Reality Blind - Vol. 1

she would love to have a portable mass spectrometer to provide her with a chemical analysis of her samples. These spectrometers are readily available and can be bought online- for $78,000. Technology can be wonderful. But scaling every desirable invention horizontally and vertically in our societies isn’t cost effective. Technology that util izes thousands of times the energy that pre-industrial humans used to do manually is very sensitive to price increases of energy. TaaL: The “falling wealth” effect probably seems like some sort of insidious outgroup plot. But that’s just your fossil energy slaves getting cost-of- non living adjustments, as it becomes progressively harder to pry them from the ground. They may seem invisible, but they aren’t immune to thermodynamic reality or the laws of physics. Of course, as the human comedy plays out, this inevitable fall in energy- leveraged wages will be blamed on some other group of humans, because annoying things are ALWAYS blamed on other groups of humans (just listen to AM radio!). Moreover, instead of being understood as a simple over-arching effect, it will be perceived as thousands of separate insults perpetrated by various outgroups. Humans are largely blind to gradual natural effects that lack faces or intentions. Higher costs for energy – fossil or otherwise – will drive a lot of complex beh avior this century. For instance, your “Arab Spring” revolutions were nominally about throwing off autocratic rule to achieve greater fairness, because what surge of human populist activism ISN’T framed as achieving greater fairness? Yet if you drill down, the precipitating factor was a rise in the cost of basic foodstuffs, which can be traced directly to rising energy costs and the diminishing returns on highly-leveraged energy use in the first decade of this century. Nobody minded the autocrats when bread was cheap. So “viva la revolución,” but the underlying energy realities don’t change when regimes change, because the laws of reality are forever autocratic, and they always win. Which is probably why so many of those “revolutions” didn’t end well. Since you’re stuck with energy realities, you might as well make friends with them. The Bottom Line: As fossil energy becomes increasingly less free, energy-intensive stuff will become increasingly more expensive. (Most of our current societal arrangements are energy intensive.)


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