Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
Saturday, July 04, 2009

  Side benefits of the universal information system



I don't think Andrei Sakharov got it entirely right, but man, did the internet come close to fulfilling his prediction!

I keep wondering what was in the ellipsis between "development. ...But the true historic role" - but that information is not on the Internet, yet. Books - at least the ones still covered by copyright, and those long out of print, but still covered by copyright - are only readily accessible via amazon, or not at all.

Babelfish was an early start at breaking down those barriers of language and culture, and google translate is taking that to a whole new level.

New forms of media have arisen, usenet, blogging, twitter, facebook... People can run simulations of the Hubble repair on their desktops, crowdsourcing has become popular where people routinely collaborate, in real time, all around the planet, from richest country to the poorest...

And yet, so many problems are still with us. Do I think they are intractable? No! If I didn't think that we could solve all the problems remaining for humanity, in part, via better technology, I'd be really depressed all the time, instead of just some of the time.

Most of my last week or three of blogging (A New Grand Tour of the Solar System,Sunday Space grabbag,Big Waves, Bad Knees) have been, indirectly, in response to what Chip commented on a blog post of mine last month.His point stung. I DO try to read multiple viewpoints but sometimes fall into a rut of reading stuff that re-inforces my pre-existing opinions. So I read his links - Kunstler, about the cluster-f*** nation, and Orlov, about the effects of Peak Oil and definancialization...

I was depressed for days.

Yet, my reaction, my self-trained reaction, of looking for an opposing viewpoint, and exploring the history of the ideas and predictions, finally kicked in... I went and researched Kunzler, and found he'd made specific predictions that turned out to be wrong, so far. It doesn't mean that he's wrong on everything, it just means he isn't God. I completely agree with Kunzler about the core problem - today's civilization relies on cheap energy, and it is running out. His solutions are interesting, and no doubt there are others that both agree with (both of us) and are trying to solve the problem.

So, Chipper - I have a suggestion - go read someone optimistic for some balance, and some optimism, once in a while. I still find Buckminster Fuller comforting...

I have spent the last days being relentlessly optimistic, and arguing with people that I think are making the wrong decisions, or doing the wrong thing over and over again, because of habit.

Yesterday I ran into a lady with a BS in Social work, who was taking a quick two week tour of Central America before returning to America to study for a Masters. Getting more education is a worthy goal, but her reasoning was flawed - there were no jobs for her existing background and school was all she knew how to do. She had no debt but was preparing to take on a lot of it to get her Masters... I strongly encouraged her to continue her wanderjahr, if she could, find something that she loved to do, that paid, and stay out of debt....

Last week I also went and reviewed the current state of the climate change debate, and found no reason to change my opinion that waiting for more data to come in was the right thing. I am especially looking forward to Anthony Watt's report on the effects of bad siting for temperature measurement on the global warming average.

And to balance out the bad news in Honduras...

I read about solar power satellites being funded, and about improving tuna aquaculture, about the accomplishments of legendary engineer Isambard Brunel, and the Age of discovery... and drooled over the upcoming model S all electric sedan, from Tesla Motors. After witnessing 10s of billions of dollars poured down the rathole bailout of America's failed carmakers, seeing Tesla - an American company, based in California, a company trying to build cars people actually want, after being forced to sell part of themselves to Daimler - finally get a loan sufficient to build the plant to create that car, in California - really cheered me up.

And - thanks to the universal information system, predicted, more or less accurately, by Sakharov, in 1974, I was content to believe, once again, that somehow, we'll muddle through.

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Comments:
"So, Chipper - I have a suggestion - go read someone optimistic for some balance, and some optimism, once in a while. I still find Buckminster Fuller comforting..."

Umm, the entire modern culture is one gigantic advertisement pushing 'everthing is great, cheap energy is good, Exxon is solving pollution, Monsanto is creating a new sustainable future, The government is here to help' etc ad nauseum.

Men With Guns(tm) this very day are moving people off of land held in commons casting them loose to seek a future making crap for sale at wallmart or starve all around the world.
We here in the west have traded main street for wall street, and now we are reaping the benefits.

Sure, when standing on the peak, and everywhere you look is down, it's tempting to state that 'every direction leads us down'. Wonder why that is?

When those who have made the most profit by bring us at large to this peak, spend many times more on advertising to press the point that everything is fine, than they do on r&d to figure a way out of this mess, well, please pardon my cynicism.

Look, right here in my dear ole West Virginia, down in the coal fields: Mountain top removal continues unabated. Now, you'll hear folks the world over cry over the destruction of the rain forest. Fair enough, yet what few people realize is that these allegheny mountains are a refugia of biodiversity perhaps equal to, or maybe even exceeding that of the amazon watershed rain forest. Damned hard to tell however, as it is quite literally being blown up and buried under rubble in the endless pursuit of more and more and more energy to light up empty parking lots all night, to power street lights along the new highway infrastructure, to keep the data centers cool for the endless google empire, etc. The birthplace of rivers here in the east being poisoned at the source. Of course, The coal companies all claiming that everything fine, the water issues are all EPA compliant, not mentioning that all these watersheds are deeply impacted. The effects being currently mitigated by huge water treatment programs. Programs that must be maintained using chemical industry inputs in perpetuity. Do you know how long perpetuity is? All the while, the advertising about the bright new world of tomorrow powered by Clean Coal calm the sheep back to sleep.

This isn't history, this is right now. Today.

If I thought for one minute that anyone actually gave a crap, I might have reason for optimism. That 'fair and balanced' might have some value. But in view of the preponderance of staggeringly insane pursuits currently being undertaken, coupled with some even more crazy stuff on the drawing board, well, , no I do not think we are moving in the right direction. not at all.

Not even close.
 
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Okay, on the Optimism side:

I think I've posted this before, but
Lester Brown's website, Earth Policy Institute has some good and useful stuff.
Not the least of which is the complete contents of Plan B 2.0 available for reading online, in your leisure time.

http://www.earth-policy.org/Books/PB2/Contents.htm

Now, a lot of this reads like the old Club of Rome stuff, (from the late 60s? before we 'knew') However, Lester Brown in my opinion, is the kind of thinker who deserves to be much more broadly read than he is at the current time. He's an optimist who seems to get the issues that face us as a civilization, and us writ large as a biosystem, and thinks there are positive things that can be done.

I've not yet read Plan B 3.0, as it took me well over a year to absorb Plan B 2.0.

Anyway, there you go. There is plenty more. But this thing of believing that everything is fine, and *they* will figure out some grand new technology that will fix all our problems so we can continue to live in a world of consumption and plenty in my opinion, is just so much noise, that it in fact, is the greatest problem facing us.

http://www.earth-policy.org/Books/PB3/Contents.htm
 
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