Saturday, June 14, 2014
FPTP V PR
So this is a list of the arguments for PR, most of which I never thought of at the time:
1 - Its democratic. We get the results we actually voted for.
2 - PR is far more stable than FPTP since a small change in % voting doesn't mean an utterly opposed party gets a majority.
3 - In economics one of the few things almost all economists agree on is that free competition is better than monopoly for customers and in particular for encouraging innovation. And in turn that maintaining a monopoly requires barriers to entry to the industry. FPTP is a very high barrier
since, at least in theory UKIP, to take 1 example, could get 25% of the national vote and 0% of representatives (ie 0 MPs).
4 - FPTP artificially enhances differences between different geographical regions. In Scotland FPTP gives us an overwhelming Labour majority on under 40% of the vote. In the south of England there is an overwhelming Tory majority, again on about 42% of the vote. In fact neither are remotely as "leftist" or "rightist" with the majority voting against the ruling "consensus". This has led Scots to actually believe the guff we are told of how we have different political values - leading to the current referendum.
5 - Where a particularist party (ie one which deliberately appeals to an ethnic group or "working class") gets a hold and its supporters live together (thus no feminist party can use this) it will get representation far greater than similar non-particularist parties. Particularism means people not caring for society as a whole which is a bad very thing for society.
6 - MPs in marginal constituencies get changed but those in safe seats have a job for life. In safe ones the only electorate the MP need fear is the tiny number of people in their constituency selection committee.
7 - Where there are several parties, as now, the majority of people in the large majority of constituencies are going to be represented by somebody they didn't want. How "represented" that makes them feel must be questionable.
8 - Thus under FPTP people, correctly, feel their own vote doesn't count.
9 - Indeed parties' political analysts often say the election turns on about 50,000 floating voters in marginal constituencies.
10 - In some areas you get 1 entirely immovable party that has held complete power for generations, which encourages corruption and contempt for the electors (yes I do mean Glasgow Labour).
11 - The US civil war is an example of the breakdown of trust that FPTP can produce. The South's secession was as brought about by Lincoln winning an overwhelming majority of electoral places on 39.7% of the vote. Had there been a run off he would probably have lost.
12 - Because FPTP tends to dragoon politics into a 2 party system it means the nuances of dissent aren't shown.
13 - Theoretically FPTP should produce a 1 party system because a party that gets 60% of vthe vote in every constituency will get 100% of MPs. Normally this doesn't happen because ruling parties turn out uniformly to be so bad that opposition coalesces into an 2nd party - hence 2 party system. The only exception to this is Singapore where 1 party has won since independence, but Singapore has actually had remarkable competent government.
14 - Gerrymandering (setting constituency boundaries in such a way as to ensure voters for those in charge are spread evenly enough for them to win a small majority in some areas while all opposition voters are in one constituency where they get only 1 member) is a constant problem, sometimes more blatantly than others.
15 - Feedback. The great advantage of democracy, or any sort of parliamentary government, over other systems is that when something isn't working society sends a sign. This is known as negative feedback and is a requirement in any complex machinery (the centrifugal governor made the steam age). The glandular system does the same for the body. I believe such feedback is equally vital to governmental systems. FPTP does allow some feedback but it takes much greater effort and usually limits the signal that can be sent to the official opposition party's.
16 - Because power is in the hands of big parties, the individual MP's fate is very much in the hands of whoever is party leader. When MPs stand in their own name they are almost always squeezed out. Compare this with both Margo MacDonald and Dennis Canavan both of whom refused to accept being fired by their parties.
1 - It maintains the constituency link - everybody can find out who their representative as (though as #7 shows) the odds are they will not represent their views.
2 - It provides united government able to take action. Thus when Mussolini took power he introduced an FPTP rule applying to the total Parliament - that the largest single party must automatically get 60% of the seats. This system is in some ways better than our sort of PR in that the barrier to entry is only at the government level not at the getting into Parliament level so parties with new ideas are not so wholly excluded. Decisive united government is a bonus, if you are sure it will be decisive in the right direction.
Friday, June 13, 2014
A Scottish Constitution Should Liberate Us Not Enslave Us II - Emulating the Swiss Example
What the Constitution Should Provide
I wrote recently about the leftist Holyrood consensus for a Scottish constitution designed to lock in the permanent power of the state to dictate to us over global warming, high taxation, foreign "aid", and general busybodying, even if we voted for something different. This is the SNP "aspiration we have for our country". We won't get any referendum to say whether we approve this straitjacket.
So I am putting in my twoppenceworth. This is my list of things that should be in a Scottish constitution designed to maximise freedom; to encourage economic growth; and to limit the overbearing power of government. This is the true Scottish tradition, going back to the Enlightenment. It may not appeal to our current apparatchiks but David Hume, Adam Smith, Gladstone and Sir John Cowperthwaite (the Scots civil servant revered in Hong Kong for letting them build a wonderfully successful city with no resources - simply by keeping government out of the way).
I'm assuming we remain part of the UK but quit the EU. Its my party and I set the rules.
In which case I expect a federal or indeed confederal UK to emerge. That suits me. I believe the separation of powers that such states have restrict arbitrary power and have been consistently the most stable and prosperous of states. As "confederal" means that power rests with the locals who can decide whether to be part of the unit, Britain has already become a confederal state. The very fact of Westminster accepting our right to a referendum confirms this (whereas Spain, Italy and Turkey are unambiguous in saying their citizens have no such right and the USA once fought a war against the principle). Even though it is not in the interests of either side in the current referendum to say so I am quite surprised that the enormous constitutional importance of this event has gone essentially unmentioned.
The basic mechanism of this constitution will be to limit the power of the state to bully us (rather than increase it as the SNP propose). Freedom and free markets work - this has been demonstrated across the world and throughout history.
Scotland should have a right to cantonal government. Areas where the locals can decide to suspend Holyrood legislation and costs (but not to institute new ones). Scotland is culturally far more diverse than England and from Orkney to the Borders there are regions which would like to be a little looser. Compare the freedom and success the isle of Man has compared to the culturally similar, marginally larger and historically more important Islay and you will see what opportunities they could have. (My guess would be we would have Glasgow and Edinburgh based cantons in the central belt, perhaps Lanarkshire to, Stirlingshire, Borders, Fife, Aberdeenshire, 2 or 3 Highland ones, Orkney, Shetland and several Islands or collections of Islands.
This recent academic study of the way Switzerland has been able to maintain a multi-ethnic society for 700 years, with a consistently remarkable level of internal peace and economic success (& a lack of empire building) concludes that it is a result of "Good Fences" ie that cantons can live together because they have the maximum level of devolution and were drawn on fair ethnic lines. Scotland has similar geographical divisions - not as clear as between Glasgow and Edinburgh but much clearer between the islands and mainland. In some ways we have less history of unity than Switzerland with only a couple of centuries between Orkney, Shetland and the Lordship of the Isles uniting with Scotland before the Kingdom united with England.
I am also going to suggest that, like Switzerland, we should have a right of referendum at both the Scottish and Cantonal level.
This is how they describe it:
....popular vote called to challenge a piece of legislation already approved by the Federal Assembly. If any person or group opposed to the new law manages to collect 50,000 signatures within 100 days of the official publication of the proposed legislation, the voters as a whole are given the chance to decide.
In most cases, a referendum is only called if those who feel strongly about the issue manage to collect enough signatures.
However, the authorities are obliged to hold a referendum if the legislation involves an amendment to the constitution initiated by the government, or any proposal for Switzerland to sign a major international agreement which cannot be rescinded.
In the case of an initiative or a mandatory referendum, there has to be a "double majority" for it to pass, meaning a majority of the people as a whole, and a majority of the cantons must approve it.
I'll make no bones of the fact that, as a supporter of small government being more efficient than big, I believe strong cantonal government that cannot be overturned without constitutional change (which would require strong popular support) would mean that much of the country would initially show both market freedom and economic success and thus, in time, all of it would. This is what Switzerland shows.
Vital to this is that borders of Scots cantons would have to be fair and thus initially approved by plebiscite and a constitution process existing which would allow new cantons to come into existence in future if the desire is there.
I don't propose a 2nd chamber - we have more than enough full time politicians here. I would be happy to see the MSPs and MPs folded into 1, all elected by a PR system. 60 odd people doing both jobs would not have the copious free time to come up with new bans that has been the preeminent feature of Holyrood. Obviously this can only happen when the rest of the UK adopts proportional representation too.
I suggest our Council of Economic Advisers should consist of 5 members appointed not by Holyrood but by the 5 Commonwealth nations that have, over the last 5 years, achieved fastest growth. That would be both independent and guaranteed to provide good advice. Their reports should be public.
Constitutional Limits on the Power of Government
* A rule stopping the state imposing price and wage controls (this is lifted from Milton Friedman in the 1980s and while the argument here has been largely won political fashions do come round again.)
* Citizen juries, chosen in the same way as normal juries to take over some of the job of Holyrood committees, particularly when any constitutional proposals are aired.
* Over regulation - "Holyrood shall make or maintain no law which, under reasonable cost benefit analysis, imposes a cost benefit ratio more than 4 times greater than allowed in a significant & similar situation." It would be nice to be able to apply this to Westminster too. I am assuming we have resolved the EU problem.
* Failure standards - "Any government proposal shall have to contain failure standards including time to achieve, cost, employees required & pre-set performance standards. The right of citizens to see these standards in civil programmes shall not be infringed and in the event of failure the project manager and proposing Minister shall be made ineligible for public employment." This one is lifted from an episode of Yes Minister where it was agreed it would work and thus the civil service would bury it. It has never been heard of since.
* One of the major problems of government is the way criminal or incompetent governments can not just loot the state of the people's money but heap future governments with a "contractual" liability to pay more to their friends and them. Whether this is PFI or long term contracts for windmill power or indeed nuclear power or fraudulent contracts for aircraft carriers we don't need and haven't aircraft for.
I suggest a constitutional bar on one government contracting liabilities for 2 parliaments ahead in any circumstances and if contracting liabilities during the next parliament must get 2/3rds approval from the current one so that the probable winner of the next election (except in unusual cases like UKIP) would have accepted the liability in advance. That would also have to apply to increases in the national debt.
Wouldn't stop it when both government and opposition were idiots (as with our windmillery and a forth crossing that costs 8 times more than it ought) but should slow it down. Accountants will tell you that, due to compound interest, anything that takes more than 10 years (2 Parliamentary terms) to pay for is going to largely interest payments.
* Initially 10% of all government funding of science and new technology shall be by prizes, with specific winning conditions, available to any citizen rather than grants to approved persons without failure conditions. That if such prizes are independently shown to be more cost effective any increases in spending will go to prizes until they at least equal grants. (This is a simplified requirement for X-Prizes and thus a present to myself.)
* Government expert appointees - any applicants for posts requiring predictive advice must, for 3 years, have made such predictions, publicly reported, and been among the 3 most successful predictors and must continue to do so. So no more Chief Science advisors or economists who always agree with what the politicians want, always get it wrong and thus keep their jobs.
* Wasteful government - Establish two commissions whose job is to recommend practices that ought to be eliminated on the grounds that we can’t afford them, or never needed them in the first place.
1 - The commissioners should not be government employees, and ought to be paid no more than £100 a day consulting fee and £30 a day expenses. Let it be a typical commission, with 2 members appointed by the Prime Minister, 1 each from the 3 most important parliamentary committees, 1 by the house of |Lords and one by the finance minister of the fastest growing Commonwealth country (aka Singapore). The whole thing shouldn’t cost more than $2 million a year. Any federal position that a majority of the commission recommends for elimination is automatically unfunded unless explicitly refunded by Parliament. If Parliament doesn’t restore the position, that position is redundant and that task is no longer performed.
2 - A second Jobsworth Commission. This one is to consist of 100 persons, the first 50 chosen to match the population distribution and other fifty to be selected with no such loading. They are to be selected by lot from a pool of volunteers who have high speed Internet connection. The Commission meets on-line once a week for four hours. Once a year it meets in London, expenses to be reimbursed. Each commissioner gets a laptop computer and conferencing software, and the government pays for high speed Internet connectivity for the year. Same rules: if 51 Commissioners agree that a government regulatory activity is needless, then that activity is defunded, and those who perform that service are declared redundant. (Civil service rules for redundant employees apply.) Parliament can restore any of those activities and positions, but if it does not, it goes.
The Commissions probably won’t do a lot, but they will at least get rid of the ridiculously obvious, and over time the various government activities will be examined and debated.
Because so much of the benefit is over time it must be a permanent feature of our constitution.
* 17 right of referendums at both Scottish and cantonal levels, as discussed above.
* The right of referendums to include a vote, at each election, to raise or lower by up to 5% the maximum proportion of gdp the Holyrood state is allowed to spend. Currently the entire state is nearly 60% of gdp. If we are really the socialists the political class insist, we would vote to raise it. My guess is that we would vote to lower it until income tax fell to zero.
Might be difficult to cut it more unless this rule were also adopted at UK government level - but then if this system works as successfully as I think we would be an example to the whole UK (instead of an 'orrible warning as at present). The principle that the most successful cantons would be an example to the rest of Scotland implies a successful Scotland would be an example to the UK.
* No government funding of Sockpuppets - Illegal for government to give any money to any charity that, in the last 5 years, has advertised for more government. That isn't a charity's job and the conflict of interest is clear. Similarly make a legal requirement that any funding from outside the Scotland of any "charity" that has pushed a political opinion be registered and subject to a 50% windfall tax - half of this money to be earmarked for organisations committed to reducing the size of government. In the same way, over the next 5 years, be 10% as much money as our state donated to pro-government charities should be donated to organisations promoting smaller government.
The same ban should apply to any government department, quango or council and they should be limited to spending not more than 1/2% of their budget on PR/press liaison /raising awareness or such activity under other names.
Government funding of "charities" that lobby and advertise for more money and power for the ministries funding them are one of the great and growing problems of modern society. Unfortunately they bare a problem that the press, who regularly use "news" produced by them, virtually never mention the existence of the problem.
* I would like to see a defence in Scots law to the licence fee for the BBC government broadcasting monopoly. The BBC Charter specifically requires that they be "balanced". The ECHR requires that people not be forced to pay for propaganda they disapprove of. If it can be shown that the BBC is censoring my party (UKIP), censoring and lying to promote the "catastrophic global warming" scare or spinning to promote whatever new pointless war is being pushed then I should, at the very least, not be forced to pay for it.
There is undisputed academic evidence that the more of a state broadcasting monopoly exists, the more governmental failure, corruption and nepotism is likely to exist, worldwide.
* There is a historic Scots extension of civil law - that a law which has been in abeyance for many
years falls. I approve of anything that reduces the size of our legislation and would like to see that is some form.
* To an extraordinary and almost entirely unreported extent the pressure groups and political "charities" in Britain have been nationalised. ASH is 98% funded by the state. The catastrophic warming supporting Royal Society gets a £50 million bung. Almost every lobbyist that gets airtime on the (state funded) BBC, or most newspapers, turns out to be a government funded "sock puppet".
The Scottish government should be constitutionally forbidden to use our money to fund propaganda campaigns. Further than that - any organisation using money from other governments (for example almost all "environmental" campaigners are 70% funded by the EU) should be legally required to say so in all productions (as Limited companies are currently required to identify themselves) and pay a levy of 10% of what they spend here to be given to private organisations promoting alternative views.
* The Scottish government should fund broadcasting of genuine political debates (ie ones where both sides get to speak and the subjects are chosen by popular demand). To be broadcast weekly in hour long programmes, rather like Question Time but considerably cheaper and not limited to approved speakers. Since the time of ancient Greece, free debate has been a necessary and perhaps even sufficient condition of a free society. Unfortunately the British broadcasting monopoly has left the gatekeepers deciding what opinions may and may not be publicly discussed, to our great detriment.
* A duty on the Holyrood government to ensure any grants or payments to the cantons are proportionately either within 15% of its proportionate tax contribution or of its population. (The ability to withhold cash by central government, or of the politically connected to lobby for extra has been the bane of local politics.)
* And I would also add these from the original 10 amendments making up the Bill of Rights to the US Constitution, a document signed by a disproportionate number of people of Scots extraction and which reflected the views of the Scottish Enlightenment. Some are no longer relevant (quartering troops) and some I would not defend (arms) but these are necessary:
4 no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause
5 Trials by due process and no double jeopardy
6 the right to a speedy band public trial
7 the right of trial by jury shall be preserved
10 The powers not delegated to the Scottish and UK governments by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the Cantonal law, are reserved to the smaller tier of government respectively, or to the people - and unlike the USA here this right comes from but is constantly ignored, we really mean it.
I'm sure others will have other suggestions. My bottom line is that a constitution is there to restrain government power not to give them more, as the SNP's proposals do. I would not pretend that this will create a Utopia. Indeed I'd hate a Utopia (at least anybody else's idea of it as I suspect others would hate mine).
On the other hand, while we have achieved miracles in the physical sciences over the last couple of centuries, government seems no more competent than then. Indeed it is much more parasitic, spending nearly 50% of gdp now as against under 10%, 150 years ago and regulating out of existence far more of the nation's wealth than is actually left. Clearly the potential for improvement is enormous and a Scotland which achieves even a small part of that potential will be an example to all of Britain, indeed all of the world. Countries which, over the long term, manage to role back the macroparasitism that is big government, while not encouraging the microparasitism that is common banditry, have historically always found the world to be their oyster.
Orson Welles came up with the single most memorable, wrong, line in movie history:
"In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."
- In fact they are extremely rich with the world's highest per capita rate of scientific citations per capita, matched by only 1 other. They also had peace because they were too tough to mess with.
Scotland, is the other country matching Switzerland's world's highest, per capita, rate of scientific citations. Potential other nations would kill for. However Switzerland has politicians nobody has ever heard of because their Constitution doesn't allow them to do anything, whereas Scotland has a surfeit of preening politicians trying to bestride the world stage like midgets. Politicians who think it is their job to dictate every aspect of our nanny state.
Not coincidentally Switzerland is much richer than us and arguably (I would argue it) freer and more democratic. Lets change that.
Thursday, June 12, 2014
Everybody Working For Mother Jones Is A Fascist Whore - Is There Single Alarmist Anywhere Who Isn't?
They are, of course, wholly dishonest.
Well I guess that shows the normal level of honesty to which they aspire.
Then Mother Jones censored my posts while, at the same time allowing some disgusting and, as they knew, wholly dishonest attacks on me to stand.
Clearly that is not something which anybody in the alarmist movement who was not a wholly dishonest Fascist, would ever fail to dissociate themselves from.
That would be none so far.
Not one Beeboid; not one alarmist politician in the LabNatConDems who has the remotest trace of honesty or human decency.
Not one who isn't an obscene, lying, thieving Nazi whore, willing to support any lie and with less human decency than a rabid dog.
Not one of the windmillers, warming alarmists, antifrackers, child scaring teachers, parasitic "civil" servants, anti-nuclearists, peak oilers, who can be trusted to ever tell the truth more than a pile of dog shit can.
We'll see if that holds up, or if there turns out to be a single one of them willing to go on Mother Jones here and say they are not only corrupt, lying, thieving, murdering Nazi whores but also represent something other than the highest standards of honesty the "environmental" movement aspires to.
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Big Engineering 67 Greening Western China
That is a lot of water. More than 7 times the Nile's output.
Something I have only fairly recently realised is that western China's water basin is largely unconnected to China's coastal region. Which means water in that area would, if there was enough of it, would ultimately flow west too.
This map shows ground levels fairly well. Lake Baikal at the top has both yellow and green coloured land beside it so must be almost exactly on the line between the 2. So tunnels or canals could carry water across any of the yellow areas.
The distance from Baikal to the point on the Mongolian southern border where the highest ground is is 1,000 km. I'm not sure whether there is or isn't land above the Baikal level all the way or a few miles where an aqueduct would be required. From there the distance to the Tarim basin (the oblong at the west bordered by the Himalayas and a row of mountains on the western end) is about 700 km.
The Tarim basin is one of the driest areas in the world. Rain doesn't get in (or out) from the central Asia region because of those mountains. The river Tarim (the longest) and others are some of the few rivers in the world that never wander down to the sea. Instead they peter out in the Lop Nor salt marshes (sufficiently unattractive the Chinese once used them for their nuclear tests). This is what it looks like now:
However, as the map shows, much of this land is at the green level, below the level of Baikal. A couple of year's flow from there (ie 1300 cubic km) would make a big difference. The major green zone there looks like about 50,000 square km but I don't think any of it would end up more that a few tens of meters deep. 650 cubic km would fill that to an average of 10m in 9 months but probably at least twice that as dry ground soaks up water. Because of the mountains that stop moisture getting in, we could expect moisture to stay in the area and get a decent rainfall. After that the water can be drained into the green zone to its north and then, by tunnel through the mountains to the green zone above and then in turn back across the Chinese border to Russia and rejoining the line from Baikal to Kazakhstan which I previously wrote of.
The absolutely enormous amount of water available means that while it might take 4 years longer for the water to reach the Caspian there is plenty to go round. This would not have been the case if the water had drained eastward towards the sea, but it doesn't.
That means a total of about 1,800 km of tunnels. At Norwegian costs of £4m per km it would be about £8bn but I suspect the tunnels would have to be wider, or even duplicated and the total would be several times that. Still pretty minor for such a great increase in the fertility of the worlds most populous and now richest state. Less, possibly much less, than running a railway to Bradford.
Of course the real expense is buying the water from Russia. Russia and Mongolia would reasonably want quite well paid. China might feel they are now strong enough to grab it. On previous cases I have said that the way to deal with political issues on these Big Engineering articles is simply to ignore them and treat the question as purely what can be done in engineering terms. I'm going to do that again but lets be clear - it is a big issue.
I have this comment which is of importance:
Hi Neil - an impressive idea, though I find the numbers a bit daunting. 650 cubic kilometres per annum requires an AVERAGE flow of 20,610 cubic metres per second. Our river Tay is the largest in the UK by annual discharge and it's peak flow is about 1,965 cubic metres per second. A typical 8 metre internal diameter tunnel has a cross section area of about 50 square metres , so even if the water was flowing at a whopping 10 metres per second (36 km per hour)you would require 42 such tunnels.Remember also you wish to use gravity as much as possible and to cover the distances you are talking about the cross sectional area of the aquaduct has to increase greatly as the flow rate needs must be slow for such a distance from a limited drop in elevation. Without pumping of some sort you are not talking of a few tunnels, but a broad canal possibly 30 times the combined width and depth of the Tay at Perth
That is an issue.
We could double the diameter to quadruple cross section area but the wider it gets the weaker it is so we can go up to the size of the Norwegian ship tunnel but anything else is going to need expensive reinforcing. I think the flow would be considerably lower than 10 meters because the gradient over the entire distance is low.
Even assuming major economies of scale that sounds like app £80 bn rather than £8 bn. Still that is inexpensive for more than a million square km. It would also mean that it would take more than a year or 2 to put it in place.
It might well turn out, bearing in mind that the depth here is not to great, that it would be cheaper to cut down from the surface and create an artificial canal. The aqueduct might also be replaced by an above ground canal held there by dams. All a matter of the most cost effective way.
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Visit To The World's Fair 2014
My comments in italics:
By ISAAC ASIMOV
The New York World's Fair of 1964 is dedicated to "Peace Through Understanding." Its glimpses of the world of tomorrow rule out thermonuclear warfare. And why not? If a thermonuclear war takes place, the future will not be worth discussing. So let the missiles slumber eternally on their pads and let us observe what may come in the nonatomized world of the future.
What is to come, through the fair's eyes at least, is wonderful. The direction in which man is traveling is viewed with buoyant hope, nowhere more so than at the General Electric pavilion. There the audience whirls through four scenes, each populated by cheerful, lifelike dummies that move and talk with a facility that, inside of a minute and a half, convinces you they are alive. The scenes, set in or about 1900, 1920, 1940 and 1960, show the advances of electrical appliances and the changes they are bringing to living. I enjoyed it hugely and only regretted that they had not carried the scenes into the future. What will life be like, say, in 2014 A.D., 50 years from now? What will the World's Fair of 2014 be like? I don't know, but I can guess. One thought that occurs to me is that men will continue to withdraw from nature in order to create an environment that will suit them better. By 2014, electroluminescent panels will be in common use. Ceilings and walls will glow softly, and in a variety of colors that will change at the touch of a push button. Windows need be no more than an archaic touch, and even when present will be polarized to block out the harsh sunlight. The degree of opacity of the glass may even be made to alter automatically in accordance with the intensity of the light falling upon it. OK on this he's wrong but the Good Doctor had a phobia that is clearly being reflected
There is an underground house at the fair which is a sign of the future. if its windows are not polarized, they can nevertheless alter the "scenery" by changes in lighting. Suburban houses underground, with easily controlled temperature, free from the vicissitudes of weather, with air cleaned and light controlled, should be fairly common. At the New York World's Fair of 2014, General Motors' "Futurama" may well display vistas of underground cities complete with light- forced vegetable gardens. The surface, G.M. will argue, will be given over to large-scale agriculture, grazing and parklands, with less space wasted on actual human occupancy. ditto Gadgetry will continue to relieve mankind of tedious jobs. Kitchen units will be devised that will prepare "automeals," heating water and converting it to coffee; toasting bread; frying, poaching or scrambling eggs, grilling bacon, and so on. Breakfasts will be "ordered" the night before to be ready by a specified hour the next morning. Complete lunches and dinners, with the food semiprepared, will be stored in the freezer until ready for processing. I suspect, though, that even in 2014 it will still be advisable to have a small corner in the kitchen unit where the more individual meals can be prepared by hand, especially when company is coming. looking at any supermarket you will see how much of our earing is prepared meals, most of which only need a microwave (or futuristic microwave oven as it would have been called. Yet we still have kitchens, some of which look to posh to use.
Robots will neither be common nor very good in 2014, but they will be in existence. The I.B.M. exhibit at the present fair has no robots but it is dedicated to computers, which are shown in all their amazing complexity, notably in the task of translating Russian into English. If machines are that smart today, what may not be in the works 50 years hence? It will be such computers, much miniaturized, that will serve as the "brains" of robots. In fact, the I.B.M. building at the 2014 World's Fair may have, as one of its prime exhibits, a robot housemaid*large, clumsy, slow- moving but capable of general picking-up, arranging, cleaning and manipulation of various appliances. It will undoubtedly amuse the fairgoers to scatter debris over the floor in order to see the robot lumberingly remove it and classify it into "throw away" and "set aside." (Robots for gardening work will also have made their appearance.) There are a number of robotic machines (ie not looking like robots, that can do vacuuming. We are, perhaps surprisingly in view of Moore's Law, a few behind in this.
General Electric at the 2014 World's Fair will be showing 3-D movies of its "Robot of the Future," neat and streamlined, its cleaning appliances built in and performing all tasks briskly. (There will be a three-hour wait in line to see the film, for some things never change.) saw Tom Cruise in 3d last week. Not much queue. 6 sales booths.
The appliances of 2014 will have no electric cords, of course, for they will be powered by long- lived batteries running on radioisotopes. The isotopes will not be expensive for they will be by- products of the fission-power plants which, by 2014, will be supplying well over half the power needs of humanity. But once the isotope batteries are used up they will be disposed of only through authorized agents of the manufacturer. Highlighted because the very idea of vacuum cleaners powered by nuclear "waste" is beyond the pale. As indeed is supplying over half our power by nuclear. But it shows what was expected and indeed what is technically feasible (not automatically desirable because longer electric cords is much easier) but feasible. Well demonstrates how backward we have been made by false Luddite scares.
And experimental fusion-power plant or two will already exist in 2014. (Even today, a small but genuine fusion explosion is demonstrated at frequent intervals in the G.E. exhibit at the 1964 fair.) Large solar-power stations will also be in operation in a number of desert and semi-desert areas -- Arizona, the Negev, Kazakhstan. In the more crowded, but cloudy and smoggy areas, solar power will be less practical. An exhibit at the 2014 fair will show models of power stations in space, collecting sunlight by means of huge parabolic focusing devices and radiating the energy thus collected down to earth. We don't have fusion but it is still promised for ---- years. The cost of solar power cells is dropping fast and is headed to be competitive (though not competitive to the cheap nuclear power we could have,
The world of 50 years hence will have shrunk further. At the 1964 fair, the G.M. exhibit depicts, among other things, "road-building factories" in the tropics and, closer to home, crowded highways along which long buses move on special central lanes. There is every likelihood that highways at least in the more advanced sections of the world*will have passed their peak in 2014; there will be increasing emphasis on transportation that makes the least possible contact with the surface. There will be aircraft, of course, but even ground travel will increasingly take to the air*a foot or two off the ground. Visitors to the 1964 fair can travel there in an "aquafoil," which lifts itself on four stilts and skims over the water with a minimum of friction. This is surely a stop-gap. By 2014 the four stilts will have been replaced by four jets of compressed air so that the vehicle will make no contact with either liquid or solid surfaces. Hovercraft have proven less cost effective than conventional vehicles. The cost of road building is now overwhelmingly that of the political/bureaucratic costs of being allowed to do it. This gives little incentive for innovation
Jets of compressed air will also lift land vehicles off the highways, which, among other things, will minimize paving problems. Smooth earth or level lawns will do as well as pavements. Bridges will also be of less importance, since cars will be capable of crossing water on their jets, though local ordinances will discourage the practice. Much effort will be put into the designing of vehicles with "Robot-brains"*vehicles that can be set for particular destinations and that will then proceed there without interference by the slow reflexes of a human driver. I suspect one of the major attractions of the 2014 fair will be rides on small roboticized cars which will maneuver in crowds at the two-foot level, neatly and automatically avoiding each other. A few years early but only a few. Automated driving systems are being made and how long it takes for them to be available to all depends largely on politics
For short-range travel, moving sidewalks (with benches on either side, standing room in the center) will be making their appearance in downtown sections. They will be raised above the traffic. Traffic will continue (on several levels in some places) only because all parking will be off-street and because at least 80 per cent of truck deliveries will be to certain fixed centers at the city's rim. Feasible but not done
Compressed air tubes will carry goods and materials over local stretches, and the switching devices that will place specific shipments in specific destinations will be one of the city's marvels. Feasible but would require political organisation
Communications will become sight-sound and you will see as well as hear the person you telephone. The screen can be used not only to see the people you call but also for studying documents and photographs and reading passages from books. Synchronous satellites, hovering in space will make it possible for you to direct-dial any spot on earth, including the weather stations in Antarctica (shown in chill splendor as part of the '64 General Motors exhibit) All available. For that matter, you will be able to reach someone at the moon colonies, concerning which General Motors puts on a display of impressive vehicles (in model form) with large soft tires*intended to negotiate the uneven terrain that may exist on our natural satellite. No Moon colonies, entirely because it has been prevented.
Any number of simultaneous conversations between earth and moon can be handled by modulated laser beams, which are easy to manipulate in space. On earth, however, laser beams will have to be led through plastic pipes, to avoid material and atmospheric interference. Engineers will still be playing with that problem in 2014. Engineers have long solved that one. Conversations with the moon will be a trifle uncomfortable, but the way, in that 2.5 seconds must elapse between statement and answer (it takes light that long to make the round trip). Similar conversations with Mars will experience a 3.5-minute delay even when Mars is at its closest. However, by 2014, only unmanned ships will have landed on Mars, though a manned expedition will be in the works and in the 2014 Futurama will show a model of an elaborate Martian colony. As for television, wall screens will have replaced the ordinary set; but transparent cubes will be making their appearance in which three-dimensional viewing will be possible. In fact, one popular exhibit at the 2014 World's Fair will be such a 3-D TV, built life-size, in which ballet performances will be seen. The cube will slowly revolve for viewing from all angles. We have the TVs, we have the occasional robot on Mars, we even have the robots sending TV pictures from Mars.
One can go on indefinitely in this happy extrapolation, but all is not rosy. As I stood in line waiting to get into the General Electric exhibit at the 1964 fair, I found myself staring at Equitable Life's grim sign blinking out the population of the United States, with the number (over 191,000,000) increasing by 1 every 11 seconds. During the interval which I spent inside the G.E. pavilion, the American population had increased by nearly 300 and the world's population by 6,000. In 2014, there is every likelihood that the world population will be 6,500,000,000 and the population of the United States will be 350,000,000. Boston-to-Washington, the most crowded area of its size on the earth, will have become a single city with a population of over 40,000,000. US pop about 310 million
Population pressure will force increasing penetration of desert and polar areas. Most surprising and, in some ways, heartening, 2014 will see a good beginning made in the colonization of the continental shelves. Underwater housing will have its attractions to those who like water sports, and will undoubtedly encourage the more efficient exploitation of ocean resources, both food and mineral. General Motors shows, in its 1964 exhibit, the model of an underwater hotel of what might be called mouth-watering luxury. The 2014 World's Fair will have exhibits showing cities in the deep sea with bathyscaphe liners carrying men and supplies across and into the abyss. Population pressure has not been such a problem because the green revolution means we are producing more food using less land. In turn no underwater living - not even any seateading beyond the experimental level - though that is coming - when the politics is squared
Ordinary agriculture will keep up with great difficulty and there will be "farms" turning to the more efficient micro-organisms. Processed yeast and algae products will be available in a variety of flavors. The 2014 fair will feature an Algae Bar at which "mock-turkey" and "pseudosteak" will be served. It won't be bad at all (if you can dig up those premium prices), but there will be considerable psychological resistance to such an innovation. Although technology will still keep up with population through 2014, it will be only through a supreme effort and with but partial success. Not all the world's population will enjoy the gadgety world of the future to the full. A larger portion than today will be deprived and although they may be better off, materially, than today, they will be further behind when compared with the advanced portions of the world. They will have moved backward, relatively. Nope, everywhere except maybe North Korea is much better off (& for NK it is because of politics)
Nor can technology continue to match population growth if that remains unchecked. Consider Manhattan of 1964, which has a population density of 80,000 per square mile at night and of over 100,000 per square mile during the working day. If the whole earth, including the Sahara, the Himalayan Mountain peaks, Greenland, Antarctica and every square mile of the ocean bottom, to the deepest abyss, were as packed as Manhattan at noon, surely you would agree that no way to support such a population (let alone make it comfortable) was conceivable. In fact, support would fail long before the World-Manhattan was reached. Well, the earth's population is now about 3,000,000,000 and is doubling every 40 years. If this rate of doubling goes unchecked, then a World-Manhattan is coming in just 500 years. All earth will be a single choked Manhattan by A.D. 2450 and society will collapse long before that! There are only two general ways of preventing this: (1) raise the death rate; (2) lower the birth rate. Undoubtedly, the world of AD. 2014 will have agreed on the latter method. Indeed, the increasing use of mechanical devices to replace failing hearts and kidneys, and repair stiffening arteries and breaking nerves will have cut the death rate still further and have lifted the life expectancy in some parts of the world to age 85. Fortunately we didn't have to agree on lowering the birth rate. People did it voluntarily and individually. Anywhere women get the choice birth rates are falling.
There will, therefore, be a worldwide propaganda drive in favor of birth control by rational and humane methods and, by 2014, it will undoubtedly have taken serious effect. The rate of increase of population will have slackened*but, I suspect, not sufficiently. One of the more serious exhibits at the 2014 World's Fair, accordingly, will be a series of lectures, movies and documentary material at the World Population Control Center (adults only; special showings for teen-agers). The situation will have been made the more serious by the advances of automation. The world of A.D. 2014 will have few routine jobs that cannot be done better by some machine than by any human being. Mankind will therefore have become largely a race of machine tenders. Schools will have to be oriented in this direction. Part of the General Electric exhibit today consists of a school of the future in which such present realities as closed-circuit TV and programmed tapes aid the teaching process. It is not only the techniques of teaching that will advance, however, but also the subject matter that will change. All the high-school students will be taught the fundamentals of computer technology will become proficient in binary arithmetic and will be trained to perfection in the use of the computer languages that will have developed out of those like the contemporary "Fortran" (from "formula translation"). Automation has gone further than that and computing much easier.
Even so, mankind will suffer badly from the disease of boredom, a disease spreading more widely each year and growing in intensity. This will have serious mental, emotional and sociological consequences, and I dare say that psychiatry will be far and away the most important medical specialty in 2014. The lucky few who can be involved in creative work of any sort will be the true elite of mankind, for they alone will do more than serve a machine.
Indeed, the most somber speculation I can make about A.D. 2014 is that in a society of enforced leisure, the most glorious single word in the vocabulary will have become work!
It looks like the bad things generally haven't happened, the technical and even social problems foreseen have been far less than foreseen. And that government telling us what we can't do is a greater problem - indeed the main barrier on human progress.
Monday, June 09, 2014
Precis Of Eco-Parasitism
Sunday, June 08, 2014
When Christopher Booker Takes You As A Source
In it I am flattered to say he mentions this blog as his source. I assume he got it from his regular co-writer Dr Richard North of EU Referendum, where I mentioned it a few days ago:
she launched into a trenchant attack on how the Commission routinely ignores scientific evidence when this contradicts some “political imperative” it has decided on for other reasons, such as pressure from lobby groups. On a whole range of issues, it has then hired reports from lavishly paid consultants to come up with the arguments it needs to support its political agenda.
This is the 2nd time something I blogged has been taken up by the Telegraph blogsphere. A few years ago James Delingpole followed up my interpretation of Sir Paul Nurse's BBC lecture on "climate change" as showing him trying to redefine his position as the one the sceptics have always held - that something may be happening but it isn't remotely catastrophic.
Today (Sunday Telegraph) p26