Why I’m an Optimist: Large Scale Macro Trends

A symbol to me of the power of our future, and our technology. I traveled thousands of miles in mere hours to snap this digital photo and capture it on a chip the size of a postage stamp.

While we move forward in technology at a furious pace there certainly are some huge gaps, and as those gaps and verges close we will see many new things that nobody predicted nor could have predicted; and we will see old things fade away. The largest scale macro trends will continue regardless of gaps and pitfalls; if one path to the future closes a thousand others will open. It’s been that way for most of our history and that’s a large scale macro trend I don’t expect to falter.

In future articles I’m going to outline some gaps I’ve seen, and potential means to close them. Please keep in mind however that nobody can predict the future – that you can only predict trends. Even when predicting trends you are likely to get the future wrong if you look at micro or macro trends — you cannot predict which trends will continue, and which will end, you can only look at the large confluences of trends and attempt guesses at which are most likely to continue. In other words you know that it’s likely that the Mississippi will make it to the Gulf of Mexico regardless of the oxbows and loops it makes.

Think of the sharp trend lines and market charts once there of VHS and Beta Max tape manufacturing and sales to get an idea of what I mean. At the dawn of the tape age, none could predict with certainty the micro trend of the war between the formats, or whether the macro trend of tape sales in general would continue, but it was easy to step back and see the larger scale macro trend of generic technology – data storage media would continue to change, but storage would continue to become less expensive, smaller in form and format, and more widely available.

Whether that tape machine was capturing and streaming back data in your Betamax, VHS, or computer room backup tape carousel it was all same-same when you consider the larger macro function of the technology: Capturing data for preservation and/or later playback. That was global.

The generic larger purpose of tapes and the various tape formats was to record and preserve data. The real trend wasn’t between the formats or the physical shape or the protocols: it was really towards more data in less physical space and for less cost. That large scale macro trend was occurring in all formats, from silicon to tape to hard drives to optical and it continues through this day. It’s also quite possible that some other technology will replace both Blue Ray and HD-DVD before that format battle ever finishes.

A few years back it would have been a massive project in capital and expense to perform a one time physical transfer of 650 gigabytes of data between two companies or vendors – however right now a single person could pop into SAM’s or Best Buy and pick up at 1 Terabyte or 2 Terabyte USB drive and get that transfer done in under two hours if you eliminate the travel time. Even better than that you can see storage devices becoming something a bit more than just storage devices. One example is the “Eye-Fi” chip – it’s specialized storage for Digital cameras, but it’s also a GPS and a Wifi network adapter for your camera. It’s the size of a postage stamp, and the width of a couple of quarters.

There are cards with larger memory space, and you could put an entire K-12 education in the space of one of these postage stamp cards if you worked at it.

So when looking at the longer term future to get to accurate predictions of trends you must take them to higher functional large scale levels, or look at them as very large scale macro trends. Worldwide soybean production going up is not a large scale macro trend. The large scale macro trend behind that simplex market trend is that food supplies and therefor diets are diversifying globally.

This large scale macro trend is the confluence of several technologies crossing verges, and no particular macro trend (in the marketing, woo-woo “we are trying to sell you something” definition of macro trends) is responsible.

Instead all are somewhat needed, including better packaging, preservation, transport, free trade, the internet and television proliferation of diverse cultural methods of cooking,  etc . etc.  Don’t worry however foodies: if any of these smaller macro trends falters, something else will take its place. The large scale macro trend of more diverse diets and food supplies is not going to end anytime soon because large scale macro trends are measured in centuries and millenniums, not years and decades. They are determined only in part by demographics and desires as marketers would tell you, but also by technology.  There might be momentary fluctuations – some that last a decade or two, or even some like the Dark Ages that last centuries, but the large macro trends will continue. Other examples of large scale macro trends:

  • Worldwide capital increases
  • Our sources of energy multiply
  • Our ability to store and transfer knowledge increases
  • Life spans increase

Technology becomes more complex, and more capable, while becoming more accessible as individual powers and capabilities increase. In my garage sits a car with more horsepower than most medieval kings could muster in a few moments, in my computer is a powerful media studio that can broadcast to the world over the internet, on tap at the nearest electrical outlet is more energy than that held by all of the tyrants in history who ever held human slaves.

The particular spots or time where these large scale macro trends fail are the exceptions not the rule. Afghanistan and Sub-Saharan Africa are two places where these overall trends break right now,  but they are the exceptions not the rule, and over time even those places will improve.

So it is that I am a confident optimist based on the past example of our long history. Whatever pratfalls, missteps, and tumbles that humanity has taken we have always managed to dust off and carry on with the journey after. As we witness one of those pratfalls that will become the biggest environmental disaster since we started recording them in the Gulf of Mexico I am also confident that over time the problem can be overcome.

What we Know About Climate Change

A new video from Peter Sinclair who outlines some of the very basic and elementary facts and proofs of man made global warming, and how they are supported.

I’ve known about man made global warming since the 1980’s, when I used to point it out as a good reason for increasing production of nuclear energy to the biomass and other alternative energy proponents in alt.sci.energy while arguing pro nuclear energy. It wasn’t a very convincing argument back then, and even while making it I thought we had a couple of centuries to get there. I would argue by saying that nuclear was inevitable because in a couple of centuries it was the only reasonable source and we would have to use it eventually anyway — why not start now? Not many bought it.

They weren’t buying it back then since at that point the left was highly populist and anti science. They would chant things like “Split wood, not Atoms!” and “The only physics I know is Ex-Lax” at university speeches when real scientists would try to point out that nuclear energy production wasn’t as dangerous as it was portrayed to be in “The China Syndrome”.  That was a loosing battle back then when I watched Amory Lovins and crew shut down Rancho Seco as a large wave of anti-science and unreason swept over the left.

Democrat Bill Proxmire was attacking NASA and other science institutions at every opportunity, new wave cults were taking over the left, and even some secular humanists whom I highly respected were falling sway to anti-science forces for politically expedient reasons around nuclear non proliferation. Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov were not as supportive of increased nuclear energy production as they could have been, and joined with the left on that due to Reagan’s missile defense program among other things. Those were depressing times.

So here we are – thirty years later. We got the worst of outcomes from the left going populist and the right giving up for fiscal reasons – it was cheaper to burn coal. Meanwhile the Nuclear proliferation Djinn was out of the bottle even back then – Pakistan and India now have nuclear weapons, as does North Korea. Iran is on fast pace to get them as well. We also use more of the dirtiest source of power, coal, than ever before.

Politically the forces of populism that created this worst of both worlds scenario have flipped topsy-turvy – the left got a new generation of pro-science rebels and in the face of reality even old guard environmentalists like Patrick Moore who founded Greenpeace, and Stewart Brand of Whole Earth Catalog fame have converted to pro nuclear energy. Some defense oriented Democrats are even beginning to see sense in missile defenses shared with our allies and have put aside knee-jerk complaining about missile defense.

On the right, religious fundamentalists now rule the Republican roost and  anti-science populism has now infested my party. So here comes my mea culpa — for political expediency and because I don’t agree with the approach of cap and trade, because I thought we had much more time, I’ve spoken out against the Anti-AGW movement.

My best attempt at convincing myself and others was back here, and as you can see from the strikeouts, and the other arguments since deflated many times, I didn’t do too great a job. You can even see me repeating denialist talking points in the comments, even though I was really trying to cut down on alarmism. Again, this was wrong.

If there were an article I could retract from my blog that would be the one. I can’t with any integrity just pull it however, I like truth best – so there it is, my guilty moment. Where I didn’t speak whole truths, where I omitted the fact that AGW is very real and measurable right now. It’s made me unhappy for a long time that I would subsume science to politics so easily, so consider this my confession and my attempt to make it right.

My stance on the  issue still hasn’t changed much mind you – I think that the answer lies in high energy environmentalism. If we are to live on a clean planet then cheap and clean energy is the only reasonable means I see to getting there. I can’t support starving people to fight AGW, but I recognize we have to do something and quickly. We can’t wait another century as I had thought — we must start now.

Things That Wake You in the Night

Things that wake you in the night

moon-11-30-09What wakes you from sound sleep in the middle of the night?

For me it’s usually thoughts of mortality – the past few years it’s been the mortality of our species, or the mortality of those facing the war on terror on the front lines, or those actually living in terror in countries where Al Qaeda and their ilk run rampant like Pakistan and Somalia.

Tonight maybe it’s the mortality of my mom as she faces her second confrontation with cancer, or perhaps it was just a self pitying sense of my own mortality as I laid there awake with only my right eye open and debated whether it was worth it or not to toss about a bit and try to get back to sleep.

Maybe it’s none of those and just the night trains; first a laden long train of food from the harvest thrumming and clacking lightly across the plains, then a multi-engine laboring leviathan train of coal groaning across the plains hauling heavy black carbon from the deep seams of the earth to the power plant. Then a third train lightly thrums through, blaring its horn like the others at each distant intersection; creating a far dopplering diesel wail through the cold mist that’s become snow further West.

I doubt the train theory however; we live near the head of the Santa Fe trail and the trains run in multiples here every night, hence I am quite used to every sound they make and find them comforting reminders of the industry of our country when I hear them in the dark of the night.

So then I opened my other eye, the one that’s not sadly obsessed with reality, and went downstairs to write this and light my first cigarette of the day. Yes, I am a fool who is familiar with Akrasia.

Virgin CEO Branson Fully Favors Nuclear Energy

Virgin CEO Branson Fully Favors Nuclear Energy

Richard is somewhat halting in public speaking but what he says here is very pertinent and right on the money.

This is exactly in synch with what oil economy specialists say, especially in light of the new restrictions on shipping diesel fuel. The sooner we can free up more light sweet crude from power production for transport, the better.

Obama’s Nuclear Energy Limbo

Obama’s Nuclear Energy Limbo

A good post is up at NEI discussing the ambiguity of the Obama Adminstration’s stance on new nuclear energy plants in the face of the push for cap and tax:

If a cap and a price are imposed on carbon dioxide emissions, [nuclear] plants could be among the biggest economic winners in the vast economic shifts that would be created by greenhouse gas regulations.

That’s from the New York Times, borrowing a story from Climate Wire, which while noting the nuclear plants achieve the goal of carbon emission reduction rather well, runs though the tough sledding it faces.

For example, President Obama is overly ambiguous in his support:

“The president needs to show his cards on nuclear energy,” said energy consultant Joseph Stanislaw, a Duke University professor. “He cannot keep this industry, which must make investments with a 50-year or longer horizon, in limbo for much longer.”

We’re not absolutely sure this is the right way to put it – Congress weighs in, too, and we’ve seen an EPA report that basically shows that carbon emission reduction goals are unattainable without nuclear energy. The nibbling around the edges is happening from both ends.

Just the Shot in the Arm the Economy Needs

Barack Obama again on why your electricity bill must raise…. to paraphrase him ” uh… if you can convince enough people of that, then…”  I have a freaking bridge to sell you. This isn’t what our economy needs, this isn’t what the third world countries need, it isn’t what your children’s future needs. It is what Greenpeace wants. Are we electing Greenpeace, or a president who really cares for the long term future of American, your children, and the world? [ handy reference to what higher energy prices lead to here…. hint: the costs are counted in human lives.] video below the fold

Continue reading “Just the Shot in the Arm the Economy Needs”

Enough is Enough

Before you view this remember that the Dems have been in control of congress in the two years leading up to the latest financial debacle. Remember that Joe Biden’s committee should have prevented this, but instead encouraged it. Remember that Barack Obama’s favorite housing advisor is Franklin D. Raines, former CEO of Fannie Mae who got out before the community outreach bad loan stack of cards collapsed. Remember that when the bad news hit Wall St yesterday that Obama was enroute to hobnob with Hollywood Highrollers.

John McCain’s 8 part economic plan, “Jobs for America” can be found here.

Here’s John speaking in Ohio today:

Transcript:

John McCain
Remarks
Vienna, OH
September 16, 2008

John McCain: “We’ve seen a telling moment in this campaign today. Senator Obama saw an economic crisis, and he’s found a political opportunity. My friends, this is not a time for political opportunism; this is a time for leadership.

“Too often, we hear people say America’s in decline. I reject that. I believe America’s best days are ahead of us. Governor Palin and I are going to reform Wall Street. We’re going to reform Washington. I’m going to fight for you, and I’m going to lead our nation forward in the greatest periods of prosperity in its history.

“And let’s have some straight talk. Senator Obama is not interested in the politics of hope, he’s interested in his political future and that’s why he is hurling in insults and making up facts about his record.

“Today, he claimed that the Congressional stimulus package was his idea. That’s news to those of us in Congress who supported it. Senator Obama didn’t even show up to vote.

“He talks a tough game on the financial crisis, but the facts tell a different story. Senator Obama took more money from Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac than anyone but the chairman of the committee they answer to, and he put Fannie Mae’s CEO, who helped create this problem in charge of finding his Vice President. That’s not change, that’s what’s broken in Washington.

“He talked about siding with the people, siding with the people, just before he flew off to Hollywood for a fundraiser with Barbara Streisand and his celebrity friends. Let me tell you, my friends, there’s no place I’d rather be than here, with the working men and women of Ohio. I’m going to fight for you and together we’re going to win in November.”

More on who really created the crisis at Hot Air
UPDATE: Here’s Chuckie Schumer and Jesse Jackson teaming up back in 2001 to help create this mess can you say “community organizer?”
Under the guise of stopping “predatory lending practices” Obama also participated in legislation like this in 2000. These programs supposedly stiffened controls, but at the same time took away all profitability from higher risk loans. By making it mandatory to treat risky borrowers just like borrowers with good credit through neighborhood HOME and HELP projects they created this crisis.
From the Chicago Tribune, 10-1-2000:

The senator believes that these inclusions will help reduce the number of foreclosures that have occurred in the state. The senator stated that “foreclosures started by subprime lenders in the Chicagoland area increased from 131 in 1993 to 4,958 in 1999, an increase of more than 3,600 percent.”

The senator obtained his foreclosure information from the National Training and Information Center, a non-profit organization in Chicago that does research on housing and other community related issues, including lending and neighborhood safety. It also provides training for those interested in how to do community organizing.

The NTIC currently also works with several affiliate groups, including the Indianapolis-based Organization for a New Eastside which compiles information that it receives from borrowers about their particular lending issues, as well as provides them with education, counseling and advocacy. O.N.E provides no funding to borrowers, though it refers them to local lenders and credit unions after counseling.

O.N.E recently took on the plight of a local family that felt it had been victimized during the purchasing of its home. The organization went to the local branch of the lender for a protest rally, demanding that the loan be looked at again.

So how can I say that when supposedly they were just worried about predatory lending practices and protecting borrowers? One of the things they enforced against was mandatory credit insurance for high risk loans. Without that they guaranteed more foreclosures even though they were supposedly preventing them.

UPDATE: Boston Globe reminds us of the other housing iniatives of Barack Obama
UPDATE: Who Supports Barack Obama’s Amazing fund raising abilities? Investment Bankers.
UPDATE: McCain Called for reform two years ago, See HERE.
UPDATE: Just a reminder that Republicans were calling for oversight of Freddie and Fannie five years ago but were blocked repeatedly by Democrats in Congress:

”These two entities — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — are not facing any kind of financial crisis,” said Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee. ”The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.”

Representative Melvin L. Watt, Democrat of North Carolina, agreed.

”I don’t see much other than a shell game going on here, moving something from one agency to another and in the process weakening the bargaining power of poorer families and their ability to get affordable housing,” Mr. Watt said.

Biden Voted Against the Trans Alaska Pipeline

Sarah Palin is very eloquent and convincing in this argument against the Obama/Biden energy plan, please watch the entire interview — she covers a host of salient points. I also got pinged in email a while back regarding the tagging of energy posts with “Hunger”. Just to bring all readers up to speed, energy prices and hunger are immutably wed. When energy prices go up, food prices will as well. Growing, transporting, and storing food is energy intensive. You can read those articles here.

Who is WE? WE is Anti-Nuclear Activists and Energy Stasists

Who is WE? WE is Anti-Nuclear Activists and Energy Stasists

In the series of articles titled “Gore Lied, Peopled Died” and others on global warming here I outlined and demonstrated how Kyoto and other global warming initiatives create energy and food poverty worldwide which leads to starvation, high infant mortality, poor sanitation, increased prevalence of disease, hunger, and limited futures for the world’s middle-class and poor. All of that’s easily demonstrable with UN data and newspapers showing past and current food and fuel crunches.  Now it’s time to dig into who the people in Al Gore’s Global Warming group really are — a surprising mix of strange bedfellows.

My brand of high-energy environmentalism runs counter to consensus on both sides, and it gores everyone’s political Ox as we will see when we delve into who “WE” is.

Continue reading “Who is WE? WE is Anti-Nuclear Activists and Energy Stasists”

You Know Things Are Bad When

You know thing are bad when the UN calls for Capitalism. Ban Ki Moon called for the end to tariffs, protectionism, and trade barriers in face of mounting food inflation:

“We simply cannot afford to fail,” the UN secretary general told a news conference at the UN Food and Agriculture (FAO) summit on food security. “Hundreds of millions of people expect no less.”

That’s understatement. Millions are hungry right now, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better. The sustained high energy prices the past few years have caught up to food production, and while the lowering of trade barriers will help the problem of “food inflation” quite a bit, lowering barriers alone will not stop the steady creep of hunger and poverty. It takes high energy to farm abundantly and cleanly; a point which is easily proven.

Continue reading “You Know Things Are Bad When”