it has been done within the economic system, and this meant that certain problems (like the manure nitrogen problem) actually became economic cash cows, incentivising the distruction of ground water by dumping nitrogen on land, while also keeping up the nitrogen fertilizer cashflow.

Clean up companies need to be green themselves. So a oil spill cleanup needs to be done with electric ships, running on solar. To get these ships and the solar power plants to power them one can use claim money. The simple pattern is you green your clean up operation first, then clean up. Another is to reduce the need for whatever caused the disaster as a way to reduce the risk. So if a tar oil train derails and burns a town. use the money to lower the demand for tar, using renewables.

This does two things. First it creates an independent capacity to restore and clean up nature, that can operate and very low cost, because it has it’s own energy (and perhaps food) resources. Secondly the punishment of spilling oil is not selling more oil, but less in the future. The money which can run in the billions in each case, is much better spend in long term energy resources, in autonomous clean up capacity, than on temporary fixes.

When the Gulf oil spill happend, the solvent for the slick was tried and supplied kind of randomly. Without testing the health effects. It could be toxic, carcinogenic. It could be waste someone had in a pond that needed to be dumped somewhere, and now it was dumped on the oil spill and people where happy about it. This kind of screaming cowboy shit we don’t want anymore. Let all the disaster corporations pay into a claims fund that is used to run a clean energy powered taskforce that can do cleanups, restaurations, all the stuff you need, and make the money go towards scaling up it’s operations wherever needed, or desired. That is also a great way to start the #Roboeconomy 😉

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The Rise of Extraeconomic Communities

We have written here about the Roboeconomy, or real life 3.0 in Max Tegmark speak. It is the economy that succesfully integrated human welbeeing, renewables and automation. We are in a transition to it now as automated systems are becoming easier to own by end consumers instead of producers.

The extraeconomy or an extraeconomy is a small economic system that lives outside the wider fossil credit (EU, Yen, $) controlled economy, and is thus not vulnerable to investors trying to buy it and take its resources.

Extraeconomic communities can exist within the physical wider economy, but are more likely to exist in locations where the fossil credit economy can’t reach, that is to say places that do not have any resources to export, that don’t easily support humans, so where the (fossil fuel) cost of keeping people alive and happy can not be justified by the generation of cashflow elsewhere. The middle of Australia or remote parts of Morocco or any old desert or remote forest village is usually already extraeconomic. These places allow poor lives on the scarce resources available.

But with renewables that can change. This is because renewables provide a resource, electricity (and heat/cooling) that has many applications. Alic Springs is actually trying to get a big solar farm, being resisted in it’s attempts. Now if it has that farm and the energy it provides it can in turn generate water, it can plant trees and green the area. It can shape the land with electic machines to become even more habitable. It can cool offices so the people can be more productive and comfortable. It can solar power any type of logistics it needs and thus become a fully functional community as if it was situated much more favourably. Why? Because the energy is free.

We can imagine that with a few component technolgies being

1. Water harvesting
2. Electric heavy transportation
3. Solar/Wind/Geothermal generation
4. Electic construction equipment
5. (optional) LED growing
6. A separate unique currency that can not be exchanged into fossil credit currencies

Any place with sufficient renewable resources can become viable. Internet, virtual reality and cheap electric transportation (including hyperloop and eflight) will make it acceptable, if not really pleasant to live outside big cities. Then people can tend to large areas of new growth forest, see their surroundings shaped by robots to maximize their enjoyment.

The pressure to survive on a fossil diet means we have to compete for the share given to us, as the amount of fossil fuel is limited. This is done by competing over money, by trying to make profit on our deals, making them inequitable by definition. The renewable resources we are now starting to use are spread out geographically, and thuse distribute production capacity and thus wealth in a way that with a low enough population density nobody needs to endure scarcity or compete.

The above described fossil scracity driven competition is also the reason natural resources are shipped across the globe, this pressure to make profit is nearly everywhere. Of course it is the people with adventurous minds that will be best fit to give way to this competitive pressure, but that’s not the reason why they do it. It’s financial desperation usually. That doesn’t need to exist in the roboeconomy, and will certainly not exist in the extraeconomic communities.

We think we should design an extraeconomic model community for use in different climatic regions. The purpose if them being ecorestauration without economic exploitation, so true addition of natural resources, carbon capture, biodiversity increase, species conservation and giving humans a happy life. The rules are thus:

1. Only use solar, wind, geothermal, wave/tidal energy
2. The community members are to increase biomass, capture carbon dioxide
3. The community lives of a one figure and shrinking percentage of the biomass it creates
4. No external economic involvement is allowed, travel/internet is of course free

A managing body that allows fossil credit to be allocated to the creation of extraeconomic communities, as well as to fund the external existence of community members can be created. It can facilitate the exchange of knowledge and human resources between communities.

Of course we do not need an iron curtain mentality, it is more as if one manages a number of companies, who also do not allow their employees to leave at will, work for other companies or sell assets randomly. In that sense some companies are already becoming partly extraeconomic, like Volkswagen using wind power, but a large portion of their cashflow as well as their product remain tied into the fossil credit economy.

An early 1900 cattle ranch in Australie as extraeconomic, if it did not deplete the land and would not have sold the cattle. Most US settlers lived extraeconomic, as most things one needs to survive have for the longest time been supplied by nature. What makes this extraeconomic concept different is that renewables add a wealth enabling factor in places that without it would be uninhabitable, and thus we can inhabit the most remote unbearable places and make them thrive. Of course it makes most sense to start with easy ones.

Of nobody wants to live in the middle of nowhere planting trees, we still have the Roboeconomic approach, so we use robots to do the job, with maintenance robots to keep things running. But we think the different effect of renewables on the geographical viability of communites will catch on, maybe we can even play a role.

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The Future of Boring

Elon Musk has started the Boring company next to his Tesla factory, to find a solution to the frustrations of his commute. He has now permission to drill a tunnel towards the nearby airport, and he has revealed concepts of how the tunnel will be used.

During an interview Musk agreed tunneling may have an application on Mars too, as the planet is cold, radiation is harsh on the surface, so most people will be living underground. Whatever the plans, we think drilling on Mars will not involve hauling a multi ton dril machine all the way through space to Mars.

The hyperloop is another reason to learn more about tunneling. The hyperloop is basically an electric driven maglev that will travel to a near vacuum, experiencing almost no friction. This mode of transportation will be able to compete with airflight directly, but will require tubes and control systems be layed on already densly populated land. The obvious idea is to move underground.

But these systems don’t need tunnels per se, they need tubes. Tubes can be made of steel, or as a concrete lining (which can already maintain the necessary vacuum for a hyperloop). But we think keeping things above ground will allow work on the hyperloop as well as traffic transit systems to progress faster. We would know to suggest a fast forward way to build tubes (one not seen tried until now) and we also know how to build tubes with less cost (also new approach), even with known tech (concrete/steel tubes on pilons) the desired product is achieved faster than by tunneling.

Basically the slowest component in the hyperloop/transit system should be eliminated to allow fast parallel deployment in many places. That doesn’t mean it will be easy to line up tubes over long stretches, or cheap or too fast to build them. That’s why other tech needs to be employed in our opinion.

Elon Musks success, even if he has stretched confidence of investors to the absolute limit (and has been stretched himself by investors to near breaking point), is inspiring. A Tesla car really does feel rock solid and really does wizz you up steep roads like its nothing. The fortitude it took for this to happen in the highly financialized car and pro fossil manufacturing environment he started in shows he knows his dreams and knows they can be real. This is inspiring others to think less about what they are asked to achieve, or what others achieve but more about what they like to achieve, or what is actually possible to achieve.

How about city streets where cars can be parked under the pavement, drive in tunnels under the street, with ventilation systems  planted with Solar powered LED lighted CO2 scrubbing plants sucking the exhaust fumes and Tesla elevator systems to get the cars up and down where needed. Electric cars can even start driving on second floors, although it seems improbable we will ever have to go through such hassle with VR and AR developing as it is.

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Another Way Elon Musk Might Save Humanity

Earth is warming up, and we don’t seem to have the powerstructure to deal with it in a timely fashion. It is becoming increasingly likely we either miss the opportunity but for some catastrophic event. Cowboy style geoengineering with our atmosphere has gone on now for more than a century and perhaps we should try our own move in this arena.

Russia’s space mirror

One option is to block sunlight. This has been proposed to be possible by spraying sulfer aerosol in the upper atmosphere, but we think this would only increase problems of our biosphere trying to cope. It is used as a scare tactic to smear the term ‘geoengineering’ so the public feels like it has no option than to wait out the death of fossil fuels.

There one option we think now has a bigger chance than say a couple or years ago. That is to build a sunshade in space. These ideas according to Wikepedia stem from 2002, a year in which the world didn’t know SpaceX or reusable rocked boosters. The best idea in our opinion is to use the so called Lagrange point L1. This is a point in space between the Earth and the Sun at which the gravitational pull of both cancel each other out. It is a point that travels with the rotation of the Earth around the sun. All sunlight that hits our planet passes through this Lagrange point L1.

There should be about as much invisible planets as there are planets in our solar system

You could consider L1 something of an invisible planet orbiting the Sun. It does not have a gravity well, but anything you bring to it will stay there. Theoretically a small mass there will act as if it is the only one in the region and things will fall towards it. This is a very convenient situation if we want to reduce the suns power on Earth. Even though we would need to create an enormous area with some kind of radiation shielding material, it is possible in the sense that we could even solar driven factory complex there, and create it in situ.

Closer to Earth the mirror would have to by much bigger, so L1 is a more practical location

All that is needed is to shield sunlight. One could use all kinds of debri to do that, including rocks already flying around in space. We don’t know the instability of material that is say 1000 km away from L1, but gravity doesn’t fall off quickly like magnetism. The spacestation has to travel really fast to miss Earth as it falls towards it. A light gold film could be one atom thick and reflect a large portion of the light. We’ll gather more sources for this idea over the next couple of weeks.

Cooling the Earth has beneficial properties because we are already seeing the number of heatwaves rise. Deadly heatwaves for 20 days a year affecting 75% of humanity are expected in 2100. We could be seeing 6 billion people die from heat exhaustion as we come up to that date. Plants will also die as 40 degrees Celsius is about all most of them can take. The only option is to lower the temperature somehow.

We have written about the option to grow seaweed to absorb CO2. This can be done using deep ocean water which holds all the necessary nutrients. The study that proposed this method mentioned it would have a side effect to cool the atmosphere to such an extend that most biomass gain would be from plants on land not dying from the heat! It would warm the oceans up, and the dumb reason to not do it now was that we might not be able to keep it going, risking a warmer Earth with a warmer ocean. Of course we would use robots and intelligent systems to execute and monitor this approach.

The L1 point can become a space station location for which the parts are not build on Earth but on the moon, so launching it is much less effort. With SpaceX technology it is thinkable to bring the necessary equipment to orbit and beyond. Perhaps the moondust can be slingshot around Earth in a constant stream. The challenge would be how to stop it though.

We’ll explort this option that will be part of all the solutions available. To be continued..

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Dangerous AI

There’s talk of the risks of artificial intelligence. Nick Bostrom and Elon Musk are warning the world that not regulating AI before it is to late is asking for serious trouble, so much trouble that it could be an existential threat to humanity (and we already had one!). We think this is true, and in spite of the high fantasy level of some of the ideas about AI, we are facing real risks from intentional automated systems.

We have written on this topic before, and described what intelligence actually is, because most people don’t have a clue. Our acronim ARGO captures it, we think. Intelligent systems are ones that are Autonmous, Robust, have a Goal and can Orient towards it. Each of these aspects is essential for true intelligence. Awareness will be a consequence of autonomous goal setting in advanced AI systems.

A system can be any collection of ‘components’ that perform a function through their interaction. Humans can be such a component.


The purpose of intelligence as it became a property of living organisms is to allow events to evolve in such a way that the system remains intact. Self perpetuation has been the main goal of all life, but sometimes very simple responses are enough to secure a very simple and weak organism, just because the environment allows for it, or because reproduction rates are so high the occasional losses aren’t a problem.

An intelligent system can orient towards a goal, and it can confirm whether such a goal is reached or approached. The orienting can be any manipulation, perhaps Actuation would be a better choice of word but that doesn’t imply an intended goal. Whatever is intelligent has to be able to influence the physical world. A superbrain without a body doesn’t cut wood. Very easy actions for a computer like sending an email or text count as orienting/actuation.

Orienting captures the idea that the system is able to bring the situation in line with its goals. So heat seeking missile will move its ailerons to point towards the target. A fly will turn towards the smell of ketones as it tries to find a place to lay its eggs. It may be that internally the system only tries to maximize a certain input, or it doesn’t ‘try’ through an active process but it is wired to do so. Orienting requires a comparison between the actual state and the desired state so that subgoals can be prioritized that work towards that desired state. If humans build a house of cards the image of the full house stops our activities, but our actions are never able to build the complete house, only one stack at a time. The Goal is the complete house, the Orienting consists of the stacking.

The Goal is a representation of the desired end state. When optimizing one actually has a variable end state, one that adapts to the abilities of the system. Awareness can be seen as a side effect in a system that optimizes between several goals and within goals. To optimize within a goal the representation of that goal needs to be deep and structured. This is usually not the case in ‘intelligent’ systems.

Robustness is a underappreciated aspect of intelligence. It is actually one of the most important ones. Being that intelligence is meant to aid survival, the system that is intelligent needs to be robust in many ways, the more robust, the more intelligent we will consider it. The orientation needs to be robust agianst perturbations, work in al situations or the system could not operate in them. The representation of the goal needs to be robust when the system can be sabotaged or distracted. If you can poke out a memory chip in a computer that tries to kill you, its intelligence never really comes off the ground. Perseverance is another form of robustness, which in mechanical systems may involve the recreation of a goal in another representational system f.i.

Autonomy is usually the goal of an intelligent system. In living organisms this is what most of the system works to ensure. It’s also a consequence of the finite nature of a living being. What it also signifies is that the goals of the system are all it cares about. This is perhaps the most risky aspect of modern ‘AI’ systems, that they are given total autonomy to optimize or to reach their goal. The risk lies in unintended consequences, or a too narrow interpretation of the goal.

Humans in the loop

The best way to think of an AI is to treat it like some kind of animal. Mammals are all very intelligent if you take the above definition. The ARGO criteria are all met to a certain degree in every mammel, but there are clear differences. It will be the same with intelligent systems as they are being developed.

The deep learing algorithms and recognition systems now made available by Google are just part of a potentially intelligent system. They are the recognition part, the goal representation part. Software languages are already enough to use the neuromorphic process in deep learning networks to make a profit or criminal application.

Many applications are aimed at optimizing spending in consumers. They usually have a very simplistic or absent orientation part. If they recognize patterns in consumer behaviour that qualifies them as a target for certain products or marketing strategies this assesment is then used by humans to trigger a message or show an add. Much more dangerous uses are possible and they will be developed by people with criminal intent.

The trick of real intelligent in a digital system is not so much the recognition part, but the prediction of outcome. A Sci Fi intelligent system like in the movie Eagle Eye that reasons common sense based on the constitution and coerces random individuals to augment its actuator/orientation part, are far off in terms of accuracy. The brain simulates our reality to a high degree to predict the outcome of our actions. A digital system would have to have a similar capability to be effective.

Criminal Systems

The problem with AI is that we now kind of understand all the parts that need to be there, and even if only a few parts are there we can do a lot of damage. Take a sniperbot with face recognition that aims and shoots a target when it sees it. This is now almost an off the shelve device. What will we do with crimes committed by AI systems who’s builder we can’t pinpoint or convincingly like to the device?

The human intelligence has a need to dominate it’s environment to minimize energy spend on learning and adjusting. It will use AI as a tool to make that easier, one of the earliest example is the invention of the thermostat. This will lead to criminal applications of AI.

What to do with a system that trolls facebook looking to find depressed people to troll them based on their interest? The maker of such a system could gradually develop the goal representation so that to achieve it more actions become possible. A lot is made of data, big data, and in deep learning big datasets are necessary to train the network. But an AI system can be set up such that does all the things of ARGO without going through a lot of data or training. These systems just won’t be very intelligent, but can still be very dangerous.

We consider systems with humans in the loop also intelligent if the humans will voluntarily perform the necessary function. These are robust to human change of heart, because that human will be replaced by some other human in the loop. The economy is a system with a set of principles, a goal, and people form it’s embodyment. Economists will come and go, bankers, oil workers, executives, the economic system will remain robust, autonomous and goal oriented.

“Or you die” is a great way for an AI system to get people to become part of its orienting/actuating system. In our economy people already have been recruited that way, their lifestyle is constantly on the line as they serve a set of economic principles.

AI systems can recruit random people to do their bidding, as now already happens with randomware for instance. Imagine a randomware virus that causes a considerable amount of bitcoins to untraceably flow towards an escrow account. This account’s contents will then be released on finding 3000 hits when googling ‘Mickey Mouse Murdered’ (you can fill in your favourite name).

Of course many digital systems are unprotected. Factory installations often use ancient profibus communication which allows for anyone to listen in and add messages to the transmission lines. Even more sophisticated protocols with encryption can be stifled, especially when one can use drones or position a wifi station in a critical place.

Recognizing a shapeshifing foe

The threat of Artificial intelligence will come on gradually, and in much simpler systems than we anticipate. The deep networked intelligence Elon Musk talks about requires siginificant goal representation sophistication. The risk now is that systems in which humans participate take on such a robust kind that they will do real damage.

One can think of VR systems that optimize hours spend on it, or user excitement, and end up completely capturing their audience. The risk is usally defined as ‘when people can no longer do their job’, but this is the narrow industrial take. The risk really is that people can’t function as usefull individuals towards each other, or that people stop cooperating (becaus some AI is polarizing through generated messages and fake news).

There is almost no need to talk about risks in military applications. If you add to this a corporation that hires people to do specific jobs and devices that can deliver big and small payloads and you have a recipy for diseaster. What if Russia build a system that optimized the chance of a nuclear accident on US soil to happen.

Like with climate change dealing with the dangers of AI requires global cooperation. The big AI that we wrote about earlier called the ‘Economy’ is already undermining control as China just announced it wanted to ‘win the AI race’. This is like entering a competition who can create the biggest wild bear.

Some preventive actions

There should be a global agenda that has the following items :

  1. Make an inventory of all arms manufacturing and arms trade and work out what can stop all trade and arms races.
  2. Cut up large networks so problems in their smaller sectors can trigger containment.
  3. Look for unintended ‘actuators’, orienting methods of a creative AI system, this means making sure no dangerous process can be easily started via internet. The IOT may be to risky to allow to evolve further
  4. Protect the ability of humans to create equitable exchanges by limiting data gathering and analysis. Set a limit to the commecial intrusions in their lives.
  5. Shut down data gathering by social apps and force all to store their data in one big identity database.
  6. Don’t allow dedicated development of AI systems. Match the sophistication with the intended function.
  7. Develop analysis tools to spot the parts of ARGO coming together
  8. Many more measures

The bottom line is that humans don’t need super sophisticated digital systems more robust than them. An autopilot doesn’t need to understand the emotions of the driver or be able to hold a conversation, not even in a spaceship. Humans in an attempt to secure their lives may create a system that endangers them (even more than the economy already does). The process of risk avoidance may thus introduce risks, rendering further optimization impossible.