Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Corny Schemes

The cover of Time Magazine shows an ear of corn sheathed with dollar bills instead of leaves. See: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1725975-1,00.html

Some seem to be finally willing to write about, what some of us engineers and scientists have been saying, since ethanol biofuels were first proposed. It won't save anything. It will cause inflation and world famine. It will increase the carbon in the atmosphere. Now the bandwagon may be impossible to stop or the ethanol financial bubble will burst. The cover of Time may be an early warning. Hopefully that's the case. Reverberations from the collapse may not be too drastic. There are big bucks and big egos invested in this concept that will fight to preserve this bad idea. Fortunately, President Bush has hopped on the ethanol bandwagon, thereby making it a fair target for the media.

The philosophical question is why does this happen? We know that individuals make bad decisions because of bad information, bad models, bad motivation, bad execution, etc. One would imagine that a large group of people could somehow average out their defects and come up with fewer failed decisions. It doesn't seem to work that way. Why?

As you know, I prefer anecdotal evidence over statistical evidence. I believe most of all (not exclusively) what I personally experience. I testified once before the Hawaii Senate Committee on something or other. I testified that the Senate needed to do a better job finding disinterested parties to make recommendations concerning technical proposals before it. Most proposers were only interested in funding dollars not actual progress on solving a problem. I cited ocean thermal conversion and hydrogen energy as examples of a waste of time and tax payer money and gave my reasons. The senator from the Big Island angrily cut me off with some nonsense about "we would never have half the progress that we have in this world if people listened to nay-saying scientists and engineers." I found out later from a friend in the senate that the Big Island resort owners who the senator represents, were benefiting from the world hydrogen conference held each year in Kona.

That's a long way of saying that I think we make bad decisions in part. because of corruption and because people just don't want to hear that something won't solve their problem. Nobody likes nay-sayers and thereby short circuit the critical judgment capacity of human beings that normally (?) saves us from walking off cliffs. With respect -Joel
[09 April 2008 - Edited by Ira to add image and make link clickable]

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Writing a Novel

They say everyone has the makings of a novel in themselves.

What better way or day to introduce my science-based, near-future novel to the world than here and now!

2052 - The Hawking Plan is my free online novel. Please read it and pass it on!

Stephanie Goldenrod strives to save human life and civilization for an infinite future. Amorality, amore and deep ethical and philosophical issues.

What will life, liberty and technology be like several decades in the future?

  • A peaceful world where large-scale military conflict is absent.
  • A political economy dominated and effectively ruled by transnational corporations.
  • A civilization where reason is trusted and faith is suspect.
  • A "positive ID" regime where religion-based terrorism has been suppressed, along with virtually all anonymity and privacy.
  • A society where most people, including ministers, priests and rabbis are not literal believers.
  • A post global warming world where humanity has been decimated by genetic engineering disasters.
  • A population served by Intelligent Robotic Agents, certified intelligent at the average human level.

A brilliant plan to spread human life and civilization far and wide into space as insurance against further disasters here on Earth. 2052 - The Hawking Plan

Ira Glickstein