[PLUG-TALK] Expansion, growth, the world, and time

Keith Lofstrom keithl at kl-ic.com
Mon Mar 21 00:14:31 PDT 2011

On Sun, Mar 20, 2011 at 03:20:51PM -0700, Michael Moore wrote:
> It seems like this whole discussion has been premised on the notion that 
> we must keep expanding and increasing capacity and output, and it seems 
> like our industry and government act accordingly.  At what point do we 
> question that premise?  At what point do we let ourselves entertain the 
> notion that maybe we can't keep doing things the way we've been doing 
> them -- before or after we build a $4.6 billion bridge over the 
> Columbia, before or after we both replace the Sellwood Bridge *and* 
> build a new light-rail/bike/ped bridge over the Willamette?  At what 
> point does it dawn on us that maybe we can't keep expanding and 
> increasing ad infinitum?

For some of us, "we" includes our fellow humans in the shanties
in Mumbai, now getting a few watts, sporadically, a few days
a week.  Like their fellow humans a generation earlier who
transformed Hong Kong from shanties to skyscrapers, Indian
demand for energy is soaring, and They Will Get Energy. 
We, who have the leisure to sit on our butts and think
about stuff, should be thinking hard about developing more
clean and cheap tehchnology options for them.  Otherwise,
they will copy what is cheap and available and proven - 
fossil fuels and hydro dams.  

On a corner of my whiteboard is my goal for the world:
10 billion people, 10 kilowatts each, for 1 million years. 

10 kilowatts is a placeholder for many other needs which we
must also provide, but the need I am best suited to work on.

A lot of that 10 kilowatts will be used for enormous amounts
of future computing, which matches both current trends and
the future implied by the career choices of many on this
list.  That computing will hopefully substitute for many
dirtier uses of energy, for example replacing the daily
commute with VR telecommuting. 

As part of that million year goal, I want to see most of
that 10 kilowatts move into orbit, for computing and later
other things, so the byproducts of that energy use are not
inflicted on the biosphere.  Orbit begins 200 kilometers
up - 2 milliseconds ping time.  In the long term, there
will be many surprising and low energy ways to get there,
but they will also use some of that 10 kilowatts.

USAers are using about 10 kilowatts now.  A little less,
because we export some of that energy as food and as
oil refining services.  A little more, because we import
some of that energy as manufactured goods from Asia. But
to stay at 10 kw, and grow our computation usage as implied
by all the software my friends write, we will definitely
need to cut back in other areas, as Michael notes.

The cutting back will happen with computation, redesigning
how we live and work.  But for all the big talk, few of us
are actually writing the code and risking our careers to
peddle it.  Until the I5 and Sellwood bridges are replaced
by bits, they will continue to be replaced with more atoms,
moving ideas in brains in bodies in cars back and forth. 
We will keep doing so until the code improves, and is
useful to many more people.

Regards continued growth, as much as I care for my fellow
USAers, they are only 4 percent of the people I want to
help today, and 3 in a million of all the people who live
in the next megayear - noise in the long term process.
"We" desperately need to "expand", but almost all of that
expansion will happen elsewhere and elsewhen.

So, as the old cliche goes, think globally, act locally.  

To that add "think eternally".  The world will continue
to change, that is the only constant.  Growth in some
places, decay in others, migration, evolution, decadence,
extinction.  Over the next million years, we can expect
2000 Richter 9 subduction zone earthquakes in Oregon. 
Build for that.  Expect to rebuild after - we will always
build.  The new green technologies of today will be grim
satanic mills a century from now.  Social transformation
repeated thousands of times.  Et cetera, forever.

That is why "one million years" is part of my goal.  It
reminds me that anything I think, including all of the
above, will have a very long time to be proven wrong.  
But for a very brief time, I can still enjoy thinking.


Keith Lofstrom          keithl at keithl.com         Voice (503)-520-1993
KLIC --- Keith Lofstrom Integrated Circuits --- "Your Ideas in Silicon"
Design Contracting in Bipolar and CMOS - Analog, Digital, and Scan ICs

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