[FoRK] Subjective value

Aaron Burt <aaron at bavariati.org> on Thu Aug 30 17:47:20 PDT 2007

On Wed, Aug 29, 2007 at 10:24:23PM +0200, Eugen Leitl wrote:
> On Wed, Aug 29, 2007 at 01:03:47PM -0700, Aaron Burt wrote:
> > Ah.  I was worried that you were saying that.
> Perhaps insufficiently worried.

Indeed.  I've realized that I must really be an engineer now.  
I keep saying, "it won't work, and even if it did it'd just break."

> > You assume that non-potable water is abundant (in the air or otherwise)
> Vater vapour is abundant, even in the desert, especially in a closed-circuit
> environment with metabolising animals in it.

Not abundant, but sufficient for basic needs if you want to live like
an astronaut, grow nothing outside and wear your stillsuit like a Fremen.
Otherwise, you're not gonna get much better population density than if
y'all live like Berbers.

> > and that high-quality manufactured goods (and spares) are always easily
> A world where grassroot (as in, consumed few meters from where it's produced,
> personally owned installations) electricity is one order of magnitude cheaper
> than now is very different from today.

Yes, and the bits that produce and consume electricity are machines,
made with processes that usually require lots of infrastructure.
Machines break and wear out.  You need more if your population rises.

> > available.  Not good assumptions given geography, transport and
> > money issues.
> Let's say I give you a self-inflating dome home made from polymer PV, with
> a solid-state heat pump and a hydrogen/oxygen fuel cell, buffered by gas
> bags filled by an electrolysis cell. The entire assembly for a whole
> family would be a few k$, and fit in the back of a hillbilly EV truck.
> You think that's not a game changer for rural places everywhere?

I was about to say yes, but on the second thought, no.  Sounds roughly
equivalent to the standard modern homestead rig: a mobile home, a
generator, and a well, rain-catchment system or water delivery.

If it were a game-changer, I'd be real skeert of all them city slickers
movin' in, clogging up the schools and roads, and (most importantly),
turning arable land or fragile ecosystems into more exurbs.

> Add wireless mesh with LEO routed backing, and there's no need
> for fiber. You could sit down smack in the middle of Gobi, which
> is a damn lot easier to terraform than Mars.

Indeed, and they're working on it.  Best bring in the blister-pack
apes after the forests and savannah are stable.

> > Also assumes there's biofuel and advanced battery tech sufficient to
> Biofuel doesn't work.


> > replace all transport fuel needs, and that we can replace all necessary
> Why do you need battery tech if you have very cheap kWh?

So you can drive (and use power) at night.  If you're trying to be
obtuse, don't forget that batteries are reversible fuel cells.

> > industrial chemistry that currently depend on petrol feedstock.
> What is petrol other than fossil fixated CO2? There's plant, carbonates
> and plain air everywhere (with sufficiently cheap kWh, I can make you
> methanol from thin air).

Given sufficient refined inputs, good catalysts, the right temperature
and pressure, and machines to make all that happen, sure.

> > We're close on the transport fuels/batteries, assuming folks can handle
> What's wrong with methanol, or a simple EV?

What did I just say?

> > *much* higher transport costs, heavier usage of trains and ships and the
> Why higher? The cheaper your kWh, the lower transport costs.

The cheaper your _fuel_, the lower your transport costs.  Show me a day
when methanol synthesized from sunshine 'n' fresh air is cheaper than an
equivalent energy value of refined gas or diesel, and I'll show you a
day when megawatt-hr batteries are available at Wal-Mart.

> We live in a world where energy is scarce, while only tapping
> some 10^-4 of what hits this planet; nevermind what passes
> through cislunar space (which is more than enough to boil
> lead on Earth surface -- eat flaming death, global warming). 

Yay orbital solar power platforms.  Just don't piss off the operator or
he'll "accidentally" mis-aim the microwave beam.

> > attendant multi-week lead times, and fuel/battery costs that put
> > personal automobiles in a class with private planes.
> You seem to have taken the wrong reality branch. Either we're
> going to bite the dust, or we'll rise to outshine the gods.

IME, we split the difference, just muddle along and bitch about it.
Mind, if we do rise to outshine the gods, we'll *still* bitch about it.

> > Solar energy don't cost a penny.  Getting it in good quantities, in a
> But the antennas to catch it do. Let's say PV panels which last a few
> summers at some 10% efficiency cost you 1$/m^2. What then?

I'd say hooray for whoever managed to make a cheap roll-to-roll (or
whatever) process for manufacturing PV panels.  Lots of folks saying
they can almost do it, but nothing on the market.

You still don't get a whole lot of power*, and you still need to store it
unless you pretend that net-metering is equivalent to a battery.

> > usable form that's in the right place at the right time, OTOH, is what
> > my wife works on now (Ag Sci) and what I hope to work on (EE).
> Plants do worse than 0.5% efficiency (fossil does much, much worse,
> you're living on burning dead dinos), and none of it is in direct
> consumable kWh. 

But after processing, it's in the form of nice, transportable _fuel_.

> On the long run, there's no difference between Ag Sci and EE, anyway.


Yuz can't eat electrons,

*Portland gets nearly 6 kWh/m^2/day in the summer, and less than 2 in
the winter.  So if you want to be off-grid, you need lots of panel area.

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