[ExI] FW: How Electricity Became a Luxury Good

Kelly Anderson kellycoinguy at gmail.com
Wed Sep 11 17:48:16 UTC 2013

On Tue, Sep 10, 2013 at 5:02 PM, spike <spike66 at att.net> wrote:

> *From:* extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org [
> mailto:extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org<extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org>]
> *On Behalf Of *Kelly Anderson
> *Sent:* Tuesday, September 10, 2013 3:00 PM
> *To:* ExI chat list
> *Subject:* Re: [ExI] How Electricity Became a Luxury Good****
> On Tue, Sep 10, 2013 at 8:14 AM, spike <spike66 at att.net> wrote:
> **
> There is a good possibility we will not start on it until it is too late.*
> ***
> ** **
> >Yes Spike, please do define too late.****
> ** **
> >In Utah, Colorado and Wyoming, we have more fossil fuel BTUs than Saudi
> Arabia, though it does exist in hard to mine and transform rock shale form
> …****
> ** **
> ** **
> ** **
> Ja, all of these, but I was looking at the long term in the event that
> there is some fundamental reason why a singularity is impossible.  For the
> record, I think a singularity is both possible and inevitable, but there is
> value in mapping out a future in which it is not, or a future in which the
> singularity takes longer than we thought, analogous in a way to nuclear
> fusion power.  We have coal and we have oil enough for now and the next
> decade or two, but then what?

We have sufficient coal in the US for the next 400 years. I realized I
neglected to add that to the list. Now, if we needed to start using coal
gasification, it would probably reduce that number (and greatly increase
CO2 emissions). If we got electric cars working, which seems like a good
bet now that they are beginning to make significant battery breakthroughs
finally, then the number goes back up.

> ****
> The notion of a poverty trap is real.  I have some distant cousins who are
> trapped in that now: they live way the hell out in a holler in West
> Virginia, and have only a vague notion of what a computer does.  I can’t
> even communicate with them: I have no intentions of writing on paper and
> sending stuff with stamps on it.  I did that with their grandparents, will
> not do it now.  That represents a group of people genetically similar to
> me, who are in a poverty trap.  They do not use the internet; they are on
> the other side of a chasm which I cannot or will not span.

Some days I feel like I'm in a similar poverty trap created by the
government's mistreatment of me... but I'm not going to let them win.

> We can imagine scenarios where humanity gets caught in a poverty trap, or
> a memetic trap similar to what grips much of the middle east today.  The
> collective dedication to Mormonism in those places traps both the believer
> and unbeliever alike, slowing progress and causing retrogression.  If we
> don’t get something sustainable long term off the ground, I can easily
> envision most of humanity being far more concerned with their next meal
> than advancing science.

I don't know that we've ever had a future that looked long term
sustainable, but science gives me hope that we'll figure it out. The Easter
Island folks didn't have science, but then again, they didn't have
Mormonism to deal with either.

> Regarding oil shale, oil sands, fracking, sure we can do all that, but
> what I am looking at is a long term solution in the event that the
> singularity doesn’t happen.

If the Singularity doesn't happen before we run out of the resources we
already know about, I'll be taking a dirt nap before it's a problem. Is
that self centered? Perhaps. But every generation has its own stuff to deal
with, which includes the garbage the last generation left for them. Cold
war anyone? Jimmy Carter/Iran anyone?

> These other things will work for our lifetimes perhaps, but what then?

Well, then hopefully science will have moved forward. That's a long time to
get laser based launch capabilities working, for example.

> Also note that oil has made us comfortable and conservative.  We don’t
> want to change things when they work so well.  But China and India are
> coming, and they read the internet too.  They want to live like we do.
> Imagine that.  What happens to our oil reserves then?  Our coal reserves?

They may go away faster. But China has a command economy, and most of the
people who hate our lovely capitalist system should take hope that China
may come up with good answers. I think capitalism is more likely to come up
with the best answer myself, but it's good to have your bets covered.

> As an exercise Kelly, map out a future with optimistic models of current
> energy resources, and anticipating the technological rise of China and
> India.  Where does it lead?  Use top level estimates of greenhouse warming,
> just using top level first order approximations, and include increased
> radiation of heat with Boltzmann’s law.  Where does it go?  What happens if
> a billion Chinese people and another billion Indians want to drive SUVs?
> Then a billion more middle easterners get tired of being poor?

Look, I get where you're going. But I'm a trends guy. I like Kurzweil and I
like Hans Rosling even more. Both of them are optimistic, and I tend to be
as well. Now, I'm not pollyanna optimistic. Yes it could take some time.
Yes, a lot of people could die. Yes, there could be resource wars. But
China will claim the moon in the mid 2020s, and there's a lot of room for
communists up there. ;-)

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