Whenever I go talk to corporations, agencies or public groups about the future, one word I emphasize is "resilience." Try as you might, to predict the future and anticipate threats -- neutralizing enemies and preparing your professional responders -- sooner or later some surprise is going to hit, hard. And when anticipation fails, resilience is our 'other thing.' Our ability as individuals, families, communities to pull together and maintain islands of civilization -- till the islands can swiftly knit back together again.
That's the theme underlying The Postman, which was my answer to all the gleeful, Mad Max type celebrations of apocalypse. It's why I have pushed peer-to-peer text passing for our cell phones, and other simple reforms that could make a vast difference in our empowerment as citizens, to hang on, till help arrives. Or to be the help for those across the valley, or the nation, or world.
== Resilience on our rooftops and in our pockets ==
Why Elon Musk's Batteries Scare the Hell out of the Electric Company: “(Elon) Musk’s giant battery factory may soon become an existential threat to the 100-year-old utility business model. Beyond electric cars, the facility will also churn out stationary battery packs that can be paired with rooftop solar panels to store power." writes Mark Chediak in Bloomberg Business.
Musk's SolarCity Corp is already delivering solar panels and batteries to power California homes, schools, government agencies and companies including Wal-Mart, eBay and HP. Tesla plans to allow owners to swap old battery packs for new, with the old ones then being ideal to place in solar powered homes, helping them to get off the grid.
One thing I mentioned to Elon… and to sober-minded worriers in Washington: Currently a million homes in the U.S. with solar on their roofs will shut down if there is a power blackout. Instead of being islands of power for their neighborhoods, they are just another problem in an emergency.
This is intolerable! Picture the increased resilience that we might gain, as a civilization, if those million homes could power just one plug in the kitchen, even during outages. Enough to preserve much of the neighborhood’s perishable food and medicines like insulin, and to run re-chargers by-day, even if it shuts down at night.
This is a problem that’s a matter of national security… like making sure our cell phones have a backup, peer-to-peer text passing capability, if the networks go down. I have only been preaching about this resilience issue for 30 years. Maybe Elon will solve it because no one in D.C. seems to have a clue what really matters.
Want a hint of who has been blocking all this? “The mortal threat to entrenched interests that ever cheaper on-site renewables pose” comes from systems that include storage, said Amory Lovins, co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a Snowmass, Colorado-based energy consultant. “That is an unregulated product you can buy at Home Depot that leaves the old business model with no place to hide.” And “In Germany, the rapid rise of tax-subsidized clean energy has undermined wholesale prices and decimated the profitability of coal and natural gas plants.”
Ah... yes, I know some of you (dinosaurs) keep claiming nothing will change! Coal is forever! Fortunately, world changers like Elon are more important than cultish dinosaurs.
Are there other resilience techs that can make a huge difference? Tons! And some have been reported here, like new systems for water desalination or purification. And local, self-made internet systems. And the Maker movement, which is restoring can-do competence to new generations. This should be a priority for our concerned leaders...
... and we citizens should insist.
== Problems in our roots ==
Very interesting: Sex, Status, and Reproductive Success in the Contemporary United States. Contrary to the anthropological mythology that’s widely spread around, it appears that:
(1) hunter gatherer (hg) and other low-technology societies have had inter-personal violence rates easily as great as contemporary city populations.
(2) Those hg and low-tech societies had social stratification, hierarchy and dominance interactions that were statistically similar to modern societies, only without those modern societies’ accountability amelioration systems. And (3) across the spectrum – even leading to today - high status males appear to both get more sex and reproduce more.
The last seems surprising, in the context of modern, urban society. But we should not be shocked. This study teases apart high status from high education levels, in which there does seem to be a penalty, the higher you go! What is sad is that the sharpest effect appears to be on women with graduate degrees, whose repro success is severely diminished below less educated women.
“…for men, intelligence works at cross purposes with income. For men, income increases both potential and achieved fertility, while intelligence decreases potential and achieved fertility for both men and women.”
We cannot get better if we romanticize olden times, or refuse to take into account our biological background. We can and must choose to be better than our past, baseline modus operandi! We can transcend best and improve if we admit the baseline was… and remains lurking… and deal with it.
== Science Miscellany! ==
A clever notion for cooling our cities while side-stepping the greenhouse effect: “There's a kind of heat window in the atmosphere that no naturally occurring substance, trace gas or otherwise, can block.” So? Use radiative rooftop cooling that emits in these wavelengths that bypass those absorbed by Methane and other greenhouse gases. I am dubious in the short term. Still, a “cool” concept!
What are the “Seven Wonders of the Modern World” - to hold up against the Pyramids and Great Lighthouse, of old? Slate’s compilation ignores feats of architecture in favor of unseen miracles that allow people more leverage and power in life… like the vast network of undersea fiber-optic cables that give us instant connection across the globe, and the air traffic control systems that have quietly allowed us to stack incoming and outgoing flights at busy airports, like boxes on a conveyor belt. Drinking water systems… you get the idea… the things we take for granted.
Catch this: a new gear transmission mechanism with no touching parts, based on magnetic forces that prevent friction and wear and make lubrication unnecessary. “The design uses a magnetic gear reducer, that is, a mechanism that transforms speed from an input axle to another in an output axle (as in a bicycle chain mechanism or the gearbox of an automobile). But unlike a conventional gear reducer, this transmission is produced without contact between the pieces thanks to the use of magnetism.”
Cool and beautiful art forms take shape when top quality single malt whiskey dries in the bottom of a shot glass. See it scientifically explained.