A couple of hurried announcement-notes, then a quick-drafted thought on methane blurps and cycles of history:
1) With the help of a techie-camerawoman (for whom I feel considerable fondness), I've begun recording and posting some brief (for me) monologues on YouTube.
Space Exploration Part 1: Planning our next steps in Space
Space Exploration Part 2 - Mining the sky: Are there economic incentives for exploring space? Can space exploration pay for itself? More space-related postings will go up soon, as well as another on the notion of "cycles" of falling civilization.
2) See a thought provoking snippet from the Globalist: "In the 1980s and 1990s, workers from China, India and the former Soviet bloc contributed 1.47 billion new workers to the global labor pool — effectively doubling the size of the world's now-connected workforce, bringing little capital with them. Even Marx knew that the capital/labor ratio is critical. The more capital each worker has, the higher their productivity and pay. A decline in the global capital/labor ratio shifts the balance of power as more workers compete for working with scarce capital."
This ratio of scarcity explains some of the strong position of capital today and even (perhaps) the present hard push toward revived oligarchy, restoring the normal human governance model, recently displaced by the Enlightenment. That push may be all the more intense because new capital is forming at a furious rate, especially in Asia. Hence the ratio should correct itself within a couple of decades, especially as population levels off. The would-be restorers of that ancient pattern may feel they only have a little time.
WELL THIS IS ONE BIG THING I WORRIED ABOUT...
For years I've prophesied that the biggest shoe in the climate mess had yet to drop... the potential (and possibly sudden) release of vast stores of methane that had been sequestered, either in permafrost or in hydrate ices under polar arctic seas.
John Barnes also wrote of this possibility in his fine novel MOTHER OF STORMS (1994). Now come signs it has begun."The amount of methane currently coming out of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf is comparable to the amount coming out of the entire world's oceans," said Shakhova, a researcher at UAF's International Arctic Research Center. "Subsea permafrost is losing its ability to be an impermeable cap." Earlier periods of rapid climate change have been associated with sudden releases of methane from the seabed.
If this proves to be a true tipping point event, and if dire consequences ensue, it will require re-adjustments on all sides. On the right, it will mean eating crow and admitting they were wrong - something no conservative ever does without prying the words out of him, with a crowbar of facts. It might also be time to hold the top leaders of the Denialist Cabal accountable in civil court, if their tactics involved deliberate obstruction of informed palliation of harm, as in the Tobacco judgments.
But the left will have to adapt, as well. And one thing they must surrender is their monomania that Global Climate Change can only be dealt with at the demand side -- through conservation, energy efficiency, sustainable development and almost puritanical self-control. Hey, I am in favor of much of that, as shown by my novel EARTH (1990) But clearly, liberals may also have to suck it up and accept the need for measures that address global warming directly. For example via a suite of methods called Geoengineering.
I know some workers in this field. Many of the schemes are presently impractical -- e.g. giant sunshades to reduce light levels striking the Earth. Others have potentially dangerous hysteresis effects or are inherently hard to control, like sending plumes of sunlight-scattering aerosols into the upper atmosphere. Certainly, any prudent attempts at geoengineering should start with things that
1) have no overshoot potential
2) emulate natural processes
3) are easy to stop, cold
4) have side benefits.
Hands down, that means going back to experiments in ocean fertilization. Earlier attempts, dumping iron dust into the sea, had mixed results and resulted in some worrisome acidification. My favorite alternative would be to create tide-driven bottom-stirrers... as depicted in EARTH -- that simply emulate the natural process by which ocean currents raise nutrients from the ocean floor in some regions, stimulating plankton to draw CO2 out of the air, and also turning sea-deserts into rich fisheries. This possible win-win seems worth a few more-than-tepid experiments.
ENLIST THIS SMART GUY IN THE CAUSE
Finally, I was cued onto a cogent and well-written "big perspective" by Mark Rosenfelder - of the kind that I am wont to spin off, now and then. It can be seen at the zompist site, and though written in 2000, it reads as if written yesterday. Rosenfelder addresses contemporary ironies, like "If liberalism won all its battles, why is it retreating?"
The general topic that he tries to cover is one that I call "What ever happened to the can-do, problem-solving spirit called modernism?" Way back in 2005, I penned a 20 part series about this, exploring the question from many angles, then waited for some journalist to come and offer to expand it into a book (!)
Among many things I like about this essay -- Rosenfelder distinguishes (as I do) between Liberalism and The Left, two very different movements that are often allies toward particular goals, e.g. civil rights, but that are at-odds over their fundamental models of both human nature and how a better society might unleash human potential. Other topics... (no time to address them all)... he dallies with "two dimensional" political spectra... none of which are as good as my own (naturally ;-) But decide for yourself.
But at least he shares my contempt for the current, absurd (and French) "left-right" axis. His appraisal of the bestiary of American politics is interesting and insightful, though here I diverge in several ways. For example, I think I have a better explanation for the right's abortion fixation. (The "Jesus Problem.") His analysis of libertarianism, while hilariously on-target, misses some core points, like the way I challenge libertarians to tell me who was oppressing freedom in any decade, on any continent, across the last 4,000 years. Read Adam Smith, and then tell me how you'll prevent the recurrence of feudalism. All told, a fascinating romp by a fellow who truly qualifies as an open-minded, contrary-ornery wiseguy.
===Misc stuff! ===
Neil de Grasse Tyson on the space elevator.
Brilliant, if true.
What has happened to the Atlantic, though! Formerly a cesspool of grumbling, anti-future maunderings, it now runs vigorous articles appraising the future, from Nicholas Carr’s dyspeptic but interesting ”Is Google Making Us Stoopid?” to this recent piece by my fellow hard-charging modernist, Jamais Cascio, “Get Smarter.” Go look.
Another prediction from EARTH (1992) -- Tidal power is taking off, in Europe. (Now a further prediction. These “snakes” will also be designed to stir bottom mud and fertilize currents. )
Further articles about my opposition to METi - or “Message to ET.” One ran in the New York Times, another in the New Scientist.
See a wiki about a fun, mind-stretching concept by the renowned singularitarian John Smart.
World’s weirdest animals! I knew of maybe half of these. The rest? Eewww! Use em as aliens in a scifi pic.
“A two-year-long interview with Slawek Wojtowicz” the Polish SF scholar. Mostly for a Polish audience of readers.