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"Technology Is Directional" <=> "Low Hanging Fruit Everywhere"

Started by Bret Cahill August 27, 2020
It's easy for a lazy thinker -- that's everyone in some respect -- to get d=
istracted from the possible by studying thermodynamics which focuses on the=
 impossible.  Obviously the "cardinality" of the set of impossible things i=
s >> than the set of the possible so you save an infinite amount of time ju=
st by being aware of the impossible.  You definitely need the basics to imp=
rove your odds.

Saying "technology is directional" that is, society and public policy can d=
irect research and development and get beneficial results like HVDC falls d=
irectly out of the statement "there's low hanging fruit everywhere, we only=
 need to look for it."

IOW, the reason technology is so directional isn't because engineers and sc=
ientists can do anything or are omniscient but for almost the exact opposit=
e reason.  It's because, as Einstein pointed out, there is so much unknown =
that can be very easily understood and put into practice if we only got the=
 right insight.

For an instant example, maybe 2 kilobites of tips could reduce the economic=
 and public health effects of CV-19 by 90%.  That's trillions of dollars a =
couple million lives.

To be sure, at present population growth rates, there will be only 15 watts=
 of solar power / human in 500 years.  This isn't enough energy to keep the=
 brain alive.

The Mars thingy probably won't happen anytime soon but there may be other o=
pportunities.  Breakthroughs are guaranteed.  We just need the right ones.


Bret Cahill


On Thursday, 27 August 2020 16:37:47 UTC+1, Bret Cahill  wrote:

> It's easy for a lazy thinker -- that's everyone in some respect -- to get=
distracted from the possible by studying thermodynamics which focuses on t= he impossible. Obviously the "cardinality" of the set of impossible things= is >> than the set of the possible so you save an infinite amount of time = just by being aware of the impossible. You definitely need the basics to i= mprove your odds.
>=20 > Saying "technology is directional" that is, society and public policy can=
direct research and development and get beneficial results like HVDC falls= directly out of the statement "there's low hanging fruit everywhere, we on= ly need to look for it."
>=20 > IOW, the reason technology is so directional isn't because engineers and =
scientists can do anything or are omniscient but for almost the exact oppos= ite reason. It's because, as Einstein pointed out, there is so much unknow= n that can be very easily understood and put into practice if we only got t= he right insight.
>=20 > For an instant example, maybe 2 kilobites of tips could reduce the econom=
ic and public health effects of CV-19 by 90%. That's trillions of dollars = a couple million lives. I'm sure all that makes sense, but you forgot to tell us what you meant.
> To be sure, at present population growth rates, there will be only 15 wat=
ts of solar power / human in 500 years. This isn't enough energy to keep t= he brain alive. Don't forget to add nuclear reactors. They'll light a lot of crops.
> The Mars thingy probably won't happen anytime soon but there may be other=
opportunities. Breakthroughs are guaranteed. We just need the right ones= .
>=20 >=20 > Bret Cahill
I'm not sure that tells us anything. Reality is societies do unlearn things. NT
On 2020-08-27, Bret Cahill <bretcahill@aol.com> wrote:
> It's easy for a lazy thinker -- that's everyone in some respect -- > to get distracted from the possible by studying thermodynamics which > focuses on the impossible.
You see laziness, I see efficiency. Thermodynamics can be used as a crude tool to test if an idea is plausible. It's a bit like making sure that the guy you want to run the marathon actually has legs. However unlike lack of legs, you can't get past the laws of thermodynamics using a system of elaborate springs.
> Saying "technology is directional" that is, society and public >policy can direct research and development and get beneficial results >like HVDC falls directly out of the statement "there's low hanging >fruit everywhere, we only need to look for it."
I'm looking, but all I'm seeing is word salad.
> IOW, the reason technology is so directional isn't because engineers > and scientists can do anything or are omniscient but for almost the > exact opposite reason. It's because, as Einstein pointed out, there > is so much unknown that can be very easily understood and put into > practice if we only got the right insight. > > For an instant example, maybe 2 kilobites of tips could reduce the > economic and public health effects of CV-19 by 90%. That's trillions > of dollars a couple million lives.
That's a political problem, not scientific.
> To be sure, at present population growth rates, there will be only > 15 watts of solar power / human in 500 years. This isn't enough > energy to keep the brain alive.
Evidence that the rates will change.
> The Mars thingy probably won't happen anytime soon but there may be > other opportunities. Breakthroughs are guaranteed. We just need the > right ones.
Mars will just be more problems. -- Jasen.
The graph of productivity from 1870 to 1970 is something many could guess.

Gordon overlooks the powerful effect of political freedom on innovation.  It started after the emancipation, spiked with Roosevelt and came to an end under Nixon. 

https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2016/08/18/why-economic-growth-will-fall/

When Einstein pointed out that most was still unknown he was talking about science, but that would hold for technology for centuries even if no more discoveries were ever made in science.

There are a lot of pre 1950s tech inventions still out there.  To be sure not all are going to be as important as refrigeration.

In the long run it could very well be an exponential decay, but that might be centuries.  Right now the problem is lack of political freedom and imagination.

"In reality, above all Voltaire envies the English for their literary freedom but cares hardly a bit for their political freedom, as if the former could ever exist for long without the latter."

- Alexis Tocqueville, The Ancien Regime and the Revolution



> The graph of productivity from 1870 to 1970 is something many could guess. > > Gordon overlooks the powerful effect of political freedom on innovation. It started after the emancipation, spiked with Roosevelt and came to an end under Nixon.
That doesn't mean Nixon played much of a role bringing democratic freedom to an end in the U. S., just that there's a lag time of four - 5 generations. As Tocqueville predicted 4 decades before the industrial revolution, the friends of democracy needed to watch the effect industry would have on society. "If aristocracy ever returns it will enter through that door."
> https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2016/08/18/why-economic-growth-will-fall/ > > When Einstein pointed out that most was still unknown he was talking about science, but that would hold for technology for centuries even if no more discoveries were ever made in science. > > There are a lot of pre 1950s tech inventions still out there. To be sure not all are going to be as important as refrigeration. > > In the long run it could very well be an exponential decay, but that might be centuries. Right now the problem is lack of political freedom and imagination. > > "In reality, above all Voltaire envies the English for their literary freedom but cares hardly a bit for their political freedom, as if the former could ever exist for long without the latter." > > - Alexis Tocqueville, The Ancien Regime and the Revolution