Why it Matters

The future is happening right before our eyes and still most people can’t see it. As a synergist it comes natural for me to connect the dots. This blog tries to shed some light on the convergence that is right now taking place. It is a dangerous opportunity for modern civilization to get it right. But it also presents the threat that we could get it terribly wrong. (Check out a sampling of links at the bottom of this post.)

Here is my Thesis:

Thanks to Moore’s law (and its successors) computing power has doubled roughly every two years since the late 1980s. The result is that computing power has long ago outstripped the requirements of our laptops, i-pads or phones and has gone looking for other places to apply itself. It has found them in machine learning, algorithms, digital currencies, AI and all forms of automation.
During the Agrarian Age we produced most of our wealth through labor; animal labor and human labor. Then we found massive amounts of energy in the ground in the form of ancient sunlight (hydrocarbons) and the industrial age was born. We invented factories that combined energy with labor to produce massively more wealth than ever before. We introduced paychecks to redistribute that wealth through society and, as Henry Ford so effectively demonstrated, these paychecks supported all the spinoffs that acted as a multiplier.
Now we are rapidly entering the age of automation where literally everything will be automated: From the checkout at Tim Hortons to the massive trucks of the oilsands. The most conservative estimates are that 40% of all employees in North America will be redundant in 20 years. That number could be much much higher.  As big business tastes the sweet nectar of profit without labor they will be sure to expedite this evolution. Labor will become irrelevant to productivity gains and wealth generation. John Galt (for those of you who’ve read Atlas Shrugged) would be delighted.
As if that were not enough, we are also entering a time of massive energy transition. Whether the oil barons like it or not, offshore wind, solar power and battery storage are taking the world by storm. We are already producing 24/7 solar in parts of the world for the energy equivalent of $10 a barrel of oil. And analists like Toni Seba see a further drop of 80% in the cost of these energy sources. The carbon bubble is about to go ‘pop’ and no one is ready.
How significant is that pop? Consider this. A coal powered generating station requires a constant supply of coal for its entire lifespan. I used to manufacture the teeth for the machines that worked underground to cut the coal which was conveyed to the surface on pan lines and conveyors, then transported by train to open hearth furnaces in steel mills to produce the rails the trains ran on to deliver yet more coal to the Lingan power generating station in Cape Breton. Every step along the way required materials, labor and energy to keep it going.
Replacing that coal fired power plant (or gas plant or oil plant) with a solar installation will eliminate that massive supply stream. Once installed, a wind or solar power plant requires no feed-stocks. And it will happen becasue of cost savings alone, regardless of the environmental considerations. Much the same goes for electric vehicles. Muffler shops, parts stores, lube shops, repair garages, transmission shops, gas stations, all gone.
When we visited Wildpolsried in Bavaria back in 2013 we saw a village that produced six times as much energy from wind, solar and biogas as it needed. It used co-generating units to produce electricity and pumped the waste heat into the houses to heat them in winter. Since that heat was not needed in summer, they built a light industrial park on the edge of town and invited companies who needed cheap heat or steam in their processes to operate seasonally.
In 2014 I had a brief stint as president of a fledgling solar thermal company where I discovered that the biggest challenge with using solar to heat water was that it produced way too much heat in the summer time. To have hot water in the spring and fall required an installation capacity that was extremely hard to control with all that extra heat in the summer.
Normally, becasue of the high cost of the power plants and the arduous task of turning them on and off, we only build enough power capacity to precisely meet current demand. But if Seba is right, solar and wind will soon be so cheap that it will make economic sense to build way over capacity. In fact he is projecting that we will achieve 24/7 sustainable power supply by building enough capacity to meet our power needs during the lowest periods of solar and wind output.
That would mean that during the high periods we could have as much as three times more energy than we need. This opens up an entirely new segment of our economy based on almost free energy and that is where automation comes in. A robot doesn’t care if it works at night or during the day, on weekends or only part time, during the summer, and sleeps all winter. Unlike human labor, machine labor can easily adapt to this new economy. And it will not strike to raise wages, oppose layoffs, file grievances, or seek benefits.
In this age of automation and cheap energy, human labor will become obsolete. And the paycheck, which for the entire length of the industrial revolution served as the primary tool for the redistribution of wealth, will become an endangered commodity. Increasingly, wealth will be generated by energy alone as AI, machine learning and robots team up to build ever more and ever smarter robots.
Whoever owns the cheap energy production will own the wealth. And already some of the biggest companies on the planet are positioning themselves to be in control. Community owned energy projects, where they exist at all, are often gobbled up by big corporate interests as soon as they falter just a little. 
Energy is wealth. And this massive amount of new wealth will be created by this technological convergence whether we like it or not. The question is will it lead to widespread prosperity or ever escalating income disparity and social upheaval? Will we use this free energy for desalination and sustainable food production so no one ever goes without food or water on this planet or will be just create more super rich folks?
Policy makers will be forced to deal with the fallout. But to meet the IPCC requirements for climate action, and save our civilization, we need to skate where the puck is going to be, accelerate the process for sure, but also be prepared for it and find new ways to redistribute wealth in a society devoid of labor. We need to embrace the amazing opportunities of automation and sustainable energy to create new wealth in our communities and ensure that the wealth is placed into service for the people, not just the corporate interests.
But for all this to happen we need a systemic culture shift. It is culture that allows us to adapt fast enough to keep pace with these rapid changes. And our cultural framework is woefully out of date. We do not practice medicine like we did a century ago. We have dramatically updated our transportation, our communication, our technology, but our cultural guideposts remain firmly stuck in the muck of a hundred years ago. Us versus them polarization, greedy self interest at the expense of others, disrespectful extraction of resources, exploitation of other beings that share our ecosystem, all are relics of the past and serve us poorly as we catapult into the future.
One way to achieve this culture shift is to adopt a new word-view, one that is articulated in the Pledge to Build a New Tomorrow. If you care to explore it, you can find it here: https://newtomorrow.ca/
Return to Politics


Ever heard of Hyperautomation?

This was what Amazon looked like in 2020:

This was the state of automation in 2013:

The automated machine tools manufacturer recently launched a new bin-picking automation solution in partnership with Universal Robots (UR) that is being heralded the “next level in automation for turning machines.”

The Muratec infeed device features ActiNav™ flexible machine loading with real-time autonomous motion control software, intelligent 3D Vision, and UR’s world-leading cobots.

The shipping industry currently accounts for between 2.5% and 3% of global greenhouse gases emissions, according to the International Maritime Organization. Now a solution is emerging…

Capable of carrying 103 containers and with a top speed of 13 knots, it will use a 7 MWh battery, with “about a thousand times the capacity of one electrical car,” according to Jon Sletten, plant manager for Yara’s factory in Porsgrunn, Norway.  He says it will be charged at the quayside “before sailing to container harbors along the coast and then back again, replacing 40,000 truck journeys a year.” Fully autonomous, it needs no crew.

The race is on… Machine learning is accelerating. Will we be able to find ways to control it before it controls us?

“Artificial intelligence offers an unprecedented opportunity to… reshape the practice of healthcare.”
The shift towards a new “Healthcare 2.0” could soon be the biggest disruption to a trillion dollar industry since Amazon took over retail or Netflix changed the face of entertainment.
Deep Fakes are another way that ever increasing computing power is being utilized:
“Very quickly you can dismiss facts that are inconvenient for you. I am worried about the non-consensual porn. I am worried about the fraud. I am worried about the misinformation. But I’m really worried that we as a society are entering a place where everyone can have their own set of facts; well then nothing has to be true – everything can be fake.

“I don’t know how we move forward as a society or a democracy in that world.”

Here is how automation is being discussed in today’s world of investment and finance:

(video shows driverless delivery vehicle)
“Citing data from the Association for Advancing Automation, Reuters pointed out that industrial firms rang up nearly $1.5 billion worth of robots (29,000 to be exact) — a whopping 37% more than the comparable period in 2020. Separately, Google Cloud research in June showed that two-thirds of manufacturers using artificial intelligence (AI) are relying more heavily on it.”
“… a machine that can crank out tens of thousands of gourmet dumplings… in an HOUR. Chances are the machine won’t demand time off, ask for a raise — or be reluctant about getting vaccinated.”
Here is an excellent summary of the state of AI and robotics as of November 2021…
Perhaps the most provocative announcement at the event was Omniverse Avatars. Avatars’ toolkit includes pre-trained AI models for creating digital agents that enable autonomous conversational AIs for customer service, communications, gaming, and robotics, among other use cases. On its recent earnings call, Nvidia announced that these digital robots will cost $1000 per avatar per year in a world potentially with hundreds of millions of digital avatars operating alongside humans. Notably, these avatars will be stimulating sales of Nvidia’s hardware stack as well.”


“We are at that point where civilization could collapse or we could take it to the higher order.”

Floating Wind Farms open up a whole range of opportunity

China’s top private wind turbine manufacturer, MingYang, has introduced the world’s largest 16 MW offshore wind turbine with a 242 m diameter rotor, 118 m long blades, and a staggering 46,000 sq m swept area, the equivalent of more than six soccer fields.

The so-called MySE 16.0-242 turbine can generate 80,000 MWh of electricity every year, enough to power more than 20,000 households. According to MingYang, it can eliminate more than 1.6m tonnes of CO2 emissions over the course of its designed 25-year lifespan.


The costs of solar and coal power will be comparable across China by 2023 as solar energy conversion becomes more efficient and the cost drops, according to a new study by researchers in China and the United States.


The researchers also found that solar power, when paired with the capacity to store energy for later use, could meet more than 40 per cent of the country’s electricity demands by 2060, at less than 2.5 US cents per kilowatt-hour.

China is the world’s biggest producer of solar power. It had 170 gigawatts of installed solar power capacity by the end of 2018, up from 77GW in 2016.

The country is also the world’s largest solar cell manufacturer, producing 110GW of the 144GW of solar cells made globally in 2019, according to the International Energy Agency.

In the year 2,000 a supercomputer that was able to achieve one TerraFlop cost about US$ 46 million and occupied about 1,600 sq/ft of space. In 2020 a Sony PlayStation 5 performs about 10 Terraflops, costs about US$400 and sits on top of your television. That is the speed at which exponential processing capacity is growing. All that capacity is searching for ways to apply itself through AI, Autonomous transportation, robotics, and machine learning as you see in the column to the left.

But the same technological revolution is driving down the price of solar panels which are increasingly going to be manufactured in self contained, fully autonomous and automated plants.

Household power bills to fall by about $77 a year as developers bet on renewables

Australian Energy Market Commission says Queensland and Victoria will enjoy biggest falls by 2024 as new large-scale solar plants join electricity grid
An opportunity for automate production to tap into an ultra cheap energy source. Automation does not care when it operates. Start the plant up when energy is aplenty and then shut it down when it’s not.

This kind of production flexibility was not possible while we still had humans working 8 hour shift and drawing paychecks. But as automation and AI takes over and wealth will be generated by energy alone through robotics and algorithms production can easily adapt to the cycles of solar and ta into the overcapacity it naturally affords.


The wealth gap and the Pandemic

The Racial Wealth Gap

Shorter work weeks are the future. And coupled with a guaranteed livable income, it offers a fabulous way of redistributing wealth.

“In the US, almost 90 percent of equities are owned by the wealthiest 10 per cent of households, according to the Federal Reserve.

Not only do market gains flow overwhelmingly to the wealthiest, but the link also runs in the other direction: inequality contributes to the gravity-defying rise in markets, in a self-reinforcing cycle. The richest 11 per cent of the world population hold more than 80 per cent of its wealth, Credit Suisse estimates. This means that the rich have a lot of excess savings. There is, after all, only so much anyone can consume. This “savings glut of the rich” is a pile of capital that has to go somewhere.

“ A team at the New School’s Institute on Race and Political Economy has proposed a guaranteed annual income of $12,500 per adult and $4,500 per child, phasing out at the national median income. Giving people money is “the most direct and parsimonious way to eliminate poverty,” Darrick Hamilton, the director of the institute and one of the authors of the plan, told Vox.

Such a plan, or any of a number of other approaches to severing our basic livelihoods from wage work, would surely face political opposition, as they would likely require significant tax increases. They would also require changing a fundamental American belief: that we should have to earn the basic necessities of life through our jobs.

However, some say the idea that we actually earn our income has already been exposed as a fraud — just look at the fact that the average CEO made almost 300 times the median worker salary last year, a gap that’s only growing. “If we can detach income from work — and that’s what’s happened in the labor market — why not just do that?” Livingston asked.

The solution lies in Community Owned Power Generation.

In a world without Jobs, where wealth is created by energy alone, it is imperative that the people own the capacity to generate that wealth.

When automation and IA is able to communicate in a way that is indistinguishable from humans we will burst into the age of massive unemployment. Unless of course we can wrap our minds around the end of jobs as we know it and find new ways of redistributing the wealth that society creates to the people. We must change the rules of the game.

A new report by the group Campaign 2000 found that more than 1.3 million Canadian children, or 17.7 per cent, are living below a poverty line used by Statistics Canada.

A guaranteed income could fix this…