Saturday, March 11, 2023

Saving the world? Hopes rise - but worries remain

Been busy shoveling mud here in SoCal... The last atmospheric river left a trail of damage across California, with catastrophic flooding, landslides, sinkholes, power outages, washed out roads, and evacuations across the state. And the latest atmospheric river breached a levee, forcing thousands to evacuate near Santa Cruz. Millions remain under flood alert in central and northern California. Unfortunately, these rivers will not ease California's ongoing drought over the long term.

As temperatures continue to rise, atmospheric models project that two out of three glaciers may be lost by 2100.

On the other hand, a recent United Nations report indicates that the ozone hole over the Antarctic is slowly beginning to shrink. If current policies are maintained, the ozone layer may be rescued from CFC damage, and heading toward restoration within decades. And my children still (in their 20s) stare at me, unable to visualize, when I tell them that the air - when I was a kid - 'hurt to breathe.'  Oh, also, there are more whales now than at any time since the 1840s. So don't let anyone tell you that we are unable to see and respond and solve crises!

1- We can... and do.

2- As for those who yowl that it deters action on other perils, if we pat ourselves on the back for previous, great accomplishments? Such people are raving idiots who care more about their own sanctimony guilt trips than actually getting things done.

Dig it, solving problems requires confidence that you can! 

Want more examples?

== Areas of progress ==

First, good news predicted by Pohl & Kornbluth, back in the 1950s!  Cultured meat is on the horizon: “From science fiction to reality, 'no kill' meat may be coming soon.” Different from plant-based meat substitutes. More than 80 companies are staking a future in the space.  And in total, this could be as much of an Earth saver (and karma reducer) as anything else on the horizon,.

More transformative than that? In Finland a startup is producing protein could be grown in a “bioreactor” using nothing but CO2, electricity, water, nutrients like nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus and potassium — and a few bacteria. Together, they would ferment like yeast in bread dough or beer, and the result would be Solein — a tasteless white powder that looks like flour and can be flavored and added to food. The Solar Foods blog points out how much water it takes to produce one kilo of beef protein: 130,610 liters. And that kilo of protein from dairy cattle requires 450,440 liters. For one kilo of Solein: 1,490 liters.

Lab-grown alternatives may help reduce dependence on palm oil - associated with significant deforestation in tropical areas.

One of you wrote in to inform me that my concept (in Existence) of “peecycling” or getting Phosphorous out of urine – soon to be a crisis and absolutely necessary – has long been done in places. “Milwaukee has been peecycling since 1926. The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District manufactures Milorganite. This fertilizer is made by feeding the sewerage to microbes which are separated out and dried. The result is an organic fertilizer with 4% phosphorus.”

Another form of ocean based recycling… or rather carbon capture. Gregory Benford is involved in a project to take farm crop stubble – very hard to use in any modern way without burning – and deposit it as ‘dross’ into deep ocean caverns where the carbon will stay. Much as I depict in the Brightness Reef trilogy. The company will sell carbon offset credits. Better than burning, one supposes. 

But the next item is bigger and should no longer be at all controversial.

== Ocean fertilization… simply proved ==

We no longer need tepid, tiny scale experiments in ocean fertilization… the approach to both reducing atmospheric carbon and increasing fisheries that I described in Earth (1990)… since the massive plumes of soot from Australian forest fires did it, already, on a huge scale. And the results are in

Wind drives transport of aerosol cross the Southern Ocean within a week.

•Chlorophyll enhancement is identified along the trajectory of aerosol.

•Oceanic phytoplankton restored the carbon released from forest fire.

•Ocean mitigates the impact of episodic event by fixing released carbon dioxide. Calculations of carbon released during the fire versus carbon absorbed by the oceanic phytoplankton bloom suggest that they were nearly equal.

I have yet to see any studies of the effect of the phytoplankton blooms on the food chain, fisheries and such but some claim anecdotally that whale activity burgeoned.

All of you puritans blocking experiments in fertilization of fast ocean currents, get over youselves. We are in a crisis. 

As my bro Kim Stanley Robinson says: "It's all hands on deck! Only doing lots of things, in parallel, can offer hope."

== Technology helps ==

Meanwhile, the rate of rollout of budget-friendly electric vehicles is going faster than predicted and there are some voices claiming the marginalizing of internal combustion engines could happen a full decade ahead of expectations.


Five new technologies helping scientists detect, track and study polar bears in their natural environment.

Researchers have split seawater (without pre-treatment) to produce green hydrogen (via electrolysis) an improvement over current methods which require highly purified water. 

Water pipe robots may be able to efficiently patrol thousands of miles of water pipes, in order to detect and stop billions of liters of water leaks.

From turbines and pumps and stoves to more ecologically conscious products: here are twenty-two inventions that may make a dent in saving the earth. 

Peter Diamandis offers  a survey of the top six humanoid robot companies, including Optimus by Tesla, Beomni by Beyond Imagination, and Atlas by Boston Dynamics.

The iPhone 14 lets you find a satellite overhead that can transmit a text or emergency call even when in the utter boonies.  It’s not quite the peer-to-peer text passing system that I urged Qualcomm to develop, 15 years ago (they did! But the cell companies refused to use it.) But this is a fine thing. (See my decade-old rant demanding such moves, to enhance civilization resilience! 

Meanwhile... Exxon's 1970s internal climate prediction models - not released to the public - were uncannily accurate. Which means that those company executives who quashed the reports...

== Covid effects on politics? ==


The US suffered over a million excess deaths due to Covid-19 across the pandemic. The National Bureau of Economic Research has found that “political affiliation has emerged as a potential risk factor for Covid-19,” and that significantly more Republicans than Democrats have died from the virus since the introduction of vaccines in early 2021 to protect against the disease.

 The study found that death rates from Covid-19 were only slightly higher for Republicans than Democrats during the early days of the pandemic, before vaccines became available. But by the summer of 2021, a few months after vaccines were introduced, “the Republican excess death rate rose to nearly double that of Democrats, and this gap widened further in the winter of 2021.” 

Had my own brush with Covid – much eased by vaxxing, ensuring it was just a mild flu…  Still went ahead and got the Omicron jab befor my coming trip to DC.

Here’s a stat worth pondering. Note that Paxlovid saved the lives of many who ‘don’t trust science.’ I wish I were kidding.

Thrive & persevere!


Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

Together, they would ferment like yeast in bread dough or beer, and the result would be Solein — a tasteless white powder that looks like flour and can be flavored and added to food.

"Solein" doesn't sound that far off from "Soylent". And wasn't that film set in 2022?

DP said...

Need to fix the last two links.

Dwight Williams said...

Paxlovid is making the life of one of my dear neighbours much easier this weekend as I type this.


I still want the mask protections back in place on public transit. That will, I suspect, make it easier to get a handle on the rate of reinfections.

DP said...

Not sure if EVs are the best way to go.

Even the best li-ion battery wears out over time and can no longer hold a charge.

The USEPA classifies spent li-ion as hazardous waste.

That leaves us with a massive hazardous waste disposal problem or an even more expensive battery recycling effort.

Let's crunch the numbers.

There are almost 287 million registered cars in the US in 2020.

Suppose you replace them all with Teslas.

The battery of a tesla weighs about 1,200 lbs - or a total of about 172 million tons of batteries.

A tesla battery warranty is 8 years or 100,000 miles with a battery retention capacity of 70%.

Tesla car batteries are supposed to technically last for 300,000 to 500,000 miles, which is 1,500 battery cycles. That’s between 22 and 37 years for the average car driver, who, according to the Department of Transportation, drives about 13,500 miles per year. This is not the same distance that Tesla warranties. After 100,000 to 150,000 miles, Tesla does not cover repairs and replacements for you if your battery degrades past a certain point. So the typical owner will replace the battery after about 8 years.
That's an average of about 21.5 million tons of battery replacement annually if 1/8 of existing tesla batteries are replaced annually.

Recycling li-ion batteries is incredibly expensive unless heavily subsidized and confined to low labor cost markets (which China no longer is) that are also capable of massive economies of scale. Not impossible - but very, very difficult.

So that leaves us with li-ion battery disposal.

A non-recycled li-ion battery is defined as hazwaste.

America currently disposes of 1.6 million tons of hazwaste each year.

Replacing the projected tonnage of tesla batteries (assuming a cost competitive means of recycling li-ion batteries that does not require government mandates or subsidies is found) increases the amount of of hazwaste disposal in America by a factor of 13x to 14x.

Again, not impossible but very, very difficult.

And nobody is preparing for a potential tsunami of hazwaste from complete conversion to EVs.

It normally takes 5 to 10 years to design, permit and build a new hazwaste landfill.

DP said...

I remember a scientist at Woods Hole discussing ocean fertilization with iron sulfate, saying in effect that with a supertanker full of the stuff he cold end global warming.

And with two of them he could start a new ice age.

That sound like something a supervillain would do.

"Before you die Mr. Bond I want to explain to you the details of my world destruction plan. On your screen do you see my innocent looking supertanker in dock? Soon it will be filled with enough iron sulfate to start a new ice age! Bwahahahahaha!"

David Brin said...

DP I very much doubt the supertanker scenario. Those fires deposited far more than that, in fertilizing soot.

The notion that processes cannot be developed to make Li-ion batteries systematically recyclable is very, very strange.

And the last two links in the blog work fine.

Tony Fisk said...

The supertanker scenario sounds a bit like a counterpoint to the 'lepers' in the TV version of 'Stark'.

Pyrolysis (ie charcoal creation) of waste biomass has been touted as a way to fix carbon in the soil (or in the ocean). It does result in about half the carbon being returned to the air as CO2, though. I'd be using it on leaf matter, chaff, and dead weeds: stuff that is going to rapidly break down anyway.

A lot of work has gone into the causes of Li-ion battery breakdown; specifically in what happens at the terminals. They can certainly be designed to be more robust.
Also, keep an eye on emerging Na-ion technology (won't be running out of salt in a hurry!)

As it happens, we had some takeaway hamburgers last night. My beef patty was billed as a Grill'd Gamechanger. What (if anything) is behind the marketing? Seaweed. Specifically, a food additive taken from seaweed that suppresses methane generating bacteria in the cow's gut. This does not harm the cow. If anything, it's healthier.
30% less methane is generated by the puir wee bovine during its trip from paddock to plate.
The science is legit. The marketing? We-ell... I think the bacterial protein has a far better claim to being a gamechanger. I think you can see what the problem's going to be, though.

Alfred Differ said...

Der Oger, (from last thread)

I hear you on with respect to wrongful actions. I'm willing to consider options, but I want to point out a rather important fact about the US. Most of us have ancestors who only recently came over. My father's line worked Scottish coal mines until his father came over in 1928. My mother came over in 1961. It's a tricky argument when compensation for past wrongs comes up because some of us ask "Why me?" Still… I'm willing to talk about it and find a way forward.

(I tend to chuckle at the local native tribes who put up casinos and nail us with our own vices. Their arrangements aren't always good for the entire tribe, but the payback by 'white land stealers' is kinda juicy.)

You asked for a quick self-test and I'm willing to answer it.

Yes for a, d, e, f, g, h.
No for b, c.

I say No for those only because I live in a part of California where you have to be insane to construct giant, toxin releasing facilities. Walk around a bit and look at the rocks in Ventura County. They only look solid. The are highly shattered fragments held in place by gravity. The ground here shakes regularly as one part of California grinds past another.

I'm a physicist, so I'm better trained than most about the risks of nuclear waste. I'm not particularly bothered because I know how the inverse square law works. However, if an earthquake shakes a facility to pieces, I also know how ground water works. It isn't a good idea to build facilities for potential toxins around here, but it IS an excellent place to grow stuff. We get four strawberry seasons PER YEAR because it's so mild around here.

I used to live in Nevada where we've pondered putting a waste storage facility. They always object and the press makes it sound like they object due to radiation risks. That's not the case. The locals are allied with the nuke objection clade, but their real reasons have everything to do with the fact that the federal government owns almost 90% of Nevada. The locals object to being a state and not being able to function like a state. Since Nevada has very little power in DC, they use the Court to be a pain in the ass.

A nuclear waste facility in Nevada makes good sense. Our folks in DC should just deal with the locals and find a compromise. Call a truce and then offer to hand over a sizable chunk of land in exchange. The nuke objection clade would still litigate, but they wouldn't have a state government supporting their claims.


I'm trying to be careful to avoid calling us Capitalists because so few of us agree on the meaning of that word. We are the Enlightenment Civilization and your nation is definitely a part of it.

David Brin said...

With real leadership, we'd have a national compact so every state and city made a prioritized list of its wants and one of its hates... and real tradeoffs could oprimize positive sum. I'd give Nevada some federal land if they'll just open damn Yucca Mt and let us move the stuff out of cities. With substantial bonds that mature if a better solution is not found in 30 years.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry, (from last thread)

I think the whole point of learning philosophy is to understand the old arguments and how to construct new ones and rebuttals for them. WINNING arguments isn't the point at all, but it sure looks like it from the outside.

I can make the case that taxation is theft. I've also seen the "property is theft" case with rebuttals, counter-arguments, and counters to counters. It's actually a well documented debate, but most USians hate philosophy. We prefer to assert from ideology. We've been like that since before the revolution and that might have something to do with the fact that many HAD to leave their homelands.

My favorite short response to the property-is-theft argument can be told as a small dialog.

Me: If I fence off my yard and house that I already occupy and enforce my title against all would be squatters from whom am I stealing?

Local Native: Me.
Friends of Local Native: All of us.
Someone in the back: Everyone.

Me: Everyone? Even those folks walking through Oaxaca planning to cross our border illegally?

Everyone else: No.
Someone in the back: I didn't mean them.

Me: So I'm stealing from some but not others. Those others don't get a say?

I'm not making the case that such a dialog would occur, but we can imagine it as a story to explore what we mean when "Everyone owns it". Do we truly mean everyone? If not, then why not "Just me"? Why you and not someone else? If everyone owns it then why do we have a fence at the border? Why is that different from my fence?


…were at least as threatening as jail time.

Absolutely not! I had a variety of choices that ranged from homelessness to living with my parents to buying a place of my own. All of them were MY choices.

Just because a choice is distasteful doesn't put it on the same level as being coerced into an action. I lived way below the poverty line between '85 and '91. I did not even try to own a car between '84 and '95. I scraped by a few years where rent consumed about 80% of my monthly income. All this I did by choice because I wanted my PhD badly enough I was willing to put up with it. With that in hand, I changed direction (early '94) and climbed out of poverty.*

Choices matter far more than most realize.


To me, it is because it incentivizes individuals to produce more value than would exist in a state of nature.

When you ponder the concept of property, please remember that it dates to pre-history. It is an ancient idea going back to when every human was a nomadic HG. We began to trade outside our kin groups LONG before the ice melted. What we think property is might date even farther back to before out version of homo sapiens. Look to our cousin apes before you get too comfortable with any particular belief about property.

* This makes it sound like a planned path. It wasn't. I had to be smacked a couple of times when I wondered aloud why the world wasn't handing me a great life on a silver platter. I'd still prefer that, but I no longer expect it. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

If they opened Yucca Mt, the state should offer to take the waste with a statement that the feds will have to buy it back later if they want it.

But yeah. Bribe the locals with land. It would cleave the opposition. It would have to be Democrats doing it, though. Same reason it had to be Nixon going to China.

Alfred Differ said...

On the topic...

I went to grad school at UCD. That's near Sacramento. When I first attended, the locals used to be allowed to burn the rice stubble. The air HURT to breathe for quite a while.

They don't anymore. Burning it sends aloft lots of tiny razor particulates. It truly IS a stupid idea to do it where any population center is downwind.

They stopped the stubble burning long before I left and I barely noticed it.* A lot of life's improvements are like that. Progress is made and only a tiny fraction realize it.

* I used to go asthmatic every May when the jasmine bloomed. Inflammation in the lungs is a horrid thing. I eventually moved away to the edge of cities to get away from it... and now I'm on the CA coast with an on-shore breeze. I can mostly avoid jasmine so many cities and landlords like to plant because the damn stuff survives hot summers.

CP said...

Research in ocean fertilization is fine. And, judicious use of it to increase productivity/biomass in surface waters may even be beneficial in some cases.

However, it probably can't be scaled up to where it would significantly reduce atmospheric CO2 without serious consequences.

Carbon that just cycles through the food chain in surface waters isn't removed from the atmosphere permanently (even if harvested as food).

To take carbon out of the system it has to be sequestered which means moved to the bottom and incorporated into bottom sediments. And, what that amounts to is dead bodies, mucus and feces drifting down through the water column. As it does, it decays aerobically and consumes oxygen. But, oxygen in water deeper than a couple hundred meters is replaced slowly (usually on the order of decades to centuries). There's no light, hence no photosynthesis, so it depends on cycling water from the surface. Mid-water oxygen levels are already low in many areas due to this (google "oxygen minimum layer"). The background level of sequestration is important in the long term carbon cycle but it's slow enough to be "in sync" with oxygen replenishment. Increasing the amount of organic material drifting down sufficiently to make a difference in the atmosphere will likely deplete oxygen much too rapidly, potentially resulting in large scale ocean anoxia, major disruptions of the marine ecology, widespread extinctions and (as deep water decay switches to anaerobic pathways) a buildup of hydrogen sulfide. Large-scale ocean anoxia with hydrogen sulfide out-gassing is thought to be one of the factors involved in some of the earth's great mass extinction events...

Presumably, this could be mitigated by pumping air, at scale, into deep water (giant aquarium aerators?). But, that would take money, material, energy...

Using either artificial or natural photosynthesis to create excess hydrocarbons on land (essentially, artificial oil) and pumping it back under ground is probably a far safer, and ultimately cheaper, alternative. And, it could be more easily reversed if we needed to do so...

duncan cairncross said...

Lithium Ion batteries can be recycled much easier than people think

The issue at the moment is that 99% of dead lithium batteries are cell phones and the like with pennies worth of material
An EV battery with hundreds of dollars worth is an entirely different animal - AND when we are recycling those batteries we will probably be able to throw the cell phone ones in as well

Even if you just "crunch and chew" the Lithium batteries with no attempts at separation you get a "product" that is vastly richer than any "ore" that we mine today

I'm sorry if I have already referenced this paper - but I think its important
Remember the MOST recycled "thing" at the moment is Lead Acid car batteries over 98% recycled and THEY are most definitely hazardous waste!!

On a related topic - to use 100% renewables we will need STORAGE

I found this paper

This is the conclusion they come to

10. Conclusion
The key driver for a renaissance in pumped hydro storage is the rapid rise of variable PV and wind. Once many countries achieve solar and wind penetration of 50% or more, large amounts of storage will be required.

Electricity consumption in sunbelt countries is likely to rise rapidly in coming decades as economic development proceeds. Since the cost of new-build solar and wind is below the cost of new-build fossil, nuclear or renewable energy alternatives, most of the new generation will be provided by solar and wind. This means that large increases in the amount of storage will be required to balance variable solar and wind. Pumped hydro and batteries are complementary storage technologies and are best suited for longer and shorter storage periods respectively.

In this paper we explored the technology, siting opportunities and market prospects for PHES in a world in which most electricity is produced by variable solar and wind. Vast numbers of potential off-river pumped hydro sites were identified in most regions of the world, far exceeding the number required to support 100% variable renewable electricity systems. Off river PHES is likely to have low environmental impact and low water consumption.

Importantly, the known cost of pumped hydro storage allows an upper bound to be placed on the cost of balancing 100% variable renewable electricity systems. The all-in cost of fully balanced 100% solar and wind electricity systems is below the cost of an equivalent fossil fuel system for most of the world.

DP said...

All of you who are stating that ways will be found to recycle/improve li-ion batteries are basing your claims entirely on technology that doesn't exist yet.

Hope is not a plan.

I'm in the environ/hazwaste business..

Nobody in the business "hopes" that a hazwaste problem will go away.

In any case, getting any new technology up to speed will take longer than the tsunami of hazwaste coming our way.

Even in the best case scenario we are way behind the curve.

Larry Hart said...

@Alfred Differ:

I acknowledge the difficulty in defining just who the commons is meant to belong to. The answer is going to be different depending on what we're talking about. Walling of an acre of land like all the other land around it is a different thing from (say) damming up the section of the river that happens to be on your parcel, walling it off from thousands downstream. One might also argue that the right of your factory to pollute ends at your property line, just as your right to swing your fist ends at my nose. I'm sure there are arguments on the other side as well. In the extreme case--does Brazil have the right to destroy the rainforests the world depends on just because those rainforests are on their land? Both sides of that argument can be made.

I claim neither a final victory nor defeat in these debates.

On taxation, I will say that a certain level of coercion is preferable to the alternative, which is a society in which essential services such as police and fire protection must always necessarily begin with a point of service determination as to whether or not the individual is paid up. We've all heard stories of private fire departments which let a house burn and show up only to prevent it from spreading to paying customers. That's bad enough in the sense of what kind of heartless people it forces us to be (mercy is not an option as it invites the free-rider problem and defeats the whole business model). It simply doesn't work when the domicile in question is a townhouse or a unit in a high rise. It's better in my view to operate under the assumption that "the community" is always paid up and concentrating on taking care of business.

I will grant you a lot of leeway in arguments you wish to make over exactly what services deserve to be funded by coercive taxation and that the amounts and methods of collection should be subject to democratic input, not mandated as if by God.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

I used to live in Nevada where we've pondered putting a waste storage facility. They always object and the press makes it sound like they object due to radiation risks. That's not the case. The locals are allied with the nuke objection clade, but their real reasons have everything to do with the fact that the federal government owns almost 90% of Nevada.

I was in college so it must have been in the 80s when there was a tv commercial designed to get the public to call their congresspeople and demand the nuclear waste site be opened up. The voice on the commercial sneered at the fact that the site was being held up by (in a smarmy voice) "Two senators from Nevada", as if to ask sarcastically why one puny state would dare prevent something of benefit to the country. Even then, it was apparent that the senators from Nevada were opposed because that's where the site would be located.

gregory byshenk said...

In the previous discussion, reason said...
Also the family home is tax free with a strange condition that the inheritor has to live in it for 10 years. That condition is just weird.

Not really. I believe (I could be mistaken, so corrections are welcome) that this is based on a recognition that "the family home" is not equivalent to "wealth". It is a form of wealth, of course, but it is not merely wealth. It is akin to the concerns raised in the USA about estate taxes and family farms or family businesses. There is no wish to force someone out of their home for tax reasons when a family member has died.

The condition is there to distinguish between cases when the "family home" is a "home" - that is, something more than just wealth - from those when the property is being treated merely as wealth. If it is your "home" and you want to keep it and live in it, because it is special to you, then it will be treated in one way - as something other than merely 'wealth'. But if you just want to sell it off for the cash, then it is just 'wealth' and will be taxed accordingly.

Tony Fisk said...

DP, I am basing my comments on this article concerning the causes of Li-ion battery failure.
Seems to me that knowing the causes encourages people to finding solutions. The article even outlines some. A plan, with no great leap of hope needed.

gregory byshenk said...

Another point, juxtaposing two issues recently discussed.

Consider that, if one supports parents being able to give away whatever they wish to their children (or any others), then one ends up denying equality of opportunity. After all, if I can buy my children advanced pre-education, access to private schooling and tutors, admission to elite universities (or perhaps just the "experiences" that gain them entry), then opportunity is quite plainly not equal.

People tend to think that "meritocracy" and "equality of opportunity" work like in James Hogan's Voyage from Yesteryear, but that same novel suggests that such meritocracy can only work when opportunity is not gamed or corrupted by those already having wealth or power.

Of course, in this world we can probably never completely get away from such inequalities, so such must to some degree be accepted. But I (at least) tend to be very skeptical of those who claim to be in favour of equality of opportunity (more so if the claim is "equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome") while at the same time fighting against the things that would make opportunity less unequal.

Alan Brooks said...

What we need first is civilization, rather than the controlled barbarism we’ve always known—otherwise we go nowhere fast.
The dedicated ‘libertarians’ are in organized crime. No need for them any Bothersome due process, which is so Expensive. How much simpler it is to get rid of people who get in the way. Then there’s no spending billions on slow-moving courts, judges, attorneys, prisons.
Wiseguys wish for the strong to survive and thrive in a world of Lucky and prosperous Lucianos who believe in the right to very speedy trials. Even ‘execution first, trial afterwards’. Democracy is sacrificing some people via economic methods; dictatorship is efficiently sacrificing others the easy peasy way.
It was not predictable that Russia would be ruled by mafiyas; it was inevitable.
So what is likely to happen? Odds are we’ll be having these economic discussions for the rest of our lives, won’t we? After we’re gone, the can gets kicked down along the road to our descendants. You DO know that we are talking in circles here, don’t you?
It’s all been rehashed and rehashed since...when? 1929?

DP said...

Tony, show me the process/technology that is scalable, economically viable, and has actually left the lab.

Until then its just a hope.

And hope is not a plan.

EV's will be the majority of cars sold soon. What will you have ready for them?

Robert said...

Tony, show me the process/technology that is scalable, economically viable, and has actually left the lab.

Until then its just a hope.

And hope is not a plan.

Will the resulting waste problem be worse than the current problems from fossil fuels? The spills, leaks, groundwater pollution, etc? It's not just CO2 that is an issue.

scidata said...

One of the most common arguments against humanity spreading to the stars is the 'filthy humans' taunt. That is, all we do is corrupt, pollute, and foul our environment, so why should such a nasty life form propagate to Asimovian-level civilization? See the Morpheus-Agent lecture scene at the climax of THE MATRIX for a good example of this argument.

However, that position entirely ignores our capacity to learn and mature. Carbon capture/mitigation is a relatively new area of research, yet we've quickly learned so much. That knowledge isn't discarded as we fly to the rest of the solar system. Sewage management is simultaneously one of the most mundane yet most profound modern technologies. We've come a long way since Uruk. I'm forced to agree with those who say the woke left is dabbling in religiosity at times.

Cory Doctorow's 'new-Luddite' concept that I referenced a few days ago is far more subtle than this 'never touch nature' zealotry. It's more akin to Maxwell's 'thoroughly conscious ignorance'.

Unknown said...

Last week an AF general argued before Congress for funding of "...low-yield, non-ballistic nuclear weapons that do not generate a radar signature..." that "...could be used without reaching a threshold that could trigger nuclear war.” SLCMs, in this case.

One of the few things I can wholeheartedly applaud about the USSR was its decision to put a very high fence about first use of nuclear weapons. Anything that tries to blur that fence is, in my mind, committing a crime about our species' continued existence. It also suggests that our capacity to learn and mature needs some work.

Alan, re:

"It was not predictable that Russia would be ruled by mafiyas; it was inevitable."

You may be right, but the 'helpers' the US sent to Russia to convert its command economy to their idea of a free market also provided a massive assist to the process.


Alfred Differ said...


Hope is not a plan.

There is a huge distinction between not-yet-ium and un-obtain-ium.

I've mentioned it here before, but for the sake of everyone else I'll just post a link to my response.

Don Gisselbeck said...

Someone may already have noticed this, but Malcolm Nance doing the wager. $10,000, escrow, independent judges to people who claim he wasn't in Ukraine.

Larry Hart said...

@Don Gisselbeck,

Yes, Malcolm Nance is a regular guest on Stephanie Miller's radio show, and he's mentioned betting $10,000, "put up or shut up" at least two times.

Larry Hart said...

@Alfred Differ,

While reading your blog post you linked to above, I also poked around the blog at large, and sat up and noticed this bit about mRNA vaccines from 2020:

These vaccines aren't built on dead virus samples. They aren't even 'discovered' if we are fair to the meaning of 'discovery'. It is more correct to say they are written. Sure. What we write in the mRNA sequences is found through discovery. For now. That's not what is shipping, though. Early mRNA methods produced product that would induce a profound inflammatory response in patients killing them quickly. Not so anymore. Why? Because we know how to write them in a way that avoids triggering our immune systems.

If your jaw isn't on the floor at this point, you either work in the industry OR you haven't read enough science fiction.

I noticed that because my daughter had been a college freshman in biology during that first COVID year, and she came home for Thanksgiving just about the time that the mRNA vaccines were being developed. Her jaw was definitely on the floor at that point as she explained to us--her parents--what an absolutely fascinating concept was involved. My wife and I barely understood the specifics of what she was excited about, but the excitement itself was the kind that makes any parent proud.

duncan cairncross said...

Recycling Lithium Ion batteries is well known technology and there are several operations that are capable of doing that

The issue TODAY is getting the tiny batteries to the recycler - which costs more that the battery is worth

That problem is instantly solved when it comes to EV batteries !!!!

All known technology!! - and already out there on an industrial scale

Alfred Differ said...

We got lead-acid battery recycling this high by creating a deposit charge that is high enough to encourage us to haul them in from the last mile to a retail site. Would the same work for cell phone batteries?

David Brin said...

“ the 'helpers' the US sent to Russia to convert its command economy to their idea of a free market also provided a massive assist to the process.”

One of several reasons why GHW Bush was BY FAR the worst US president of the 20th Century.

DG yeah Nance will wind up getting all the credit. Sigh. Still I am glad.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Nance will wind up getting all the credit. Sigh. Still I am glad.

We've discussed on this blog before the notion that different personality types are required to start a movement. You're the idea guy type, but a Malcolm Nance who has the street cred of a warrior with intelligence-gathering background, plus the physical presence to issue the challenge without taking any guff is an asset.

It's not a matter of his stealing an idea, but of being better able to implement it.

Larry Hart said...

I said:

does Brazil have the right to destroy the rainforests the world depends on just because those rainforests are on their land?

My own preferred solution is a variation on Barzini's statement in The Godfather:

If Don Corleone had all the judges and the politicians in New York, then he must share them, or let us others use them. He must let us draw the water from the well.

Certainly he can present a bill for such services; after all… we are not Communists.

Tony Fisk said...

DP uses the word 'hope' where I would use 'confidence'.

The arguments over recycling reminds me a little of the gotcha! questions favoured by those folk with grave reservations* about evolutionary theory.

Skeptic: "Aha! No known process could ever come up with anything so exquisitely engineered as the eye!"
Scientist: "True, there is no known process because nobody's looked for one. Yet"
(Forty years later)
Skeptic: "Aha! How can a bombadier beetle evolve a chemical defence whose components would dissolve the beetle before they could ever work together?"
Scientist: "We don't know because nobody has studied bombadier beetles in sufficient depth. Yet.** However, the eye we now know could (and did) develop in a number of ways..."
Skeptic: "... Ah! Ah! I'm talking bombadier beetles now."

And on it goes. The skeptic pokes with an obscure 'what if' case which the scientist responds to methodically over time (during which the skeptic champions their example as 'unexplainable'). It may be that an example is found that confounds the method, but prior experience suggests otherwise.

So, returning to recycling, I don't know of any scaled process for recycling Li-ion batteries. Yet.
However, I see what people have been doing to address the problem, and am confident that such a process will be developed.

... as there has been for old solar panels, which you might recall Mike Moore was banging on about a few years ago.

* ie reservations they intend to take to the grave.
** actually, Dawkins demonstrated a set of graduated steps in a series of BBC Chhristmas lectures about thirty years ago.

Robert said...

DG yeah Nance will wind up getting all the credit. Sigh. Still I am glad.

Years ago at my first teaching job I had an idea, which I was excoriated for by the leader of the committee. The next year I moved to another school and was told by a friend at my first school that the committee leader had been publicly thanked by the head of the school board for this amazing idea — which was my suggestion, the one that she publicly shamed me for*.

My father, a veteran science administrator in the federal bureaucracy, suggested I view it as a victory. He pointed out that the price for getting something accomplished is often giving the credit to someone else (usually a gatekeeper in authority), and sometimes that will only happen if the person who came up with the plan moves somewhere else away from the gatekeeper.

It was pragmatic advice, and I've found it useful when I manage to remember it. (Which isn't easy, I admit.)

*I've told the story here before — no need to repeat it.

Unknown said...

My Filipino friend complained that this sort of thing was an open secret where he came from - someone from a rich family would be appointed to a position and expect to get credit for anything good that a subordinate did. That was part of why he joined the USAF. The problem is the gatekeepers quashing innovations they don't happen to like.

In the old Traveller universe, the Intendant class served this exact function for Zhodani nobles. Having psionic powers doesn't necessarily make you smart or wise.


duncan cairncross said...

I found that was a very useful strategy to get things done

Introduce your idea as:

"Hi Boss, remember that idea you had and I pooh hooded it?
Well I have been thinking and its actually a great idea

Worked a lot of the time - got caught occasionally!

matthew said...

Socialism for the libertarian techbros, rugged individualism for the plebes.

How many times does this pattern have to repeat?
This run was caused by a messaging chat among a bunch of VC funders. How many of them shorted the stock before talking to the rest? How many will be held accountable for theft?

Alfred, here is your market being gamified. A prime example of how the "rules" are rigged to favor billionaires at the expense of all else.

How does the power of oligarchs get blunted without bloody revolution when money is declared equal to speech? Transparency is not helping in this case. We *know* the rich are cheating. The tell us so. Will they be held liable?

Write your congress-critter. Spend money to support progressive candidates.
Do not support "moderates" that reduce regulation in the name of getting $$ from oligarch-vampires. Either we take the power away from the rich by peaceful means or we will see it taken away by bloody force that cannot be controlled.

We stand on a knife edge. Progressive policy, taxation, and regulation has a slight chance of saving us from horrible darkness. Submission to the wishes of the billionaires only leads to darkness. Today, we saw, again, the rich win.

Libertarians rejoice! The government has just covered up your errors with money!

Alan Brooks said...

The helpers sent to Russia provided an assist, no question about it, but massive? The syndicates were all ready and waiting. Probably when Gorbachev got in the saddle, they were making their lists and checking them twice.

I’m very optimistic there’ll be great changes to come—just not what we expect or want. As the old lady yelled:
“Reality doesn’t need our permission!”
to do its Thing.

Dwight Williams said...

"Pappenheimer" has a point about those "advisors" the US sent to "help" Russia after the Soviet Union fell apart. They did help make the mafiya state that Putin now misrules more, rather than less, inevitable.

Unknown said...


"when Gorbachev got in the saddle, they were making their lists and checking them twice."

Gorbachev was a true believer. I think his peers called him "the last communist". The mafiya might have been making their lists when he was in power, but only when Yeltsin got in did they check them twice. And Yeltsin basically handed the country to Putin.

I'll agree that the US advisors' effect may not have been massive, everything I read at the time suggested that the US was giving carte blanche to corruption.

I also agree about the great changes to come. My son is trying to convince me that commercial fusion power will become available within my lifetime. I'm standing on the curmudgeonly line and will tentatively agree he may see it in his. What we really need is a nice, old-fashioned jump drive.


Tim H. said...

AIUI, GHW Bush hoped to improve on FDR & HST by sending doctrinally correct neoconservatives, not pinko Democratic socialists as were sent to Europe & Japan... Now, who's approach stood the test of reality?

Alan Brooks said...

Being curmudgeonly is not unrealistic, but we can’t present the facts too baldly to the public. It’s got to dandied up; as RFK said,
“some dream of what is;
I dream of what can be.”
Depends on IF: if a true civilization can be developed. Fusion conceivably could be used for weaponry as well as power:

Larry Hart said...

Tim H:

GHW Bush hoped to improve on FDR & HST by sending doctrinally correct neoconservatives, not pinko Democratic socialists as were sent to Europe & Japan..

They tried that in Iraq as well.

scidata said...

Alan Brooks: some dream of what is...

Oooh goosebump flashback. I once gave a speech on Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar.

I used the line:
Politicians see the world as it really is.
Leaders see the world as it could be.

Don't know who/where it originates. Socrates is usually a safe bet.

Alfred Differ said...


Busy weekend for me so I'll get back to you now. Bwa-ha-ha! 8)


I acknowledge the difficulty in defining just who the commons is meant to belong to.

That's a more serious problem than many realize, but not because we give different answers in different situations. The main issue with public ownership of a thing involves how it is defended when someone in the community disagrees. I can tolerate public ownership quite a bit, but I get hives when someone offers to defend your collective 'rights'. They invite you to justify coercion and my response to that is always "Can you limit your appetite for their offers?"

What makes a King? At the nether-most level it involves a guy willing to coerce and a people willing to support his actions.

So… not only do I find the concept of public ownership to be ill defined, I see a serious risk associated with an insatiable appetite for strong men who would defend it. Before long, those strong men are making private claims to cover the same property covered by public claims… and we rationalize it as the King being the Nation. (see Hobbes)


On taxation…

Most of what you do daily involves point of service determinations. More so now than your ancestors… because you have more income than they did. Even if you are descended from royals, the world is a vastly richer place and you can afford services they couldn't buy.

I get the fear of fire and police protection being biased, but I don't think that should stop us from considering options. Take those stories as self-preventing prophecies, but don't fear innovation. If your more recent ancestors has held onto their fear, we'd still be ruled by kings.

What options? Well… some of us make use of HOA's to maintain shared property in a community and bypass the city and county governments. Your membership in an HOA is written into the purchase contract for the home/land. Could we not do that for security? Hmm. Some already do. What about fire? The HOA
could easily contract with a city to help maintain fire fighting infrastructure… or just take it over. Why not?

How is this example with HOA's not coercive? You buy into it with the property purchase in a voluntary agreement. You exit the arrangement when you sell the property. You might not like what they do, but you can get in and out through voluntary transactions.

Maybe you don't like HOA's, though. Okay. I came up with AN option to coercive taxation for certain services. Surely we can come up with more of them that might be palatable.

Alfred Differ said...


Two senators from Nevada and one puny state

I'm quite certain that's why the Framers wrote the Senate into the Constitution. States DO have to be represented along with the people in them.


Her jaw was definitely on the floor…

Yah. I was covered in goosebumps when I wrote most of that. There is nothing quite like witnessing history.

I haven't said much about it since (not on my blog anyway), but I see 2020 as the year we decided to pick up a god-like tool and use it. We'd been messing around with making it for many years, but in 2020 we got scared enough to pick it up and use it like we'd imagined we might.

Humanity went nuclear in '45 and put up an artificial moon in '57. We stood on the Moon in '69 and ended a war that could have annihilated us all in '91. In 2020 we built mRNA agents, deployed them in '21, revised them and deployed those in '22.

ALL of these events (and more) are big, f$#%ing deals.
ANYONE who thinks we can't topple Heaven and Hell doesn't get it.

David Brin said...

matthew, protecting depositors is not the same thing as bailing out the Bank’s shareholders and officers. I have yet to see any sign of the latter.

AB: Whn the new Russia began sending stock certificates to every citizen, no one in-country had the cash to do phase two… to buy up those shares with a bottle of vodka, each. But that cash was pocket change to the Bushites. If our advisors has said “give each citizen one share in each of ten years” then by year 3 the stock would have has a market value. It was the greatest heist of the century and it was all Bush-Cheney. The same team who betrayed the Iraqi Shiites and let Saddam murder a million of them.

Tim H there is no chance GHWB was sincere. He was by far the most evil president of the 20th.

His son was almost as bad in the 21st. The TOP beneficiaries of IraqII were Cheney family logistics firms on no-bid ‘emergency’ contracts and Iran. And I guess the people of Basra.

Alfred, the path to lessening government that could – in theory – work is one never proposed since Goldwater. To shift the pernicious incentives in the INSURANCE INDUSTRY so that

1 – all citizens have policies
2- All company profits derives from their clients living longer
3- companies may not jettison clients for their conditions but may demand higher premiums (under arbitration) if the client keeps refusing good advice how to live safer-healthier.

Already true re Fire Insurance! If the incentives were strong, there are a number of govt/socieliat services what might ‘wither back’ to mere supervision.

Alfred Differ said...


I recall you describing a similar alternative to the role of vouching for our individual identities that makes use of those in the financial industry... who are quite motivated to prevent the associated fraud. I think that was in your Transparency book?

Anyway... I'd seriously consider tapping the insurance industry that way. We already have them dealing with a lot of conditional risks. Regulating them would be tricky, but I'd take on that challenge if it got our governments out of the insurance business. As long as John and Jane Doe can change insurers in a fair market, I'd see that as a win.

duncan cairncross said...

Alfred - insurance companies

Have you heard of ACC? - Accident Compensation Corporation

I think NZ is alone in this - we have no fault insurance for ALL accidents inside NZ
Everybody is covered all the time
Fall over and break your leg - covered
Ski accident - covered
Fall off a roof while burglaring - covered

This is paid for by levies on things like fuel and wages and on companies - companies in riskier businesses pay more

ACC will try to "make you whole" - and will pay you your wages until you recover

There is no "choice" in the matter - everybody is covered and everybody has to pay their ACC levy

One of the things that makes this possible is that we gave up the "right" to sue for accidental injury
If there is an accident ACC covers the individuals concerned - and if a company is at fault then OSH goes after them with a harpoon

This means that almost all of the ACC levies go to people who are injured - NOT to the lawyers

This cuts the COST of injury down to about a TENTH of a "court and sue" system

The main issue is that it covers accidents - so if I put my back out digging I'm covered - but if I have arthritis so that my back is buggered - I'm NOT covered

Extending ACC to cover Accident AND Sickness is the next step

Alan Brooks said...

don’t know if Russians ever had a chance, they’ve never evolved to where—how—they could escape feudalism.
We’re discussing a a nation whose Communist leaders violently attempted to go from the 12th to the 20th centuries.
Peasants don’t read Adam Smith.
If you traveled to many authoritarian nations today and spoke to many citizens and residents, you might not be able to get on the page with them.
In Mexico I was asked “what does anything you say have to do with Jesus?”
Same with many here as well. People here also ask “what does all that intelleckshoel stuff have to do with the price of tea in China?”
We know what happened in Russia three decades via Cheney Inc; but it would’ve gone the same general way, anyway.
Russians haven’t built the institutions necessary. Communists there a century ago would attempt to get peasants to somewhat comprehend their version of modernist ideology—but it was speaking an alien language.

scidata said...

There are several tracks in AI research: generative, theory of mind, state machines, brain mapping, etc.
The latter one has just finished mapping an entire fruit fly larvae brain.

Of course there's the natural way too - evolution and competition. Happily, that's a very FORTHy realm. Also, it is open to the concept of non-brain intelligence. The immune system for example.

matthew said...

OK, I will explain why covering all SVB accounts in full instead of up to $250k is a *really* bad precedent.

A few background notes:
1) SBV had more than 50% of all accounts greater than what the FDIC will cover.
2) This was because they did not have to follow the same rules for keeping cash reserves of 10% like the too-big-to-fail banks.
3) Venture Capitalists saw the greater returns as SVB as a plus, so a whole *bunch* of VC cash was kept there.
4) the run on the bank was started by a couple of podcasters talking about this.
5) A group chat with over 200 VC techbros noticed the podcasters and grew interested.
6) On the damn chat, these folks agreed to short the bank and pull their money out. This is a crime - insider trading, done by people who know much better, and it was promptly posted to Twitter by one the idiots who did the shorting.

Bank fails, FDIC bails out all the depositors, beyond the $250k mark.

Now, very rich folks know three new things:
1) It is easy to start a bank run.
2) The FDIC will bail out depositors, no matter the size of the deposit, in order to keep the faith in the banking system up.
3) Do not plan your short sell crime in a Slack channel with 200 participants.

Does that make the situation a little more clear?

And, no, I do not expect charges against the short-sellers despite the crime being bragged about in public. They include multiple billionaires, perhaps even "good" ones.

Alan Brooks said...

“when the new Russia began sending stock certificates...”

New Russia? How new?

Unknown said...


"Modernize Russia" wasn't started by the Bolsheviks/Communist Party. Peter the Great pushed his country hard, and there were more recent reformist czars. One (Alexander II) of them got assassinated, either for freeing the serfs or for not continuing his reforms, I forget which. One thing for sure was that he POed both the Whites and the Reds.

"New Russia" refers to (if I am correct) the post Soviet government, which still had a lot of the same people but was supposed to operate under new rules.


David Brin said...

AB if giving all citizens ten shares spread across ten years had been done, instead of all at once, at least a market price would have given the last 7 shares a known value and average russions could have been paid it or held shares. Ther’d still be “ex” commissar oligarchs. But on a less obscene level. And that simple change was deliberately evaded by the Bush-Cheney-sent ‘advisors.”

You sound like Geo C Scott in Dr. Strangelove: “What would a bunch of ignorant PEONS know from…”

Matthew I agree that criminals should go to jail.

One reason the Kaiser rushed to wr was that Russia in 1914 was the fastest industrializing nation. Still far behind but catching up. The same EXACT reason that AH rushed war in 1939.

Unknown said...

In occupied Germany and Japan, the US teams assigned tried to ensure that the society had a floor - that citizens had food and basic services and were returned to jobs if at all possible. The Neocons used the phrases "shock doctrine" and "creative destruction" and their reforms ripped the underpinnings of Russian society apart*. This was supposed to allow a suddenly flourishing free market, but resulted in sudden massive unemployment and currency devaluation. No wonder a lot of Russians consider the old system to have been better and would prefer a 'strong man' to weak government and economic chaos. China's switch to a carefully controlled 'free' market was much more successful, perhaps because they kept the howling neocon baboons out.

*Not defending the late stage Soviet "system" to any great extent, but it was keeping people alive and employed.


Alan Brooks said...

There was difference between Peter’s modernization and Stalin’s, by great orders of magnitude.
New, post-Soviet, Russia wasn’t new at all; it was, is, superficial newness tacked onto the ancien regime. (Ukraine discovered such, the Hard way.) Hasn’t DB written about that topic, many times?

Unknown said...


I'll agree that there was "difference between Peter’s modernization and Stalin’s, by great orders of magnitude." For one thing, Peter was operating within a system, but Stalin...well, actually Trotsky should be given a lot of credit for modernizing the USSR, but that's a whole other plate of pirozhki. Either way, you are right. Soviet Russia was transformational for better or worse, but included a lot of the flaws and some of the personnel of the old regime.
I just wanted to point out that even before the October Revolution, Russia was modernizing and was extending education to more and more citizens - even if only in self-defense. The shock of the Russo-Japanese war - losing to an Asian power - made this a mandatory goal.


David Brin said...

Pappenheimer, Russian strongman nostalgia has almost entirely skipped the Soviet era while Putin covers the land with czar statues and emblems.

important point. PRIMARY industrialization -- build railroads & dams and steel mills - is easy. "Send 100 rail cars of coal to this location each day or get shot."

A SECONDARY economy is much harder... the sovs never built a car or fridge anyone wanted. China solved that by copying the Japanese model of letting American consumers drive design while ferociously mercantilist.

Japan tripped on TERTIARY economics... more based on services and dispersed entities. PRC claims to have solved it... but still rely on Western consumers and may yet hit the 'wall' where planning fails, even with computer models. Or maybe not this time.

Alfred Differ said...


I invite you to be a little more optimistic about the FDIC. The one bank they handled during the meltdown last time got completely dismembered. All shareholders were impacted before the dribs and drabs got sold off to Wells Fargo.

I know this because my shares in Wachovia melted down. I had an unreasonable proportion of my 401K in corporate stock. I know own exactly one share of Wells Fargo while the rest of the 401K went kabloo-ey with the trusted agent.

FDIC doesn't screw around. The other banks were handled very differently... along with their shareholders.

DP said...

Matthew, brilliant insights but you did not go far enough.

Bankers can do anything they want to - no matter how sleazy, corrupt and illegal because

1) They've achieved complete regulatory capture of the very government agencies that are supposed to keep an eye on them

2) They control all of the politicians in congress, having effectively killed democracy years ago

3) The trump card bankers can always play is holding the banking system itself and the world economy hostage (which is the real meaning of "to big to fail")

4) No banker will ever go to jail for anything

The banking industry has achieved perfect capitalism uncontrolled by any regulations.

In fact, it is the bankers that control the government, not the other way around (I know libertarians hate government control, but how do the feel about a controlled government?)

So remember that next time you Righties want to bitch about the government.

Don't forget who is really in charge.

As for you Lefties out there fighting the system for a better tomorrow, you've already lost and the bad guys have won.

Game over.

gregory byshenk said...

Alan Brooks said...
We know what happened in Russia three decades via Cheney Inc; but it would’ve gone the same general way, anyway.

Others have made a similar point, but you are a bit too cavalier, here.

Yes, given the structure of Soviet society, some version of 'warlordism'/mafiosi structure was foreseeable as a likely outcome after the collapse of the USSR.

But that makes the actions of the Bushites not worthy of forgiveness, but greater condemnation. That is: with a bad outcome foreseeable, rather than taking any action to prevent it, they instead took actions that would make it more likely

It's as if someone said: "hey, that bridge there looks like it's in bad shape", and the response is "great! let's drive overweight truck across it!"

DP said...

Now that the SVB debacle has show us who is in charge we know that:

1) The world will continue to get hotter, more poisoned and more devoid of life because protecting the planet will cost the rich and powerful a lot of money in both upfront costs and future profits. They won't allow that.

2) Ordinary people will continue to the sink deeper and deeper into serfdom with ever fewer rights and protections (Arkansas just legalized child labor), kept in line by failing schools and fundy religions. Democracy will continue to be a sham.

And so both freedom and the planet die.

The system is too powerful and too entrenched. It cannot be reformed or changed

And there isn't anything we can do to stop it.

Game over.

Alan Brooks said...

If the game is over, we’ll have to pretend it isn’t and try anyway. Next year things will change like never before, though the outcome is completely unknown.

I don’t think Vlad regrets invading Ukraine, he’s sorry it wasn’t instigated another way.
War isn’t only concerned with nationalistic, political, economic and personal goals: also testing weapons (as deathnapninja indicated here); testing strategy & tactics; reducing the enemy’s military personnel and civilian population; inculcating impressionable youth with fighting spirit; sacrificing some youths for ‘religious’ reasons (“lambs to the slaughter”). And just plain ‘glory’.
Say Vlad lives for another five, ten, fifteen, twenty years. He’ll die thinking he had been a winner—and the people who died because of him were losers.
Before Tim McVeigh was executed, he announced that the score was 168 to 1.

Darrell E said...

Blogger matthew said...

"Progressive policy, taxation, and regulation has a slight chance of saving us from horrible darkness. Submission to the wishes of the billionaires only leads to darkness. Today, we saw, again, the rich win."

Might be worth it to re-"frame" this as something like Classical Conservative taxation, ala Eisenhower.

Darrell E said...

Regarding EVs.

1) Yes, EVs are the way to go, and they are the way we are going. They are already better than ICE in just about every way. Take note of what the 4th best selling passenger vehicle in the world is (not just among EVs, but ALL passenger vehicles, period).

2) Lithium battery recycling is already a thing. One of the major EV manufacturers included battery recycling in their plans from the get go. They built the capability into their first plant. And they significantly increased their recycling capability last year.

3) Which brings us to battery longevity. So far that manufacturer I mentioned in 2 has almost no batteries to recycle, even though they have been producing EVs for 15 years. Why? Because their battery packs last so long.

4) Recycling of car size battery packs is not necessarily going to mean processing them for raw materials. When a pack is no longer suitable for a vehicle it is very often still quite suitable for stationary storage. They don't typically fail catastrophically, their capacity just degrades over time / recharge cycles. But even if a pack is down to 50% of original capacity that's still a useful amount when the mass of the pack doesn't matter because you don't have to carry it around in a vehicle.

5) Battery technology is steadily advancing all the time. Not just chemistries but also how to build large packs, how to maintain them and how to control charging and discharging to maximize recharge cycles.

Any analysis claiming that EVs aren't worth changing to, or that recycling lithium battery packs is unknown technology is flawed. Rather, the former is flawed analysis and the latter is simply factually incorrect.

DP said...

No Alan, we should try and emulate the monks that created self contained communities of decency, common good, and knowledge while the barbarians swept across what was once a great civilization.

You see the major flaw in the oligarchs' plans is that it is not sustainable and will come crashing down like a house of cards - taking them with it (no bunker in New Zealand is going to save them).

We can then rebuild something better from the rubble.

DP said...

As I get closer to retirement I get ever more appreciative of how lucky I am to be where I am in life.

And so I look to give something back by joining groups like "Engineers Without Borders"

They are modeled on the more famous Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières.

I worked from them years ago, and designed a sewer line for a village in Rwanda that I'll never see.

So I looked them up again to rejoin on a more permanent basis.

Couldn't help but notice that their mission had changed.

They never used to work in America before.

But they have a new branch: Community Engineering Corps

"The Community Engineering Corps' alliance unites 200,000+ technical professionals and students to design engineering solutions for underserved communities in the U.S."

These include regions devastated by weather disasters generated by global warming and impoverished areas devastated by corporate greed.

It turns out that huge chunks of the good old US of A are now Third World.

Alan Brooks said...

we can rebuild from the rubble? You mean descendants can. 40 yrs from now we’ll be very old or very dead.

scidata said...

Some take Shangri-La and FOUNDATION even more literally than I do. CollapseOS is a project aimed at standing up a basic computing infrastructure from the rubble with only a backpack of parts to start from. Of course, it's based on FORTH.

Unknown said...


"...huge chunks of the good old US of A are now Third World"

I've got kin in Appalachia. The 3rd world was never that far away.

It's really weird that we can look at the present and project two diametrically opposed futures - I'd call this a dialectic except I might enrage OGH - and see both as likely. Mad Max and Ensign (sorry, Captain, now) Sulu aren't going to co-exist. This wave function is going to have to collapse soon - in the current century, I suspect.


Unknown said...

I could be very wrong here. Asimov himself pointed out that prior generations thought the world could not be both Catholic and Protestant, so you had Wars of Religion culminating in the 30 Years' Bloodbath. And yet the world remained both. We - or our descendants, genetic or spiritual - will see.


scidata said...

Pappenheimer: And yet the world remained both

Was that pure happenstance and restraint? Or was it something deeper, such as Darwinian or Fisherian diversity advantages? Fascism seeds its own demise.

Unknown said...

"Was that pure happenstance and restraint? Or was it something deeper, such as Darwinian or Fisherian diversity advantages?"

Talk to Hari Seldon about that. Historians have enough trouble getting out the straight data, let alone building bridges (pontificating) on it. I had that conversation with a sociology professor.

"Why did the Roman Empire fall?"

"Um, we're still trying to figure out how it held together as long as it did."


Darrell E said...

"Fascism seeds its own demise"

I agree. Unfortunately that is just as true for any other type of rule / government that humans have contrived to date. And the worst types, like fascism and similar, can last a long time and cause plenty of misery along the way.

Robert said...

"Why did the Roman Empire fall?"

"Um, we're still trying to figure out how it held together as long as it did."

Did the test the null hypothesis that it was luck? If the end of an empire is a Poisson process (big assumption) then a very few long-lived ones will happen naturally.

Alan Brooks said...

Asimov’s book on the RE says the proximate fall began with Commodus, that “the days of the Emperor getting along with the government were over.”
Good emperors aren’t always available—as we discovered in ‘16.

Unknown said...

Commodus assumed the throne in (checking) 177 AD. Rome itself fell in 476 AD, but the eastern half of the empire continued on until its death knell in 1453 AD. Still had an emperor, still had SPQR on its standards. Judging by those standards, The Empire fell longer than most states have existed.


David Brin said...

DP thanks for the ref to "Engineers Without Borders"

“This wave function is going to have to collapse soon - in the current century, I suspect.” - As I have always said.

David Brin said...

Fun with Midjourney:

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. So where is the external observer for this wave function collapse? None of us qualify.

The better analogy is biological. Our memes are contagious. Possibly lethal. As they age and evolve, though, they become more contagious and less lethal. You can see this in the conflicts between Catholics and Protestants. The most lethal carriers were also most likely to be killed.

David Brin said...

Pertinent to Alfred's latest:
There’s a Psychological ‘Vaccine’ against Misinformation
A social psychologist found that showing people how manipulative techniques work can create resilience against misinformation


Dwight Williams said...

I guess I was successfully innoculated. Probably a bunch of stories, maybe "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" among others...?

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

A social psychologist found that showing people how manipulative techniques work can create resilience against misinformation


That works for those who are genuinely misled and perhaps resent being played for patsies.

Many of Trump's believers seem to be willing participants in the deception. I doubt their minds would be changed.

JLowe said...

Followed the link to the Science for the Total Environment paper on deposition of wildfire particulates to the ocean and the resulting impacts. There seem to be a few other papers on the topic. What prompted me to reply was a link to a paper on an entirely different topic, riparian strips for attenuating aquatic impacts from applications of 2,4-D Pesticides worry me professionally (more on that later), but these seem to be promising baby steps towards a better risk-benefit calculation.

Unknown said...

I'll add to Alfred's comments the concept of 'friction' as defined by Clausewitz (drink!) - once an offensive starts problems and enemy actions tend to slow it down. If you apply that to political movements, I'd say that the more complete and decisive a victory you are trying to achieve, the less likely you are to succeed wholly.

And I will never reference that old German again. Not because he was German, but because he saw everything in terms of warfare. A one-hammer kind of guy.


Unknown said...

"Psychological ‘Vaccine’ against Misinformation"

In the US, that's the kind of class that would have to be federally mandated in - I think - middle school, with a refresher in high school, because too many states would violently resist including it in the state curriculum.


scidata said...

It may not have to be overtly political. Just a quick go-thru of Bayesian logic as common sense could help to blunt intentional misinformatiom, and even self-delusion like the Schlieffen plan and its modern equivalents. Steven Pinker has a good short one:

Alan Brooks said...

Asimov wrote that the seed for dissolution of the empire was planted as early as Commodus.

(Btw, the Holy Roman Empire
wasn’t Holy or Roman.)

Alfred Differ said...

Understanding the tools to be used in one's torture can do a number of things ranging from resistance to fear. I suspect foreknowledge DOES increase resilience in some, but I'm pretty sure it also produces resignation like we see is some who post here.


I wasn't thinking of you* directly just now, but your comment about the participants who are willing deceived is a partial resignation. The truth is we don't have to have to reach them all. We just need to nibble away a couple of percentage points in key areas for now. We only have to discourage SOME of Trump's people.

* I was thinking of DP and locumranch and ...

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

but I'm pretty sure it also produces resignation like we see is some who post here.

I wasn't thinking of you* directly just now,

If you knew me in my teens and twenties, you would be thinking of me. I got better.

Alan Brooks said...

IA wrote:
“with Commodus, the long period of the emperor [getting along with his people] was over.”

reason said...

I just saw late in the previous thread this from our host David:
Every generation must adapt to the maneuvers of cheaters.

I wanted to strongly concur with this. I keep saying looking at sports, how the rules have to constantly evolve as teams find ways of exploiting them that are to the detriment of the game. I think a corollary of this has to do with constitutions and nobody has this right. I think you need to renew constitutions every few generations (say every 75 years). But with a trick. The constitutions agreed should be introduced first in 25 years. That way short term political considerations will play little to no role.

Alan Brooks said...

That’s it. A constitutional convention would sunset the old one say 25 yrs after adjourning.

“*I was thinking of DP and Locumranch and...”

and whom?
I’m only resigned to our age-group’s demise in a few decades—unless longevity research makes absolutely colossal strides.

Unknown said...

Bruce Sterling in 1988 wrote "Islands in the Net" with a neat description of giant offshore tanker ships growing yeast as a primary food/meat replacement. Chalk another one up to scifi authors accurately predicting the future.

Alfred Differ said...


Not you.
You are a bit too optimistic to qualify. 8)


Lots of us guys are depression drenched in our 20's. I give an automatic pass for those years and pay more attention to our 40's. 8)

My focus on later years only got amplified after I read Sapolsky. Anything we do before our brains are finished being wired up (layers connecting mostly) is what we do at less than our full potential and mature adults.

locumranch said...

I cannot believe what I'm reading here, as DP offers up recycled tripe about a secret cabal of banksters & financiers who literally 'rule the world':

Bankers can do anything they want to - no matter how sleazy, corrupt and illegal because

1) They've achieved complete regulatory capture of the very government agencies that are supposed to keep an eye on them

2) They control all of the politicians in congress, having effectively killed democracy years ago".

In fact, it is the bankers that control the government, not the other way around...

Don't forget who is really in charge.

That these weaponized 'dog whistle' rants are not only tolerated here, but are actually seconded by the likes of Matthew, it's absolutely disgusting.

That our so-called 'Smart People' seem so taken with the anti-meritocratic principles of Equity, Equality & Communism, this smacks of a high level of self-loathing and a desire for self-erasure.


Larry Hart said...


That these weaponized 'dog whistle' rants are not only tolerated here,...

What? You don't want to belong to any club that would have you as a member?

Tim H. said...

There was aq news item about the Russians, Saudis and Iranians* meeting to work around US attempts to encourage them to play nice

*The Iranians haven't forgiven us for restoring the Shah, sometimes voting Republican is a gift that keeps giving long after most of those voters are under the grass.

Alan Brooks said...

Bones (am going to call loc that from now on) writes:
“equity equality & Communism.”

Communism? Communism ended three decades ago.

David Brin said...

Find me a human civilization and era when those at the top did NOT use inordinate power and influence to prevent fair competition and accountability from below. Some were decent folks who tried to use that power with some generosity or wisdom ... a majority definitely not. In fact that is the ONE greatest lesson of history...

...and a steep burden of proof applies to anyone who whines that all that has NOW changed! That those poor secretive inheritance brats hiding trillions in Cayman accounts and donating billions to politicians (primarily but not only the GOP) are somehow NOT a principal locus of devastatingly cruel, stupid and malignant cheating, nowadays.

Even though human history shows the burden of proof is thus... I am confident we can bring forth prooffrom our side in a veritable tsunami.

The reflex to kowtow before plantation lords has always been a confederate fundamental.

matthew said...

Thanks for the disinformation "vaccine" link, Dr. Brin. That is a good one.

Tony Fisk said...

The secret cabal is comprehensively covered by Sarah Kendzior and Andrea Chalupa on their 'Gaslit Nation' podcasts (and in Kendzior's books).

While the imagery of Sterling's offshore tankers reused as yeast farms have a literary appeal, the big attraction of precision fermentation technologies is how little space they require compared to the 'range'. No need to push them offshore.

Note that the world has recently committed to preserving 30% of land as wilderness.

Tim H. said...

Something interesting, concerning the foundation's of personal computing, as we know it:

Perhaps I should say conceptual foundations, the Alto is much closer to now, but also shows the state of what was available to build from, no 80386*, 68000 that first enabled a powerful computer on one board, the Z80, 6800 and 6502 lacked the power to do a GUI quickly.

*intel's first commercial CPU with contiguous memory access, previous efforts were extensions of 8000 series and a bit of a kluge-fest, IMO.

Tim H. said...

Another bit to consider for near future fiction, "X86" based computers become fringe, for now, Apple has one X86 based machine, which may linger a bit longer, because the M series can't be a drop in replacement. For a lot of folks, a lot of ARM cores on an SOC with fast access to on chip memory & storage (Which will preclude owner updates) will be just fine. I don't expect the future to be Apple, but they have defined much of the basic parameters... and each desktop screen will remind older folks of the Alto & Star.

Larry Hart said...

Stonekettle lectures on perspective (or, "There's no pleasing some people.")

What would you do if you had enough?

Would you enjoy your life?

Would you really?

Because that's the reality for a significant number of Americans.

Not all, certainly. No, certainly not all. But many. Most even. We have enough. More than enough. Especially compared to those elsewhere in the world who very much don't have anywhere near enough.

But, that's the funny thing, isn't it?

That's the thing about having enough: it's never enough.

I've got a neighbor here in this backwater little Southern town where I live. If you watch the various podcasts I'm on, you've heard me mention him before. Got to be about 80. Lives in a nice house, middle of town. Nice neighborhood. I don't know, but he looks well fed. Drives a nice SUV. Huge sign out front. XY equals Male! He's so mad about trans people that he's got a sign in front of his house. That's how mad he is. But, in this town, the odds that he's ever even met a trans person (that he knows of) are vanishingly small. I doubt he could count on the fingers of one hand the number of trans folks he's met in his entire life. Yet, he's mad about it. So mad he's got a giant flag in his front yard. He can't be happy so long as those people exist somewhere in the world even though they literally have no impact on his life in any fashion. Goddamn, is he mad about it. Miserable. Angry. Happy people don't put up signs like that.

But then, happy people don't go to church or watch Tucker Carlson either.

Howard Brazee said...

I wonder about some possibilities with lab-grown meat:
1. A much larger varieties of animals will be used.
2. Some meats might not be related to any animals.
3. I could even have meat made out of *me*!!!

That last one could really have interesting religious impacts.

scidata said...

Tim H: CPU with contiguous memory access

Ding ding ding. The heart of whole issue. The RCA 1802* arrived in 1976, and it, running FORTH, found major success in space probes (mainly due to its orthogonality, flexibility, low power consumption, and ability to clock right down to DC for long flights). It's a long, fascinating tale that eventually leads to computational psychohistory, which I may recount on my own blog someday.

I'm ambivalent about Xerox and especially the theft by Jobs and then Gates. We were on the brink of true, pervasive computational thinking when we took a hard, screeching turn into the facile world of sifting eye candy. Human Computer Interface (HCI) became the goal, not human understanding of computation. The Fermi paradox may have its solution right there.

* 5,000 transistors as compared to the billions in today's silly garbage. But I'm not bitter, I just continue work on the SELDON I.

Unknown said...


"meat made out of *me*"

I think Arthur Clarke already wrote that story. He predicted that, marketed without advertising its "source", it would be quite popular.


Larry Hart said...


"meat made out of *me*"

I think Arthur Clarke already wrote that story. He predicted that, marketed without advertising its "source", it would be quite popular.

I'm telling you. Soylent Green. The film was even set in 2022.

locumranch said...

From my current vantage in California, I agree with Dr. Brin, as there has never has been one and never will be a human civilization and era when those at the top did NOT use inordinate power and influence to prevent fair competition and accountability from below, including & especially our current one.

California and the greater USA are sinking ships, captained by fools who rule by 'diktat', and you only have to look to France & Israel at this very moment to confirm that they are no longer democracies, as their intellectual-yet-idiotic ruling castes attempt to force through legislation opposed by 70% of its citizenry.

Perhaps unwittingly, Dr. Brin's quote both describes & condemns rule by the 'Smart People' expert class (a true minority that represents less than 10% of the human population) as a top-down tyranny subject to inevitable correction.

Just tune in to France24 (today!!) to hear the 'Marseillaise' ring out:

Allons enfant de la patrie
Le jour de gloire (le jour de gloire) est arrivé (est arrivé)
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L'étendart sanglant est levé

Aux armes, citoyens
Formez vos bataillons
Marchons, marchons!
Qu’un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons!

Too bad, so sad, that this is exactly the revolution that our most incautious DP & Matthew have often wished for, a purge of banksters, financiers, the middle classes & other Rothschilds and a most unpleasant-but-easily-foreseen consequence of a hubristic ruling class hellbent on self-erasure and an enforced diet of bugs & synthetic meat.


Ummm, Arthur Clarke's "Ambrosia": It's just so much more available, cheaper & delectable than bugs & synthetic crap. And it's whats for dinner. Soon.

David Brin said...

“That last one could really have interesting religious impacts.” Not if you ever chewed off a piece of cuticle or hangnail.

L – “ I agree with Dr. Brin, as there has never has been one and never will be a human civilization and era when those at the top did NOT use inordinate power and influence to prevent fair competition and accountability from below…”

"And will never be"? Is it remotely possible he feels zero embarrassment about this? His careful use of roman vs italics shows there is a corner of this twisted soul that wants to at least feign honesty, but he winds up deliberately choosing a bald faced lie.

The rest (skimmed) is just blah blah blah defense of feudal rule by inheritance brats and their flatterers. duuuuuuuh.




David Brin said...


Bill_in_the Middle said...

Another one of OGH predictions looms:

David Brin said...

Shouldn't there also be a sci fi prize for super accurate prediction?